Page 15 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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9
LIPTZIN----AFTER THREE HUNDRED YEARS
earth a sober spot where human beings are not blood-intoxicated
and do not kill each other by the thousands, as we kill chickens
before Atonement Day, and do not cut off each o ther’s heads as
we cut off the heads of herring and do not chop away a t each
other as we chop away at cabbage.”
America is an unsophisticated land. A person says what he
means and he means what he says. There no one ever breaks his
word. There thieves are non-existent. There the poor are not
poor for any length of time because all engage in physical labor
and can work their way to the top. There a person can learn any
trade he pleases and a tailor ranks with the elite. “All American
millionaires and billionaires began by working hard in their youth
either in a shop or on the street. Ju s t ask Rockefeller, Carnegie,
Morgan, or Vanderbilt about their early years. Didn’t they, too,
sweep the streets? Weren’t they, too, newsboys or bootblacks?
Or, take as an example Mr. Ford, the present king of the auto-
industry — wasn’t he once a mere chauffeur?”
The contrast between Eastern Europe, from which Jews were
fleeing, and the legendary America, for which they longed, was
best voiced by Sholem Aleichem in the speech of an immigrant
at the moment of first stepping on the soil of the New World.
Turning his face towards the ocean and clenching his right hand,
this immigrant shouted back: “Listen, you jackasses, scoundrels,
drunkards, hooligans, and murderers! We must thank you for
finding ourselves now in such a free and happy land! I f not for
you and your wicked laws, persecutions, and pogroms, we would
not have known about Columbus nor would he have known about
us. You can wait a long, long time before we ever come back to
you. Ju s t as you don’t see your own ears, so you won’t see us as
long as you live. Some day you may realize th a t you once had a
Jewish people in your midst and didn’t know how to take care
of it. You will meet the same vile end as Spain once did. You
will long for us. A Jew will be a precious rarity among you. You
will call us back, bu t we will never, never re tu rn .”
The immigrants of Eastern Europe went through a spiritual
cycle th a t was in many respects similar to th a t of the two preced-
ing groups, the Sephardic and the German-speaking Jews. Their
slogan, too, was Americanization, complete integration. A best
seller of 1912, two years before the F irst World War, was Mary
Antin’s autobiography, entitled
The Promised Land.
The first sentence of this book reads: “ I was born, I have lived,
and I have been made over.” What Mary Antin means is: I was
born a Jewess, I lived the life of a Jewess in Russia, I came to
America, and I have been made over as an American. She con-
tinues: “ I bear the scars. But I want to fo rg e t . . . I want now