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Between 1820 and 1924, there was a large influx of Jewish immigrants to the United States from Eastern and Central Europe. They were escaping oppressive laws that many parts of Europe passed that targeted Jews, along with increased violence from pogroms and riots. These immigrants hoped that the United States would provide them with a fresh start and more freedom. However, this was not always the case, as many Jews continued to experience antisemitism in their new home.

This program explores Jewish immigration in the United States, presented by Hasia Diner, the Paul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History at New York University, in conversation with Daniel Okrent, author of The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law that Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America. They discuss the different waves of immigration during this period, the specific reasons why Jews left Europe, and why they chose the United States as their new home.

This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.

Sydney Yaeger (she/her): My name is Sydney Yaeger and I'm the public programs coordinator at the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Now, in its 24th year the museum is committed to the crucial mission of educating our diverse community about Jewish life and heritage, before, during and after the Holocaust.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): As part of that mission our programs are meant to illuminate the stories of survivors broader histories of hate and anti semitism through time and stories of resistance against injustice.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Today we are honored to be joined by hockey diner and Daniel okrent.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): hosea is the Paul and Sylvia steinberg professor of American Jewish history and director of multi Gore and Center for American Jewish history at New York university.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): she's the author of numerous books, including in the almost promised land American Jews and blacks 1915 to 1935 and roads, taken the great Jewish migrations to the new world and the peddlers who forged the way.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Daniel oakland is the prize winning author of six books, including the garden gate they country eugenics and the law that kept two generations of Jews Italians and other European immigrants out of America.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): The last call the rise and fall of prohibition and great fortune the epic of Rockefeller Center.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): among his many jobs and publishing he was corporate editor in large at time Inc and was the first public editor of the New York Times.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): If you have questions for our speakers during the program please put them in the zoom Q amp a box and we will get to as many as we can, at the end of the hour.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So thank you all so much for joining us today, and now it is my pleasure to welcome hotseat and Dan if you want to turn your cameras back on awesome Hello.

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Hasia Diner: There hi.

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Daniel Okrent: alright.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Well, thank thank you both so much for joining us.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So i'd like to begin by talking about the rates and trends in Jewish migration during the 19th and early 20th centuries so for my understanding, during the first half of the 19th century.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): The majority of Jewish immigrants came from Central Europe and many were German speaking, but by the beginning of the 20th century, the majority of Jewish immigrants were from.

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Daniel Okrent: Eastern Europe.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So, can you talk a bit about the profile of these immigrants in both sort of waves.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Right well, thank you.

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Hasia Diner: Okay, and now at, thank you for having me so.

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Hasia Diner: The first part of your State that is certainly very accurate, I think we need to push the east European migration much earlier than is conventionally assumed, and obviously some question about what is Eastern Europe, you know these are not no it's a.

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Hasia Diner: Clear categories are clear geographic sort of nations as they're not nation states, but you have the 1850s there are rush the first Russian Jewish congregation is open to be working at 52 and even a.

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Hasia Diner: decade before that many barefoot shoes communities places in the Midwest and add a New York and Philadelphia Boston had several what are more Polish congregations so.

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Hasia Diner: it's a much earlier phenomenon and the overlap is was was quite extensive.

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Hasia Diner: And while you know, without jumping the gun and not taking too much time I historian to really emphasize these is to really separate categories, they really were not and.

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Hasia Diner: In terms of the profile young people are unable to make a place for themselves in a radically changing economies, made the two very similar to each other.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And Dan do you have anything.

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Daniel Okrent: I don't know.

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Daniel Okrent: How she is much more the expert on this part of the story than I am.

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Daniel Okrent: The only thing I would like to point out is that I think that we pay attention to things based on events.

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Daniel Okrent: And each of the if you want to the degree, you can separate them the at 1848 revolutions in Central Europe.

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Daniel Okrent: That was an event that said, many people, not just Jews away from from the what became from the German speaking part of Europe.

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Daniel Okrent: And then, in the later part of the 19th century, the pogroms that's the event that we attach the sense of everything has changed, and this is a new world that.

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Daniel Okrent: it's arriving on our shores and then also I do think and correct me if i'm wrong about this there's no question that there was friction between the groups.

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Hasia Diner: Right, and I think the friction is as much as that with each decade, with each new way that's the.

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Hasia Diner: Numbers grew it grew the newcomers are confront our people who are quite thoroughly American or who are.

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Hasia Diner: Already on the steps to.

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Hasia Diner: America and they could already be they could actually have come from Lithuania and the 1850s, but there are American Jews add.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): To the.

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Hasia Diner: New covers from let's say you train or Moldavia, they kind of seem like they're German Okay, but when you scratch the surface, they are.

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Hasia Diner: not really.

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Hasia Diner: So, yes i'm so this friction together such tremendous class difference and language difference, and it was less German versus question, as it was English versus.

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Hasia Diner: Get ish americanized versus you know just stepped down on the on the shores and so they had very different interests in the outcome of active of events and policies and like.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Okay yeah that that makes a lot of sense, and I think before we sort of get a little bit more into sort of the americanized Jews and and that.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Part of the story, I want to go back a little bit and go to what you said then maybe going into a bit about these immigrants reasons for leaving Europe, I know, Daniel mentioned the pogroms but.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): How see I know in your book that you use of the United States, you discuss how Jews in Germany were subjected to a number of discriminatory laws and taxes, and can you delve into this a little bit more, and also, can you talk about if this was similar in other parts of Europe.

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Hasia Diner: Right so throughout Central Europe, but again there's so many different states principalities, these are not coherent nation states have really.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): complicated.

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Hasia Diner: Talk about any one of them as typical but many of these.

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Hasia Diner: jurisdictions had, for example, restrictions on Jewish marriage and the Jews couple could not marry unless there was a sub slot for them in a kind of communal officially designated.

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Hasia Diner: Number of acceptable or registered Jewish household and they were hammered and trade bye restrictions that.

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Hasia Diner: were specifically targeting choose and the other was even violence, so we know 918 19 and at 30 and at 48 there were all sorts of outbreak of violence against tunes in as far West, as also.

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Hasia Diner: Add in the very I add in Bohemia and they don't have the word pogrom attached to that they lack that kind of.

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Hasia Diner: dropped off, but I know they didn't seem all that different I think if you were getting clubbed over the head I don't think you worried that it didn't have a name.

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Hasia Diner: So, but primarily for that first gather the Jews coming in the 1820s 30s 40s it was a heavily economically driven migration and.

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Hasia Diner: mo interestingly, because the restrictions on marriage, it was a much more single might make migration of single people that are later when it's families, and these were often simple man who they stayed home ever very and.

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Hasia Diner: They go off to America, which is a place where they could earn some money, and you know, then kind of contracts for a ride or go back and get a get a bride a but if they stayed home they could marry and.

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Hasia Diner: Life matter.

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Daniel Okrent: Where that adding just that everything that has he said it's dead on that the this phenomenon of the single man coming over was not remotely confined to the Jews.

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Daniel Okrent: But, indeed, the Italian immigration, which was really the largest immigration from eastern and southern Europe that was a very, very common phenomenon and a lot of them.

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Daniel Okrent: went back once they had a little bit of money now the Jews weren't going to go back, they have to stay in the US and the sum of many of the talents did not.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So, Dan Can you also then talk a little bit more about the pogroms that you mentioned beforehand and just how that may have changed the nature of immigration, and is there a way that we can sort of.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): track how many people came because of this violence or is that sort of the possible.

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Daniel Okrent: I don't think so, I think that high together right, it was a name that it was attached to something that had been happening.

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Daniel Okrent: These official and unofficial but often official assaults on Jewish populations it's after the assassination of bizarre and.

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Daniel Okrent: Two that they're begins to be an official sense of something organized and i'm talking about in obviously in in Eastern Europe.

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Daniel Okrent: But as I said before, it's convenient to have a name but that isn't the defining things the laws, the laws that limited the rights of Jews and the Russian empire were horrible and then you didn't need pogroms to for that to be the case that was just a more visible thing.

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Hasia Diner: And I want to add to that that what's interesting is that the 1881 for bronze and had the ones you know kishan every 1903 it'll just happen when they're already established Jewish populations in the United States and.

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Hasia Diner: England and they play a very important role in rolling up publicity for the suffering shoes of.

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Hasia Diner: The Russian empire and in a way, take what dan's just described a put your spread it all over the newspapers and have rallies and they get prominent non Jews, to speak at these rallies and they create a whole body of.

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Hasia Diner: discourse of speeches and poetry that.

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Hasia Diner: are intended very specifically to browse the public and it says, having those low German shoes in the United States, who are able to get you know Theodore Roosevelt to come to a well you know, to really ramp up the publicity for these events and and to make a case for the the.

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Hasia Diner: importance of the United States is a safety valve for Jewish shop the Jews of.

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Hasia Diner: The Russian empire, who the assumption is life will just be increasingly terrible for them, and they need to get out.

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Daniel Okrent: There you know there's some lot of visual evidence posters and the like, and obviously not the technology of the 20th 21st century, but remind me very much of the.

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Daniel Okrent: pleas for help that we got for feeding, you know starving people in an Asian or an African country it's the.

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Daniel Okrent: it's the sobbing woman with the child and the implications of the husband is gone or has been killed, and these were to pull the heart, the American heartstrings did it work to a degree.

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Hasia Diner: yeah you know it, it worked and partly for fundraising purposes they want to send money there, but also to get the US government's and the British Government to.

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Hasia Diner: be sympathetic and welcoming and.

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Hasia Diner: To again make the case yeah but yet these pictures are really heart rendering and.

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Hasia Diner: The rhetoric of a in the.

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Hasia Diner: Exact image of the presses exact same one for each pogrom you just kind of tried out the problem by.

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Hasia Diner: Article which doesn't at all.

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Hasia Diner: minimize the horror of it, but very they happen, they were terrible that I I don't say you know minimize them, but they were very much intended to as a way to garner sympathy for Jews.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So I think that actually partially answered my next question, but I do want to give you a chance to sort of expand on it.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So you know you mentioned that there were a lot of American Jews already kind of advocating for these Jews in in Eastern Europe and Russia, but is is there other reasons that Jews chose America as their as their new home essentially after leaving Europe.

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Hasia Diner: Right so.

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Hasia Diner: I could start if you'd like.

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Hasia Diner: he's doing Okay, so I, it was a place of just expansive economic opportunity for white people are people who had the capability to citizenship which it was good.

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Hasia Diner: It was the place, you know for somebody who had pretty much no prospects at home, to make a go of it as peddlers shopkeeper.

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Hasia Diner: Even even work in the garden industry was a kind of elevator arrived mobility and there's no place in the world that came as opposed to the United States in terms of the dynamism of the economy.

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Hasia Diner: And as more and more Jews came then there were more and more institutions more and more communities and more and more friends from back home for this town or that town to make life.

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Hasia Diner: If not, wonderful at least livable and you know I don't want you to dismiss the freedom of religion as the ability of Jews, to create the kinds of communities that they wanted and the privileges of purchase of political participation that we're open to and.

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Hasia Diner: All those and the fact that there were so many other friends coming and choose for harboring stigmatized as not immigrants, but but yeah it was economics, it was that died dynamo of a of an economy just shirt you know, moving from physically across the confidence.

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Hasia Diner: The expansion that industry.

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Hasia Diner: Where else yeah.

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Daniel Okrent: Well, you know, relative to the moving across the continent, there is in the first decade of the 20th century, the galveston project and which was an effort that was funded by Jacob schiff really to keep the immigrants away from New York, I believe there were so many.

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Daniel Okrent: Poor Jewish immigrants in the lower East side and various other places, and the port city Philadelphia baltimore let's.

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Daniel Okrent: You know kind of maybe we can show them shut them off elsewhere, and this project didn't last a long time, but many thousands of Jews came in through galveston and.

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Daniel Okrent: Those of you who are listening, if you are in Fort Smith Kentucky or you Arkansas or you're in sioux falls, or in any.

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Daniel Okrent: The Jewish department store was usually started by some often started by somebody who came in this way, and one of the things that happened on.

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Daniel Okrent: The immigration people, people who are handling it in galveston if you got off the boat and you, you were asked what is your occupation i'm a butcher oh good Kansas city needs a butcher and there was even a child waiting for you.

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Hasia Diner: And you know it's interesting there was also an organization headquartered in New York, called the industrial Google office, which is such a terrible name but.

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Hasia Diner: It was it was nobody was forced to go there, but I, they would take requests from Jewish immigrants man, I say you know, are you willing if if you want a job.

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Hasia Diner: we're willing to send you to the same places sioux falls paducah and appleton Wisconsin and the IRL also further merging of share know finance potato chip.

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Hasia Diner: would accept new immigrants up with like a place to live job they relied on local Jewish communities babe Ruth lodges are synagogues to help settle down and.

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Hasia Diner: So men who found they couldn't make it New York they found the competition in like firemen and his nose in the sewing field to top that it may be that interested in maybe I just hated that I hated the routing and, third, and always I say okay i'm willing to go and so.

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Hasia Diner: They to disperse choose to all these places, and some of which do grow into pretty thriving small but still a vibrant Jewish communities.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): You both are really great at providing segues for my next question, so thank you for that.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): I you know there, so we talked about how there were Jewish community spread all over the country, but there is still this sort of popular view that Jews came to.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): To the to the United States settled in New York lived in tenement buildings and worked in the garment industry so, to what extent is that the case, and to what extent is that not.

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Daniel Okrent: Certainly early on the the in the Eastern European that the the huge wave of Eastern European immigration that comes Ellis Island opens in 1892 it's New York where else are the Jews coming into the country baltimore Philadelphia.

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Daniel Okrent: I guess some in charleston which had had a large Jewish community or a substantial one that point in Boston they went to where they arrived and then as explain they you know move move through the country, I mean my own grandfather arrived in New York.

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Daniel Okrent: I don't know whether it was the ir O, but he was given the opportunity to get a job in indianapolis, of all places, he comes from eastern.

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Daniel Okrent: Eastern Poland, he gets sent to indianapolis and he has a job in a factory that is doing upholstery for horse drawn carriages and around 1917 or 1918 he realizes boom characters and he moves to Detroit.

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Daniel Okrent: Well, you know he saw his chance, and I think that that's that's not an uncommon story of people moving around until they find the place for their home.

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Hasia Diner: But and the New York, the New York.

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Hasia Diner: Ask the question is not mythic and effective New York wins the Center of the garment industry.

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Hasia Diner: And there were garment factories in baltimore Rochester Chicago Philadelphia, but it was situated New York, now is the heart of it, it was in the 1930s, the single largest industry in New York City, and it was a.

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Hasia Diner: It was the the entrepreneur the owners, the factories were almost all Jews and many of them were former east European immigrants who did wow and it's always I go every year to the hundredth anniversary, to the.

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Hasia Diner: To the anniversary of the triangle fire and you know the two owners heritage blank for both solid lady Jewish immigrants who had been sweatshop workers and.

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Hasia Diner: They saved up enough to become sweat shop owners and then they saved up enough to buy the time of the founding of the company with single largest.

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Hasia Diner: garbage shot factory in New York, but that was not that was not uncommon to have that for garment making to be a kind of both an elevator.

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Hasia Diner: but also to create a kind of Jewish ethnic economy and all the possible I don't want to say negative positive the all the complexities of Jews working for other Jews, so I like your grandfather who probably worked for Ford or Chrysler what it is.

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Hasia Diner: Most of the Jews in New York, and I think the New York state census at 65% of all Jews working in the garment field.

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Hasia Diner: I they're working for other Jews and it gave them leeway to demand something from those employers, and it also gave the employer kind of.

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Hasia Diner: A little bit of a power over them as well, so it's very complicated but New York really was the heart of it, I say this is somebody who grew up in milwaukee it's New York was like this kind of Jewish Mecca.

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Daniel Okrent: How many.

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Daniel Okrent: Yiddish daily papers English language daily papers were there in New York and making 20 or so.

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Hasia Diner: 1910 1920 that number in are ready to go down, but I decade earlier, there were eight or nine of now.

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Hasia Diner: Really yeah.

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Hasia Diner: yeah he daily newspapers and each one was different so the Var height was sorted by tammany was paid for by tammany hall add the tag of lot was orthodox of the talk was.

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Hasia Diner: sort of Republican, but this is it so.

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Hasia Diner: hard and in 1960 the Jewish daily forward was the largest circulating for newspaper in New York, and so a remarkable kind of output of.

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Hasia Diner: literary and political culture those papers.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): yeah that's amazing and I just want to go back for a second to something you said hotseat you just for those who don't know you just briefly explain what the triangle shirtwaist factory file was.

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Hasia Diner: Okay, so march 1911 it still stands as the worst industrial accidents in American history and.

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Hasia Diner: The girl is mostly women, worked in the factory about a third of them were Italian the other two thirds for Jewish a lot of them young and 1617 years old.

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Hasia Diner: They had to work, the five day week so Saturday morning late morning and as was typically the kids the employer lock the door from the outside.

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Hasia Diner: So, first the girls leave or the workers would leave early and you know they wouldn't sneak out and, secondly, they wouldn't steal swatches fabric and.

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Hasia Diner: All sorts of possibilities as to how the fire started, but if it's somebody smoking, or may have been an electrical a threat to the electrical wires but.

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Hasia Diner: The fire went from the seventh to the eighth the ninth floor and they you know they couldn't get out many more stuff you know we're trampled to death, as they all tried to run down the stairs and many of the.

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Hasia Diner: Women jumped out the windows and the fire the ladders, the fire company just didn't go high enough to.

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Hasia Diner: For them to walk down the next door was the nyu law school and they actually went out on the roof, and they were bringing the women up across the roof, but 247 fatalities.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Thank you for that, I just want to make sure that everybody's on the same page.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So I think now that we've talked a little bit about sort of the the immigrant experience you know just a brief overview I do want to talk a little bit about the reaction to immigration and Jewish immigration in the United States, so.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): You know, there was an effort to americanize immigrants once they came so, can you talk about what those efforts entailed, and what that meant.

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Daniel Okrent: there's one specific case i'd like to cite that isn't terribly well it's about a man named Joseph Lee in Boston who is considered the first citizen of Boston he was an incredibly generous.

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Daniel Okrent: He paid for the Boston schools to have to pay for the dentist to come into to take care of the children, the Boston schools, he sponsored international festivals, he was.

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Daniel Okrent: phenomenal he also finance the most powerful anti immigrant organization in the country, the immigration restriction league.

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Daniel Okrent: Which for 20 years was something that he he almost personally bankrolled.

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Daniel Okrent: So what what is the conflict going on here between this man who is such a great social liberal, at the same time, quite an angry anti Semite.

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Daniel Okrent: And the answer was he was pretty frank about it in his correspondence, he said I don't want them here, but once they're here, I want to turn them into Americans.

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Daniel Okrent: And there were many you know the settlement house movement is probably the best example but that's just one very I think sharp one and and just as a as an afterthought, he has two grandchildren great grandchildren one who's married to a Jew, and the other ones married to an Italian.

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Daniel Okrent: History comes home.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): spouse dies, you know.

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Hasia Diner: yeah, so I think you know, partly in a way.

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Hasia Diner: Thinking about that that that word or that phrase to americanize the immigrants often has a sort of negative.

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Hasia Diner: Valence to add, but it was a recognition, certainly for Jewish immigrants, but for others as well that for those people who were coming for good those we're going to stay in a model legal society okay i'm.

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Hasia Diner: Learning English being able to go out in the world at in the country and have skills of literacy and.

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Hasia Diner: know how to navigate the world is absolutely crucial, and I think you know we spent a lot of time thinking about the.

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Hasia Diner: sort of harsh motives of the americanizing agencies, but they were dealing with a very serious issue with a here all these hundreds of thousands millions coming in and um How are they going to.

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Hasia Diner: Get work, how are they going to navigate society what's What about their children if they didn't acquire those.

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Hasia Diner: Skills and most of the Jewish agencies were involved also take the Yiddish get fresh and it has articles on where to go to learn English add what's baseball add.

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Hasia Diner: To explain them an election coming up, who are the candidates, why should you for this one, not that one obviously the bar height always invoke cavities straight out one but.

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Hasia Diner: These are all agencies have Americanization and in fact the first serious study of the year crass I was wildly americanizing agency as well, even when it's a deep commitment to you.

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Hasia Diner: Why was a notion that without him without Americanization it was a recipe for disaster now.

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Hasia Diner: And I should also say that a lot of the Americanization is informal takes place on the streets Jewish immigrant kids go out they play with or rumble with or whatever Italian immigrant kids in 19.

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Daniel Okrent: Meyer Lansky and lucky Luciano.

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Hasia Diner: Absolutely, they they cooperate like 1917 immigrant young men from all the communities, no end up in not in the US army.

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Hasia Diner: And I mean there is where you know kind of and and, by the way, there were Americanization projects within the army okay so Jewish welfare board runs English classes are the army bases.

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Hasia Diner: So that means.

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Hasia Diner: guys, who have been drafted into the rv can cope linguistically, so I think it's a it's actually a much more complicated word, then we sometimes think.

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Hasia Diner: And yeah.

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story of Lee.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): yeah I think those are both really good points, and I think really important to keep both sides of that in mind.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And you know hussey, as you pointed out earlier in 1910 there about eight to nine Yiddish publications in New York and by the 20s that had already gone down so obviously these efforts were starting to work but.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): How, you know how much were how much did immigrants really buy into these efforts and was there any pushback again.

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Daniel Okrent: If they had children.

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Daniel Okrent: yeah they became Americans.

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Daniel Okrent: The children with.

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Daniel Okrent: American schools, they had American friends, they my father, my father was born here didn't speak English until he was six years old, he lived in a totally you know speaking community in indianapolis and then school made him in America.

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Hasia Diner: yeah and you know the the.

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Hasia Diner: One thing that defines those dailies is not just because people were rejecting it, but the population is increasingly American born and so like father and in just as a statistic and 1930 a slim majority majority nonetheless have choose the United States for American board.

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Hasia Diner: So, why would they really get issues paper, not that there's no and now there are these these immigrant communities sponsor schools, you know yet or schools or Hebrew schools which not that he went to so it's not that the americanizing was not in opposition to being Jewish.

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and

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Hasia Diner: The other orthodox cutters orthodox congregation in Chicago that I had like a little settlement house attached to it.

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Hasia Diner: Best Jacob and that's what they wouldn't got his first clarinet lesson.

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Hasia Diner: And so, does that mean they didn't want him to be Jewish no and it was an Orthodox synagogue but yeah I mean they have the they want the children to participate in American culture and yeah just by stepping into those schools and.

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Hasia Diner: The the process is.

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Hasia Diner: happens, I shall say, by the way the the rise of the movies and analytical audience, both in New York we're located on the lower East side.

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Hasia Diner: What a powerful venue you know, to the instrument of americanizing and learning about all the ridiculous or not ridiculous.

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Hasia Diner: Aspects of American culture, and I saw a pushback I will, I think one way we didn't know, there was essentially no pushback is a people didn't go back where they could quote be more Jewish and, secondly, the immigrants and their families don't create all Jewish day schools.

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Hasia Diner: They don't want that they want their kids to be able to function American society and not be garment workers or not be peddlers of want them to become teachers or social workers or business and so on, and lawyers I didn't want to throw that out go to get into the professions and it's.

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Hasia Diner: more comfortable ranks without English none of that's going to happen.

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Daniel Okrent: You know in New York.

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Daniel Okrent: That generation largely of young people, born here I.

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Daniel Okrent: There were so many who had been admitted to Columbia University, the Columbia put it in a quote.

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Daniel Okrent: Because we're being overwhelmed by these Jews, these are the ones who are in the path of Americanization straight to morningside heights and Columbia and law school Medical School beyond that.

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Hasia Diner: And let's factor in the number of go to city college, I mean it's.

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Hasia Diner: hard to other women for the hunter I didn't these are held by the 1920s predominantly Jewish institutions 70 80% of the students are Jewish and.

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Hasia Diner: So obviously something is clicking.

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Daniel Okrent: To and just to move it out of New York our tendency is to stay there for all sorts of reasons.

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Daniel Okrent: At Harvard and 1922 the President of Harvard a Lawrence.

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Daniel Okrent: A large lowell he wanted to put in a Jewish quota and in his letter explaining this to a member of the Harvard board, he said I don't want us to become what Columbia has become.

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Daniel Okrent: very specifically, and of course the way these things happen, however, God did not institute a Jewish quote up officially they just kept us out.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): By my grandpa was actually one of the ones that went to city college.

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Hasia Diner: and

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Hasia Diner: It was.

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Hasia Diner: A Jewish Mecca and the constrictions of the you know it's all pale but of the guys, who are there with the 30s it's like.

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Hasia Diner: It was so Jewish and it was so.

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Hasia Diner: splintered biology, that will be one order which were over the Trotskyites and then lunch Room one quarter only with the social is another corner, where the stolid is another part of the anarchism and.

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Hasia Diner: They it didn't know, there was no Jewish faculty they didn't teach Jewish subjects, but nobody cared they were kind of different very strategic reasons.

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Daniel Okrent: And one of the other draws, of course, is that city college was free.

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Hasia Diner: yeah.

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Daniel Okrent: If you're a poor immigrant family and you can't afford Columbia city.

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Hasia Diner: yeah it's actually an amazing phenomenon of a kind of marriage about New York and the Jews that it's.

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Hasia Diner: Not only the Center that was not only the Center of the garment industry and the largest port of entry here's this free public institution of higher learning.

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Hasia Diner: That there were a few others at the University of Cincinnati via free, I think, maybe, but nothing compared to city college and then hunter which.

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Hasia Diner: For for women.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): yeah I think those are like that's a really important point to keep in mind, but you know Americanization also has a you know.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): it's not just a negative thing, so I very much agree with that, but I think there was, I also want to move into sort of nativism and eugenics and that sort of backlash but.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Dan Would you mind, maybe explaining what nativism is and how it manifested during this time, and the major nativist leaders and what their rhetoric was.

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well.

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Daniel Okrent: The the to me the signal fact about the nativism, which is to say the anti immigrant feeling that.

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Daniel Okrent: took hold in this country and in the 19th and 20th century that although it had been there before always goes away and it always comes back.

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Daniel Okrent: it's inevitable, be a Boston Brahmins the wealthy bus bostonians whose families had been in the US, since the 1600s referred to themselves as Native Americans.

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Daniel Okrent: Which is a little bit different from the way that that term is used today and the point was to make the distinction between those of us who are American and those who are not.

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Daniel Okrent: And it was a way of defining someone as an interloper and even as an enemy and the leaders of the nativist movements and the various nativist.

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Daniel Okrent: movements were very effective, with their propaganda, so that it would spread to the point where.

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Daniel Okrent: In parts of the country where there were no immigrants, there was fear of immigrants, because they this was being.

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Daniel Okrent: taught to them, you mentioned eugenics and if I could just leap into eugenics was a basically bogus 19th century theory born and in the UK.

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Daniel Okrent: That said, that if you marry people have really good genes to each other, then we'll get a better society, and if we don't let the people with bad genes Mary others they didn't know the word genes of the time they know a lot.

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Daniel Okrent: Then we would have a bad society, and this took hold in the US and around.

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Daniel Okrent: begins to spread a little bit primarily in scientific communities, but it was all about individuals let's not let Dan Mary how SIA because dan's got you know he's stupid and how she's got a good brand we want her to marry so.

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Hasia Diner: Now the other way around.

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Daniel Okrent: Oh Oh, please.

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Daniel Okrent: The.

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Daniel Okrent: But around 1912 there's a sudden change in the rhetoric that is then spread widely in a book published in 1916 called the passing of the great race.

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Daniel Okrent: By a very wealthy New York aristocrat and a Madison grant and when she applies these principles of eugenics not individuals, but the ethnic groups and he actually says in this book that.

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Daniel Okrent: There are three major ethnic groups white ethnic groups, and they are the nordics who are tall and blond and strong and brilliant and are the conquerors and the alpines who are a little bit shorter and a little bit you know not not as black.

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Daniel Okrent: They are there, the next level down in the bottom level is the Mediterranean, so our shirt and swarthy and stupid and criminal.

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Daniel Okrent: And this nonsense theory led him to say that we know from the laws of genetics that there's a reversion to the lower form in Andy intermarriage.

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Daniel Okrent: So therefore a Nordic who marries an alpine yields an alpine because a child and an alpine who marries a Mediterranean will yield a Mediterranean and any one of the three European groups that marries a Jew.

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Daniel Okrent: Is a Jew that at the very bottom of this, but you know along the way, he was knocking off a lot of other ethnic groups, so you like, so this this.

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Daniel Okrent: If you'll excuse the expression bullshit theory did take hold in politics in the lead, and there are many other factors, but a 1924.

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Daniel Okrent: To the most restrictive immigration law in US history which changed the face of immigration, and particularly of Jewish population in the US, I saw in the chat that somebody asked where the Jews going to Argentina and Brazil, at the same time.

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Daniel Okrent: After 1924, it is almost certain if you have Jewish relatives in Mexico in Argentina and Chile, as I do that they came they couldn't get into the US after 1924 so they went there.

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and

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): I said.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): God.

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Hasia Diner: Oh no I was just gonna add I mean other integration restriction Lee and the genesis which Dan cited for I mean they were formative and.

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Hasia Diner: took as their.

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Hasia Diner: Strategy legislation that was what you were put a one by one, over time, press for more and more and more restrictive legislation, I think you can underestimate, also in the early 1920s to late 19 teens are the rise of second Ku Klux Klan, which was the single largest.

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Hasia Diner: Reform organization in American history.

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and

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Daniel Okrent: I was just going to say that the KKK then their targets were not black people.

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Hasia Diner: Now.

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Daniel Okrent: The KKK carry they didn't have any rights.

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Hasia Diner: Right that's.

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Daniel Okrent: Right, you know that there are no problem because we've suppressed that we repress them it's these newcomers these Catholics and Jews Jews.

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Hasia Diner: Absolutely and it's just remarkable when you read.

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Hasia Diner: The level of political power they gained and not just in in sort of all veteran scene, but places like name New Jersey Oregon.

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Hasia Diner: Even log island did we even know somebody whose grandfather we'd be American people have those somebodies grandfather lived on long island did he was.

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Hasia Diner: clan affiliated I won't mention his name, but he needs to be President, I had.

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Hasia Diner: And I mean they were relatively powerful and or such a force in a way yeah the immigration restrictions was at the top, this was from the bottom.

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Hasia Diner: And it's the meeting of these two powerful forces that really made for the legislation which I think it changed the Jews change ever had changed America may it really was a decisive factor in making as an impact with the country.

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Daniel Okrent: From 1984 to.

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Daniel Okrent: 1965 that law.

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Daniel Okrent: doesn't disappear in.

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Daniel Okrent: 65 so think, and you know this is where we get to the Holocaust, inevitably, how many people in Europe would have come to the US.

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Daniel Okrent: Particularly as Nazi ISM was arising, but could not come to us.

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Hasia Diner: Right.

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Daniel Okrent: We don't know how many, but we can guess it was a lot.

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Daniel Okrent: yeah how we get those died in the in the in the death camps, we know, it was a lot because of this law.

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Hasia Diner: yeah and you know by the MID 1930s in Poland nope before that yeah I have a decade before the German invasion anti semitism had just escalated.

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Hasia Diner: And there's no reason to think that those billions Polish Jews, they were frantically trying to get played you know, to get out.

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Hasia Diner: And you know, without place that had been the biggest magnet the most powerful megan we should style close to them and yeah they're going to move on they're going to Mexico, but those places also had you know, took very small numbers and.

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Hasia Diner: yeah world history would have been very different without that legislation and.

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Hasia Diner: it's one of those things that isn't story, and you think why didn't they know why didn't they do it, but obviously they wouldn't know if this has been a lead.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So you know we're talking about the 1944 Johnson react, and I am assuming, also the 1921 emergency quota act.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And I wonder sort of I know these were reaction to Jewish immigrants and Catholic immigrants, so how did us who are already in the country react to these things and to nativism and eugenics and what what did that reaction look like to people who were not recent immigrants.

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Daniel Okrent: i'll give you one small piece of that and then hand hand the ball over to the House yeah.

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Daniel Okrent: Politically, in Congress, if you read the debates in the Congressional record that were taking place in 1921 for the emergency act and then, more so than 1924.

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Daniel Okrent: The names of those who are against the Act, those who want to keep immigration open are not just Jewish names like a manual seller brooklyn who really was.

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Daniel Okrent: You know, he was there for both the 1924 bill in 1965 or Italian names, although half Jewish Fiorello laguardia they were both very passionately trying to keep the doors open but Irish names and Polish names.

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Daniel Okrent: Which is display.

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Daniel Okrent: Even those who had no political or ethnic affiliation, but we're themselves the children of immigrants, they That was the party that was the group that opposed the immigration law.

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Hasia Diner: And they were terribly in the minority, but your questions are really good one and so on.

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Hasia Diner: You know the let's call them the established in the United States, I mean they're not I don't know what that exactly means, but the people who have boys, I mean they are going to court, they are taking the cases of people who are detained or being disbarred a lawyer, like next caller.

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Hasia Diner: Louis Missouri Marshall he died in 1929, but they are on the barricades and what they are essentially saying is a silly silly real results key as well, the National Council of Jewish women we are powerless in the face of this legislative juggernaut.

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Hasia Diner: they're winning but case by case by case, they try to.

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Hasia Diner: intercede for individual immigrants individual immigrant families and they're constantly making the case they band, together with Irish with our Protestants of goodwill to have.

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Hasia Diner: All sorts of our Community activities to say Look how much immigrants have given to us with a hope that maybe this would reverse the course and it's one of those are really magic.

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Hasia Diner: Obviously my buyers coming out of your guard action that they were unable to stop because their numbers were they said so small, and you know, the one that got lost goes.

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Hasia Diner: goes to Congress it's really a very small number who voted against it so so who are you know what what is it, they could do, and again I they.

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Hasia Diner: They were active they were frantic they were assertive and then you know nothing else was within their so.

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Hasia Diner: quiver that no other arrows in your quiver and and also, I do want to say that you know as American Jews founded the joint in during World War one and.

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Hasia Diner: In the 30s with the.

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Hasia Diner: edges, which isn't in Poland and the rise of them it's the joint that is out there going around the world looking for places for Jews, to go Shanghai.

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Hasia Diner: Kenya wherever and so in a way, you could say that American Jewish a lead money and political effort once they recognize they couldn't do anything about the United States was about finding alternative homelands or time alternative places of refuge.

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Daniel Okrent: I know.

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Daniel Okrent: Time, but just to insert one, I think, important fact that I left out before.

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Daniel Okrent: The 1924 X determined who could come to America, based on absolutely outright righteously and this honestly.

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Daniel Okrent: conceived formula.

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Daniel Okrent: So that the consequence for the Jews were up until that year they've been.

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Daniel Okrent: not cutting World War, one where there was not a lot of immigration, for obvious reasons, I think, was 95,000 Eastern European Jews coming into the country, every year, the quote them but Jews it changed a little bit over the years was between 5006 thousand.

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Daniel Okrent: So that by 9000 a year right.

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Hasia Diner: If I could only slightly.

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Hasia Diner: I remember, there are no Jewish quotes quote is my country and so it's a quarter for Poland there's a quota for.

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Hasia Diner: This place Lithuania for a while it's an independent country, and so, and again I think it's really important to note that choose had no more or less opportunity to get on that quota, or you have to fill a quota that a Christian from the same country.

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Hasia Diner: yeah because I think guy it's something that a lot of Jewish communal Oregon audiences I kind of think what was about Jews, but now it has been in the back to their has you know, obviously Italians and Greeks.

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Daniel Okrent: would say it was about choosing the sense that yeah we you know, there might be some Protestants suffering as well, but that's not as important as keeping the July.

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Hasia Diner: Right, but the Polish Puerto is a Polish Florida and it's got from Poland and that's what you got and Polish Catholics don't have any better chance, so I think it's really important to.

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Hasia Diner: copy on it, where.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): I think we're going to move into audience questions for a bit.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So the first question is, can you talk about what us immigration authorities required from immigrants to enter in the US like did they need a sponsor financial support what what did that look like in the time period that we're discussing.

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Hasia Diner: Well, until the 1890s pretty much nothing they just there were no reason you know it's just and then they start adding has certainly helped categories.

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Hasia Diner: of questions i'll criminality that is a mental they've got the answer to the head tax.

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Daniel Okrent: About lpc.

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Hasia Diner: lpc likely to become a public charge.

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Hasia Diner: And so.

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Hasia Diner: there's a certain amount of interrogation and, over time, the number of categories get more more more extensive and the completed supervision and the surveillance becomes more sophisticated and you know so.

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Hasia Diner: In the earlier years it's easier to say yeah but Taylor any go through, if you have you know when they help exams, do you have a contagious disease, do you have.

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Hasia Diner: some kind of eye condition.

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Hasia Diner: sunken you know all sorts of categories and at some point, yes, is there, somebody will the rpc is somebody who's going to vouch for you or will take care of you.

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Hasia Diner: And so you have to give the name of somebody you know and so.

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Hasia Diner: It became So the question really is to be answered by when you're talking about.

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Hasia Diner: yeah different different and harsher as time went on.

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Daniel Okrent: I noticed a.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Good no go ahead.

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Daniel Okrent: I just noticed a question.

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Daniel Okrent: In the chat that seems pertinent to this and now i've lost, where it was so i'm going to see the floor back to you well, I.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): um I actually going to ask one that just came in in the chat can you talk a bit more about the construction of Jews into the Russian army in the early 1900s and if that propelled Jews and and others to leave at all.

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Hasia Diner: yeah so the really harshest conscription ends in the 1870s so it.

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Hasia Diner: You know, is you know it's not that it ended but.

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Hasia Diner: It became less targeted at Jews, and it was no longer that 25 year period.

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Hasia Diner: That had been the case that the.

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Hasia Diner: In the latter quarter of the 1860s and 70s and.

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Hasia Diner: I think, in the end it's still economics that's driving people to foods and other immigrants to the possibilities of of the United States.

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Daniel Okrent: I found I found the question that was.

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The staff.

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Daniel Okrent: Does that mean the the.

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Daniel Okrent: listener, or the viewer asks that that.

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Daniel Okrent: My parents got here before 1924 Does that mean that they couldn't get their family members couldn't come as well, well, in fact, their family members could come my mother came under their.

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Daniel Okrent: doctrine that if you had an American citizen on this side of the water you couldn't get it, interestingly in 1965 when this is repealed.

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Daniel Okrent: When they when they act is replaced, one of the key elements of it was the argument put forward by a conservative Congressman from from Ohio name fagan Irish.

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Daniel Okrent: who wanted to make certain that relatives have relatives have relatives relatives could continue to come, because he thought they were all going to be Irish.

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Daniel Okrent: Right we're all going to be at least white.

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Daniel Okrent: White what he did not anticipate this make it into the 1965 hard seller equity, not as it anticipate that also applied to people from the Dominican Republic and applied to people from Africa and from you know every all over the world.

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Daniel Okrent: The immigrants who began to come in on so called with the right wing anti immigration people chain chain migration were largely not what Congressman fagan expected.

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Hasia Diner: Right, I remember, most of my friends before and we're also changed my friends.

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Hasia Diner: You know you're ready yeah I mean that was the mechanism that somebody comes from your family sends money over to pay the fair of the wife, the cousin nephew and they know is the word stuff they kind of.

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Hasia Diner: brought each over each one is a link in the chain that reconstituted families on in the United States just the earlier chain migrants were that would fade was thinking about.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And so I don't know if this is something you both feel sort of comfortable talking about but.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): We have a question that asked how are nativist and anti immigration movements of today similar to, and different from the ones in the 1920s.

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Daniel Okrent: I think they're they're profoundly similar.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): and

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Daniel Okrent: The same in addition to people who are simply racist or anti Semitic or anti Catholic you know they're strong economic interest as well.

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Daniel Okrent: Big business Ben and big business now kind of.

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Daniel Okrent: liked him.

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Daniel Okrent: Because it was lower paid workers unions.

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Daniel Okrent: You know Samuel gompers himself an immigrant they wanted to immigration, because it was people coming in, who are uncovering undercutting the wages that their Union workers were earning that's gone I think that's.

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Hasia Diner: yeah.

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Daniel Okrent: But but, but the the the sheer ethnic hatred and resentment.

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Daniel Okrent: Now you can't say it out loud, although each day passes they're beginning to say a lot more loudly but it's in a way they're used it's all it's been euphemized it's been heavily euphemized so that it's really.

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Daniel Okrent: You know, given a certain son of a former KKK Member Member KKK island Maybe I should say it's not being euphemized anymore, I think that very.

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Hasia Diner: yeah and in fact there's something sort of.

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Hasia Diner: deja vu we over as a historian of immigration and you read what the people are saying now and it could be the no nothing party, you know, in the 1840s and 50s talking about the Irish they'll never become American they have to own loyalty.

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Hasia Diner: They belong to a church, that is not a fit for democracy, which is what's said about Muslims and they.

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Hasia Diner: They work from a low wages, they depress the American standard of living i've heard all this before and it's just you know new out slightly you adjectives slightly, but it's it's it's almost like.

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Hasia Diner: frightening Lee boring.

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Hasia Diner: As rhetoric, because we've heard.

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and

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Hasia Diner: yeah.

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Daniel Okrent: I actually i've always maintained, you know there's a sine wave in American history that these periods usually periods of economic hardship, particularly when immigration goes up an Anti immigrant feeling rises and then it dips do you think there's a possibility of a dip from this one.

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Hasia Diner: Oh i'll tell you what i'm the world's biggest pessimists so I don't ask me as somebody who has a more optimistic view of everything i'm I I feel we have dug ourselves into.

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Hasia Diner: Just a really horrendous.

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Hasia Diner: Reality and it comes from the top down and.

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Hasia Diner: I don't know I hope i'm wrong.

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Hasia Diner: I hope so too.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): So we are almost out of time, but I do want to give either of you the chance to say any final thoughts before we before we go.

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Daniel Okrent: My only final thought comes directly from what i've seen i've just been talking about is that if you have an impulse of.

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Daniel Okrent: Looking at the Mexican border and thinking we can't let these people in, and you know I don't think more to be totally open there are all sorts of reasons just remember your grandparents and your great grandparents because they were looked at at exactly the same way.

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Hasia Diner: Absolutely, and you know I don't ordinarily say i'm going to say this as a Jew and usually i'm here, speaking as in storing but.

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Hasia Diner: Choose suffered from the same rhetoric and same actions that are be.

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Hasia Diner: Subject to which people are being subjugated now subjects about and I think it's our moral responsibility to side with the people coming in and to side with those standing for office who have an expansive view that essentially everybody can become in America.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Great well, thank you both so much, this has been such an amazing conversation I could listen to you both talk forever, but unfortunately we don't have time.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And I do also want to thank all of you out there in the Internet, who have joined us today.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And just to say that everything we do at the museum is made possible through donor support.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And to those of you watching me hope you'll consider making a donation to support the museum and becoming a member and also joining us for upcoming programs, which you can check out on our website Thank you again to hockey and Dan have a great afternoon.

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Daniel Okrent: Thank you.

 

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Explore the Work of Our Panelists
Daniel Okrent’s The Guarded Gate tells the story of the scientists who argued that certain nationalities were inherently inferior, providing the intellectual justification for the harshest immigration law in American history. Okrent and Jack Kliger, museum President & CEO, discuss in this book talk. For a comprehensive history of Jews in America–from 1654 through the end of the 20th century–check out Hasia Diner’s The Jews of the United States.

Learn About American Antisemitism & Restrictionist Immigration Policy
Though America is often dubbed a “nation of immigrants”–suggesting acceptance and inclusion–our politics and law have frequently been hostile and exclusionary. In this Museum lecture, Professor Rebecca Kobrin examines the increased restriction of immigration–due in part to antisemitism–in 19th and early 20th century America.

Immerse Yourself in the Stories of Jewish Immigrants
Because we often speak of Jewish immigration as a mass phenomenon, it is easy to overlook the distinct humanity behind the numbers and trends. History is brought to life when we immerse ourselves in the particulars of an individual’s story. Bella Trachtenberg was one of over 2 million eastern European Jewish immigrants propelled by pervasive antisemitism at home, and the dream of religious liberty and economic mobility in America. This Museum blog post tells her tale.