Jewish German Immigrants In The United States

1776 words - 8 pages

Throughout the history of America, there has always been a influx of Jews from Europe. Even though Emma Lazarus wrote her poem after the massive immigration of German Jews to America, her poem can be used to describe the Jewish Immigrants. Many German Jews arrived in New York " tired ... poor... [and] yearning to breathe free." While New York City was still a hub for German Jewish immigrants, some had also moved to Atlanta and more Western states. Several of the German Jewish families who immigrated to America will forever have their names etched into her history, through their central role as entrepreneurs in America's expanding clothing industry. They began from humble careers and worked their way up the proverbial food chain. Once settled in, these German Jews knew they had to take advantage of their circumstances, past experiences and ability to "predict" the future in order to survive in the dog eat dog world of the Nineteenth Century. Although many of which did not have much startup capital, they managed to pay off their debts and move into the profit margin. For a job that can fabricate those results, many chose to become peddlers.
A very lucky few, such as the Straus family who owned Macy's (bought in 1887), Lyman G. Bloomingdales who started Bloomingdales (1872) and the Altmans of B. Altman & Co (1865). (Hendrickson 66, 105 & 159). Many of the enormous department stores which Americans and the world cherish so much, started from theses poor Jewish German immigrants. These stores, such as Bendels, A&S and Gimbels helped established New York City as one of the top four fashion capitals of the world (Ellecanada). They moved to cities with a big population with many job opportunities because "The Jews were men who actually lived by commerce, and apart from a few Venetians they were almost the only people who did so" (Pirenne 255). This paper will illustrate how and why German Jewish peddlers and small storekeepers rose to titans, and how they "Fashioned" America's shopping industry.
Many Jewish German immigrants and second generation immigrants, already worked in the garment industry, and had both manufacturing and retail experience. Additionally, they left Germany, specifically Bavaria, to escape persecution because of their religion, Judaism, and profession, peddling. During the Post Napoleonic War era, "Jews suffered from postwar desolation and the trauma of adjustment to a pre-industrial society ... particularly in Bavaria...Jews experienced an additional refinement of political oppression." Not only that, but imperialist Germany required special letters of "protection" in order to not be banned from normal trades and professions" like peddling. Due to that they left for a better hope abroad (MJL). The saw America as the common man's utopia. Another reason to immigrate was that the repercussions of the failed German Revolution of 1848 were very substantial, causing many more German Jews to leave Germany (LOC). Lazarus Straus...

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