The Racial Formation Of Jewish Immigrants Essay

The Racial Formation Of Jewish Immigrants Essay

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The racial formation of Jewish immigrants can be evaluated from the inside and out. The first Jews elevated themselves as the people chosen by God. From inside the Jewish community, their race was shaped by faith and their pattern of exile and exodus. Outside influences-- often the cause of the exile and exodus-- have, historically, placed blame on Jews for a variety of issues. In the 19th century, Jews in Russia faced intense oppression. Propaganda from the Tsarist governemnt led to Jews being scapegoats for Russia’s numerous socioeconomic and political problems (262). Facing violence and discrimination, Jews found themselves on another exodus; this time it was to America.
As Ronald Takaki cites, Jewish immigrants felt apart of their community’s larger journey (as an exodus). Determined to succeed, they shed their Jewish surnames and clothes, taking on jobs as tradesmen and garment workers. The larger goal was to ensure that the next generations of Jews were of a higher class than their parents: white collar workers with stay-at-home wives. Despite their desire to become American and efforts to become upwardly mobile, Jewish immigrants were looked at with disdain by many white Americans. Several structures were put in place to oppress Jews. Firstly, a new immigration quota in 1924 limited immigration from eastern Europe (287). Secondly, institutions such as univerisites began to limit admission or outright prohibit Jews from participation (286). The determination and ease with which the immigrants assimilated was seen as threat to white American dominion. White Americans at the top wanted to secure their exclusivity. While at the surface, it would seem white-collar jobs and higher education would be the main admissions policy to...


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...ere often barred from certain jobs on the basis of their race. And as with the many other industrial workers, labor unions were involved in their treatment. As noted earlier, unions were used against black laborers to “divide and conquer” (321). Jewish laborers, in particular young Jewish female garment workers, were praised for their activism following the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (276). While Jewish immigrants faced exclusion, when they fought back they were met with much more welcoming arms than black Americans. Even today, we see the effect of these differences. The population of black Americans is disproportionally concentrated in urban areas and lower classes while Jewish Americans are often seen across all class lines. The 19th century impacts on race resulted in diverging groups of immigrants, who began with the same struggle but ended up parting ways.

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