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Digest of Public Opinion on Jewish Matters

October 12, 1926
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

[The purpose of the Digest is informative: Preference is given to papers not generally accessible to our readers. Quotation does not indicate approval.–Editor.]

That nearly everyone in administrative circles in Washington is opposed to the national origins immigration scheme and that this plan will in all likelihood be abandoned, is the opinion expressed in the “N. Y. Times” of Sunday by A. H. Ulm.

The writer quotes Harry E. Hull, Commissioner General of Immigration, as follows:

“The bureau feels that the present method of ascertaining quotas is far more satisfactory than the proposed basis of determination. The bureau is of the opinion that the proposed scheme will lead to great confusion and result in complexities.”

“Congressman Albert Johnson of the State of Washington, who as Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Immigration, has an influential hand in shaping all immigration legislation in recent years–and who is a radical restrictionist–is also quoted as saying that the national origins quota scheme is not likely to be applied. He has indicated that he opposes it,” Mr. Ulm declares.

“The scheme has been attacked by some racial and scientific folk, notably those of the Irish, Norwegians, Swedes, and Germans. These groups, with the Swiss, are the ones which would be affected most adversely by the new scheme. The British group is the only one that would gain immensely in quota allotment by it.

“It is probable, however, that the question will be gone over again by Congress at the coming session, and the law may be changed. Opinion among Washington officials who have to do with immigration is that the proposed change does not envisage enough to justify the confusions and uncertainties involved in it. They hold that it will be difficult if not impossible to find a correct basis for applying the scheme.

“They are at work, however, on the development of a basis. The work is being done by an informal committee made up of representatives of the Cabinet officers who must ‘stand for’ whatever findings are arrived at. This committee is headed by Dr. Joseph A. Hill, a Bureau of Census expert in population statistics. The committee expects to complete its report in time for the present Congress.”

Referring to the estimates made by the Census Bureau in Washington, the writer observes:

“In bringing its calculations down to date, the Census Bureau has held that in the whole territory of the Continental United States in 1920 the division between European strains was as follows:

“Old American stock, 47,330,000, or 49.9 per cent; New stock, 47,490,000, or 50.1 per cent.

“The latter has been steadily increasing for many decades. Some members of the committee now working on the problem are inclined to believe that the ‘new stock’ has a lead larger than is credited to it by the Census Bureau.

“The distribution of the ‘old stock’ factor is largely an historical problem; that of the ‘new stock’ is in the main a statistical one. For the period between 1820 and 1850 there are immigration figures only; for the last and subsequent census years there are figures on the resident foreign-born population. Since 1890 these have included the children of foreign-born and mixed parentages.

“The census has never gone beyond the second generation. Thus a problem of differential fecundity arises. No attempt probably will be made to solve this; after the first generation of native born folk, fecundity probably will be treated as a uniform factor.”


The question whether cremation is permissible according to Jewish law, which has been widely discussed recently in the Jewish press of England, is the subject of an editorial in the London “Jewish Chronicle” of October 1st. The paper criticizes the attitude of Orthodox Judaism toward cremation, declaring:

“Judaism, while not practicing the incineration of the dead, will yet bury in a Jewish cemetery the ashes of those who have been subjected to the process, with a proviso that appears to us ridiculous…. It is one, moreover, likely to prove disrespectful to those who have passed away, by inducing ribald observations concerning their remains. The proviso to which we refer is that the ashes shall be placed in a full-size coffin and in it consigned to earth. The reason for this is understandable and, from our point of view at least, commendable. The idea is to regard the cremation that has taken place as an accident which befel the deceased, and not to exhibit the fact of his body having been maimed by making any alteration from the ordinary size or shape of the coffin in which he is interred. But on the other hand the knowledge with those who are present at the funeral that the coffin around which they are gathered, although large enough for the corpse as it was at the expiry of life, contains no more than a handful of ashes, must induce thoughts neither solemn nor sacred. Where, as has been the case more than once, the coffin is obviously too small to fit a body of the proportions of the person who has been cremated, but is still large enough for someone not much smaller, there is added room for mental comments or for verbal remarks of the nature we have described. We asked whether the practice of employing a full-sized coffin for burying the ashes of cremation was demanded by Jewish law. There has been no official, or indeed, authoritative reply to our query, which produced instead a prolonged and interesting correspondence that however entirely avoided the question we raised. Our own reading of the discussion is one in which we believe the large majority of our readers will concur. Jewish law is not, and has never expressed itself, either in favor of or against cremation, and has been equally neutral in regard to earth burial. And that because our law very sensibly cares, above all things, for realities. The method of disposing of the dead is after all trivial when compared to the obligation of showing due and proper respect for those who have departed from this life. In places where earth burial has been generally held to be the proper way of dealing with the dead, Jewish practice, if not Jewish law, has considered earth burial to be the right method. Where, on the other hand cremation, as for instance in ancient Rome, was universally held to be the process most respectful to those who had passed out, then Jewish law or practice followed popular sentiment. And it is precisely out of regard for respect being shown to the dead, that we feel the present position adopted by orthodox Judaism towards cremation, and particularly the practice we have described, bearing in mind the growing inclination towards cremation instead of earth burial even among Jews, to be open to serious question, which requires close consideration on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities.”

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