The Pletzl of Paris: Jewish Immigrant Workers in the 'Belle Epoque'

The Pletzl of Paris: Jewish Immigrant Workers in the 'Belle Epoque'

The Pletzl of Paris: Jewish Immigrant Workers in the 'Belle Epoque'

The Pletzl of Paris: Jewish Immigrant Workers in the 'Belle Epoque'

Excerpt

For, paraît croire que les juifs sont tous des riches, des banquiers. . . . Et, pourtant, nous sommes, hélas! le peuple le plus prolétaire du monde. Letter by Jewish workers, 1898

A specter haunts modern Jewry. It is the specter of the Rothschilds. The medieval Jewish moneylender has been modernized in anti-Semitic literature through the Rothschild family's wealth and connections. Yet notions of Jewish successes in the period since emancipation have not been confined to anti-Semitic stereotypes alone. Even many quizzical Jewish eyebrows are raised at the mention of a Jewish proletariat. It is only in recent years that scholars have turned to the examination of Jewish workers and of the Jewish labor movements. Prior to that the history of a people for so long enclosed behind ghetto walls unfortunately often reflected that isolation. As a minority group, constantly open to attack, the fact of collective responsibility often implied a united response on behalf of the entire community. And just as community leaders often minimized internal differences in order to maximize community unity vis-à-vis the non-

Jewish world, an intramural vision of Jewish history, reflecting long confinement within the ghettos, often obscured the real differentiation -- from court Jews to peddlers-that did exist within those walls and that burst . . .

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