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The Jewish German Migration And Settlement

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Approaching the close of the nineteenth century, the Jewish community in America had lost much of its devotion and dedication to its religious traditions and beliefs. The migration of "German" Jews to America revived the community not only through a drastic increase in numbers, but also by changing the face of the Jews.

Similar to Jews all over the world, Jews in what is now known as Germany, experienced much persecution and hatred. In Germany, Jews were not entitled to legal rights or religious freedoms. Among the many regulations and restrictions inflicted upon the Jewish community none prepared them for success in America more than the laws preventing them from farming. In some places Jews were not even allowed to marry. In 1828 an emancipation bill further confirmed the society's opposition towards Jewish legal and social rights. Since Jews were not permitted to farm or to apprentice (learn a trade), they obtained experience in money lending and acting as middlemen and artisans. Although able to participate in these positions, overpopulation further provoked the extreme poverty.

These Jews did not feel that Germany was their home; they felt like outsiders and hoped for religious, economic and political freedom, a freedom that was available only in America. Nearly 20% of the German Jewish population immigrated to America increasing the American Jewish population from 5,000 to about 250,000 by the mid 20th century. The Jewish immigrants who came to America were among the poorest and least educated of the population. The Jews also knew that leaving their community and moving to a newly developing country which consisted primarily of open spaces, would present a struggle to their religious dedication, yet they did maintain religious beliefs. "Ð' not forget our beloved religionÐ'...Commit your war unto the lord and you will be successful" (Heinrich).

Most immigrants were younger males, about 20 years of age. They left extremely poor with the hope of acquiring success and fortune in America and later sending for the rest of the family to "rejoice in the good fortune of their children" (America:). Parents were supportive and encouraged their children's journey since America provided opportunity far beyond what was available in their current situations. "These poor emigrants have become the props of their own people. How many parents who had to slave hard and bitterly, and saw facing them declining years full of cares, now live contented and carefree through the plentiful largeness, that flow to them from their children in America" (America: A land of Milk & Honey).

These immigrants were innovators and pioneers in America. While in Germany they were outcasts and forbidden from certain jobs, in America, where society was transforming from an agricultural society to an industrial one, the German Jews possessed the skills, abilities and education needed. Most Jews were able to read and write, which was not a common quality among the Americans or other immigrants. The German Jews began as cart peddlers selling used clothing and eventually after acquiring enough profits many were able to establish their own small stores. With much dedication to succeed and their commitment to their family and community most were able to flourish primarily through the usage of networking. Networks extended from other family members in America, to other members of the community and even to those who remained in Europe.

The German Jewish immigrants kept their stores family owned and run, hiring and even sending for additional family members. During the workday they often interacted with members from all religions yet focused their business with other Jews, and after five o'clock they did not interact socially with non-Jews. It was very common for these successful Jewish families to cement their business relationships with other successful Jews through the marriages of their children.

In America Jews were entrepreneurs and innovators. Sears, which began in Germany, introduced the clothing catalogue to America and allowed people to purchase ready-made clothes. Levi Straus found his success and changed the clothing industry through his invention of denim blue jeans. After combining his efforts with Davis and obtaining a patent he mass-produced his pants also leading the clothing industry towards ready-made clothes. Straus also made his impact through new techniques of marketing. These are only two of those who found major success in America and those who created large business, which are still present today. In 1880 Jewish firms controlled approximately 50% of the clothing industry.

While the German Jewish immigrants did encounter some degrees of anti-Semitism and persecution, as all minority groups do, it was not a major deterring factor. During this period in America religious discrimination was not a major priority against the Jews since they acted as pioneers and became important assets towards the success of this new country. The Jews were viewed as "good Americans," unlike other groups such as the Irish. As a result the once poor immigrants were able to obtain much success and many became the elite of the cities and towns in which they inhabited. Several even became involved in politics becoming politicians and governors.

Unlike in Germany, where the Jews were outcasts of society, in America the Jews finally felt at home. Many felt so at home that they even abandoned the desire to one-day return to Palestine, a Zionist view that Jews had



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