By the 1910’s, nearly half of the Jewish populatio...
By the 1910’s, nearly half of the Jewish population from
Europe and Russia had made the voyage to America in hopes of starting a new
life. As the Jewish population grew, the native-born American’s distaste for
them did as well. Shortly the Jewish-Americans were notorious for stereotypes
such as being big nosed, greenhorn, and stingy misers – which can be seen to be
illustrated in a political cartoon of a boat packed with Jewish immigrants
coming to America. Due to the native-born citizen’s prejudice views towards the
Jews, theyfound themselves faced withconfinement challenges in their living and
working spaces that would currently be held as unacceptable and inhuman.
late nineteenth century, Russia’s economy was in turmoil and the Czar used the
Jews as a scapegoat for their financial troubles. Similar to the Irish
immigrants, the Jews immigrating from Europe and Russia were fleeing
persecution. Hastilythe Jewish people began to flee towards America, but unlike
most other immigrant groups, the “Jews came to America as settlers…they planned
to stay” (Takaki, 282). The different culture and dialect of the Jewish people
was putrid in the eyes of many native-born Americans. They were called names
such as ‘greenhorn’ – a derogatory stereotype gained exploiting their inexperience
to American culture – and stingy misers because many Jews were frugal with
their earnings to move up in economic classes and make them ‘more American’. As
well, a traditionally Jewish wife took care of the family at home and developed
the stereotype of the ‘smothering’ mother. This stereotype does not necessarily
have a negative connotation, but is still widely renown in today’s current
One of the
biggest stereotypes and distinguishing features associated with Jews that
Americans imagined was a large nose. A political cartoon published by “The
Persecuted” truly embraces this held stereotype by Americans on multiple
levels. For example, the cartoon shows every Jewish immigrant on board a ship
having a larger than average nose, the front of the ship itself is a face with a
large nose, and there is a fish seen swimming next to the ship with a profound
nose. On another subtler note, Jews at this time were labeled to be highly
educated and wealthy. All the Jewish immigrants are wearing high class clothing
such as top hats and suits, and many have on spectacles and eye glasses
representing their ‘superior’ intelligence level. This stereotype is somewhat
ironic, as many Jewish immigrants dressed very humble and only began wearing
high class clothing to assimilate to American standards.
Most of the Jewish people immigrating
to America were highly educated and were skilled workers, including the women. Although
their pay was better than most, these women found themselves working in
dangerous conditions. According to Takaki, women in the factories “worked elbow
to elbow at sewing machines…from eleven to fifteen hours” (293-294). In today’s
society, these conditions would violate safety laws. In 1911, the Triangle
Shirtwaist Fire took the lives of 145 immigrant women (mostly Jewish) because
the workers were so confined they could not escape. Just a year before this
incident, the owners of this factory struck down the worker’s strike for better
conditions – which was largely influenced by their prejudice views on these
The large scale Jewish immigration to
America after persecution from Europe and Russia greatly benefited those
people and the native-born Americans. Although the Jews had to endure
stereotypical name calling, prejudice career obstacles, and cultural lifestyle
changes, they made America their new safe haven from corrupt countries and
brought Americans many highly intelligent skilled workers. Without their
perseverance and determination, millions of more Jews may have been tortured
and slaughtered by the hands of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.
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