MacDonald Kevin - Jewish Involvement in Shaping American Immigration Policy


Author : MacDonald Kevin
Title : Jewish Involvement in Shaping American Immigration Policy, 1881-1965: A Historical Review
Year : 1998

Link download : MacDonald_Kevin_-_Jewish_Involvement_in_Shaping_American_Immigration_Policy.zip

INTRODUCTION. Ethnic conflict is of obvious importance for understanding critical aspects of American history, and not only for understanding Black/White ethnic conflict or the fate of Native Americans. Immigration policy is a paradigmatic example of conflict of interest between ethnic groups because immigration policy influences the future demographic composition of the nation. Ethnic groups unable to influence immigration policy in their own interests will eventually be displaced or reduced in relative numbers by groups able to accomplish this goal. This paper discusses ethnic conflict between Jews and gentiles in the area of immigration policy. Immigration policy is, however, only one aspect of conflicts of interest between Jews and gentiles in America. The skirmishes between Jews and the gentile power structure beginning in the late nineteenth century always had strong overtones of anti-Semitism. These battles involved issues of Jewish upward mobility, quotas on Jewish representation in elite schools beginning in the nineteenth century and peaking in the 1920s and 1930s, the anti-Communist crusades in the post-World War II era, as well as the very powerful concern with the cultural influences of the major media extending from Henry Ford’s writings in the 1920s to the Hollywood inquisitions of the McCarthy era and into the contemporary era. That anti-Semitism was involved in these issues can be seen from the fact that historians of Judaism (e.g., Sachar 1992, p. 620ff) feel compelled to include accounts of these events as important to the history of Jews in America, by the anti-Semitic pronouncements of many of the gentile participants, and by the self-conscious understanding of Jewish participants and observers. The Jewish involvement in influencing immigration policy in the United States is especially noteworthy as an aspect of ethnic conflict. Jewish involvement has had certain unique qualities that have distinguished Jewish interests from the interests of other groups favoring liberal immigration policies. Throughout much of this period, one Jewish interest in liberal immigration policies stemmed from a desire to provide a sanctuary for Jews fleeing from anti-Semitic persecutions in Europe and elsewhere. Anti-Semitic persecutions have been a recurrent phenomenon in the modern world beginning with the Czarist persecutions in 1881, and continuing into the post-World War II era in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. As a result, liberal immigration has been a Jewish interest because “survival often dictated that Jews seek refuge in other lands” (Cohen 1972, p. 341). For a similar reason, Jews have consistently advocated an internationalist foreign policy for the United States because “an internationally-minded America was likely to be more sensitive to the problems of foreign Jewries” (Cohen 1972, p. 342). However, in addition to a persistent concern that America be a safe haven for Jews fleeing outbreaks of anti-Semitism in foreign countries, there is evidence that Jews, much more than any other European-derived ethnic group in America, have viewed liberal immigration policies as a mechanism of ensuring that America would be a pluralistic rather than a unitary, homogeneous society (e.g., Cohen 1972). Pluralism serves both internal (within-group) and external (between-group) Jewish interests. Pluralism serves internal Jewish interests because it legitimates the internal Jewish interest in rationalizing and openly advocating an interest in Jewish group commitment and non-assimilation, what Howard Sachar (1992, p. 427) terms its function in “legitimizing the preservation of a minority culture in the midst of a majority’s host society.” The development of an ethnic, political, or religious monoculture implies that Judaism can survive only by engaging in a sort of semi-crypsis. As Irving Louis Horowitz (1993, 86) notes regarding the long-term consequences of Jewish life under Communism, “Jews suffer, their numbers decline, and emigration becomes a survival solution when the state demands integration into a national mainstream, a religious universal defined by a state religion or a near-state religion.” Both Neusner (1987) and Ellman (1987) suggest that the increased sense of ethnic consciousness seen in Jewish circles recently has been influenced by this general movement within American society toward the legitimization of minority group ethnocentrism. More importantly, ethnic and religious pluralism serves external Jewish interests because Jews become just one of many ethnic groups. This results in the diffusion of political and cultural influence among the various ethnic and religious groups, and it becomes difficult or impossible to develop unified, cohesive groups of gentiles united in their opposition to Judaism. Historically, major anti-Semitic movements have tended to erupt in societies that have been, apart from the Jews, religiously and/or ethnically homogeneous (MacDonald, 1994; 1998). Conversely, one reason for the relative lack of anti-Semitism in America compared to Europe was that “Jews did not stand out as a solitary group of (religious) non-conformists (Higham 1984, p. 156). It follows also that ethnically and religiously pluralistic societies are more likely to satisfy Jewish interests than are societies characterized by ethnic and religious homogeneity among gentiles. Beginning with Horace Kallen, Jewish intellectuals have been at the forefront in developing models of the United States as a culturally and ethnically pluralistic society. Reflecting the utility of cultural pluralism in serving internal Jewish group interests in maintaining cultural separatism, Kallen personally combined his ideology of cultural pluralism with a deep immersion in Jewish history and literature, a commitment to Zionism, and political activity on behalf of Jews in Eastern Europe (Sachar 1992, p. 425ff; Frommer 1978). Kallen (1915; 1924) developed a “polycentric” ideal for American ethnic relationships. Kallen defined ethnicity as deriving from one’s biological endowment, implying that Jews should be able to remain a genetically and culturally cohesive group while nevertheless participating in American democratic institutions. This conception that the United States should be organized as a set of separate ethnic/cultural groups was accompanied by an ideology that relationships between groups would be cooperative and benign: “Kallen lifted his eyes above the strife that swirled around him to an ideal realm where diversity and harmony coexist” (Higham 1984, p. 209). Similarly in Germany, the Jewish leader Moritz Lazarus argued in opposition to the views of the German intellectual Heinrich Treitschke that the continued separateness of diverse ethnic groups contributed to the richness of German culture (Schorsch 1972, p. 63). Lazarus also developed the doctrine of dual loyalty which became a cornerstone of the Zionist movement. Kallen wrote his 1915 essay partly in reaction to the ideas of Edward A. Ross (1914). Ross was a Darwinian sociologist who believed that the existence of clearly demarcated groups would tend to result in between-group competition for resources. Higham’s comment is interesting because it shows that Kallen’s romantic views of group co-existence were contradicted by the reality of between-group competition in his own day. Indeed, it is noteworthy that Kallen was a prominent leader of the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress). During the 1920s and 1930s the AJCongress championed group economic and political rights for Jews in Eastern Europe at a time when there was widespread ethnic tensions and persecution of Jews, and despite the fears of many that such rights would merely exacerbate current tensions. The AJCongress demanded that Jews be allowed proportional political representation as well as the ability to organize their own communities and preserve an autonomous Jewish national culture. The treaties with Eastern European countries and Turkey included provisions that the state provide instruction in minority languages and that Jews have the right to refuse to attend courts or other public functions on the Sabbath (Frommer 1978, p. 162). Kallen’s idea of cultural pluralism as a model for America was popularized among gentile intellectuals by John Dewey (Higham 1984, p. 209), who in turn was promoted by Jewish intellectuals: “If lapsed Congregationalists like Dewey did not need immigrants to inspire them to press against the boundaries of even the most liberal of Protestant sensibilities, Dewey’s kind were resoundingly encouraged in that direction by the Jewish intellectuals they encountered in urban academic and literary communities” (Hollinger, 1996, p. 24). Kallen’s ideas have been very influential in producing Jewish self-conceptualizations of their status in America. This influence was apparent as early as 1915 among American Zionists, such as Louis D. Brandeis. Brandeis viewed America as composed of different nationalities whose free development would “spiritually enrich the United States and would make it a democracy par excellence” (Gal 1989, p. 70). These views became “a hallmark of mainstream American Zionism, secular and religious alike” (Gal 1989, p. 70). But Kallen’s influence extended really to all educated Jews: Legitimizing the preservation of a minority culture in the midst of a majority’s host society, pluralism functioned as intellectual anchorage for an educated Jewish second generation, sustained its cohesiveness and its most tenacious communal endeavors through the rigors of the Depression and revived anti-semitism, through the shock of Nazism and the Holocaust, until the emergence of Zionism in the post-World War II years swept through American Jewry with a climactic redemptionist fervor of its own. (Sachar 1992, p. 427) Explicit statements linking immigration policy to a Jewish interest in cultural pluralism can be found among prominent Jewish social scientists and political activists. In his review of Kallen’s (1956) Cultural Pluralism and the American Idea appearing in Congress Weekly (published by the AJCongress), Joseph L. Blau (1958, p. 15) noted that “Kallen’s view is needed to serve the cause of minority groups and minority cultures in this nation without a permanent majority”— the implication being that Kallen’s ideology of multi-culturalism opposes the interests of any ethnic group in dominating America. The well-known author and prominent Zionist Maurice Samuel (1924, p. 215) writing partly as a negative reaction to the immigration law of 1924, wrote that “If, then, the struggle between us i.e., Jews and gentiles is ever to be lifted beyond the physical, your democracies will have to alter their demands for racial, spiritual and cultural homogeneity with the State. But it would be foolish to regard this as a possibility, for the tendency of this civilization is in the opposite direction. There is a steady approach toward the identification of government with race, instead of with the political State.” Samuel deplored the 1924 legislation and in the following quote he develops the view that the American state as having no ethnic implications. ...

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