Nezhin in philadelphia: The families and occupations of an immigrant congregation

  • Lloyd P. Gartner


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  1. 1.
    A valuable study of secular landsmannshaften is Daniel Soyer, “Landsmannshaften and the Jewish Labor Movement: Cooperation, Conflict, and the Building of Community,”Journal of American Ethnic History (abbrev.JAEH) 7, 2 (Spring 1988): 22–44.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The basic source on landsmannshaften is (Works Progress Administration in the City of New York),Di Idishe Landsmannshaften fun New York, ed. Yiddish Writers Union (New York, 1938), and its detailed study by Hannah Kliger,Jewish Hometown Associations and Family Circles in New York: The Legacy of the WPA Yiddish Writers' Group, Parts I and II (multilithed; to be published by Indiana University Press).American Jewish History (September, 1986) is devoted to landsmannshaften, and contains some illuminating articles. See also Salo Wittmayer Baron,Steeled by Adversity: Essays and Addresses on American Jewish Life, ed. J.M. Baron (Philadelphia, 1971), 359–61 and notes thereto; Irving Howe,World of Our Fathers (N.Y., 1976), 183–190, 356–59; Philip Friedman, “Di Landsmannshaftn-literatur in di Fareynikte Shtatn,” (Yiddish)Jewish Book Annual 10 (1951): 81–96; Moses Rischin,The Promised City: New York's Jews 1870–1914 (Cambridge, MA, 1962), 104–105; Isaac Levitats, “The Jewish Association in America,”Essays in Jewish Life and Thought presented in Honor of Salo Wittmayer Baron, ed. J.L. Blau et al (New York, 1959), 333–350; Louis J. Swichkow and Lloyd P. Gartner,The History of the Jews of Milwaukee (Philadelphia, 1963), 328; Michael R. Weisser,A Brotherhood of Memory: Jewish Landsmannshaftn in the New World (N.Y., 1985), is evocative but with inaccuracies. Compare Mabel Hurd Willett,The Employment of Women in the Clothing Trade (New York, 1902), 131–33; Rudolph J. Vecoli, “The Formation of Chicago's ‘Little Italies’,”JAEH 2 (Spring 1983): 5–20; Lizabeth Cohen,Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919–1939 (Cambridge, 1990), 64–75; Frank Renkiewicz, “An Economy of Self-Help: Fraternal Capitalism and the Evolution of Polish America” and Karel D. Bicha, “Community or Cooperation? The Case of the Czech-Americans,” both in Charles A. Ward, Philip Shashko and Donald E. Pienkos,Studies in Ethnicity: The East European Experience in the United States, (Boulder, CO, 1980), 71–91 and 93–102.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The right of members to mourning benefits when Jewish law cancelledshiva during the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot was the subject of a question inhalakhah which was put before Rabbi Aaron Gordon. He ruled that landsmannshaft members were analogous to lessees of land rather than to workers on it, who were entitled to usufruct even when their labor became unneeded. Mourners were, therefore, entitled toshiva payments even when unneeded.Even Meir (Piotrkow, 1909), 2.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    In Hebrew:Hevrah Ahavath Achim Anshei Nezhin Nusakh Ari. Landsmannshaften in Philadelphia are the subject of the well-illustrated sketch by Hannah Kliger, “A Common Cause in This New Found Country: Fellowship and Farein in Philadelphia,” in Gail F. Stern, ed.,Traditions in Transition: Jewish Culture in Philadelphia, 1840–1940 (Philadelphia, 1989), 28–44.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    A.S.W. Rosenbach, “Philadelphia,”Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v.; Niles Carpenter,Immigrants and Their Children 1920 (Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Census Monographs, VII) (Washington, 1927; repr. N.Y. [with “1920” omitted from title], 1969), Tables 18 and 19, 16–17.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Estimates are assembled in Jacob R. Marcus,To Count a People: American Jewish Population Data, 1585–1984 (Lanham, MD, 1990), 194.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Yehuda Slutzky, “The Geography of the Pogroms of 1881,” (Hebrew)He-Avar 9 (September, 1962): 16–25; S.M. Dubnow,History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, 3 vols., (Philadelphia, 1916–1920), II, 267; I. Michael Aronson,Troubled Waters: The Origins of the 1881 Anti-Jewish Pogroms in Russia (Pittsburgh, 1990), 50–56, 60–61, 116. The districts (uyezd) of Kozelets and Oster and the towns of Ichnia and Pereyeslav, all areas where pogroms occurred, also contributed to the founding membership.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Di Idishe Landsmannshaften, esp. 319; 384, 392.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    On these rabbis see (Union of Orthodox Rabbis)Sefer ha-Yovel shel Agudath ha-Rabbanim (New York, 1928), s.v.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    “A Greeting from Dr. Israel Goldstein” in Nezhiner Synagogue, Philadelphia, Diamond 75th Anniversary 1189–1964 (Philadelphia, December, 1964), and Israel Goldstein,My World as a Jew, 2 vols., (New York, 1984), 1:18–21, 24–25. Goldstein (1896–1976), a prominent Conservative rabbi and Zionist leader, grew up in the Nezhiner synagogue and was the son of its sexton. See also Robert Tabak, “Orthodox Judaism in Transition,” in Murray Friedman ed.,Jewish Life in Philadelphia 1830–1940 (Philadelphia, 1983), 51–63; Charles S. Bernheimer ed.,The Russian Jew in the United States (1905; reprint, N.Y., 1971), n. 54.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    One otherwise anonymous man is listed in Hebrew letters as “Harry” Feldman (no. 246).Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    All places are rendered in a Yiddish form which is frequently slurred or colloquial. I usedThe Columbia Lippincott Gazetteer of the World With 1961 Supplement, ed. Leon E. Seltzer (New York, 1962), but several places in the Nezhin list still remain opaque.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Der Yudisher Emigrant, August 1, 1913. Of 48 emigrants who specified destinations, 22 reported New York and nine Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    I have marked as entrepreneurs four vest manufacturers, seven merchant and customer tailors, five pants manufacturers, one clothing manufacturer, and one cap maker who described himself as a cap manufacturer. In the later group, there is merely one shirt manufacturer. A contemporary description of vest making is in Willett,Employment of Women in the Clothing Trade, 45. See also Caroline Golab, “The Immigrant and the City,” in Allen F. Davis and Mark H. Haller, eds.,The Peoples of Philadelphia: A History of Ethnic Groups and Lower-Class Life, 1790–1940 (Philadelphia, 1973), esp. 212–15.Google Scholar
  15. 19.
    The sources are TB Shabbat, 135b; Maimonides,Mishneh Torah, Sefer Shoftim, Hilkhot Evel, Ch. I, pars. 6,7,8, (The Code of Maimonides, Book 14.The Book of Judges, Abraham M. Hershman, trans. [New Haven, 1949], 165) and Hagahot Maimoniyotad loc.; Joseph Karo, Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah, Ch. 314, par. 8. I am grateful to Rabbi R. Aberman for assistance in this matter.Google Scholar
  16. 20.
    I have not found studies which undertake the sort of analysis which I am attempting here. Michael R. Haines, “Family and Marriage in a Nineteenth Century Industrial City: Philadelphia, 1850–1880,”Journal of Economic History 40, 1 (March, 1980): 150–58 shows the native American pattern of late marriage and low fertility in Philadelphia occurring there also among second generation Irish and Germans. See also J.E. McGergney,The Irish on the Urban Frontier: Detroit, 1850–1880 (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1972), Tables A28 and A29, 323–24, where the average number of births is related to Irish and German ethnicity. Robert Cohen brought to my attention the method employed by John E. Knodel, “The Influence of Child Mortality in a Natural Fertility Setting,” in Henri Leriodon and Jane Menken, eds.,Matural Fertility Fecondite Naturelle (Liege, 1979), 273–84.Google Scholar
  17. 21.
    In 1920, the infant (under one year) mortality rate of children of Russian-born mothers was 71.8 per 1,000. This may be compared with the foreign-born mothers' infant mortality average of 96.9 per 1,000 and 96.9 for native Americans. Carpenter,Immigrants and Their Children, Table 94, 202. In Russia itself, infant mortality between 1880 and 1900 fluctuated between 240 and 307 per 1,000 live births. B.R. Mitchell,European Historical Statistics 1750–1975, 2nd ed. (N.Y., 1975), Table B7, 139. On Jewish and immigrant death rates, see Louis I. Dublin, “Factors in American Mortality: A Study of Death Rates in the Race Stocks of New York State, 1910,”American Economic Review 6, 3 (September, 1916): esp. 528–532, 548, which establishes a low immigrant Jewish death rate. On the basis of Dublin's work, Carpenter,Immigrants and Their Children, 204, n. 15 computed life expectancy at age 10 for Jewish males at 53.44 years and for Jewish females at 55.82; the corresponding figures for native Americans were 52.96 and 55.87.Google Scholar
  18. 22.
    Jacques Silber, “Some Demographic Characteristics of the Jewish Population in Russia at the End of the Nineteenth Century,”Jewish Social Studies 42, 3–4 (Summer-Fall 1980): 269–80, showing estimated age at first marriage (Table 5, 278) presents far different figures. Silber calculates that for males it slowly ascended from 24.97 to 28.14 between 1870 and 1900, and for females from 22.34 to 24.38 in the same period.Google Scholar
  19. 23.
    Evidence from other sources is helpful. Between 1888 and 1890, the Federation of Synagogues in London, which was composed of immigrant congregations, conducted 199 burials. Of them, 117 were of children less than a year of age, 43 (36.8%) of whom were described as “stillbirths,” which may be understood asnefel. Geoffrey Alderman,The Federation of Synagogues 1887–1987 (London, 1987), 13. On the other hand, a 1909 report on infant mortality in Russia shows a mere 16.9% of Jewish infant deaths occurring within the first 30 days. (The rate was 26.6% among the Russian Orthodox.) “Kindersterblichkeit im Jahre 1909,”Zeitschrift für Demographie und Statistik der Juden 11 (1915): 15. If we apply these rates to the Nezhin synagogue's people, we would add 36.8% or 16.9% to the 11 recorded infant deaths, bringing the respective totals to 16 and 13.Google Scholar
  20. 24.
    Lawrence Stone,The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500–1800 (abridged ed., N.Y., 1979), 407.Google Scholar
  21. 25.
    Ibid., 423–24.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Haifa University Press 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lloyd P. Gartner
    • 1
  1. 1.Tel Aviv UniversityIsrael

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