The Man in the Street: The Impact of American Public Opinion on Foreign Policy

By Thomas A. Bailey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
CRACKS IN THE MELTING POT

"[The question is] whether . . . we are to continue as a separate nation at all or whether we are to become merely a huge polyglot boarding-house and counting house, in which dollar-hunters of twenty different nationalities scramble for gain, while each really pays his soul-allegiance to some foreign power."

-- THEDORE ROOSEVELT, 1917


1

THE GERMAN-AMERICANS and the Irish-Americans, while the most important hyphenate elements in the past, are becoming increasingly less numerous and hence less influential. The spotlight has been or is being stolen from them by other groups, most of whom came to America within the past fifty or sixty years. Conspicuous among these are the Jewish-Americans, who in some ways are the most formidable foreign bloc in the United States today.

The Jews in America number about 4,700,000 or approximately one third of the world's Jewish community. Five boroughs of New York City alone contain about 2,000,000, or four times the Jewish population of Palestine. The American metropolis is today the undisputed capital of world Jewry.

The Jew is a racial rather than a national hyphen, if one may use the term "race" popularly. The German-American completely loses his European traits and identity by the second or third generation, but not so the Jewish- American. His grandparents may have been Polish-Americans or Russian- Americans or German-Americans, but he is still a Jew and will continue to be one. There is and can be little crossing over the racial line. In this sense the Jewish hyphenate group is the only one with an assured future.

The Jewish-Americans are a powerful voting bloc, partly because the mass of them are concentrated in important urban areas, and partly because they are a self-conscious minority and hence keenly alive to any developments, at home or abroad, that will bring further woe to them or to their compatriots. Like the Irish, to whom they present a number of striking parallels, they have a Cause--in this case the cause of a pitilessly persecuted minority. Specifically, the Jewish-Americans seek to allay anti-Semitism at home, of which there is a disquieting amount; to succor persecuted brethren abroad; and to set up--at least this is the goal of the Zionist faction--a new Canaan in Palestine. Their influence, though substantial, is less effective than it would be if they had the talent of the Irish for political organization, leadership, and agitation.

Some persecution of European Jews continued throughout the nineteenth century, but in the early 1900's a series of bloody pogroms--bloody at least for those times--broke out in Rumania and Russia. Jews fortunate enough to be in America were naturally anxious to relieve the distress of relatives

-24-

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