Emancipation and industrialization were the motors of Jewish economic ascent, defined simply as the rise from peddling and irregular trades into that of the "respectable tradesman or merchant with an open shop or office and a fixed address."1 Emancipation gave Jews freedom of movement and allowed them to take up almost all occupations. With the growth of the industrial and commercial economies, small family shops grew into larger enterprises and the rise of the railroads made deliveries to small and, later, larger shops easier and cheaper, eliminating the need for most peddlers. The profits from growing businesses went into the further educations of sons or the expansion of businesses. For a few, it could mean the acquisition of spectacular wealth.
Jews were tradespeople. Their occupational profile—based on past and contemporary discrimination and on economic trends—differed from that of most other Germans. Antisemites had long argued that "money grubbing" Jews preferred business and avoided productive work, thus setting themselves apart from an idealistic German work ethic. During the Emancipation era, some Jews and many Germans urged Jews to "normalize" their occupations, to seek a job distribution similar to that of the majority, concentrated in industry and agriculture. They argued that people who sought civil rights should become "productive," a word that meant agriculture and trades for boys and housekeeping for girls. The language of "productivity" reinforced antiquated notions of trade and commerce as "unproductive" and thus exploitative.2 It is not surprising, therefore, that some Jewish organizations promoted crafts and agriculture, trying to prove that Jews contributed to the fatherland rather than "exploited" it.