When he died in 1965, Benjamin Rosenbloom was described by the Wheeling Intelligencer as a forgotten trailblazer. As a legislator—he was elected to the West Virginia Senate after which the U.S. Home of Representatives—he was staunchly against Prohibition and a pioneer in anti-pollution laws. An off-the-cuff web search confirms Rosenbloom as a really feel good lead-in to a Secret Jewish Historical past of West Virginia: the one Jewish congressman from the state; a brainy jock at College of West Virginia on a soccer scholarship. A extra problematic Rosenbloom, nevertheless, exhibits up in a 1924 Yiddish cartoon about anti-immigration laws titled “Evil-doer, Why Do You Beat Your Brother?” (He’s the evil-doer of the title.) It’s a part of the brand new, eerily well timed YIVO exhibit The Door Slams Shut: Jews and Immigration within the Face of American Response.
The Door Slams Shut options Yiddish political cartoons from Der Groyser Kundes, a satirical New York newspaper of the 1920s. Although the present is small, the cartoons are properly chosen and highly effective, with some standout work by Yosl Cotler, whose energetic strains buzz and leap with all the facility of the economic age. Political cartoons don’t usually have a lot of a shelf life, definitely not one measured in many years, however the elementary questions raised in these cartoons, about American values and what we owe refugees, have by no means been extra well timed. There’s even an echo of the Yiddish slogan that was out of the blue in all places in 2018, mir veln zey iberlebn. A cartoon titled “Zi vet zey iberlebn” (She Will Outlive Them) exhibits a lady representing the Declaration of Independence languishing in jail, because the Ku Klux Klan and Jingoism maintain watch on her cell. Like I stated, eerily well timed.
Zuni Maud, ‘Evil-doer, Why Do You Beat Your Brother?,’ ‘Der groyser kundes,’ New York, April 25, 1924 (Courtesy YIVO)
The early 1920s was a interval of response towards previous many years of mass immigration. Xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment intertwined with panic about anarchists and different supposedly harmful foreigners. The Complete Immigration Act of 1924 constructed on limitations within the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, and set drastic quotas on immigrants from Southern and Japanese Europe. The Complete Immigration Act marked the top of Jewish immigration into america till after WWII. (To not put too wonderful some extent on it, the act primarily represented a demise sentence for tens of millions of European Jews.) And Benjamin Rosenbloom, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, served in Washington as its vocal supporter.
Rosenbloom launched an modification that said that any immigrant who didn’t develop into a citizen inside a sure period of time could possibly be deported. As Rosenbloom put it, “We don’t welcome perpetual boarders whose pursuits could also be elsewhere …” The motivation behind his modification (which was not accepted) clearly shared within the wider anti-immigrant suspicion of the day.
In “Evildoer, Why Do You Beat Your Brother?” Rosenbloom is drawn as a decidedly unsympathetic caveman. He’s pushing down a Jew in a kapote, and holding a membership over his head, able to strike. The membership says “full cessation to immigration” in Yiddish. The caption on the backside reads: “An previous Japanese European road scene enjoying out in Washington.” The purpose is obvious: In America, even a Jew is usually a Cossack.
From our perspective, it’s exhausting to know why the son of immigrants would work so onerous to maintain different immigrants out. In fact, Rosenbloom didn’t know that closing the doorways to immigration would imply the deaths of maybe tens of millions of Jews who would’ve in any other case come to the USA. However after the bloodshed of WWI, it wasn’t precisely farfetched, both.
To be truthful, Rosenbloom wasn’t the one outstanding Jew who agitated in favor of shutting off immigration. In a cartoon referred to as “The Story Repeats Itself (A Hanukah Motif),” American Federation of Labor chief Samuel Gompers is drawn as a priest within the Temple, main a pig marked “anti-immigration edicts” to the altar. Gompers, like many labor leaders, was towards unrestricted immigration as a result of he felt it depressed the labor market; he was appearing on behalf of his (largely Jewish) constituency. For the cartoonists of Der Groyser Kundes, putting monetary pursuits above weak human lives was committing an act of final defilement upon the Jewish individuals, as embodied within the picture of the Temple. It’s not precisely delicate, however on this case, historical past was on the aspect of the cartoonists.
From the opposite aspect of historical past comes filmmaker Samy Szlingerbaum’s black-and-white meditation on postwar Jewish refugees in Belgium, Brussels Transit(1980), a brand new restoration of which had its U.S. premiere on the current New York Jewish Movie Pageant. Half documentary, half reenactment, half experimental Yiddish reminiscence work, the quiet melancholy of Brussels Transit is about so far as you will get from the excessive power, overdetermined polemic of Der Groyser Kundes. What they share, nevertheless, is a profound empathy for the refugee expertise and a seek for a type that may categorical the anguish of these in search of refuge in a spot ambivalent to the thought.
In 1951 the United Nations accepted the Conference Referring to the Standing of Refugees. The conference specified that those that met the standing of refugee can be entitled to, amongst different issues, identification papers and journey paperwork from treaty nations. However Szlingerbaum’s Polish mother and father arrived in Belgium in 1947. A lot of the movie is haunted by the best way they arrived, bearing solely ineffective papers for journey to Puerto Rico. As a result of they lacked the suitable residence allow, his mother and father have been pressured to maneuver ceaselessly, disguise their enterprise, and endure humiliating visits from the police. The narrative pivots forwards and backwards between the recreated nervousness of 1947 and the present-day Yiddish voice-over.
Earlier than his tragically early demise in 1986, Szlingerbaum was a colleague of Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman, and her affect on him is obvious in his lengthy digital camera holds and delightful shot framing, each of which resist any type of straightforward narrative circulate. Each Akerman and Szlingerbaum are additionally preoccupied with their moms’ narratives. As in Akerman’s masterpiece, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, the kitchen is the area of highest dramatic potential, and Szlingerbaum’s mom’s battle for area in a shared kitchen, in a rustic the place she barely speaks the language, is likely one of the most heartbreaking.
Szlingerbaum’s mom is performed by an actress in Brussels Transit, however the film is narrated by his actual mom, virtually utterly in Yiddish. It opens together with her singing a people music a few man driving a horse-drawn wagon, “Der Furman”: My house is the sector, my mattress is the wagon, My work is to crack the whip, in order that the horses will pull.
She sings “Der Furman” because the digital camera travels alongside the practice tracks within the Brussels practice station. The distinction between the agricultural music and the city setting establishes an emotional throughline for the movie. The horse and the wagon are gone, however their ahead motion, and their music, persist.
Pay attention: Track was an extremely essential a part of the lives of displaced individuals. “Vu ahin zol ikh geyn” (The place Shall I Go) turned the emblematic music of postwar Jewish refugees.
Extra: March three, for those who’re in New Jersey (and I do know a variety of you’re) go to Livingston and see the sensible trio of Ilya Shneyveys, Psoy Korolenko, and Zisl Slepovitch. Who Is aware of One is their kid-friendly, multilingual afternoon program of counting songs. Extra information right here … Additionally in New Jersey, March 13 is your probability to see a live performance manufacturing of Yiddish Glory, the Grammy-nominated album of misplaced Russian-Jewish songs of WWII … It’s exhausting to overstate the significance of the New England Conservatory to the fashionable klezmer revival. The groundbreaking Klezmer Conservatory Band is just the start of the story. To rejoice the 40th anniversary of the primary klezmer jam session, NEC is internet hosting Klezmerpalooza on March 9 and 10, with live shows and workshops. Free, however ensure you register …Washington D.C.’s Theatre J opens its new manufacturing of Jacob Gordin’s nice Yiddish Shakespeare adaptation The Jewish Queen Lear, March 13-April 7 (in English); information right here … Do you know there’s a Park Slope Meals Coop Prospect Live performance collection? Now you do, and you may go hear Yiddish Songs for the Ides of March. Anticipate unique and conventional songs of assassination, revenge, revelry, prophesy, and betrayal. eight p.m., Friday, March 16, at Brooklyn Society for Moral Tradition, 53 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn … Professor Naomi Seidman has lengthy been on the slicing fringe of Yiddish scholarship. Her new ebook Sarah Schenirer and the Bais Yaakov Motion: A Revolution within the Identify of Custom is concerning the institution of the Bais Yaakov faculty system for women. Seidman will discuss her guide, and Basya Schecter (of the band Pharaoh’s Daughter) shall be main a efficiency of Yiddish songs from the Bais Yaakov songbook. Sunday, March 24, at 6 p.m. Extra information right here … Individuals are all the time asking me, “However Rokhl, what about Ladino?” I lastly have a solution for you. On March 28, Anthony Russell and Sarah Aroeste are bringing their beautiful Ladino-Yiddish music program (I noticed it on the final Yidstock) to Carnegie Corridor, by means of the JCC Manhattan. I recommend you get your tickets now … For Jews for Racial and Financial Justice, Purim is a whole season of constructing, group schooling, and spectacle planning. Their Aftselakhis Purimshpil is known. Take a look at their calendar right here. The primary occasion is March 30 … That is the second summer time for Yiddish Berlin, the brand new summer time intensive I’m type of dying to attend. Aug. 12-30, beneath the path of Yitskhok Niborski. Newcomers welcome … Lastly, all of the panels from January’s packed Yiddish Anarchism convention at the moment are streaming on-line.
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