Words of the Uprooted
Jewish Immigrants in Early Twentieth-Century America
Documents in American Social History
Published by: Cornell University Press
256 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 14.00 mm, 2 maps, 5 halftones
- ISBN: 9780801485503
- Published: June 1998
American Jewish leaders, many of German extraction, created the Industrial Removal Office (IRO) in 1901 in order to disperse unemployed Jewish immigrants from New York City to smaller Jewish communities throughout the United States. The IRO was designed to help refugees from persecution in the Pale of Russia find jobs and community support and, secondarily, to reduce the Manhattan ghettoes and minimize antisemitism. In twenty-one years, the IRO distributed seventy-nine thousand East European Jews to over fifteen hundred cities and towns, including Chino, California; Des Moines, Iowa; and Pensacola, Florida. Wherever they went, these twice-displaced immigrants wrote letters to the IRO's main office.
Robert A. Rockaway has selected, and translated from Yiddish, letters that describe the immigrants' new surroundings, work conditions, and living situations, as well as letters that give voice to typical tensions between the immigrants and their benefactors. Rockaway introduces the letters with an essay on conditions in the Pale and on early American Jewish attempts to assist emigrants.
"A superb selection of some forty letters, bracketed by an illuminating introduction that supplies a coherent historical background and a sensitive epilogue that explores the mixed motives of the German-Jewish benefactors... Destined to become the standard reader on its subject, it will help shape the field of Jewish labor and social history for some time to come."~SUNY New Paltz, The Journal of American History
"A fascinating collection."~MSRRT Newsletter
"Enabling patrons as well as clients to speak, Words of the Uprooted helps enlarge our understanding of the Jewish immigration of a century ago and the Jewish institutional response to it."~Book Reviews
"Rockaway offers excellent source material that is crucial to students of this period.... The immigrants' letters... offer poignant portraits of displaced immigrants, some of whom meet success but many of whom encounter serious obstacles."~Labor History
"This thoughtfully assembled collection will be useful for students of American Jewish, German, and East European history."~The Jewish Quarterly Review