Radical transformations were witnessed in the United States following a mass influx of the Jewish community evidenced in the 20th century.
The first wave of Jewish community immigration dates back to the 19th century between 1880 and 1920, when Jews from Eastern Europe were migrating to America alongside their Russian counterparts. Despite the big role that Jews had played in shaping the cultural norms in Eastern Europe, the danger posed to them by eminent annihilation necessitated their migration. This was the key reason behind their exodus. Despite this region being multi ethnic, the dynasty of the Russian czars had been to the detriment of this community who became the soft target by the repressive regimes. They had been secluded and alienated due to the broad differences they had with other communities largely emanating from religion and language. They had not been accepted socially and politically as Russians. The regimes were very repressive and the laws punitive to the Jews not allowing them to make a living (Takaki, Ronald, 1993).
They were also targets of hostility from the non-Jewish communities. The assassination of Czar in 1881 was the last straw that broke the camels back and could see the intensification of violence and hostility towards the Jewish community that was being falsely accused of conspiring to the assassination. Russian soldiers and other non-Jewish peasants renewed an onslaught on the Jews. This is the reason behind the movement of Jews out of Eastern Europe towards the United States in droves to escape the eminent annihilation. Thousands of Jews would escape Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe in clear defiance of the anti immigration law conveniently put in place to curb their influx out of Europe.
A look at the immigration pattern and reasons by Jews in to America reveals a great variance from those of their counterparts the Japanese, Chinese and the Irish. The Irish, for example were moving out of Ireland to escape hunger and famine that was threatening to wipe out a large portion of the community. The Irish, Japanese and the Chinese were moving out of their homes the United States in search of greener pastures and not being motivated by hostility at home.
One major difference that exists between these three groups from the Jews was that their rate of return to Eastern Europe was non-existent. The Jews had vowed to move out but not return to their homeland. They were in search of peace and tranquility in the United States and had no plans of going back. The other groups like the Chinese and the Japanese had come to the United States to make a living, hoping to repatriate back and build their motherland through repatriation. The Eastern Europe Jews also chose to remain in one area where they could carry on with their own way of life and religion. This community became close knit.
Unlike the other immigrants, they also arrived in droves, in great numbers not witnessed before. Between 1900 and 1915 over one and a half million Jews had migrated to the united state with many more landing afterwards
The United States of America has a history of discriminating against immigrants, these ranging from the Chinese Japanese and the Irish. Although the hostility faced by the Jews was not as pronounced as that of some others like the Chinese, they to were not left behind. The United States was particularly categorical about the immigration of the Chinese, even having passed an act outlawing their immigration There was a growing sense of anti Semitism spreading across the areas they chose to settle in. At the early times of the civil war, one general Ulysses S. Grant had ordered the removal of Jews from the states where the early immigrants had camped in, ranging from Mississippi and Tennessee. This was as a result of the divisions that existed between the Jewish community that settled in the north and those that settled in the south and their perceived support for against slave ownership. This however was to be retracted later by the United States president Abraham Lincoln.
The twentieth century, witnessed increased discrimination against the Jews. This discrimination was extending to areas such as employment and schools. They were not allowed to join the exclusive member clubs. They were facing quotas in the institutions of learning as well as not being allowed to possess some properties
Contrary to other minority groups that immigrated to the United States, Jews rarely had any hostility or violence turned against them. The Ku Klux Klan and hate speeches in the radio stations had heightened tension against the Jewish community during the interwar period. Of late, the African- American community poses the greatest source of discrimination, accusing the Jews of exploitation (Takaki, Ronald, 1993).
The immigration and assimilation of the Jewish community has not been a smooth fete. The interwar period was marked by a period of momentary anti-Semitism. The United States was undergoing social and economic upheavals consequenced by the Great Depression. Henry Ford is in record as having publicly and blatantly issued remarks against the Jews aimed at questioning their patriotic sense. Individuals also holding high public offices could also be heard to be issuing anti-Semitic sentiments. This would lead to the Jewish community coalescing around welfare organizations and associations for their own defense. These are some of the factors that would impede on the assimilation process of the Jewish community.
At the moment, however, intermarriages in the United States have led to intense assimilation and attitude changes from the rest of the communities. They continue to prosper, politically and economically and have become dispersed geographically, moving out of their stronghold in New York to other areas such as California.
Takaki, Ronald (1993). A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. New York: Back Bay Books.