Jewish Involvement in Shaping
A Historical Review
By Kevin MacDonald
Based on Chapter 7 of The Culture of Critique:
An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century
Intellectual and Political Movements. MacDonald, K. B. (1998/2002).
Westport, CT: Praeger; paperback version: Bloomington, IN:
Library, 2002. Also available at
Barnes & Noble.
MacDonald, K. B. (1998). Jewish involvement in
influencing United States immigration policy, 1881-1965: A historical review.
Population and Environment, 19, 295-355.
This paper discusses Jewish involvement in
shaping United States immigration policy. In addition to a periodic interest
in fostering the immigration of co-religionists as a result of anti-Semitic
movements, Jews have an interest in opposing the establishment of ethnically
and culturally homogeneous societies in which they reside as minorities.
Jews have been at the forefront in supporting movements aimed at altering
the ethnic status quo in the United States in favor of immigration of
non-European peoples. These activities have involved leadership in Congress,
organizing and funding anti-restrictionist groups composed of Jews and
gentiles, and originating intellectual movements opposed to evolutionary and
biological perspectives in the social sciences.
Ethnic conflict is of obvious importance for
understanding critical aspects of American history, and not only for
understanding Black/White ethnic conflict or the fate of Native Americans.
Immigration policy is a paradigmatic example of conflict of interest between
ethnic groups because immigration policy influences the future demographic
composition of the nation. Ethnic groups unable to influence immigration
policy in their own interests will eventually be displaced or reduced in
relative numbers by groups able to accomplish this goal.
This paper discusses ethnic conflict between Jews
and gentiles in the area of immigration policy. Immigration policy is,
however, only one aspect of conflicts of interest between Jews and gentiles in
America. The skirmishes between Jews and the gentile power structure beginning
in the late nineteenth century always had strong overtones of anti-Semitism.
These battles involved issues of Jewish upward mobility, quotas on Jewish
representation in elite schools beginning in the nineteenth century and
peaking in the 1920s and 1930s, the anti-Communist crusades in the post-World
War II era, as well as the very powerful concern with the cultural influences
of the major media extending from Henry Ford's writings in the 1920s to the
Hollywood inquisitions of the McCarthy era and into the contemporary era. That
anti-Semitism was involved in these issues can be seen from the fact that
historians of Judaism (e.g., Sachar 1992, p. 620ff) feel compelled to include
accounts of these events as important to the history of Jews in America, by
the anti-Semitic pronouncements of many of the gentile participants, and by
the self-conscious understanding of Jewish participants and observers.
The Jewish involvement in influencing immigration
policy in the United States is especially noteworthy as an aspect of ethnic
conflict. Jewish involvement has had certain unique qualities that have
distinguished Jewish interests from the interests of other groups favoring
liberal immigration policies. Throughout much of this period, one Jewish
interest in liberal immigration policies stemmed from a desire to provide a
sanctuary for Jews fleeing from anti-Semitic persecutions in Europe and
elsewhere. Anti-Semitic persecutions have been a recurrent phenomenon in the
modern world beginning with the Czarist persecutions in 1881, and continuing
into the post-World War II era in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. As a
result, liberal immigration has been a Jewish interest because 'survival often
dictated that Jews seek refuge in other lands' (Cohen 1972, p. 341). For a
similar reason, Jews have consistently advocated an internationalist foreign
policy for the United States because 'an internationally-minded America was
likely to be more sensitive to the problems of foreign Jewries' (Cohen 1972,
However, in addition to a persistent concern that
America be a safe haven for Jews fleeing outbreaks of anti-Semitism in foreign
countries, there is evidence that Jews, much more than any other
European-derived ethnic group in America, have viewed liberal immigration
policies as a mechanism of ensuring that America would be a pluralistic rather
than a unitary, homogeneous society (e.g., Cohen 1972). Pluralism serves both
internal (within-group) and external (between-group) Jewish interests.
Pluralism serves internal Jewish interests because it legitimates the internal
Jewish interest in rationalizing and openly advocating an interest in Jewish
group commitment and non-assimilation, what Howard Sachar (1992, p. 427) terms
its function in 'legitimizing the preservation of a minority culture in the
midst of a majority's host society.' The development of an ethnic, political,
or religious monoculture implies that Judaism can survive only by engaging in
a sort of semi-crypsis. As Irving Louis Horowitz (1993, 86) notes regarding
the long-term consequences of Jewish life under Communism, 'Jews suffer, their
numbers decline, and emigration becomes a survival solution when the state
demands integration into a national mainstream, a religious universal defined
by a state religion or a near-state religion.' Both Neusner (1987) and Ellman
(1987) suggest that the increased sense of ethnic consciousness seen in Jewish
circles recently has been influenced by this general movement within American
society toward the legitimization of minority group ethnocentrism.
More importantly, ethnic and religious pluralism
serves external Jewish interests because Jews become just one of many ethnic
groups. This results in the diffusion of political and cultural influence
among the various ethnic and religious groups, and it becomes difficult or
impossible to develop unified, cohesive groups of gentiles united in their
opposition to Judaism. Historically, major anti-Semitic movements have tended
to erupt in societies that have been, apart from the Jews, religiously and/or
ethnically homogeneous (MacDonald, 1994; 1998). Conversely, one reason for the
relative lack of anti-Semitism in America compared to Europe was that 'Jews
did not stand out as a solitary group of [religious] non-conformists (Higham
1984, p. 156). It follows also that ethnically and religiously pluralistic
societies are more likely to satisfy Jewish interests than are societies
characterized by ethnic and religious homogeneity among gentiles.
Beginning with Horace Kallen, Jewish intellectuals
have been at the forefront in developing models of the United States as a
culturally and ethnically pluralistic society. Reflecting the utility of
cultural pluralism in serving internal Jewish group interests in maintaining
cultural separatism, Kallen personally combined his ideology of cultural
pluralism with a deep immersion in Jewish history and literature, a commitment
to Zionism, and political activity on behalf of Jews in Eastern Europe (Sachar
1992, p. 425ff; Frommer 1978).
Kallen (1915; 1924) developed a 'polycentric'
ideal for American ethnic relationships. Kallen defined ethnicity as deriving
from one's biological endowment, implying that Jews should be able to remain a
genetically and culturally cohesive group while nevertheless participating in
American democratic institutions. This conception that the United States
should be organized as a set of separate ethnic/cultural groups was
accompanied by an ideology that relationships between groups would be
cooperative and benign: 'Kallen lifted his eyes above the strife that swirled
around him to an ideal realm where diversity and harmony coexist' (Higham
1984, p. 209). Similarly in Germany, the Jewish leader Moritz Lazarus argued
in opposition to the views of the German intellectual Heinrich Treitschke that
the continued separateness of diverse ethnic groups contributed to the
richness of German culture (Schorsch 1972, p. 63). Lazarus also developed the
doctrine of dual loyalty which became a cornerstone of the Zionist movement.
Kallen wrote his 1915 essay partly in reaction to
the ideas of Edward A. Ross (1914). Ross was a Darwinian sociologist who
believed that the existence of clearly demarcated groups would tend to result
in between-group competition for resources. Higham's comment is interesting
because it shows that Kallen's romantic views of group co-existence were
contradicted by the reality of between-group competition in his own day.
Indeed, it is noteworthy that Kallen was a prominent leader of the American
Jewish Congress (AJCongress). During the 1920s and 1930s the AJCongress
championed group economic and political rights for Jews in Eastern Europe at a
time when there was widespread ethnic tensions and persecution of Jews, and
despite the fears of many that such rights would merely exacerbate current
tensions. The AJCongress demanded that Jews be allowed proportional political
representation as well as the ability to organize their own communities and
preserve an autonomous Jewish national culture. The treaties with Eastern
European countries and Turkey included provisions that the state provide
instruction in minority languages and that Jews have the right to refuse to
attend courts or other public functions on the Sabbath (Frommer 1978, p. 162).
Kallen's idea of cultural pluralism as a model for
America was popularized among gentile intellectuals by John Dewey (Higham
1984, p. 209), who in turn was promoted by Jewish intellectuals: 'If lapsed
Congregationalists like Dewey did not need immigrants to inspire them to press
against the boundaries of even the most liberal of Protestant sensibilities,
Dewey's kind were resoundingly encouraged in that direction by the Jewish
intellectuals they encountered in urban academic and literary communities'
(Hollinger, 1996, p. 24).
Kallen's ideas have been very influential in
producing Jewish self-conceptualizations of their status in America. This
influence was apparent as early as 1915 among American Zionists, such as Louis
D. Brandeis. Brandeis viewed America as composed of different nationalities
whose free development would 'spiritually enrich the United States and would
make it a democracy par excellence' (Gal 1989, p. 70). These views
became 'a hallmark of mainstream American Zionism, secular and religious
alike' (Gal 1989, p. 70). But Kallen's influence extended really to all
Legitimizing the preservation of a minority culture
in the midst of a majority's host society, pluralism functioned as
intellectual anchorage for an educated Jewish second generation, sustained
its cohesiveness and its most tenacious communal endeavors through the
rigors of the Depression and revived anti-semitism, through the shock of
Nazism and the Holocaust, until the emergence of Zionism in the post-World
War II years swept through American Jewry with a climactic redemptionist
fervor of its own. (Sachar 1992, p. 427)
Explicit statements linking immigration policy to a
Jewish interest in cultural pluralism can be found among prominent Jewish
social scientists and political activists. In his review of Kallen's (1956)
Cultural Pluralism and the American Idea appearing in Congress Weekly
(published by the AJCongress), Joseph L. Blau (1958, p. 15) noted that
'Kallen's view is needed to serve the cause of minority groups and minority
cultures in this nation without a permanent majority' -- the implication being
that Kallen's ideology of multi-culturalism opposes the interests of any
ethnic group in dominating America. The well-known author and prominent
Zionist Maurice Samuel (1924, p. 215) writing partly as a negative reaction to
the immigration law of 1924, wrote that 'If, then, the struggle between us
[i.e., Jews and gentiles] is ever to be lifted beyond the physical, your
democracies will have to alter their demands for racial, spiritual and
cultural homogeneity with the State. But it would be foolish to regard this as
a possibility, for the tendency of this civilization is in the opposite
direction. There is a steady approach toward the identification of government
with race, instead of with the political State.'
Samuel deplored the 1924 legislation and in the
following quote he develops the view that the American state as having no
We have just witnessed, in America, the repetition,
in the peculiar form adapted to this country, of the evil farce to which the
experience of many centuries has not yet accustomed us. If America had any
meaning at all, it lay in the peculiar attempt to rise above the trend of
our present civilization'the identification of race with State.... America
was therefore the New World in this vital respect'that the State was purely
an ideal, and nationality was identical only with acceptance of the ideal.
But it seems now that the entire point of view was a mistaken one, that
America was incapable of rising above her origins, and the semblance of an
ideal-nationalism was only a stage in the proper development of the
universal gentile spirit.... To-day, with race triumphant over ideal,
anti-Semitism uncovers its fangs, and to the heartless refusal of the most
elementary human right, the right of asylum, is added cowardly insult. We
are not only excluded, but we are told, in the unmistakable language of the
immigration laws, that we are an 'inferior' people. Without the moral
courage to stand up squarely to its evil instincts, the country prepared
itself, through its journalists, by a long draught of vilification of the
Jew, and, when sufficiently inspired by the popular and 'scientific'
potions, committed the act. (pp. 218-220)
A congruent opinion is expressed by prominent Jewish
social scientist and political activist Earl Raab1 who remarks very
positively on the success of American immigration policy in altering the
ethnic composition of the United States since 1965. Raab notes that the Jewish
community has taken a leadership role in changing the Northwestern European
bias of American immigration policy (1993a, p. 17), and he has also maintained
that one factor inhibiting anti-Semitism in the contemporary United States is
that '(a)n increasing ethnic heterogeneity, as a result of immigration, has
made it even more difficult for a political party or mass movement of bigotry
to develop' (1995, p. 91). Or more colorfully:
The Census Bureau has just reported that about half
of the American population will soon be non-white or non-European. And they
will all be American citizens. We have tipped beyond the point where a
Nazi-Aryan party will be able to prevail in this country.
Indeed, the 'primary objective' of Jewish political
activity after 1945 'was ... to prevent the emergence of an anti-Semitic
reactionary mass movement in the United States' (Svonkin 1997, 8). Charles
Silberman (1985, 350) notes that 'American Jews are committed to cultural
tolerance because of their belief'one firmly rooted in history'that Jews are
safe only in a society acceptant of a wide range of attitudes and behaviors,
as well as a diversity of religious and ethnic groups. It is this belief, for
example, not approval of homosexuality, that leads an overwhelming majority of
American Jews to endorse 'gay rights' and to take a liberal stance on most
other so-called 'social' issues.'3 Silberman's comment that Jewish
attitudes are 'firmly rooted in history' is quite reasonable: There has indeed
been a tendency for Jews to be persecuted by a culturally and/or ethnically
homogeneous majority that come to view Jews as a negatively evaluated
We [i.e., Jews] have been nourishing the
American climate of opposition to bigotry for about half a century. That
climate has not yet been perfected, but the heterogeneous nature of our
population tends to make it irreversible'and makes our constitutional
constraints against bigotry more practical than ever. (Raab 1993b, p. 23).2
Similarly, in listing the positive benefits of
immigration, Diana Aviv, director of the Washington Action Office of the
Council of Jewish Federations states that immigration 'is about diversity,
cultural enrichment and economic opportunity for the immigrants' (quoted in
Forward, March 8, 1996, p. 5). And in summarizing Jewish involvement in
the 1996 legislative battles a newspaper account stated that 'Jewish groups
failed to kill a number of provisions that reflect the kind of political
expediency that they regard as a direct attack on American pluralism' (Detroit
Jewish News; May 10, 1996).
It is noteworthy also that there has been a
conflict between predominantly Jewish neo-Conservatives and predominantly
gentile paleo-conservatives over the issue of Third World immigration into the
United States. Many of these neo-conservative intellectuals had previously
been radical leftists,4 and the split between the neo-conservatives
and their previous allies resulted in an intense internecine feud (Gottfried
1993; Rothman & Lichter 1982, p. 105). Neo-conservatives Norman Podhoretz and
Richard John Neuhaus reacted very negatively to an article by a
paleo-conservative concerned that such immigration would eventually lead to
the United States being dominated by such immigrants (see Judis 1990, p. 33).
Other examples are neo-Conservatives Julian Simon (1990) and Ben Wattenberg
(1991), both of whom advocate very high levels of immigration from all parts
of the world, so that the United States will become what Wattenberg describes
as the world's first 'Universal Nation.' Based on recent data, Fetzer (1996)
reports that Jews remain far more favorable to immigration to the United
States than any other ethnic group or religion.
It should be noted as a general point that the
effectiveness of Jewish organizations in influencing American immigration
policy has been facilitated by certain characteristics of American Jewry. As
Neuringer (1971, p. 87) notes, Jewish influence on immigration policy was
facilitated by Jewish wealth, education, and social status. Reflecting its
general disproportionate representation in markers of economic success and
political influence, Jewish organizations have been able to have a vastly
disproportionate effect on United States immigration policy because Jews as a
group are highly organized, highly intelligent, and politically astute, and
they were able to command a high level of financial, political, and
intellectual resources in pursuing their political aims. Similarly, Hollinger
(1996, p. 19) notes that Jews were more influential in the decline of a
homogeneous Protestant Christian culture in the United States than Catholics
because of their greater wealth, social standing, and technical skill in the
intellectual arena. In the area of immigration policy, the main Jewish
activist organization influencing immigration policy, the American Jewish
Committee (AJCommittee), was characterized by 'strong leadership [particularly
Louis Marshall], internal cohesion, well-funded programs, sophisticated
lobbying techniques, well-chosen non-Jewish allies, and good timing'
(Goldstein 1990, p. 333).
In this regard, the Jewish success in influencing
immigration policy is entirely analogous to their success in influencing the
secularization of American culture. As in the case of immigration policy, the
secularization of American culture is a Jewish interest because Jews have a
perceived interest that America not be a homogeneous Christian culture.
'Jewish civil rights organizations have had an historic role in the postwar
development of American church-state law and policy' (Ivers 1995, p. 2).
Unlike the effort to influence immigration, the opposition to a homogeneous
Christian culture was mainly carried out in the courts. The Jewish effort in
this case was well funded and was the focus of well-organized, highly
dedicated Jewish civil service organizations, including the AJCommittee, the
AJCongress, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). It involved keen legal
expertise both in the actual litigation but also in influencing legal opinion
via articles in law journals and other forums of intellectual debate,
including the popular media. It also involved a highly charismatic and
effective leadership, particularly Leo Pfeffer of the AJCongress:
No other lawyer exercised such complete
intellectual dominance over a chosen area of law for so extensive a
period¾as an author, scholar, public citizen, and above all, legal advocate
who harnessed his multiple and formidable talents into a single force
capable of satisfying all that an institution needs for a successful
constitutional reform movement.... That Pfeffer, through an enviable
combination of skill, determination, and persistence, was able in such a
short period of time to make church-state reform the foremost cause with
which rival organizations associated the AJCongress illustrates well the
impact that individual lawyers endowed with exceptional skills can have on
the character and life of the organizations for which they work.... As if to
confirm the extent to which Pfeffer is associated with post-Everson
[i.e., post-1946] constitutional development, even the major critics of the
Court's church-state jurisprudence during this period and the modern
doctrine of separationism rarely fail to make reference to Pfeffer as the
central force responsible for what they lament as the lost meaning of the
establishment clause. (Ivers 1995, pp. 222-224)
Similarly, Hollinger (1996, p. 4) notes 'the
transformation of the ethnoreligious demography of American academic life by
Jews' in the period from the 1930s to the 1960s, as well as the Jewish
influence on trends toward the secularization of American society and in
advancing an ideal of cosmopolitanism (p. 11). The pace of this influence was
very likely influenced by immigration battles of the 1920s. Hollinger notes
that the 'the old Protestant establishment's influence persisted until the
1960s in large measure because of the Immigration Act of 1924: had the massive
immigration of Catholics and Jews continued at pre-1924 levels, the course of
American history would have been different in many ways, including, one may
reasonably speculate, a more rapid diminution of Protestant cultural hegemony.
Immigration restriction gave that hegemony a new lease of life' (p. 22). It is
reasonable to suppose, therefore, that the immigration battles from 1881 to
1965 have been of momentous historical importance in shaping the contours of
American culture in the late twentieth century.
The ultimate success of Jewish attitudes on
immigration was also influenced by intellectual movements that collectively
resulted in a decline of evolutionary and biological thinking in the academic
world. Although playing virtually no role in the restrictionist position in
the Congressional debates on the immigration (which focused mainly on the
fairness of maintaining the ethnic status quo; see below), a component of the
intellectual zeitgeist of the 1920s was the prevalence of evolutionary
theories of race and ethnicity (Singerman 1986), particularly the theories of
Madison Grant. In The Passing of the Great Race, Grant (1921) argued
that the American colonial stock was derived from superior Nordic racial
elements and that immigration of other races would lower the competence level
of the society as a whole as well as threaten democratic and republican
institutions. Grant's ideas were popularized in the media at the time of the
immigration debates (see Divine 1957, pp. 12ff) and often provoked negative
comments in Jewish publications such as The American Hebrew (e.g.,
March 21, 1924, pp. 554, 625).5
The debate over group differences in IQ was also
tied to the immigration issue. C. C. Brigham's study of intelligence among
United States army personnel concluded that Nordics were superior to Alpine
and Mediterranean Europeans, and Brigham (1923, p. 210) concluded that
'(i)mmigration should not only be restrictive but highly selective.' In the
Foreword to Brigham's book, Harvard psychologist Robert M. Yerkes stated that
'The author presents not theories but facts. It behooves us to consider their
reliability and meaning, for no one of us as a citizen can afford to ignore
the menace of race deterioration or the evident relation of immigration to
national progress and welfare' (in Brigham 1923, pp. vii-viii).
Nevertheless, as Samelson (1975) points out, the
drive to restrict immigration originated long before IQ testing came into
existence and restriction was favored by a variety of groups, including
organized labor, for reasons other than those related to race and IQ,
including especially the fairness of maintaining the ethnic status quo in the
United States. Moreover, although Brigham's IQ testing results did indeed
appear in the statement submitted by the Allied Patriotic Societies to the
House hearings,6 the role of IQ testing in the immigration debates
has been greatly exaggerated (Snyderman & Herrnstein, 1983). Indeed, IQ
testing was never even mentioned in either the House Majority Report or the
Minority Report, and 'there is no mention of intelligence testing in the Act;
test results on immigrants appear only briefly in the committee hearings and
are then largely ignored or criticized, and they are brought up only once in
over 600 pages of congressional floor debate, where they are subjected to
further criticism without rejoinder. None of the major contemporary figures in
testing ... were called to testify, nor were their writings inserted into the
legislative record' (Snyderman & Herrnstein 1983, 994).
It is also very easy to over-emphasize the
importance of theories of Nordic superiority as an ingredient of popular and
Congressional restrictionist sentiment. As Singerman (1986, 118-119) points
out, 'racial anti-Semitism' was employed by only 'a handful of writers;' and
'the Jewish 'problem' ... was a minor preoccupation even among such
widely-published authors as Madison Grant or T. Lothrop Stoddard and none of
the individuals examined [in Singerman's review] could be regarded as
professional Jew-baiters or full-time propagandists against Jews, domestic or
foreign.' As indicated below, arguments related to Nordic superiority,
including supposed Nordic intellectual superiority, played remarkably little
role in Congressional debates over immigration in the 1920s, the common
argument of the restrictionists being that immigration policy should reflect
equally the interests of all ethnic groups currently in the country.
Nevertheless, it is probable that the decline in
evolutionary/biological theories of race and ethnicity facilitated the sea
change in immigration policy brought about by the 1965 law. As Higham (1984)
notes, by the time of the final victory in 1965 which removed national origins
and racial ancestry from immigration policy and opened up immigration to all
human groups, the Boasian perspective of cultural determinism and
anti-biologism had become standard academic wisdom. The result was that 'it
became intellectually fashionable to discount the very existence of persistent
ethnic differences. The whole reaction deprived popular race feelings of a
powerful ideological weapon' (Higham 1984, pp. 58-59).
Jewish intellectuals were prominently involved in
the movement to eradicate the racialist ideas of Grant and others (Degler
1991, p. 200). Indeed, even during the earlier debates leading up to the
immigration bills of 1921 and 1924, restrictionists perceived themselves to be
under attack from Jewish intellectuals. In 1918, Prescott F. Hall, secretary
of the Immigration Restriction League, wrote to Grant that 'What I wanted ...
was the names of a few anthropologists of note who have declared in favor of
the inequality of the races.... I am up against the Jews all the time in the
equality argument and thought perhaps you might be able offhand to name a few
(besides Osborn) whom I could quote in support' (in Samelson 1975, p. 467).
Grant also believed that Jews were engaged in a
campaign to discredit racial research. In the Introduction to the 1921 edition
of Passing of the Great Race, Grant complained that '(i)t is well-nigh
impossible to publish in the American newspapers any reflection upon certain
religions or races which are hysterically sensitive even when not mentioned by
name. The underlying idea seems to be that if publication can be suppressed
the facts themselves will ultimately disappear. Abroad, conditions are fully
as bad, and we have the authority of one of the most eminent anthropologists
in France that the collection of anthropological measurements and data among
French recruits at the outbreak of the Great War was prevented by Jewish
influence, which aimed to suppress any suggestion of racial differentiation in
Particularly important was the work of Columbia
University anthropologist Franz Boas and his followers. 'Boas' influence upon
American social scientists in matters of race can hardly be exaggerated'
(Degler 1991, p. 61). He engaged in a 'life-long assault on the idea that race
was a primary source of the differences to be found in the mental or social
capabilities of human groups. He accomplished his mission largely through his
ceaseless, almost relentless articulation of the concept of culture' (p. 61).
'Boas, almost single-handedly, developed in America the concept of culture,
which, like a powerful solvent, would in time expunge race from the literature
of social science' (p. 71).
Throughout this explication of Boas's conception of
culture and his opposition to a racial interpretation of human behavior, the
central point has been that Boas did not arrive at the position from a
disinterested, scientific inquiry into a vexed if controversial question.
Instead, his idea derived from an ideological commitment that began in his
early life and academic experiences in Europe and continued in America to
shape his professional outlook.... there is no doubt that he had a deep
interest in collecting evidence and designing arguments that would rebut or
refute an ideological outlook 'racism' which he considered restrictive upon
individuals and undesirable for society.... there is a persistent interest
in pressing his social values upon the profession and the public. (Degler
1991, pp. 82-83)
There is evidence that Boas strongly identified as a
Jew and viewed his research as having important implications in the political
arena and particularly in the area of immigration policy. Boas was born in
Prussia to a 'Jewish-liberal' family in which the revolutionary ideals of 1848
remained influential (Stocking 1968, p. 149). Boas developed a 'left-liberal
posture which ... is at once scientific and political' (Stocking 1968, p. 149)
and was intensely concerned with anti-Semitism from an early period in his
life (White 1966, p. 16). Moreover, Boas was deeply alienated from and hostile
toward gentile culture, particularly the cultural ideal of the Prussian
aristocracy (Degler 1991, p. 200; Stocking 1968, p. 150). For example, when
Margaret Mead was looking for a way to persuade Boas to let her pursue her
research in the South Sea islands, 'she hit upon a sure way of getting him to
change his mind. 'I knew there was one thing that mattered more to Boas than
the direction taken by anthropological research. This was that he should
behave like a liberal, democratic, modern man, not like a Prussian autocrat.'
The ploy worked because she had indeed uncovered the heart of his personal
values' (Degler 1991, p. 73).
Boas was greatly motivated by the immigration
issue as it occurred early in the century. Carl Degler (1991, p. 74) notes
that Boas' professional correspondence 'reveals that an important motive
behind his famous head-measuring project in 1910 was his strong personal
interest in keeping America diverse in population.' The study, whose
conclusions were placed into the Congressional Record by Representative
Emanuel Celler during the debate on immigration restriction (Cong. Rec.,
April 8, 1924, pp. 5915-5916), concluded that the environmental differences
consequent to immigration caused differences in head shape. (At the time, head
shape as determined by the 'cephalic index' was the main measurement used by
scientists involved in racial differences research.) Boas argued that his
research showed that all foreign groups living in favorable social
circumstances had become assimilated to America in the sense that their
physical measurements converged on the American type. Although he was
considerably more circumspect regarding his conclusions in the body of his
report (see also Stocking 1968, p. 178), Boas (1911, p. 5) stated in his
Introduction that 'all fear of an unfavorable influence of South European
immigration upon the body of our people should be dismissed.' As a further
indication of Boas' ideological commitment to the immigration issue, Degler
makes the following comment regarding one of Boas' environmentalist
explanations for mental differences between immigrant and native children:
'Why Boas chose to advance such an adhoc interpretation is hard to understand
until one recognizes his desire to explain in a favorable way the apparent
mental backwardness of the immigrant children' (p. 75).
Boas and his students were intensely concerned
with pushing an ideological agenda within the American anthropological
profession (Degler 1991; Freeman 1991; Torrey 1992). In this regard it is
interesting that Boas and his associates had a much more highly developed
sense of group identity, a commitment to a common viewpoint, and an agenda to
dominate the institutional structure of anthropology than did their opponents
(Stocking 1968, pp. 279-280). The defeat of the Darwinians 'had not happened
without considerable exhortation of 'every mother's son' standing for the
'Right.' Nor had it been accomplished without some rather strong pressure
applied both to staunch friends and to the 'weaker brethren''often by the
sheer force of Boas' personality' (Stocking 1968, 286). By 1915 the Boasians
controlled the American Anthropological Association and held a two-thirds
majority on the Executive Board (Stocking 1968, 285). By 1926 every major
department of anthropology in the United States was headed by a student of
Boas, the majority of whom were Jewish. According to White (1966, p. 26),
Boas' most influential students were Ruth Benedict, Alexander Goldenweiser,
Melville Herskovits, Alfred Kroeber, Robert Lowie, Margaret Mead, Paul Radin,
Edward Sapir, and Leslie Spier. All of this 'small, compact group of scholars
... gathered about their leader' (White 1966, p. 26) were Jews with the
exception of Kroeber, Benedict and Mead. Indeed, Herskovits (1953, p. 91),
whose hagiography of Boas qualifies as one of the most worshipful in
intellectual history, noted that
(t)he four decades of the tenure of [Boas']
professorship at Columbia gave a continuity to his teaching that permitted
him to develop students who eventually made up the greater part of the
significant professional core of American anthropologists, and who came to
man and direct most of the major departments of anthropology in the United
States. In their turn, they trained the students who ... have continued the
tradition in which their teachers were trained.
By the mid-1930s the Boasian view of the cultural
determination of human behavior had a strong influence on social scientists
generally (Stocking 1968, p. 300).
The ideology of racial equality was an important
weapon on behalf of opening immigration up to all human groups. For example,
in a 1951 statement to Congress, the AJCongress stated that 'The findings of
science must force even the most prejudiced among us to accept, as
unqualifiedly as we do the law of gravity, that intelligence, morality and
character, bear no relationship whatever to geography or place of birth.'7
The statement went on to cite some of Boas' popular writings on the subject as
well as the writings of Boas' prot??g?? Ashley Montagu, perhaps the most
visible opponent of the concept of race during this period. Montagu, whose
original name was Israel Ehrenberg, theorized that humans are innately
cooperative (but not innately aggressive) and there is a universal brotherhood
among humans (see Shipman 1994, p. 159ff).
And in 1952 another Boas' prot??g??, Margaret
Mead, testified before the President's Commission on Immigration and
Naturalization (PCIN) (1953, p. 92) that 'all human beings from all groups of
people have the same potentialities.... Our best anthropological evidence
today suggests that the people of every group have about the same distribution
of potentialities.' Another witness stated that the executive board of the
American Anthropological Association had unanimously endorsed the proposition
that '(a)ll scientific evidence indicates that all peoples are inherently
capable of acquiring or adapting to our civilization' (PCIN 1953, p. 93). By
1965 Senator Jacob Javits (Cong. Rec., 111, 1965, p. 24469) confidently
announced to the Senate during the debate on the immigration bill that '(b)oth
the dictates of our consciences as well as the precepts of sociologists tell
us that immigration, as it exists in the national origins quota system, is
wrong, and without any basis in reason or fact for we know better than to say
that one man is better than another because of the color of his skin.' The
intellectual revolution and its translation into public policy had been
NOTE: Since the publication of this article, I
came across the following from Hugh Davis Graham's Collision Course: The
Strange Convergence of Affirmative Action and Immigration Policy in America
(New York, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 56-57):
Most important for the content of immigration
reform [i.e., anti-restriction], the driving force at the core of the
movement, reaching back to the 1920s, were Jewish organizations long active
in opposing racial and ethnic quotas. These included the American Jewish
Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai
B'rith, and the American Federation of Jews from Eastern Europe. Jewish
members of the Congress, particularly representatives from New York and
Chicago, had maintained steady but largely ineffective pressure against the
national origins quotas since the 1920s.... Following the shock of the
Holocaust, Jewish leaders had been especially active in Washington in
furthering immigration reform. To the public, the most visible evidence of
the immigration reform drive was played by Jewish legislative leaders, such
as Representative Celler and Senator Jacob Javits of New York. Less visible,
but equally important, were the efforts of key advisers on presidential and
agency staffs. These included senior policy advisers such as Julius Edelson
and Harry Rosenfield in the Truman administration, Maxwell Rabb in the
Eisenhower White House, and presidential aide Myer Feldman, assistant
secretary of state Abba Schwartz, and deputy attorney general Norbert Schlei
in the Kennedy-Johnson administration.
JEWISH ANTI-RESTRICTIONIST POLITICAL ACTIVITY
Jewish Anti-Restrictionist Activity
up to 1924.
While Jewish involvement in altering the
intellectual discussion of race and ethnicity appears to have had long term
repercussions on United States immigration policy, Jewish political
involvement was ultimately of much greater significance. Jewish opinion is not
monolithic. Nevertheless, although there have been dissenters, Jews have been
'the single most persistent pressure group favoring a liberal immigration
policy' in the United States in the entire immigration debate beginning in
1881 (Neuringer 1971, p. ii):
In undertaking to sway immigration policy in a
liberal direction, Jewish spokesmen and organizations demonstrated a degree
of energy unsurpassed by any other interested pressure group. Immigration
had constituted a prime object of concern for practically every major Jewish
defense and community relations organization. Over the years, their
spokesmen had assiduously attended congressional hearings, and the Jewish
effort was of the utmost importance in establishing and financing such
non-sectarian groups as the National Liberal Immigration League and the
Citizens Committee for Displaced Persons.
As recounted by Nathan C. Belth (1979, p. 173) in his
history of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL), 'In Congress,
through all the years when the immigration battles were being fought, the
names of Jewish legislators were in the forefront of the liberal forces: from
Adolph Sabath to Samuel Dickstein and Emanuel Celler in the House and from
Herbert H. Lehman to Jacob Javits in the Senate. Each in his time was a leader
of the Anti-Defamation League and of major organizations concerned with
democratic development.' The Jewish congressmen who are most closely
identified with anti-restrictionist efforts in Congress have therefore also
been leaders of the group most closely identified with Jewish ethnic political
activism and self-defense.
Throughout the entire period of almost 100 years
prior to achieving success with the immigration law of 1965, Jewish groups
opportunistically made alliances with other groups whose interests temporarily
converged with Jewish interests (e.g., a constantly changing set of ethnic
groups, religious groups, pro-Communists, anti-Communists, the foreign policy
interests of various presidents, the political need for president's to curry
favor with groups influential in populous states in order to win national
elections, etc.). Particularly noteworthy was the support of a liberal
immigration policy from industrial interests wanting cheap labor, at least in
the period prior to the 1924 temporary triumph of restrictionism. Within this
constantly shifting set of alliances, Jewish organizations persistently
pursued their goals of maximizing the number of Jewish immigrants and opening
up the United States to immigration from all of the peoples of the world. As
indicated in the following, the historical record supports the proposition
that making the United States into a multicultural society has been a major
goal of organized Jewry beginning in the nineteenth century.
The ultimate Jewish victory on immigration is
remarkable because it was waged in different arenas against a potentially very
powerful set of opponents. Beginning in the late nineteenth century,
leadership of the restrictionists was provided by Eastern patricians such as
Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. However, the main political basis of restrictionism
from 1910 to 1952 (in addition to the relatively ineffectual labor union
interests) derived from 'the common people of the South and West' (Higham
1984, p. 49) and their representatives in Congress. Fundamentally, the clashes
between Jews and gentiles in the period between 1900 and 1965 were a conflict
between Jews and this geographically centered group. 'Jews, as a result of
their intellectual energy and economic resources, constituted an advance guard
of the new peoples who had no feeling for the traditions of rural America'
(Higham 1984, pp. 168-169).
Although often concerned that Jewish immigration
would fan the flames of anti-Semitism in America, Jewish leaders fought a long
and largely successful delaying action against restrictions on immigration
during the period from 1891-1924, particularly as they affected the ability of
Jews to immigrate. These efforts continued despite the fact that by 1905,
there was 'a polarity between Jewish and general American opinion on
immigration' (Neuringer 1971, p. 83). In particular, while other religious
groups such as Catholics and ethnic groups such as the Irish remained divided
and ambivalent on their attitudes toward immigration and were poorly organized
and ineffective in influencing immigration policy, and while labor unions
opposed immigration in their attempt to diminish the supply of cheap labor,
Jewish groups engaged in an intensive and sustained effort against attempts to
As recounted by Cohen (1972, p. 40ff), the
AJCommittee's efforts in opposition to immigration restriction in the early
twentieth century constitute a remarkable example of the ability of Jewish
organizations to influence public policy. Of all the groups affected by the
immigration legislation of 1907, Jews had the least to gain in terms of
numbers of possible immigrants, but they played by far the largest role in
shaping the legislation (Cohen 1972, p. 41). In the subsequent period leading
up to the relatively ineffective restrictionist legislation of 1917, when
restrictionists again mounted an effort in Congress, 'only the Jewish segment
was aroused' (Cohen 1972, p. 49).
Nevertheless, because of the fear of anti-Semitism, efforts were made to
prevent the perception of Jewish involvement in anti-restrictionist campaigns.
In 1906, Jewish anti-restrictionist political operatives were instructed to
lobby Congress without mentioning their affiliation with the AJCommittee
because of 'the danger that the Jews may be accused of being organized for a
political purpose' (comments of Herbert Friedenwald, AJCommittee secretary; in
Goldstein 1990, p. 125). Beginning in the late nineteenth century,
anti-restrictionist arguments developed by Jews were typically couched in
terms of universalist humanitarian ideals, and as part of this universalizing
effort, gentiles from old line Protestant families were recruited to act as
window dressing for their efforts and Jewish groups such as the AJCommittee
funded pro-immigration groups composed of non-Jews (Neuringer 1971, p. 92).
As was the case in later pro-immigration efforts,
much of the activity was behind-the-scenes personal interventions with
politicians in order to minimize public perception of the Jewish role and
provoke activities of the opposition. Opposing politicians, such as Henry
Cabot Lodge, and organizations like the Immigration Restriction League were
kept under close scrutiny and pressured by lobbyists. Lobbyists in Washington
also kept a daily scorecard of voting tendencies as immigration bills wended
their way through Congress and engaged in intense and successful efforts to
convince Presidents Taft and Wilson to veto restrictive immigration
legislation. Catholic prelates were recruited to protest the effects of
restrictionist legislation on immigration from Italy and Hungary. When
restrictionist arguments appeared in the media, the AJCommittee made
sophisticated replies, based on scholarly data and typically couched in
universalist terms as benefiting the whole society (e.g., Neuringer 1971, p.
44). Articles favorable to immigration were published in national magazines
and letters to the editor were published in newspapers. And efforts were made
to minimize the negative perceptions of immigration by attempting to
distribute Jewish immigrants around the country and by getting Jewish aliens
off public support. Legal proceedings were filed to prevent the deportation of
Jewish aliens. And eventually the Committee organized mass protest meetings.
Indeed, writing in 1914, the sociologist Edward A.
Ross had a clear sense that liberal immigration policy was exclusively a
Jewish issue. Ross provides the following quote from prominent author and
Zionist pioneer Israel Zangwill as clearly articulating the idea that America
is an ideal place to achieve Jewish interests.
America has ample room for all the six millions of
the Pale [i.e., the Pale of Settlement, home to most of Russia's Jews]; any
one of her fifty states could absorb them. And next to being in a country of
their own, there could be no better fate for them than to be together in a
land of civil and religious liberty, of whose Constitution Christianity
forms no part and where their collective votes would practically guarantee
them against future persecution (Israel Zangwill, in Ross 1914, p. 144).
Jews therefore have a powerful interest in
Hence the endeavor of the Jews to control the
immigration policy of the United States. Although theirs is but a seventh of
our net immigration, they led the fight on the Immigration Commission's
bill. The power of the million Jews in the Metropolis lined up the
Congressional delegation from New York in solid opposition to the literacy
test. The systematic campaign in newspapers and magazines to break down all
arguments for restriction and to calm nativist fears is waged by and for one
race. Hebrew money is behind the National Liberal Immigration League and its
numerous publications. From the paper before the commercial body or the
scientific association to the heavy treatise produced with the aid of the
Baron de Hirsch Fund, the literature that proves the blessings of
immigration to all classes in America emanates from subtle Hebrew brains
(Ross 1914, pp. 144-145).
Ross (1914, p. 150) also reported that immigration
officials had 'become very sore over the incessant fire of false accusations
to which they are subjected by the Jewish press and societies. United States
senators complain that during the close of the struggle over the immigration
bill they were overwhelmed with a torrent of crooked statistics and
misrepresentations of Hebrews fighting the literacy test.' It is also
noteworthy that Zangwill's views on immigration were highly salient to
restrictionists in the debates over the 1924 immigration law (see below). In
an address reprinted in The American Hebrew (Oct. 19, 1923, p. 582),
Zangwill noted that 'There is only one way to World Peace, and that is the
absolute abolition of passports, visas, frontiers, custom houses, and all
other devices that make of the population of our planet not a co-operating
civilization but a mutual irritation society.'
It is noteworthy that, despite elaborate and
deceptive attempts to present the pro-immigration movement as broad-based,
Jewish activists were well aware of the lack of enthusiasm of other groups.
During the fight over restrictionist legislation at the end of the Taft
administration, Herbert Friedenwald, AJCommittee secretary, wrote that it was
'very difficult to get any people except the Jews stirred up in this fight'
(in Goldstein 1990, p. 203). The AJCommittee also contributed heavily to
staging anti-restrictionist rallies in major American cities, but allowed
other ethnic groups to take credit for the events, and it organized groups of
non-Jews from the West to influence President Taft to veto restrictionist
legislation (Goldstein 1990, pp. 216, 227). Later, during the Wilson
Administration, Louis Marshall stated that 'We are practically the only ones
who are fighting [the literacy test] while a 'great proportion' [of the
people] is 'indifferent to what is done' (in Goldstein 1990, p. 249).
The forces of immigration restriction were
temporarily successful with the immigration laws of 1921 and 1924 which passed
despite the intense opposition of Jewish groups. Divine (1957, p. 8) notes
that 'Arrayed against [the restrictionist forces] in 1921 were only the
spokesmen for the southeastern European immigrants, mainly Jewish leaders,
whose protests were drowned out by the general cry for restriction.' Similarly
during the 1924 congressional hearings on immigration, 'the most prominent
group of witnesses against the bill were representatives of southeastern
European immigrants, particularly Jewish leaders' (Divine 1957, 16).
Neuringer (1971, p. 164) notes that Jewish opposition to the 1921 and 1924
legislation was motivated less by a desire for higher levels of Jewish
immigration than by opposition to the implicit theory that America should be
dominated by individuals with northern and western European ancestry. The
Jewish interest was thus to oppose the ethnic interests of the peoples of
northwestern Europe in maintaining an ethnic status quo or increasing their
percentage of the population. However, even prior to this period Jewish
organizations were adamantly opposed to any restrictions on immigration based
on race or ethnicity, indicating that they had a very different view of the
ideal racial/ethnic composition of the United States than did the non-Jewish
Thus in 1882 the Jewish press was unanimous in its
condemnation of the Chinese Exclusion Act (Neuringer 1971, p. 23) even though
this act had no direct bearing on Jewish immigration. In the early twentieth
century the AJCommittee at times actively fought against any bill that
restricted immigration to white persons or non-Asians, and only refrained from
active opposition if it judged that AJCommittee support would threaten the
immigration of Jews (Cohen 1972, p. 47; Goldstein 1990, p. 250). In 1920 the
Central Conference of American Rabbis passed a resolution urging that 'the
Nation ... keep the gates of our beloved Republic open ... to the oppressed
and distressed of all mankind in conformity with its historic role as a haven
of refuge for all men and women who pledge allegiance to its laws' (in The
American Hebrew, Oct. 1, 1920, p. 594). The American Hebrew (Feb.
17, 1922; p. 373), a publication founded in 1867, that represented the
German-Jewish establishment of the period, reiterated its long-standing policy
that it 'has always stood for the admission of worthy immigrants of all
classes, irrespective of nationality.' And in his testimony in the 1924
hearings before the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, the
AJCommittee's Louis Marshall stated that the bill echoed the sentiments of the
Ku Klux Klan and characterized it as being inspired by the racialist theories
of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. At a time when the population of the United
States was over 100,000,000, Marshall stated that 'we have room in this
country for ten times the population we have' (p. 309), and advocated
admission of all of the peoples of the world without quota limit, excluding
only those who 'were mentally, morally and physically unfit, who are enemies
of organized government, and who are apt to become public charges;'8
similarly Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, representing the AJCongress and a variety of
other Jewish organizations, asserted 'the right of every man outside of
America to be considered fairly and equitably and without discrimination.'9
By prescribing that immigration be restricted to
3% of the foreign born as of the 1890 census, the 1924 law prescribed an
ethnic status quo approximating the 1920 census. The House Majority Report
emphasized the idea that prior to the legislation, immigration was highly
biased in favor of Eastern and Southern Europeans and that this imbalance had
been continued by the 1921 legislation in which quotas were based on the
numbers of foreign born as of the 1910 census. The expressed intention was
that the interests of other groups to pursue their ethnic interests by
expanding their percentage of the population should be balanced against the
ethnic interests of the majority in retaining their ethnic representation in
The 1921 law gave 46% of quota immigration to
Southern and Eastern Europe even though these areas constituted only 11.7% of
the United States population as of the 1920 census. The 1924 law prescribed
that these areas would get 15.3% of the quota slots'a figure that was actually
higher than their present representation in the population. 'The use of the
1890 census is not discriminatory. It is used in an effort to preserve as
nearly as possible, the racial status quo of the United States. It is hoped to
guarantee as best we can at this late date, racial homogeneity in the United
States The use of a later census would discriminate against those who founded
the Nation and perpetuated its institutions.' (House Rep. 350, 1924, p. 16).
After 3 years, quotas were derived from a national origins formula based on
1920 census data for the entire population, not only the foreign born. While
there is no doubt that this legislation represented a victory for the
northwestern European peoples of the United States, there was no attempt to
reverse the trends in the ethnic composition of the country but rather to
preserve the ethnic status quo.
While motivated by a desire to preserve an ethnic
status quo, these laws may also have been motivated partly by anti-Semitism,
since during this period opposition to immigration was perceived as mainly a
Jewish issue (see above). This certainly appears to have been the perception
of Jewish observers: for example, prominent Jewish writer Maurice Samuel
(1924), writing in the immediate aftermath of the 1924 legislation, wrote that
'it is chiefly against the Jew that anti-immigration laws are passed here in
America as in England and Germany (p. 217),' and such perceptions continue
among historians of the period (e.g., Hertzberg 1989, 239).
This perception was not restricted to Jews. In
remarks before the Senate, the anti-restrictionist Senator Reed of Missouri
noted that 'Attacks have likewise been made upon the Jewish people who have
crowded to our shores. The spirit of intolerance has been especially active as
to them' (Cong. Rec. Feb. 19, 1921; p. 3463), and during World War II
Secretary of War Robert Stimson stated that it was opposition to unrestricted
immigration of Jews that resulted in the restrictive legislation of 1924
(Breitman & Kraut, 1987, p. 87). Moreover, the House Immigration Committee
Majority Report (House Report #109, Dec. 6, 1920) stated that 'by far
the largest percentage of immigrants (are) peoples of Jewish extraction,' (p.
4), and it implied that the majority of the expected new immigrants would be
Polish Jews. The report 'confirmed the published statement of a commissioner
of the Hebrew Sheltering and Aid Society of America made after his personal
investigation in Poland, to the effect that 'If there were in existence a ship
that could hold 3,000,000 human beings, the 3,000,000 Jews of Poland would
board it to escape to America'' (p. 6).
The Majority Report also included a report by
Wilbur S. Carr, head of the United States Consular Service, that stated that
the Polish Jews were 'abnormally twisted because of (a) reaction from war
strain; (b) the shock of revolutionary disorders; (c) the dullness and
stultification resulting from past years of oppression and abuse... ;
Eighty-five to ninety percent lack any conception of patriotic or national
spirit. And the majority of this percentage are unable to acquire it' (p. 9;
see also Breitman and Kraut [1987, 12] for a discussion of Carr's
anti-Semitism). Consular reports warned that 'many Bolshevik sympathizers are
in Poland' (p. 11). Similarly in the Senate, Senator McKellar cited the report
that if there were a ship large enough, 3,000,000 Poles would immigrate. He
also stated that 'the Joint Distribution Committee, an American committee
doing relief work among the Hebrews in Poland, distributes more than
$1,000,000 per month of American money in that country alone. It is also shown
that $100,000,000 a year is a conservative estimate of money sent to Poland
from America through the mails, through the banks, and through the relief
societies. This golden stream pouring into Poland from America makes
practically every Pole wildly desirous of going to the country from which such
marvelous wealth comes' (Cong. Rec., Feb. 19, 1921, p. 3456).
As a further indication of the salience of
Polish-Jewish immigration issues, the letter on alien visas submitted by the
State Department in 1921 to Albert Johnson, Chairman of the Committee on
Migration and Naturalization, devoted over four times as much space to the
situation in Poland as it did to any other country. The report emphasized the
activities of the Polish-Jewish newspaper Der Emigrant in promoting
emigration to the United States of Polish Jews, the activities of the Hebrew
Sheltering and Immigrant Society and wealthy private citizens from the United
States in facilitating immigration by providing money and performing the
paperwork. (There was indeed a large network of agents in Eastern Europe who,
in violation of United States law, 'did their best to drum up business by
enticing as many emigrants as possible' [Nadell 1984, 56].) The report also
noted the poor condition of the prospective immigrants: 'At the present time
it is only too obvious that they must be subnormal, and their normal state is
of very low standard. Six years of war and confusion and famine and pestilence
have racked their bodies and twisted their mentality. The elders have
deteriorated to a marked degree. Minors have grown into adult years with the
entire period lost in their rightful development and too frequently with the
acquisition of perverted ideas which have flooded Europe since 1914
[presumably a reference to radical political ideas that were common in this
group; see below]' (Cong. Rec., April 20, 1921, p. 498).
The report also stated that articles in the Warsaw
press had reported that 'propaganda favoring unrestricted immigration' is
being planned, including celebrations in New York aimed at showing the
contributions of immigrants to the development of the United States. The
reports for Belgium (whose emigrants originated in Poland and Czechoslovakia)
and Romania also highlighted the importance of Jews as prospective immigrants.
In response, Representative Isaac Siegel stated that the report was 'edited
and doctored by certain officials' and commented that the report did not
mention countries with larger numbers of immigrants than Poland. (For example,
there was no mention of Italy in the report.) Without explicitly saying so ('I
leave it to every man in the House to make his own deductions and his own
inferences therefrom' (Cong. Rec., April 20, 1921, p. 504), the
implication was that the focus on Poland was prompted by anti-Semitism.
The House Majority report (signed by 15 of its 17
members with only Reps. Dickstein and Sabath not signing) also emphasized the
Jewish role in defining the intellectual battle in terms of Nordic superiority
and 'American ideals' rather than in the terms of an ethnic status quo
actually favored by the committee:
The cry of discrimination is, the committee
believes, manufactured and built up by special representatives of racial
groups, aided by aliens actually living abroad. Members of the committee
have taken notice of a report in the Jewish Tribune (New York)
February 8, 1924, of a farewell dinner to Mr. Israel Zangwill which says:
Indeed, one is struck in reading the 1924
Congressional debate by the rarity with which the issue of Nordic racial
superiority is raised by those in favor of the legislation, while virtually
all of the anti-restrictionists raised this issue.10 After a
particularly colorful comment in opposition to the theory of Nordic racial
superiority, restrictionist leader Albert Johnson remarked that 'I would like
very much to say on behalf of the committee that through the strenuous times
of the hearings this committee undertook not to discuss the Nordic proposition
or racial matters' (Cong. Rec., April 8, 1924; p. 5911). Earlier,
during the hearings on the bill, Johnson remarked in response to the comments
of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise representing the AJCongress that 'I dislike to be
placed continually in the attitude of assuming that there is a race prejudice,
when the one thing I have tried to do for 11 years is to free myself from race
prejudice, if I had it at all.'11 Several restrictionists
explicitly denounced the theory of Nordic superiority, including Senators
Bruce (p. 5955) and Jones (p. 6614) and Representatives Bacon (p. 5902),
Byrnes (p. 5653), Johnson (p. 5648), McLoed (p. 5675-6), McReynolds (p. 5855),
Michener (p. 5909), Miller (p. 5883), Newton (p. 6240); Rosenbloom (p. 5851),
Vaile (p. 5922), Vincent (p. 6266), White, (p. 5898), and Wilson (p. 5671; all
references to Cong. Rec., April 1924).
Mr. Zangwill spoke chiefly on the immigration
question, declaring that if Jews persisted in a strenuous opposition to
the restricted immigration there would be no restriction. 'If you create
enough fuss against this Nordic nonsense,' he said, 'you will defeat this
legislation. You must make a fight against this bill; tell them they are
destroying American ideals. Most fortifications are of cardboard, and if
you press against them, they give way.'
The Committee does not feel that the restriction
aimed to be accomplished in this bill is directed at the Jews, for they can
come within the quotas from any country in which they were born. The
Committee has not dwelt on the desirability of a 'Nordic' or any other
particular type of immigrant, but has held steadfastly to the purpose of
securing a heavy restriction, with the quota so divided that the countries
from which the most came in the two decades ahead of the World War might be
slowed down in order that the United States might restore its population
balance. The continued charge that the Committee has built up a 'Nordic'
race and devoted its hearing to that end is part of a deliberately
manufactured assault for as a matter of fact the committee has done nothing
of the kind (House Rep. 350, 1924, p. 16).
It is noteworthy that there are indications in the
Congressional debate that representatives from the far West were concerned
about the competence and competitive threat presented by Japanese immigrants,
and their rhetoric suggested they viewed the Japanese as racially equal or
superior, not inferior. For example, Senator Jones stated that 'we admit that
[the Japanese] are as able as we are, that they are as progressive as we are,
that they are as honest as we are, that they are as brainy as we are, and that
they are equal in all that goes to make a great people and nation' (Cong.
Rec., April 18, 1924, p. 6614); Representative MacLafferty emphasized
Japanese domination of certain agricultural markets (Cong. Rec. April
5, 1924, p. 5681), and Representative Lea noted their ability to supplant
'their American competitor' (Cong. Rec. April 5, 1924, p. 5697).
Representative Miller described the Japanese as 'a relentless and
unconquerable competitor of our people wherever he places himself' (Cong.
Rec. April 8, 1924, p. 5884); See also comments of Representatives Gilbert
(Cong. Rec. April 12, 1924, p. 6261) Raker (Cong. Rec. April 8,
1924, p. 5892} and Free (Cong. Rec. April 8, 1924, p. 5924ff).
Moreover, while the issue of Jewish/gentile
resource competition was not raised during the Congressional debates, quotas
on Jewish admissions to Ivy League universities were a highly salient issue
among Jews during this period. The quota issue was highly publicized in the
Jewish media and the focus of activities of Jewish self-defense organizations
such as the ADL (see, e.g., the ADL statement published in The American
Hebrew, Sept. 29, 1922, p. 536). Jewish/gentile resource competition may
therefore have been on the minds of some legislators. Indeed, President A.
Lawrence Lowell of Harvard was the national vice-president of the Immigration
Restriction League as well as a proponent of quotas on Jewish admission to
Harvard (Symott 1986, 238), suggesting that resource competition with an
intellectually superior Jewish group was an issue for at least some prominent
It is probable that anti-Jewish animosity related
to resource competition issues were widespread. Higham (1984, 141) writes of
'the urgent pressure which the Jews, as an exceptionally ambitious immigrant
people, put upon some of the more crowded rungs of the social ladder' (Higham
1984, 141). Beginning in the nineteenth century there were fairly high levels
of covert and overt anti-Semitism in patrician circles resulting from the very
rapid upward mobility of Jews and their competitive drive. In the period prior
to World War I, the reaction of the gentile power structure was to construct
social registers and emphasize genealogy as mechanisms of exclusion''criteria
that could not be met my money alone' (Higham 1984, 104ff, 127). During this
period Edward A. Ross (1914, 164) described gentile resentment for 'being
obliged to engage in a humiliating and undignified scramble in order to keep
his trade or his clients against the Jewish invader''suggesting a rather
broad-based concern with Jewish economic competition. Attempts at exclusion in
a wide range of areas were increased in the 1920s and reached their peak
during the difficult economic situation of the Great Depression (Higham 1984,
However, in the 1924 debates the only
Congressional comments suggesting a concern with Jewish/gentile resource
competition (as well as a concern that the interests of Jewish intellectuals
are not the same as their gentile counterparts) that I have been able to find
are the following from Representative Wefald:
I for one am not afraid of the radical ideas that
some might bring with them. Ideas you cannot keep out anyway, but the
leadership of our intellectual life in many of its phases has come into the
hands of these clever newcomers who have no sympathy with our old-time
American ideals nor with those of northern Europe, who detect our weaknesses
and pander to them and get wealthy through the disservices they render us.
The immigration debate also occurred amid discussion
in the Jewish media of Thorsten Veblen's famous essay 'The Intellectual
Pre-eminence of Jews in Modern Europe' (serialized in The American Hebrew
beginning September 10, 1920). In an editorial of July 13, 1923 (p. 177),
The American Hebrew noted that Jews were disproportionately represented
among the gifted in Louis Terman's study of gifted children and commented that
'this fact must give rise to bitter, though futile, reflection among the
so-called Nordics.' The editorial also noted that Jews were overrepresented
among scholarship winners in competitions sponsored by the state of New York.
The editorial pointedly noted that 'perhaps the Nordics are too proud to try
for these honors. In any event the list of names just announced by the State
Department of Education at Albany as winners of these coveted scholarships is
not in the least Nordic; it reads like a confirmation roster at a Temple.'
There is indeed evidence that Jews, like East Asians, have higher IQ's than
Caucasians (Lynn, 1987; MacDonald, 1994; Rushton, 1995).
Our whole system of amusements has been taken over by men who came here
on the crest of the south and east European immigration. They produce our
horrible film stories, they compose and dish out to us our jazz music, they
write many of the books we read, and edit our magazines and newspapers (Cong.
Rec., April 12, 1924, p. 6272).
The most common argument made by those favoring
the legislation, and the one reflected in the majority report, is the argument
that in the interests of fairness to all ethnic groups, the quotas should
reflect the relative ethnic composition of the entire country. Restrictionists
noted that the census of 1890 was chosen because the percentages of the
foreign born of different ethnic groups in that year approximated the general
ethnic composition of the entire country in 1920. Senator Reed of Pennsylvania
and Representative Rogers of Massachusetts proposed to achieve the same result
by directly basing the quotas on the national origins of all people in the
country as of the 1920 census, and this was eventually incorporated into the
law. Representative Rogers argued that 'Gentlemen, you can not dissent from
this principle because it is fair. It does not discriminate for anybody and it
does not discriminate against anybody' (Cong. Rec. April 8, 1924; p.
5847). Senator Reed noted, 'The purpose, I think, of most of us in changing
the quota basis is to cease from discriminating against the native born here
and against the group of our citizens who come from northern and western
Europe. I think the present system discriminates in favor of southeastern
Europe (Cong. Rec., April. 16, 1924; p. 6457) (i.e., because 46% of the
quotas under the 1921 went to Eastern and Southern Europe when they
constituted less than 12% of the population).
As an example illustrating the fundamental
argument asserting a legitimate ethnic interest in maintaining an ethnic
status quo without claiming racial superiority, consider the following
statement from Representative William N. Vaile of Colorado, one of the most
Let me emphasize here that the restrictionists of
Congress do not claim that the 'Nordic' race, or even the Anglo-Saxon race,
is the best race in the world. Let us concede, in all fairness that the
Czech is a more sturdy laborer, with a very low percentage of crime and
insanity, that the Jew is the best businessman in the world, and that the
Italian has a spiritual grasp and an artistic sense which have greatly
enriched the world and which have, indeed, enriched us, a spiritual
exaltation and an artistic creative sense which the Nordic rarely attains.
Nordics need not be vain about their own qualifications. It well behooves
them to be humble. What we do claim is that the northern European, and
particularly Anglo-Saxons made this country. Oh, yes; the others helped. But
that is the full statement of the case. They came to this country because it
was already made as an Anglo-Saxon commonwealth. They added to it, they
often enriched, but they did not make it, and they have not yet greatly
changed it. We are determined that they shall not. It is a good country. It
suits us. And what we assert is that we are not going to surrender it to
somebody else or allow other people, no matter what their merits, to make it
something different. If there is any changing to be done, we will do it
ourselves (Cong. Rec. April 8, 1924; p. 5922).
The debate in the House also illustrated the highly
salient role of Jewish legislators in combating restrictionism. Representative
Robison singled out Representative Sabath as the leader of anti-restrictionist
efforts, and, without mentioning any other opponent of restriction, he also
focused on Reps. Jacobstein, Celler, and Perlman as being opposed to any
restrictions on immigration (Cong. Rec. April 5, 1924, p. 5666).
Representative Blanton, complaining of the difficulty of getting
restrictionist legislation through Congress, noted 'When at least 65 per cent
of the sentiment of this House, in my judgment, is in favor of the exclusion
of all foreigners for five years, why do we not put that into law? Has Brother
Sabath such a tremendous influence over us that he holds us down on this
proposition?' (Cong. Rec. April 5, 1924, p. 5685). Representative
Sabath responded that 'There may be something to that.' In addition, the
following comments of Representative Leavitt clearly indicate the salience of
Jewish congressmen to their opponents during the debate:
The instinct for national and race preservation is
not one to be condemned, as has been intimated here. No one should be better
able to understand the desire of Americans to keep America American than the
gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Sabath], who is leading the attack on this
measure, or the gentlemen from New York, Mr. Dickstein, Mr. Jacobstein, Mr.
Celler, and Mr. Perlman. They are of the one great historic people who have
maintained the identity of their race throughout the centuries because they
believe sincerely that they are a chosen people, with certain ideals to
maintain, and knowing that the loss of racial identity means a change of
ideals. That fact should make it easy for them and the majority of the most
active opponents of this measure in the spoken debate to recognize and
sympathize with our viewpoint, which is not so extreme as that of their own
race, but only demands that the admixture of other peoples shall be only of
such kind and proportions and in such quantities as will not alter racial
characteristics more rapidly than there can be assimilation as to ideas of
government as well as of blood. (Cong. Rec., April 12, 1924; pp.
The view that Jews had a strong tendency to oppose
genetic assimilation with surrounding groups occurred among other observers as
well and was a component of contemporary anti-Semitism (see Singerman 1986,
pp. 110-111). Jewish avoidance of exogamy certainly had a basis in reality
(MacDonald 1994, Ch. 2-4). Indeed, it is noteworthy that there was powerful
opposition to intermarriage even among the more liberal segments of early
twentieth-century American Judaism and certainly among the less liberal
segments represented by the great majority of Orthodox immigrants from Eastern
Europe who had come to constitute the great majority of American Jewry. For
example, the prominent nineteenth-century Reform leader David Einhorn was a
lifelong opponent of mixed marriages and refused to officiate at such
ceremonies, even when pressed to do so (Meyer 1988, 247). Einhorn was also a
staunch opponent of conversion of gentiles to Judaism because of the effects
on the 'racial purity' of Judaism (Levenson 1989, 331). Similarly, the
influential Reform intellectual Kaufman Kohler was also an ardent opponent of
mixed marriage. In a view that is highly compatible with Horace Kallen's
multi-culturalism, Kohler concluded that Israel must remain separate and avoid
intermarriage until it leads mankind to an era of universal peace and
brotherhood among the races (Kohler 1918, 445-446). The negative attitude
toward intermarriage was confirmed by survey results. A 1912 survey indicated
that only seven of 100 Reform rabbis had officiated at a mixed marriage, and a
1909 resolution of the Central Council of American Rabbis declared that "mixed
marriages are contrary to the tradition of the Jewish religion and should be
discouraged by the American Rabbinate" (Meyer 1988, 290). Gentile perceptions
of Jewish attitudes on intermarriage therefore had a strong basis in reality.
The Involvement of Jewish Immigrants in Radical
Politics. The Congressional debates of 1924 reflected a highly charged
context in which Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe were widely perceived
to not only avoid intermarriage but also to retain a separatist culture and to
be disproportionately involved in radical political movements. The perception
of radicalism among Jewish immigrants was common in Jewish as well as gentile
publications. The American Hebrew editorialized that 'we must not
forget the immigrants from Russia and Austria will be coming from countries
infested with Bolshevism, and it will require more than a superficial effort
to make good citizens out of them' (in Neuringer 1971, p. 165). The fact that
Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe were viewed as 'infected with Bolshevism
... unpatriotic, alien, unassimilable' resulted in a wave of anti-Semitism in
the 1920s and contributed to the restrictive immigration legislation of the
period (Neuringer 1971, p. 165). In Sorin's (1985, 46) study of immigrant
Jewish radical activists, over half had been involved in radical politics in
Europe before emigrating, and for those immigrating after 1900, the percentage
rose to 69%. Jewish publications warned of the possibilities of anti-Semitism
resulting from the leftism of Jewish immigrants, and the official Jewish
community engaged in 'a near-desperation ... effort to portray the Jew as one
hundred per cent American' by, e.g., organizing patriotic pageants on national
holidays and by attempting to get the immigrants to learn English (Neuringer,
1971, p. 167).
Similarly, in England, the immigration of Eastern
European Jews into England after 1880 had a transformative effect on the
political attitudes of British Jewry in the direction of socialism,
trade-unionism, and Zionism, often combined with religious orthodoxy and
devotion to a highly separatist traditional lifestyle (Alderman, 1983; p.
47ff). The more established Jewish organizations fought hard to combat the
well-founded image of Jewish immigrants as Zionist, religiously orthodox
political radicals who refused to be conscripted into the armed forces during
World War I in order to fight the enemies of the officially anti-Semitic
Czarist government (Alderman, 1992, p. 237ff).
The Jewish Old Left, including the unions, the leftist press, and the
leftist fraternal orders (which were often associated with a synagogue), was a
part of the wider Jewish community, and Jewish members typically retained a
strong Jewish ethnic identity (Howe 1976; Liebman 1979; Buhle 1980). This
phenomenon occurred within the entire spectrum of leftist organizations,
including organizations such as the Communist Party and the Socialist Party
whose membership also included gentiles (Liebman, 1979, p. 267ff; Buhle 1980).
Werner Cohn (1958, p. 621) describes the general
milieu of the immigrant Jewish community in the period from 1886-1920 as 'one
big radical debating society':
By 1886 the Jewish community in New York had become
conspicuous for its support of the third-party (United Labor) candidacy of
Henry George, the theoretician of the Single Tax. From then Jewish districts
in New York and elsewhere were famous for their radical voting habits. The
Lower East Side repeatedly picked as its congressman Meyer London, the only
New York Socialist ever to be elected to Congress. And many Socialists went
to the State Assembly in Albany from Jewish districts. In the 1917 mayoralty
campaign in New York City, the Socialist and anti-war candidacy of Morris
Hillquit was supported by the most authoritative voices of the Jewish Lower
East Side: The United Hebrew Trades, the International Ladies' Garment
Workers' Union, and most importantly, the very popular Yiddish Daily
Forward. This was the period in which extreme radicals'like Alexander
Berkman and Emma Goldman'were giants in the Jewish community, and when
almost all the Jewish giants'among them Abraham Cahan, Morris Hillquit, and
the young Morris R. Cohen'were radicals. Even Samuel Gompers, when speaking
before Jewish audiences, felt it necessary to use radical phrases.
In addition, The Freiheit, which was an
unofficial organ of the Communist Party from the 1920s to the 1950s 'stood at
the center of Yiddish proletarian institutions and subculture ... [which
offered] identity, meaning, friendship, and understanding' (Liebman, 1979, pp.
349-350). The newspaper lost considerable support in the Jewish community in
1929 when it took the Communist party position in opposition to Zionism, and
by the 1950s it essentially had to choose between satisfying its Jewish soul
or its status as a Communist organ. It chose the former, and by the late 1960s
it was justifying not returning the Israeli occupied territories in opposition
to the line of the American Communist Party.
The relationship of Jews and the American
Communist Party (CPUSA) is particularly interesting because a concern with
Communist subversion under the direction of the Soviet Union was a feature of
the immigration debates of the 1920s and because a substantial proportion of
the CPUSA were foreign born.12 Beginning in the 1920s Jews whose
backgrounds derived from Eastern Europe played a very prominent and
disproportionate role in the CPUSA (Klehr, 1978, p. 37ff). Merely citing
percentages of Jewish leaders probably does not adequately indicate the extent
of Jewish influence in the CPUSA, since active efforts were made to recruit
gentiles as a sort of 'window dressing' to conceal the extent of Jewish
influence in the movement (Klehr, 1978, p. 40; Rothman & Lichter, 1982, p.
Klehr (1978, p. 40) estimates that from 1921 to
1961, Jews constituted 33.5% of the Central Committee members and the
representation of Jews was often above 40% (Klehr, 1978, p. 46). In the 1920s
a majority of the members of the Socialist Party were immigrants and that an
'overwhelming' (Glazer 1961, 38, 40) percentage of the CPUSA consisted of
recent immigrants, a substantial percentage of whom were Jews. In Philadelphia
in the 1930's, fully 72.2% of the CP members were the children of Jewish
immigrants who came to the United States in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth century (Lyons 1982, 71). As late as 1929, 90% of the members of the
Communist Party in Philadelphia were foreign born and in June of 1933 the
national organization of the CPUSA was still 70% foreign born (Lyons 1982,
72-73). Jews were the only native-born ethnic group from which the party was
able to recruit. Glazer (1969; p. 129) states that at least half of the CPUSA
membership of around 50,000 were Jews into the 1950s and that there was a very
high rate of turnover, so that perhaps 10 times that number of individuals
were involved in the Party and there were 'an equal or larger number who were
Socialists of one kind or another.' Writing of the 1920's, Buhle (1980, p. 89)
notes that 'most of those favorable to the party and the Freiheit simply did
not join'no more than a few thousand out of a following of a hundred times
There was also great concern within the Jewish
community that the overrepresentation of Jews within the CPUSA would lead to
anti-Semitism from the 1920s through the Cold War period: 'The fight against
the stereotype of Communist-Jew became a virtual obsession with Jewish leaders
and opinion makers throughout America' (Liebman 1979, p. 515), and indeed, the
association of Jews with the CPUSA was a focus of anti-Semitic literature
(e.g., Henry Ford's  International Jew; John Beaty's  The
Iron Curtain Over America). As a result, the AJCommittee engaged in intensive
efforts to change opinion within the Jewish community by showing that Jewish
interests were more compatible with advocating American democracy than Soviet
Communism (e.g., emphasizing Soviet anti-Semitism and Soviet support of
nations opposed to Israel in the period after World War II) (Cohen, 1972, p.
Jewish Anti-Restrictionist Activity, 1924-1945.
The saliency of Jewish involvement in United
States immigration policy continued after the 1924 legislation. Particularly
objectionable to Jewish groups was the national origins quota system. For
example, a writer for the Jewish Tribune stated in 1927, 'we ... regard
all measures for regulating immigration according to nationality as illogical,
unjust, and un-American' (in Neuringer, 1971, p. 205). During the 1930s the
most outspoken critic of further restrictions on immigration (motivated now
mainly by the Great Depression) was Representative Samuel Dickstein, and
Dickstein's assumption of the chairmanship of the House Immigration Committee
in 1931 marked the end of the ability of restrictionists to enact further
reductions in quotas (Divine, 1957, pp. 79-88). Jewish groups were the primary
opponents of restriction and the primary supporters of liberalized regulations
during the 1930s while their opponents emphasized the economic consequences of
immigration during a period of high unemployment (Divine, 1957, pp. 85-88).
Between 1933 and 1938, Representative Dickstein introduced a number of bills
aimed at increasing the number of refugees from Nazi Germany and supported
mainly by Jewish organizations, but the restrictionists prevailed (Divine,
1957, p. 93).
During the 1930s, concerns about the radicalism
and unassimilability of Jewish immigrants as well as the possibility of Nazi
subversion were the main factors influencing the opposition to changing the
immigration laws (Breitman & Kraut, 1987). Moreover, '(c)harges that the Jews
in America were more loyal to their tribe than to their country abounded in
the United States in the 1930s' (Breitman & Kraut, 1987, p. 87). There was a
clear perception among all parties that the public opposed any changes in
immigration policy and that the public was particularly opposed to Jewish
immigration. The 1939 hearings on the proposed legislation to admit 20,000
German refugee children therefore minimized the Jewish interest in the
legislation. The bill referred to people 'of every race and creed suffering
from conditions which compel them to seek refuge in other lands.'13
The bill did not mention that Jews would be the main beneficiaries of the
legislation, and witnesses in favor of the bill emphasized that only
approximately 60% of the children would be Jewish. The only person identifying
himself as 'a member of the Jewish race' who testified in favor of the bill
was 'one-fourth Catholic and three-quarters Jewish' with Protestant and
Catholic nieces and nephews, and from the South which was a bastion of
On the other hand, opponents of the bill
threatened to publicize the very large percentage of Jews already being
admitted under the quota system'presumably an indication of the powerful force
of a 'virulent and pervasive' anti-Semitism among the American public
(Breitman & Kraut, 1987, p. 80). Opponents noted that the immigration
permitted by the bill 'would be for the most part of the Jewish race,' and a
witness testified 'that the Jewish people will profit most by this legislation
goes without saying' (in Divine, 1957, p. 100). The restrictionists argued in
economic terms, e.g., by frequently citing President Roosevelt's statement in
his second inaugural speech 'one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad,
ill-nourished' and citing large numbers of needy children already in the
United States. However, the main restrictionist concern was that the bill was
yet another in a long history of attempts by anti-restrictionists to develop
precedents that would eventually undermine the 1924 law. For example, Francis
Kinnecutt, President of the Allied Patriotic Societies, emphasized that the
1924 law had been based on the idea of proportional representation based on
the ethnic composition of the country. The legislation would be a precedent
'for similar unscientific and favored-nation legislation in response to the
pressure of foreign nationalistic or racial groups, rather than in accordance
with the needs and desires of the American people.'15
Wilbur S. Carr and other State Department
officials were important in minimizing the entry of Jewish refugees from
Germany during the 1930s. Undersecretary of State William Phillips was an
ardent anti-Semite with considerable influence on immigration policy between
1933-1936 (Breitman & Kraut, 1987, p. 36). Throughout the period until the end
of World War II attempts to foster Jewish immigration, even in the context of
knowledge that the Nazis were persecuting Jews, were largely unsuccessful
because of an unyielding Congress and the activities of bureaucrats,
especially those in the State Department. Public discussion in periodicals
such as The Nation (Nov. 19, 1938), and The New Republic (Nov.
23, 1938) charged that the restrictionism was motivated by anti-Semitism,
while opponents of admitting large numbers of Jews argued that admission would
result in an increase in anti-Semitism. Henry Pratt Fairchild (1939, p. 344),
who was a restrictionist and was highly critical of the Jews (see Fairchild,
1947), emphasized the 'powerful current of anti-foreignism and anti-Semitism
that is running close to the surface of the American public mind, ready to
burst out into violent eruption on relatively slight provocation.' Public
opinion remained steadfast against increasing the quotas for European
refugees: a 1939 poll in Fortune (April, 1939) magazine showed that 83%
answered 'no' to the following question: 'If you were a member of Congress
would you vote yes or no on a bill to open the doors of the United States to a
larger number of European refugees than now admitted under our immigration
quotas?' Less than 9% replied 'yes' and the remainder had no opinion.
Jewish Anti-Restrictionist Activity, 1946-1952.
Although Jewish interests were defeated by the
1924 legislation, 'the discriminatory character of the Reed-Johnson Act
continued to rankle all sectors of American Jewish opinion' (Neuringer, 1971,
196). During this period, an article by Will Maslow (1950) in Congress
Weekly reiterated the belief that the restrictive immigration laws
intentionally targeted Jews: 'Only one type of law, immigration legislation
which relates to aliens outside the country, is not subject to constitutional
guarantees, and even here hostility toward Jewish immigration has had to be
disguised in an elaborate quota scheme in which eligibility was based on place
of birth rather than religion.'
The Jewish concern to alter the ethnic balance of the United States is
apparent in the debates over immigration legislation during the post World War
II era. In 1948 the AJCommittee submitted a statement to the Senate
subcommittee which simultaneously denied the importance of the material
interests of the United States as well as affirmed its commitment to
immigration of all races:
Americanism is not to be measured by conformity to
law, or zeal for education, or literacy, or any of these qualities in which
immigrants may excel the native-born. Americanism is the spirit behind the
welcome that America has traditionally extended to people of all races, all
religions, all nationalities (in Cohen 1972, p. 369).
In 1945 Representative Emanuel Celler introduced a
bill ending Chinese exclusion by establishing token quotas for Chinese, and in
1948 the AJCommittee condemned racial quotas on Asians (Divine, 1957, p. 155).
On the other hand, Jewish groups had an attitude of indifference or even
hostility toward immigration of non-Jews from Europe (including Southern
Europe) in the post-World War II era (Neuringer, 1971, pp. 356, 367-369, 383).
Thus Jewish spokesmen did not testify at all during the first set of hearings
on emergency legislation which allowed immigration of a limited number of
German, Italian, Greek, and Dutch immigrants, escapees from Communism, and a
small number of Poles, Orientals, and Arabs. When Jewish spokesmen eventually
testified (partly because a small number of the escapees from Communism were
Jews), they took the opportunity to once again focus on their condemnation of
the national origins provisions of the 1924 law.
Jewish involvement in opposing restrictions during
this period was motivated partly by attempts to establish precedents in which
the quota system was bypassed and partly by attempts to increase immigration
of Jews from Eastern Europe. The Citizen's Committee on Displaced Persons,
which advocated legislation to admit 400,000 refugees as nonquota immigrants
over a period of 4 years, was funded mainly by the AJCommittee and other
Jewish contributors (See Cong. Rec., October 15, 1949, pp. 14647-14654;
Neuringer 1971, p. ii) and maintained a staff of 65 people. Witnesses opposing
the legislation complained that the bill was an attempt to subvert the ethnic
balance of the United States established by the 1924 legislation (Divine 1957,
p. 117). In the event, the bill that was reported out of the subcommittee did
not satisfy Jewish interests because it established a cut-off date that
excluded Jews who had migrated from Eastern Europe after World War II,
including Jews fleeing Polish anti-Semitism. The Senate subcommittee 'regarded
the movement of Jews and other refugees from eastern Europe after 1945 as
falling outside the scope of the main problem and implied that this exodus was
a planned migration organized by Jewish agencies in the United States and in
Europe' (Senate Report No. 950 , pp. 15-16).
Jewish representatives led the assault on the bill
(Divine 1957, p. 127), Representative Emanuel Celler terming it as 'worse than
no bill at all. All it does is exclude ... Jews' (in Neuringer, 1971, p. 298;
see also Divine, 1957, p. 127). In reluctantly signing the bill, President
Truman noted that the 1945 cutoff date 'discriminates in callous fashion
against displaced persons of the Jewish faith' (Interpreter Releases,
25 [July 21, 1948], pp. 252-254). On the other hand, Senator Chapman Revercomb
stated that 'there is no distinction, certainly no discrimination, intended
between any persons because of their religion or their race, but there are
differences drawn among those persons who are in fact displaced persons and
have been in camp longest and have a preference' (Cong. Rec. May 26,
1948, p. 6793). In his analysis, Divine (1957, p. 143) concludes that
the expressed motive of the restrictionists, to
limit the program to those people displaced during the course of the war,
appears to be a valid explanation for these provisions. The tendency of
Jewish groups to attribute the exclusion of many of their coreligionists to
anti-Semitic bias is understandable; however, the extreme charges of
discrimination made during the 1948 presidential campaign lead one to
suspect that the northern wing of the Democratic party was using this issue
to attract votes from members of minority groups. Certainly Truman's
assertion that the 1948 law was anti-Catholic, made in the face of Catholic
denials, indicates that political expediency had a great deal to do with the
emphasis on the discrimination issue.
In the aftermath of this bill, the Citizens Committee
on Displaced Persons released a report labeling the bill as characterized by
'hate and racism' and Jewish organizations were unanimous in denouncing the
law (Divine, 1957, p. 131). After the 1948 elections resulted in a Democratic
Congress and a sympathetic President Truman, Representative Celler introduced
a bill without the 1945 cutoff date, but the bill, after passing the House,
failed in the Senate because of the opposition of Senator Pat McCarran. During
the hearings, McCarran noted that the Citizens Committee had spent over
$800,000 lobbying for a liberalized bill, with the result that 'there has been
disseminated over the length and breadth of this nation a campaign of
misrepresentation and falsehood which has misled many public-spirited and
well-meaning citizens and organizations' (Cong. Rec., April 26, 1949,
pp. 5042-5043). After defeat, the Citizen's Committee increased expenditures
to over $1,000,000 and succeeded in passing a bill, introduced by
Representative Celler, with a 1949 cutoff date that did not discriminate
against Jews but largely excluded ethnic Germans who had been expelled from
Eastern Europe. In an odd twist in the debate, restrictionists now accused the
anti-restrictionists of ethnic bias (e.g., Senator Eastland, Cong. Rec.
April 5, 1950, p. 2737; Senator McCarran, Cong. Rec. April 5, 1950, p.
At a time when there were no outbreaks of
anti-Semitism in other parts of the world creating an urgent need for Jewish
immigration and with the presence of Israel as a safe haven for Jews, Jewish
organizations still vigorously objected to the continuation of the national
origins provisions of the 1924 law in the McCarran-Walter law of 1952
(Neuringer 1971, p. 337ff). Indeed, when District Court of Appeals Judge Simon
H. Rifkind testified on behalf of a wide range of Jewish organizations against
the McCarran-Walter bill he noted emphatically that because of the
international situation and particularly the existence of Israel as a safe
haven for Jews, Jewish views on immigration legislation were not predicated on
the 'plight of our co-religionists but rather the impact which immigration and
naturalization laws have upon the temper and quality of American life here in
the United States.'16 The argument was now typically couched in
terms of 'democratic principles and the cause of international amity' (Cohen
1972, p. 368)'the implicit theory being that the principles of democracy
required ethnic diversity and the theory that the good will of other countries
depended on American willingness to accept their citizens as immigrants.
Rifkind noted that '(T)he enactment of [the McCarran-Walter bill] will gravely
impair the national effort we are putting forth. For we are engaged in a war
for the hearts and minds of men. The free nations of the world look to us for
moral and spiritual reinforcement at a time when the faith which moves men is
as important as the force they wield.'17
The McCarran-Walter law explicitly included racial
ancestry as a criterion in its provision that Orientals would be included in
the token Oriental quotas no matter where they were born. Herbert Lehman, a
senator from New York and the most prominent senatorial opponent of
immigration restriction during the 1950s (Neuringer 1971, p. 351), argued
during the debates over the McCarran-Walter bill that immigrants from Jamaica
of African descent should be included in the quota for England and stated that
the bill would cause resentment among Asians (Neuringer 1971, pp. 346, 356).
Representative Emanuel Celler and Representative Jacob Javits, the leaders of
the anti-restrictionists in the House, made similar arguments (Cong. Rec.,
April 23, 1952, pp. 4306, 4219). As was also apparent in the battles dating
back to the nineteenth century (see above), the opposition to the national
origins legislation went beyond its effects on Jewish immigration to include
advocacy of immigration into the United States of all of the racial/ethnic
groups of the world.
Reflecting a concern for maintaining the ethnic
status quo as well as the salience of Jewish issues during the period, the
hearings of the subcommittee considering the McCarran immigration law noted
that 'The population of the United States has increased three-fold since 1877,
while the Jewish population has increased twenty-one fold during the same
period' (Senate Report No. 1515 , pp. 2-4). The bill also
included a provision that naturalized citizens automatically lost citizenship
if they resided abroad continuously for 5 years. This provision was viewed by
Jewish organizations as motivated by anti-Zionist attitudes: 'Testimony by
Government officials at the hearings ... made it clear that the provision
stemmed from a desire to dissuade naturalized American Jews from subscribing
to a deeply held ideal which some officials in contravention of American
policy regarded as undesirable ....'18
Reaffirming the logic of the 1920s
restrictionists, the subcommittee report emphasized that a purpose of the 1924
law was 'the restriction of immigration from southern and eastern Europe in
order to preserve a predominance of persons of northwestern European origin in
the composition of our total population' but noted that this purpose did not
imply 'any theory of Nordic supremacy' (Senate Report, No. 1515,
, pp. 442, 445-446). The argument was sometimes phrased in terms of an
emphasis on the 'similarity of cultural background' of prospective immigrants,
but again the underlying logic was that ethnic groups already in the country
had legitimate interests in maintaining the ethnic status quo.
It is important to note that Jewish spokesmen
differed from other liberal groups in their motives for opposing restrictions
on immigration during this period. In the following I emphasize the
Congressional testimony of Judge Simon H. Rifkind who represented a very broad
range of Jewish agencies in the hearings on the McCarran-Walter bill in 1951.19
1.) Immigration should come from all racial/ethnic
We conceive of Americanism as the spirit behind the
welcome that America has traditionally extended to people of different
races, all religions, all nationalities. Americanism is a tolerant way of
life that was devised by men who differed from one another vastly in
religion, race background, education, and lineage, and who agreed to forget
all these things and ask of a new neighbor not where he comes from but only
what he can do and what is his spirit toward his fellow men (p. 566).
2.) The total number of immigrants should be
maximized within very broad economic and political constraints:
regulation [of immigration] is the regulation of an asset, not of a liability'
(p. 567). Rifkind emphasized several times that unused quotas had the effect
of restricting total numbers of immigrants, and he viewed this very negatively
(e.g., p. 569).
3.) Immigrants should not be viewed as economic
assets and imported only to serve the present needs of the United States:
Looking at [selective immigration] from the point
of view of the United States, never from the point of view of the immigrant,
I say that we should, to some extent, allow for our temporary needs, but not
to make our immigration problem an employment instrumentality. I do not
think that we are buying economic commodities when we allow immigrants to
come in. We are admitting human beings who will found families and raise
children, whose children may reach the heights-'t least so we hope and pray.
For a small segment of the immigrant stream I think we are entitled to say,
if we happen to be short of a particular talent, 'Let us go out and look for
them,' if necessary, but let us not make that the all-pervading thought. (p.
The opposition to needed skills as the basis of
immigration was consistent with the prolonged Jewish attempt to delay the
passage of a literacy test as a criterion for immigration beginning in the
late nineteenth century until a literacy test was finally passed in 1917.
While Rifkind's testimony was free of the
accusation that present immigration policy was based on the theory of Nordic
superiority, Nordic superiority continued to be a prominent theme of other
Jewish groups advocating immigration from all ethnic groups, particularly the
AJCongress. The statement of the AJCongress at these hearings focused a great
deal of attention on the importance of the theory of Nordic supremacy as
motivating the 1924 legislation, but also noted the previous history of ethnic
discrimination that existed long before these theories were developed,
including the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the gentlemen's agreement with
Japan of 1907 which limited immigration of Japanese workers, and the exclusion
of other Asians in 1917. The statement noted that the 1924 legislation had
succeeded in its aim of preserving the ethnic balance of the U.S. as of the
1920 census. However, it noted that 'the objective is valueless. There is
nothing sacrosanct about the composition of the population in 1920. It would
be foolish to believe that we reached the peak of ethnic perfection in that
year.'20 Moreover, in an explicit statement of Horace Kallen's
multicultural ideal, the AJCongress statement advocated 'the thesis of
cultural democracy which would guarantee to all groups 'majority and minority
alike ... the right to be different and the responsibility to make sure that
their differences do not conflict with the welfare of the American people as a
During this period, the Congress Weekly,
the journal of the AJCongress, regularly denounced the national origins
provisions as based on the 'myth of the existence of superior and inferior
racial stocks' (Oct. 17, 1955; p. 3) and advocated immigration on the basis of
'need and other criteria unrelated to race or national origin' (May 4, 1953,
p. 3). Particularly objectionable from the perspective of the AJCongress was
the implication that there should be no change in the ethnic status quo
prescribed by the 1924 legislation (e.g., Goldstein, 1952a, p. 6). The
national origins formula 'is outrageous now ... when our national experience
has confirmed beyond a doubt that our very strength lies in the diversity of
our peoples' (Goldstein, 1952b, p. 5).
As indicated above, there is some evidence that
the 1924 legislation and the restrictionism of the 1930s was motivated partly
by anti-Semitic attitudes. Anti-Semitism and its linkage with anti-Communism
was also apparent in the immigration arguments during the 1950s preceding and
following the passage of the McCarran-Walter act. Restrictionists often
pointed to evidence that over 90% of American Communists had backgrounds
linking them to Eastern Europe and a major thrust of their efforts was to
prevent immigration from this area and to ease deportation procedures to
prevent Communist subversion. Since Eastern Europe was also the origin of most
Jewish immigration and because Jews were disproportionately represented among
American Communists, these issues became linked and the situation lent itself
to broad anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the role of Jews in American
politics (e.g., Beaty, 1951). In Congress, the notorious anti-Semite
Representative John Rankin, without making explicit reference to Jews, stated
They whine about discrimination. Do you know who is
being discriminated against? The white Christian people of America, the ones
who created this nation.... I am talking about the white Christian people of
the North as well as the South....
Reinforcing these links, the position of mainstream
Jewish organizations such as the AJCommittee, which opposed communism, often
coincided with the position of the CPUSA on issues of immigration. For
example, both the AJCommittee and the CPUSA condemned the McCarran-Walter act
while, on the other hand, the AJCommittee had a major role in influencing the
recommendations of President Truman's Commission on Immigration and
Naturalization (PCIN) for relaxing the security provisions of the
McCarran-Walter act, and these recommendations were warmly greeted by the
CPUSA at a time when a prime goal of the security provisions was to exclude
communists (Bennett, 1963, p. 166). Jews were disproportionately represented
on the PCIN as well as in the organizations viewed by Congress as Communist
front organizations involved in immigration issues, and this was undoubtedly
highly salient to anti-Semites. The Chairman of the PCIN was Philip B. Perlman
and the staff of the commission contained a high percentage of Jews, headed by
Harry N. Rosenfield (Executive Director) and Elliot Shirk (Assistant to the
Executive Director), and its report was wholeheartedly endorsed by the
AJCongress (see Congress Weekly, Jan. 12, 1952, p. 3). The proceedings
were printed as the report Whom We Shall Welcome with the cooperation
of Representative Emanuel Celler.
Communism is racial. A racial minority seized control in Russia and in
all her satellite countries, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, and many other
countries I could name.
They have been run out of practically every country in Europe in the
years gone by, and if they keep stirring race trouble in this country and
trying to force their communistic program on the Christian people of
America, there is no telling what will happen to them here' (Cong. Rec.,
April 23, 1952, p. 4320).
In Congress, Senator McCarran accused the PCIN of
containing communist sympathizers, and the House Un-American Activities
Committee (HUAC) released a report stating that 'some two dozen Communists and
many times that number with records of repeated affiliation with known
Communist enterprises testified before the Commission or submitted statements
for inclusion in the record of the hearings.... Nowhere in either the record
of the hearings or in the report is there a single reference to the true
background of these persons' (House Report No. 1182, 85th Congress, 1st
Session, p. 47). The report referred particularly to Communists associated
with the American Committee for the Protection of Foreign Born (ACPFB) headed
by Abner Green. Green, who was Jewish, figured very prominently in these
hearings, and Jews were generally disproportionately represented among those
singled out as officers and sponsors of the ACPFB (pp. 13-21). HUAC provided
evidence that ACPFB had close ties with the CPUSA and noted that 24 of the
individuals associated with the ACPFB had signed statements incorporated into
the printed record of the PCIN.
The AJCommittee was also heavily involved in the
deliberations of the PCIN, including providing testimony and distributing data
and other material to individuals and organizations testifying before the PCIN
(Cohen, 1972, p. 371). All of its recommendations were incorporated into the
final report (Cohen, 1972, p. 371) (including a de-emphasis on economic skills
as criteria for immigration, scrapping the national origins legislation, and
opening immigration to all the peoples of the world on a 'first come, first
served basis'), the only exception being that the report recommended a lower
total number of immigrants than recommended by the AJCommittee and other
Jewish groups. The AJCommittee thus went beyond merely advocating the
principle of immigration from all racial/ethnic groups (token quotas for
Asians and Africans had already been included in the McCarran-Walter act) to
attempt to maximize the total number of immigrants from all parts of the world
within the current political climate.
Indeed, the Commission (PCIN, 1953, p. 106)
pointedly noted that the 1924 legislation had succeeded in maintaining the
racial status quo and that the main barrier to changing the racial status quo
was not the national origins system (because there were already high levels of
non-quota immigrants and because the countries of Northern and Western Europe
did not fill their quotas) but the total number of immigrants allowed into the
United States. The Commission thus viewed changing the racial status quo of
the United States as a desirable goal, and to that end made a major point of
the desirability of increasing the total amount of immigration (PCIN, 1953, p.
42). As Bennett (1963, p. 164) notes, in the eyes of the PCIN, the 1924
legislation reducing the total number of immigrants 'was a very bad thing
because of its finding that one race is just as good as another for American
citizenship or any other purpose.'
Correspondingly, the defenders of the 1952
legislation conceptualized the issue as fundamentally one of ethnic warfare.
Senator McCarran stated that subverting the national origins system 'would, in
the course of a generation or so, tend to change the ethnic and cultural
composition of this nation' (in Bennett, 1963, p. 185), and Richard Arens, a
Congressional staff member who had a prominent role in the hearings on the
McCarran-Walter bill as well as in the activities of the HUAC, stated that
'these are the critics who do not like America as it is and has been. They
think our people exist in unfair ethnic proportions. They prefer that we bear
a greater resemblance or ethnic relationship to the foreign peoples whom they
favor and for whom they are seeking disproportionately greater immigration
privileges' (in Bennett, 1963, 186). As Divine (1957, p. 188) notes, ethnic
interests predominated on both sides; the charges of racism made against the
restrictionists who were advocating the ethnic status quo were balanced
against the attempts by anti-restrictionists to alter the ethnic status quo in
a manner that conformed to their own perceived ethnic interests.
The salience of Jewish involvement in immigration
during this period is also apparent in several other incidents. In 1950 the
representative of the AJCongress testified that the retention of national
origins in any form would be 'a political and moral catastrophe' ('Revision of
Immigration Laws' Joint Hearings, 1950, pp. 336-337). The national
origins formula implies that 'persons in quest of the opportunity to live in
this land are to be judged according to breed like cattle at a country fair
and not on the basis of their character fitness or capacity' (Congress
Weekly 21, 1952, pp. 3-4). Divine (1957, p. 173) characterizes the
AJCongress as representing 'the more militant wing' of the opposition because
of its principled opposition to any form of the national origins formula,
whereas other opponents merely wanted to be able to distribute unused quotas
to Southern and Eastern Europe.
Representative Francis Walter noted the
'propaganda drive that is being engaged in now by certain members of the
American Jewish Congress opposed to the Immigration and Nationality Code' (Cong.
Rec. Mar, 13, 1952, p. 2283), noting particularly the activities of Dr.
Israel Goldstein, president of the AJCongress, who had been reported in the
New York Times as having stated that the Immigration and Nationality law
would place 'a legislative seal of inferiority on all persons of other than
Anglo-Saxon origin.' Representative Walter then noted the special role that
Jewish organizations had played in attempting to foster family reunion rather
than special skills as the basis of United States immigration policy. After
Representative Jacob Javits stated that opposition to the law was 'not
confined to the one group the gentleman mentioned' (Congressional Record,
March 13, 1952, p. 2284), Walter responded as follows:
I might call your attention to the fact that Mr.
Harry N. Rosenfield, Commissioner of the Displaced Persons Commission and
incidentally a brother-in-law of a lawyer who is stirring up all this
agitation, in a speech recently said:
Representative Walter then went on to note that
during the hearings on the bill, the only two organizations that were hostile
to the entire bill were the AJCongress and the Association of Immigration and
Nationality Lawyers, the latter 'represented by an attorney who is also
advising and counseling the American Jewish Congress.' (Indeed, Goldstein
[1952b] himself noted that 'at the time of the Joint House-Senate hearings on
the McCarran bill, the American Jewish Congress was the only civic group which
dared flatly to oppose the national origins quota formula.')
The proposed legislation is America's Nuremberg trial. It is 'racious'
and archaic, based on a theory that people with different styles of noses
should be treated differently.
Representative Emanuel Celler then stated that
Walter 'should not have overemphasized as he did the people of one particular
faith who are opposing the bill' (p. 2285). Representative Walter agreed with
Celler's comments, noting that 'there are other very fine Jewish groups who
endorse the bill.' Nevertheless, the principle Jewish organizations, including
the AJCongress, the AJCommittee, the ADL, the National Council of Jewish
Women, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, did indeed oppose the bill (Cong.
Rec., April 23, 1952, p. 4247), and when Judge Simon Rifkind testified
against the bill in the Joint Hearings, he emphasized that he represented a
very wide range of Jewish groups, 'the entire body of religious opinion and
lay opinion within the Jewish group, religiously speaking, from the extreme
right and extreme left' (p. 563).22 Rifkind represented a long list
of national and local Jewish groups, including in addition to the above, the
Synagogue Council of America, the Jewish Labor Committee, the Jewish War
Veterans of the United States, and 27 local Jewish councils throughout the
United States. Moreover, the fight against the bill was led by Jewish members
of Congress, including especially Celler, Javits, and Lehman, all of whom, as
indicated above, were prominent members of the ADL.
Albeit by indirection, Representative Walter was
clearly calling attention to the special Jewish role in the immigration
conflict of 1952. The special role of the AJCongress in opposing the
McCarran-Walter act was a source of pride within the group: on the verge of
victory in 1965, the Congress bi-Weekly editorialized that it was 'a
cause of pride' that Rabbi Israel Goldstein had been 'singled out by Rep.
Walter for attack on the floor of the House of Representatives as the prime
organizer of the campaign against the measures he co-sponsored' (Feb. 1, 1965;
The perception that Jewish concerns were an
important feature of the opposition to the McCarran-Walter act can also be
seen in the following exchange between Representative Celler and
Representative Walter. Celler noted that 'The national origin theory upon
which our immigration law is based ... [mocks] our protestations based on a
question of equality of opportunity for all peoples, regardless of race,
color, or creed.' Representative Walter replied that 'a great menace to
America lies in the fact that so many professionals, including professional
Jews, are shedding crocodile tears for no reason whatsoever' (Cong. Rec.
Jan. 13, 1953, p. 372). And in a comment referring to the peculiarities of
Jewish interests in immigration legislation, Richard Arens, Staff Director of
the Senate subcommittee that produced the McCarran-Walter act, pointedly noted
that 'one of the curious things about those who most loudly claim that the
1952 act is 'discriminatory' and that it does not make allowance for a
sufficient number of alleged refugees, is that they oppose admission of any of
the approximately one million Arab refugees in camps where they are living in
pitiful circumstances after having been driven out of Israel' (in Bennett,
1963, p. 181).
The McCarran-Walter Act was passed over President
Truman's veto, and Truman's 'alleged partisanship to Jews was a favorite
target of anti-Semites' (Cohen, 1972, p. 377). Prior to the veto, Truman was
intensively lobbied, 'particularly [by] Jewish societies' opposed to the bill,
while government agencies, including the State Department urged Truman to sign
the bill (Divine, 1957, p. 184). Moreover, individuals with openly
anti-Semitic attitudes, such as John Beaty (1951), often focused on Jewish
involvement in the immigration battles during this period.
Jewish Anti-Restrictionist Activity, 1953-1965.
During this period, the Congress Weekly
regularly noted the role of Jewish organizations as the vanguard of
liberalized immigration laws: For example, in its editorial of Feb. 20, 1956
(p. 3), it congratulated President Eisenhower for his 'unequivocal opposition
to the quota system which, more than any other feature of our immigration
policy, has excited the most widespread and most intense aversion among
Americans. In advancing this proposal for 'new guidelines and standards' in
determining admissions, President Eisenhower has courageously taken a stand in
advance of even many advocates of a liberal immigration policy and embraced a
position which had at first been urged by the American Jewish Congress and
other Jewish agencies.'
The AJCommittee made a major effort to keep the
immigration issue alive during a period of widespread apathy among the
American public between the passage of the McCarran-Walter act and the early
1960s. Jewish organizations intensified their effort during this period
(Cohen, 1972, pp. 370-373; Neuringer, 1971, p. 358), with the AJCommittee
helping to establish the Joint Conference on Alien Legislation and the
American Immigration Conference (organizations representing pro-immigration
forces) as well as providing most of the funding and performing most of the
work of these groups. In 1955 the AJCommittee organized a group of influential
citizens as the National Commission on Immigration and Citizenship 'in order
to give prestige to the campaign' (Cohen, 1972, p. 373). 'All these groups
studied immigration laws, disseminated information to the public, presented
testimony to Congress, and planned other appropriate activities.... There were
no immediate or dramatic results; but AJC's dogged campaign in conjunction
with like-minded organizations ultimately prodded the Kennedy and Johnson
administrations to action' (Cohen, 1972, p. 373).
An article by Oscar Handlin (1952), the prominent
Harvard historian of immigration, is a fascinating microcosm of the Jewish
approach to immigration during this period. Writing in Commentary (a
publication of the AJCommittee) almost 30 years after the 1924 defeat and in
the immediate aftermath of the McCarran-Walter act, Handlin entitled his
article 'The immigration fight has only begun: Lessons of the McCarran-Walter
setback.' The title is a remarkable indication of the tenacity and persistence
of Jewish commitment to this issue. The message is to not be discouraged by
the recent defeat which occurred despite 'all the effort toward securing the
revision of our immigration laws' (p. 2).
Handlin attempts to cast the argument in
universalist terms as benefiting all Americans and as conforming to American
ideals that 'all men, being brothers, are equally capable of being Americans'
(p.7). Current immigration law reflects 'racist xenophobia' (p. 2) by its
token quotas for Asians and its deprivation of the right of West Indian Blacks
to take advantage of British quotas. Handlin ascribes the restrictionist
sentiments of Pat McCarran to 'the hatred of foreigners that was all about him
in his youth and by the dim, recalled fear that he himself might be counted
among them' (p. 3)'a sort of psychoanalytic identification-with-the-aggressor
argument (McCarran was Catholic).
In his article Handlin repeatedly uses the term
'we' (as in 'if we cannot beat McCarran and his cohorts with their own
weapons, we can do much to destroy the efficacy of those weapons (p. 4),'
suggesting Handlin's belief in a unified Jewish interest in liberal
immigration policy and presaging a prolonged 'chipping away' of the 1952
legislation in the ensuing years. Handlin's anti-restrictionist strategy
included altering the views of social scientists to the effect 'that it was
possible and necessary to distinguish among the 'races' of immigrants that
clamored for admission to the United States' (p. 4). Handlin's proposal to
recruit social scientists in the immigration battles is congruent with the
political agenda of the Boasian school of anthropology discussed above. And as
Higham (1984) notes, the ascendancy of such views was as an important
component of the ultimate victory over restrictionism.
In an arguably tendentious rendering of the logic of preserving the ethnic
status quo that underlay the arguments for restriction in the period from
1921-1952, Handlin stated:
The laws are bad because they rest on the racist
assumption that mankind is divided into fixed breeds, biologically and
culturally separated from each other, and because, within that framework,
they assume that Americans are Anglo-Saxons by origin and ought to remain
so. To all other peoples, the laws say that the United States ranks them in
terms of their racial proximity to our own 'superior' stock; and upon the
many, many millions of Americans not descended from the Anglo-Saxons, the
laws cast a distinct imputation of inferiority (p. 5).
Handlin then deplored the apathy of other 'hyphenated
Americans' to share the enthusiasm of the Jewish effort: 'Many groups failed
to see the relevance of the McCarran-Walter Bill to their own position;' he
suggested that they ought to act as groups to assert their rightful interests:
'The Italian American has the right to be heard on these issues precisely
as an Italian American' (p. 7; italics in text). The implicit assumption
is that America ought to be composed of cohesive subgroups with a clear sense
of their group interests in opposition to the peoples deriving from Northern
and Western Europe or of the United States as a whole. And there is the
implication that Italian-Americans have an interest in furthering immigration
of Africans and Asians and in creating such a multiracial and multicultural
Shortly after Handlin's article, William Petersen
(1955), also writing in Commentary, argued that pro-immigration forces
should be explicit in their advocacy of a multicultural society, and that the
importance of this goal transcended the importance of achieving any
self-interested goal of the United States, such as obtaining needed skills or
improving foreign relations. In making his case he cited a group of
predominantly Jewish social scientists whose works, beginning with Horace
Kallen's plea for a multicultural, pluralistic society, 'constitute the
beginning of a scholarly legitimization of the different immigration policy
that will perhaps one day become law' (p. 86), including, besides Kallen,
Melville Herskovits, Geoffrey Gorer, Samuel Lubell, David Riesman, Thorsten
Sellin, and Milton Konvitz.
These social scientists did indeed contribute to
the immigration battles. For example, the following quotation from a scholarly
book on immigration policy by Milton Konvitz of Cornell University reflects
the rejection of national interest as an element of United States immigration
policy'a hallmark of the Jewish approach to immigration:
To place so much emphasis on technological and
vocational qualifications is to remove every vestige of humanitarianism from
our immigration policy. We deserve small thanks from those who come here if
they are admitted because we find that they are 'urgently' needed, by reason
of their training and experience, to advance our national interests. This is
hardly immigration; it is the importation of special skills or know-how, not
greatly different from the importation of coffee or rubber. It is hardly in
the spirit of American ideals to disregard a man's character and promise and
to look only at his education and the vocational opportunities he had the
good fortune to enjoy (Konvitz, 1953, p. 26).
Handlin wrote that the McCarran-Walter law was only a
temporary setback and he was right. Thirty years after the triumph of
restrictionism, only Jewish groups remained as persistent and tenacious
advocates of a multicultural America. Forty-one years after the 1924 triumph
of restrictionism and the national origins provision and only 13 years after
its reaffirmation with the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952, Jewish organizations
successfully supported ending the geographically based national origins basis
of immigration intended to result in an ethnic status quo in what was now a
radically altered intellectual and political climate.
Particularly important is the provision in the
Immigration Act of 1965 that expanded the number of non-quota immigrants.
Beginning in their testimony on the 1924 law, Jewish spokesmen had been in the
forefront in attempts to admit family members on a nonquota basis (Neuringer,
1971, p. 191). During the House debates on immigration surrounding the
McCarran-Walter Act, Representative Walter (Cong. Rec., p. 2284, March
13, 1952) noted the special focus that Jewish organizations had on family
reunion rather than on special skills. Responding to Representative Javits who
had complained that under the bill 50% of the quota for 'Negroes' from the
British West Indies colonies would be reserved for people with special skills,
Walter noted that 'I would like to call the gentleman's attention to the fact
that this is the principle of using 50 percent of the quota for people needed
in the United States. But, if that entire 50 percent is not used in that
category, then the unused numbers go down to the next category which replies
to the objections that these Jewish organizations make much of, that families
are being separated.'
Prior to the 1965 law, Bennett (1963, p. 244),
commenting on the family unification aspects of the 1961 immigration
legislation, noted that the 'relationship by blood or marriage and the
principle of uniting families have become the 'open Sesame' to the immigration
gates.' Moreover, despite repeated denials by the anti-restrictionists that
their proposals would affect the ethnic balance of the country, Bennett (1963,
p. 256) commented that the 'repeated, persistent extension of nonquota status
to immigrants from countries with oversubscribed quotas and flatly
discriminated against by [the McCarran-Walter act] together with
administrative waivers of inadmissibility, adjustment of status and private
bills, is helping to speed and make apparently inevitable a change in the
ethnic face of the nation' (p. 257)'a reference to the 'chipping away' of the
1952 law recommended as a strategy in Handlin's article. Indeed, a major
argument apparent in the debate over the 1965 legislation was that the 1952
law had been so weakened that it had largely become irrelevant and there was a
need to overhaul immigration legislation to legitimize a de facto
Bennett also noted that '(t)he stress on the
immigration issue arises from insistence of those who regard quotas as
ceilings, not floors [opponents of restriction often referred to unused quotas
as 'wasted'], who want to remake America in the image of small-quota countries
and who do not like our basic ideology, cultural attitudes and heritage. They
insist that it is the duty of the United States to accept immigrants
irrespective of their assimilability or our own population problems. They
insist on remaining hyphenated Americans' (1963, p. 295).
The family-based emphasis of the quota regulations
of the 1965 law (e.g., the provision that at least 24% of the quota for each
area be set aside for brothers and sisters of citizens) has resulted in a
multiplier effect which ultimately subverted the quota system entirely by
allowing for a 'chaining' phenomenon in which endless chains of the close
relatives of close relatives are admitted outside the quota system:
Imagine one immigrant, say an engineering student,
who was studying in the U. S. during the 1960's. If he found a job after
graduation, he could then bring over his wife [as the spouse of a resident
alien], and six years later, after being naturalized, his bothers and
sisters [as siblings of a citizen]. They, in turn, could bring their wives,
husbands, and children. Within a dozen years, one immigrant entering as a
skilled worker could easily generate 25 visas for in-laws, nieces, and
nephews (McConnell 1988, p. 98).
The 1965 law also de-emphasized the criterion that
immigrants should have needed skills. (In 1986, less than 4% of immigrants
were admitted on the basis of needed skills, while 74% were admitted on the
basis of kinship [see Brimelow, 1995].) As indicated above, the rejection of a
skill requirement or other tests of competence in favor of 'humanitarian
goals' and family unification had been an element of Jewish immigration policy
at least since debate on the McCarran-Walter act of the early 1950s and
extending really to the long opposition to literacy tests dating from the end
of the nineteenth century.
Senator Jacob Javits played a prominent role in
the Senate hearings on the 1965 bill, and Emanuel Celler, who fought for
unrestricted immigration for over 40 years in the House of Representatives,
introduced similar legislation in that body. Jewish organizations (American
Council for Judaism Philanthropic Fund; Council of Jewish Federations &
Welfare Funds; B'nai B'rith Women) filed briefs in support of the measure
before the Senate Subcommittee, as did organizations such as the ACLU and the
Americans for Democratic Action with a large Jewish membership.
Indeed, it is noteworthy that well before the
ultimate triumph of the Jewish policy on immigration, Javits (1951) authored
an article entitled 'Let's open the gates' that proposed immigration level of
500,000 per year for 20 years with no restrictions on national origin. In 1961
Javits proposed a bill that 'sought to destroy the [national origins quota
system] by a flank attack and to increase quota and nonquota immigration'
(Bennett, 1963, p. 250). In addition to provisions aimed at removing barriers
due to race, ethnic and national origins, included in this bill was a
provision that brothers, sisters, and married sons or daughters of United
States citizens and their spouses and children who had become eligible under
the quota system in legislation of 1957 be included as nonquota immigrants'an
even more radical version of the provision whose incorporation in the 1965 law
facilitated non-European immigration into the United States. Although this
provision of Javit's bill was not approved at the time, the bill's proposals
for softening previous restrictions on Asian and Black immigration as well as
removing racial classification from visa documents (thus allowing unlimited
nonquota immigration of Asians born in the Western Hemisphere) were approved.
It is also interesting that the main victory of
the restrictionists in 1965 was that Western Hemisphere nations were included
in the new quota system thus ending the possibility of unrestricted
immigration from those regions. In speeches before the Senate, Senator Javits
(Cong. Rec. 111, 1965, p. 24469) bitterly opposed this extension of the
quota system, arguing that placing any limits on immigration of all of the
people of the Western Hemisphere would have severely negative implications on
United States foreign policy. In a highly revealing discussion of the bill
before the Senate, Senator Sam Ervin (Cong. Rec. 89th Congress, 1st
session, pp. 24446-51, 1965) noted that 'those who disagree with me express no
shock that Britain, in the future, can send us 10,000 fewer immigrants than
she has sent on an annual average in the past. They are only shocked that
British Guyana cannot send us every single citizen of that country who wishes
to come.' Clearly the forces of liberal immigration really wanted unlimited
immigration into the United States.
The pro-immigrationists also failed to prevent a
requirement that the Secretary of Labor determine that there are insufficient
Americans able and willing to perform the labor which the aliens intend to
perform, and that the employment of such aliens will not adversely affect the
wages and working conditions of American workers. Writing in the American
Jewish Year Book, Liskofsky (1966, 174) notes that pro-immigration groups
opposed these regulations but agreed to them in order to get a bill that ended
the national origins provisions. After passage 'they became intensely
concerned. They voiced publicly the fear that the new, administratively
cumbersome procedure might easily result in paralyzing most immigration of
skilled and unskilled workers as well as of non-preference immigrants.'
Reflecting the long Jewish opposition to the idea that immigration policy
should be in the national interest, the economic welfare of American citizens
was irrelevant; securing high levels of immigration had become an end in
The 1965 law is having the effect that it seems
reasonable to suppose had been intended by its Jewish advocates all along: the
Census Bureau projects that by the year 2050, European-derived peoples will no
longer be a majority of the population of America. Moreover, multiculturalism
has already become a powerful ideological and political reality (Brimelow,
1995). Although the proponents of the 1965 legislation continued to insist
that the bill would not affect the ethnic balance of the United States or even
impact its culture, it is difficult to believe that at least some of the
proponents were unaware of the eventual implications. Opponents, certainly,
were quite clear that it would indeed affect the ethnic balance of the United
States. Given the intense involvement of organizations such as the AJCommittee
in the details of immigration legislation and their very negative attitudes
toward the North-Western European bias of pre-1965 United States immigration
policy and very negative attitudes toward the idea of an ethnic status quo
embodied, e.g., in the PCIN document Whom We Shall Welcome, it appears
unlikely to suppose that these organizations were unaware of the inaccuracy of
the projections of the effects of this legislation that were made by its
supporters. Given the clearly articulated interests in ending the ethnic
status quo evident in the arguments of anti-restrictionists throughout the
period from 1924-1965, the 1965 law would not have been perceived by its
proponents as a victory unless they viewed it as ultimately changing the
ethnic status quo.
Revealingly, the 1965 law was viewed as a victory by the
anti-restrictionists, and it is noteworthy that after regularly condemning
United States immigration law and championing the eradication of the national
origins formula precisely because it had produced an ethnic status quo, The
Congress bi-Weekly completely ceased publishing articles on this topic.
Moreover, Lawrence Auster (1990, p. 31ff) shows
that the supporters of the legislation repeatedly glossed over the distinction
between quota and non-quota immigration and failed to mention the effect that
the legislation would have on non-quota immigration. Projections of the number
of new immigrants failed to take account of the well-known and often
commented-upon fact that the old quotas favoring Western European countries
were not being filled. Moreover, continuing a tradition of over 40 years, the
rhetoric of those in favor of the bill presented the legislation of 1924 and
1952 as based on theories of racial superiority and as involving racial
discrimination rather than in terms of an attempt to create an ethnic status
Even in 1952, Senator McCarran was well aware of
the high stakes at risk in immigration policy:
I believe that this nation is the last hope of
Western civilization and if this oasis of the world shall be overrun,
perverted, contaminated or destroyed, then the last flickering light of
humanity will be extinguished. I take no issue with those who would praise
the contributions which have been made to our society by people of many
races, of varied creeds and colors. America is indeed a joining together of
many streams which go to form a mighty river which we call the American way.
However, we have in the United States today hard-core, indigestible blocs
which have not become integrated into the American way of life, but which,
on the contrary are its deadly enemies. Today, as never before, untold
millions are storming our gates for admission and those gates are cracking
under the strain. The solution of the problems of Europe and Asia will not
come through a transplanting of those problems en masse to the United
States.... I do not intend to become prophetic, but if the enemies of this
legislation succeed in riddling it to pieces, or in amending it beyond
recognition, they will have contributed more to promote this nation's
downfall than any other group since we achieved our independence as a nation
(Senator Pat McCarran, Cong. Rec., March 2, 1953, p. 1518.)
The defeats of 1924 and 1952 did not prevent the
ultimate victory of the Jewish interest in combating the cultural, political,
and demographic dominance of the European-derived peoples of the United
States. What is truly remarkable is the tenacity with which Jewish ethnic
interests were pursued for a period of close to 100 years. Also remarkable was
the ability to frame the argument of immigration-restrictionists in terms of
racial superiority in the period from 1924-1965 rather than in such positive
terms as the ethnic interests of the peoples of northern and western Europe in
maintaining a status quo as of 1924.
During the period between 1924 and 1965 Jewish
interests were largely thwarted, but this did not prevent the ultimate triumph
of the Jewish perspective on immigration. In a very real sense the result of
the immigration changes fostered by Jewish intellectual and political activity
have constituted a long term victory over the political, demographic, and
cultural representation of 'the common people of the South and West' (Higham
1984, 49) whose congressional delegates were in the forefront of the
restrictionist forces. Former Secretary of the Navy James Webb (1995) notes
that it is the descendants of those WASPS who settled the West and South who
'by and large did the most to lay out the infrastructure of this country,
quite often suffering educational and professional regression as they tamed
the wilderness, built the towns, roads and schools, and initiated a democratic
way of life that later white cultures were able to take advantage of without
paying the price of pioneering. Today they have the least, socioeconomically,
to show for these contributions. And if one would care to check a map, they
are from the areas now evincing the greatest resistance to government
practices.' Webb's ideas are not new but reflect the sentiments a great many
congressmen voiced during the immigration debates of the 1920's.
It is instructive to consider the possible long
term effects of this sea change in American immigration policy combined with
the current emphasis on multi-culturalism. The shift to multiculturalism has
coincided with an enormous growth of immigration from non-European-derived
peoples beginning with the Immigration Act of 1965 which favored immigrants
from non-European countries. Many of these immigrants come from non-Western
countries where cultural, gender, and genetic segregation are the norm. Within
the context of multicultural America, they are encouraged to retain their own
languages and religions and encouraged to marry within the group.
The movement toward ethnic separatism is highly
problematic. Historically, ethnic separatism has been an extremely divisive
force within societies. At the present time there are ethnically based
conflicts on every continent, and formerly multi-ethnic societies are breaking
away and establishing ethno-states based on ethnic homogeneity (Tullberg &
Tullberg, 1997). These results confirm the expectation that indeed ethnicity
is important in human affairs. People appear to be extremely aware of group
membership, and ethnicity remains a common source of group identity.
Individuals are also keenly aware of the relative standing of their own group
in terms of resource control and social status. And they are willing to take
extraordinary steps in order to achieve and retain economic and political
power in defense of these group imperatives.
It is instructive to think of the circumstances
which could minimize group conflict given the assumption of ethnic separatism.
Theorists of cultural pluralism, such as Horace Kallen, envision the
possibility that different ethnic groups would retain their distinctive
identity in the context of complete political equality and economic
opportunity. The difficulty with this scenario is that no provision is made
for the results of competition for resources within the society.
In the best of circumstances one might suppose
that the separated ethnic groups would engage in absolute reciprocity with
each other, so that there would be no differences in terms of any measure of
success in the society, including social class membership, economic role
(e.g., producer versus consumer; creditor versus debtor; manager versus
worker), or fertility between the separated ethnic groups. All groups would
have approximately equal numbers and equal political power, or if there were
different numbers there would be provisions ensuring that minorities could
retain equitable representation in terms of the markers of success. Such
conditions would minimize hostility between the groups because it would be
difficult to attribute one's status to the actions of the other group.
However, given the existence of ethnic separatism, it would still be in the
interests of each group to advance its own interests at the expense of the
other groups. All things being equal, a given ethnic group would be better off
if it ensured that the other group had fewer resources, a lower social status,
lower fertility, and proportionately less political power than itself.
(Indeed, lowering the political and demographic power of the European-derived
peoples of the United States has clearly been the aim of the Jewish political
and intellectual activities discussed here.) The hypothesized steady state of
equality therefore implies a set of balance of power relationships' each side
constantly checking to make sure that the other is not cheating; each side
constantly looking for ways to obtain dominance and exploitation by any
possible means; each side willing to compromise only because of the threat of
retaliation by the other side; each side willing to cooperate in a manner
which involves a cost only if forced to do so by, e.g., the presence of
external threat. Clearly any type of cooperation which would involve true
altruism toward the other group would not be expected.
Thus the ideal situation of absolute equality
would certainly require a great deal of monitoring and undoubtedly be
characterized by a great deal of mutual suspicion. However, in the real world
even this rather grim ideal is highly unlikely. In the real world, ethnic
groups differ in their talents and abilities; they differ in their numbers,
fertility, and the extent to which they encourage parenting practices
conducive to resource acquisition; and they differ in the resources held at
any point in time and in their political power. Equality or proportionate
equity would be extremely difficult to attain, or to maintain after it has
been achieved, without extraordinary levels of monitoring and without
extremely intense social controls which would enforce ethnic quotas on the
accumulation of wealth, admission to universities, obtaining high status jobs,
Because of differing talents and abilities and
differing parenting styles between ethnic groups, there would be a need to
have different criteria for qualifying and retaining jobs depending on ethnic
group membership.23 In the real world, therefore, there would have
to be extraordinary efforts made to attain this steady state of ethnic balance
of power and resources. It is of great interest that the ideology of
Jewish-gentile co-existence has sometimes included the idea that the different
ethnic groups develop a similar occupational profile and (implicitly) control
resources in proportion to their numbers. The dream of the German
assimilationists during the nineteenth-century was that the occupational
profile of the Jews after emancipation would be highly similar to that of the
gentiles' utopian expectation ... shared by many, Jews and non-Jews alike'
(Katz, 1986, p. 67). Efforts were made to decrease the percentage of Jews
involved in trade and increase the percentages involved in agriculture and artisanry. In the event, however, the result of emancipation was that Jews
were vastly overrepresented among the economic and cultural elite of the
society, and this overrepresentation was a critical feature of German
anti-Semitism from 1870-1933.
Similarly, during the 1920s plans were proposed in
which each ethnic group received a percentage of placements at Harvard and
other universities reflecting the percentage of racial and national groups in
the United States. These plans certainly reflect the importance of ethnicity
in human affairs, but surely a society based on this type of ethnic special
interest is not one which a social engineer in the manner of Lycurgus, Moses,
Plato, or the American Founding Fathers would design as a blueprint for an
entire society. The levels of social tension are bound to be chronically high.
Moreover, there is a considerable chance that ethnic warfare would occur even
if precise parity had been achieved via intensive social controls: as
indicated above, it would always be in the interests of any ethnic group to
obtain hegemony over the others.
If one adopts a cultural pluralism model in which
there is free competition for resources and reproductive success, differences
between ethnic groups are inevitable, and history suggests that such
differences would result in animosity from the groups that are losing out. The
Tutsi/Hutu struggle in Rwanda and its neighbors is only the latest of many
tragic examples. Assuming that there are ethnic differences in talents and
abilities, the supposition that ethnic separatism could be a stable situation
without ethnic animosity requires either a balance of power situation
maintained with powerful social controls, as described above, or it requires
that at least some ethnic groups be unconcerned that they are losing in the
I regard this last possibility as remote at best.
The proposition that an ethnic group should or would be unconcerned with its
own eclipse and domination is certainly not expected by any theoretical or
ideological perspective of which I am aware. The present immigration policy
essentially places America 'in play' as an arena of ethnic competition in a
sense which does not apply in the non-Western nations of the world where the
implicit assumption is that territory is held by its historically-dominant
people. Under present policies, each racial/ethnic group in the world is
encouraged to press its interest in expanding its demographic and political
presence in America and can be expected to do so if given the opportunity.
Contrary to policies they advocate for the United
States, American Jews have had no interest at all in proposing that
immigration to Israel should be similarly multi-ethnic or that Israel should
have an immigration policy that would threaten the hegemony of Jews in Israel.
Indeed, the very deep ethnic conflict within Israel is an excellent example of
the failure of multi-culturalism. Similarly, while Jews have been on the
forefront of movements to separate church and state in the United States and
often protested lack of religious freedom in the Soviet Union, the control of
religious affairs by the Orthodox in Israel has received only belated and
half-hearted opposition by American Jewish organizations (Cohen, 1972, 317)
and has not prevented the all-out support of Israel by American Jews, despite
the fact that Israel's policy regarding immigration is quite the opposite of
that of Western democracies.
At present the interests of non-European-derived
peoples to expand demographically and politically in the United States are
widely perceived as a moral imperative, while the attempts of the
European-derived peoples to retain demographic, political, and cultural
control are represented as 'racist' and patently immoral. From the perspective
of these European-derived peoples, the prescribed morality entails altruism
and self-sacrifice, and it is unlikely to be viable in the long run. And, as
we have seen, the viability of such a morality of self-sacrifice is especially
problematic in the context of a multicultural society in which everyone is
highly conscious of group membership and there is between-group competition
Although the success of the anti-restrictionist
effort is an indication that people can be induced to be altruistic toward
other groups, I rather doubt such altruism will continue to occur if there are
obvious signs that the status and political power of the European-derived
group is decreasing while the power of other groups increases as a result of
immigration and other social policies. The prediction, both on common sense
grounds and on the basis of psychological research on social identity process
(e.g., Hogg & Abrams, 1987), is that as other groups become increasingly
powerful and salient in a multicultural society, the European-derived peoples
of the United States will become increasingly unified and that contemporary
divisive influences among the European-derived peoples of the United States
(e.g., issues related to gender and sexual orientation; social class
differences; religious differences) will be increasingly perceived as
unimportant. Eventually these groups will develop greater cohesion and a sense
of common interest in their interactions with the other ethnic groups with
profound consequences on the future history of America and the West.
1. Raab is associated with the Anti-Defamation League
of B'nai B'rith (ADL), and is executive director emeritus of the Perlmutter
Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University. He is also a columnist
for the San Francisco Jewish Bulletin. Among other works, he is co-author,
with Seymour Lipset of The Politics of Unreason: Right Wing-Extremism in
America, 1790-1970 (Lipset & Raab 1970), a volume in a series of books on
anti-Semitism in the United States sponsored by the ADL.
2. In Australia, Miriam Faine, an editorial
committee member of the Australian Jewish Democrat stated that 'The
strengthening of multicultural or diverse Australia is also our most effective
insurance policy against anti-semitism. The day Australia has a Chinese
Australian Governor General I would feel more confident of my freedom to live
as a Jewish Australian' (in McCormack 1994, p. 11).
3. Moreover, a deep concern that an ethnically and
culturally homogeneous America would compromise Jewish interests can be seen
in Silberman's comments on the attraction of Jews to 'the Democratic party ...
with its traditional hospitality to non-WASP ethnic groups.... A distinguished
economist who strongly disagreed with Mondale's economic policies voted for
him nonetheless. 'I watched the conventions on television,' he explained, 'and
the Republicans did not look like my kind of people.' That same reaction led
many Jews to vote for Carter in 1980 despite their dislike of him; 'I'd rather
live in a country governed by the faces I saw at the Democratic convention
than by those I saw at the Republican convention' a well-known author told me'
4. Goldberg (1996, 160) notes that the future
neo-conservatives were disciples of Trotskyist theoretician Max Schachtman. A
good example is Irving Kristol's (1983) 'Memoirs of a Trotskyist.'
5. Grant's letter to the House Committee on
Immigration and Naturalization emphasized the principle argument of the
restrictionists, i.e., that the use of the 1890 census of the foreign born as
the basis of the immigration law was fair to all ethnic groups currently in
the country, and that the use of the 1910 census discriminated against the
'native Americans whose ancestors were in this country before its
independence.' He also argued in favor of quotas from Western Hemisphere
nations because these countries 'in some cases furnish very undesirable
immigrants. The Mexicans who come into the United States are overwhelmingly of
Indian blood, and the recent intelligence tests have shown their very low
intellectual status. We have already got too many of them in our Southwestern
States, and a check should be put on their increase' (p. 571). Grant was also
concerned about the unassimilability of recent immigrants. He included with
his letter a Chicago Tribune editorial commenting on a situation in
Hamtramck, Michigan in which recent immigrants were described as demanding
'Polish rule,' the expulsion of non-Poles, and that only the Polish language
be spoken even by federal officials. Grant also argued that differences in
reproductive rate would result in displacement of groups that delayed marriage
and had fewer children'clearly a concern that as a result of immigration his
ethnic group would be displaced by ethnic groups with a higher rate of natural
increase. (Restriction of Immigration; Hearings Before the Committee on
Immigration and Naturalization House of Representatives, sixty-eighth
Congress, First Session, Jan. 5, 1924; p. 570.)
6. Restriction of Immigration; Hearings Before the
Committee on Immigration and Naturalization House of Representatives,
sixty-eighth Congress, First Session, Jan. 5, 1924; p. 580-581.
7. Statement of the AJCongress, Joint Hearings
Before the Subcommittees of the Committees on the Judiciary, 82nd Congress,
first session, on S. 716, H. R. 2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951,
8. Restriction of Immigration; Hearings Before the
Committee on Immigration and Naturalization House of Representatives,
sixty-eighth Congress, First Session, Jan. 3, 1924; p. 303.
9. Restriction of Immigration; Hearings Before the
Committee on Immigration and Naturalization House of Representatives,
sixty-eighth Congress, First Session, Jan. 3, 1924; p. 341.
10. For example, in the Senate debates of April
15-19, 1924, Nordic superiority was not mentioned by any of the proponents of
the legislation but was mentioned by the following opponents of the
legislation: Senators Colt (p. 6542), Reed (p. 6468), Walsh (p. 6355). In the
House debates of April 5, 8, and 15, virtually all of the opponents of the
legislation raised the racial inferiority issue, including Reps. Celler (p.
5914-5915), Clancy (p. 5930), Connery (p. 5683), Dickstein (p. 5655-5656,
5686), Gallivan (p. 5849), Jacobstein (p. 5864), James (p. 5670), Kunz (p.
5896), LaGuardia (p. 5657), Mooney (p. 5909-5910), O'Connell (p. 5836),
O'Connor (p. 5648), Oliver (p. 5870), O'Sullivan (p. 5899), Perlman (p. 5651);
Sabath (p. 5651, 5662), and Tague (p. 5873). Several representatives (e.g.,
Reps. Dickinson [p. 6267), Garber [pp. 5689-5693] and Smith [p. 5705])
contrasted the positive characteristics of the Nordic immigrants with the
negative characteristics of more recent immigrants without distinguishing
genetic from environmental reasons as possible influences. They, along with
several others, noted especially the lack of assimilation of the recent
immigrants and their tendencies to cluster in urban areas. Rep. Allen argued
that there is a 'necessity for purifying and keeping pure the blood of
America' (p. 5693). Rep. McSwain, who argued for the need to preserve Nordic
hegemony, did not do so on the basis of Nordic superiority but on the basis of
legitimate ethnic self-interest (pp. 5683-5; see also comments of Reps. Lea
and Miller). Rep. Gasque introduced a newspaper article that referred to the
'laws of heredity' and to the swamping of the race that had built America (p.
11. Restriction of Immigration. Hearings Before
the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization House of Representatives,
sixty-eighth Congress, First Session, Jan. 3, 1924; p. 351.
12. See, e.g., Restriction of Immigration;
Hearings Before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization House of
Representatives, sixty-eighth Congress, First Session, Jan. 5, 1924; p. 733ff.
13. Hearings before the Committee on Immigration
and Naturalization, House of Representatives, May 24-June 1, 1939: Joint
Resolutions to Authorize the Admission to the United States of a Limited
Number of German Refugee Children, p. 1.
14. Hearings before the Committee on Immigration
and Naturalization, House of Representatives, May 24-June 1, 1939: Joint
Resolutions to Authorize the Admission to the United States of a Limited
Number of German Refugee Children, p. 78.
15. Hearings before the Committee on Immigration
and Naturalization, House of Representatives, May 24-June 1, 1939: Joint
Resolutions to Authorize the Admission to the United States of a Limited
Number of German Refugee Children, p. 140.
16. Statement of the AJCongress, Joint Hearings
Before the Subcommittees of the Committees on the Judiciary, 82nd Congress,
first session, on S. 716, H. R. 2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951,
17. Statement of the AJCongress, Joint Hearings
Before the Subcommittees of the Committees on the Judiciary, 82nd Congress,
first session, on S. 716, H. R. 2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951,
p. 566. See also statement of Rabbi Bernard J. Bamberger, President of the
Synagogue Council of America; See also the statement of the AJCongress, pp.
18. Statement of Will Maslow representing the
AJCongress, Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees of the Committees on the
Judiciary, 82nd Congress, first session, on S. 716, H. R. 2379, and H. R.
2816. March 6-April 9, 1951, p. 394.
19. Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees of the
Committees on the Judiciary, 82nd Congress, first session, on S. 716, H. R.
2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951, pp. 562-595.
20. Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees of the
Committees on the Judiciary, 82nd Congress, first session, on S. 716, H. R.
2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951, p. 410.
21. Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees of the
Committees on the Judiciary, 82nd Congress, first session, on S. 716, H. R.
2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951, p. 404.
22. Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees of the
Committees on the Judiciary, 82nd Congress, first session, on S. 716, H. R.
2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951, p. 563.
23. Moreover, achieving parity between Jews and
other ethnic groups would entail a very high level of discrimination against
individual Jews for admission to universities or employment opportunities, and
would even entail a large taxation on Jews in order to prevent the present
Jewish advantage in the possession of wealth, since at present Jews are vastly
over-represented among the wealthy and the successful in the United States
(e.g., Ginsberg, 1994; Lipsett & Raab, 1995). Beginning in the 1920s, studies
have repeatedly shown that Ashkenazi Jews have a full-scale IQ of
approximately 117 and a verbal IQ in the range of 125 (see MacDonald, 1994 for
a review). By 1988, Jews constituted about 40% of admissions to Ivy League
colleges and Jewish income was at least double that of gentiles (Shapiro
(1992, p. 116). Shapiro also shows that Jews are overrepresented by at least a
factor of nine on indexes of wealth, but that this is a conservative estimate
because much Jewish wealth is in real estate which is difficult to determine
and easy to hide. While constituting approximately 2.4% of the population of
the United States, Jews represented one half of the top 100 Wall Street
executives. Lipset and Raab (1995) note that Jews contribute between
one-quarter and one-third of all political contributions in the United States,
including one-half of Democratic Party contributions and one-fourth of
Republican contributions. Indeed, many Jewish intellectuals (including
'neo-conservatives' such as Daniel Bell, Sidney Hook, Irving Howe, Irving
Kristol, Nathan Glazer, Norman Podhoretz, and Earl Raab) as well as Jewish
organizations (including the ADL, the AJCommittee, and the AJCongress) have
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