Jewish Immigration

An Allegorical Celebration

Original content by: Dr. Paul Goodwin

zoomable artifact image here

About This Artifact

This embossed, ornamental card celebrates Jewish immigration to the United States.  On the card, a family stands outside an open gate, where a woman (an allegorical representation of America), dressed in an outfit resembling an American flag, stands with an eagle over her head.  The Hebrew letters on the brim of her hat phonetically spell out "America."  The Hebrew lettering at the bottom of the card translates to read "Open the gate and the righteous generation will enter."  Judging from their clothing, the family appears to be from Eastern Europe or Russia, and have very few possessions.  Behind the family is a vast ocean, as well as two large ships.  Before commercial aviation became practical after World War II, the only way that European immigrants, such as this family, could reach the United States was by ship.

Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe and Russia assumed significant proportions from the 1880s until the mid-1920s.  Their arrival in the United States was the result of many "push-pull" factors.  They left Europe ("push") often because of political, religious, ethnic discrimination, pogroms (attacks on Jews in Eastern Europe and Russia), and poverty.  They hoped that the United States would offer the opportunity ("pull") to begin a new life.  Between 1880 and 1924, over 2 million Jewish immigrants from Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Romania came to the United States.

Questions for Further Thought

  1. Do you think that families such as the one depicted on the card assimilated well into American culture? What other challenges might they have faced besides discrimination?
  2. This card shows a welcoming America, but do you think immigrant groups were always welcomed? Or do you think they often faced discrimination?
  3. Why do you think that they chose to depict America as a woman? What do you think the symbolism, such as her outfit, the eagle, and her stance, mean?