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CHAPTER NINE

REJECTION: PART II

STEREOTYPES AND THE PRESS

That the Jew is a moneylender is a stereotype, like the lazy Negro or the drunken pugnacious Irishman. Most people had a standardized mental picture of the Jew, one that was usually unexamined and unobjective. On occasion the stereotype was an affirmative one exaggerating the virtues of the Chosen People; more often it was negative. The stereotype of the Israelite was a complex blend of the teachings of the home, the school, the press, the occasional novel, the stage, the early cinema; each in its turn influenced it. There was a tendency, certainly not deliberate, to show the Jew religiously in a bad light as a God-killing infidel. This image was further distorted by identifying him, albeit remotely, with that heartless moneylender Shylock. For over a generation August Belmont, representing N. M. Rothschild & Sons of London, had attempted in vain to induce the state of Pennsylvania to fulfill its fiscal obligations. W. H. Kemble, the state treasurer in 1868, wrote Belmont: “We are willing to give you the pound of flesh, but not one drop of Christian blood.” This stereotype of the avaricious Jew developed by reading the Merchant of Venice was fixed in a later generation by the presentation of Shylock in the silent and sound movies. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of Americans saw Shakespeare’s Shylock and Dickens’s criminal Fagin on the screen; the Jew as fence and heartless pawnbroker was not an uncommon figure in the early days of the motion pictures. The prevalent negative stereotype was confirmed on the vaudeville stage. The patriarchal biblical Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob became the odious Abie, Ikey, and Jakie. The stage Jew was vulgar and ludicrously miserly. The problem of confronting this portrayal of Jews as contemptible if not pitiable was exacerbated by the fact that frequently the actors and theatre owners and the managers were themselves Jews.

Humor magazines were more deliberate as they caricatured the Jews. The Jewish arsonist was Mr. Burnheim, the usurer Loanstein, the crook, Swindelbaum. Stereotypes have a tendency to be characterized by a cultural lag, with the type depicted no longer existing, if indeed it every existed. The Jewish butt in the press and on the stage was the German Jew, the man who had landed as an immigrant in antebellum days but by the next generation was respected as a responsible well-mannered American businessman. The serious literary magazines concerned with political and social movements and problems frequently published controversial articles on the Jews which promoted circulation. The “vices,” the faults of the Jew were objectively enumerated if not affirmed. Stereotypes were so pervasive that even friends of the Jews, often men of distinction, were ultimately influenced by them. William Cullen Bryant, the poet, spoke of the restless eyes and the crooked back of the Jew. Writers of clever paragraphs, like Mark Twain and Irwin S. Cobb, both of whom had Jewish sons-in-law, did not disdain on occasion to show the Jew in an unfavorable light. Others gave Jewish names to the villains and to the less sinister aliens and exotics whom they marshalled for their readers.1

THE GENERAL PRESS AND THE JEW

Outside the home the chief medium transmitting and perpetuating stereotypes was the press, the general newspaper, the Catholic and Protestant weeklies, and other serials. The Fireside Companion, A Journal for Instructive and Entertaining Literature gleefully recounts a story of Rachel, the tragedienne, who chats with the Pope and leaves him spiritually exalted, but on seeing some beautiful oranges her “Jewish instincts” were reawakened and she stole one. In general a widely accepted standardized picture of the Jew was prevalent at this time: the typical Jew was a crook, anti-Christian, rich, dirty, hook-nosed, curly-haired, derby-hatted, ostentatious, avaricious, dwarfed, but family-centered and charitable to his own. He always spoke a sort of gibberish which was thought to be the classical Jewish lingo. This strange accented speech was copied from eighteenth-century literature and persisted well into the nineteenth century. Actually even in the eighteenth century none of the phonetically spelled English letters written here reflects this fraudulent accent in any degree.

The prejudice against Jews is easily documented in newspaper advertisements, especially those retailing the virtues of summer resorts and warning off Jews in contemptuous terms. The editor of the Early County News of Sandersville, Georgia, was exceptionally direct. Reporting on a pogrom in the Balkans he wrote: “We only wish this killing had taken place in Georgia.” It is interesting that at this time one of the outstanding citizens of the town was Isaac Hermann, a Confederate veteran, a captain in the militia, a county official who had fought to keep the Negro “in his place.” These ever-present reflections on the Jew in the press, on the stage, in movies, and belles lettres were very annoying to Jews. Yet quantitatively the slurs were relatively few; even in the Populist heartland the papers would have to be scoured to find a few nasty remarks. It was small consolation to the Children of Abraham that the Italians, Negroes, Irishmen, Englishmen, Yankees, and yokels were also lampooned. The Jew enjoyed laughs at the expense of others but deeply resented any remark that reflected on him.2

POLICE COMMISSIONER THEODORE A. BINGHAM

Not infrequently well-established German Jewish businessmen were characterized as Jews when they were charged with any wrongdoing. Paradoxically the more numerous East European Jews were long spared; they did not become victims of journalistic assault until the first decade of the new century. Then the Gentiles took note of them. By that time the Eastern Europeans were themselves rising in the world for they were leaving the Lower East Side and moving north on Manhattan to Harlem and on to the Bronx, or crossing the bridge to Brooklyn. The hundreds of thousands of them, however, still resident in the old ghetto were seen by unfriendly observers as impoverished aliens who mouthed a strange language of their own. When arrested for any wrongdoing they were often identified in the press as Jews.

In 1908 New York City’s police commissioner Theodore A. Bingham published an article in the North American Review in which he stated that half of the crimes in the city were committed by Jews although they were but one-fourth of the population. The Commissioner was reflecting not only the prejudices of his class but also the prevalent stereotype that the recent Jewish immigrants were malefactors. Indignantly the Jews submitted data to confute Bingham. In truth, the typical East European immigrant was a very law-abiding person. The Commissioner, for reasons best known to himself, thought it advisable to retract his accusations in the next issue of the Review. The leaders of the American Jewish Committee, concerned about the criticisms established the Kehillah, a central body to deal with the city’s Jewish masses as a whole, to organize them, and to help them solve their religious, cultural, social, and economic problems.3

ACADEMICIANS AND RACISTS

Commissioner Bingham would probably have vigorously and sincerely denied that his attitude toward the Jewish immigrants in New York City was predetermined by the religious teachings of his youth. Bigotry among educated people was outmoded. This was a generation that prided itself on its humane rationality; it was concerned only with the facts. Men of culture from the 1880’s on maintained that if the Jew was to be rejected it was because of his ineradicable racial qualities. He is dangerous to society. The burden of attack on the Jew was carried from now on not by the masses but by an educated elite, influential scholars and writers who were patriotically moved to defend their country against the foreigners who had little to contribute. The writings and propaganda of these academicians influenced public opinion and helped bring about the passage of racially motivated restrictive immigration acts. In effect this elite was literally anti-Semitic; its opposition to Jews was racially motivated.

For the first time a serious attempt was made to create an anti-Semitic press in the United States. Telemachus T. Timayenis, a highly educated immigrant Greek, established the Minerva Press in New York City in 1888. It was his intention to publish quarterly a series of anti-Jewish paperbacks and a newspaper The Anti-Semite. The paper never appeared but three of his anti-Jewish works did: The Original Mr. Jacobs (1888), The American Jew (1888), and Judas Iscariot (1889). Much of the material used in The Original Mr. Jacobs was borrowed from Drumont’s La France Juive. The term “Original Mr. Jacobs” was a current circumlocution for a “real Jew.” What are the traits of this “real Jew?” He is a man who hates and kills Christians, who commits ritual murders; he is avaricious, lecherous, and criminal. His women are prostitutes. True culture and civilization, chivalry and integrity stem only from Aryans. The American Jew, said Timayenis, has all the vices of his people. You can always recognize a Jewish American by his rats’ teeth. He is an arsonist, a receiver of stolen goods, a member of that race which has ruined Russia. John D. Rockefeller? If he is not a Jew he certainly acts like one. American Jews? Keep them out of the United States in the future; for those already here, suggests Timayenis in Judas Iscariot, give them a reservation of their own in New Mexico where they can live by themselves. A few newspapers reviewed his books sympathetically; most papers rejected his teachings. Timayenis boasted that The Original Mr. Jacobs enjoyed twenty printings. This is to be doubted for there is evidence that he was not successful; for a brief period he was locked up in the Tombs on a charge of embezzlement. It is very probable that the crudities and patent exaggerations of his works repelled the typical reader. The Original Mr. Jacobs bore no resemblance to the genial Mr. Cohen or Mr. Levy who ran the local dry goods or gents’ furnishing store on Main Street.4

THE ACADEMICIANS LOOK AT THE JEWS

The attempt of the Minerva Press to transplant European racial concepts to the United States was not altogether new. The Spanish in their colonies in Mississippi and Louisiana had always insisted on purity of blood (limpieza de sangre) in marriages; engaged couples had to certify that they were free of any Negro, Moorish, or Jewish taint. In 1844 a disgruntled Kentuckian was telling ex-President Martin Van Buren that the groveling and avaricious Jews had none of the “exalted characteristics of our nature,” and by the middle 1850’s Renan’s and Gobineau’s racist concepts, which stressed the limitations of Semites and the virtues of Aryans were already widely known on this continent.

The vigorous direct attacks on the Jews by Goldwin Smith began to appear in England’s Nineteenth Century in 1878. Smith, who had been living in the United States and Canada since 1868, was not a man to be lightly brushed aside, for he was a respected historian and publicist. For over a decade this apologist for the Russians and Rumanians hammered away at the Jews whom he denounced as unpatriotic, tribalistic parasites. Yet he was not yet an anti-Semite in the literal sense of the term for he was quite willing to assimilate these people, through intermarriage, of course. A satirical Jewish writer put the following anti-Jewish verses in Smith’s mouth.

                        If still his fixed division,

                             From Gentiles he maintains,

                        Abolish circumcision:

                             ’Twill minimize his brains.

                        And if this plan’s miscarriage

                             Stops not his nation’s life,

                        Enforce his intermarriage

                             With a non-Hebraic wife!

Every Judeophobe has his favorite Jew. Smith was no exception. He had one at least. He was fond of the sculptor Moses Ezekiel who prepared the heroic bronze bust of the historian which now graces the entrance lobby of Goldwin Smith Hall on the Arts Quadrangle at Cornell University. Ezekiel performed the same task for his good friend Rabbi Isaac M. Wise. The bust of the latter graces the halls of the Hebrew Union College.5

THE 1890 SYMPOSIUM

Smith, an English liberal in his politics, was unusually outspoken in his Judeophobic views; many of Smith’s contemporaries were not even conscious of the fact that they were the victims of anti-Jewish stereotype thinking. In 1890 Philip Cowen, editor of the decorous American Hebrew, asked a host of Gentile clergymen, writers, and politicians to express themselves frankly on the growing anti-Semitic sentiment in the United States. What were the causes, what were the solutions? The people solicited included notables like John Burroughs, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Washington Gladden, Charles W. Eliot, George W. Curtis, Zebulon B. Vance, Charles D. Warner, and Theodore Roosevelt. The replies were cautiously phrased; many reported what others believed, not what they themselves believed. The Jews, it was said, were clannish, unproductive, economic exploiters, vulgar, morally inadequate, socially unacceptable, Christ- killers, unassimilable. In some instances the respondents unwittingly betrayed that they shared some of these prejudices. The future president, Roosevelt solemnly informed Mr. Cowen: “Some of my most valued friends are Hebrews.”6

THE HISTORIANS

The thinking of these notables, whose clay feet were visible in their answers to Cowen, was shared by many historians, sociologists, political scientists, and economists of the decade that was preparing to usher in the twentieth century. Few men, even scholars, rise above the emotional cultural levels and biases of their generation. This was the day when the best men believed in the unquestionable superiority of Anglo-Saxon “Teutonic” culture, in its less parochial setting. Josiah Strong, John Fiske, Woodrow Wilson, Frederick Jackson Turner had no doubts that their English heritage and traditions made for a superior civilization. Consequently these men were unsympathetic to the new immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe. The East Europeans, Turner believed, were undermining the American standard of living and were dangerous to American well-being, racially. The urban Jewish newcomer was not the frontier type which Turner admired; apparently he was unaware of the hundreds and thousands of Jewish pioneer shopkeepers in almost every obscure village of the prairies, plains, and mountains. James Ford Rhodes knew only what he had read in the press: the Civil War Jews of both the North and the South were blockade- runners, profiteers, and smugglers. He was not interested in the army careers of the young German Jewish immigrants who had signed up in 1861 and were brevetted generals by the time the Confederates had surrendered. It probably never occurred to him to check their service records. Even the turn of the century writers who busied themselves with the New York East Side masses assumed a somewhat patronizing approach as they delved into the social pathology of the newcomers: but all’s well that will end well if these newcomers will but dive into the Great American Melting Pot, give up their millennial heritage, Americanize, intermarry, and disappear as an alien problem.7

THE NEW ENGLAND BRAHMINS

By the 1870’s there was a growing concern about the Jews and their place in America on the part of many: religionists, parvenus, and academicians of all genres. Some were ambivalent; others were critical and hostile; a few were openly sympathetic. There were New Englanders who were very conscious of the Jews in their midst, both of the “old” and the “new” migrations. This much is certain: the Jews were no longer the invisible men. The New England Protestant elite was not anti-Jewish; it was anti-foreigner, worried lest it lose its regional, intellectual, political, and economic hegemony, lest it be displaced by newcomers with a different ethos and an inferior culture. It was these New England Brahmins’ naive wistful hope that they could turn the clock back, brush away the slums and ghettos, and return to a simple rural world of the past that existed only in their imagination. Apprehensively they watched the rise of the Irish and the success of the German Jews. Leopold Morse, a foreign-born German Jew with a good New England name, had already represented Boston in the Congress as early as 1877.

For men like James Russell Lowell the Jews exerted an attraction and a repulsion. In his monomaniacal fashion he was convinced that the Jews who now ruled Europe were the ablest race the world had yet seen. Lowell took Disraeli’s Tancred a little too seriously; he perceived an almost insidious quality in this mysterious people. William S. Ripley, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard economist, was quite willing to close America’s doors against the Polish Jews but he respected and supported Brandeis when the latter was being recommended for a post on the Supreme Court. Another Harvard man, the geologist and educator, Nathaniel S. Shaler, was even more interested in the Jews than Ripley. He wrote on the “Hebrew Problem.” Jews in the United States have nearly always been a problem for many Gentile intellectuals; the Jews have never been a problem to themselves. Like Lowell, Shaler declared that the Jews were the ablest of races, a highly intellectual people, but they are different, unlike the Aryans. As Semites they are quick, responsive, overfriendly, disliked by many, apparently unduly acquisitive, alien, and difficult to assimilate. He recommended blending, intermarriage of course, and the disappearance of the Jew qua Jew.8

In their thinking Lowell, Shaler, Ripley, and Henry Cabot Lodge, too, were typical of many of the elect not only in New England but throughout the country. They were skeptical of the capacity of the Jew to acculturate completely or to make any real contribution to American life. Actually, down deep, these men who were associated with the establishment wished to reserve power and authority to themselves. They had no desire to share America’s opportunities. With others they looked down their noses on Jews and Catholics, at Irish and Italians; these immigrants were interlopers, certainly not comparable to the good people of Anglo-Saxon stock. For racial reasons these newcomers must be prevented from entering the United States in large numbers. By the 1890’s these immigration restrictionists and their friends—academicians, eugenicists, historians, sociologists, economists, and demographers—were out in full force, determined to take action to save their America. This was the decade that gave birth to the Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Society of Colonial Wars, and the Colonial Dames of America. Thus it was that the New England Brahmins encouraged and created an Immigration Restriction League in 1894. It was high time that something be done. Poor Jewish lads from the Boston ghettos were crowding into Harvard in constantly increasing numbers. If in those sad days of depression America was in trouble it was not due to the economic system but the evils introduced into the land by the unworthy immigrants who were thronging the ports. Jews and Asians, South Europeans and East Europeans, were undesirable and must be kept out if the older, the better traditions were to survive and America was to flourish. Support for these notions was lent by the massive forty-two volume report of the United States Immigration Commission (1911).

Among the men who established the Immigration Restriction League was Prescott Farnsworth Hall who worked to further the cause that was a passion with him. Bitterly disappointed with Taft’s veto of the 1913 literacy bill he cried out: “To hell with Jews, Jesuits, and steamships.” There were other writers, more distinguished, who probably felt as keenly as he that radical action ought to be taken against the invaders. Professor Albert Bushnell Hart, who taught history and government at Harvard from 1883 to 1926, was of the opinion that the Jewish clothing worker was a disintegrating force in organized labor. John William Burgess, the Columbia political scientist, was a “Teutonist” who believed that the English, Germans, and Scandinavians would do more for America than the inferior Slavs, Jews, and Italians. The latter two groups were inclined to anarchy and crime. Richard Mayo Smith carried on the teachings of his master Burgess and in time influenced other immigration restrictionists, some of whom added to the reasons why it was dangerous to admit Jews; they were undesirable because of their prostitutes and their venereal diseases. Jews would never make good Americans; the Melting Pot was all a mistake.

John R. Commons of the University of Wisconsin, the author of Races and Immigrants in America and a distinguished economist, was also ready to restrict immigration. Jews, he said, were an able and marvelous people, philosophically attuned, but they were also shrewd exploiters of the poor and the ignorant. This critical view of their qualities did not deter him from coopting several Jews for his massive four-volume History of Labour in the United States. One of his outstanding disciples was the Polish-born Selig Perlman who was working closely with his master at the very time that Commons was urging the exclusion of East Europeans. Several years after Commons had passed away Perlman was made the John R. Commons Research Professor at the school. The appointment of Perlman as a full professor as early as 1927 when Commons was still teaching was in a way a symbol of the acceptance of the Jew by academicians and colleges. But by that time the immigration acts of the 1920’s had already made it exceedingly difficult for Polish Jews to enter this country.9

THE ADAMSES

The two Adams brothers, Brooks and Henry, are in a class by themselves. They were strongly anti-Jewish but refrained from publicizing their views. They came by their prejudices honestly; John and John Quincy Adams were certainly not overfond of Jews. Brooks was something of a protofascist and believed in the international Jewish conspiracy. Like Marx and the Populists, Henry Adams equated money and capitalism with Jewry and the infirmities of modern industry and civilization. World finance is a conspiracy and its arch villain is the Jew. The Jews have too much power in the world of politics, culture, and economics. This indictment is somewhat reminiscent of the views of the crotchety Captain Thomas Coram of Taunton, an older contemporary of John Adams. Coram, a trustee of the Georgia colony, was convinced that if the Jews were allowed to settle in Georgia the place would soon become a Jewish colony and the only Christians left would be working for Jews. Henry Adams was obsessed not only with the Jew as the symbol of a decadent modern capitalist culture but with the Jew in the flesh whom he affected to detest. The Jew is the incarnation of the Gilded Age, of financial modernism, a world which this romantic medievalist saw fit to reject. Rooted in medieval aesthetics and aspirations Adams found it difficult to accept as equal a people whom the medieval world despised and rejected. Henry Adams, the Jew hater, exerted very little influence on the people of his day; this brilliant disturbed man confined his fire to letters and conversations. Why then does he justify any study or attention? He is the paradigm of a type that was not uncommon at the turn of the century. Cumulatively these men may well have influenced legislation in matters of immigration, and by their determination to downgrade Jews, Slavs, and Italians, they may well have hindered their acceptance into the larger America.10

ANTI-IMMIGRATION SENTIMENT

The Immigration Restriction League of New England found support in other parts of the country. Xenophobia was an old American disease: Benjamin Franklin was unhappy with the Germans; the Irish were never welcomed in the colonies, and by the 1830’s the anti-Catholic Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph, had written pamphlets directed against foreign immigrants and the Jesuits who, he declared, were plotting to seize control of America. Prejudice on the Pacific Coast against the Chinese erupted into violence, and the growing imperialist nationalist sentiment of the later nineteenth century induced many to look upon newcomers with suspicion. Large numbers here in the United States, even though often of recent immigrant background, wished to reserve this country’s economic opportunities for themselves. Every generation creating its own America resents any new group who threatens to modify it. Newcomers are intruders, un-American. There were Jews, too, who opposed the immigration of fellow-Jews.

The anti-immigration agitation of the 1890’s became more pronounced in the early 1900’s. Labor which had moved toward restriction since the 1870’s was upset by the depression of the 1890’s and the inpouring of millions of job seekers in the decades before World War I. The nativists, racists, and ethnicists wanted no Slavs, Asians, Jews, or Catholics, no Italians or East Europeans. The anti-Catholic American Protective Association (APA) and its successor movements numbered millions of followers and readers of its literature in the second decade of the new century. Foreigners—presumptively dirty and illiterate—were not wanted because, so it was said, their competition in the labor market served only to lower the standard of living of the American workingman. The ghettos, said the Commissioner of Immigration in 1903, are “a menace to the physical, moral, and political security of the country”; they are a breeding ground for moral depravity. Samuel Peter Orth writing on Our Foreigners deplored the fact that the Jews, brilliant though they were, tended to commercialize everything they touched; they were interested in revolution: “one wonders how many Trotzkys and Lenines [sic] are being bred in the stagnant air of their reeking ghettos.” These are some of the bitter indictments made against the new immigrants, the Catholics and the Jews who had come to these shores seeking a new life. The attacks on these men and women, humble and peaceful for the most part, are shocking because of their utter virulence. But there could be no gainsaying the new nationalism. That generation of Americans was determined to insist on conformity as it understood the concept. The newcomers were not wanted; they would not fit in; they were racially undesirable. Thus labor, racists, militant bigoted Protestants, immigration restrictionists, spurred on by panics and depressions, all worked together against the coming of the new immigrants.11

Many books and articles written in the thirty years before the Immigration Act of 1921 urged Congress to check the coming of immigrants deemed undesirable. Some writers were more articulate than others, some were more anti-Semitic, some were more brilliant in their attacks. It is difficult to determine how influential these writers were but certainly a number were widely read. The most competent of this group seems to have been Burton J. Hendrick, a newspaperman who won the Pulitzer Prize three times. In the truly pejorative sense he was a muckraker, a sensationalist, basically a pen for hire and profit, in his early days. In 1907 and later in 1913 he wrote in McClure’s of the “Jewish Invasion of America.” There was nothing in his writings that had not already appeared in the anti-Jewish literature from Timayenis to his own day. America is being swamped by Jews and Slavs—Negroes too. The parasitic Jews, an undesirable element, are economically too strong, and as they continue to invade this country they will probably be subject to physical violence. It is true, however, that the problems caused by these newcomers would be alleviated if they intermarried, or converted, and thus disappeared as Jews.

In his earlier writings Hendrick made no distinction among the Jews; he attacked them all indiscriminately. Later when he shifted from McClure’s to the World’s Work he wrote several articles which appeared in 1923 as a book, The Jews in America. By that time he found the German Jews acceptable and directed his attacks against the East European Poles, who are inferior to the earlier Germans and the pioneer Sephardic settlers. Now it is the Poles who are unassimilable, who are un-American, economically unsound, politically radical. Immigration restriction is essential. These Poles, said Hendrick, are intellectually uncreative, yet as his book was going through the press Abram S. Waksman, Jonas Salk, Isidor Isaac Rabi and several other East Europeans, foreign born or native born, were then in American schools preparing themselves for careers that would bring them Nobel Prize awards in the next generation.

In his 1923 work Hendrick carefully avoided implausible statements that would only serve to discredit him. He summarily rejected the concept of an international Jewish conspiracy and the claim that the Jews dominated American economic life. (By that time he had ghostwritten the autobiography of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau.) His contemporary, Professor Edward Alsworth Ross, a Wisconsin sociologist and political economist, was in complete agreement with him that most East European Jews would not make good citizens. But Ross, though an academician of distinction, was less balanced than Hendrick in his views, arraigning the Russian Hebrews, as he called them, vindictively. These Hebrews are unconscionable, moral cripples, exploiters, arsonists, perjurers, white slave traders. They are the illiterate dregs of Europe who can only dilute our pioneer stock. Possibly with an eye on Selig Perlman and Horace Kallen of the University of Wisconsin, he admitted that some of them are intellectuals but in general the East Europeans are a menace. Yet he, like Hendrick, does not deny the possibility of their ultimate assimilation. These views, reflecting his scientific thinking, found expression in 1914 in The Old World in the New: The Significance of Past and Present Immigration to the American People.

The least distinguished of this assortment of writers but probably the most successful as a propagandist was Madison Grant. He was a New Yorker, cast somewhat in a heroic mold. Grant was a lawyer, eugenicist, a zoologist, a racist, a traveler, explorer, hunter, a member of the American Bison Society and the American Breeders Association. In 1916 he wrote the Passing of the Great Race in America in which he pointed out that American cultural strains were being diluted by Negroes, Latins, and mongrel Semitic Jews. But Jesus was a Jew! Grant agreed with Houston Stewart Chamberlain that Jesus was probably not a Semite but a Nordic with fine physical and moral attributes. The old stocks in the United States, the Nordics, are in danger of being engulfed by these Jews who “wear the American’s clothes and steal his name and are beginning to take his women.” Like Tom Watson and Ross, Grant, too, believed that these lecherous Jews lusted for Christian women. The purpose of this work—supposedly scientific in nature—was to induce Congress and the American people to embark on a policy of immigration restriction. Did Grant exercise any influence on his readers? Probably. The book went into eight printings in twenty years; the year after it appeared the first immigration law that really hurt Jews was passed by Congress.12

IMMIGRATION LEGISLATION

It was inevitable that the persistent nativism and restrictionist agitation would eventuate in legislation to keep out immigrants. By the 1870’s there was a strong anti-Chinese agitation in Congress, and in the first decade of the next century disabilities were imposed on the Chinese and Japanese who were already here. Acts were passed barring Japanese from leasing or owning land; and some Asian children were segregated by the San Francisco Board of Education and compelled to go to separate schools. During the 1880’s organized labor succeeded in prohibiting the importation of contract laborers; acts were passed imposing head taxes on newcomers and barring the entrance of criminals, the insane, and paupers. In succeeding decades these limitations were augmented and tightened. Beginning with the 1890’s all political parties favored tighter immigration laws; in 1896 the first literacy bill passed Congress only to die when it failed to secure Cleveland’s signature.

The 1896 bill originally had a clause striking directly at Jews, for it required every Jewish immigrant to read the language of his country of origin. Most Russian Jews, restricted to the Pale of Settlement and excluded for the most part from Russian schools, could not and did not speak or read the language of their oppressors. This devious restriction device was omitted from the final form of the bill. The closing of the gates to aliens (Jews) in England in 1905 was a hint of what was yet to come in the United States. The American officials charged with the administration of the immigration regulations at the eastern ports were often arbitrary and unfair. The Immigration Commission appointed in 1907 finally published its massive report in 1911. It called for a literacy law and other restrictions which were directed primarily against the emigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, those who were deemed inferior, poor material for American citizenship. The stage was now set for literacy bills which passed Congress in 1913 and 1915 only to be rejected by Taft and Wilson. One finally passed over Wilson’s veto in February, 1917. This was the first immigration law that could vitally affect the entrance of Jews, for many were illiterate. Yet the fact that religious refugees were exempt from its provisions may have helped many to find shelter in this country. This literacy law of 1917 did not long satisfy opponents of the open-door policy. These people were opposed to the “new immigration” not on educational but on racial grounds; anyone who came from Southern or Eastern Europe was an undesirable. Non-Nordics could make no worthwhile contributions to America. Anti-Catholicism was always strong. If Congress had persistently passed literacy bills from 1896 to 1917 it was in part because the millions who had begun to come in were non-Protestants and it was feared that after World War I millions more would flood this country. Organized labor had grown in power during the World War; it would tolerate no competition. Isolationism, nationalism, nativism, evangelical fundamentalism followed in the wake of the great conflict; the rise of the Russian Communist state literally terrified the American people. Russian Jews as Russians were automatically suspect and their guilt of birth was exacerbated by the fact that many here were socialists or political radicals. The postwar conservative reaction of 1919-1920 evoked a hysterical Red Scare; more than 200 aliens, some of them Jews, were deported to Russia; raids inspired by the politically ambitious attorney general A. Mitchell Palmer led to the arrest of thousands of so-called radicals.

The Ku Klux Klan, massively reenforced by thousands of members, began to stir, and Congress now turned its attention seriously to bills restricting or suspending immigration altogether. The anti-immigrant and anti-Jewish pace quickened after World War I. There was a growing belief in the reality of the international Jewish conspiracy. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were exploited by Henry Ford who spent huge sums financing his anti-Semitic magazine which was peddled on the streets of America’s major cities; like the earlier anti-Catholic Menace and New Menace, millions of copies were distributed. Many forces now joined together in a crusade to save America. It was held against the new arrivals—poor stock at best—that they had refused to surrender their age-old culture by jumping into the Melting Pot and emerging as bright and shiny English-speaking Americans. Actually had the impatient nativists waited the immigrants would have demonstrated that in a generation they were more than willing to become 100 percent or 125 percent full-fledged Americans.

Forces and sentiments, movements and men, gave birth to the first immigration quota law of 1921. These forces were economic, racial, religious, and even political. The new Catholics pouring in would inevitably join the Democratic Party and the Republicans, now in power, were unhappy with this prospect. The 1921 act kept out many not because of their poverty or quality but because of their race and their religion. This Immigration Act limited entrants to 3 percent of the number of each nationality already here according to the census of 1910. It was aimed at Slavs, Italians, Jews, and Catholics. Yet the racial and ethnic specifications of the law were in themselves only a pretext; basic were the fears of enlarging the labor market; even deeper was the determination to keep out Catholics and Jews. The quota law of 1921 was a great posthumous victory for the American Protective Association.13

THE CAUSES OF REJECTION

What are the basic causes of Judeophobia, anti-Semitism? They will probably never be known for there is no one single cause that has turned all Jew-haters against the objects of their enmity. It is impossible to penetrate the psyche of every individual who dislikes Jews. The motivations for prejudice are multiple; they mesh one into another and they cannot be compartmentalized. Who can begin to explain why Henry Adams feared or hated Jews? It is no answer to declare solemnly that he was “disturbed.” That is a result not a cause. Is the social cause real? Yes—in a way—for those who believed that the Jew was gauche, different. Jews themselves often declared that “the other Jew” was socially inept though most Israelites knew and observed the amenities. They were eager to be accepted. Consciously or unconsciously denigration of the Jew was a device whereby the putative aristocrat, seeking to rise in the social scale, established his own position. The socially and economically mobile Jew was a rival, a threat. If Jews were accepted by all Gentiles then the Gentile “aristocrat” could enjoy no preeminence. The Jews of that day were wont to say that if there was one Jew in town he would be elected mayor; if there were two, the second would be made the city or county treasurer, but if there were six they would all be ostracized.14

SCAPEGOATS AND STEREOTYPES

The long years between 1865 and 1920 were beset with many problems and problems require a scapegoat. The stereotyped Jew was the ideal scapegoat for aristocrats threatened in power and wealth, for suffering farmers, the hapless lower middle class and frustrated urban workers. The knowledge that a man is a Jew often made for prejudice against him. The Jew is different, hence inferior. He is the Christ-killer, an alien, a business competitor, a boor, a political radical, and an unpatriotic citizen. He is a non-Christian, an anti-Christian, an infidel, a member of a debased minority religion. He is mysterious, a curiosity, literally and spiritually a diabolic figure. This stranger lives off by himself, in a ghetto of his own; he refuses to marry with Christians and he belongs to a different “race.” The new factory-city-industrial age of the nineteenth century brought many tensions; people in distress required a rational explanation of why they suffered. How simple to say: the Jews are responsible for all the ills of society. The logic was irrefutable. The Jews were very wealthy. Even the word “jewelry,” stems from Jew! The Reverend Alfred H. Moment attacking Corbin for his anti-Jewishness admitted that the Jews controlled the world money markets. At the time of the Seligman Affair another Christian defender of the Jews said that in a hundred years, in 1977, most American wealth would be in the hands of the Chosen People. That same year, 1877, editor George W. Curtis writing in Harper’s Magazine told his readers that civilization, capitalism, industry, war and peace were in the hands of the Jews. The Reverend Isaac M. Haldeman of the First Baptist Church in New York City was convinced that the Jews were about to take over America and the world. There was no question in the minds of the apprehensive: vast wealth and power were being used by the Jews of America and other lands to conspire against the welfare of society.15

THE INTERNATIONAL JEWISH CONSPIRACY

Jewish bankers and Jewish socialists and other radicals were working together as a team to control states and peoples culturally, financially, and morally. These Jews exerted sway over the arts, sciences, commerce, and politics of the Christian world. American Jewry, as allies of the Rothschilds, was part of this international gold ring, this satanic force that sought to rule and to destroy. In Cincinnati in 1860 a placard was posted proclaiming to all who could read that the Rothschilds were willing to spend millions at the Democratic Convention to buy the president of their choice.

Thanks to the fertile imagination of the Jew-haters of the Mediterranean and European worlds who had nursed the fantasy of the international Jewish conspiracy for millennia Americans were familiar with the outlines of this plot. The Jews are the merchants of death. They are the ones, said Timayenis, who start wars and reap the profits. If Rumanian peasants rise in righteous anger and murder Jews, said United States Senator William Sprague in 1870, it is because they are oppressed by Jews. If Russia allows its Jews to die in 1881, it is because that international secret power, Jewry, was exploiting the peasants who were only defending themselves. The naturalist, scientist, college president and crusader for peace, David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) was convinced in 1910 that there was an “unseen empire” led by the Jewish bankers of London and Berlin, Rothschild and Bleichroeder, which was responsible for wars. The beauty of the conspiracy theory is that it explains and palliates the failure in every man’s life; it discloses the ultimate roots of society’s problems; it is the key to the understanding of every public and communal calamity that has happened and can happen. It is all things to all men. Every major catastrophe that has wracked the individual and society can be attributed to the machinations of these enemies of God and man.16

THE BASIC CAUSE OF ANTI-SEMITISM

Behind the complaints and the weird charges of the Judeophobes lie economic fears. These may be the ultimate causes of Jew-hatred. By 1910 the non-Jews felt threatened in the area of white-collar employment because they had to cope with additional hundreds of thousands of Jews, acculturated Russians and Polish immigrants, and their native-born children, numerous and formidable competitors. Every effort was made to stop them; Sunday closing laws, exclusion from hotels, quotas for students and teachers, all have the purpose of limiting the economic activity of the Jew or impairing his social status so as to handicap him in the professional and business world. It is no accident that by the early twentieth century Jews found it very difficult to enter medical schools, become interns, and secure hospital staff appointments. Determined to stop competition at its source organized labor supported the immigration restrictionists. But even those Jews who were already here were at times denied apprenticeships or kept out of some labor unions. Treated shabbily by their union, the New York Jewish bricklayers organized their own and for much the same reason the Jews fashioned the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. Many companies would tolerate no Jews on any level; employment agencies could not and would not place them, and in 1918 during the war to make the world safe for democracy a government agency made it clear that Jewish applicants were not welcomed. The newspapers of the early decades of the century abounded in discriminatory advertisements. This preoccupation with the Jew is the highest compliment that the Gentile world paid him. Many non-Jews believed that the Children of Israel were actually superior. This they resented. There was no virtue in being a Christian if Jews were even more successful. In an age when the acquisition of wealth was deemed a virtue the Jews were very proud of their achievements and not hesitant in proclaiming them. Success is society’s and God’s reward for a life well lived.17

HOW MUCH ANTI-JEWISH PREJUDICE WAS THERE IN THE UNITED STATES, 1860-1920?

How much Judeophobia was there in the United States between Lee’s surrender and the promulgation of the Immigration Act of 1921? Literary attacks were common; anti-Jews gave interviews, made talks, wrote pamphlets and books. Innumerable offensive incidents were reported in the American Jewish press which took an almost masochistic pleasure in recording every slight, affront, and attack in detail. There is no question many Gentiles disliked Jews; most Christians in the United States did not want to associate with them on a plane of intimacy. Was there more bias in one region than another? This is very difficult to determine. It is doubtful whether there was any section of the country where the people were more or less tolerant or more or less philosemitic than in another region. Even in obscure Ottumwa, Iowa, in the late 1890’s the teen-age child Edna Ferber was harassed and mocked by grownups who called her “sheeny.”

Were the German, Russian, and Polish Jewish immigrants accepted after a while? No, the immigrant generation had to die in the wilderness of intolerance. Their children fared better; completely Americanized and less obvious, they were ignored, tolerated, or accepted. Despite the plethora of anti-Jewish incidents, the anti-Semitic books, the indictments of Jews by distinguished academicians, anti-Semitism during this period was never a real menace to the well-being of the Jewish masses. Abraham Cahan, the editor of the Forward, was of the opinion that anti-Semitism was no threat to the Jew in America because unlike Russia, the government here did not set out to harass the Jew. This is true. Whatever high level officials personally thought of Jews they paid public lip service to the American ideal of fair play, although it is very probable that most if not all the presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Hoover were influenced by the new concepts of superior and inferior races and peoples. Even when anti-Jewish prejudices became more vocal and perceptible in the second decade of the new century the Jews survived comfortably. They moved forward on the American scene because of their own abilities, the rich resources of the land, the common creed of live and let live. If there was intolerance in the land—and there was a great deal—it was the intolerance of Catholics and Protestants for one another. The mutual contempt of these two denominations served to cushion anti-Jewish hostility. More important is the fact that unlike Europe, anti-Semitism never became an organized political force in the United States; it never had a mass base and competent leadership. Opportunity for Jewish citizens, though circumscribed in many areas, never seriously barred them from advancing economically and culturally. They had it good and they knew it. Assimilation, not denigration, was the real threat that the Jew had to face.18

THE REACTION OF THE JEW TO PREJUDICE

CREATING ORGANIZATIONS TO PROTECT THE JEW

Despite the fact that America was an open road the Jews were apprehensive; that was the nature of the animal. They had been mistreated in Europe and even here, in the land of the free, there was no man who had not personally been exposed to humilating prejudices. This was true of the peddler; this was equally true of Bernard Baruch. The Jews had faith in America but they also believed in organizing for defense. They wanted their equality complete in every sense. The Board of Delegates of American Israelites, established in antebellum days, did not trouble itself with individual incidents of Jew hatred. The Board was handicapped; it had no budget, no staff, no plan of action to tackle American problems. When in the 1860’s the evangelicals drove hard to Christianize the Federal Constitution the cautious BDAI moved slowly. Events proved that the Board was right. Congress did nothing to breach the wall between church and state.

As early as 1876 the young Union of American Hebrew Congregations wanted a committee appointed to fight discriminatory Sunday legislation, but the Union and its new arm, the Board of Delegates on Civil and Religious Rights did little, very little to face up to the problem of religious, economic, social, and “racial” bias. The BDCRR told the Jews to ignore the Corbin Affair and when in the 1890’s prejudice in the United States became more pronounced it ignored it also. Psychically, emotionally, the Jewish establishment could not afford to recognize the existence of anti-Jewish attitudes. To do so would distort its image of an idyllic free America. The coeval B’nai B’rith, then a powerful Jewish fraternal order, was interested in helping Jews here and abroad but it, too, took no action; its prime purpose was to bring economic aid to its members in the hour of distress.19

The uneasy Jewish masses and some leaders were probably not happy with the do-nothing policy of the national organizations in the fight against prejudice. During the 1890’s as anti-Semitism became more vocal on both sides of the Atlantic, the Jews of Germany began to organize against defamatory groups. In 1890 a nondenominational Association for Defense Against Anti-Semitism was established (Verein zus Abwehr ders Antisemitismus). Three years later Europe’s German Jews organized the Central Society of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith, a defense congeries. It is by no means improbable that American Jewry through its German leaders was influenced by this organizational activity in the Fatherland; United States Jewry was still a German cultural satellite. In the same year that the Central Society came to birth, Henry Berkowitz of Philadelphia called the Jewish Chautauqua Society into being. Though it was primarily a cultural and educational organization it was very strongly apologetic. The American Jew must put his best foot forward; the Jewish Chautauqua can present a favorable picture of the Jew through summer lectures at the universities. This will help stop misrepresentation of Jews and Judaism. Let the Christians see what a Jew looks like. We wear no horns.

Recurring charges in the Noxious Nineties that the Jews had been unpatriotic in the Civil War brought the Hebrew Union Veterans Association into existence in 1896. Were Jewish veterans uncomfortable in the Grand Army of the Republic? Three years later the Hebrew Veterans of the War with Spain made its appearance and a few years later the two Hebrew societies, less defensive onomastically at least, merged as the Jewish War Veterans of the United States. Angered and humiliated by the growing exclusion from the honor societies, eating clubs, and Greek letter fraternities which reserved admission to Aryans and Nordics only (dolicocephalic blue-eyed blondes??), shocked too by the Dreyfus Affair which demonstrated that even assimilating Jews were not acceptable, some New York students organized the first Jewish fraternity, a Zionist society (1898). After shifting to City College it emerged as the ZBT, a general Jewish fraternity, an imitation of the Christian societies that had rejected them. And, of course, as soon as these fraternities began to proliferate the Jews were condemned for their clannishness.20

The Nineties was the decade in which the Jews really began to take action. By 1892 the members of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, articulate if not aggressive, were passing resolutions and planning a program of defense and apologetics. They were opposed to any state or national legislation that limited Jewish religious equality; they objected to any caricature of the Jew on the stage; they sought the end of the Merchant of Venice as required reading in the public schools. They wanted no teachings, no practices, in the educational system that encouraged prejudices or led to social ostracism. In 1905 and 1906 they appointed committees to implement these resolves; that of 1906, calling itself the Committee on Church and State, published a propaganda pamphlet, Why the Bible Should Not Be Read in Public Schools. A year later, in 1907, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of the United States and Canada protested successfully to the New York City Board of Education against sectarian teachings in the public schools. The Jews of that city, 600,000 strong, were learning to fight back.21

The prejudices of the Nineties did not abate with the new century. They increased in direct proportion to the economic rise and the acculturation of all American Jews. This growth in Jew-hatred is one of the reasons—not the prime one—that gave birth to the American Jewish Committee in 1906. This was an assembly of American Jewish notables who hoped to create a national organization that would enable the middle-class leaders to structure, control, and further American Jewry as a whole. It had an all-embracing program. The leaders, New Yorkers for the most part, were allied with the city’s Jewish elite. In one important respect the committee was different from the defunct BDAI and the BDCRR, which was still active. Much more than the Board of Delegates on Civil and Religious Rights, the Committee was determined to devote its attention to those acts and incidents that threatened the civil, religious, and the economic rights of American Jewry.

For many years the leader of the Committee was Louis Marshall, an unusually competent, devoted, and courageous New York lawyer. It was Marshall who worked to outlaw all advertisements excluding individuals from a public resort because of race, color, or creed. This was in 1913; five years later quotas in schools and colleges were made illegal. The Committee was in the forefront of the Jewish organizations which protested Russia’s refusal to recognize the passports of American Jews. It was also Marshall and his associates who fought a delaying action against all literacy bills and those restricting immigration. Believing that the United States needed immigrants and that they furthered its economy, he made every effort to help America continue its time-honored role as a haven and asylum for the oppressed and impoverished of Europe. He was determined to do what he could for persecuted Russian, Polish, and Rumanian Jewry. To refute the report of the Immigration Commission and its recommendations against Jews, Marshall and his friends helped subsidize the publication of Isaac A. Hourwich’s Immigration and Labor (1912). This competent statistician and publicist proved in his work that from 1892 to 1912 the economy had grown 300 percent though the population had increased but 50 percent. It was Marshall’s belief that keeping America’s doors open was good for every man’s business. Gentiles, too, must help keep the portals open. This is why he frowned on those Jews who supported the Jewishly sponsored anti-restriction society, the National Liberal Immigration League.22

During World War I there was heightened anti-Jewish prejudice. The Committee and other Jewish organizations were compelled to take vigorous action defending their coreligionists against the slurs of the Jewhaters. The woods abounded with 200 percent patriots who raised the charge of Jewish malingering and evasion of military service. The new Jewish Welfare Board, a war-service agency, and the Committee together shaped an Office of War Records which proved that the percentage of Jews in service was higher than that of the Gentiles. One of the reasons for this was that draft boards were hard on Jewish immigrants; boys and men, some of them barely off the boats from Russia—where, too, they had faced conscription—were inducted into the United States Army.

The Jews also finally decided to do something about the aspersions against them in the daily press; these attacks had been constant since colonial days. Annoyed by the fact that many papers during the Civil War never failed to identify a malefactor when he was Jewish, a Washington Jew exhorted them to identify every Christian crook, too, by his denomination. Mr. B. Behrend, who had made this suggestion, was convinced that this would put an end to such religious labeling. In another constructive and realistic approach Jews asked Merriam, the dictionary firm, to eliminate “to Jew down,” as a verb and requested the publishers of Roget’s International Thesaurus to eliminate all denigratory uses of the word Jew. In the 1880’s, it would seem, as the more reputable magazines began to run articles on the Chosen People, cultured Jews rose to defend themselves. However there is reason to believe that these periodicals rigged these attacks and counterattacks, employing them as devices to increase circulation. In this respect these respectable journals have something in common with the muckraking periodicals of the next generation. By 1912 some Jews were willing to subsidize a periodical, The American Citizen, that was to be devoted to the fight against prejudice. The following year the B’nai B’rith created an arm of the order whose sole task would be to refute and stop libels against the Jewish people. Actually the B’nai B’rith, through its district offcers, had been seriously employed defending Jews against abuse ever since the first decade of the 1900’s. In 1908 Adolf Kraus had successfully intervened with Melville E. Stone of the Associated Press to stop newspapers from identifying criminals by their religion. In 1913, the year of the Leo Frank trial, the B’nai B’rith founded a National Caricature Committee which soon became the Anti-Defamation League. In its statement of goals it envisaged the hope of opposing prejudice against all groups, not just Jews, for that was a day when nasty stereotypes of the Italians, Irish, and Negroes were only too common. But in the course of its work, however, the ADL limited itself to the protection of Jews. It set out to put an end to anti-Jewish attacks.

Sigmund Livingston, a Chicago lawyer and a B’nai B’rith activist, was put in charge of the new league. He already had considerable experience in his own part of the country combating bigotry. The task and the program were nothing new. He and his fellow workers set out to halt the required reading of the Merchant of Venice in the schools, to put an end to mudslinging against the Jew in the daily and periodical press, and to stop caricature on the vaudeville stage. Working with the National Board of Censorship they urged it and the moviemakers not to bring Shylock and the crook Fagin to the screen. They protested against all pictures that portrayed the Jew as a fence, smuggler, arsonist, or procurer. Like the American Jewish Committee they encouraged state legislators to outlaw advertisements disparaging Jews and closing hotels to them. Their appeal was nearly always to reason. By 1920 the League was relatively successful in stopping the worst of these abuses. The theatre, the managers, the booking agencies, the producers, and the actors, many of whom were Jews, finally agreed to cease slandering Jews.23

THE REACTION OF THE JEWISH MASSES TO PREJUDICE

SELF-HATRED

The Jewish organizations established to fight various forms of anti-Jewish prejudice may or may not reflect the sentiments, the thinking of the people, the Jewish masses. What was their response to anti-Jewish calumnies? It is curious but true that some of them responded to the accusations of ostentatiousness and vulgarity by admitting the truth of the indictments. Many Jews acknowledged sorrowfully that Jews were vulgar and loud. If Dewey did not want them at his Lake Placid Club he was right; beating their breasts in contrition these Jews of little faith said that etiquette was the answer to the Jewish problem. Former Congressman Emanual B. Hart, a Jew, believed this in the 1870’s, and a generation later the eminent Jewish leader, Dr. Cyrus Adler, regretted that Jews were so slow to acculturate. Throughout this period of mass immigration, many were convinced that speedy Americanization was the universal remedy for all their social ills. And even as acculturated native Jews were being reproached by the anti-Semites, these very natives were shaking a warning finger at the East European newcomers urging them to Americanize more speedily. Actually, the typical Jewish immigrant, a proletarian or a member of the lower middle class, may have been uncouth but in no sense was he ostentatious. He was always on the edge of poverty.24

CIVIL LIBERTIES

The inchoate Jewish masses were certainly at one with the national organizations and defense societies in offering a united front against all infringements on civil and political rights. All Jews were extremely sensitive to any type of pro-Christian legislation affecting the schools or the world of business, legislation which would in effect make them second-class citizens. It is easy to understand therefore why the B’nai B’rith, a mass Jewish organization, was eager to erect a statue to religious liberty in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, when the country celebrated the centennial of American Independence. In 1909-1910, when the interracial National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was formed, Jews were among the founders and its leaders, men and women like Joel Elias Spingarn, Emil G. Hirsch, and Lillian Wald. Their primary goal was to help the Negro but they were certainly not unmindful that in fighting for Negroes they were fighting for themselves. Equality is of one piece.25

THE JEWISH PRESS AND PREJUDICE

Because no effective action was taken by any Jewish organization in the nineteenth century against prejudice, that job had to be done by the Jewish press. In leading the fight against bigotry and intolerance it reflected the attitudes of the Jewish masses. Among the editors who fought the battle against all restraints on their liberties as Americans none was more vigorous than Isaac M. Wise. From 1854 until his death in 1900 he threatened, attacked, and defended Jewry against the secular and religious press. It was his belief—one not easy to substantiate—that he it was who stopped the vilification of the Jew in the daily journals. He was constantly on the offensive, reviling his enemies in a manner that was uniquely his own. He was rarely apologetic: “This world had sinned more against the Jew than 100 Christs could atone for on the cross.” Yet he warned his coreligionists: If Christians don’t want you in their resort hotels, stay home; if you don’t know the amenities, don’t attempt to associate with cultured Gentiles. Unless you want to be snubbed, become an English-speaking American. Go into politics; exploit your talents; be better human beings; practice charity and be observant Jews. Ultimately anti-Semitism will disappear in Europe and humanity will prevail. Wise was nothing if not an incorrigible optimist.26

WHAT PREJUDICE, HATRED, ANTI-SEMITISM DID TO THE INDIVIDUAL JEW

Anti-Jewish prejudice made for insecure individuals; their status as human beings was diminished; their livelihood was impaired, or so they believed. Of course individuals reacted differently under pressure. Many defected, hid their origins, and faded into the anonymous American masses. Others, resentful, became sullen, distrusting their Christian neighbors. In 1918 Jacob H. Schiff resigned from the board of the Jewish Chautauqua Society because it had sent lecturers to the University of Georgia, to a state which had just elected Hugh Dorsey as governor. This was the man who as prosecutor had helped in the legal lynching of Leo M. Frank. For this, Schiff would never forgive the Georgians. Reared in an atmosphere where everything Christian was suspect little Jewish children of the Lower East Side defaced the pictures of the Madonna and Christ child in the books which they read.

Many faced with bigotry, fought back. They boycotted Hilton’s (A. T. Stewart’s) stores, threatened to go to court to curb the Corbins, and talked of rallying in protest in front of the Manhattan Beach Hotel. While staying at the United States Hotel in Atlantic City Simon Wolf heard two young men complaining that there was no place to go where they could escape the Jews. The imperturbable Washington lawyer suggested they go to Hell. Many Jews, pushed hard by antagonistic Gentiles, worked twice as hard to get ahead; they became achievers. Anti-Jewish pressure generated more intense identification, more loyalty to Jewry, if not to Judaism; it also made for segregation as Jews fashioned their own fraternities, clubs, and lodges. Rightly or wrongly, many who had been hurt by their Christian neighbors began to believe that they had no friends among Gentiles, that they could depend only on themselves. This conviction served to strengthen their sense of kinship. Rejected as a Jew the non-observant Major Raphael Moses eloquently reaffirmed his Jewishness as he defended his people and his faith. Others constantly on the defensive became vigorously apologetic as they proudly proclaimed that no Jew was ever sent to a poor house or a penitentiary; the Jews, they boasted, are the fathers of commerce and banking; who can gainsay the power of the Rothschilds? And there were a few, convinced that anti-Semitism was ineradicable, who turned, like Theodore Herzl, to Zionism. Only in a house of his own would the Jew ever be secure against the taunts of his fellows. Most Jews were resigned; hatred of the Jew was an old story; they had to live with it.27

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344729
Related ISBN
9780814344736
MARC Record
OCLC
1055143407
Pages
167-190
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Language
English
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC
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