Journeys: Israeli becomes an American at 86 | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Journeys: Israeli becomes an American at 86


MEQUON – During World War II she was held in a labor camp in Europe before she emigrated to what would become Israel.

In 2016, at the age of 86, she stood up before a federal judge in a Milwaukee Area Technical College auditorium to take an oath as a new American citizen.

They say life is unpredictable. Shoshana “Roza” Macagon seems out to prove it.

Macagon moved to the United States from Israel six years ago, to be with family in America after her husband, Akiva Macagon, died in 1999. She later decided to apply for citizenship, which requires a passing score on the Department of Homeland Security’s Civics Test.

Shoshana “Roza” Macagon, on the right, with Ziona's son, Dan Zelazo, Michal, and baby Kerem.

Shoshana “Roza” Macagon, on the right, with Ziona’s son, Dan Zelazo, Michal, and baby Kerem.

“I am living here; I have to be a part of the country,” she said during an interview steps from her apartment at the Sarah Chudnow Community in Mequon. (She first walked her interviewer briskly around the complex, looking for a good discussion spot.)

She studied intensely for the exam, discussing what she learned on the phone with her daughter, Ziona Zelazo of New Jersey. “She really took it so seriously,” Zelazo said. “She challenged herself.”

“She always had a personality of a go-getter. She wanted to be independent here.”

The studying was harder than the test itself, said Macagon, noting with pride that she got a perfect six-question score, even though English is not her native language. The test was administered by “a very nice lady” who seemed surprised at Macagon’s age, shook her hand and added, “I am glad to have met you.”

A High Holidays naturalization

The scene Oct. 6, 2016, at the Naturalization Ceremony at the Milwaukee Area Technical College Cooley Auditorium, 1015 N. 6th St., was a mosaic of people of various races and ethnicities in the theater-style seats before the judge. A few applicants for citizenship held up miniature American flags or had nearby family members holding babies. One woman had on a maroon hijab. Macagon sat in front, breaking out into a broad smile at the moment she was sworn into citizenship.

“Today, we have 79 applicants from 31 different countries,” said Judge Beth E. Hanan, of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, there to swear in the new Americans. She spoke of freedom of religion, freedom of speech and other freedoms from the Bill of Rights. “By taking your oath today, you are joining the citizens of this country …  to support and defend the principals of the Constitution no matter what it may cost to you.”

Applicants took turns raising their hands for what countries they represented, with Macagon alone standing and raising her hand for Israel. Later, all stood and raised their hands for the oath.

It just so happened this ceremony for 79 applicants was held between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Thus, plenty of family were in town and on hand. Several generations of Shoshana Macagon’s family were present.

The Naturalization Ceremony at the Milwaukee Area Technical College Cooley Auditorium, 1015 N. 6th St., was held Oct. 6, 2016.

The Naturalization Ceremony at the Milwaukee Area Technical College Cooley Auditorium, 1015 N. 6th St., was held Oct. 6, 2016.

Making it to Israel

In the 1940s Macagon was in a Transnistria labor camp, with other Jews who had been deported from their Eastern European homes.

She described her memories of those times as “so painful.”

“Some people can talk about, but I cannot talk about,” she said.

In 1947, she and her husband left for Israel by sea at night but the British captured them before they could disembark at Haifa. They were soon sent to a camp at Cypress for about 18 months until they made their way to Israel. She’d married her husband in Cypress at the age of 18.

But don’t go around saying you read a story about an Israeli who was held in a labor camp, made it to Israel, became an American seven decades later and is now 86. That wouldn’t be quite right. Her birthday was Nov. 4. The new American is now 87.

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About this story

Shoshana “Roza” Macagon endured a labor camp during World War II, married her husband in Cypress, immigrated to what would become Israel, spent a lifetime there and then moved to the United States several years ago. Recently, she became a U.S. citizen with several generations of her family present at the ceremony in Milwaukee:

  • Daughter Ziona Zelazo and her husband Ron of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.
  • Son Shai Macagon and his wife Rachel of Glendale.
  • Grandson, Ziona’s son Dan Zelazo and Michal of Kibbutz HaSolelim, Israel.
  • Granddaughter, Ziona’s daughter, Maya Wannan and her husband Leigh of Sydney, Australia. Grandson, Ziona’s son, Eyton Zelazo and his wife Megan of Milwaukee.
  • Great-granddaughter, Dan’s daughter, Kerem Zelazo (new US citizen).
  • Great-grandson, Maya’s son, David, 4, of Sydney, Australia.
  • Great-granddaughter, Maya’s Daughter, Leia (new US citizen).