What Will America Make Of Her Jewish Immigrants? -- By: W. E. C. Wright
BSac 62:245 (Jan 1905) p. 167
What Will America Make Of Her Jewish Immigrants?
They are too numerous to be considered a negligible quantity. Already they constitute nearly or quite one-fifth of the population of New York City, the number there being not less than six hundred thousand, and according to some authorities seven hundred thousand. Arriving at that port, they find close at hand congenial association with those of like faith and language. They have become so large an element in the streets south of Grand Street, and east of the Bowery, that this district of the city is currently called “The Ghetto.” Few districts anywhere in the world hold so many people to the acre. The six-story tenement-house is common, subdivided into very small apartments. There is almost no yard room. The two or three parks made in recent years by the city are crowded with people, as the school-yards are crowded with children when opened as summer playgrounds. But most of the children seem to find their principal playground in the street in front of their tenements. Indeed, a large part of the people’s life is enacted on the sidewalk and street before their tenement door, as in all crowded city districts.
Most of the Jews on their arrival are very poor. They largely come from countries where persecution and disabilities have shut them out from the ordinary chances of life. The “May laws” promulgated in Russia in 1885 sent them thronging to America. They have found this a land where the law recognizes no disabilities, and are eager to improve the better chance offered them. But their religious scruples are a serious handicap to entering our general industrial life. The occupations are few that offer employment to hands who will not work on Saturday. The scruple about food is also a serious limitation. The strict Jew refuses beef that has not been certi-
BSac 62:245 (Jan 1905) p. 168
fied by a rabbi almost as earnestly as he abhors pork. This not only makes him afraid of a Gentile hospital, but it circumscribes his possibilities of residence when in health. He must live where a Jewish butcher is within reach. These scruples go far to explain their crowding into cities, and their proneness to occupy themselves in the manufacture of clothing in their own tenements and in the lines of trade where each can be his own master.
They are not inclined to be idle, and their frugality is almost incredible. Dr. Blaustein, whose many years in the superintendency of the Educational Alliance on East Broadway have made him thoroughly acquainted with the conditions of life in “The Ghetto,” says that few of the immigrants remain in that district more than five years. They are not contented to accept as permanent the crowde...
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