nds. Theyare the immigrants. They came from all over the world for manyreasons, such as, religious persecution and racial tension, but thelargest reason for coming to America was for freedom. The freedom tolive where we want, to own property, to take part in the governmentand most importantly, the freedom to be treated like a human being.Coming over was extremely difficult. For some, there weregood, seaworthy boats, but most boats were overcrowded, dirty, anddisgusting. For Jews, the passage was extremely difficult because ofthe non-kosher ship food.
People were pushed together like cattle.Most people became seasick. From one account came descriptions ofunsanitary bathrooms. This, surely, must have been torture, but,hopefully, most immigrants found the dreadful trip to be worth thefreedom at the other end.Ellis Island, also, was far from sanitary. The people wouldbreak down into lines, and walk by a doctor, trying to hide anyphysical problems. Children over two had to be able to walk bythemselves.
If the doctor noticed anything wrong he would use a pieceof chalk to show the person required further inspection. If, this wasindeed the case, the person would be set aside in a cage.Another test was that of sanity. An interpreter would ask eachperson a few questions just to find a sensible answer to test mentalstability. The last and most feared doctor checked for disease bylifting the eyelid. He scared children, and probably spread moredisease than the people he checked.
From an eyewitness account, hisgloves were not sterile, and he did not change or even wash thembetween examinations. I, myself, found this disgusting, and dangerous.Then, immigrants filed into lines by nationality to bequestioned. The questions scared many people. Should they tell thetruth or lie. Which answer would make sure that they could stay inAmerica.
Later, for Jews, help came. A group called the “HebrewImmigrant Aid Society,” (HIAS) told them to tell the truth, and helpedthem through the period between leaving the boat and getting settledin the west. Some officials were corrupt, and allowed bribes. Thismakes me wonder, if this was the land of freedom and justice as it hadbeen claimed. Through the ordeal, one thing is certain. All of theimmigrants passing through Ellis Island were scared and confused.
Itwas one feeling that most of these people would probably be exposed tofor the next few months.There were many restrictions. People with certain diseaseswould be sent back. Laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, would notlet certain nationalities into America. In the early twentieth centuryit was decided that Japanese people would not be allowed into America.
This was surely not the land of liberty that had been promised by ourforefathers. One of the nationalities traveling to America were Jews.They were treated somewhat differently. This was probably becausemany of their countries would not accept them.The first Jews in the new world were Morranos from Spain. Theyfled their homeland because of the inquisition. They traveled fromSpain to South America, and then to New Amsterdam. They, at first wererejected by Peter Stuyvesant, but petitioned the Dutch West IndiaCompany of Amsterdam, Holland, and, eventually were let into thecolony.
Stuyvesant was determined to make life hard for the Jews, andtherefore denied them the right to build a synagogue. Luckily, for theJews, the colony was soon to be taken over by the British. Undercertain British naturalization laws, the Jews were able to build asynagogue in the colony.Jews in Savannah were accepted, but only to a degree. This wasbecause of Samuel Nunes, a Jewish doctor who helped to stop a diseasethat had already killed many people.
Even then, Jews were given landaway from the main town. In the American Revolution Jews did not takeany specific sides. Some believed that the freedom that they hadgained under the English rule would be lost. Other felt that the taxeswere too high and joined the Patriots.
Later, in the Civil War, Jews took sides as everyone else.Their location meant everything. Jews in the north sided with theUnion, and Jews in the south sided with the Confederacy.Unfortunately, a law was passed by Congress forbidding JewishChaplains in the Union army. Congress later passed a law stating thatchaplains had to be “ministers of some religious denomination,” whichincluded Christian ministers and Jewish rabbis.
Then, more trouble came for the Jews. Ulysees S. Grant orderedthat all Jews in the states of Kentucky and Tennessee were to beremoved. Fortunately, Lincoln cancelled the order as soon as he foundout. Later, between 1880 and 1925, many Jews came to America to escapeanti semitism. One of the acts of anti-semitism was church supportedviolence against Jews in Eastern Europe (before World War I), whichwas legal.
There were also laws which discriminated against Jews. InRussia, a czar had been assassinated, and Jews were blamed out of fearof a revolution. This caused a flood of immigrants into the UnitedStates.Most of America’s famous people are descended from immigrantsif they are not immigrants themselves.
People, like Albert Einstein, afamous physicist, and Henry Kissinger, who was Secretary of State, andhelped to open up negotiations with China, were Jewish immigrants.People like Bob Hope, who was born in England, have contributed richlyto our culture. Charlie Chaplin, also from England, was a silent moviestar.America is made of many different cultures, all of which havecontributed to the American way of life.
Jews contributed doctors andlawyers. Japanese are computer and business contributors. Koreans arewell educated and have been involved in many professional, technical,and managerial careers.
African Americans have contributed music,science, literature, entertainment, and many other things to ourculture. Our culture is derived from many different ones, and cannotbe broken down into which group contributes what because each grouphas done so much.All this proves that Americans are not just one people. We areindividuals from different cultures.
We are different, but we are allAmericans.—Bibliography”Asian Americans” Grolier’s Online Encyclopedia. 1991 ed.”Chinese Exclusion Act” Grolier’s Online Encyclopedia. 1991 ed.”Ellis Island” Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. 1986 ed.Fallows, James.
“The Mind of Japan” U.S. News and World Report 2December 1983: 36Howe, Irving. World of Our Fathers. New York and London: HarcourtBrace Jovanovich, 1976Interview with Mollie Greenblatt, Brooklyn, New York 1991Interview with Nathan Laks, Elizabeth, New Jersey 1991Kenvin, Helen Schwartz. This Land of Liberty – A History of America’sJews. West Orange, New Jersey: Behrman House Publishers, 1986.