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Stories of courage, hope, & resilience in their own words.

Written by Lee T. Bycel
Foreward by Ishmael Beah
Photos by Dona Kopol Bonick

Proceeds of the sale of the book are going to two outstanding refugee resettlement organizations: HIAS hias.org and International Rescue Committee rescue.org.

"It is not an easy road — but hope is the oxygen of my life."
These insightful words of Meron Semedar, a refugee from Eritrea, reflect the feelings of the eleven men and women featured in this book. These refugees share their extraordinary experiences of fleeing oppression, violence and war in their home countries in search of a better life in the United States.
Each chapter of Refugees in America focuses on an individual from a different country, from a 93-year-old Polish grandmother who came to the United States after surviving the horrors of Auschwitz to a young undocumented immigrant from El Salvador who became an American college graduate, despite being born impoverished and blind. Some have found it easy to reinvent themselves in the United States, while others have struggled to adjust to America, with its new culture, language, prejudices, and norms. 

Each of them speaks candidly about their experiences to author Lee T. Bycel, who provides illuminating background information on the refugee crises in their native countries. Their stories help reveal the real people at the center of political debates about US immigration.

Giving a voice to refugees from such far-flung locations as South Sudan, Guatemala, Syria, and Vietnam, this book weaves together a rich tapestry of human resilience, suffering, and determination.

    Lee T. Bycel

    Lee T. Bycel is a humanitarian activist, Rabbi, teacher and author, who serves as the Sinton Visiting Professor of Holocaust, Ethics and Refugee Studies at the University of San Francisco. He has visited refugee camps in Darfur, Chad, South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Haiti. He has written extensively about the plight of refugees, and has secured much needed funding for medical clinics in refugee camps. He has been involved in civic activities throughout his career trying to make life better for the most vulnerable in his professional work and personal commitments. He is a Senior Moderator at the Aspen Institute. Appointed by President Obama, in 2014, he served on the Board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum until April of 2019. He is a past president of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. Born in Los Angeles, Lee graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a B.A. in Philosophy. He earned his doctorate from the Claremont School of Theology. He is an engaging speaker who has spoken to groups all around the country on a variety of issues including Genocide, Refugees, Leadership, Ethics, Shaping a Meaningful Life and a variety of other topics.

DONA KOPOL BONICK is an esteemed portraitist and artist whose photographic career spans three decades. The photography director for the inaugural BottleRock music festival, her works have appeared in many books, art museums, and private collections.

ISHMAEL BEAH whose work has been published in over 30 countries, is the New York Times Bestselling author of A Long Way Gone; Memoirs of a boy soldier and Radiance of Tomorrow, a novel. His next novel, The Lively Skeletons of Every Season, a novel, will be published by fall of 2019.

Articles by Lee Bycel

World Refugee Day 2019

Meet Meron Semedar. He was born in Eritrea, a country whose people endure human rights violations, forced military conscription, brutal punishment for religious expression, torture and executions for political opposition, and life in prison for those who try to leave.

World Refugee Day 2018

Nobody wants to be a refugee. To be forced from your home, your family, all that is familiar. No one wants to be one of the 1,995 children separated from their families at the border because of a most inhumane policy...

Bearing Witness at the Border

Bearing witness is being present as an act of injustice is taking place. Bearing witness is seeing firsthand what the dispossessed and the most vulnerable are experiencing. Bearing witness can be uncomfortable. Bearing witness can be life changing. Bearing witness to our lives and the world around us is what the High Holy Days are all about.

The Haunting Voice Of The Refugee

Responding to the great moral challenge of our time. A first-hand report on the Syrian refugee crisis.

Where is the Conscience of the World

As I prepare to welcome in the Jewish New Year on Sunday night, I am plagued by the plight of the Syrian people. I am deeply concerned by the silence of the world. I hear the voices of the many refugees I met this summer in Europe who said to me: All we want is the world to hear our cries for help.

A Heartbreaking Anniversary; The Yezidis Cry For Help

Most were deeply moved by the compelling picture of the Yezidi people trapped by ISIS in early August 2014, yet for most that image has become but a memory. That picture provides a lens into a most tragic story. The Yezidis call August 3 the “turning point.” Approximately 5,000 Yezidi people were slaughtered in early 2014.

Why I Teach Holocaust and Genocide

Early in life, I learned the unambiguous and powerful words “Never again.” I actually thought the expression would create a new human ethic that would never again allow human beings to be systematically murdered for their religious, ethnic, national or racial identities. I was wrong.

Lee Bycel Blog: Notes from a Cautious Optimist


It’s not enough to lament injustice, we must speak out for justice.

June 11, 2019

Why I am writing a blog? I have some things to say about the human story throughout the world. This is beyond politics. This is about resilience, stre...

Spring 2020 Schedule

Paramount Theatre, Oakland
Guest Speaker
US Citizenship and Immigration Services
Naturalization Ceremony
January 15, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.
Oshman Family JCC, Palo Alto
January 19, 2020, 5pm
3921 Fabian Way Palo Alto, CA 94303.  
 Temple Sinai of North Dade
January 24-25, 2020
 Temple Judea, Coral Gables,
January 26 and January 28, 2020
Books @ Books
 Monday, January 27, 8pm 
Coral Gables, Florida
Los Angeles, CA
Hebrew Union College
 Tuesday, February 25, 2020
12: 00 - 1:30 pm
San Luis Obispo, CA
February 21-22, 2020
Congregation Beth David
Irvine, March 12-15, Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot
San Francisco, CA
March 24, 2020 
 Congregation Emanu-El
San Diego ,CA
Congregation Beth Israel 
Monday, April 6, 2020
Long Beach, CA
Temple Israel – May 8-9, 2020. 
New York City, World Refugee Day
June 20, 2020
Temple Emanuel


For review copies, interviews, or publicity-related items, please contact Courtney Brach at 848-445-7775, or send an email using the form below