The first naturalization ceremony held during an NBA game took place Feb. 19 during the Phoenix Suns vs. Houston Rockets game at Talking Stick Resort Arena. 

This ceremony was facilitated by Citizenship Counts – a nonprofit founded in 2008 by Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein and her granddaughter Alysa Cooper – in partnership with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Phoenix Suns. 

During a ceremony held on the practice court that started during the early part of the basketball game, Weissmann Klein shared her story about surviving the Holocaust, being liberated by an American Army officer (Kurt Klein, who became her husband), “and all the blessings she has received since immigrating 70 years ago in 1946 and becoming a U.S. citizen two years later in 1948,” Cooper told Jewish News. 

Klein also told the 48 individuals from 16 countries, including Israel, about the importance of people being active members of their community and giving back and explained why she and Cooper created Citizenship Counts, indicating that “we need to inspire pride in America and show gratitude for all this country has given to its citizens.”


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