Page 33 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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KARP / EAST EUROPEAN JEWISH IMMIGRANT
23
Gottheil o f N ew Y o rk ’s T em p le Emanuel sets the east European
Jews apart as a distinct community, but he asks the reader to
understand their problems, and appreciate their virtues.
T h e “ Polish Jew” may be a welcome object o f sport to the
penny-a-liner; he must appear something very d if fe ren t to
the eye o f the thoughtful, candid and sympathetic observer.
. . . T h e d ifficulties they encounter in their way here are . . .
form idab le beyond those o f any other class. . . . Unbred to
any handicraft . . . accompanied by w ife and children . . .
without means to push his way in this N ew W o rld , it is a
marvel that he should be able to subsist at all . . .19
Gottheil’s colleague, Isaac M. Wise, was not quite so charitable
to the east European Jew. In the early 1880’s he wrote:
W e cannot help admitting that, momentarily, that those
new-comers are o f disadvantage to the Jews as a class. . . .20
Later, when he rea lized that the new immigrants were not enter­
ing his religious group , he turned his full wrath upon them.
I t is next to impossible to identify ourselves with that ha lf­
civilized o r th o d o x y . . . . W e are Americans, they are n o t . . . .
W e are Israelites o f the nineteenth century and a fine coun­
try, and they gnaw the dead bones o f past centuries. . . .21
R E F O RM VS. O R THO DO X
Dr. Wise, president o f the H ebrew Un ion College, called fo r a
sharp delineation between the German R e fo rm community and
the east European O rthodox. H e did this in his own periodical,
The American Israelite,
and his words did not reach the general
American readership. T h e parochial nature o f that readership
perm itted Wise to be so harsh in his condemnation. But other
causes impinged as well. T h e quaint ways and strange garb o f the
large numbers o f east European Jews reaching American shores
made them a ready target fo r Populist resentment and nativist
scorn.
A year a fter W ise ’s outburst, two notoriously anti-Semitic books
19
Ibid.,
p. 304.
20 Quoted in James G. Heller,
Isaac M . Wise,
n.p., 1965, p. 584.
21
Ibid.,
p. 586.