Arriving In America Essay

Arriving In America Essay-60
For complex and salutary historical reasons, America displayed an accepting attitude toward Jews, even a welcoming one.

For complex and salutary historical reasons, America displayed an accepting attitude toward Jews, even a welcoming one.

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On the other hand, there was the emergence of the Jewish garment industry on New York’s Lower East Side, for the proprietors of which the new arrivals were not objects of charity but a source of labor.Until that point, the “normal” immigration systems of Western countries addressed immigrants as migrants.While not everyone applying for entry was moving for economic gain—many moved to be with family members, for instance—all were treated legally as though moving voluntarily. formally defined “refugee” in the context of immigration law.As it happens, nothing illustrates this point better than the migratory history of one group in particular: the Jews.Two new books, one about that history and the other about how to repair the troubled American immigration system, shed much light on the subject.Here one finds oneself wishing for more, and disappointed that the narrative, rather than continuing at this level of particularity once the migrations hit Poland and Eastern Europe, fades into generalities.Much less convincing, in any case, is Chazan’s propounding of his own near-monolithic theory.His exploration of the expulsion decree promulgated in 1182 by Philip Augustus of France, of the way in which, although limited in scope to the crown lands, it differed radically from anything that had come before, and of its role in solidifying royal power even as it set a tragic and destructive precedent for European Jewry, is especially evocative and persuasive.So, too, is his description of how a cycle of princely recruitment, exploitation, and then expulsion of Jews, a cycle starting in England and France and then rippling onward, drew Jews northward out of the ancient diaspora regions of the Mediterranean and pushed them eastward in rolling a scholarly work—scholarly both in the sense that it offers a repository of knowledge and in the sense that a substantial section of it is devoted to categorizing and assessing the work of past thinkers on the subject. But such a reader will assuredly be interested in Chazan’s main argument, which is that as Jews have moved from place to place ever since their ancient scattering from the Promised Land, they have much more often been voluntarily seeking new opportunities than fleeing persecution.In advancing this argument, Chazan, following the late historian Salo Baron, questions the “lachrymose” conception of Jewish history—in this case, the idea that all, or nearly all, Jewish population movements since the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE have been forced wanderings in response to oppression and violence.


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