The Door Slams Shut: Jews and Immigration in the Face of American Reaction

The current brouhaha over immigration policy is nothing new. Neither is the defamation of immigrants as criminals or political undesirables. While American nativist animus today falls upon Mexican, Central American, and Muslim migrants, about 100 years ago, this same hatred was aimed at the Jews.

Taking aim with their poison pens, Der groyser kundes, the Lower East Side’s premier Yiddish satire weekly, attacked the Immigration Quota Acts of 1921 and 1924, which were enacted to severely stifle Jewish immigration to the U.S. Well-acquainted with the dire circumstances in which Eastern European Jews found themselves, Yiddish cartoonists understood that a more fair immigration policy would be beneficial to both Jews and to America. Using political, cultural, and traditional Jewish imagery, the artists of Der groyser kundes crafted numerous cartoons that considered the situation from the perspective of a Jewish immigrant community for which the matter was potentially a matter of life and death.

100 years later, the players have changed. But the issues have remained remarkably similar.

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On Display

Visas for Freedom presented by the American Sephardi Federation
Rise of the Yiddish Machines: The Typewriter and Yiddish Literature presented by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
ATÉN: 10th Annual Abby Belkin Stern College Senior Art Show presented by the Yeshiva University Museum
When The Golden Door Closed, They Carried The Torch presented by American Jewish Historical Society and Center for Jewish History
The Art of Exile: Paintings by German-Jewish Refugees presented by the Leo Baeck Institute
All in the Family – Photographs from Across the Jewish World presented by American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
Hey, Wow! The Art of Oded Halahmy presented by the Yeshiva University Museum