(Jewish Telegraphic Agency Mail Service)
Deputy Isaac Gruenbaum, who recently returned from the United States, where he addressed the Washington session of the American Jewish Congress on the present position of the Jewish minorities in Eastern Europe, described his impressions of America in a letter here.
“The Jews who emigrated to America from the East European countries.” he said, “are drifting with the tide. The American Jew looks upon the Jews of Poland and other East European countries as incapables. He contemplates them as a giant would a Lilliputian, and his attitude is one of scorn. The American Jews are nearly all people who are well-satisfied with themselves.
“The American Jews are complacent and well-fed. And in all general Jewish questions they imagine that they need nothing at all. that their role in Jewish life is only to give, to provide for the poor East-European Jews, who depend on their aid. Their whole attitude is dominated by the idea-for them, not for us.
“A good deal of the blame for this state of things.” Deputy Gruenbaum continued, “must be placed at the door of our envoys from Eastern Europe, who have made a habit of going to America to collect money. They have accustomed the American Jews to look upon themselves as the rich Jews who are helping the poor Jews. The appeal has been made to their feeling of pity and that is why they look down upon us from the heights.
“Yet in spite of this self-satisfied air among the Jews of America there is no lack of Jewish problems in America. Above all there is the problem of assimilation which is making big strides. The younger generation does not understand Yiddish. The American schools are deceived in their influence upon the Jewish youth.
“The Jewish leaders contend that it is not assimilation, but Americanization and they claim it is proved by the fact that they do not hide their Judaism. that they assist the Jews of other countries, and so forth. But in reality there is a rapid process of assimilation going on, which encounters no resistance of any kind. The facts in connection with the educational system will serve as an instance. There are about 700,000 Jewish school children in America. About 500,000 of them receive no Jewish educational at all. Of the remaining 200,000 about 20,000 are given a Jewish education privately, 30,000 attend the modern Jewish schools and the rest receive a not very satisfactory Jewish education in the Hedarim, Talmud Torahs, etc. They all attend the ordinary State elementary schools where they are trained as real Americans.
“Is there an anti-Semitic movement in America?” Deputy Gruenbaum proceeded. “There is the so-called ‘five o’clock anti-Semitism.’ Up to five o’clock in the afternoon, in business life there is not a hint at anti-Semitism, but after five o’clock the Jews are left severely to themselves. The Jewish youth in America have their own organizations because they do not feel at home among the others. There is a movement to make it more difficult for people to become lawyers, because 14,000 of the 20,000 lawyers in New York are Jews.
“There is a tendency in America on the part of the young Jewish nationalist elements to make peace with the older assimilationist leaders. The struggle for hegemony in Jewish life between the nationalists and the assimilationists is being obscured by the efforts which are made at unity because of the common raising of funds. The centre of gravity of Jewish life has shifted from impoverished Europe to wealthy America and for that reason the result of the process which is now going on in American Jewry is of decisive importance for the fate of the Jewish people. There is a tremendous responsibility resting upon American Jewry,” Deputy Gruenbaum concluded.
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.