Immigration Experience


Immigration Experience Essay, Research Paper

The Immigration Experience-

Books related to The Immigration Experience-

The Immigration Experience-

They are our grandparents, our relatives, our friends. They

are the immigrants. They came from all over the world for many

reasons, such as, religious persecution and racial tension, but the

largest reason for coming to America was for freedom. The freedom to

live where we want, to own property, to take part in the government

and most importantly, the freedom to be treated like a human being.

Coming over was extremely difficult. For some, there were

good, seaworthy boats, but most boats were overcrowded, dirty, and

disgusting. For Jews, the passage was extremely difficult because of

the non-kosher ship food. People were pushed together like cattle.

Most people became seasick. From one account came descriptions of

unsanitary bathrooms. This, surely, must have been torture, but,

hopefully, most immigrants found the dreadful trip to be worth the

freedom at the other end.

Ellis Island, also, was far from sanitary. The people would

break down into lines, and walk by a doctor, trying to hide any

physical problems. Children over two had to be able to walk by

themselves. If the doctor noticed anything wrong he would use a piece

of chalk to show the person required further inspection. If, this was

indeed the case, the person would be set aside in a cage.

Another test was that of sanity. An interpreter would ask each

person a few questions just to find a sensible answer to test mental

stability. The last and most feared doctor checked for disease by

lifting the eyelid. He scared children, and probably spread more

disease than the people he checked. From an eyewitness account, his

gloves were not sterile, and he did not change or even wash them

between examinations. I, myself, found this disgusting, and dangerous.

Then, immigrants filed into lines by nationality to be

questioned. The questions scared many people. Should they tell the

truth or lie. Which answer would make sure that they could stay in


Later, for Jews, help came. A group called the “Hebrew

Immigrant Aid Society,” (HIAS) told them to tell the truth, and helped

them through the period between leaving the boat and getting settled

in the west. Some officials were corrupt, and allowed bribes. This

makes me wonder, if this was the land of freedom and justice as it had

been claimed. Through the ordeal, one thing is certain. All of the

immigrants passing through Ellis Island were scared and confused. It

was one feeling that most of these people would probably be exposed to

for the next few months.

There were many restrictions. People with certain diseases

would be sent back. Laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, would not

let certain nationalities into America. In the early twentieth century

it was decided that Japanese people would not be allowed into America.

This was surely not the land of liberty that had been promised by our

forefathers. One of the nationalities traveling to America were Jews.

They were treated somewhat differently. This was probably because

many of their countries would not accept them.

The first Jews in the new world were Morranos from Spain. They

fled their homeland because of the inquisition. They traveled from

Spain to South America, and then to New Amsterdam. They, at first were

rejected by Peter Stuyvesant, but petitioned the Dutch West India

Company of Amsterdam, Holland, and, eventually were let into the

colony. Stuyvesant was determined to make life hard for the Jews, and

therefore denied them the right to build a synagogue. Luckily, for the

Jews, the colony was soon to be taken over by the British. Under

certain British naturalization laws, the Jews were able to build a

synagogue in the colony.

Jews in Savannah were accepted, but only to a degree. This was

because of Samuel Nunes, a Jewish doctor who helped to stop a disease

that had already killed many people. Even then, Jews were given land

away from the main town. In the American Revolution Jews did not take

any specific sides. Some believed that the freedom that they had

gained under the English rule would be lost. Other felt that the taxes

were too high and joined the Patriots.

Later, in the Civil War, Jews took sides as everyone else.

Their location meant everything. Jews in the north sided with the

Union, and Jews in the south sided with the Confederacy.

Unfortunately, a law was passed by Congress forbidding Jewish

Chaplains in the Union army. Congress later passed a law stating that

chaplains had to be “ministers of some religious denomination,” which

included Christian ministers and Jewish rabbis.

Then, more trouble came for the Jews. Ulysees S. Grant ordered

that all Jews in the states of Kentucky and Tennessee were to be

removed. Fortunately, Lincoln cancelled the order as soon as he found

out. Later, between 1880 and 1925, many Jews came to America to escape

anti semitism. One of the acts of anti-semitism was church supported

violence against Jews in Eastern Europe (before World War I), which

was legal. There were also laws which discriminated against Jews. In

Russia, a czar had been assassinated, and Jews were blamed out of fear

of a revolution. This caused a flood of immigrants into the United


Most of America’s famous people are descended from immigrants

if they are not immigrants themselves. People, like Albert Einstein, a

famous physicist, and Henry Kissinger, who was Secretary of State, and

helped to open up negotiations with China, were Jewish immigrants.

People like Bob Hope, who was born in England, have contributed richly

to our culture. Charlie Chaplin, also from England, was a silent movie


America is made of many different cultures, all of which have

contributed to the American way of life. Jews contributed doctors and

lawyers. Japanese are computer and business contributors. Koreans are

well educated and have been involved in many professional, technical,

and managerial careers. African Americans have contributed music,

science, literature, entertainment, and many other things to our

culture. Our culture is derived from many different ones, and cannot

be broken down into which group contributes what because each group

has done so much.

All this proves that Americans are not just one people. We are

individuals from different cultures. We are different, but we are all



“Asian Americans” Grolier’s Online Encyclopedia. 1991 ed.

“Chinese Exclusion Act” Grolier’s Online Encyclopedia. 1991 ed.

“Ellis Island” Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. 1986 ed.

Fallows, James. “The Mind of Japan” U.S. News and World Report 2

December 1983: 36

Howe, Irving. World of Our Fathers. New York and London: Harcourt

Brace Jovanovich, 1976

Interview with Mollie Greenblatt, Brooklyn, New York 1991

Interview with Nathan Laks, Elizabeth, New Jersey 1991

Kenvin, Helen Schwartz. This Land of Liberty – A History of America’s

Jews. West Orange, New Jersey: Behrman House Publishers, 1986.

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