Re: What documents did Jewish immigrants need to enter the U.S. around 1900? #general

Emily Garber

With regard to recent discussion about documents that might have been
required for Jewish emigrants out of Russia and immigrant entry into
the United States and related discussion about Jewish experiences with
the Russian military draft and Russian army, I'd like to suggest two
recently published books that may disabuse many of us regarding family
stories about each.

The first is "After They Closed the Gates," (2014) by Libby Garland.
Illegal entry into the United States was not much of an issue (unless
one was Chinese) for those entering the USA until quotas were
established and tightened in the 1920s. Before that nothing in
particular was required, although one might be sent back due to being
regarded as "likely public charge," an "idiot," of questionable moral
virtue, having a specified disease, etc. (and as Vincent J. Cannato's
"American Passage," has pointed out, laws regarding these entry
standards changed through time and with each Ellis Island
administrator's enthusiasm for implementation). Garland's very
interesting book discusses the rise of Jewish illegal immigration
starting in the 1920s. One of the reasons Ellis Island was no longer
needed as a processing center after 1924 was because evaluation for
entry into the USA was moved >from post-voyage examination at Ellis
Island to pre-voyage sifting via visas issued at USA consulates in
Europe. As a result, many would-be immigrants became desperate and a
new industry arose for falsified documents.

The other book - which, in many ways is a revelation - is "Jews in the
Russian Army, 1827-1917" (2009) by Yohanan Petrovsky Shtern. Shtern
spoke at IAJGS Boston in 2013. His book reports on his research into
now available Russian archival materials and shows that the Jewish
attitude toward and experience with both the Russian draft and the
army was not monolithic. It, like the attitude of the government and
the attitude of the military towards its Jewish soldiers and
communities changed through time. Shtern shows that up until and into
the early 20th century, Jewish communities responded overwhelmingly
positively (in terms of providing the number of required recruits) to
calls for conscripts and that Jewish soldiers often served admirably
and proudly. I have noted that his book, based largely on Russian
archival materials, does not address any records reporting on internal
Jewish community attitudes or conflicts - if those records even exist.
But, the book does provide a more nuanced view of Russian regimes
through time and the back story for their actions regarding their
Jewish population and the role of the military.

I do not doubt that, for example, surname changes occurred in Europe.
I have, in fact, a good example in my own family that I have been able
to back up with DNA testing results. I suggest, however, that the
stories justifying these changes may be simplified or exaggerated (as
may happen in a game of "telephone" over time). It is always important
to know and examine the actual conditions and laws in the country of
origin before accepting the family story of causation.

Emily Garber
Phoenix, AZ

Labun (Lubin/Yurovshchina), Polonne, Gritsev, Ukraine: Garber,
Mazewitsky, Malzman, Kesselman;
Baranivka, Ukraine: Lederman;
Zaleszczyki, Ukraine & Radauti, Bukovina, Romania: Wenkert & Liebross;
Kozyany (Kasan), Belarus: Wilensky and Epstein.

MODERATOR: To facilitate scanning by readers - and encourage the discovery
of connections - please type all surnames in capital letters. (In the
case of the list just above, for example, the punctuation means that it's
not always clear what is a surname and what is a town name.)

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