The Door Slams Shut: Reactions of the Yiddish Press to Immigration Issues in the Early 1920s, with Eddy Portnoy

A Live, Online Event Recorded Via Zoom on October 1, 2020

The current brouhaha over immigration policy is nothing new. Neither is the defamation of immigrants as criminals or political undesirables. While American nativist animus today falls upon Mexican, Central American, and Muslim migrants, about 100 years ago this same hatred was aimed at the Jews.

Taking aim with theirs poison pens, the artists of Der groyser kundes, the Lower East Side’s premier Yiddish satire weekly, attacked the Immigration Quota Acts of 1921 and 1924, which were enacted to severely stifle Jewish immigration to the US. Yiddish cartoonists, well acquainted with the dire circumstances in which Eastern European Jews found themselves, understood that a fairer immigration policy would be beneficial to both Jews and to America. Using political, cultural, and traditional Jewish imagery, these artists crafted numerous cartoons that considered the situation from the perspective of a Jewish immigrant community for which the matter was potentially one of life and death. Join Eddy Portnoy in a discussion of the role of Yiddish cartoons in addressing the issue of immigration as it pertained to immigrant Jewish communities in New York.

Eddy Portnoy is the academic advisor and director of exhibitions at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and author of Bad Rabbi and Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press (Stanford University Press, 2017).

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