Page 29 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

Basic HTML Version

KARP / EAST EUROPEAN JEWISH IMMIGRANT
19
T h e English author repeats the stereotype o f the “ special phys­
ical” characteristics o f the Jew:
. . . there is a kind o f curse failed upon their bodies; witness
those uncouth looks, and odd casts o f the eye whereby they
are distinguished from other people. As likewise that ran-
kish kind o f scent, no better indeed than a stink, which is
observed to be inherent and inseparable from most o f them.
3
In her
The History o f the Jews,
Boston, 1812, Hannah Adams
publishes a description o f the Jewish community o f Charleston,
South Carolina, supplied her by Philip Cohen, “ a respectable
Jewish merchant” o f that city.
T h e dress and habits o f the Jews in Charleston do not
distinguish them from other citizens. Open and charitable,
as Carolinians generally are, they unite with considerable
industry and know ledge o f commercial affairs, rather too
much o f that love o f ease and pleasure, which climate, as well
as national character, tends to nourish. Individuals . . . fo r
their enterprize and judgment, have been entrusted with
municipal o f f i c e . . . . Th ey have built an elegant synagogue.
T h ey have also societies fo r the r e l ie f o f orphans. . . . T h e
children receive every advantage which is necessary to ena­
ble them to be well in form ed and honorable citizens o f their
country.4
T h e reader o f books published in Am erica in the early years o f
the nineteenth century found the Jew portrayed as a renegade, a
pariah, a deicide, d e fo rm ed by physical traits which set him apart
from the rest o f society; and as a useful, respected citizens who
had integrated h im self successfully into the social fabric o f this
community. Both portrayals persisted through the latter years o f
the century, the earlier negative portrait grow ing d immer, the
latter positive one g row ing more distinct. T h e pluralistic char­
acter o f American society made fo r tolerance o f d ifferences, but
innate tendencies to b igotry, rein forced by inherited traditions o f
3
Ibid.,
p. V.
4 Hannah Adams,
The History o f the Jews, f rom the Destruction o f Jerusalem to the
Present time,
Boston, 1812, vol. II, p. 219.