Sunday, June 02, 2013

life in clippings: everyday antisemitism

this has less to do with the mintzes and more to do with the time in which they lived.

stupid stinking anti-semitism isn't over, but among polite people it's at least not stylish so bigots mostly pretend not to be bigoted.

oh, did you think i was going to write as a neutral?


so anyway, i was looking at clippings that detail the donors to various charities and causes, and there are a LOT of examples where the mintzes are either performing for charity events, organizing charity events, or ponying up cash.

and a fair amount of cash, too.

but then i noticed a couple of disturbing items.

let's back up a little.

ok, let's back up a lot.

the jewish people have been sitting on the ugly end of systematic persecution for a LONG time.

so maybe we'll only back up to about 1820 when a specific wave of systematic violence and persecution against jews in russia was just getting rolling.

we'll just call those the pogroms.

in these years, a lot of russian jews emmigrated to the US and the UK. some of them were actively escaping, and some simply looked around them, noticed the future wasn't looking bright for jews in russia, and they packed up and left.

i'm making some guesses when i say that the mintz family arrived in america to escape the pogroms. what i know for certain is that they were russian, they were jewish, and they began arriving in the US in the late 1860s.

it might fairly be said that they were in fact escaping the pogroms because even if that was not their intent, it was certainly the outcome. the worst of the pogroms came after they were already here.

we know that many russian jews arriving in the US in these years were poor, but there is some evidence that the mintz family arrived with at least some of their wealth intact.

once again, i'm making some guesses based on the prosperity of the family even in that first generation.

they were wealthy enough to employ live-in servants and to send multiple children to cornell university. they "took cabins" on the lake and went on a great deal of vacations, many of which were reported in the newspapers.

by contrast my family, which arrived in the US from eastern europe starting in the 1880s has never achieved that level of affluence.

what i'm saying here is that these people were not a drain on the resources of the american economy.

so now we get to the part where i'm sitting here at my desk reading the clippings about the mintzes and of ithaca in those days and my search turns up a nice little article about the jewish new year.

it serves the purpose of telling people a little about the holiday and also informs the town that the stores in town owned by jewish families will be closed in observance.

the article seems harmless, but it does have a quality about it where jews are odd foreigners among us, even if we like them.

by itself, i would not have thought twice until i got to a 1905 article in the ithaca daily news about money being raised to help the victims of the pogroms and what really burns my butt here is in the headlines:




Members of Race Careful Not to, Ask 
Help of Christians, But Any Such 
Contributions Will be Gratefully 
Accepted—News Believes That 
Publicity Will Help On This Good 
Work Here. 

really? dafuq? i don't even know where to start. first of all,  jewish is not a race, nevermind the wrongness of  dividing people into races for any purpose other than description.

(newsflash for racial purity hatwipes: we're all interbreeding now, and it turns out we have neanderthal DNA, so we're not even species pure. get over it. isn't it nice that we come in such a wide variety of colors? you can select a mate to match your sofa!)

but anyway. we want to help people who are being brutalized and for some reason we need to take an apologetic tone deferential to christians that we are even asking? because only jews should be properly concerned with helping other jews? and christians should not be troubled by the request?

ugh. that is so wrong it makes my brain hurt.

happily, in a 1915 article about relief for russian jews (yes, still the pogroms), there is no such caution about being careful not to ask the christians. happily, many of the names on the list are christian people of ithaca.

there's still that feeling of "other", though, that i do not like. i know, it is very progressive and tolerant for its day. i know, in the day it is simply smashing for jewish families to be able to live and work and go to school with everybody else and be in the society pages and the institutionalization of "otherness" is not as bad as the institutionalization of oppression.

and everyone of the era seems to take part in a cheerful racism against all non-whites.

but still.

on a mintz-study note, although the mintzes show up on donor lists for just about every other cause, they are absent from the lists of donors to aid the russian jews. since they ARE russian jews, maybe they feel it is poor form to be connected with such a fund? maybe they are already contributing to this cause by helping out their own extended family? already paying to bring more jews out of russia?

i don't know.

often study of a thing raises more questions than it answers.

1 comment:

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

This is fascinating.
But what really stands out to me is that they "holier than thou" attitude of so called Christians. We see it played out over and over again in todays world. It saddens me because damn it the term itself should not make you better than anyone else, in fact it should imply your heart is open and that you love all people equaly - or dislike them all equally in my case. :-)

I have heard for years stories of bad and prejudical treatment of my father and his family when arriving in the US. I thought he was just a blowhard. He can be so very bigoted himself. Then I began watching this Canadian show Bomb Girls. It was the war effort from around the time my father arrived. It opened my eyes to the horrific treatment of certain people. His people included. And of course what women endured. I have learned more history from this show than I ever did in school sadly.
And sometimes our history is ugly.


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