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Before The Deluge: The Jews Of The U.S. (Part Four)

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The stories in this column are translations by Mr. Nollet from “Die Juden In Der Welt [The Jews in the World]” by Mark Wischnitzer, a long out-of-print book published more than seven decades ago in Germany. The book examines Jewish communities, one country at a time, as they existed in 1935 – a time before the Nazis began their extermination campaign against the Jews and before there was a state of Israel.

 

The Jews Of The U.S.

(Part Four)

The Federation of Jewish Labor by the end of the 1920s consisted of some 125,000 members, of whom 60 percent were employed in the confections industry. After 1929 there was a further rise in the level of Jewish participation in workers’ unions. There were 134,020 Jewish members of the fifty largest trade unions, 34.1 percent of the total number of organized workers, which roughly reflected the level of the Jews in the population of greater New York. In the remaining centers of the garment industry, in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Rochester, almost all the owners were Jews and the workers they employed were mainly Jewish.

As a result of restrictions on immigration and the dissemination of Jews throughout the land who were born in America and had become working professionals or were employed in trade, offices, or free professions, the number of Jews in the clothing industry steadily diminished. Jews became watchmakers, goldsmiths, glassblowers, plumbers, shoemakers, butchers, and bakers.

From the beginning of the 19th century there was an effort to settle Jews in rural areas. In the 1880s a group of Russian Jews established colonies in Louisiana, Kansas, and the Dakota territory; however, these enterprises achieved no lasting success. But in 1891, the Baron DeHirsch Fund established the Woodbine Colony in New Jersey and it enjoyed great popularity with the general Jewish public. This colony continues to the present day. Other settlements have since dissolved over the course of time.

It is estimated that there are about 60,000 independent Jewish farmers in the United States. The Jewish Agricultural Society was founded around 1900, and is active in about 40 states of the Union, furnishing loans to about 12,000 farmers.

The accomplishments of Jews in industry date back to the 18th century. For example, the cultivation of indigo in Georgia was carried out by a Jew. In the middle of the 18th century Meyer Hart founded a furniture and household industry in Philadelphia and until the end of the 19th century the Hart Brothers firm controlled the biggest furniture factory in Chicago. In California and Alaska Jewish firms carried out the development of the seal tusk industry. The clothing industry was brought to great heights by Jewish entrepreneurs.

In 1885 the majority of the coat factories was in Jewish hands. Jews took a leading role in piano construction as well as the corset and umbrella industries and in the manufacture of porcelain and glass. They had a growing share of the diamond, jewelry, and watch industries, as well as in the manufacture of hats and other products made from leather or animal skin. Jewish construction companies took over entire subsections of New York City, Chicago and other cities.

Of particular note was the rise of Louis J. Horowitz, an immigrant from Poland who started out as an ordinary employee and rose to become the director of the biggest construction company in America.

From Russia came the building engineer Leon Moiseyev, who built the Manhattan Bridge. Jewish immigrants from Holland were active in the development of the metals industry. The metals refining industry can thank its foundation to the Levinsohns and the Guggenheimers. And the railroad network owes its expansion to the banking houses Kuhn, Loeb & Co. and Speyer and Co.

At the top of Kuhn, Loeb & Co. stood the philanthropist Jacob Schiff, who was born in Frankfurt. The leadership of the Felix Warburg House was known to Jewish relief organizations and to the leading personalities in Palestine. The Speyer & Co. firm and the Seligmann Brothers House arose during the American Civil War. Also well known were Lazard Freres and Hallgarten & Co., also of German origin.

Jews played an important role in public financing, particularly during the Revolutionary War. Robert Morris has been named the financier of the American Revolution, but also instrumental was the banker Haym Salomon. Paul Warburg participated in the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank. Eugen Meyer and B. M. Baruch were advisers at the Economic Summit Conference at the Peace Conference in Paris [Translator’s note: after World War I] and served as advisers to President Wilson. Henry Morgenthau Jr. is the secretary of the treasury for President Franklin Roosevelt.

The number of Jews in all branches of the economy is significant, including the department store sector (Macy’s, Gimbel’s, Stern’s, Bloomingdale’s, etc.)

Continued Next Month

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About the Author: Ezra James Nollet is a retired U.S. government chemist living in Poland where he is officer of the local synagogue in Legnica. Before the Deluge appears the last week of each month.


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The Joint Distribution Committee cared for the refugees, directed the care of children, renewed educational facilities, undertook the rebuilding of destroyed houses, etc. Through the year 1930 the Joint Committee distributed over $80 million to the different branches of its relief work, and even distributed aid via affiliated charities to Jewish agricultural settlements in the USSR.

book-Die-Juden-in-der-Velt

The Federation of Jewish Labor by the end of the 1920s consisted of some 125,000 members, of whom 60 percent were employed in the confections industry. After 1929 there was a further rise in the level of Jewish participation in workers’ unions. There were 134,020 Jewish members of the fifty largest trade unions, 34.1 percent of the total number of organized workers, which roughly reflected the level of the Jews in the population of greater New York. In the remaining centers of the garment industry, in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Rochester, almost all the owners were Jews and the workers they employed were mainly Jewish.

The outward orderliness of the new circumstances of life was not without inner quakings of a spiritual crisis. Mixed marriages were extremely frequent in the southern and western states, where Jews were sprinkled in among the Christian populations. They came to about a third of the marriages Jews entered. But after 1881 the picture changed, with the flood of Jewish immigrants into New York. From 1908-1912, only 1.17 percent of marriages involving Jews were mixed.

The (European) press began to busy itself with the problems of emigration. The Austrian Central Body of Jews, which arose in 1848, dedicated itself to this situation. In May of 1848 a Committee for the Promotion of Emigration was started.

On August 22 1654, the Sephardic Jew Jacob Bar-Simson landed in New Amsterdam. It appears he came from Holland. In the beginning of September of the same year, twenty-three Jews set sail for New Amsterdam, refugees from Pernambuco [Translator’s Note: Dutch South America). The ship Saint Charles, which functioned as the Jewish equivalent of the Mayflower for the first Jewish immigration to North America, brought them to the city today known as New York.

Before the beginning of the Common Era, Jews were known to have lived in Sparta, Sikyon, Delphi, Athens, Patras, Mantineja, Laconia, Corinth, Thessalalonika, Philippi, and Beroa. Due to baptism forced on Jews by some Byzantine emperors, a number of Jews emigrated o southern Italy. Otherwise, there was a line of Jewish communities in the 12th century. By itself Thebes housed 2,000 families, Salonika 500 families, and middle-sized settlements arose in Halmyros, Corinth, Drama, Krisa, Naupactos, Ravnica, Arta, and Lamia.

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