Page 30 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
prejudice, made fo r a receptivity to anti-Semitic stereotypes in
American literature throughout the century.5
NO N -JEW ISH OBSERVERS
On September 23, 1841, the pious Mrs. L. Maria Child visited
“ the Jewish Synagogue in Crosby Street to witness the Festival o f
the N ew Y ea r ,” and was struck by the strangeness o f the scene and
the proceedings. She seems to welcome this strangeness, that the
Jews persist in their otherness, and is “ disappointed to see so large
a portion o f this peculiar peop le fair-skinned and blue-eyed.” 6By
1870, James Parton perceived a common bond between Christian
and Jew in America.
Our Israelitish brethren in the Un ited States have their own
battle to fight. It is substantially the same as ours. Th ey , too,
have to deal with overwhe lm ing masses o f ignorance and
poverty, just able to get across the ocean, and arriv ing he lp ­
less in Castle Garden. Th ey , too, have to save morality,
decency, civilization, while the old bondage o f doctrine and
habit is gradually loosened. In this struggle Jews and Chris­
tians should be allies; and allies are equals.7
T h e reader o f Mrs. Ch ild ’s volume would conclude that the
great task facing the “ German emigrants, driven from Bavaria,
the Duchy o f Baden, etc. by oppressive laws” would be to erase
d ifferences in o rd e r to become most fu lly integrated into the
American social fabric; those read ing Mr. Parton ’s repo rt would
perceive that the prob lem facing the Am erican Jew was how to
deal with the “ overwhe lm ing masses o f ignorance and poverty . . .
arriving helpless in Castle Garden .” In the last three decades o f
the century, Am erica would become increasingly aware o f these
“ overwhelm ing masses.” T h e reader o f Am erican novels, essays
and the periodical and daily press would become acquainted with
a Jewish community d ivided into German and east European
Jews, sometimes re fe r red to as “ uptown Jews” and “ down town
Jews” or the “ u pp e r” and “ low er” classes. It was a sociological,
5 See: Michael N . Dobkowski,
The Tarnished, Dream, The Basis o f American An t i-
Semitism,
Westport, Conn. 1979.
6 L. Maria Child,
Letters From New York,
N .Y ., 1845, p. 43.
7 James Parton,
Topics o f the Times,
Boston, 1871, p. 316.
8
Op. cit.,
p. 42.