Immigration Matters: Jews, Other Immigrants and America Conference Schedule

Immigration Matters: Jews, Other Immigrants and America

Conference Schedule

11:00 am - 11:30 am

Annie PollandWelcome and Introduction to AJHS archives
Annie Polland, Executive Director, AJHS

“When the Door Closed, They Carried the Torch”

When Emma Lazarus wrote the New Colossus in 1883, she knew that not all Americans accepted the idea of Lady Liberty as a “Mother of Exiles” who embraced the “tired…poor… huddled masses.” In the first half of the 20th century, as plans for immigration restriction became part of the public discourse and eventually, found their way into the law, Lazarus’s spiritual descendants-- Max Kohler, Philip Cowen, Cecilia Razovsky, Marion Kenworthy—continued the fight in courtrooms, the press, the halls of Congress.

11:30am - 1pm Morning Panel: Impending Restriction: Responses to Immigration Restriction before 1924

Joel PerlmannAmerica Classifies its Immigrants
Joel Perlmann

At the end of the 19th century, the federal government began to classify arriving immigrants in terms of their "race or people" -- including the "Hebrew race" for Jews, over the repeated protests of American Jews.    Despite relatively benign beginnings, the classification came to be central to the debates over immigration restriction that culminated in the Quota Laws of 1921 and 1924, that ended mass migration to the United States for four decades.


Hasia DinerOrganizing to Keep Immigration Free and Open: American Jews and the Crisis of Creeping Restrictionism
Hasia Diner

After the formation of the Immigration Restriction League in the 1890s, American Jews created a set of institutions and launched a set of projects, intended to forestall government reduction of Jewish immigration. The word "immigrant" or "immigration" did not necessarily appear in the names of these bodies like the National Council of Jewish Women, the American Jewish Committee, the Industrial Removal Office, among others, but all prioritized the project of protecting the rights of Jewish immigrants.


Heather LeeMax Kohler: Pushing the Legal Boundaries of Restriction
Heather Lee

This presentation looks at the legacy of Max Kohler, US District Attorney, on the legal immigration category "merchant exemption," the predecessor to the investor's-green card. In the early twentieth-century, Kohler argued cases of Chinese immigrants justifying their entry to the United States based on their financial investments.


Geraldine Gudefin"Is There an Immigrant Peril?": Nathan Bijur's and Isaac Hourwich's Views on Immigration (1900s-1920s).
Geraldine Gudefin

This talk examines the arguments of Jewish communal leader Nathan Bijur and Russian-Jewish lawyer Isaac Hourwich put forward in defense of immigrants and immigration in the United States. As the vice-president of the United Hebrew Charities, a member of the Galveston Committee, a supporter of the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society, and a New York Supreme Court justice, Bijur repeatedly contended that America was great owing to its diversity and openness to immigrants and refugees. Echoing Bijur, Isaac Hourwich defended unrestricted immigration by refuting two widespread prejudices: that the foreign-born increased crime, and that they hurt the American economy.


Marion CaseyThe Formula for Immigration Restriction and Irish Resistance in the 1920s
Marion Casey

American policies designed to restrict the entry of the foreign born had a limited impact on the Irish until the 1920s.  This paper will discuss why the 1921 and 1924 quotas for immigrants from Ireland sparked vigorous opposition in the ethnic press and in congressional hearings in 1927.

2pm - 4pm Afternoon Panel: Post-1924: Responses to the 1924 Johnson Reed Act

Maddalena Marinari“Almost as Inaccessible as Tibet:” Using Family Reunion to Challenge Immigration Restriction
Maddalena Marinari

When legislators ratified the national origins quota system in 1924, Italian and Jewish critics of immigration restriction found it inconceivable that Congress would target European immigrants for restriction. With little time to recover from the shock, they set out to find the best way to challenge a system that explicitly marked them as undesirable. Family reunion quickly emerged as the answer.


Libby GarlandAmerican Jewish responses to migrants stranded by the Immigration Act of 1924
Libby Garland

Maddalena Marinari rightly observes that the years immediately following the passage of the restrictive immigration law of 1924 was a complicated "testing ground" for immigrant advocates in the United States. To explore this idea, I will look a bit more closely at how American Jews confronted one particular crisis, namely the way that the law rendered thousands of migrants stranded abroad in various port cities, unable to return home or proceed to the United States as planned. I will also consider what questions this particular historical episode might raise for the present moment, as immigrant advocates scramble to respond to the sudden imposition of harsh new immigration restrictions.


Randy StorchRabbi Stephen S. Wise and the Spirit of America
Randi Storch

Wise began his effort to mitigate the impact of immigration laws through his efforts to educate members of Congress during the initial hearings. He then continued to serve as a leading public figure speaking against anti immigrant, antisemitic and anti-Catholic sentiment in the country. I will briefly frame his activism in terms of what he referred to as the “spirit of America” and then give examples of his leadership at Congressional hearings, in the case against Ford, in Al Smith’s election campaign, and in interdenominational work.


Carl BontempoRefugees and Immigration Restriction
Carl Bon Tempo

In an era of immigration restriction, one type of newcomer entered the United States more easily, especially after 1945: refugees. In this talk, I will explore how refugee admissions happened in these decades, despite the anti-newcomer sentiments in American life, and how winning those admissions also proved problematic in some ways.