Why I Do What I Do: Marina Merlin

Marina Merlin came to the US in 1992. She left her engineering job and her country because she was done with the humiliation of being a Jew in the Soviet Union. She did not want her kids to face a future filled with the discrimination that she experienced every day.

The Soviet government would not let her husband—a scientist—out, so she made the courageous decision to come alone with her children and her mother. In addition to receiving support from HIAS Pennsylvania, the congregation at Society Hill Synagogue offered moral and community support and worked to advocate for the right of her husband to join the family in the U.S.   One year later, her husband was reunited with Marina and the children.

After being resettled by HIAS Pennsylvania, she soon started to volunteer there. “I felt so good with the idea of HIAS Pennsylvania—that such an organization exists to support people that need help,” Marina recalls. “I wanted to help newcomers who came from the position I was in—or worse.”

She had found her calling. She was offered a job in 1996 and has been working with HIAS Pennsylvania’s refugee resettlement program ever since. “There is a deep satisfaction when you help a newcomer and they find their way; they find jobs; they grow; and their children grow up American.”

Marina recently met a former client while shopping in her neighborhood. The client was a Meskhetian Turk who arrived about ten years ago. He and his family were living the American dream: they had a house, a car, the children had all finished college, and one of his family members had even opened a business. “It is such a pleasure seeing families do so well. It warms your heart.”