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HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN RUSSIA AND POLAND - S.M. Dubnow




jewish genealogy in Argentina

HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN RUSSIA AND POLAND

FROM THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER I UNTIL THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER III

by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook

4. AMERICAN AND PALESTINIAN EMIGRATION

As for the emigration movement, which had begun during the storm and stress of the first pogrom year, this passive but only effective protest against the new Egyptian oppression proceeded at a slow pace. The Jewish emigration from Russia to the United States served as a barometer of the persecutions endured by the Jews in the land of bondage. During the first three years of the eighties the new movement showed violent fluctuations. In 1881 there were 8193 emigrants; in 1882, 17,497; in 1883, 6907. During the following three years, from 1884 to 1886, the movement remained practically on the same level, counting 15,000 to 17,000 emigrants annually. But in the last three years of that decade, it gained considerably in volume, mounting in 1887 to 28,944, in 1888 to 31,256, and in 1889 to 31,889. The exodus from Russia was undoubtedly stimulated by the law imposing a fine for evading military service and by the introduction of the educational percentage norm--two restrictions which threw into bold relief the disproportionate relation between rights and duties in Russian Jewry. In the Empire of the Tzars the Jews were denied the right of residence and the privilege of a school education, but forced at the same time to serve in the army. In the United States they at once received full civil equality and free schooling without any compulsory military service.

It goes without saying that the emigrants who had no difficulty in obtaining equality of citizenship were nevertheless compelled, during their first years of residence in the New World, to engage in a severe struggle for their material existence. Among the emigrants who came to America in those early years there were many young intellectuals who had given up their liberal careers in the land of bondage and were now dreaming of becoming plain agriculturists in the free republic. They managed to obtain a following among the emigrant masses, and founded, in the face of extraordinary difficulties, and with the help of charitable organizations, a number of colonies and farms in various parts of the United States, in Louisiana, North and South Dakota, New Jersey, and elsewhere. After a few years of vain struggling against material want and lack of adaptation to local conditions, a large number of these colonies were abandoned, and only a few of them have survived until to-day.

In the course of time the idealistic pioneer spirit which had animated the Russian intellectuals gave way to a sober realism which was more in harmony with the conditions of American life. The bulk of the emigrant masses settled in the cities, primarily in New York. They worked in factories or at the trades, the most important of which was the needle trade; they engaged in business, in peddling, and in farming, and, lastly, in the liberal professions. Many an immigrant passed successively through all these economic stages before obtaining a secure economic position.

The result of all these wanderings and vicissitudes was a well-established community in the United States of some 200,000 Jews, who formed the nucleus for the rapidly growing new Jewish center in America. One of the active participants and leaders in this movement, who had in his own life experienced all the hardships connected with it, concludes his account of the emigration to the United States at the end of the eighties with the following words:

  No one who has seen the poor, down-trodden, faint-hearted inhabitant   of the infamous Pale, with the Damocles sword of brutal mob rule   dangling constantly over his head, shaking like an autumn leaf at   the sight of an inspector or even a plain policeman; who has seen   this little Jew transformed, under the influence of the struggle for   existence and an independent life, into a free American Jew who   holds his head proudly, whom no one would dare to offend, and who   has become a citizen in the full sense of the word--no one who has   seen this wonderful transformation can doubt for a moment the   enormous significance of the emigration movement for the 200,000   Jews that have found shelter in America.

Idealistic influences rather than realistic factors were at work in the Palestinian colonization movement, which proceeded on a parallel line with the American emigration, as a small stream sometimes accompanies a large river. The ideas preached by the first "Lovers of Zion" were but slowly assuming concrete shape. The pioneer colonists in the ancient fatherland met with enormous obstacles in their path: the opposition of the Turkish Government which hindered in every possible way the purchase of land and acquisition of property; the neglected condition of the soil, the uncivilized state of the neighboring Arabs, the lack of financial means and of agricultural experience. Despite all these drawbacks, the efforts of a few men led to the establishment in the very first year of the movement, in 1882, of the colony Rishon le-Zion, near Jaffa. Subsequently a few more colonies were founded, such as Ekron and Ghederah in Judea, Yesod Hama'alah, Rosh-Pinah, Zikhron Jacob in Galilee--the last two founded by Roumanian Jews. Called into life by enthusiasts with inadequate material resources, these colonies would have scarcely been able to survive, had not their plight aroused the interest of Baron Edmond de Rothschild in Paris. Beginning with 1884, the baron, pursuing purely philanthropic aims, gave his support to the colonies, spending enormous sums on cultivating in them the higher forms of agriculture, particularly wine-growing. Gradually, the baron became the actual owner of a majority of the colonies which were administered by his appointees, and most of the colonists were reduced to the level of laborers or tenants who were entirely in the hands of the baron's administration. This state of affairs was unquestionably humiliating and almost too hard to bear for men who had dreamed of a free life in the Holy Land. Yet there can be no doubt that under the conditions prevailing at the time the continued existence of the colonies was only made possible through the liberal assistance which came from the outside.

The progress of the Palestinian colonization, slow though it was, provided a concrete basis for the doctrines preached by the "Lovers of Zion" in Russia. The propaganda of these _Hobebe Zion_--the Hebrew equivalent for "Lovers of Zion"--who acknowledged as their leaders the first exponents of the territorial restoration of Jewry, Pinsker and Lilienblum, led to the organization of a number of societies in various cities. Towards the end of 1884 the delegates of these societies met at a conference in the Prussian border-town Kattowitz, such a conference being impossible in Russia, in view of the danger of police interference. On that occasion a fund was established under the name of _Mazkeret Moshe_, "A Memorial to Moses," in honor of the English philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore, whose hundredth birthday was celebrated in that year. The fund, which formed the main channel for all donations in favor of the Palestinian colonies, was administered by the two _Hobebe Zion_ centers in Odessa and Warsaw. The movement which had been called into life by representatives of the _intelligenzia_ succeeded in winning over several champions of rabbinical orthodoxy, among them Samuel Mohilever, the well known rabbi of Bialystok; their affiliation with the new party was largely instrumental in weakening the opposition of the orthodox masses which were inclined to look upon this political movement as a rival of the traditional Messianic idea of Judaism. The lack of governmental sanction hampered the _Hobebe Zion_ societies in Russia in their activities, and the funds at their disposal were barely sufficient for the upkeep of one or two colonies in Palestine. Realizing this, the conference of the "Lovers of Zion" which met at Druskeniki [1] in 1887 decided to apply to the Russian Government for the legalization of the _Hobebe Zion_ organization, a consummation which was realized a few years later, in 1890.

[Footnote 1: A watering-place in the government of Grodno.]

Thus did, during the first decade of the war waged by the Tzars against their Jewish subjects, the tide of Russian-Jewish emigration slowly roll towards various shores, until a fresh storm in the beginning of the new decade whipped its waves to unprecedented heights. Whereas in the course of the eighties the Russian Government wished to give the impression as if it merely "tolerated" the departure of the Jews from Russia--although in reality it was the ultimate aim of its policies--in the beginning of the nineties it suddenly cast off its mask and gave its public sanction to a Jewish exodus from the Russian Empire. As if to strengthen the effect of this sanction, the Jews were to taste even more fully the whip of persecution and expulsion than they had done during the preceding decade.



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