Source: The Jewish Americans: "They Came to Stay"
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In the 19th century, most Americans had little or no contact with Jewish people. Jews who immigrated to the United States were met with a mixed attitude of suspicion stemming from prejudice, stereotypes and awe as people associated with Biblical stories and events. For the most part, the early 19th century Jewish immigrants were regarded as outsiders who were both tolerated and sometimes despised. Many began as peddlers, the traditional occupation of Jews in Europe. In this segment from The Jewish Americans, learn how their arrival was well timed to supply Americans with the goods and supplies they would need as the United States expanded west.
Social studies, sociology, American history, Jewish studies
The following Frame, Focus and Follow-up suggestions are best suited for middle school students using this video in an English language arts or social studies lesson. Be sure to modify the questions to meet your students' instructional needs.
What is Frame, Focus and Follow-up?
Frame (ELA) What is meant by the social or cultural context of a period in history? Why is it important for us to be aware of these factors when reading and understanding a narrative?
Focus (ELA) As you watch the video, think about how cultural and social attitudes of the 19th century affected the ways different groups of people treated one another. Did cultural and social differences cause conflicts between different groups of people? If so, what were these conflicts and which groups were affected?
Follow Up (ELA) Based on the video, what was the social context to the Jews arrival during the 19th century and subsequent participation in American society? What was the cultural context of their presence in American society during the 19th century? Think of immigrant groups, Native Americans, second and third generation Americans, as well as African people in slavery. How did these groups interact during the 19th century?
Frame (SS) What century had the largest influx of immigrants to the United States and why? From where did they come? What was the political, social and economic climate in the countries they left?
Focus (SS) Although the Jews were considered outsiders, they still managed to be present and visible in mainstream society. What factors contributed to their presence?
Follow Up (SS) In today’s society, do different cultures have more or less interaction than those in the 19th century? Give specific examples to support your answer.
NARRATOR: During the nineteenth century, millions of people came to America from all over the world and many weren’t welcome. The Irish and Chinese were routine targets of hostilities. Africans, brought against their will, suffered brutalities and unending hardships. Jews met with a mixed reception. Most Americans had never seen a Jew until they met a Jewish peddler.
SHORT HAIR LADY: And they have certain assumptions about Jews based in older Christian stereotypes about Jews as very sharp dealing, as not trust worthy, as manipulative. But some of them are in fact more positive. These are the people of the old testaments. These were the people who gave us the 10 commandments. And so this mixture of curiosity as well as distain.
NARRATOR: In most of Christian America, Jews would be a people apart: at best tolerated, at worst shunned and despised. In times of anxiety and crises, they would become ready escape goats.
NARRATOR: But these first 19th century Jewish immigrants were fortunate in their timing. America was expanding with new railroads and canals linking far flung towns and markets together.
MIDDLE HAIR LADY: The Jew is the middle man and he is bringing the material, kind of what I might call sort of quasi luxuries, to the farm families, loggers, and miners.
NARRATOR: As Americans headed west, Jews went with them outfitting the Western expansion. Establishing communities such as Cincinnati, St. Louis, Chicago, Des Moines, and San Francisco. Soon there would be Jew Americans in nearly every state of the Union.
ELI N. EVANS: My grandfather first came and had a pack on his back. He got his pack from the Baltimore Bargain House, where for $40 dollars you could get a pack and you would walk and pretty soon, you know, you would get enough money to buy a horse. And then things would get a little better and you had a wagon, and then you could put more stuff on the wagon. My grandmother called them the “rolling store man.” What a beautiful phrase. And then soon, you know, they would open up a store. And my family lived out this paradigm as did many, many others.
MAN: I called it the Harvard Business School of German Jews because for about five years many of them peddled and then they would stop and find a store. And the store often turned into other kinds of businesses. Now my mother’s family, the Lehman’s, came from Bavaria, settled in Montgomery, Alabama opened a store called Lehman’s Brothers and ultimately took payment in cotton. And Lehman’s actually made their fortune for the next century in cotton.
NARRATOR: Meyer Guggenheim came from Switzerland and made millions mining sliver and lead. Levi Strauss, a Bavarian immigrant, made his first fortune outfitting the miners during the Gold Rush. Then took out a patent for making riveting denim pants and made another fortune selling blue jeans.
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We assign reference terms to each statement within a standards document and to each media resource, and correlations are based upon matches of these terms for a given grade band. If a particular standards document of interest to you is not displayed yet, it most likely has not yet been processed by ASN or by Teachers' Domain. We will be adding social studies and arts correlations over the coming year, and also will be increasing the specificity of alignment.