Louis Harshall attacked the Johnson Immigration Bill, passed Saturday by the House of Representatives, in an address yesterday at Temple Emanu-El. The measure, he said, was not inspired by any desire for the good of the country, but by intolerance, prejudice and ignorance. He urged that every effort be made to defeat it in the Senate, for, once it became a law, he said it would be extremely difficult to remove it from the statute books.
‘Up to the present,” he said,” no one has complained that there have been too many people in the United States. Only a few years ago, when the World War was at its height, the question was not asked of those who were conscripted whether they were immigrants or not. They were only asked to serve for the perpetuation of civilization and the honor of America.
“Now the cry has gone forth that there are too many immigrants and that the need of new blood has ceased; that the country should be self-contained and that those who cannot be assimilated should be kept out.
“The children of immigrants enter the public schools and become Americanized and speak the language and enter into the life of the community. They are as intelligent, at least, as the sons and daughters of the older generations. They do not keep themselves aloof from the American people, but are as patriotic as the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution. Their record in the rebellion, the Spanish-American war and the last war, proves this, and yet we are told the immigrant is difficult to assimilate.
“What is assimilation? It is much like all shibboleths and slogans – an aid to the feeble-minded. Israel Zangwill, whom I respect, never did a more mischievous thing than when he talked about the “Nelting Post.” There is no such thing: it is bunk. I know something of metals. Put them all together into a pot and try to fuse them and you have something of no value. They should be used individually, as they were intended, all for the common good.
“Assmiliation really means whether an immigrant feels at home here or not; whether he loves our country or hates it, and works for its common welfare or not. In the case of some people, it means that the immigrant must forget everything in his past, the literature he has know for a lifetime and his religion, and be a hypocrite. I have always discussed immigration from the standpoint of what is best for our country; never from the Jewish standpoint. Yet the Jew brought his Bible here and the finest in his family life. Would he have been any better if he had been ‘assimilated’ and had cast aside his glorious past? No; and what it true of him is true of all peoples.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.