"They Are Slitting the Throats of Jewish Children": The 1906 New York School Riots and Contending Images of Gentiles.
American Jewish History, 2008, Sept, 94, 3
American Jewish History
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In 1906 thousands of wailing Jewish parents stormed more than a dozen public schools across the city of New York, believing their children were being massacred. Though this event has largely been neglected by historians, the Jewish immigrant population's responses to it, especially through the influential Yiddish press, showed how enduring images of non-Jews, and suspicions toward them brought over from eastern Europe, could erupt into a hysterical charge on school buildings. (1) This episode, as well as a few other school-related affairs that occurred around the same time, point to a more nuanced picture than the received wisdom about the idyllic union between Jewish immigrants and the public schools of New York. Reports from the period written by social reformers, such as Kate Holladay Claghorn of the New York City Tenement House Department or Lillian Wald, cofounder of the Henry Street Settlement, convey the sense that immigrant Jews viewed the public schools and the mostly gentile teachers with an undying reverence. Similarly, schoolteacher Myra Kelly argued in 1907 that Jewish immigrants venerated the Board of Education for its beneficence in providing much-needed services, such as free adult lectures, a Yiddish lecture program, night schools, free lunches, and recreational facilities. To the immigrants, Kelly believed, the board seemed to embody all that was heartening about America. (2) Many historians have echoed this notion, writing of the "the happy marriage," and even the "passionate love affair" between Jewish immigrants and the New York schools. (3) Those optimistic affirmations notwithstanding, Yiddish-speaking immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century may not have agreed with Ben Halpern, the American Jewish historian who later argued that "America is different." (4) Their perceptions of the new country were heavily influenced by lasting sensibilities concerning gentiles and contemporary events in Russia. (5)
- Category: Social Science
- Published: 01 September 2008
- Publisher: American Jewish Historical Society
- Seller: The Gale Group, Inc.
- Print Length: 41 Pages
- Language: English