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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in the "USA" 02: 1820-1860

Immigration from Central Europe - gold rushes - "Jew Bill" 1826 giving almost an emancipation - German Jewish culture - community life

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): "USA", vol.
                15, col. 1600: Cover of an issue of the German-language
                monthly "Sinai", edited by David Einhorn,
                published in Baltimore, Maryland, 1858. Cincinnati,
                Ohio, American Jewish Archives.

from: Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): USA; vol. 15

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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<POPULATION, IMMIGRATION, AND SETTLEMENT.

[Large Jewish immigration from Central Europe - declining and growing Jewish communities - "gold rush" of California in 1849-1852]

The salient development in U.S. Jewry during the four decades before the Civil War was its growth from a small group, estimated at 6,000 in 1826, to a major world Jewish community. The number of Jews, which stood at about 15,000 in 1840, was authoritatively estimated at 150,000 in 1860, and probably reached 280,000 in 1880. This vast increase was largely due to foreign immigration, especially from German lands. In Bavaria, dozens of small, largely Jewish villages saw most of their inhabitants leave for the U.S., while in Posen (Prussian Poland) there was a steady outward movement. Germanized Jews from Bohemia and Hungary also emigrated. Immigration attained a peak during the early 1850s, when economic depression and the repressive aftermath of the Continental revolutions of 1848-49 impelled the greatest movement to the prospering American republic. U.S. Jewry long spoke English with a German accent when it was not speaking its native German.

During these years, Jewish settlement traversed the North American Continent. Old seacoast communities like Charleston, South Carolina, Newport, Rhode Island, and Norfolk, Virginia, failed to grow and declined in importance. The most important expansion took place along the route of the Erie Canal, which crossed upstate New York after 1925, and on the shores of the Great Lakes. The Jewish population of such cities as *Albany, *Syracuse, *Rochester, and *Buffalo in New York State, and *Cleveland, *Chicago, *Detroit, and *Milwaukee quickly rose to the thousands.

On the banks of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers scores of smaller towns had Jewish settlements. *Cincinnati on the Ohio River stood second only to New York during the mid-19th century, while *Louisville, *Minneapolis, *St. Louis, and *New Orleans on the Mississippi drew upon vast developing hinterlands for the commercial and industrial growth in which Jews took a prominent role. Dozens of towns in the southern Cotton Kingdom sheltered little groups of German Jews, who traded in the freshly picked cotton and kept general stores.

A striking growth occurred in northern California during and after the Gold Rush of 1849-52; perhaps 10,000 Jews lived in the boom city of *San Francisco and scattered among the mining camps by 1860. New York City's numerical predominance in U.S. Jewry was well established by that date with 40,000 Jews, and *Philadelphia and *Baltimore were also important communities. Jews in New England, on the other hand, were very few.

[[The natives were driven away. This gold rush was not the only one. The treaties with the natives had no value because the primitive running for gold was not forbidden by the racist white government in Washington. The natives were not asked but they were killed or put in concentration camps, with Jewish banking money...]]

[Emancipation to the white racist "Christians" with a "Jew Bill" in 1826 - some restrictions left in some states]

The last significant traces of legal inequality disappeared early in this period. The most significant episode was the public agitation and debate in the State of *Maryland over the disqualification of Jews for public office, which was finally removed by the "Jew Bill" of 1826. Like the debates during the period of the American Revolution, these deliberations concerned the alleged Christian basis of the state, rather than a contest between pro-Jewish and anti-Jewish feeling. The states of *North Carolina and *New Hampshire retained legal obstacles to Jewish tenure of public office but very few Jews resided there and prescribed Christian oaths appear to have been a dead letter. (col. 1596)

[Discrimination of other religions by the "Christian" Protestants]

Anti-Jewish prejudice during the period from independence until the Civil War, while present in the form of the persistent Shylock image and related stereotypes, did not seriously impinge on the rights of the relatively small Jewish community. The 1840s and 1850s saw a fairly large immigration of German Jews, but by 1860 there were still fewer than 200,000 Jews in a population of 30,000,000. The invisibility of the Jews, the availability of other targets of discrimination, the all-absorbing slavery issue, and the rapid economic growth of the country combined to reduce the possible development of any real group antagonism based on latent prejudice. The Know-Nothing movement of the 1850s and other nativist phenomena of the pre-Civil War era concentrated their ire on Catholics, not Jews.

Still, there were occasional outbursts of anti-Semitism. The political strife between Federalists and Republicans at the turn of the 19th century produced a noticeable outpouring of slurs upon Jews who were Jeffersonian partisans. A Federalist in New York condemned the local Democratic-Republican Society by saying that they all seemed to be "of the tribe of Shylock". In 1809 Jacob *Henry was at first refused a seat in the North Carolina House of Commons to which he had been elected, but was eventually seated by a legal subterfuge.

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971):
                          "USA", vol. 15, col. 1649-1650:
                          Beginning of the speech made by Jacob Henry in
                          the North Carolina House of Commons, December
                          1809, protesting against the attempt to deny
                          him his seat because he was a Jew. Raleigh,
                          N.C., State Department of Archives and
                          History.
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): "USA", vol. 15, col. 1649-1650: Beginning of the speech made by Jacob Henry in the North Carolina House of Commons, December 1809, protesting against the attempt to deny him his seat because he was a Jew. Raleigh, N.C., State Department of Archives and History.

Mordecai M. Noah, one of the outstanding Jewish figures of this period, was recalled in 1815 by Secretary of State James Monroe from his post as U.S. consul in Tunis because his faith allegedly interfered with the performance of his duties. In 1820, the editor of a prominent magazine, Niles Weekly Register, wrote that the Jews "create nothing" and act "as if they had a home no where". Uriah P. Levy, an officer in the United States Navy, was subjected to several courts-martial, partly due to anti-Jewish prejudice.

Jews were concerned also with questions of church-state relations, including the vexing problem of public school education. Yet these incidents and remarks cannot be construed as evidence of significant anti-Semitism; Henry was seated, Levy was acquitted and restored to rank, and the editor of Niles Weekly Register, while critical, urged equal rights for Jews.> (col. 1648)

[Professions: Jewish peddlers at the Mississippi and in California - and careers to large merchants - few other professions]

The middle of the 19th century was the day of the German-Jewish peddler. At a time when retail trade outlets outside large cities were few, the peddler was an important functionary of U.S. commerce. Thousands of men, mostly recent young immigrants, trudged the countryside east of the Mississippi River with packs on their back, successors of the Yankee peddler. They also became the purveyors of nearly all the necessities of gold prospectors in California. Although many had been trained in crafts and trades in Europe, few held to them in the United States but were drawn into grueling but lucrative peddling.

Isaac Mayer *Wise, rabbi in Albany, New York, from 1846 to 1854, described his community as composed mostly of men who departed on Sunday morning for their peddling routes through the countryside, returning only for the following Sabbath. The progress of many of these men followed a classic pattern: from peddler on foot, to peddler on a wagon, to crossroads shopkeeper, to large merchant.

Jews who practiced trades were mostly tailors and cigarmakers. The overwhelming majority of U.S. Jews, native and immigrant, were occupied in commerce at its various levels and in skilled crafts. Very few tilled the soil. The proportions in the professions of the day - medicine, law, teaching, journalism - was low. Here and there a man of significance stood forth in his profession, such as the physicians Daniel Peixotto *Hays, Jonathan P. *Horwitz, Daniel L.M. *Peixotto, and Abraham *Jacobi. However, during the period of mass immigration into a very small original settlement, commerce remained the Jewish livelihood par excellence.

SOCIAL LIFE AND STATUS.

["Broad freedom" for Jews in the racist white "USA" - little anti-Semitism]

The decades between 1820 and 1860 was a period of broad freedom and social acceptance for U.S. Jews. The small native bourgeois group readily entered [[racist white]] U.S. life and [[racist white]] politics in such centers as Charleston, (col. 1597)

South Carolina, New York City, and Philadelphia. Of actual anti-Semitism there was very little. The antagonisms and tensions within U.S. society were expressed instead in anti-Catholicism, especially directed at Irish immigrants rather than anti-Semitism, although such feelings were here and there expressed: an attack on Jewish businessmen in the California legislature during a debate on a Sabbath closing law, unpleasantly phrased insistence that the U.S. was "a Christian country", or a biased courtroom address by a lawyer against a Jewish adversary.

Branches of U.S. Protestantism continued to produce extensive missionary literature, including newspapers, books, and pamphlets, but Jewish conversions to Christianity by such means were negligible. Linked to such proselytizing endeavors were expressions of faith that the Jews would ultimately be restored to their homeland, and sympathy for Jewish efforts, real or rumored, toward that end. If the biblical people of Israel still lay deep in the American mind, the contemporary Jews were on the whole not a preoccupation.

RELIGIOUS, CULTURAL, AND COMMUNAL ACTIVITIES.

[Rabbis - German Jewish culture - reform movement and reform leaders - expansion of the reform movement in the 1860s and 1870s - Orthodox Jews without chance]

The beginnings of cultural activity, religious diversity, and communal organization beyond the synagogue made themselves felt about the middle of the 19th century. Immigrants included a considerable number of persons versed or learned in Judaism. While ordained rabbis were extremely few, many teachers from Europe assumed the rabbinic title and became spiritual heads of congregations. German culture was also widespread. As part of the vast German migration to the U.S., many were active in German-American cultural life. Jews were prominent in German theatrical societies, as writers and subscribers to German newspapers, members of German musical societies, leaders of German immigrant aid and charitable societies, political personalities within the German ethnic (col. 1598)

group. For a large but indeterminate group of Jews in the U.S. German culture was a full substitute for their ancestral Judaism.

However, the most characteristic expression of German Jewry in the U.S. was Reform Judaism. After an early episode in Charleston between 1824 and 1828, where the demand was mainly for more aesthetic ritual, Reform took root during the 1840s with the beginning of the Emanu-El Reformverein [[Emanu-El Reform Congregation]] in New York and the founding of Reform congregations. Few synagogues, however, were founded on professed Reform principles. Usually an Orthodox congregation of German immigrants changed at first in a relatively superficial manner: it might omit the prayer for the long defunct Babylonian academies (yekum purkan), the incense (col. 1599)

formula (pittum haketoret), and the complimentary benedictions during the reading of the Torah (mi she-berakh). More far-reaching alterations followed a few years later, such as the shift to a mainly English liturgy, the elimination of the second day of festivals, and the doffing of hats. It was less the initiative of the members of these early congregations than that of their rabbis which produced these changes. By the time of the Civil War several dozen congregations had taken their first steps toward Reform under the major leaders:

-- Isaac Mayer Wise, who settled in Cincinnati from 1854 after a stormy term in Albany to become the spokesman and organizer of Reform;

-- David *Einhorn, a theological radical of deeply Germanic thought;

-- Bernard *Felsenthal, a moderate reformer;

-- Samuel *Hirsch and Samuel *Adler, similar to Einhorn in their Germanism and religious radicalism.

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971):
                          "USA", vol. 15, col. 1600: Cover of
                          an issue of the German-language monthly
                          "Sinai", edited by David Einhorn,
                          published in Baltimore, Maryland, 1858.
                          Cincinnati, Ohio, American Jewish Archives. Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): "USA", vol. 15, col. 1600: Cover of an issue of the German-language monthly "Sinai", edited by David Einhorn, published in Baltimore, Maryland, 1858. Cincinnati, Ohio, American Jewish Archives.

"Sinai.
Ein Organ
für Erkenntnis und Veredlung des Judenthums,
in monatlichen Heften,
herausgegeben von
Dr. David Einhorn,
Rabbinder der Kar-Sinai-Gemeinde zu Baltimore.
Meine Brüder suche ich. - Genes. 37, 16.

Pränumerationspreis für das ganze Jahr $2,00. Zweiter Jahrgang. Baltimore, Gedruckt bei C.W. Schneidereith No. 22 Shart-Strasse. 1858"


 
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971):
                          "USA", vol. 15, col. 1599: Tombstone
                          of a Jewish peddler murdered in Keysville,
                          California, in 1863. Los Angeles, Home of
                          Peace Memorial Park, Photo Ken Kautz
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): "USA", vol. 15, col. 1599: Tombstone of a Jewish peddler murdered in Keysville, California, in 1863. Los Angeles, Home of Peace Memorial Park, Photo Ken Kautz

"Sacred to the Memory of TAN. the Son of J.S. Rotchild. A native of Poland, Russia. Born in the year 5603, and was Murdered in Keysville, California, in the year 5623. May his Soul rest in peace."

The theological thought of these rabbis satisfied the widespread desire for a Judaism which harmonized with contemporary liberalism, rationalism, and optimism. A version of the ancestral religion was formulated which might bridge the chasm between Jews and Christians and abrogate the millennial view that Jews were living in exile.

The main ideas of Reform were already articulated before 1860, but large scale expansion of the movement took place in the 1860s and 1870s. Opposition came from a few Orthodox and proto-Conservative figures, most notably Isaac *Leeser, lecturer, editor, author, and hazzan (ḥazzan) [[cantor]] of the Sephardi congregation in Philadelphia. They stressed the immutable character of Judaism as a revealed religion, and insisted that under American freedom the Jewish religion had to be (col. 1600)

observed in full, rather than truncated. The times were not with Leeser and his companions, however.

[Jewish schooling - neutral schools]

Jewish schools, teaching both Hebrew and general subjects, opened during the 1840s and 1850s, usually under the auspices of a synagogue. They existed during the absence of adequate public schooling or because of a Christian sectarian tinge to the public schools. During the same decades the movement for free, universal, religiously neutral public schools spread throughout the United States. As they were established in city after city, the recently founded Jewish schools closed and their children were sent to the new public institutions. By 1860 the enduring pattern was set for Jewish children of the public school combined with the afternoon or Sunday Jewish school.

[Jewish institutions - foundation of social and benevolent B'nai B'rith in 1843]

Jewish communal organization seldom reached above the local level. To the difficulties of communication and transportation during this period may be added some apprehensiveness on the part of recently arrived German Jews over a Jewish "state within the state". The congregation usually was the basic institution in the communal structure, although the founding of *B'nai B'rith in 1843 and its rapid growth outside the synagogue framework as a representative social and benevolent organization provided an alternate form of Jewish affiliation. Most cities also had their Jewish "literary" and charitable group.

[Political developments: protests against Damascus blood libel of 1840 - foundation of a Board of Delegates in 1854]

During the agitation over the *Damascus blood libel in 1840, protest meeting were purely local, but with some overall coordination. Repeated calls by Leeser and Samuel M. *Isaacs of New York brought about the formation of the Board of Delegates of American Israelites in 1859, intentionally resembling in name and structure the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Like every central representative body thereafter, the Board of Delegates was founded on account of crises - on this occasion a minor one in 1854 over U.S. ratification of a treaty with Switzerland which enabled the latter country to bar foreign Jews from entry, and the more serious *Mortara affair of 1858-59. The Board of Delegates was controlled by traditionalists and opposed by the Reformers. It claimed no more than 30 congregations perhaps one-fifth of the number in existence.> (col. 1601)

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Sources
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971):
                          "USA", vol. 15, col. 1595-1596
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): "USA", vol. 15, col. 1595-1596
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971):
                          "USA", vol. 15, col. 1597-1598
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): "USA", vol. 15, col. 1597-1598
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971):
                          "USA", vol. 15, col. 1599-1600
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): "USA", vol. 15, col. 1599-1600
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971):
                          "USA", vol. 15, col. 1601-1602
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): "USA", vol. 15, col. 1601-1602
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971):
                          "USA", vol. 15, col. 1647-1648
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): "USA", vol. 15, col. 1647-1648


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