Saturday, October 31, 2009
You can search by name, school year, even by home address (at least for half of the students).
This is a useful genealogical tool, not to mention and educative one, as one can also browse any of the yearbooks from cover to cover--a virtual "time capsule."
Today another six hundred names have been added, from the graduating class of January 1946.
The link is www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/Jefferson/yearbooksearch.html.
Friday, October 30, 2009
The first "Hebrew" (at least some of the newspapers during this time referred to Jews as “Hebrews”) who stepped foot on American soil was one Jacob Bar Simson, who came from Holland, followed the next year by a “band” of twenty-three refugees, probably from Brazil.
These articles are generally praiseworthy, and list the contributions that the Jews have made to the U.S. from 1655 to the time of the article in 1905.
You can now read the first such article (though in all there are three articles on this one newspaper page, published in the San Francisco Sunday Call newspaper.) The first of these articles was written by Oscar S. Straus.
Oscar S. Straus (1850-1926) was U. S. Secretary of Commerce and Labor under President Teddy Roosevelt (the first U. S. Jewish Cabinet secretary) as well as a Minister to Turkey.
In the first of the three articles on this page, Straus discusses the early history of the Jewish immigration, and the presence of Jews in the U.S. in such cities as Newport, Rhode Island; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and several states and cities to the South, such as Georgia, Charleston, Maryland, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia. He also talks about the early Jewish presence in the Ohio Valley, Chicago and California.
The other two articles within this triad are entitled “What American Hebrews Have Done” and “Hebrews in Philanthropy and Society.”
More articles will appear in the near future about the Jewish presence in the U. S., and one at least about the contributions at this 250th anniversary of Jews to New York City.
The link to these articles is www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/lia-250-sfcall.htm .
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
In this article, reprinted in the New-York Daily Tribune from an interview published in the "The American Hebrew," a weekly journal, Suvorin expounds on his views of the Jewish people, the pogroms and the Revolution. It is an interesting read, as it gives us a glimpse into the Russian nationalistic and anti-Semitic mind that existed at the time.
Here is one exchange between the interviewer for "The American Hebrew" and Suvorin:
Interviewer: "According to you, then, the Jew's love for his country should be expressed in kissing the knout with which he is being beaten, in embracing the Cossack or policeman who has violated his wife or his daughter?"
Suvorin: "Why should the authorities like the Jews, who are their enemies? The Jews are positively a troublesome element. They undermine the foundation of the church and the government....The Jews are to blame for the revolutionary movement in Russia. Pleveh once showed me the statistics of political criminals, and would you believe it, 72 per cent of them were Jews....Which government in the world would protect a nation which produces such an enormous percentage of enemies? Of course, the revolution is advantageous to the Jews. Seizing the reins of government in their hands, they would rule Russia as they please....Therefore the native Russian resists the Jews in the form of pogroms. The struggle is beyond question a savage one, but then our people are savages....And now, give freedom to such savages...."
The interview can be read at www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/as-jews-in-russia-suvorin.htm.
Monday, October 26, 2009
In two "sister" exhibitions we will hear from Mayer and see dozens of his paintings (acrylics on canvas) that deal with his family life, as well as the Jewish communal life that existed in his hometown (in Yiddish called "Apt") in the 1920s and 30s. He will also talk about Shabbat, as well as a number of other Jewish holidays. By seeing his works and by hearing him tell his story in his own words via nearly twenty audio clips, a wonderful picture is painted for us of what life was like in Opatów for the Jews who once lived there.
Mayer says that "every Jewish town is the same," so perhaps we wouldn't be taking liberties to imagine that our families, our ancestors who also lived in Europe at one time, in a town also populated with thousands of Jews, might have very well lived in a town just like this one.
If a visitor to these exhibitions once lived in pre-war Europe, perhaps Mayer's paintings and accounts of life there might evoke similar or other long forgotten memories. That would be something!
Perhaps Mayer's works will compel us to think about our own Jewish upbringing and the neighborhoods we once lived in. How was his life in Poland similar to our own, and how was it different? How was living in a Jewish community such as Apt similar to living in a Jewish neighborhood, among the tenements or brownstones of Brooklyn or perhaps on the Lower East Side of the 1930s, 40s or 50s?
Maybe after viewing these exhibitions you will consider drawing or painting the memories of your own childhood, writing them down for posterity, or at the very least telling these precious stories to your children or grandchildren.
You can visit the first exhibition, "Paint What You Remember: The Memories of Mayer Kirshenblatt" at www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/ce/kirshenblatt/kirshenblatt.htm. Included within this exhibition are many sound clips and three video clips from YouTube.
You can visit the second exhibition which is now part of the larger "Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays" exhibition at the Museum, containing photographs of Mayer's paintings and the artist's comments at www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/ce/kirshenblatt/jholidays-kirshenblatt.htm.
Your comments are always welcome, though please send them via the Comments feature of the blog.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Each European country affected by Hitler's views on the Jewish people and the anti-Semitism that continued to grow manifested this anti-Semitism in different ways. Actions were taken and laws were passed that were meant to restrict and isolate the Jew in such a way as to make any kind of 'normal' life impossible.
This article, presented to the public by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in late October 1937 in successive editions, came from Associated Press reports from three locations: Warsaw, Vienna and Berlin. Each of these three reports gives the reader an idea of what the Jewish citizen in Europe was forced to deal with during the nearly two years up to the Second World War.
The article can be found at www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/as-jews-in-europe.htm.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
For those of you who aren't interested, it still will be worthwhile to read this article because it paints a picture of what our parents or grandparents might have experienced, attending the performance of a Yiddish play after a long day's work.
Remember that in many of the towns in which our family members lived in Europe before World War II (and even World War I), Yiddish plays were frequently performed. Perhaps these Yiddish plays performed, in their native tongue where they now lived, served to remind them of their former home--their lives, their community--albeit bittersweetly.
In this New-York Daily Tribune article of January 1900, you can learn a bit about how a Yiddish theatre was generally run, as well as its appeal, especially to blue-collar Jewish families.
The article begins by talking about the unionization of Yiddish actors and then talks about the goings-on in the Yiddish theatre and those who attend the performances. Remember now that in 1900, Yiddish theatre was very popular (at least among Jews), with bona fide stars such as Boris Thomashefsky and Bertha Kalish.
The article says in part:
"To gain a correct idea of the Yiddish theatre one must see it, and that it may be thoroughly appreciated [by] other senses than that of sight must be drawn upon. The crowds in the lobby resemble those which are seen in the clothing district when a strike is on, and the air is thick with cigarette smoke. Inside, men and women are talking and visiting and paying little attention to the orchestra. Boys with trays of candy, cakes, fruit and "soft drinks" do a paying business, and sell their wares in the body of the house. The opening lines of the actors are usually lost, except to those people who sit far in front, and demands for silence come from all parts of the auditorium. Sometimes these are in the form of the hissing "Pst! pst! which one hears in all European theatres, and sometimes the more imperative "Ruhig," "'Smaul halten!" or "Still!" are heard. Then comes the play, and close attention on the part of the audience, frequent applause and boisterous laughter and sniffles are sure to reward the efforts of the actors."
The article can be found by clicking at www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/yt-bs-nydt-01.htm.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
In this 1906 article, a non-Jew is walking along aimlessly through the streets of the Lower East Side during the time of Sukkot, and he happens upon a sign that seemed to stand out among the many tenement houses that surrounded it.
The article continues:
" The sign was the announcement of an exhibition showing what had been accomplished by Jews in this country as farmers, and the opportunities in this direction open to the East Side Jew. It was to open in the building of the Educational Alliance on that day--the day on which a comparison of the joys of a life in the country with the close, steamy atmosphere of the sweatshop and three-room tenement apartment would most appeal to the minds of the Jews of that quarter. The sign, in relation to the question of the success of the Jew as a farmer, was like Philip's answer to Nathaniel's query of long ago, 'Come and see.'"
This Gentile had been wondering whether the Jews had it in them to be successful farmers. He decided to ascend the staircase to the exhibition where he met with some Jewish farmers, saw the fruits of their labors, along with photographs of their land and toil, and talked with them. He came away convinced that indeed the Jew could be a successful farmer.
The article is an interesting read, and is a good "sister piece" to the two articles put online by the Museum previously about Jewish farmers.
The link to the article is www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/lia-hww-farmer-ghetto.htm.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
This one is about the traps that were laid by swindlers et al for the unwary and unsuspecting immigrant who entered the United States through Ellis Island.
The article states in part:
" It is this innocent childlike dependence upon any one at hand that makes the immigrant such an easy mark. Within the last two or three years every safeguard imaginable has been thrown about him. Still he goes astray. The resourceful runner is rigidly excluded from Ellis Island. Not an immigrant is permitted to depart without official escort, or absolute assurance that he is able to take care of himself or in the hands of his friends. He is personally conducted to the railway station or to his destination if intending to stay in New York. Missionaries distribute leaflets in the different languages describing the pitfalls that await him. Yet he is still captured by the sharps."
Though the article isn't specifically about Jewish immigrants, it nevertheless is interesting because it "paints a picture" for us of just one of the trials and tribulations that many immigrants--perhaps one of our family members--were forced to deal with as they began their life in America.
The link for this article is www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/ija-immigrant-traps.htm.
"Vienna is still the stronghold of anti-Semitism, and Dr. Carl Lueger, the Burgomaster, its most notorious exponent in Europe. For nearly three years the administration of the Austrian capital has now been in the hands of the anti-Semitic party, but the signs of its approaching collapse are increasing....."
This article will be of special interest to those who are interested in the history of anti-Semitism in Europe, or to those who had family members who lived in Austria, particularly Vienna, during this time.
The article can be found by clicking on www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/as-nydt-vienna-1899.htm .
Sunday, October 18, 2009
In the late 1800s, Russian Jews were encouraged to live in such "wilderness areas" in New Jersey and the West and work the land, thus being productive members of society.
During this time there was vast overcrowding in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and there was a push to relocate many of the unskilled or semi-skilled Russian Jews who were living or might live on the Lower East Side to more rural areas.
This newest article follows up on the former and discusses other such New Jersey farming colonies and their successes, e.g. Rosenhayn, Carmel and Woodbine. At that time, believe it or not, half of New Jersey was considered wilderness!
The link to this article is www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/lia-hww-colonies-nj.htm.
The article also informs us that at the time the article was written there were 332 small Jewish congregations east of Broadway and south of Houston Street.
You can read the article in its entirety by clicking on www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/ija-no-religious-life.htm.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The article begins:
"A few days ago, as required by law, the United States Immigration Commission filed a brief statement of its conclusions and recommendations, and announced that the materials it had gathered would ultimately be published in forty volumes. As a result of its labors it has recommended that for economic and social reasons the flow of the stream of immigrants should be reduced. Its investigations showed that, although the standards of living and of wages in the higher forms of skilled labor had not been materially affected, the volume of unskilled labor from Europe was so great that employers were under no compulsion to maintain a standard of wages. The result was that not only were industrial communities congested to a degree that interfered with rapid assimilation, but the unskilled laborer was not able to raise his standard of living.
The various well-known methods of putting on the brakes were suggested as a remedy, and emphasis was laid upon the literacy test. This test, however, was not emphasized without a protest from Congressman Bennet, a member of the commission, who argued that it was illogical as a selective measure.
The question whether to restrict or not to restrict is now squarely up to the American people and Congress. A number of men who have come into close contact with the subject from one standpoint or another have contributed their views in the form of interviews on the question of restriction. Among them are Senator William P. Dillingham, chairman of the United States Immigration Committee, who evidently may be described as a conservative restrictionist, and Congressman Burnett, of Alabama, a Democrat, who is considered the most radical restrictionist member of the commission. The proportion of those favoring restriction is much greater than one would be led to expect, in view of the growing interest in the immigrant as a man."
It was believed that too big a labor pool would drive down wages and thus lower the standard of living for those already living and working in the United States. A literacy test was proposed to weed out the "ignorant" and "illiterate," thereby making immigration a "selective" and not a "restrictive" process.
Reading these articles published within ten years either way of the turn of the twentieth century can be an eye-opener. It can "add meat," so to speak, to what we already understand about the immigration policies that were in place (or suggested) during the years of heavy immigration to the U.S.
This article will be included within the Museum's "A Multitude of Immmigrants..." exhibition that will be made available sometime before the end of the year.
The aforementioned article can be found at www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/mfh-multitude-immigrants-1910.12.18.htm.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Gertrude Berg became a cultural icon against the backdrop of the twentieth century’s most difficult years for American Jews. Berg’s radio show, The Goldbergs, which she created, wrote, and starred in, premiered a week after the stock market crash of 1929. The show rose in popularity at the same time Hitler rose to power in Germany. She combined social commentary, family values and comedy to win the hearts of America. In 1949, she brought The Goldbergs to television, and it became the new medium’s very first character-driven domestic sitcom. She weathered yet another minefield of American history, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s blacklist, which had a devastating effect on the entertainment industry.
Gertrude Berg became an important public figure at a time when positive images of Jews, especially mothers, were rarely shown in public. The “Oprah of her day,” Berg was a media trailblazer with a cookbook, advice column, and clothing line in addition to popular radio and television serials. Her creation of a specifically ethnic, but far from atypical, American life in The Goldbergs carries through to this day.
Among those interviewed for the film are actor Ed Asner, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, TV producers Gary David Goldberg (Family Ties) and Norman Lear (All in the Family), CBS anchor Andrea Roane, and NPR commentator Susan Stamberg. Those who recall the show will recognize familiar faces from The Goldbergs, including Berg’s talent discoveries, Anne Bancroft and Steve McQueen.
Footage includes short clips from beloved motion pictures, such as The Marx Brothers' The Cocoanuts, Martin Ritt’s The Front, and Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant, as well as evocative footage from the Depression, World War II, and the Lower East Side.
The film preview can be seen by clicking on www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/sr-23-goldberg.htm.
The Museum's complete listing and links to all its film previews can be found at www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/screeningroom.htm.
Monday, October 12, 2009
The article begins as such:
"Zangwill once met the query, "Why do the Jews succeed?" with these words: "I welcome the task of answering the question, if only for the opportunity of explaining that they do not." And he proceeded to argue that even if the Jews succeed as individuals, they fail miserably as a people. The belief that Jews have a monopoly of success has been widely credited and has become almost a superstition. "Rich as a Jew" has grown into a proverb, and at one time called up in the imagination golden argosies and subterranean treasures. It was believed that Jews were natural born merchants, that they possessed the commercial instinct in an unusual degree and their success came to be viewed as something uncanny or inevitable.
This singular illusion dates from those dark ages when Jews were shut out from the arts and crafts, and were forced by direct legislation into a few sordid occupations. The dense ghettos, with their poverty-stricken population, were not known to the world at large–only the few great merchants among them loomed big. Many Christians naturally came in contact only with those Jews who could lend them money. Thus, as the only Jews whom the Christians got to know were rich, it is not so wonderful that all Jews should have been supposed to be rich or that "rich as a Jew" should have become a byword.
Jews were forced out of other vocations and confined to trade and commerce. Being an acute and thrifty people, they did what the shrewd Yankees did in Colonial days–adapted themselves to their work and gave to it all their energy and thought.
The "innate commercial gift" of the Jew is a hoax in which even the Jews joined. It was hard work and an easy pliability to conditions that brought results. Adaptability is the secret of the Jewish people, as can be observed in the immigrants daily pouring into this country. This power of easy adaptation to a new environment is possessed by the Jews to such an extent that they can live and thrive in all climates and under any circumstances.
But when one studies the Jew in America–not the Jewish plutocrat, the scion of a cultured, moneyed family in the old country, but the ordinary steerage immigrant, who comes here to earn the bread he cannot make in his native Russia, Rumania or Austria–one almost becomes reconciled to the antiquated superstition that the Jew, at any rate in America, always succeeds. The remarkable rise of the Jew as a figure in the world of business, especially in New York, seems to prove that the Jew is wonderfully apt in adapting himself to American conditions."
To read the rest of the article, go to www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/lia-hww-jews-trade.htm.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Within this exhibition you will see more than two dozen of his sculptures, just a small sampling of his large body of work. Dr. Kieselstein has been a prodigious artist, creating hundreds of emotive works that represent the tragic events that befell the Jews of his hometown both before and during the Holocaust, e.g. life in the ghetto, the transports and Jewish existence within the concentration camps such as Auschwitz. To do this, Dr. Kieselstein has used a wide variety of materials, such as clay, bronze, wood, stone and glass.
His work has been exhibited in many locations, such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beer-Sheva and Safed in Israel; Budapest, Hungary; Helsinki, Finland; Heidelberg, Dachau, Kronach and Worms in Germany; Nijkerk in Holland,Torremolinos in Spain, and Maryland in the U.S.A.
Here is the introduction to the Museum's exhibition of Dr. Kieselstein's works, in his own words:
My name is Dr. Martin Kieselstein. I was born in Romania in 1925, during the Second World War, the area belonging to Hungary.
In 1944 I was deported to Auschwitz, together with all the Jews of my hometown.
Of our family only my father and I survived. My mother and my sister died while doing forced labor. I still suffer due to the lack of knowledge whether they perished during the cold winter, hunger, or the beatings of the Nazis.
After my release I returned to my hometown, studied medicine, graduated in 1952 and worked there as a physician.
In 1959 I came to Israel and worked there as a geriatrician in Jerusalem, because I saw it as my duty to help elderly people, especially those who were Holocaust survivors. In recognition of my activities I was awarded the "Yakir Yerushalayim," ("Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem") award. I am married; we have two sons and five grandchildren.
I don't regard myself as an artist, but feel obliged and duty bound to convey to future generations the awareness of the horror of the Holocaust through creations made from various materials.
You can visit this exhibition using the following link: www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/ce/kieselstein/mk.htm.
Your comments are always welcome.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
"The big ship is coming into the harbor. There are gay crowds on the wharf. There are smartly dressed women waving handkerchiefs and parasols, and men are flourishing canes and hats. Lined against the rails on the decks of the ship are tourists in all costumes. Three thousand miles they have sailed across the sea. Those who have come back to their native land look with longing eyes, and those who are strangers with wondering. The home-comers search in the crowds on the pier for the faces of loved ones, and cheery greetings are exchanged as the ship is being warped in by the busy tugs.
She is rubbing against the buffers now. The gangplanks are down. The tourists are streaming forth like an army of ants. Men and women are throwing themselves into one another's arms. Stevedores are driving in and out from the bowels of the leviathan, bringing to light steamer trunks, big chests, casks, boxes, bundles and bales of all sorts and sizes, which are being sorted rapidly, tapped and opened by keen-eyed and keen-witted customs inspectors."
There are numerous examples here of interactions between the inspectors in Ellis Island and the prospective immigrants. You might find this an interesting read.
The article can be found within the Museum's current exhibition "Castle Garden and Ellis Island: Ports of Immigration." The link to the article is www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/mfh-ellisisland-10.htm.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Many immigrants were turned away at Ellis Island because they could not show that they possessed enough money or had gainful employment waiting for them. The U. S. Government did not want immigrants to be “public charges.” This anti-immigrant sentiment was especially strong against the Russian Jews, many of whom left Russia after the assassination of Czar Alexander II, as conditions for them deteriorated quickly as the Jews were blamed for the assassination. Many of these Jews who immigrated to the U.S. were considered unskilled or perhaps semi-skilled, and it was feared that if they were admitted to the U.S., they would become “pauperized” and become public charges. They would mostly move, it was said, into the Lower East Side of New York, live in overcrowded, dirty, disease-infested tenements and generally not make a contribution to society.
One suggestion was to send the newly arrived immigrant out to the country, i.e. New Jersey or points west. Perhaps they could be productive citizens by becoming farmers. In the article “Will They Make Farmers?” published in the SUN in 1890, the anti-immigrant sentiments is expressed and explained, and a report is given by a SUN reporter after his visit to a farming colony in New Jersey.
The article states in part:
“Cable dispatches from apparently trustworthy sources indicate that thousands of Russian Jews will be on their way to this country shortly. Banished from the dominions of the Czar, and in many instances deprived of their property, these persecuted wanderers will be brought to America as the only country in which they will be received. Of course, the great majority will be assisted by the various Hebrew societies formed for the protection of the downtrodden race the world over. That means, to state the case frankly, that many of these immigrants will be assisted paupers. Their passage money, baggage, and means of subsistence after landing must be provided by these societies.
Before the United States Government will allow these immigrants to enter its ports, the immigrants will have to furnish ample proof that they will not become burdens on the American people. The only way in which that can be satisfactorily done will be by securing from the New York Hebrew societies interested in this immigration bonds that will be practical guarantees against pauperism….
The only society that can be relied on to help the immigrants to land here is the Jewish Emigration Protective Society. The immigrants are likely to get their chief assistance from the Hebrews of Europe, especially the Paris Hebrew Alliance. It is the purpose of the prominent Hebrews here to prevent the immigrants, if they do get in, from settling in the large cities, especially in New York. The squalor and misery of the east side Jewish quarter is great enough now, and would be much increased if the population were added to by the green and helpless Russians.
The only hope of the latter is to become farmers, but it is no easy task to make them believe this. For centuries the Russian Jews have been compelled to devote themselves to trade. No other source of income was open to them. They have now an unholy idea of the power of money; they want to gather it in the quickest way, and they don't know how to do this better than in barter and trade. They haven't the faintest idea of farming, they are unused to manual labor, and last but not least, they are averse to the discomforts of farm life.
Their own mode of living is not bound up with luxury, but yet it is not so rough and continuously toilsome as the average farmer's. Many attempts have been made to establish them on farms in this country, but very few have been successful. Many colonies have had to be abandoned altogether after much money had been expended in the attempt to establish them; of the others, only two or three can be considered real successes.
Of the latter, the settlement at Alliance, in New Jersey, is an excellent type. In its history are revealed much of the nature and the ideas of these Russian Jews, and in their present condition are manifested the results of a few years of freedom from persecution.”
In this good-sized article the SUN reporter details his visit to the Alliance settlement and tells the reader about the people he meets there, what he sees and what he learns. This is a very interesting read for those of you who are curious about how a certain segment of the Jewish population (Russian Jewish immigrants) lived and worked in a rural setting before the turn of the twentieth century.
The SUN reporter was quite impressed by the Alliance settlement, and I hope you will be too. Please read this article at the Museum of Family History when you can. The article is part of the Museum’s “How We Worked” ongoing exhibition, and it can be found at www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/lia-hww-farming-sun.htm .