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In the early 20th century, the population of New York City’s Lower East Side swelled with vast numbers of eastern European Jewish immigrants. The tenements, whose inhabitants faced poverty and frequent unemployment, provoked the hostile attention of immigration restrictionists, many of whom disdained Jews, racial minorities, and foreigners as inferior. Accordingly, they aimed to stifle the growth of dense ethnic settlements by curtailing immigration.
Dispersing the Ghetto is the first book to describe in detail an important but little-known chapter in American immigration history, that of the Industrial Removal Office (IRO), founded in 1901. Established American Jews—arrivals from the German states only a generation before—felt vulnerable. They feared their security was at risk owing to the rising tide of Russian Jews on the east coast. German American Jews believed they too might become the objects of anti-Semitic scorn, which would be disastrous for German and Russian Jews alike if it were allowed to shape public policy. As a defensive measure to undercut the immigration restrictionist movement, American Jews of German origin established the Industrial Removal Office to promote the relocation of the immigrants to the towns and cities of the nation’s interior. Until the onset of World War I, the IRO directed the resettlement of Jewish immigrants from New York and other port cities to hundreds of communities nationwide.
Drawing on a variety of sources, including the IRO archive, first-person accounts of resettlement, local records, and the Jewish press, Glazier recounts the operation of the IRO and the complex relationship between two sets of Jewish immigrants.
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Jack Glazier is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Anthropology at Oberlin College. He is on the advisory board of the Encyclopedia of Diasporas. Jack has collaborated with the anthropologist Arthur L. Helweg on the inaugural volume, Ethnicity in Michigan, of the series, Discovering the Peoples of Michigan. He has also served on the Board of Directors and the Program Committee of the American Anthropological Association. He is a Fellow of the American Anthropological Association and the Royal Anthropological Institute. Jack has also published Dispersing the Ghetto: The Relocation of Jewish Immigrants Across America, with Cornell University Press.Review:
"Glazier's examination of the origins and implementation of IRO policies and practices is based on extensive use of primary and secondary sources. The book is a model of interdisciplinary research and makes an interesting contribution to the study of American immigration history. Recommended for both public and academic libraries."―Library Journal
"Glazier effectively uses personal stories and quotations from Jewish immigrants. . . to personalize the consequences and effectiveness of the program Industrial Removal Office. . . . This well-researched and well-written book explores issues relevant to contemporary attitudes toward new immigrants. It is suitable for use in graduate and undergraduate courses on ethnic history and relations as well as in courses on the history and sociology of America's Jews."―Roberta Rosenberg Farber, Journal of American Ethnic History
"Dispersing the Ghetto is a well-researched, well-written, and informative study of a small but important aspect of American Jewish life. It is highly recommended for students of immigration and Judaica. . . . One of the strengths of Glazier's book is the extensive amount of data presented in appendices as well as throughout the book."―Abraham D. Lavender, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, July 2000
"Jack Glazier writes a. . . careful, sensitive, and intelligent study. . . . an excellent job of placing the IRO in the context of other efforts by American Jews to protect themselves. . . . In a cogent and concise conclusion to this valuable book, he makes a number of helpful comparisons and contrasts between contemporary and turn-of-the-century immigration to America, intimating that the continuing struggle to reconcile diversity and universalism is not only formidable but as full of promise as it was one hundred years ago."―Gerald Sorin, Journal of American History, September 2000
"Jack Glazier has produced a competently researched and engagingly narrated text. . . . The book's special strength . . . lies in two features framing the discussion. . . . Glazier's book is a solid piece of work and an interesting read, and I recommend it to all immigration historians."―Ewa Morawska, American Historical Review, October 2000
"Anthropologist Jack Glazier has made an important contribution to the fields of American Jewish history and immigration and ethnic history in presenting this book on the Industrial Removal Office. . . It will make an important contribution to the scholarly discussion of ethnicity and immigration. It should achieve a place of significance in the scholarship."―Hasia R. Diner, Ethnic and Racial Studies
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