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.
Towards the 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 society.
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 immigrants.
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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