JUDEOPHOBIA AND ANTIGENTILISM
Carl Koller came to America to escape the anti-Semitism which threatened to destroy his career. Yet even if conditions were worse in Europe, this country was never free of prejudice. Dislike of the Jew was endemic in certain Christian circles; people sucked this prejudice in with their mother’s milk. In its crudest forms prejudice expressed itself in folk wit and caricature: the Jew is a hook-nosed swindler whose only concern is money; he is doomed to wander and to suffer because he crucified Christ, God. It is impossible to determine with certainty what moved the anti-Jew. Was it envy that churned the bellies of struggling farmers, villagers, and urban workers? Was the Jew attacked because he was the made-to-order symbol of the new urban industrial and financial capitalism? In individual cases anti-Jewish prejudice may have been aroused by the gauche social behavior of an uncouth Jew or by the violations of Christian and American mores on the part of those Jews who disregarded the almost sacrosanct Sunday laws. Some Jews were ready to admit—even enjoyed admitting—that there were unmannerly Jews. In their public addresses Jewish leaders appealed for improvement in conduct; the Jew must become an ornament of society, a moral model. There are no satisfactory explanations of the cause of Judeophobia; there is good reason to believe that Jews would have been rejected no matter how exemplary their conduct.
The talmudic fathers once coined the phrase: “Sin drags sin in its wake.” Prejudice is a vicious cycle. Cast out by Christians, Jews assumed a defensive posture and this in turn invited Gentile criticism. The Jews themselves were not free of prejudice; many of them looked askance at Christians and Christianity; they would not even read the New Testament and opposed intermarriage even when the Christian spouse was ready to convert. Deeply resentful that Christians looked with contempt upon Judaism, the belligerent Wise saw no reason why Christianity should be respected by Jews; for him it was a hodgepodge of myth and superstition. He summed it up: I owe Christianity no more respect than the Christian owes Judaism. In 1898 the cultured Aaron Friedenwald, college professor and one of Baltimore’s first specialists in ophthalmology, could only see refined idolatry in the Vatican’s Raphael paintings. This was in the days of the Dreyfus Affair; Friedenwald was bitter.
Yet very few Jews were antigentilic. Despite his occasional hostility Wise was particularly close to liberal Christian religious groups. But where Judaism, the religion, was concerned neither Wise nor any other Jewish leader made any concessions to Christianity, not in substance. They believed without equivocation that theirs was the better faith; they were proud that they had been loyal to the One God despite centuries of persecution. Jews eagerly read the Letters of Benjamin Dias Fernandez on the Evidences of Christianity which had been circulating in different manuscript and printed editions since colonial days. They were in full agreement with the author: Jesus was not the promised Messiah; the New Testament is not a divinely inspired work; parts of it are indeed fictitious; Jesus and Paul taught nothing new.1
Jewish polemicists reserved their bitterest attacks for the missionaries, the soul snatchers, who worked among Jews. Jews were not in the least interested in the labors of the neophyte, Ludwig Sigmund Jacoby, who went out West in 1839 to preach Methodism to the German Christians who had settled in the Mississippi Valley. In 1843 a Baltimore “Hebrew Republican Citizen Soldier” poked fun at the Maryland Ladies’ Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews by warning the women not to “prostitute” their “female dignity” by attempting “to uncircumcise the circumcised.” The Jews were adamantly opposed to all mission work; they did not understand the Protestant concept of salvation which has little if anything to do with intellect or even morals. No matter how ethical the Jew he cannot be saved except through Jesus Christ. Good Christians were sincerely, desperately determined to rescue Jews from eternal damnation; they were starry-eyed in these euphoric hopes. This the Jew could not understand; what he did understand was that mass conversion was ethnic and cultural genocide. It was the hope that Jews would accept Christianity that explains, in part at least, the success of Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, a story of a brave Jew who became a Christian. This is a good story, but it is also a missionary tract at its best. In 1899 Klaw and Erlanger produced Ben-Hur on the stage where it was shown thousands of times; a few years later Rosenwald’s Sears, Roebuck & Company sold about a million copies of the novel.
The effort to bring the Jew into the fold was not a passing whim. Colonial sources are replete with stories of the attempt to save the spiritually blind Jews. Organized American missions to the Jews began in the year 1820 with the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews, originally a colonizing project for European neophytes and a nation-wide missionary drive. Since that day there have been numerous conversionist societies. Evangelical Christians never surrendered their yearning to save the Children of Israel. To accomplish their purposes they employed Jewish converts, often immigrants, many of whom were unfamiliar with the American amenities. Missionary stations were established in the larger urban centers where Jews were massed. The Chicago Hebrew Mission was founded in the 1880’s by William E. Blackstone, a Christian, a proto-Zionist, and a friend of the Jews; the American Board of Missions spent millions over the years plucking brands from the burning.2
Missions to the Jews took on new life in the 1870’s when the impoverished East Europeans began to arrive here in large numbers; it was not always easy for them to resist material inducements, yet on the whole relatively few were baptized. Despite the fact that Jews despised missionaries Jewry was not uninfluenced by them, structurally, institutionally, at least. In 1853 the New Orleans Jewish community created a Hebrew Foreign Mission Society to help coreligionists, and Rabbi Julius Eckman got as far as San Francisco on his way to China to aid the lost Jews at Kai Feng Fu. It is ironic that Oscar Straus, as minister to Turkey, found the protection of American missionaries to the Moslems a not unimportant part of his job.
Historic reasons continued to turn Jews against all missionaries. In medieval and even in modern times Jewish converts to Christianity were often delators inciting the masses against the Jews with false accusations; they were leaders in persecution. Jewry, proud of its traditions and aspirations, resented the implication inherent in the drive for converts, that Judaism, if not the Jew, was inferior; Jews believed just the opposite. In their eyes the break-up of families through the conversion of individual members was little less than criminal; Jews were convinced that all Jewish converts to Christianity were crooks. Many Christians, very many, shared these suspicions. Converts rejected by both Jews and Christians tended to form associations of their own. The early twentieth century Hebrew Christian Alliance was such an organization.
The Jews were wrong in denouncing all defectors to Christianity as rascals and adventurers. There are numerous examples to demonstrate the opposite. Isidor Loewenthal (ca. 1827-1864) started life here in America as a peddler, studied at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, accepted Christianity, and tutored at Princeton. He became a missionary in India where he distinguished himself as an Orientalist till he was accidentally shot in his own garden by a night watchman. A somewhat similar career was carved out for himself by Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky (1831-1906). Sometime after this impoverished Lithuanian immigrant arrived on these shores in 1854, he embraced Christianity, and was dispatched to China as an Episcopalian missionary. There he translated the Anglican prayerbook and the Old Testament into various forms of Chinese and established a college in Shanghai in 1878 after he had been consecrated as bishop in the Protestant Episcopal Church (1877). A professor who enjoyed an enviable reputation was the born Jew Edward Alfred Steiner (1866-1956). This young Czechoslovakian was on his way to Cincinnati to enroll in the Hebrew Union College when he was thrown off a freight train by a brutal brakeman. He was stealing a ride. The badly injured youngster was nursed back to health by kind Christians and was induced to accept their faith. In later years Steiner became a professor of Christian Ethics and Applied Christianity at Grinnell College in Iowa. His works on immigration were widely read.
There is no question that some of these Christian converts were men of ability and religious devotion; it is also well-established that some of them were no good. Mordechai Rosenthal (b. 1828) was typical of this latter group. After this native of Germany Anglicized his name, “Valley of Roses,” he emerged as Max L. Rossvally. He said in his memoirs that he was a surgeon, but it would seem he served in the Civil War as a double agent or spy. He was caught robbing a collection plate and was sent to the penitentiary for passing counterfeit bills. Obviously he was no ornament to the faith which he had adopted.3
PATRIOTISM AND ITS VARIATIONS
Jews not only kept a wary eye on the missionaries but also on the evangelical Christians who were intent on identifying nondenominational Protestantism with Americanism. Americanism and Christianity, Jews insisted, were not one and the same. For Jews America and its ethos was something sacred; they were enthusiastic patriots. On the whole they were strongly progentilistic; they had Christian friends, busied themselves in social work that benefited the larger general community, and documented their devotion to it by generous acts of philanthropy. By the post-Revolutionary War period most Jews were national patriots. In colonial days they, like their neighbors, were devoted to their province; in the early national decades sectional loyalties were very strong in the South. Memoirs of Southern Jews betray their intense ardent affection for the state and region in which they were reared. Eleanor H. Cohen had a passionate romantic love for the dying Confederacy, an inheritance possibly from her father, a banker, physician, veteran of the Florida wars, and an honorary guard over the body of John C. Calhoun as it lay in state. A generation after Lee’s surrender, soldiers like Isaac Hermann and Louis Leon were still proudly proclaiming the righteousness of their Lost Cause. The myth became more vivid as the decades obliterated reality. Edwin Warren Moïse who gave of his fortune during the War was eulogized in post-Reconstruction years as a patriot who had redeemed his state—South Carolina—from aliens, renegades, and Negroes, as a man who “stood steadfast for White supremacy and honest government.” Five years after the War was over, the Hungarian rabbi Aaron S. Bettelheim, who landed in Richmond two years after the Confederacy had already fallen, bemoaned the sad fate of the Dominion State “trampled down by heartless strangers and by native enemies.” Southern loyalties died hard; they were still not dead a century later.
The German Jewish newcomers, most of whom lived in the North, were very patriotic if only because America offered them much that was denied them in the lands they had left. With few exceptions Jews were second-class citizens in Europe till the last quarter of the century. Their religion, Judaism, was not fully recognized in Austria until 1867 and in Hungary till the 1890’s. In principle America offered them everything. As early as 1807 one of the German banking Bleichroeders had commented on the liberties accorded Jews here; these immunities were extended in Jackson’s day, the very years the German Jews began to arrive. They were grateful for free schools, free speech, a free press, and freedom of conscience. They knew what they were getting.4
In 1849, less than a year after his arrival in this country, Adolph Brandeis, the father of the future Supreme Court justice, wrote: “I feel my patriotism growing every day.” Almost fanatical in his passion for America, Lilienthal said that in this country people were first Americans, then Jews, Catholics, or Protestants. This worshipper of the American Constitution was trying to express his conviction that religion should never be allowed to conflict with one’s duty to the state. His utter devotion to America is understandable in the light of the despotism he had witnessed in Russia. Wise who had experienced disabilities as a Jew in Hapsburg Austria, was also an admirer of the country’s liberal principles. Passover, he pointed out, marked the first redemption of mankind; the next was the Fourth of July. Yet he was critical of certain aspects of American culture; he regretted that the social sciences were neglected in the colleges and he had nothing but contempt for those Americans who chewed tobacco, swilled whiskey, swallowed patent medicines, and patronized brothels.
The typical American Jew of the mid-nineteenth century was not as critical as Wise with his sweeping attacks on “atheists, utilitarians, and uncultivated nothingarians.” His love of country was simple and patent. Milwaukee Jewry in 1859 covered the doors of the synagog ark with a crimson velvet curtain on which pious hands had embroidered a spread eagle, an American shield, and the stars and stripes; Philadelphia Israelites contributed liberally to the fund to buy Mount Vernon that it might become a national shrine. In Washington during the Civil War, Nathan Grossmayer worked hard to establish a veterans’ hospice or hospital and in Milliken’s Bend, Mississippi, Philip Sartorius was enjoying the Fourth of July celebration until a booming cannon made his newly-bought mule bolt into the river where it perished. Metropolitan congregations publicly mourned the death of statesmen like Webster or the passing of presidents in office. In Philadelphia, in New York, and Cincinnati they flocked to the synagog when Harrison died. Conservative Shearith Israel in New York City read an English poem:
With thee, America, we raise
The voice of pray’r, the hymn of praise,
and this same congregation, undeviating in its ancient traditions, did not hesitate to intone the prayer for the dead (kaddish) for the soul of the martyred Abraham Lincoln.
Shortly after the Civil War at a B’nai B’rith convention in Chicago, an officer proudly proclaimed: “Upon this soil a new Jerusalem shall hereafter arise to the glory of the Lord,” and at a musical festival in Richmond, two years after Grant had captured the Southern capital, Simon Wolf induced the Southerners present to rise and join in the singing of the national anthem. On July 1, 1874, after the Union of American Hebrew Congregations had been safely launched, Wise changed the name of the Israelite to the American Israelite. Two years later, during the centennial year, the Jews proudly displayed Moses Ezekiel’s statue, “Religious Liberty.” Everywhere Reform rabbis preached the gospel of Americanism and with very few exceptions denounced the new Zionist heresy lest it lay them open to a charge of dual loyalties. During the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I, Jews flocked to the colors eager to prove to the world that the old Maccabean spirit was not yet dead; in Congress Julius Kahn of the Committee on Military Affairs was hailed as an ardent patriot. Grateful immigrants, thankful for what America had given to them, helped immortalize the country’s heroes by bestowing their names on newborn babes. The freethinker, Nathan Pereles of Milwaukee, had three sons who went through life as Benjamin Franklin Pereles, James Madison Pereles, and Thomas Jefferson Pereles.5
ACCEPTANCE OF GENTILES BY JEWS
Patriotism is the enthusiastic acceptance of America and Americans. Jews identified with United States politically, culturally, emotionally, and even spiritually. Their hostility to all proselytizers did not deter them from viewing Christianity tolerantly, much more so than in Europe where they were nearly always on the defensive. The Jews realized full well that de facto, despite the Constitution, this was a Christian land. Congressman Philip Phillips of Mobile defended the Catholics against the Know Nothings; the Mobile rabbi, Julius Eckman, prayed for the welfare of this country and all religious denominations. When, a generation later, an unfrocked priest, Father Slattery, came to Savannah and slandered the Roman Church, the local Young Men’s Hebrew Association withdrew from him the privilege of using its quarters. In Civil War days or earlier, Rabbi Raphall, completely Orthodox, traditional, did not hesitate to refer to Jesus as “the great teacher of Nazareth”; Rabbi Tuska pointed out in 1870 that Jesus carried the message of the One God to the world. Jewish private and parochial schools, even Maimonides College, employed Christian tutors.
Many Jews, it has been pointed out, began to accept Christmas as an American national holiday. Reform prayer books eliminated all references to Christian persecution; their compilers refused to dwell on Jewish martyrdom; they were ashamed indeed that their fathers had harbored vengeful thoughts against those who had massacred them. In this new age of justice and brotherhood all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Some Jews began to refer to Jesus as a Reform rabbi; Isaac M. Wise kept repeating by 1900 the universal teachings of Judaism would be accepted by intelligent Christians. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.”6
SOCIAL WORK BY JEWS IN THE GENERAL COMMUNITY
American Jews identified with their non-Jewish neighbors; they looked upon themselves as part of the general community. During the Civil War the “Hebrew women” supplied clothing for the dependents of the soldiers at the front; their husbands worked closely with the Sanitary Commission in the large cities. In postwar Vicksburg—but this is not typical—Rabbi Judah Wechsler worked successfully for a bond issue that would provide money to build the first brick Negro public schoolhouse in Mississippi. Today there is a school in Meridian named after him. Years later his spiritual descendants were in the forefront of those who led the Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Jews were very active as civic reformers; wherever they pitched their tents they were interested in the social advancement of the community at large. Milwaukee is typical: they helped found orphan asylums, deaf mute societies, kindergartens, and other relief institutions. They were among those who led in building dispensaries and hospitals. Following a tradition already fixed in Vienna in 1793, Jews opened their hospitals to Christians. This was true not only in Milwaukee but in New York and in Philadelphia. When the Jewish hospital was dedicated in the City of Brotherly Love in 1872 Masons and Christian clergymen were among the chief participants.
Jews with strong social and communal interests devoted themselves to better housing, honest government, good public schools, and labor peace. They aided the victims of tuberculosis and interested themselves in settlement houses, visiting nurse services, and in loans to students. They were concerned for the blind and called for public defenders in criminal cases. Having the means and the leisure, upper middle-class Jews with a sense of noblesse oblige were in the forefront of those in New York who urged the establishment of a large-scale public loan society. This was true of Schiff and James Speyer. After his experience in the New York slums Dr. Jacobi saw the need for birth control; Felix Adler and Lillian Wald worked to put an end to child labor; Adolf Lewisohn was intent on prison reform, and Maud Nathan befriended working girls; for her, Judaism was a religion of social justice.7
PHILANTHROPY TO GENTILES, TO THE GENERAL COMMUNITY
The interest demonstrated by Jews in the well-being of the larger community into which they were integrated is but one aspect of their intimate identification with their fellow citizens. This interest was demonstrated by gifts given without respect to creed, race, or status. Throughout the eighteenth century individual Jews made generous gifts to communal institutions; as an organized community Jews started contributing to other Americans in need no later than the early nineteenth century. Their giving in New York City during the War of 1812 was all out of proportion to their numbers. In 1847 because of the famine in Ireland synagogs in different parts of the land began to raise money for relief. Captain Uriah P. Levy volunteered to carry supplies abroad if given a vessel. The Irish must be helped, said the Jews, because of the common bond of humanity. After an earthquake in Guadaloupe, the Jews responded generously. No one in need turned in vain to the Jews of the Pacific Coast, said Benjamin the traveler.
In the middle decades of the century, congregations and societies continued to receive and respond to calls for help. Years before, an editorial in the New York Tribune remarked that once Christians killed Jews and now Jews repaid them by helping them. Even the children in the Sunday schools contributed their pennies. It was the day of yellow fever and cholera epidemics, of great fires and floods. Charleston’s Beth Elohim collected funds for a Methodist Church in distress; Richmond Jewry raised money for the poor of the city, and at a Washington circumcision feast the assembled guests gave liberally to succor needy Christians. In 1881 in a campaign for a general hospital in New York City one-fourth of the money collected came from the Jewish community. When an association was set up in Kansas City to build a Christian hospital, a Jew was elected vice president; the Jews gave liberally, but at the dedication no Son of Israel was invited to participate and for many years no Jewish physicians were tolerated on its staff. The wealthy Jews of Chicago gave a relatively small matching grant to the University of Chicago in 1892 to help guarantee a much larger endowment fund from John D. Rockefeller. In the town named for him in distant Oregon, Henry Heppner of Heppner, Oregon, rode through the countryside soliciting funds for the first school in town.8
The tradition of Jewish giving on a large scale started with Judah Touro in 1854; in the next decade Rosanna Osterman of Galveston followed in his footsteps with her gifts to widows, orphans, the poor, and the imprisoned. The merchants of the third quarter of the century were not yet men of great wealth; habits of thrift were still strong in them, yet by the standards of their time they were not ungenerous. It was during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, as the Jews prospered, that their gifts became both more numerous and more substantial. They helped civic institutions and Catholic and Protestant charities; they made provision for hospitals, for the education of the youth, and the care of the aged; Joseph Pulitzer bequeathed large sums to fund his prizes, and Benjamin Altheimer, a Saint Louis banker, proposed a Bundle Day to clothe the poor. Others gave generously to lay out parks and to erect university libraries. New York magnates donated and bequeathed millions in cash and art collections to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Philadelphian, Lewis Elkin, a member of the Board of Education, left $2,000,000 to aid retired women teachers.
Philanthropy, giving, is always relative. The poor widow who threw in her two mites was deemed the most generous of all givers (Mark 12:42) and this might be said of Abraham Slimmer of Waverly, Iowa (d.1917). Even while still alive he gave most of his income to others; he lived on very little. His benefactions knew not the bounds of race or religion. The Catholic Sisters of Mercy received a hospice for the aged, a hospital for the sick. He gave to Negroes in Mississippi, to crippled children in Chicago, and even left money to the editor of the Waverly and Bremer County Independent “for his ever aiming to uphold the right and expose the wrongs in the columns of his paper.” As far as it can be determined Slimmer’s motives were humanitarian. Max Pam (1865-1935), a successful New York corporation lawyer, may have been driven by considerations that were uniquely his own. He was generous to Catholic institutions because of their political bent. One may hazard a guess that he resented the threat to property rights reflected in the Progressive trends of La Follette and Rooseveltian liberal Republicans.
By the early 1900’s big givers like Carnegie probably exercised an influence on Jewish philanthropists. At all events the new century brought massive wealth to individual Jews and the example of Gentiles who were princely in their giving. The politically ambitious Simon Guggenheim was generous to his adopted state of Colorado, building college buildings in several different academic centers; Adolph Lewisohn, the mining and metal enterpriser, competed with his rivals the Guggenheims by giving a school of mines to Columbia. As the Kuhn-Loeb coterie garnered wealth it distributed part of its harvest. Through lavish gifts Otto Kahn became a renowned patron of the fine arts and emerged as one of the first to encourage Negroes with artistic talents. Morris Loeb, son of a founder, left a half million to Harvard for scientific purposes; brother James, banker and humanitarian, gave liberally to Harvard, and financed the American Institute of Musical Art in New York City. It was he who supplied the funds for the translation and publication of the Greek and Latin works known as the Loeb Classical Library. Loving Germany Loeb moved to Bavaria where he rewarded his hosts by generous gifts. He died in May, 1933, a few months after Hitler came to power. He was fortunate.9
SCHIFF AND ROSENWALD
Among the Jews the most renowned and beloved philanthropist was Jacob H. Schiff (1847-1920), the senior partner of Kuhn-Loeb. His popularity was not due to the size of his gifts for there were others who very probably gave more, but he gave of himself. Schiff was an ardent Jew who never forgot the traditional home in which he had been nurtured; he lavished time and devotion on his favorite charities and gave his people leadership for he loved them. Many, possibly most of his wealthy and generous Jewish contemporaries, were lukewarm in their ethnic and religious sympathies; this may serve to explain why they gave liberally to non-Jewish causes. The Jewish sections of the great libraries at Harvard, New York, and Washington benefited from his largesse; he presented Harvard with a Semitic Museum building; he built a student hall for Barnard—colloquially known as “Jake” - and was generous to settlement houses, the Red Cross, and Cornell. Yet Schiff was not parochial in his bounty, for he gave scholarships, fortified loan funds, helped endow archaelogical research, and was liberal in contributing to colleges seeking financial aid.
Schiff’s younger contemporary, Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), had less time to devote to philanthropic causes, for his mail order empire demanded his constant attention. Yet he, too, was devoted to his people and was most generous to them. However, concern for Jewry was not his prime interest; public service was a family tradition exemplified by his uncle, Julius Hammerslough. Uncle Julius was one of the leaders in his home town, Springfield, Illinois, where he had busied himself raising funds from Jews for the proposed national Lincoln monument. Hammerslough’s appeal to his coreligionists was strongly tinged with apologetics and undoubtedly reflects the thinking and the insecurity of that foreign-born generation. Jews must contribute generously to prove to the world that they are dedicated to liberty; through their giving they will moderate anti-Jewish prejudice. In 1917 Rosenwald established a fund dedicated to the “well-being of mankind.” He insisted on matching grants; people must be willing to help themselves. In addition he stipulated that funds given be spent in a generation in order that they be used for the very purpose which the donor had in mind. Both provisions were wise. Rosenwald’s gifts were on a large scale. His generosity benefited clinics, sanitaria, and the Community Chest. He established a Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and gave large sums to the University of Chicago, and the Chicago Art Institute. He supported colleges in Turkey, financed fellowships, expended large sums to further agriculture, and provided funds for Admiral Byrd’s expedition to the South Pole.
His grand design for aid was focused primarily on the Negroes who must be helped, he once said, because they like Jews were people who had known persecution. His largest gifts through the Julius Rosenwald Fund were for them; through his matching grants, usually about 15 percent of the amount required, he helped make possible the establishment of 5,000 Negro institutions; he assisted in building a good training hospital, workshops, teachers’ homes, numerous YMCA’s and public schools. The Chicago Daily Tribune once gave him a $5 award for a motto that he submitted. He had borrowed it from Col. Robert Ingersoll: “I would rather be a beggar and spend my money like a king, than a king and spend my money like a beggar.” An eminent American said that Rosenwald probably did more for blacks than any other man in the country; an admirer said of him that he was “a civilized human being.”10
ACCEPTANCE OF JEWS BY GENTILES
It is not important for Gentiles to be accepted by Jews; Gentiles can live without Jews. It is very important for Jews to be accepted by Gentiles. The Constitution was only a piece of paper until it was made effectual by the American masses. Fortunately for the Jews their Gentile neighbors did accept them and the Jews prospered under this living together. Social acceptance, however, was nearly always limited; it was often said, somewhat facetiously, that every Christian has at least one Jewish intimate: “Some of my very best friends are Jews.” On the whole Jews were accepted, if not welcomed, on the frontier or in new communities to which they brought a degree of culture and some means; as a rule they were respected. But as real wealth developed, social distinctions arose; indeed Jews were on occasion barred from the very clubs which their fathers had helped establish. And, as it has been pointed out, rejected indignant Jews formed their own social organizations and by so doing accentuated the social distance. Social acceptance through achievement? No! Achievement has rarely ever been a factor inducing social tolerance. In the tight small pioneer academic groups the individual Jew might well be admitted. Joseph Jastrow, son of a rabbi, and his wife Rachel Szold, daughter of a rabbi, were pioneers in the University of Wisconsin. Jastrow, probably the first professor of psychology on the campus, became an intimate part of the small university circle. When the Jastrows went on sabbatical leave, the Frederick Jackson Turners looked after their dog, yet Turner could write contemptuously of the East European immigrants, of those people to whom Henrietta Szold in Baltimore was utterly devoted. Social acceptance through wealth and culture? No! Social status was a game; it was lots of fun. One could only win by keeping others out of the magic circle. Ward McAllister, social arbiter, even suggested that Jews who could not qualify for the Social Register should publish a blue book of their own. McAllister, however, was hardly a racist; his brother had married the granddaughter of a New Orleans Jew.
Even one of the mining Guggenheims was not invited to the exclusive homes of Seattle due to the opposition of the reigning social queen who was herself the daughter of a Jewish millionaire and his Christian wife. Unlike England where the Rothschilds, who remained Jews, moved in the best social circles, no practicing Jew in America was accepted into the social set of the Four Hundred. A few marginal Jews broke through the barriers; these were people like August Belmont and James Speyer who had married into good Gentile families and had assimilated. In a sense they were no longer Jews. The Kuhn-Loeb partners, Schiff and Kahn, were definitely on the periphery. Yet wealthy Jews such as these, even if not invited into the magic circle, were nearly always treated with deference; no one sneered at Schiff. Apparently there were always exceptions to the generalizations which social historians are justified in drawing. In some towns and cities, individuals who maintained their loyalty to Jewry and Judaism were socially welcomed by the Gentile aristocracy. Adolphus S. Solomons was invited to presidential affairs at the White House in Lincoln’s day; a generation earlier Captain Alfred Mordecai’s little Rosa had been a guest in the presidential mansion at a party given by her friend Mary, President Tyler’s granddaughter. It is of course a question whether Presidents are ever society or always remain politicians. The Gentile B. Gratz Brown, later United States senator and governor of Missouri, was named after Benjamin Gratz of Lexington; obviously an intimacy existed here between the two families.
There was always a gray area where Jews and Christians mixed socially. Christians never failed to be present at the public balls and dinners that were sponsored by Jews; most of these were fund-raising affairs for local charities. The army brass stationed at Fort Douglas, Utah, was delighted to serve on the invitation committee for the Jewish ball that was held in 1884. At an anniversary dinner of the Hebrew Benevolent Society in Cincinnati, Judge T. Walker responded to a toast to the Christian guests: “The Hebrew Nation.—they received the law on Mount Sinai amidst thunders and lightning and cloud and flame,—and amidst thunders and lightning, and cloud and flame, they have kept it.” Jews and Christians saw each other at lodges, political clubs, and cultural organizations; most hotels were open to Jews. It is true that they were not welcomed in some hotels, social clubs, and lodges, but the socially-ambitious upper middle-class Jews compensated for the snubbing to which they had been subjected by snubbing middle-class Jews and the East European émigrés. The massive imposing “German Jewish” clubs became bastions of exclusion.11
THE AMBIVALENT ATTITUDES TOWARD JEWS IN AMERICAN LITERATURE
Social ambivalence was the order of the day: acceptance in the banquet hall but not in the living room. This ambivalence was also reflected in the literature of the period; some writers were sympathetic to Jews; others were antipathetic; many were ambivalent, praising and besmirching them. Antebellum Christian literature was concerned with saving the Jew; the Lost Ten Tribes and the children of the Old Testament are yet to be restored and converted to the only true faith. On a conscious level there was no hostility in this pursuit and hope, only a yearning to ensure the eternal bliss of the Jews. Even before the Civil War, and certainly after it, there was a literary stereotype already centuries old of the Jew as a villain, miser, usurer, and arsonist. Julia Ward Howe, who was yet to write the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” portrayed a cruel Jewish usurer in a drama which she wrote in the 1850’s. This picture of the Jew as a villain persisted for decades in the dime novels which a generation of youngsters devoured. The Jew they learned to know was frequently depicted as a coward and a criminal. Occasionally a decent human being surfaced; “Jew though you are you have proven yourself an honest man.”
This gross caricature of the Jew in literature underwent some modification in the second half of the century. As in religion there is often a cultural lag in belles lettres. Adherence to old traditions of the Jew as a monster died hard. There was a painful progress from the inherited unreal distorted fantasy to reality, that is, to realism, to naturalism. Slowly writers began to accept, to describe the Jew, as he really was, or as they thought he was. Personal relations with Jews who were rapidly increasing in numbers helped to confront tradition with truth. Mr. Cohen who ran the dry goods store was a kindly and friendly person. A somewhat more sympathetic presentation of the Jew in literature may also reflect a realization of the rising political power of the Jewish masses. A Polish Jew sat in Congress; a German Jew, an erstwhile ambassador, was Secretary of Commerce and Labor; Jews were bankers of national repute, owners of powerful newspapers, and of huge department stores. It is very questionable whether Jewish control of the theatres made for a better image of the Jew; the owners seemed to be concerned only with box office appeal giving the people what they thought the people wanted. Very few of America’s classical writers were unfriendly. On the whole Hawthorne and Longfellow were sympathetic; the latter often employed themes from rabbinic lore. As fancy and chance dictated, writers wrote sympathetically of the Jew as a Revolutionary War patriot, a peddler, an artist, a union organizer, a civic reformer. Though reared in an atmosphere unfriendly to Jews, the older Oliver Wendell Holmes strove to be objective in assessing them. After 1900 the journalists who turned their attention to the Slavic Jewish immigrants of the East Side were in general understanding; they were attracted—and not threatened—by these exotic ghetto dwellers.
By and large as the century drew to a close the attempt was made in good literature to be fair if not sympathetic to the Jew. This was not altogether paralleled on the stage where older stereotypes persisted. Producers were afraid to experiment with new approaches that might entail large losses. Theatregoers were accustomed to “stage Jews” not the human beings who happened to be Jews. A summary of over 200 plays, mostly English—some even written by Jews—which appeared on the American stage from the 1790’s to the 1900’s substantiates the thesis that negative stereotypes persisted into the twentieth century. Throughout this period the stock Jew appeared in many evil guises. Very frequently he spoke in a dialect of his own; he was the comic relief, always good for a laugh, even if he was a good fellow. He was a smuggler, a crooked lawyer, a grafter, a cheap politician, a forger, a fence, a usurer, a crude social climber, an unpatriotic banker, an apostate, a lecher, even a pathological killer. But when the Jew was good he was very good. He was an honorable banker, he was noble and generous to a fault; even Shylock was a much abused unhappy old man. Plays evinced a sympathy for the persecuted Jews of Russia and for the proposed Jewish commonwealth in Palestine. There was an understanding of the sad conflict between immigrant parents and their acculturated children. And from the earliest days, from the eighteenth century on, the problem of intermarriage constantly obtruded itself. There were also plays which appeared on the boards where the Jew was obviously a Jew, but he was neither black nor white, not even gray. He was just another character whom the author had dubbed in. The final image projected into the mind of the theatregoer is difficult to determine. There is no sure way of knowing whether the stage portrayal of the Jew left the audience untouched, antipathetic, or sympathetic. But this may be ventured. As the twentieth century advanced, the stage—as in literature—viewed the Jew more realistically, if not more sympathetically. The end result probably was to induce the patrons not to “reject” the Jew but to look upon him as just another American.12
The image of the Jew projected on the stage was rarely ambivalent. The Jew was good or bad or without any qualifying characteristics. However the image in the mind of one and the same writer was often ambivalent; it was not always sharply etched; the Jew was both good and bad. The ambivalent writers were not always sure of themselves; some of them halted between two opinions because they were professional writers and wrote what they thought would sell. They liked some Jews and disliked others; they liked them one year and disliked them another. There was a number of notable American litterateurs who had one thing in common with respect to Jews: they said some kind things and some unkind things; they accepted stereotypes, but not one was in truth an anti-Jew. Among these writers were Emerson, Lowell, Lafcadio Hearne, William Dean Howells, Henry James. Like the other Brahmins, Emerson was convinced that the Jews ruled the world financially, yet was dismayed that the Roman Jews were locked up in their ghettos like dogs chained for the night. Lowell, as it has been noted, dreaded the all-prevailing Jewish influence which he conjured up in his febrile imagination yet he thought the world was in debt to Jews for their spiritual contributions. Howells wrote of a sharp Jewish businessman and disdained those Jews who foregathered in Saratoga, yet he liked the denizens of the metropolitan ghettos. Henry James was dismayed lest the “little Jews” and “big noses” take over New York City yet he admired beautiful Jewish women.13
ZEBULON BAIRD VANCE
Ambivalence characterizes the widely known oration of Senator Zebulon B. Vance (1830-1894) which he delivered on lecture platforms in many cities. It is called “The Scattered Nation,” an allusion to the promise of Jeremiah and Ezekiel that these scattered people shall yet be gathered in and restored to the Promised Land. Orthodox Christians who listened spellbound could only approve of what he said; the Bible is gospel truth. Anti-Jewish auditors could only nod their heads in approval when he listed all the accusations made against the Jews. He himself never affirmed them, but he described them in detail; Jews have produced nothing; they own no real estate; they are perjurers and cheats. By merely citing these imputed vices he was pandering to his audience. But the Jews beamed when Vance thundered forth that without Judaism Christianity is only superstition; the Jews are our spiritual fathers; they are the leaders in the arts and sciences; the Bible is the source of our democracy. Vance had something for everybody. The Jews exulted forgetting that he had once been a Know Nothing and a Ku Klux Klan leader. He had very many Jewish friends; it is probable that some of them shared his racist beliefs. North Carolina Jewry admired him in his lifetime and glorified him after his death. When a Vance monument was dedicated in Asheville in 1923 the local Jews invited Rabbi Stephen S. Wise to make the address. Five years later a plaque, affixed by the B’nai B’rith in a Christian churchyard, described Vance as a man who had honored the Children of Israel in “The Scattered Nation.” In all parts of the country, wherever Jews were found, they were so insecure that when a distinguished Christian spoke highly of them their gratitude knew no bounds.14
THE AMBIVALENT PRESS
American writers who thoughtlessly—or deliberately—repeated deprecatory stereotypes were not singling out Jews; they may not even have been conscious of their ambivalence, of their deeply imbedded prejudice. This was an age when it was fashionable to belittle ethnic, racial, and religious groups such as Negroes, Catholics, Mormons, and even Yankees. Much more so than the litterateurs, the press, in its ambivalences, catalogued the virtues and the vices of Jewry. The Jews were always worth an editorial; they were mysterious, exotic, rich; people never ceased to be curious about them. Indeed they were even different physically, for were they not undersized and dark. What is black is bad; what is blonde is good. Lydia Child in 1841 and Ignatius Donnelly in 1893 were puzzled, almost disappointed, to find some Jews were fair-skinned, blue-eyed, and straightnosed. There was a certain unanimity in the pluses and minuses on the editorial pages. (The newspapers copied one another.) It is immaterial whether objectively the columns of praise or condemnation are valid or exaggerated; the people who read them accepted the written word as scripture. Minuses? The catalogue of moral defects parallels those reflected in the plays which portrayed the Jew as a rogue. Jews are avaricious, acquisitive, without integrity in business where they adhere to the code of an eye for an eye. They do not till the soil nor will they work with their hands; they are unmanly; they avoid politics; they are a cold-hearted race, pushy, uneducated, and uncultured.15
THE WORD JEW
Gentiles made the word “Jew” an almost scurrilous noun. It was in bad odor well into the late twentieth century when some writers in the Dictionary of American Biography preferred to describe their Jewish subjects as men of Hebrew ancestry. Embarrassed by the word “Jew” and same of its uses some Jews worked to remove it as a verb from the dictionary. Markens, the first American Jewish historian, calls his book The Hebrews in America. Unlike his fellow liberal, Gabriel Riesser, who named his paper The Jew (Der Jude), Isaac M. Wise called his weekly, The Israelite. Wise and his friends chose the following names for the two national organizations which they brought into being, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Hebrew Union College. New societies and community centers of the middle and late nineteenth century appear as Young Men’s Hebrew Associations. Gentile friends shied away from the word Jew; they limited their admiration to Hebrews and Israelites. It was not until the 1880’s and 1890’s that the word Jew began to be accepted more widely. That was the period that witnessed the rise of the Jewish Publication Society and the National Council of Jewish Women. When in the early 1900’s Jews and Gentiles began to employ the noun and adjective Jew and Jewish, that was a sign that the Jaw was accepted and accepted himself for what he was; this use was his baptism as an American.16
What pluses did the press attribute to Jews? Jews take care of their own poor; they have few paupers, no drunkards, and few criminals who resort to violence. They are lavish in charity. They are to be numbered among the best citizens for they are patriotic, educated, proud, and honorable men; their lawyers are brilliant, their orators, actors, and musicians are famous. Beethoven was a Jew! Their women are chaste; Jewish family life is beautiful. These thrifty Jews help build the towns which they grace with their presence; the United States and the world are indebted to them; they are the people who through the Bible have given birth to monotheism, democracy, and our most cherished liberties. These acclamations abound in books, magazines, and in the daily press. The fact that Jewish virtues were constantly rehearsed in the press does not necessarily mean that they are not true, to some extent. More realistically, however, it is wise to assume that these puffs in the papers may well have been motivated by politics, financial expediency, and a profound respect for wealth in a capitalistic culture. Politicians wanted votes, editors wanted advertisements, and Jews loved to hear how good they were. It is not improbable that the rising influence of the Jew and the increasing willingness to accept him tended to diminish inherited traditional antipathies.
Some of the editorial statements which warmed the hearts of Jews were so glowing and flattering that wary Jewish readers should have allowed themselves a liberal discount. As early as 1849 Senator William H. Seward told Jews that they were an extraordinary people, that their prophesies were the infallible oracles of the fate of empires. Writing in the Atlantic Monthly for 1870, James Parton declared that there are no more refined people than the cultured Jews of the large cities, and George William Curtis of Harper’s Magazine informed his readers that “movements of civilization hung in great degree” upon Jewish genius. In 1881 the New York Sun told the world that the valedictorian and the best student at Yale was a Jewish lad from Elmyra. This report was probably no exaggeration.17
THE ACTUAL ACCEPTANCE OF THE JEW
The picture of the Jew on stage and on the editorial page was often sheer distortion; the virtues and vices of the stereotype were largely in the realm of fantasy. But there was a reality. Actually what was the nature of the acceptance which the nation, the state, the town accorded the Jew? What was the real, non-mythical place of the American Jew? There were times when federal and state governments, resorting to verbal assurance, avowed their readiness to accord Jews full equality insofar as it lay in their power. The Jews kept them to those promises particularly as they waxed stronger numerically, culturally, and financially. They pressed for consideration and this they received from the structured government and from the people themselves. In the sixty years between 1860 and 1920 Jewry moved forward in the esteem of the citizenry. Jews had become leaders in the national orders, in the Grand Army of the Republic, and particularly in Masonry which they had helped found in colonial America. They became grandmasters in a number of states; in Montana alone four Jews served in that office. Jewish leadership in another great national organization is reflected in the work of Adolphus Simeon Solomons (1826-1910). Together with Clara Barton he was a founder of the American Association of the Red Cross in 1881 and its first treasurer. Solomons attended meetings of the International Red Cross at Geneva, served there as a vice president, and in later years, here in the United States was one of those who reorganized the troubled society as the American National Red Cross.18
By the middle decades of the nineteenth century the states and the national government began to understand that there must be no distinction between citizens because of religious origin. Jews began to serve in increasing numbers in the House and Senate. Their young men went to West Point and Annapolis; rabbis in skull caps and praying shawls prayed in the state legislatures and in the halls of Congress. Then it was that Judah P. Benjamin emerged as the symbol of American egalitarianism. The United States government offered this man, a foreign-born Jew, the ministry to Spain, a country which in 1492 had expelled its Jewish subjects. A few years after Benjamin declined this honor he was called to the second highest post in the Confederate government, that of Secretary of State.
When the Wisconsin legislature held its Lincoln memorial sessions, it met in the local synagog. Two years before that, in 1863, when the sanctuary was dedicated, a Christian male choir learned to sing the Hebrew chaunts; the newspaperman who described the ceremony could not understand, however, why the name of Christ was not invoked in the services. Arkansas amended its laws to permit Jews to perform marriages and Colorado appointed a rabbi to the state board of charities (1891). This Jewish religious leader later served as supervisor of the penitentiary and the asylums for the orphans and the insane. The Wilmington, North Carolina, airport was named for a Jewish flyer who had fallen in World War I, and when New York Jews berated General Theodore Bingham for attacking New York’s East European immigrants, they could comfort themselves with the thought that the Secretary of Commerce and Labor was a foreign-born Jew. It was the United States collier, the Vulcan, that carried Jewry’s gift of tons of food to the hungry Jews of Palestine, and if the statesmen assembled at Versailles in 1919 wrote minority rights into the peace treaty and prepared the way for a Jewish homeland in Palestine it was because of the sympathy of an American president and the American people.
The honors and offices which Jews in public life received are obviously too numerous to mention, particularly in the early 1900’s. An arbitrarily selected list from one year will document the recognition accorded them by their government and their fellow citizens. Jews were called to serve the Smithsonian Institute, the Congress of American Prison Associations, a state’s utilities commission, the National Education Association, the Conference on Child Labor and Labor of Women, the Pan American Scientific Congress, a Conference on Dependent Children, a state university board, a board of pardons and paroles, the National Conference of Charities and Correction, a state department of Spanish War veterans, the American Legion, the American Hospital Association, and a national association of American physicians.19
THE KEILEY AFFAIR
It is clear that state and national authorities frequently appointed citizens of the Jewish persuasion to important posts. In a curious incident in which a Jewish woman was involved, this proud and sensitive American nation was not slow to take umbrage when its honor was impugned; Washington stoutly defended the tradition of equality implicit in the Constitution. The case in point is the Keiley Affair. Anthony J. Keiley (1835-1905) was a Catholic, who when serving as mayor of Richmond had denounced the Italians for taking over the papal provinces. Therefore when Keiley was nominated as minister to Austria-Hungary the Austrians refused to accept him for they were members of the Triple Alliance which included the new Italian state, the one Keiley had denounced. In rejecting the minister, however, the Austrians offered the excuse that his wife would not be acceptable at court for she was a Jew. In turn the indignant President Cleveland would not withdraw Keiley’s name, and for a period of about two years no minister was dispatched to Vienna. The President and Secretary of State Thomas F. Bayard insisted that religious liberty was a chief cornerstone of the American system of government. Though Keiley and his Jewish wife were never accepted in Vienna it is an interesting coincidence that a year after the United States finally appointed a new minister the Austrian court declared that Baron and Baroness Albert Rothschild were persona grata at social affairs of the Imperial Court.20
NOTABLE AMERICANS AND THE JEWS
Though counting votes always played an important part in the verbiage, decisions, and strategy of national politicians (statesmen), they were also influenced by the tradition of the equality of all electors. Thus Jews were not neglected in the thinking and actions of American political notables. Mordecai M. Noah invited Daniel Webster to address a Jewish philanthropic society in New York and only incidentally (?) reminded him that there were 13,000 Jews in the city. Declining politely, the distinguished Massachusetts lawyer did not fail to pay his devoirs to those authors of the Holy Scriptures to which Americans owe so much “as intelligent, moral, and responsible beings.” In 1851 when the discriminatory Swiss Treaty bill was under consideration Henry Clay wrote: “This is not the country nor the age in which ancient and unjust prejudices should receive any countenance.” Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan, a gentleman with presidential ambitions, praised the Jews, assuring them in those Know Nothing days that this was their new homeland and that the gates would never be closed against those immigrants to whom God had committed his oracles. Henry Ward Beecher had less to gain by telling the Jews what a wonderful people they were. Yet this very influential clergyman spoke and wrote frequently in their defense and vigorously attacked the anti-Jewish snobs of the Gilded Age. He expressed his contempt for those persons who sought to: “wipe their feet—or their tongues which are filthier still—upon the remaining remnants of that great race.” The Greeks, he once said, gave the world beauty and the Hebrews a hunger for righteousness; the Greeks build temples and the Hebrews build men.21
THE LASKER AFFAIR
In 1884, a year before the Keiley incident, the House of Representatives took a stand that brought it into conflict with Bismarck, the chancellor of the new German Empire. The occasion was the Lasker Affair, an occurrence in which a foreign Jewish notable was involved. While on a visit to this country Eduard Lasker, a member of the Reichstag and a leader of the National Liberal Party, died in New York City on January 5. The House adopted a resolution of sympathy and sent it to the Reichstag. The chancellor refused to accept it for Lasker had been his political opponent. In the discussion in the House the congressmen took the opportunity to praise the liberalism of Lasker and, by indirection at least, to reflect on Bismarck’s conservative political policies. At Lasker’s funeral in New York, Andrew D. White, former minister to Germany, dwelt on the liberalism of Lasker who had not failed to fight for the Catholics in the days when Bismarck was carrying on his Kulturkampf. Lasker, said White, was one of “the true elect of mankind.” The discussion in Congress and in the American press served not only to reflect on Bismarckian policy but in a sense to express appreciation for the high-minded German Jewish politician. The righteous indignation in the House at Bismarck’s ineptitude, though real and sincere, was encouraged by the gentleman from Texas, the Honorable Thomas Peck Ochiltree. Ochiltree had offered the Lasker resolutions, and was in touch with a fellow Texan, Eduard’s brother Moritz of Galveston, one of the state’s land, cattle, and banking magnates.
It was during the years of the Lasker contretemps that other signs of the acceptance of Jewry became more numerous. When the Grand Old Man of World Jewry, Moses Montefiore, celebrated his 100th birthday, some of the most distinguished Americans, among them Oliver Wendell Holmes and John Greenleaf Whittier, sent him congratulatory notes. He was literally revered by hosts of Americans. Distinguished Gentile American historians not only joined but also served as officers of the recently established American Jewish Historical Society. Among the members was Herbert Baxter Adams of Hopkins, one of the founders of the American Historical Association. His fellow Baltimorean, James Cardinal Gibbons, one of the country’s most eminent prelates, raised his voice more than once in defense of the Jews. He deplored the sufferings of this martyred people in Russia and reminded Christians that Jesus and the apostles were born Jews. There can be no question that during this period most Gentiles were prepared emotionally to accept Jews as fellow-citizens; sympathy for them, understanding of them was gaining ground; there was more tolerance than intolerance.22
THE PRESIDENTS AND THE JEWS
On July 12, 1887, Henry Ward Beecher wrote President Cleveland urging him to appoint Oscar Straus to a diplomatic post not despite his Jewishness but just because he was a Jew; thus America would accord recognition to a religious group which had contributed so much to its welfare. For diverse reasons, Cleveland agreed and made the appointment. Almost two decades later the same Cleveland, at the time of the celebration of the 250th year of American Jewish settlement (1905), spoke glowingly of the virtues of the Jew as an American: “Wherever in the world prejudice against the Jews still exists, there can be no place for it among the people of the United States.” (This was said only weeks after hundreds of Jews were murdered in the Russian pogroms.) Long before and long after Cleveland’s time similar sentiments were expressed by almost every president since Washington. As far as it is known there was no president who when called upon refused to express his admiration for Judaism, for American Jewry, for Jewish spiritual leaders and cultural aspirations. This is true even of those very occupants of the White House who when still climbing the political ladder had evinced little sympathy for Jews. How often these glowing tributes were but gracious phrases penned by facile secretaries is difficult to determine. In many instances they seem to be the sincere utterances of the presidents whose names were affixed.23
COMMUNAL ACCEPTANCE ON THE LOCAL LEVEL
The actual number of Jewish men and women participating in political, cultural, and welfare work on a state and national level was small, for there were not many Jews in the country and the number of offices and opportunities were bound to be limited. The real test of acceptance lies in a study of the Jews on the local or grass roots level; it is a test that they passed in almost every town and village. They passed with high honors in the smaller towns, for as merchants they were often members of the power elite. Wherever they settled there was, literally, no office or appointment denied them. Thus the Jew was found as a vigilante, a police chief, judge, alderman, city councilman, park commissioner, city solicitor, and prosecuting attorney. He was on the boards of schools, hospitals, parks, Chambers of Commerce, lodges, the Red Cross, the symphony, the charities, the library, and even the Young Men’s Christian Association.
In Atlanta, David Mayer was honored as “the father of public education”; in Pittsburgh Rabbi Lippmann Mayer served as chaplain in the penitentiary, as trustee of a local college, and as director of a home for the aged. In Charleston, the Saint Andrew’s Society of the 1840’s refused to charge the Hebrew Benevolent Society a rental fee when it gave a charity ball. The aristocratic South Carolina Historical Society chose J. Barrett Cohen to deliver the oration on the occasion of its first anniversary in 1856 and the antebellum Georgia Historical Society elected Solomon Cohen as treasurer and, later, as senior vice president. It was this latter Cohen who was picked to deliver the memorial address for Stephen Elliott, bishop of the diocese of Georgia and a president of the Society.
It is true, as it has been noted, that in early San Diego a Jew had been dragged to court on the Day of Atonement, but it is equally true that in another California court a judge refused to proceed in a case on that solemn occasion because Jews were involved. In San Francisco steamers did not sail on the Sabbath to accommodate the Jews who wished to worship their God. The sheriff of Yuba County allowed the Jews in Marysville to hold services in the courthouse on the Yom Kippur of 1869. In a legal action that came before a California court the sheriff was forced to surrender Jewish ceremonial objects which had been attached to pay a debt; the seizure, so it was held, was a violation of the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom. Three Los Angelenos, a Jew, a Catholic, and a Protestant came together in 1880 and donated 300 acres to help establish a college; this is today the University of Southern California.24
When prestigious Temple Emanu-El of New York asked Max Lilienthal to serve as its rabbi (1868) a delegation of Cincinnati Christian leaders pleaded with him successfully not to leave for greener pastures. East Coast Christians were frequent contributors to Jewish charities and generous givers to the numerous relief funds which had been called into being after the Russian massacres of the 1880’s. New York City public funds were used to support Jewish social welfare institutions, and in 1911 Manhattan’s Public School Number 9 opened a kosher kitchen for its Jewish youngsters. Before 1920 Philadelphia had built and named five public schools in honor of illustrious Jewish citizens. One of these men was Jules Mastbaum. By the decade of the 1920’s the Mastbaum name was memorialized through a school building, a loan society, a museum, a theatre, a lodge, and a Boy Scout troop. When Leo Frank was sentenced to death there were numerous meetings of protest and appeals for mercy on the part of Christians throughout the country. Even in the Atlanta of 1915, in the days before Frank was lynched, there were Christian ministers who sought clemency for the condemned man, an action which called for great moral and even physical courage.
The question was posed above: why was the Jew accepted and honored in the local community? In that age when all men and women believed in the gospel of success the Jew who had made good was admired. But more than that his neighbors delighted to honor him because he was efficient, honest, and acculturated. The Jew in public office was not content to be 100 percent American; he was often 125 percent.25