Page 31 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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religious, cultural and economic reality reflected in the literature
o f the period.
A lthough the terms “ German Jew” and “ Polish Jew” were al­
ready in use in mid-nineteenth century America, one o f the first
to draw a qualitative distinction between the two was Mathew
Hale Smith in his
Sunshine and Shadow in New York
.9 In a chapter
titled “T h e Ch ildren o f Abraham ,” a popular, sensationalist ac­
count o f “ the Great Metropolis with its lights and shades,” Smith
writes:
T h e peop le o f Israel are very numerous. A portion o f them
are intelligent, respectable and wealthy. T h e lead ing bank­
ers are Jews o f this class; so are the importers. . . . But the
Jews o f the lower class are disagreeable, and their presence a
nuisance to any Christian neighborhood. . . .10 Chatham
Street is the bazaar o f the lower Jews. It is crowded with their
places o f trade, and over their stores they generally live.
Noisy and turbulent they assail all who pass, solicit trade and
secure general attention and general contempt.11
H e notes that the d ifference between the upper and lower classes
o f Jews is in religious usage as well as economic pursuits and
status.
Men worship with their hats on. . . . T h e men sit below.
Wom en sit in the gallery. . . . A more irreverent congrega­
tion . . . cannot be found than Jews at w o rsh ip .. . . I f they see
a person they wish to speak to, or make a trade with, they
take the scarf o f f their shoulders, throw it over their arm,
and talk on friendsh ip or business. . . .12
H e makes a distinction between the Jews just described and the
“wealthiest Jews” who,
have built synagogues according to modern ideas. Families
do not sit apart, but together in pews, according to the
Christian ideas . . . a costly organ leads the devotions. T h e
tunes o f the patriarchs are abandoned fo r the sweeter
melodies o f the nineteenth century.13
9 Mathew Hale Smith,
Sunshine and Shadow in New York,
Hartford, 1869.
10
Ibid.,
p. 452.
11
Ibid.,
p. 453.
12
Ibid.,
p. 454.
13
Ibid.,
p. 455.
KARP / EAST EUROPEAN JEWISH IMMIGRANT
21