A Bintel Brief
A Bintel Brief, the book of letters from the Jewish daily Forward brought to me the realism of life as a Jewish immigrant. The times were rough on them, they used the Bintel Brief to reveal there problems and to get answers. When I started to read the book I was looking for specific answers to some questions. What do the letters reveal about how immigration was a large part a culrutal process that lasted well after Jews and other immigrants arrived in the U.S.? What was the dominant definition of what it meant to be an American at the time that many Jews arrived arrived in the United States? How did the Jews in the book compare? What hopes did many Jewish immigrants have for life in America? Were the expectations met? What else do the letters reveal about the late 19th Century through the 1920s? These questions really give the purpose of the book itself.
The letters of the Bintel Brief reveal that immigration became a cultural process. When the Jewish immigrants came to the U.S. there culture had to be changed to adapt to the Americans. They shaved their beards and ate non-kosher foods, they slowly had to separate themselves from there homeland. They had to blend in with there surroundings to get a job or even to make friends. In one of the letters, a young Jewish woman would go to work each day knowing that she would be harassed when she arrived. One of her fellow co-workers said the all Galician Jews should be dead. With comments like that, I myself would try to hide the fact that I am of different culture. The Jewish people would have to slowly bring back there heritage after they become treated more equally. Another letter about a 18 year old boy, that is a machinist, would get beaten up as if he was a punching bag. He left the job only to receive the same treatment in the other jobs. As soon as they found out that I was a Jew they began to torment me so that I had to leave the place, said the boy (64). The letters do reveal that immigration was a cultural process.
What made you an American during the time of the Jewish arrivals? To be an American in those times, meant that you must be born on the American soil. Also you must be of the white race and practice Christianity. To the Jews in the book, they considered an American to go to church on Sundays, and be conservative in there thinking. They are born into a non-liberal state of mind. The idea of an American was quite similar.
The Jewish people had many hopes and dreams before they entered the Golden Land, as they call it. They read books about the millionaire in America and wanted to live the exotic lifestyle that they read about. They thought that it would be free of persecution. The word Freedom would make them excited about a journey to America. Many of them believed that as soon as they disembarked from the boat they would find heaven on earth and an end to all their suffering (8). The dreams they had would not leave there mind though. They still would not give up on them.
The expectations of the immigrants when they came to America were to fictional to be met. The dreams never came through. They worked for meager wages, they had no food for there own children. Working conditions were terrible with so much persecution they receive from co-workers. The expectations were not met.
The letters revealed a lot about immigration in the time period. Mostly questions of why this and why that. Immigration was tough, they sometimes had to let go of children only so they have food to eat and shelter. Homesickness was widespread among the Jewish community. They missed parents that they left behind. Some wanted to go back and try there luck again. As I live in America now, I think back at how my life would have been then. I get Disgusted to know that the Constitution that laid the laws for all residents on American soil, were never followed or even thought about. The whole justice system was unorganized and unfairly done. The First Amendment was not even followed. The freedom of religion was not even told to the new immigrants of America. The letters showed me the real story on immigration.
Reading the Bintel Brief really gave me a hope for liking history. The letters are all true exerts from actual immigrants of the time. They really make you think about what they really wanted when they came to this country. What was the true thought about American people and how they acted. It is hard to believe that in 80 years we still have racism and hate against other races. There still could be a book written with letters and newspaper clippings about life in the 1990s. It has been a long time since the letters were written, but sometimes it seems they are recent.