|Date(s):||1909 to 1916|
|Location(s):||Baltimore City, Maryland|
|Tag(s):||Race-Relations, Jewish, Immigration, German, Religion, Russian, Yiddish, Citizenship, Americanization, New Immigrants|
|Course:||“Novelty and Nostalgia: The Rise of Modern America, 1877 to 1945,” University of Maryland, Baltimore County|
|Rating:||5 (1 votes)|
In 1916, just before the fourth of July, the Baltimore Sun ran an article praising the Baltimore Jewish community for their Americanism. The article stated, “[a] Great Many of us are discussing at present the meaning of Americanism and what constitutes a real American, but our Jewish fellow-citizens have no doubts on the subject. They have grasped the idea in all its fullness, and they have made it a part of their supreme creed.” The cause of this article was the annual July fourth party thrown by an organization known as the Jewish Educational Alliance.
As new immigrant communities arrived in the United States between the 1880s and 1924 they felt immense pressure to integrate culturally into American life. Baltimore’s Jews responded to this pressure through organizations like the Jewish Educational Alliance. These Jews embraced Americanism so dearly because they came largely from Germany, Russia, and Eastern Europe. In these countries, they had spent the last half-century struggling to even be given the ability to be recognized as citizens. In contrast, the promise of freedom and equality in America --even though America rarely lived fully to its promise-- was an attractive alternative. Jewish immigrants were eager to becoming citizens.
German Jews began to settle into Baltimore's neighborhoods in the 1840s and by the 20th century had integrated into American life quite well. However the late 19th century brought a new wave of Jewish immigrants to the United States largely from Russia and Eastern Europe. The German Jewish residents of Baltimore had largely assimilated into American life north of Baltimore by the time the Eastern Europeans began arriving. These new immigrants moved into the south Baltimore neighborhoods where the German Jews had once lived. German Jews began to worry that the new immigrants would reflect poorly on the already established Jewish community in America, damaging their hard earned status.
In response to this fear members of Baltimore's German Jewish community established The Jewish Educational Alliance in 1909. The organization was designed to help uplift the Russian Jewish community. The JEA offered classes in English, Citizenship, and naturalization. in 1911 The Baltimore Sun ran an article praising the young organization for its succesful social programs.
The Jewish Educational Alliance was succesful in accomplishing its goal of Americanizing Baltimore's Russian Jews, but just as importantly the JEA created a place where Baltimore's Russian and German Jews could be together. This physical mixing of the populations built a new generation of American Jews.