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Jewish Involvement in Shaping American Immigration Policy, 1881-1965: A Historical
Department of Psychology
California State University-Long Beach
Long Beach, CA 90840-0901
Population and Environment, in press.
Jewish Involvement in Shaping American Immigration Policy, 1881–1965: A Historical
This paper discusses Jewish involvement in shaping United States immigration policy. In
addition to a periodic interest in fostering the immigration of co-religionists as a result of
anti-Semitic movements, Jews have an interest in opposing the establishment of ethnically and
culturally homogeneous societies in which they reside as minorities. Jews have been at the
forefront in supporting movements aimed at altering the ethnic status quo in the United States in
favor of immigration of non-European peoples. These activities have involved leadership in
Congress, organizing and funding anti-restrictionist groups composed of Jews and gentiles, and
originating intellectual movements opposed to evolutionary and biological perspectives in the
Jewish Involvement in Shaping American Immigration Policy, 1881-1965: A Historical
Ethnic conflict is of obvious importance for understanding critical aspects of American history,
and not only for understanding Black/White ethnic conflict or the fate of Native Americans.
Immigration policy is a paradigmatic example of conflict of interest between ethnic groups because
immigration policy influences the future demographic composition of the nation. Ethnic groups unable
to influence immigration policy in their own interests will eventually be displaced or reduced in relative
numbers by groups able to accomplish this goal.
This paper discusses ethnic conflict between Jews and gentiles in the area of immigration policy.
Immigration policy is, however, only one aspect of conflicts of interest between Jews and gentiles in
America. The skirmishes between Jews and the gentile power structure beginning in the late nineteenth
century always had strong overtones of anti-Semitism. These battles involved issues of Jewish upward
mobility, quotas on Jewish representation in elite schools beginning in the nineteenth century and
peaking in the 1920s and 1930s, the anti-Communist crusades in the post-World War II era, as well as
the very powerful concern with the cultural influences of the major media extending from Henry Ford’s
writings in the 1920s to the Hollywood inquisitions of the McCarthy era and into the contemporary era.
That anti-Semitism was involved in these issues can be seen from the fact that historians of Judaism
(e.g., Sachar 1992, p. 620ff) feel compelled to include accounts of these events as important to the
history of Jews in America, by the anti-Semitic pronouncements of many of the gentile participants, and
by the self-conscious understanding of Jewish participants and observers.
The Jewish involvement in influencing immigration policy in the United States is especially
noteworthy as an aspect of ethnic conflict. Jewish involvement has had certain unique qualities that have
distinguished Jewish interests from the interests of other groups favoring liberal immigration policies.
Throughout much of this period, one Jewish interest in liberal immigration policies stemmed from a
desire to provide a sanctuary for Jews fleeing from anti-Semitic persecutions in Europe and elsewhere.
Anti-Semitic persecutions have been a recurrent phenomenon in the modern world beginning with the
Czarist persecutions in 1881, and continuing into the post-World War II era in the Soviet Union and
Eastern Europe. As a result, liberal immigration has been a Jewish interest because “survival often
dictated that Jews seek refuge in other lands” (Cohen 1972, p. 341). For a similar reason, Jews have
consistently advocated an internationalist foreign policy for the United States because “an
internationally-minded America was likely to be more sensitive to the problems of foreign Jewries”
(Cohen 1972, p. 342).
However, in addition to a persistent concern that America be a safe haven for Jews fleeing
outbreaks of anti-Semitism in foreign countries, there is evidence that Jews, much more than any other
European-derived ethnic group in America, have viewed liberal immigration policies as a mechanism of
ensuring that America would be a pluralistic rather than a unitary, homogeneous society (e.g., Cohen
1972). Pluralism serves both internal (within-group) and external (between-group) Jewish interests.
Pluralism serves internal Jewish interests because it legitimates the internal Jewish interest in
rationalizing and openly advocating an interest in Jewish group commitment and non-assimilation, what
Howard Sachar (1992, p. 427) terms its function in “legitimizing the preservation of a minority culture
in the midst of a majority’s host society.” The development of an ethnic, political, or religious
monoculture implies that Judaism can survive only by engaging in a sort of semi-crypsis. As Irving
Louis Horowitz (1993, 86) notes regarding the long-term consequences of Jewish life under
Communism, “Jews suffer, their numbers decline, and emigration becomes a survival solution when the
state demands integration into a national mainstream, a religious universal defined by a state religion or
a near-state religion.” Both Neusner (1987) and Ellman (1987) suggest that the increased sense of ethnic
consciousness seen in Jewish circles recently has been influenced by this general movement within
American society toward the legitimization of minority group ethnocentrism.
More importantly, ethnic and religious pluralism serves external Jewish interests because Jews
become just one of many ethnic groups. This results in the diffusion of political and cultural influence
among the various ethnic and religious groups, and it becomes difficult or impossible to develop unified,
cohesive groups of gentiles united in their opposition to Judaism. Historically, major anti-Semitic
movements have tended to erupt in societies that have been, apart from the Jews, religiously and/or
ethnically homogeneous (MacDonald, 1994; 1998). Conversely, one reason for the relative lack of
anti-Semitism in America compared to Europe was that “Jews did not stand out as a solitary group of
[religious] non-conformists (Higham 1984, p. 156). It follows also that ethnically and religiously
pluralistic societies are more likely to satisfy Jewish interests than are societies characterized by ethnic
and religious homogeneity among gentiles.
Beginning with Horace Kallen, Jewish intellectuals have been at the forefront in developing
models of the United States as a culturally and ethnically pluralistic society. Reflecting the utility of
cultural pluralism in serving internal Jewish group interests in maintaining cultural separatism, Kallen
personally combined his ideology of cultural pluralism with a deep immersion in Jewish history and
literature, a commitment to Zionism, and political activity on behalf of Jews in Eastern Europe (Sachar
1992, p. 425ff; Frommer 1978).
Kallen (1915; 1924) developed a “polycentric” ideal for American ethnic relationships. Kallen
defined ethnicity as deriving from one’s biological endowment, implying that Jews should be able to
remain a genetically and culturally cohesive group while nevertheless participating in American
democratic institutions. This conception that the United States should be organized as a set of separate
ethnic/cultural groups was accompanied by an ideology that relationships between groups would be
cooperative and benign: “Kallen lifted his eyes above the strife that swirled around him to an ideal realm
where diversity and harmony coexist” (Higham 1984, p. 209). Similarly in Germany, the Jewish leader
Moritz Lazarus argued in opposition to the views of the German intellectual Heinrich Treitschke that the
continued separateness of diverse ethnic groups contributed to the richness of German culture (Schorsch
1972, p. 63). Lazarus also developed the doctrine of dual loyalty which became a cornerstone of the
Kallen wrote his 1915 essay partly in reaction to the ideas of Edward A. Ross (1914). Ross was a
Darwinian sociologist who believed that the existence of clearly demarcated groups would tend to result
in between-group competition for resources. Higham’s comment is interesting because it shows that
Kallen’s romantic views of group co-existence were contradicted by the reality of between-group
competition in his own day. Indeed, it is noteworthy that Kallen was a prominent leader of the American
Jewish Congress (AJCongress). During the 1920s and 1930s the AJCongress championed group
economic and political rights for Jews in Eastern Europe at a time when there was widespread ethnic
tensions and persecution of Jews, and despite the fears of many that such rights would merely
exacerbate current tensions. The AJCongress demanded that Jews be allowed proportional political
representation as well as the ability to organize their own communities and preserve an autonomous
Jewish national culture. The treaties with Eastern European countries and Turkey included provisions
that the state provide instruction in minority languages and that Jews have the right to refuse to attend
courts or other public functions on the Sabbath (Frommer 1978, p. 162).
Kallen’s idea of cultural pluralism as a model for America was popularized among gentile
intellectuals by John Dewey (Higham 1984, p. 209), who in turn was promoted by Jewish intellectuals:
“If lapsed Congregationalists like Dewey did not need immigrants to inspire them to press against the
boundaries of even the most liberal of Protestant sensibilities, Dewey’s kind were resoundingly
encouraged in that direction by the Jewish intellectuals they encountered in urban academic and literary
communities” (Hollinger, 1996, p. 24).
Kallen’s ideas have been very influential in producing Jewish self-conceptualizations of their
status in America. This influence was apparent as early as 1915 among American Zionists, such as Louis
D. Brandeis. Brandeis viewed America as composed of different nationalities whose free development
would “spiritually enrich the United States and would make it a democracy par excellence” (Gal 1989,
p. 70). These views became “a hallmark of mainstream American Zionism, secular and religious alike”
(Gal 1989, p. 70). But Kallen’s influence extended really to all educated Jews:
Legitimizing the preservation of a minority culture in the midst of a majority’s host society,
pluralism functioned as intellectual anchorage for an educated Jewish second generation,
sustained its cohesiveness and its most tenacious communal endeavors through the rigors of the
Depression and revived anti-semitism, through the shock of Nazism and the Holocaust, until
the emergence of Zionism in the post-World War II years swept through American Jewry with
a climactic redemptionist fervor of its own. (Sachar 1992, p. 427)
Explicit statements linking immigration policy to a Jewish interest in cultural pluralism can be
found among prominent Jewish social scientists and political activists. In his review of Kallen’s (1956)
Cultural Pluralism and the American Idea appearing in Congress Weekly (published by the
AJCongress), Joseph L. Blau (1958, p. 15) noted that “Kallen’s view is needed to serve the cause of
minority groups and minority cultures in this nation without a permanent majority”— the implication
being that Kallen’s ideology of multi-culturalism opposes the interests of any ethnic group in
dominating America. The well-known author and prominent Zionist Maurice Samuel (1924, p. 215)
writing partly as a negative reaction to the immigration law of 1924, wrote that “If, then, the struggle
between us [i.e., Jews and gentiles] is ever to be lifted beyond the physical, your democracies will have
to alter their demands for racial, spiritual and cultural homogeneity with the State. But it would be
foolish to regard this as a possibility, for the tendency of this civilization is in the opposite direction.
There is a steady approach toward the identification of government with race, instead of with the
Samuel deplored the 1924 legislation and in the following quote he develops the view that the
American state as having no ethnic implications.
We have just witnessed, in America, the repetition, in the peculiar form adapted to this country,
of the evil farce to which the experience of many centuries has not yet accustomed us. If
America had any meaning at all, it lay in the peculiar attempt to rise above the trend of our
present civilization— the identification of race with State. . . . America was therefore the New
World in this vital respect— that the State was purely an ideal, and nationality was identical
only with acceptance of the ideal. But it seems now that the entire point of view was a mistaken
one, that America was incapable of rising above her origins, and the semblance of an
ideal-nationalism was only a stage in the proper development of the universal gentile spirit. . . .
To-day, with race triumphant over ideal, anti-Semitism uncovers its fangs, and to the heartless
refusal of the most elementary human right, the right of asylum, is added cowardly insult. We
are not only excluded, but we are told, in the unmistakable language of the immigration laws,
that we are an “inferior” people. Without the moral courage to stand up squarely to its evil
instincts, the country prepared itself, through its journalists, by a long draught of vilification of
the Jew, and, when sufficiently inspired by the popular and “scientific” potions, committed the
act. (pp. 218-220)
A congruent opinion is expressed by prominent Jewish social scientist and political activist Earl
Raab1 who remarks very positively on the success of American immigration policy in altering the ethnic
composition of the United States since 1965. Raab notes that the Jewish community has taken a
leadership role in changing the Northwestern European bias of American immigration policy (1993a, p.
17), and he has also maintained that one factor inhibiting anti-Semitism in the contemporary United
States is that “(a)n increasing ethnic heterogeneity, as a result of immigration, has made it even more
difficult for a political party or mass movement of bigotry to develop” (1995, p. 91). Or more colorfully:
The Census Bureau has just reported that about half of the American population will soon be
non-white or non-European. And they will all be American citizens. We have tipped beyond
the point where a Nazi-Aryan party will be able to prevail in this country.
We [i.e., Jews] have been nourishing the American climate of opposition to bigotry for about
half a century. That climate has not yet been perfected, but the heterogeneous nature of our
population tends to make it irreversible— and makes our constitutional constraints against
bigotry more practical than ever. (Raab 1993b, p. 23).2
Indeed, the “primary objective” of Jewish political activity after 1945 “was . . . to prevent the
emergence of an anti-Semitic reactionary mass movement in the United States” (Svonkin 1997, 8).
Charles Silberman (1985, 350) notes that “American Jews are committed to cultural tolerance because
of their belief— one firmly rooted in history— that Jews are safe only in a society acceptant of a wide
range of attitudes and behaviors, as well as a diversity of religious and ethnic groups. It is this belief, for
example, not approval of homosexuality, that leads an overwhelming majority of American Jews to
endorse ‘gay rights’ and to take a liberal stance on most other so-called ‘social’ issues.”3 Silberman’s
comment that Jewish attitudes are “firmly rooted in history” is quite reasonable: There has indeed been a
tendency for Jews to be persecuted by a culturally and/or ethnically homogeneous majority that come to
view Jews as a negatively evaluated outgroup.
Similarly, in listing the positive benefits of immigration, Diana Aviv, director of the Washington
Action Office of the Council of Jewish Federations states that immigration “is about diversity, cultural
enrichment and economic opportunity for the immigrants” (quoted in Forward, March 8, 1996, p. 5).
And in summarizing Jewish involvement in the 1996 legislative battles a newspaper account stated that
“Jewish groups failed to kill a number of provisions that reflect the kind of political expediency that they
regard as a direct attack on American pluralism” (Detroit Jewish News; May 10, 1996).
It is noteworthy also that there has been a conflict between predominantly Jewish
neo-Conservatives and predominantly gentile paleo-conservatives over the issue of Third World
immigration into the United States. Many of these neo-conservative intellectuals had previously been
radical leftists,4 and the split between the neo-conservatives and their previous allies resulted in an
intense internecine feud (Gottfried 1993; Rothman & Lichter 1982, p. 105). Neo-conservatives Norman
Podhoretz and Richard John Neuhaus reacted very negatively to an article by a paleo-conservative
concerned that such immigration would eventually lead to the United States being dominated by such
immigrants (see Judis 1990, p. 33). Other examples are neo-Conservatives Julian Simon (1990) and Ben
Wattenberg (1991), both of whom advocate very high levels of immigration from all parts of the world,
so that the United States will become what Wattenberg describes as the world’s first “Universal Nation.”
Based on recent data, Fetzer (1996) reports that Jews remain far more favorable to immigration to the
United States than any other ethnic group or religion.
It should be noted as a general point that the effectiveness of Jewish organizations in influencing
American immigration policy has been facilitated by certain characteristics of American Jewry. As
Neuringer (1971, p. 87) notes, Jewish influence on immigration policy was facilitated by Jewish wealth,
education, and social status. Reflecting its general disproportionate representation in markers of
economic success and political influence, Jewish organizations have been able to have a vastly
disproportionate effect on United States immigration policy because Jews as a group are highly
organized, highly intelligent, and politically astute, and they were able to command a high level of
financial, political, and intellectual resources in pursuing their political aims. Similarly, Hollinger (1996,
p. 19) notes that Jews were more influential in the decline of a homogeneous Protestant Christian culture
in the United States than Catholics because of their greater wealth, social standing, and technical skill in
the intellectual arena. In the area of immigration policy, the main Jewish activist organization
influencing immigration policy, the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee), was characterized by
“strong leadership [particularly Louis Marshall], internal cohesion, well-funded programs, sophisticated
lobbying techniques, well-chosen non-Jewish allies, and good timing” (Goldstein 1990, p. 333).
In this regard, the Jewish success in influencing immigration policy is entirely analogous to their
success in influencing the secularization of American culture. As in the case of immigration policy, the
secularization of American culture is a Jewish interest because Jews have a perceived interest that
America not be a homogeneous Christian culture. “Jewish civil rights organizations have had an historic
role in the postwar development of American church-state law and policy” (Ivers 1995, p. 2). Unlike the
effort to influence immigration, the opposition to a homogeneous Christian culture was mainly carried
out in the courts. The Jewish effort in this case was well funded and was the focus of well-organized,
highly dedicated Jewish civil service organizations, including the AJCommittee, the AJCongress, and
the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). It involved keen legal expertise both in the actual litigation but also
in influencing legal opinion via articles in law journals and other forums of intellectual debate, including
the popular media. It also involved a highly charismatic and effective leadership, particularly Leo
Pfeffer of the AJCongress:
No other lawyer exercised such complete intellectual dominance over a chosen area of law for
so extensive a period¾ as an author, scholar, public citizen, and above all, legal advocate who
harnessed his multiple and formidable talents into a single force capable of satisfying all that an
institution needs for a successful constitutional reform movement. . . . That Pfeffer, through an
enviable combination of skill, determination, and persistence, was able in such a short period of
time to make church-state reform the foremost cause with which rival organizations associated
the AJCongress illustrates well the impact that individual lawyers endowed with exceptional
skills can have on the character and life of the organizations for which they work. . . . As if to
confirm the extent to which Pfeffer is associated with post-Everson [i.e., post-1946]
constitutional development, even the major critics of the Court’s church-state jurisprudence
during this period and the modern doctrine of separationism rarely fail to make reference to
Pfeffer as the central force responsible for what they lament as the lost meaning of the
establishment clause. (Ivers 1995, pp. 222-224)
Similarly, Hollinger (1996, p. 4) notes “the transformation of the ethnoreligious demography of
American academic life by Jews” in the period from the 1930s to the 1960s, as well as the Jewish
influence on trends toward the secularization of American society and in advancing an ideal of
cosmopolitanism (p. 11). The pace of this influence was very likely influenced by immigration battles of
the 1920s. Hollinger notes that the “the old Protestant establishment’s influence persisted until the 1960s
in large measure because of the Immigration Act of 1924: had the massive immigration of Catholics and
Jews continued at pre-1924 levels, the course of American history would have been different in many
ways, including, one may reasonably speculate, a more rapid diminution of Protestant cultural
hegemony. Immigration restriction gave that hegemony a new lease of life” (p. 22). It is reasonable to
suppose, therefore, that the immigration battles from 1881 to 1965 have been of momentous historical
importance in shaping the contours of American culture in the late twentieth century.
The ultimate success of Jewish attitudes on immigration was also influenced by intellectual
movements that collectively resulted in a decline of evolutionary and biological thinking in the academic
world. Although playing virtually no role in the restrictionist position in the Congressional debates on
the immigration (which focused mainly on the fairness of maintaining the ethnic status quo; see below),
a component of the intellectual zeitgeist of the 1920s was the prevalence of evolutionary theories of race
and ethnicity (Singerman 1986), particularly the theories of Madison Grant. In The Passing of the Great
Race, Grant (1921) argued that the American colonial stock was derived from superior Nordic racial
elements and that immigration of other races would lower the competence level of the society as a whole
as well as threaten democratic and republican institutions. Grant’s ideas were popularized in the media
at the time of the immigration debates (see Divine 1957, pp. 12ff) and often provoked negative
comments in Jewish publications such as The American Hebrew (e.g., March 21, 1924, pp. 554, 625).5
The debate over group differences in IQ was also tied to the immigration issue. C. C. Brigham’s
study of intelligence among United States army personnel concluded that Nordics were superior to
Alpine and Mediterranean Europeans, and Brigham (1923, p. 210) concluded that “(i)mmigration should
not only be restrictive but highly selective.” In the Foreword to Brigham’s book, Harvard psychologist
Robert M. Yerkes stated that “The author presents not theories but facts. It behooves us to consider their
reliability and meaning, for no one of us as a citizen can afford to ignore the menace of race
deterioration or the evident relation of immigration to national progress and welfare” (in Brigham 1923,
Nevertheless, as Samelson (1975) points out, the drive to restrict immigration originated long
before IQ testing came into existence and restriction was favored by a variety of groups, including
organized labor, for reasons other than those related to race and IQ, including especially the fairness of
maintaining the ethnic status quo in the United States. Moreover, although Brigham’s IQ testing results
did indeed appear in the statement submitted by the Allied Patriotic Societies to the House hearings,6 the
role of IQ testing in the immigration debates has been greatly exaggerated (Snyderman & Herrnstein,
1983). Indeed, IQ testing was never even mentioned in either the House Majority Report or the Minority
Report, and “there is no mention of intelligence testing in the Act; test results on immigrants appear only
briefly in the committee hearings and are then largely ignored or criticized, and they are brought up only
once in over 600 pages of congressional floor debate, where they are subjected to further criticism
without rejoinder. None of the major contemporary figures in testing . . . were called to testify, nor were
their writings inserted into the legislative record” (Snyderman & Herrnstein 1983, 994).
It is also very easy to over-emphasize the importance of theories of Nordic superiority as an
ingredient of popular and Congressional restrictionist sentiment. As Singerman (1986, 118-119) points
out, “racial anti-Semitism” was employed by only “a handful of writers;” and “the Jewish ‘problem’ . . .
was a minor preoccupation even among such widely-published authors as Madison Grant or T. Lothrop
Stoddard and none of the individuals examined [in Singerman’s review] could be regarded as
professional Jew-baiters or full-time propagandists against Jews, domestic or foreign.” As indicated
below, arguments related to Nordic superiority, including supposed Nordic intellectual superiority,
played remarkably little role in Congressional debates over immigration in the 1920s, the common
argument of the restrictionists being that immigration policy should reflect equally the interests of all
ethnic groups currently in the country.
Nevertheless, it is probable that the decline in evolutionary/biological theories of race and
ethnicity facilitated the sea change in immigration policy brought about by the 1965 law. As Higham
(1984) notes, by the time of the final victory in 1965 which removed national origins and racial ancestry
from immigration policy and opened up immigration to all human groups, the Boasian perspective of
cultural determinism and anti-biologism had become standard academic wisdom. The result was that “it
became intellectually fashionable to discount the very existence of persistent ethnic differences. The
whole reaction deprived popular race feelings of a powerful ideological weapon” (Higham 1984, pp. 58-
Jewish intellectuals were prominently involved in the movement to eradicate the racialist ideas
of Grant and others (Degler 1991, p. 200). Indeed, even during the earlier debates leading up to the
immigration bills of 1921 and 1924, restrictionists perceived themselves to be under attack from Jewish
intellectuals. In 1918, Prescott F. Hall, secretary of the Immigration Restriction League, wrote to Grant
that “What I wanted . . . was the names of a few anthropologists of note who have declared in favor of
the inequality of the races. . . . I am up against the Jews all the time in the equality argument and thought
perhaps you might be able offhand to name a few (besides Osborn) whom I could quote in support” (in
Samelson 1975, p. 467).
Grant also believed that Jews were engaged in a campaign to discredit racial research. In the
Introduction to the 1921 edition of Passing of the Great Race, Grant complained that “(i)t is well-nigh
impossible to publish in the American newspapers any reflection upon certain religions or races which
are hysterically sensitive even when not mentioned by name. The underlying idea seems to be that if
publication can be suppressed the facts themselves will ultimately disappear. Abroad, conditions are
fully as bad, and we have the authority of one of the most eminent anthropologists in France that the
collection of anthropological measurements and data among French recruits at the outbreak of the Great
War was prevented by Jewish influence, which aimed to suppress any suggestion of racial
differentiation in France.”
Particularly important was the work of Columbia University anthropologist Franz Boas and his
followers. “Boas’ influence upon American social scientists in matters of race can hardly be
exaggerated” (Degler 1991, p. 61). He engaged in a “life-long assault on the idea that race was a primary
source of the differences to be found in the mental or social capabilities of human groups. He
accomplished his mission largely through his ceaseless, almost relentless articulation of the concept of
culture” (p. 61). “Boas, almost single-handedly, developed in America the concept of culture, which,
like a powerful solvent, would in time expunge race from the literature of social science” (p. 71).
Throughout this explication of Boas’s conception of culture and his opposition to a racial
interpretation of human behavior, the central point has been that Boas did not arrive at the
position from a disinterested, scientific inquiry into a vexed if controversial question. Instead,
his idea derived from an ideological commitment that began in his early life and academic
experiences in Europe and continued in America to shape his professional outlook. . . . there is
no doubt that he had a deep interest in collecting evidence and designing arguments that would
rebut or refute an ideological outlook— racism— which he considered restrictive upon
individuals and undesirable for society. . . . there is a persistent interest in pressing his social
values upon the profession and the public. (Degler 1991, pp. 82-83)
There is evidence that Boas strongly identified as a Jew and viewed his research as having
important implications in the political arena and particularly in the area of immigration policy. Boas was
born in Prussia to a “Jewish-liberal” family in which the revolutionary ideals of 1848 remained
influential (Stocking 1968, p. 149). Boas developed a “left-liberal posture which . . . is at once scientific
and political” (Stocking 1968, p. 149) and was intensely concerned with anti-Semitism from an early
period in his life (White 1966, p. 16). Moreover, Boas was deeply alienated from and hostile toward
gentile culture, particularly the cultural ideal of the Prussian aristocracy (Degler 1991, p. 200; Stocking
1968, p. 150). For example, when Margaret Mead was looking for a way to persuade Boas to let her
pursue her research in the South Sea islands, “she hit upon a sure way of getting him to change his mind.
‘I knew there was one thing that mattered more to Boas than the direction taken by anthropological
research. This was that he should behave like a liberal, democratic, modern man, not like a Prussian
autocrat.’ The ploy worked because she had indeed uncovered the heart of his personal values” (Degler
1991, p. 73).
Boas was greatly motivated by the immigration issue as it occurred early in the century. Carl
Degler (1991, p. 74) notes that Boas’ professional correspondence “reveals that an important motive
behind his famous head-measuring project in 1910 was his strong personal interest in keeping America
diverse in population.” The study, whose conclusions were placed into the Congressional Record by
Representative Emanuel Celler during the debate on immigration restriction (Cong. Rec., April 8, 1924,
pp. 5915-5916), concluded that the environmental differences consequent to immigration caused
differences in head shape. (At the time, head shape as determined by the “cephalic index” was the main
measurement used by scientists involved in racial differences research.) Boas argued that his research
showed that all foreign groups living in favorable social circumstances had become assimilated to
America in the sense that their physical measurements converged on the American type. Although he
was considerably more circumspect regarding his conclusions in the body of his report (see also
Stocking 1968, p. 178), Boas (1911, p. 5) stated in his Introduction that “all fear of an unfavorable
influence of South European immigration upon the body of our people should be dismissed.” As a
further indication of Boas’ ideological commitment to the immigration issue, Degler makes the
following comment regarding one of Boas’ environmentalist explanations for mental differences
between immigrant and native children: “Why Boas chose to advance such an adhoc interpretation is
hard to understand until one recognizes his desire to explain in a favorable way the apparent mental
backwardness of the immigrant children” (p. 75).
Boas and his students were intensely concerned with pushing an ideological agenda within the
American anthropological profession (Degler 1991; Freeman 1991; Torrey 1992). In this regard it is
interesting that Boas and his associates had a much more highly developed sense of group identity, a
commitment to a common viewpoint, and an agenda to dominate the institutional structure of
anthropology than did their opponents (Stocking 1968, pp. 279-280). The defeat of the Darwinians “had
not happened without considerable exhortation of ‘every mother’s son’ standing for the ‘Right.’ Nor had
it been accomplished without some rather strong pressure applied both to staunch friends and to the
‘weaker brethren’— often by the sheer force of Boas’ personality” (Stocking 1968, 286). By 1915 the
Boasians controlled the American Anthropological Association and held a two-thirds majority on the
Executive Board (Stocking 1968, 285). By 1926 every major department of anthropology in the United
States was headed by a student of Boas, the majority of whom were Jewish. According to White (1966,
p. 26), Boas’ most influential students were Ruth Benedict, Alexander Goldenweiser, Melville
Herskovits, Alfred Kroeber, Robert Lowie, Margaret Mead, Paul Radin, Edward Sapir, and Leslie Spier.
All of this “small, compact group of scholars . . . gathered about their leader” (White 1966, p. 26) were
Jews with the exception of Kroeber, Benedict and Mead. Indeed, Herskovits (1953, p. 91), whose
hagiography of Boas qualifies as one of the most worshipful in intellectual history, noted that
(t)he four decades of the tenure of [Boas’] professorship at Columbia gave a continuity to his
teaching that permitted him to develop students who eventually made up the greater part of the
significant professional core of American anthropologists, and who came to man and direct
most of the major departments of anthropology in the United States. In their turn, they trained
the students who . . . have continued the tradition in which their teachers were trained.
By the mid-1930s the Boasian view of the cultural determination of human behavior had a strong
influence on social scientists generally (Stocking 1968, p. 300).
The ideology of racial equality was an important weapon on behalf of opening immigration up to
all human groups. For example, in a 1951 statement to Congress, the AJCongress stated that “The
findings of science must force even the most prejudiced among us to accept, as unqualifiedly as we do
the law of gravity, that intelligence, morality and character, bear no relationship whatever to geography
or place of birth.”7 The statement went on to cite some of Boas’ popular writings on the subject as well
as the writings of Boas’ protégé Ashley Montagu, perhaps the most visible opponent of the concept of
race during this period. Montagu, whose original name was Israel Ehrenberg, theorized that humans are
innately cooperative (but not innately aggressive) and there is a universal brotherhood among humans
(see Shipman 1994, p. 159ff). And in 1952 another Boas’ protégé, Margaret Mead, testified before the
President’s Commission on Immigration and Naturalization (PCIN) (1953, p. 92) that “all human beings
from all groups of people have the same potentialities. . . . Our best anthropological evidence today
suggests that the people of every group have about the same distribution of potentialities.” Another
witness stated that the executive board of the American Anthropological Association had unanimously
endorsed the proposition that “(a)ll scientific evidence indicates that all peoples are inherently capable of
acquiring or adapting to our civilization” (PCIN 1953, p. 93). By 1965 Senator Jacob Javits (Cong. Rec.,
111, 1965, p. 24469) confidently announced to the Senate during the debate on the immigration bill that
“(b)oth the dictates of our consciences as well as the precepts of sociologists tell us that immigration, as
it exists in the national origins quota system, is wrong, and without any basis in reason or fact for we
know better than to say that one man is better than another because of the color of his skin.” The
intellectual revolution and its translation into public policy had been completed.
JEWISH ANTI-RESTRICTIONIST POLITICAL ACTIVITY
Jewish Anti-Restrictionist Activity up to 1924.
While Jewish involvement in altering the intellectual discussion of race and ethnicity appears to
have had long term repercussions on United States immigration policy, Jewish political involvement was
ultimately of much greater significance. Jewish opinion is not monolithic. Nevertheless, although there
have been dissenters, Jews have been “the single most persistent pressure group favoring a liberal
immigration policy” in the United States in the entire immigration debate beginning in 1881 (Neuringer
1971, p. ii):
In undertaking to sway immigration policy in a liberal direction, Jewish spokesmen and
organizations demonstrated a degree of energy unsurpassed by any other interested pressure
group. Immigration had constituted a prime object of concern for practically every major
Jewish defense and community relations organization. Over the years, their spokesmen had
assiduously attended congressional hearings, and the Jewish effort was of the utmost
importance in establishing and financing such non-sectarian groups as the National Liberal
Immigration League and the Citizens Committee for Displaced Persons.
As recounted by Nathan C. Belth (1979, p. 173) in his history of the Anti-Defamation League of
B’nai B’rith (ADL), “In Congress, through all the years when the immigration battles were being fought,
the names of Jewish legislators were in the forefront of the liberal forces: from Adolph Sabath to Samuel
Dickstein and Emanuel Celler in the House and from Herbert H. Lehman to Jacob Javits in the Senate.
Each in his time was a leader of the Anti-Defamation League and of major organizations concerned with
democratic development.” The Jewish congressmen who are most closely identified with
anti-restrictionist efforts in Congress have therefore also been leaders of the group most closely
identified with Jewish ethnic political activism and self-defense.
Throughout the entire period of almost 100 years prior to achieving success with the immigration
law of 1965, Jewish groups opportunistically made alliances with other groups whose interests
temporarily converged with Jewish interests (e.g., a constantly changing set of ethnic groups, religious
groups, pro-Communists, anti-Communists, the foreign policy interests of various presidents, the
political need for president’s to curry favor with groups influential in populous states in order to win
national elections, etc.). Particularly noteworthy was the support of a liberal immigration policy from
industrial interests wanting cheap labor, at least in the period prior to the 1924 temporary triumph of
restrictionism. Within this constantly shifting set of alliances, Jewish organizations persistently pursued
their goals of maximizing the number of Jewish immigrants and opening up the United States to
immigration from all of the peoples of the world. As indicated in the following, the historical record
supports the proposition that making the United States into a multicultural society has been a major goal
of organized Jewry beginning in the nineteenth century.
The ultimate Jewish victory on immigration is remarkable because it was waged in different
arenas against a potentially very powerful set of opponents. Beginning in the late nineteenth century,
leadership of the restrictionists was provided by Eastern patricians such as Senator Henry Cabot Lodge.
However, the main political basis of restrictionism from 1910 to 1952 (in addition to the relatively
ineffectual labor union interests) derived from “the common people of the South and West” (Higham
1984, p. 49) and their representatives in Congress. Fundamentally, the clashes between Jews and
gentiles in the period between 1900 and 1965 were a conflict between Jews and this geographically
centered group. “Jews, as a result of their intellectual energy and economic resources, constituted an
advance guard of the new peoples who had no feeling for the traditions of rural America” (Higham
1984, pp. 168-169).
Although often concerned that Jewish immigration would fan the flames of anti-Semitism in
America, Jewish leaders fought a long and largely successful delaying action against restrictions on
immigration during the period from 1891-1924, particularly as they affected the ability of Jews to
immigrate. These efforts continued despite the fact that by 1905, there was “a polarity between Jewish
and general American opinion on immigration” (Neuringer 1971, p. 83). In particular, while other
religious groups such as Catholics and ethnic groups such as the Irish remained divided and ambivalent
on their attitudes toward immigration and were poorly organized and ineffective in influencing
immigration policy, and while labor unions opposed immigration in their attempt to diminish the supply
of cheap labor, Jewish groups engaged in an intensive and sustained effort against attempts to restrict
As recounted by Cohen (1972, p. 40ff), the AJCommittee’s efforts in opposition to immigration
restriction in the early twentieth century constitute a remarkable example of the ability of Jewish
organizations to influence public policy. Of all the groups affected by the immigration legislation of
1907, Jews had the least to gain in terms of numbers of possible immigrants, but they played by far the
largest role in shaping the legislation (Cohen 1972, p. 41). In the subsequent period leading up to the
relatively ineffective restrictionist legislation of 1917, when restrictionists again mounted an effort in
Congress, “only the Jewish segment was aroused” (Cohen 1972, p. 49).
Nevertheless, because of the fear of anti-Semitism, efforts were made to prevent the perception
of Jewish involvement in anti-restrictionist campaigns. In 1906, Jewish anti-restrictionist political
operatives were instructed to lobby Congress without mentioning their affiliation with the AJCommittee
because of “the danger that the Jews may be accused of being organized for a political purpose”
(comments of Herbert Friedenwald, AJCommittee secretary; in Goldstein 1990, p. 125). Beginning in
the late nineteenth century, anti-restrictionist arguments developed by Jews were typically couched in
terms of universalist humanitarian ideals, and as part of this universalizing effort, gentiles from old line
Protestant families were recruited to act as window dressing for their efforts and Jewish groups such as
the AJCommittee funded pro-immigration groups composed of non-Jews (Neuringer 1971, p. 92).
As was the case in later pro-immigration efforts, much of the activity was behind-the-scenes
personal interventions with politicians in order to minimize public perception of the Jewish role and
provoke activities of the opposition. Opposing politicians, such as Henry Cabot Lodge, and
organizations like the Immigration Restriction League were kept under close scrutiny and pressured by
lobbyists. Lobbyists in Washington also kept a daily scorecard of voting tendencies as immigration bills
wended their way through Congress and engaged in intense and successful efforts to convince Presidents
Taft and Wilson to veto restrictive immigration legislation. Catholic prelates were recruited to protest
the effects of restrictionist legislation on immigration from Italy and Hungary. When restrictionist
arguments appeared in the media, the AJCommittee made sophisticated replies, based on scholarly data
and typically couched in universalist terms as benefiting the whole society (e.g., Neuringer 1971, p. 44).
Articles favorable to immigration were published in national magazines and letters to the editor were
published in newspapers. And efforts were made to minimize the negative perceptions of immigration
by attempting to distribute Jewish immigrants around the country and by getting Jewish aliens off public
support. Legal proceedings were filed to prevent the deportation of Jewish aliens. And eventually the
Committee organized mass protest meetings.
Indeed, writing in 1914, the sociologist Edward A. Ross had a clear sense that liberal
immigration policy was exclusively a Jewish issue. Ross provides the following quote from prominent
author and Zionist pioneer Israel Zangwill as clearly articulating the idea that America is an ideal place
to achieve Jewish interests.
America has ample room for all the six millions of the Pale [i.e., the Pale of Settlement, home
to most of Russia’s Jews]; any one of her fifty states could absorb them. And next to being in a
country of their own, there could be no better fate for them than to be together in a land of civil
and religious liberty, of whose Constitution Christianity forms no part and where their
collective votes would practically guarantee them against future persecution (Israel Zangwill, in
Ross 1914, p. 144).
Jews therefore have a powerful interest in immigration policy:
Hence the endeavor of the Jews to control the immigration policy of the United States.
Although theirs is but a seventh of our net immigration, they led the fight on the Immigration
Commission’s bill. The power of the million Jews in the Metropolis lined up the Congressional
delegation from New York in solid opposition to the literacy test. The systematic campaign in
newspapers and magazines to break down all arguments for restriction and to calm nativist
fears is waged by and for one race. Hebrew money is behind the National Liberal Immigration
League and its numerous publications. From the paper before the commercial body or the
scientific association to the heavy treatise produced with the aid of the Baron de Hirsch Fund,
the literature that proves the blessings of immigration to all classes in America emanates from
subtle Hebrew brains (Ross 1914, pp. 144-145).
Ross (1914, p. 150) also reported that immigration officials had “become very sore over the
incessant fire of false accusations to which they are subjected by the Jewish press and societies. United
States senators complain that during the close of the struggle over the immigration bill they were
overwhelmed with a torrent of crooked statistics and misrepresentations of Hebrews fighting the literacy
test.” It is also noteworthy that Zangwill’s views on immigration were highly salient to restrictionists in
the debates over the 1924 immigration law (see below). In an address reprinted in The American
Hebrew (Oct. 19, 1923, p. 582), Zangwill noted that “There is only one way to World Peace, and that is
the absolute abolition of passports, visas, frontiers, custom houses, and all other devices that make of the
population of our planet not a co-operating civilization but a mutual irritation society.”
It is noteworthy that, despite elaborate and deceptive attempts to present the pro-immigration
movement as broad-based, Jewish activists were well aware of the lack of enthusiasm of other groups.
During the fight over restrictionist legislation at the end of the Taft administration, Herbert Friedenwald,
AJCommittee secretary, wrote that it was “very difficult to get any people except the Jews stirred up in
this fight” (in Goldstein 1990, p. 203). The AJCommittee also contributed heavily to staging
anti-restrictionist rallies in major American cities, but allowed other ethnic groups to take credit for the
events, and it organized groups of non-Jews from the West to influence President Taft to veto
restrictionist legislation (Goldstein 1990, pp. 216, 227). Later, during the Wilson Administration, Louis
Marshall stated that “We are practically the only ones who are fighting [the literacy test] while a “great
proportion” [of the people] is “indifferent to what is done” (in Goldstein 1990, p. 249).
The forces of immigration restriction were temporarily successful with the immigration laws of
1921 and 1924 which passed despite the intense opposition of Jewish groups. Divine (1957, p. 8) notes
that “Arrayed against [the restrictionist forces] in 1921 were only the spokesmen for the southeastern
European immigrants, mainly Jewish leaders, whose protests were drowned out by the general cry for
restriction.” Similarly during the 1924 congressional hearings on immigration, “the most prominent
group of witnesses against the bill were representatives of southeastern European immigrants,
particularly Jewish leaders” (Divine 1957, 16).
Neuringer (1971, p. 164) notes that Jewish opposition to the 1921 and 1924 legislation was
motivated less by a desire for higher levels of Jewish immigration than by opposition to the implicit
theory that America should be dominated by individuals with northern and western European ancestry.
The Jewish interest was thus to oppose the ethnic interests of the peoples of northwestern Europe in
maintaining an ethnic status quo or increasing their percentage of the population. However, even prior to
this period Jewish organizations were adamantly opposed to any restrictions on immigration based on
race or ethnicity, indicating that they had a very different view of the ideal racial/ethnic composition of
the United States than did the non-Jewish European-derived peoples.
Thus in 1882 the Jewish press was unanimous in its condemnation of the Chinese Exclusion Act
(Neuringer 1971, p. 23) even though this act had no direct bearing on Jewish immigration. In the early
twentieth century the AJCommittee at times actively fought against any bill that restricted immigration
to white persons or non-Asians, and only refrained from active opposition if it judged that AJCommittee
support would threaten the immigration of Jews (Cohen 1972, p. 47; Goldstein 1990, p. 250). In 1920
the Central Conference of American Rabbis passed a resolution urging that “the Nation . . . keep the
gates of our beloved Republic open . . . to the oppressed and distressed of all mankind in conformity
with its historic role as a haven of refuge for all men and women who pledge allegiance to its laws” (in
The American Hebrew, Oct. 1, 1920, p. 594). The American Hebrew (Feb. 17, 1922; p. 373), a
publication founded in 1867, that represented the German-Jewish establishment of the period, reiterated
its long-standing policy that it “has always stood for the admission of worthy immigrants of all classes,
irrespective of nationality.” And in his testimony in the 1924 hearings before the House Committee on
Immigration and Naturalization, the AJCommittee’s Louis Marshall stated that the bill echoed the
sentiments of the Ku Klux Klan and characterized it as being inspired by the racialist theories of
Houston Stewart Chamberlain. At a time when the population of the United States was over
100,000,000, Marshall stated that “we have room in this country for ten times the population we have”
(p. 309), and advocated admission of all of the peoples of the world without quota limit, excluding only
those who “were mentally, morally and physically unfit, who are enemies of organized government, and
who are apt to become public charges;”8 similarly Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, representing the AJCongress
and a variety of other Jewish organizations, asserted “the right of every man outside of America to be
considered fairly and equitably and without discrimination.”9
By prescribing that immigration be restricted to 3% of the foreign born as of the 1890 census, the
1924 law prescribed an ethnic status quo approximating the 1920 census. The House Majority Report
emphasized the idea that prior to the legislation, immigration was highly biased in favor of Eastern and
Southern Europeans and that this imbalance had been continued by the 1921 legislation in which quotas
were based on the numbers of foreign born as of the 1910 census. The expressed intention was that the
interests of other groups to pursue their ethnic interests by expanding their percentage of the population
should be balanced against the ethnic interests of the majority in retaining their ethnic representation in
The 1921 law gave 46% of quota immigration to Southern and Eastern Europe even though these
areas constituted only 11.7% of the United States population as of the 1920 census. The 1924 law
prescribed that these areas would get 15.3% of the quota slots— a figure that was actually higher than
their present representation in the population. “The use of the 1890 census is not discriminatory. It is
used in an effort to preserve as nearly as possible, the racial status quo of the United States. It is hoped
to guarantee as best we can at this late date, racial homogeneity in the United States The use of a later
census would discriminate against those who founded the Nation and perpetuated its institutions.”
(House Rep. 350, 1924, p. 16). After 3 years, quotas were derived from a national origins formula based
on 1920 census data for the entire population, not only the foreign born. While there is no doubt that this
legislation represented a victory for the northwestern European peoples of the United States, there was
no attempt to reverse the trends in the ethnic composition of the country but rather to preserve the ethnic
While motivated by a desire to preserve an ethnic status quo, these laws may also have been
motivated partly by anti-Semitism, since during this period opposition to immigration was perceived as
mainly a Jewish issue (see above). This certainly appears to have been the perception of Jewish
observers: for example, prominent Jewish writer Maurice Samuel (1924), writing in the immediate
aftermath of the 1924 legislation, wrote that “it is chiefly against the Jew that anti-immigration laws are
passed here in America as in England and Germany (p. 217),” and such perceptions continue among
historians of the period (e.g., Hertzberg 1989, 239). This perception was not restricted to Jews. In
remarks before the Senate, the anti-restrictionist Senator Reed of Missouri noted that “Attacks have
likewise been made upon the Jewish people who have crowded to our shores. The spirit of intolerance
has been especially active as to them” (Cong. Rec. Feb. 19, 1921; p. 3463), and during World War II
Secretary of War Robert Stimson stated that it was opposition to unrestricted immigration of Jews that
resulted in the restrictive legislation of 1924 (Breitman & Kraut, 1987, p. 87). Moreover, the House
Immigration Committee Majority Report (House Report #109, Dec. 6, 1920) stated that “by far the
largest percentage of immigrants (are) peoples of Jewish extraction,” (p. 4), and it implied that the
majority of the expected new immigrants would be Polish Jews. The report “confirmed the published
statement of a commissioner of the Hebrew Sheltering and Aid Society of America made after his
personal investigation in Poland, to the effect that ‘If there were in existence a ship that could hold
3,000,000 human beings, the 3,000,000 Jews of Poland would board it to escape to America’” (p. 6).
The Majority Report also included a report by Wilbur S. Carr, head of the United States Consular
Service, that stated that the Polish Jews were “abnormally twisted because of (a) reaction from war
strain; (b) the shock of revolutionary disorders; (c) the dullness and stultification resulting from past
years of oppression and abuse. . . ; Eighty-five to ninety percent lack any conception of patriotic or
national spirit. And the majority of this percentage are unable to acquire it” (p. 9; see also Breitman and
Kraut [1987, 12] for a discussion of Carr’s anti-Semitism). Consular reports warned that “many
Bolshevik sympathizers are in Poland” (p. 11). Similarly in the Senate, Senator McKellar cited the
report that if there were a ship large enough, 3,000,000 Poles would immigrate. He also stated that “the
Joint Distribution Committee, an American committee doing relief work among the Hebrews in Poland,
distributes more than $1,000,000 per month of American money in that country alone. It is also shown
that $100,000,000 a year is a conservative estimate of money sent to Poland from America through the
mails, through the banks, and through the relief societies. This golden stream pouring into Poland from
America makes practically every Pole wildly desirous of going to the country from which such
marvelous wealth comes” (Cong. Rec., Feb. 19, 1921, p. 3456).
As a further indication of the salience of Polish-Jewish immigration issues, the letter on alien
visas submitted by the State Department in 1921 to Albert Johnson, Chairman of the Committee on
Migration and Naturalization, devoted over four times as much space to the situation in Poland as it did
to any other country. The report emphasized the activities of the Polish-Jewish newspaper Der Emigrant
in promoting emigration to the United States of Polish Jews, the activities of the Hebrew Sheltering and
Immigrant Society and wealthy private citizens from the United States in facilitating immigration by
providing money and performing the paperwork. (There was indeed a large network of agents in Eastern
Europe who, in violation of United States law, “did their best to drum up business by enticing as many
emigrants as possible” [Nadell 1984, 56].) The report also noted the poor condition of the prospective
immigrants: “At the present time it is only too obvious that they must be subnormal, and their normal
state is of very low standard. Six years of war and confusion and famine and pestilence have racked their
bodies and twisted their mentality. The elders have deteriorated to a marked degree. Minors have grown
into adult years with the entire period lost in their rightful development and too frequently with the
acquisition of perverted ideas which have flooded Europe since 1914 [presumably a reference to radical
political ideas that were common in this group; see below]” (Cong. Rec., April 20, 1921, p. 498).
The report also stated that articles in the Warsaw press had reported that “propaganda favoring
unrestricted immigration” is being planned, including celebrations in New York aimed at showing the
contributions of immigrants to the development of the United States. The reports for Belgium (whose
emigrants originated in Poland and Czechoslovakia) and Romania also highlighted the importance of
Jews as prospective immigrants. In response, Representative Isaac Siegel stated that the report was
“edited and doctored by certain officials” and commented that the report did not mention countries with
larger numbers of immigrants than Poland. (For example, there was no mention of Italy in the report.)
Without explicitly saying so (“I leave it to every man in the House to make his own deductions and his
own inferences therefrom” (Cong. Rec., April 20, 1921, p. 504), the implication was that the focus on
Poland was prompted by anti-Semitism.
The House Majority report (signed by 15 of its 17 members with only Reps. Dickstein and
Sabath not signing) also emphasized the Jewish role in defining the intellectual battle in terms of Nordic
superiority and “American ideals” rather than in the terms of an ethnic status quo actually favored by the
The cry of discrimination is, the committee believes, manufactured and built up by special
representatives of racial groups, aided by aliens actually living abroad. Members of the
committee have taken notice of a report in the Jewish Tribune (New York) February 8, 1924, of
a farewell dinner to Mr. Israel Zangwill which says:
Mr. Zangwill spoke chiefly on the immigration question, declaring that if Jews
persisted in a strenuous opposition to the restricted immigration there would be no
restriction. “If you create enough fuss against this Nordic nonsense,” he said, “you
will defeat this legislation. You must make a fight against this bill; tell them they are
destroying American ideals. Most fortifications are of cardboard, and if you press
against them, they give way.”
The Committee does not feel that the restriction aimed to be accomplished in this bill is
directed at the Jews, for they can come within the quotas from any country in which they were
born. The Committee has not dwelt on the desirability of a “Nordic” or any other particular
type of immigrant, but has held steadfastly to the purpose of securing a heavy restriction, with
the quota so divided that the countries from which the most came in the two decades ahead of
the World War might be slowed down in order that the United States might restore its
population balance. The continued charge that the Committee has built up a “Nordic” race and
devoted its hearing to that end is part of a deliberately manufactured assault for as a matter of
fact the committee has done nothing of the kind (House Rep. 350, 1924, p. 16).
Indeed, one is struck in reading the 1924 Congressional debate by the rarity with which the issue
of Nordic racial superiority is raised by those in favor of the legislation, while virtually all of the
anti-restrictionists raised this issue.10 After a particularly colorful comment in opposition to the theory of
Nordic racial superiority, restrictionist leader Albert Johnson remarked that “I would like very much to
say on behalf of the committee that through the strenuous times of the hearings this committee
undertook not to discuss the Nordic proposition or racial matters” (Cong. Rec., April 8, 1924; p. 5911).
Earlier, during the hearings on the bill, Johnson remarked in response to the comments of Rabbi Stephen
S. Wise representing the AJCongress that “I dislike to be placed continually in the attitude of assuming
that there is a race prejudice, when the one thing I have tried to do for 11 years is to free myself from
race prejudice, if I had it at all.”11 Several restrictionists explicitly denounced the theory of Nordic
superiority, including Senators Bruce (p. 5955) and Jones (p. 6614) and Representatives Bacon (p.
5902), Byrnes (p. 5653), Johnson (p. 5648), McLoed (p. 5675-6), McReynolds (p. 5855), Michener (p.
5909), Miller (p. 5883), Newton (p. 6240); Rosenbloom (p. 5851), Vaile (p. 5922), Vincent (p. 6266),
White, (p. 5898), and Wilson (p. 5671; all references to Cong. Rec., April 1924).
Indeed, it is noteworthy that there are indications in the Congressional debate that representatives
from the far West were concerned about the competence and competitive threat presented by Japanese
immigrants, and their rhetoric suggested they viewed the Japanese as racially equal or superior, not
inferior. For example, Senator Jones stated that “we admit that [the Japanese] are as able as we are, that
they are as progressive as we are, that they are as honest as we are, that they are as brainy as we are, and
that they are equal in all that goes to make a great people and nation” (Cong. Rec., April 18, 1924, p.
6614); Representative MacLafferty emphasized Japanese domination of certain agricultural markets
(Cong. Rec. April 5, 1924, p. 5681), and Representative Lea noted their ability to supplant “their
American competitor” (Cong. Rec. April 5, 1924, p. 5697). Representative Miller described the Japanese
as “a relentless and unconquerable competitor of our people wherever he places himself” (Cong. Rec.
April 8, 1924, p. 5884); See also comments of Representatives Gilbert (Cong. Rec. April 12, 1924, p.
6261) Raker (Cong. Rec. April 8, 1924, p. 5892} and Free (Cong. Rec. April 8, 1924, p. 5924ff).
Moreover, while the issue of Jewish/gentile resource competition was not raised during the
Congressional debates, quotas on Jewish admissions to Ivy League universities were a highly salient
issue among Jews during this period. The quota issue was highly publicized in the Jewish media and the
focus of activities of Jewish self-defense organizations such as the ADL (see, e.g., the ADL statement
published in The American Hebrew, Sept. 29, 1922, p. 536). Jewish/gentile resource competition may
therefore have been on the minds of some legislators. Indeed, President A. Lawrence Lowell of Harvard
was the national vice-president of the Immigration Restriction League as well as a proponent of quotas
on Jewish admission to Harvard (Symott 1986, 238), suggesting that resource competition with an
intellectually superior Jewish group was an issue for at least some prominent restrictionists.
It is probable that anti-Jewish animosity related to resource competition issues were widespread.
Higham (1984, 141) writes of “the urgent pressure which the Jews, as an exceptionally ambitious
immigrant people, put upon some of the more crowded rungs of the social ladder” (Higham 1984, 141).
Beginning in the nineteenth century there were fairly high levels of covert and overt anti-Semitism in
patrician circles resulting from the very rapid upward mobility of Jews and their competitive drive. In
the period prior to World War I, the reaction of the gentile power structure was to construct social
registers and emphasize genealogy as mechanisms of exclusion— “criteria that could not be met my
money alone” (Higham 1984, 104ff, 127). During this period Edward A. Ross (1914, 164) described
gentile resentment for “being obliged to engage in a humiliating and undignified scramble in order to
keep his trade or his clients against the Jewish invader”— suggesting a rather broad-based concern with
Jewish economic competition. Attempts at exclusion in a wide range of areas were increased in the
1920s and reached their peak during the difficult economic situation of the Great Depression (Higham
However, in the 1924 debates the only Congressional comments suggesting a concern with
Jewish/gentile resource competition (as well as a concern that the interests of Jewish intellectuals are not
the same as their gentile counterparts) that I have been able to find are the following from
I for one am not afraid of the radical ideas that some might bring with them. Ideas you cannot
keep out anyway, but the leadership of our intellectual life in many of its phases has come into
the hands of these clever newcomers who have no sympathy with our old-time American ideals
nor with those of northern Europe, who detect our weaknesses and pander to them and get
wealthy through the disservices they render us.
Our whole system of amusements has been taken over by men who came here on the crest of
the south and east European immigration. They produce our horrible film stories, they compose
and dish out to us our jazz music, they write many of the books we read, and edit our
magazines and newspapers (Cong. Rec., April 12, 1924, p. 6272).
The immigration debate also occurred amid discussion in the Jewish media of Thorsten Veblen’s
famous essay “The Intellectual Pre-eminence of Jews in Modern Europe” (serialized in The American
Hebrew beginning September 10, 1920). In an editorial of July 13, 1923 (p. 177), The American Hebrew
noted that Jews were disproportionately represented among the gifted in Louis Terman’s study of gifted
children and commented that “this fact must give rise to bitter, though futile, reflection among the
so-called Nordics.” The editorial also noted that Jews were overrepresented among scholarship winners
in competitions sponsored by the state of New York. The editorial pointedly noted that “perhaps the
Nordics are too proud to try for these honors. In any event the list of names just announced by the State
Department of Education at Albany as winners of these coveted scholarships is not in the least Nordic; it
reads like a confirmation roster at a Temple.” There is indeed evidence that Jews, like East Asians, have
higher IQ’s than Caucasians (Lynn, 1987; MacDonald, 1994; Rushton, 1995).
The most common argument made by those favoring the legislation, and the one reflected in the
majority report, is the argument that in the interests of fairness to all ethnic groups, the quotas should
reflect the relative ethnic composition of the entire country. Restrictionists noted that the census of 1890
was chosen because the percentages of the foreign born of different ethnic groups in that year
approximated the general ethnic composition of the entire country in 1920. Senator Reed of
Pennsylvania and Representative Rogers of Massachusetts proposed to achieve the same result by
directly basing the quotas on the national origins of all people in the country as of the 1920 census, and
this was eventually incorporated into the law. Representative Rogers argued that “Gentlemen, you can
not dissent from this principle because it is fair. It does not discriminate for anybody and it does not
discriminate against anybody” (Cong. Rec. April 8, 1924; p. 5847). Senator Reed noted, “The purpose, I
think, of most of us in changing the quota basis is to cease from discriminating against the native born
here and against the group of our citizens who come from northern and western Europe. I think the
present system discriminates in favor of southeastern Europe (Cong. Rec., April. 16, 1924; p. 6457) (i.e.,
because 46% of the quotas under the 1921 went to Eastern and Southern Europe when they constituted
less than 12% of the population).
As an example illustrating the fundamental argument asserting a legitimate ethnic interest in
maintaining an ethnic status quo without claiming racial superiority, consider the following statement
from Representative William N. Vaile of Colorado, one of the most prominent restrictionists:
Let me emphasize here that the restrictionists of Congress do not claim that the “Nordic” race,
or even the Anglo-Saxon race, is the best race in the world. Let us concede, in all fairness that
the Czech is a more sturdy laborer, with a very low percentage of crime and insanity, that the
Jew is the best businessman in the world, and that the Italian has a spiritual grasp and an artistic
sense which have greatly enriched the world and which have, indeed, enriched us, a spiritual
exaltation and an artistic creative sense which the Nordic rarely attains. Nordics need not be
vain about their own qualifications. It well behooves them to be humble. What we do claim is
that the northern European, and particularly Anglo-Saxons made this country. Oh, yes; the
others helped. But that is the full statement of the case. They came to this country because it
was already made as an Anglo-Saxon commonwealth. They added to it, they often enriched,
but they did not make it, and they have not yet greatly changed it. We are determined that they
shall not. It is a good country. It suits us. And what we assert is that we are not going to
surrender it to somebody else or allow other people, no matter what their merits, to make it
something different. If there is any changing to be done, we will do it ourselves (Cong. Rec.
April 8, 1924; p. 5922).
The debate in the House also illustrated the highly salient role of Jewish legislators in combating
restrictionism. Representative Robison singled out Representative Sabath as the leader of
anti-restrictionist efforts, and, without mentioning any other opponent of restriction, he also focused on
Reps. Jacobstein, Celler, and Perlman as being opposed to any restrictions on immigration (Cong. Rec.
April 5, 1924, p. 5666). Representative Blanton, complaining of the difficulty of getting restrictionist
legislation through Congress, noted “When at least 65 per cent of the sentiment of this House, in my
judgment, is in favor of the exclusion of all foreigners for five years, why do we not put that into law?
Has Brother Sabath such a tremendous influence over us that he holds us down on this proposition?”
(Cong. Rec. April 5, 1924, p. 5685). Representative Sabath responded that “There may be something to
that.” In addition, the following comments of Representative Leavitt clearly indicate the salience of
Jewish congressmen to their opponents during the debate:
The instinct for national and race preservation is not one to be condemned, as has been
intimated here. No one should be better able to understand the desire of Americans to keep
America American than the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Sabath], who is leading the attack on
this measure, or the gentlemen from New York, Mr. Dickstein, Mr. Jacobstein, Mr. Celler, and
Mr. Perlman. They are of the one great historic people who have maintained the identity of
their race throughout the centuries because they believe sincerely that they are a chosen people,
with certain ideals to maintain, and knowing that the loss of racial identity means a change of
ideals. That fact should make it easy for them and the majority of the most active opponents of
this measure in the spoken debate to recognize and sympathize with our viewpoint, which is not
so extreme as that of their own race, but only demands that the admixture of other peoples shall
be only of such kind and proportions and in such quantities as will not alter racial
characteristics more rapidly than there can be assimilation as to ideas of government as well as
of blood. (Cong. Rec., April 12, 1924; pp. 6265-6266)
The view that Jews had a strong tendency to oppose genetic assimilation with surrounding
groups occurred among other observers as well and was a component of contemporary anti-Semitism
(see Singerman 1986, pp. 110-111). Jewish avoidance of exogamy certainly had a basis in reality
(MacDonald 1994, Ch. 2-4). Indeed, it is noteworthy that there was powerful opposition to intermarriage
even among the more liberal segments of early twentieth-century American Judaism and certainly
among the less liberal segments represented by the great majority of Orthodox immigrants from Eastern
Europe who had come to constitute the great majority of American Jewry. For example, the prominent
nineteenth-century Reform leader David Einhorn was a lifelong opponent of mixed marriages and
refused to officiate at such ceremonies, even when pressed to do so (Meyer 1988, 247). Einhorn was
also a staunch opponent of conversion of gentiles to Judaism because of the effects on the “racial purity”
of Judaism (Levenson 1989, 331). Similarly, the influential Reform intellectual Kaufman Kohler was
also an ardent opponent of mixed marriage. In a view that is highly compatible with Horace Kallen’s
multi-culturalism, Kohler concluded that Israel must remain separate and avoid intermarriage until it
leads mankind to an era of universal peace and brotherhood among the races (Kohler 1918, 445-446).
The negative attitude toward intermarriage was confirmed by survey results. A 1912 survey indicated
that only seven of 100 Reform rabbis had officiated at a mixed marriage, and a 1909 resolution of the
Central Council of American Rabbis declared that "mixed marriages are contrary to the tradition of the
Jewish religion and should be discouraged by the American Rabbinate" (Meyer 1988, 290). Gentile
perceptions of Jewish attitudes on intermarriage therefore had a strong basis in reality.
The Involvement of Jewish Immigrants in Radical Politics. The Congressional debates of 1924
reflected a highly charged context in which Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe were widely
perceived to not only avoid intermarriage but also to retain a separatist culture and to be
disproportionately involved in radical political movements. The perception of radicalism among Jewish
immigrants was common in Jewish as well as gentile publications. The American Hebrew editorialized
that “we must not forget the immigrants from Russia and Austria will be coming from countries infested
with Bolshevism, and it will require more than a superficial effort to make good citizens out of them” (in
Neuringer 1971, p. 165). The fact that Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe were viewed as “infected
with Bolshevism . . . unpatriotic, alien, unassimilable” resulted in a wave of anti-Semitism in the 1920s
and contributed to the restrictive immigration legislation of the period (Neuringer 1971, p. 165). In
Sorin’s (1985, 46) study of immigrant Jewish radical activists, over half had been involved in radical
politics in Europe before emigrating, and for those immigrating after 1900, the percentage rose to 69%.
Jewish publications warned of the possibilities of anti-Semitism resulting from the leftism of Jewish
immigrants, and the official Jewish community engaged in “a near-desperation . . . effort to portray the
Jew as one hundred per cent American” by, e.g., organizing patriotic pageants on national holidays and
by attempting to get the immigrants to learn English (Neuringer, 1971, p. 167).
Similarly, in England, the immigration of Eastern European Jews into England after 1880 had a
transformative effect on the political attitudes of British Jewry in the direction of socialism,
trade-unionism, and Zionism, often combined with religious orthodoxy and devotion to a highly
separatist traditional lifestyle (Alderman, 1983; p. 47ff). The more established Jewish organizations
fought hard to combat the well-founded image of Jewish immigrants as Zionist, religiously orthodox
political radicals who refused to be conscripted into the armed forces during World War I in order to
fight the enemies of the officially anti-Semitic Czarist government (Alderman, 1992, p. 237ff).
The Jewish Old Left, including the unions, the leftist press, and the leftist fraternal orders (which
were often associated with a synagogue), was a part of the wider Jewish community, and Jewish
members typically retained a strong Jewish ethnic identity (Howe 1976; Liebman 1979; Buhle 1980).
This phenomenon occurred within the entire spectrum of leftist organizations, including organizations
such as the Communist Party and the Socialist Party whose membership also included gentiles
(Liebman, 1979, p. 267ff; Buhle 1980).
Werner Cohn (1958, p. 621) describes the general milieu of the immigrant Jewish community in
the period from 1886-1920 as “one big radical debating society”:
By 1886 the Jewish community in New York had become conspicuous for its support of the
third-party (United Labor) candidacy of Henry George, the theoretician of the Single Tax.
From then Jewish districts in New York and elsewhere were famous for their radical voting
habits. The Lower East Side repeatedly picked as its congressman Meyer London, the only
New York Socialist ever to be elected to Congress. And many Socialists went to the State
Assembly in Albany from Jewish districts. In the 1917 mayoralty campaign in New York City,
the Socialist and anti-war candidacy of Morris Hillquit was supported by the most authoritative
voices of the Jewish Lower East Side: The United Hebrew Trades, the International Ladies’
Garment Workers’ Union, and most importantly, the very popular Yiddish Daily Forward. This
was the period in which extreme radicals— like Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman—
were giants in the Jewish community, and when almost all the Jewish giants— among them
Abraham Cahan, Morris Hillquit, and the young Morris R. Cohen— were radicals. Even Samuel
Gompers, when speaking before Jewish audiences, felt it necessary to use radical phrases.
In addition, The Freiheit, which was an unofficial organ of the Communist Party from the 1920s
to the 1950s “stood at the center of Yiddish proletarian institutions and subculture . . . [which offered]
identity, meaning, friendship, and understanding” (Liebman, 1979, pp. 349-350). The newspaper lost
considerable support in the Jewish community in 1929 when it took the Communist party position in
opposition to Zionism, and by the 1950s it essentially had to choose between satisfying its Jewish soul
or its status as a Communist organ. It chose the former, and by the late 1960s it was justifying not
returning the Israeli occupied territories in opposition to the line of the American Communist Party.
The relationship of Jews and the American Communist Party (CPUSA) is particularly interesting
because a concern with Communist subversion under the direction of the Soviet Union was a feature of
the immigration debates of the 1920s and because a substantial proportion of the CPUSA were foreign
born.12 Beginning in the 1920s Jews whose backgrounds derived from Eastern Europe played a very
prominent and disproportionate role in the CPUSA (Klehr, 1978, p. 37ff). Merely citing percentages of
Jewish leaders probably does not adequately indicate the extent of Jewish influence in the CPUSA, since
active efforts were made to recruit gentiles as a sort of “window dressing” to conceal the extent of
Jewish influence in the movement (Klehr, 1978, p. 40; Rothman & Lichter, 1982, p. 99).
Klehr (1978, p. 40) estimates that from 1921 to 1961, Jews constituted 33.5% of the Central
Committee members and the representation of Jews was often above 40% (Klehr, 1978, p. 46). In the
1920s a majority of the members of the Socialist Party were immigrants and that an “overwhelming”
(Glazer 1961, 38, 40) percentage of the CPUSA consisted of recent immigrants, a substantial percentage
of whom were Jews. In Philadelphia in the 1930’s, fully 72.2% of the CP members were the children of
Jewish immigrants who came to the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century
(Lyons 1982, 71). As late as 1929, 90% of the members of the Communist Party in Philadelphia were
foreign born and in June of 1933 the national organization of the CPUSA was still 70% foreign born
(Lyons 1982, 72-73). Jews were the only native-born ethnic group from which the party was able to
recruit. Glazer (1969; p. 129) states that at least half of the CPUSA membership of around 50,000 were
Jews into the 1950s and that there was a very high rate of turnover, so that perhaps 10 times that number
of individuals were involved in the Party and there were “an equal or larger number who were Socialists
of one kind or another.” Writing of the 1920’s, Buhle (1980, p. 89) notes that “most of those favorable
to the party and the Freiheit simply did not join— no more than a few thousand out of a following of a
hundred times that large.”
There was also great concern within the Jewish community that the overrepresentation of Jews
within the CPUSA would lead to anti-Semitism from the 1920s through the Cold War period: “The fight
against the stereotype of Communist-Jew became a virtual obsession with Jewish leaders and opinion
makers throughout America” (Liebman 1979, p. 515), and indeed, the association of Jews with the
CPUSA was a focus of anti-Semitic literature (e.g., Henry Ford’s  International Jew; John
Beaty’s  The Iron Curtain Over America). As a result, the AJCommittee engaged in intensive
efforts to change opinion within the Jewish community by showing that Jewish interests were more
compatible with advocating American democracy than Soviet Communism (e.g., emphasizing Soviet
anti-Semitism and Soviet support of nations opposed to Israel in the period after World War II) (Cohen,
1972, p. 347ff).
Jewish Anti-Restrictionist Activity, 1924-1945.
The saliency of Jewish involvement in United States immigration policy continued after the 1924
legislation. Particularly objectionable to Jewish groups was the national origins quota system. For
example, a writer for the Jewish Tribune stated in 1927, “we . . . regard all measures for regulating
immigration according to nationality as illogical, unjust, and un-American” (in Neuringer, 1971, p. 205).
During the 1930s the most outspoken critic of further restrictions on immigration (motivated now
mainly by the Great Depression) was Representative Samuel Dickstein, and Dickstein’s assumption of
the chairmanship of the House Immigration Committee in 1931 marked the end of the ability of
restrictionists to enact further reductions in quotas (Divine, 1957, pp. 79-88). Jewish groups were the
primary opponents of restriction and the primary supporters of liberalized regulations during the 1930s
while their opponents emphasized the economic consequences of immigration during a period of high
unemployment (Divine, 1957, pp. 85-88). Between 1933 and 1938, Representative Dickstein introduced
a number of bills aimed at increasing the number of refugees from Nazi Germany and supported mainly
by Jewish organizations, but the restrictionists prevailed (Divine, 1957, p. 93).
During the 1930s, concerns about the radicalism and unassimilability of Jewish immigrants as
well as the possibility of Nazi subversion were the main factors influencing the opposition to changing
the immigration laws (Breitman & Kraut, 1987). Moreover, “(c)harges that the Jews in America were
more loyal to their tribe than to their country abounded in the United States in the 1930s” (Breitman &
Kraut, 1987, p. 87). There was a clear perception among all parties that the public opposed any changes
in immigration policy and that the public was particularly opposed to Jewish immigration. The 1939
hearings on the proposed legislation to admit 20,000 German refugee children therefore minimized the
Jewish interest in the legislation. The bill referred to people “of every race and creed suffering from
conditions which compel them to seek refuge in other lands”.13 The bill did not mention that Jews would
be the main beneficiaries of the legislation, and witnesses in favor of the bill emphasized that only
approximately 60% of the children would be Jewish. The only person identifying himself as “a member
of the Jewish race” who testified in favor of the bill was “one-fourth Catholic and three-quarters Jewish”
with Protestant and Catholic nieces and nephews, and from the South which was a bastion of
On the other hand, opponents of the bill threatened to publicize the very large percentage of Jews
already being admitted under the quota system— presumably an indication of the powerful force of a
“virulent and pervasive” anti-Semitism among the American public (Breitman & Kraut, 1987, p. 80).
Opponents noted that the immigration permitted by the bill “would be for the most part of the Jewish
race,” and a witness testified “that the Jewish people will profit most by this legislation goes without
saying” (in Divine, 1957, p. 100). The restrictionists argued in economic terms, e.g., by frequently citing
President Roosevelt’s statement in his second inaugural speech “one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad,
ill-nourished” and citing large numbers of needy children already in the United States. However, the
main restrictionist concern was that the bill was yet another in a long history of attempts by
anti-restrictionists to develop precedents that would eventually undermine the 1924 law. For example,
Francis Kinnecutt, President of the Allied Patriotic Societies, emphasized that the 1924 law had been
based on the idea of proportional representation based on the ethnic composition of the country. The
legislation would be a precedent “for similar unscientific and favored-nation legislation in response to
the pressure of foreign nationalistic or racial groups, rather than in accordance with the needs and
desires of the American people.”15
Wilbur S. Carr and other State Department officials were important in minimizing the entry of
Jewish refugees from Germany during the 1930s. Undersecretary of State William Phillips was an
ardent anti-Semite with considerable influence on immigration policy between 1933-1936 (Breitman &
Kraut, 1987, p. 36). Throughout the period until the end of World War II attempts to foster Jewish
immigration, even in the context of knowledge that the Nazis were persecuting Jews, were largely
unsuccessful because of an unyielding Congress and the activities of bureaucrats, especially those in the
State Department. Public discussion in periodicals such as The Nation (Nov. 19, 1938), and The New
Republic (Nov. 23, 1938) charged that the restrictionism was motivated by anti-Semitism, while
opponents of admitting large numbers of Jews argued that admission would result in an increase in
anti-Semitism. Henry Pratt Fairchild (1939, p. 344), who was a restrictionist and was highly critical of
the Jews (see Fairchild, 1947), emphasized the “powerful current of anti-foreignism and anti-Semitism
that is running close to the surface of the American public mind, ready to burst out into violent eruption
on relatively slight provocation.” Public opinion remained steadfast against increasing the quotas for
European refugees: a 1939 poll in Fortune (April, 1939) magazine showed that 83% answered “no” to
the following question: “If you were a member of Congress would you vote yes or no on a bill to open
the doors of the United States to a larger number of European refugees than now admitted under our
immigration quotas?” Less than 9% replied “yes” and the remainder had no opinion.
Jewish Anti-Restrictionist Activity, 1946-1952.
Although Jewish interests were defeated by the 1924 legislation, “the discriminatory character of
the Reed-Johnson Act continued to rankle all sectors of American Jewish opinion” (Neuringer, 1971,
196). During this period, an article by Will Maslow (1950) in Congress Weekly reiterated the belief that
the restrictive immigration laws intentionally targeted Jews: “Only one type of law, immigration
legislation which relates to aliens outside the country, is not subject to constitutional guarantees, and
even here hostility toward Jewish immigration has had to be disguised in an elaborate quota scheme in
which eligibility was based on place of birth rather than religion.”
The Jewish concern to alter the ethnic balance of the United States is apparent in the debates
over immigration legislation during the post World War II era. In 1948 the AJCommittee submitted a
statement to the Senate subcommittee which simultaneously denied the importance of the material
interests of the United States as well as affirmed its commitment to immigration of all races:
Americanism is not to be measured by conformity to law, or zeal for education, or literacy, or
any of these qualities in which immigrants may excel the native-born. Americanism is the spirit
behind the welcome that America has traditionally extended to people of all races, all religions,
all nationalities (in Cohen 1972, p. 369).
In 1945 Representative Emanuel Celler introduced a bill ending Chinese exclusion by
establishing token quotas for Chinese, and in 1948 the AJCommittee condemned racial quotas on Asians
(Divine, 1957, p. 155). On the other hand, Jewish groups had an attitude of indifference or even hostility
toward immigration of non-Jews from Europe (including Southern Europe) in the post-World War II era
(Neuringer, 1971, pp. 356, 367-369, 383). Thus Jewish spokesmen did not testify at all during the first
set of hearings on emergency legislation which allowed immigration of a limited number of German,
Italian, Greek, and Dutch immigrants, escapees from Communism, and a small number of Poles,
Orientals, and Arabs. When Jewish spokesmen eventually testified (partly because a small number of the
escapees from Communism were Jews), they took the opportunity to once again focus on their
condemnation of the national origins provisions of the 1924 law.
Jewish involvement in opposing restrictions during this period was motivated partly by attempts
to establish precedents in which the quota system was bypassed and partly by attempts to increase
immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe. The Citizen’s Committee on Displaced Persons, which
advocated legislation to admit 400,000 refugees as nonquota immigrants over a period of 4 years, was
funded mainly by the AJCommittee and other Jewish contributors (See Cong. Rec., October 15, 1949,
pp. 14647-14654; Neuringer 1971, p. ii) and maintained a staff of 65 people. Witnesses opposing the
legislation complained that the bill was an attempt to subvert the ethnic balance of the United States
established by the 1924 legislation (Divine 1957, p. 117). In the event, the bill that was reported out of
the subcommittee did not satisfy Jewish interests because it established a cut-off date that excluded Jews
who had migrated from Eastern Europe after World War II, including Jews fleeing Polish anti-Semitism.
The Senate subcommittee “regarded the movement of Jews and other refugees from eastern Europe after
1945 as falling outside the scope of the main problem and implied that this exodus was a planned
migration organized by Jewish agencies in the United States and in Europe” (Senate Report No. 950
, pp. 15-16).
Jewish representatives led the assault on the bill (Divine 1957, p. 127), Representative Emanuel
Celler terming it as “worse than no bill at all. All it does is exclude . . . Jews” (in Neuringer, 1971, p.
298; see also Divine, 1957, p. 127). In reluctantly signing the bill, President Truman noted that the 1945
cutoff date “discriminates in callous fashion against displaced persons of the Jewish faith” (Interpreter
Releases, 25 [July 21, 1948], pp. 252-254). On the other hand, Senator Chapman Revercomb stated that
“there is no distinction, certainly no discrimination, intended between any persons because of their
religion or their race, but there are differences drawn among those persons who are in fact displaced
persons and have been in camp longest and have a preference” (Cong. Rec. May 26, 1948, p. 6793). In
his analysis, Divine (1957, p. 143) concludes that
the expressed motive of the restrictionists, to limit the program to those people displaced during
the course of the war, appears to be a valid explanation for these provisions. The tendency of
Jewish groups to attribute the exclusion of many of their coreligionists to anti-Semitic bias is
understandable; however, the extreme charges of discrimination made during the 1948
presidential campaign lead one to suspect that the northern wing of the Democratic party was
using this issue to attract votes from members of minority groups. Certainly Truman’s assertion
that the 1948 law was anti-Catholic, made in the face of Catholic denials, indicates that
political expediency had a great deal to do with the emphasis on the discrimination issue.
In the aftermath of this bill, the Citizens Committee on Displaced Persons released a report
labeling the bill as characterized by “hate and racism” and Jewish organizations were unanimous in
denouncing the law (Divine, 1957, p. 131). After the 1948 elections resulted in a Democratic Congress
and a sympathetic President Truman, Representative Celler introduced a bill without the 1945 cutoff
date, but the bill, after passing the House, failed in the Senate because of the opposition of Senator Pat
McCarran. During the hearings, McCarran noted that the Citizens Committee had spent over $800,000
lobbying for a liberalized bill, with the result that “there has been disseminated over the length and
breadth of this nation a campaign of misrepresentation and falsehood which has misled many
public-spirited and well-meaning citizens and organizations” (Cong. Rec., April 26, 1949, pp. 5042-
5043). After defeat, the Citizen’s Committee increased expenditures to over $1,000,000 and succeeded
in passing a bill, introduced by Representative Celler, with a 1949 cutoff date that did not discriminate
against Jews but largely excluded ethnic Germans who had been expelled from Eastern Europe. In an
odd twist in the debate, restrictionists now accused the anti-restrictionists of ethnic bias (e.g., Senator
Eastland, Cong. Rec. April 5, 1950, p. 2737; Senator McCarran, Cong. Rec. April 5, 1950, p. 4743).
At a time when there were no outbreaks of anti-Semitism in other parts of the world creating an
urgent need for Jewish immigration and with the presence of Israel as a safe haven for Jews, Jewish
organizations still vigorously objected to the continuation of the national origins provisions of the 1924
law in the McCarran-Walter law of 1952 (Neuringer 1971, p. 337ff). Indeed, when District Court of
Appeals Judge Simon H. Rifkind testified on behalf of a wide range of Jewish organizations against the
McCarran-Walter bill he noted emphatically that because of the international situation and particularly
the existence of Israel as a safe haven for Jews, Jewish views on immigration legislation were not
predicated on the “plight of our co-religionists but rather the impact which immigration and
naturalization laws have upon the temper and quality of American life here in the United States.”16 The
argument was now typically couched in terms of “democratic principles and the cause of international
amity” (Cohen 1972, p. 368)— the implicit theory being that the principles of democracy required ethnic
diversity and the theory that the good will of other countries depended on American willingness to
accept their citizens as immigrants. Rifkind noted that “(T)he enactment of [the McCarran-Walter bill]
will gravely impair the national effort we are putting forth. For we are engaged in a war for the hearts
and minds of men. The free nations of the world look to us for moral and spiritual reinforcement at a
time when the faith which moves men is as important as the force they wield.”17
The McCarran-Walter law explicitly included racial ancestry as a criterion in its provision that
Orientals would be included in the token Oriental quotas no matter where they were born. Herbert
Lehman, a senator from New York and the most prominent senatorial opponent of immigration
restriction during the 1950s (Neuringer 1971, p. 351), argued during the debates over the
McCarran-Walter bill that immigrants from Jamaica of African descent should be included in the quota
for England and stated that the bill would cause resentment among Asians (Neuringer 1971, pp. 346,
356). Representative Emanuel Celler and Representative Jacob Javits, the leaders of the
anti-restrictionists in the House, made similar arguments (Cong. Rec., April 23, 1952, pp. 4306, 4219).
As was also apparent in the battles dating back to the nineteenth century (see above), the opposition to
the national origins legislation went beyond its effects on Jewish immigration to include advocacy of
immigration into the United States of all of the racial/ethnic groups of the world.
Reflecting a concern for maintaining the ethnic status quo as well as the salience of Jewish issues
during the period, the hearings of the subcommittee considering the McCarran immigration law noted
that “The population of the United States has increased three-fold since 1877, while the Jewish
population has increased twenty-one fold during the same period” (Senate Report No. 1515 , pp.
2-4). The bill also included a provision that naturalized citizens automatically lost citizenship if they
resided abroad continuously for 5 years. This provision was viewed by Jewish organizations as
motivated by anti-Zionist attitudes: “Testimony by Government officials at the hearings . . . made it
clear that the provision stemmed from a desire to dissuade naturalized American Jews from subscribing
to a deeply held ideal which some officials in contravention of American policy regarded as undesirable
. . . .”18
Reaffirming the logic of the 1920s restrictionists, the subcommittee report emphasized that a
purpose of the 1924 law was “the restriction of immigration from southern and eastern Europe in order
to preserve a predominance of persons of northwestern European origin in the composition of our total
population” but noted that this purpose did not imply “any theory of Nordic supremacy” (Senate Report,
No. 1515, , pp. 442, 445-446). The argument was sometimes phrased in terms of an emphasis on
the “similarity of cultural background” of prospective immigrants, but again the underlying logic was
that ethnic groups already in the country had legitimate interests in maintaining the ethnic status quo.
It is important to note that Jewish spokesmen differed from other liberal groups in their motives
for opposing restrictions on immigration during this period. In the following I emphasize the
Congressional testimony of Judge Simon H. Rifkind who represented a very broad range of Jewish
agencies in the hearings on the McCarran-Walter bill in 1951.19
1.) Immigration should come from all racial/ethnic groups:
We conceive of Americanism as the spirit behind the welcome that America has traditionally
extended to people of different races, all religions, all nationalities. Americanism is a tolerant
way of life that was devised by men who differed from one another vastly in religion, race
background, education, and lineage, and who agreed to forget all these things and ask of a new
neighbor not where he comes from but only what he can do and what is his spirit toward his
fellow men (p. 566).
2.) The total number of immigrants should be maximized within very broad economic and
political constraints: “(T)he regulation [of immigration] is the regulation of an asset, not of a liability”
(p. 567). Rifkind emphasized several times that unused quotas had the effect of restricting total numbers
of immigrants, and he viewed this very negatively (e.g., p. 569).
3.) Immigrants should not be viewed as economic assets and imported only to serve the present
needs of the United States:
Looking at [selective immigration] from the point of view of the United States, never from the
point of view of the immigrant, I say that we should, to some extent, allow for our temporary
needs, but not to make our immigration problem an employment instrumentality. I do not think
that we are buying economic commodities when we allow immigrants to come in. We are
admitting human beings who will found families and raise children, whose children may reach
the heights— at least so we hope and pray. For a small segment of the immigrant stream I think
we are entitled to say, if we happen to be short of a particular talent, “Let us go out and look for
them,” if necessary, but let us not make that the all-pervading thought. (p. 570)
The opposition to needed skills as the basis of immigration was consistent with the prolonged Jewish
attempt to delay the passage of a literacy test as a criterion for immigration beginning in the late
nineteenth century until a literacy test was finally passed in 1917.
While Rifkind’s testimony was free of the accusation that present immigration policy was based
on the theory of Nordic superiority, Nordic superiority continued to be a prominent theme of other
Jewish groups advocating immigration from all ethnic groups, particularly the AJCongress. The
statement of the AJCongress at these hearings focused a great deal of attention on the importance of the
theory of Nordic supremacy as motivating the 1924 legislation, but also noted the previous history of
ethnic discrimination that existed long before these theories were developed, including the Chinese
Exclusion Act of 1882, the gentlemen’s agreement with Japan of 1907 which limited immigration of
Japanese workers, and the exclusion of other Asians in 1917. The statement noted that the 1924
legislation had succeeded in its aim of preserving the ethnic balance of the U.S. as of the 1920 census.
However, it noted that “the objective is valueless. There is nothing sacrosanct about the composition of
the population in 1920. It would be foolish to believe that we reached the peak of ethnic perfection in
that year.”20 Moreover, in an explicit statement of Horace Kallen’s multicultural ideal, the AJCongress
statement advocated “the thesis of cultural democracy which would guarantee to all groups ‘majority
and minority alike . . . the right to be different and the responsibility to make sure that their differences
do not conflict with the welfare of the American people as a whole.’”21
During this period, the Congress Weekly, the journal of the AJCongress, regularly denounced the
national origins provisions as based on the “myth of the existence of superior and inferior racial stocks”
(Oct. 17, 1955; p. 3) and advocated immigration on the basis of “need and other criteria unrelated to race
or national origin” (May 4, 1953, p. 3). Particularly objectionable from the perspective of the
AJCongress was the implication that there should be no change in the ethnic status quo prescribed by the
1924 legislation (e.g., Goldstein, 1952a, p. 6). The national origins formula “is outrageous now . . . when
our national experience has confirmed beyond a doubt that our very strength lies in the diversity of our
peoples” (Goldstein, 1952b, p. 5).
As indicated above, there is some evidence that the 1924 legislation and the restrictionism of the
1930s was motivated partly by anti-Semitic attitudes. Anti-Semitism and its linkage with
anti-Communism was also apparent in the immigration arguments during the 1950s preceding and
following the passage of the McCarran-Walter act. Restrictionists often pointed to evidence that over
90% of American Communists had backgrounds linking them to Eastern Europe and a major thrust of
their efforts was to prevent immigration from this area and to ease deportation procedures to prevent
Communist subversion. Since Eastern Europe was also the origin of most Jewish immigration and
because Jews were disproportionately represented among American Communists, these issues became
linked and the situation lent itself to broad anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the role of Jews in
American politics (e.g., Beaty, 1951). In Congress, the notorious anti-Semite Representative John
Rankin, without making explicit reference to Jews, stated that
They whine about discrimination. Do you know who is being discriminated against? The white
Christian people of America, the ones who created this nation. . . . I am talking about the white
Christian people of the North as well as the South. . . .
Communism is racial. A racial minority seized control in Russia and in all her satellite
countries, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, and many other countries I could name.
They have been run out of practically every country in Europe in the years gone by, and if they
keep stirring race trouble in this country and trying to force their communistic program on the
Christian people of America, there is no telling what will happen to them here” (Cong. Rec.,
April 23, 1952, p. 4320).
Reinforcing these links, the position of mainstream Jewish organizations such as the
AJCommittee, which opposed communism, often coincided with the position of the CPUSA on issues of
immigration. For example, both the AJCommittee and the CPUSA condemned the McCarran-Walter act
while, on the other hand, the AJCommittee had a major role in influencing the recommendations of
President Truman’s Commission on Immigration and Naturalization (PCIN) for relaxing the security
provisions of the McCarran-Walter act, and these recommendations were warmly greeted by the CPUSA
at a time when a prime goal of the security provisions was to exclude communists (Bennett, 1963, p.
166). Jews were disproportionately represented on the PCIN as well as in the organizations viewed by
Congress as Communist front organizations involved in immigration issues, and this was undoubtedly
highly salient to anti-Semites. The Chairman of the PCIN was Philip B. Perlman and the staff of the
commission contained a high percentage of Jews, headed by Harry N. Rosenfield (Executive Director)
and Elliot Shirk (Assistant to the Executive Director), and its report was wholeheartedly endorsed by the
AJCongress (see Congress Weekly, Jan. 12, 1952, p. 3). The proceedings were printed as the report
Whom We Shall Welcome with the cooperation of Representative Emanuel Celler.
In Congress, Senator McCarran accused the PCIN of containing communist sympathizers, and
the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) released a report stating that “some two dozen
Communists and many times that number with records of repeated affiliation with known Communist
enterprises testified before the Commission or submitted statements for inclusion in the record of the
hearings. . . . Nowhere in either the record of the hearings or in the report is there a single reference to
the true background of these persons” (House Report No. 1182, 85th Congress, 1st Session, p. 47). The
report referred particularly to Communists associated with the American Committee for the Protection
of Foreign Born (ACPFB) headed by Abner Green. Green, who was Jewish, figured very prominently in
these hearings, and Jews were generally disproportionately represented among those singled out as
officers and sponsors of the ACPFB (pp. 13-21). HUAC provided evidence that ACPFB had close ties
with the CPUSA and noted that 24 of the individuals associated with the ACPFB had signed statements
incorporated into the printed record of the PCIN.
The AJCommittee was also heavily involved in the deliberations of the PCIN, including
providing testimony and distributing data and other material to individuals and organizations testifying
before the PCIN (Cohen, 1972, p. 371). All of its recommendations were incorporated into the final
report (Cohen, 1972, p. 371) (including a de-emphasis on economic skills as criteria for immigration,
scrapping the national origins legislation, and opening immigration to all the peoples of the world on a
“first come, first served basis”), the only exception being that the report recommended a lower total
number of immigrants than recommended by the AJCommittee and other Jewish groups. The
AJCommittee thus went beyond merely advocating the principle of immigration from all racial/ethnic
groups (token quotas for Asians and Africans had already been included in the McCarran-Walter act) to
attempt to maximize the total number of immigrants from all parts of the world within the current
Indeed, the Commission (PCIN, 1953, p. 106) pointedly noted that the 1924 legislation had
succeeded in maintaining the racial status quo and that the main barrier to changing the racial status quo
was not the national origins system (because there were already high levels of non-quota immigrants and
because the countries of Northern and Western Europe did not fill their quotas) but the total number of
immigrants allowed into the United States. The Commission thus viewed changing the racial status quo
of the United States as a desirable goal, and to that end made a major point of the desirability of
increasing the total amount of immigration (PCIN, 1953, p. 42). As Bennett (1963, p. 164) notes, in the
eyes of the PCIN, the 1924 legislation reducing the total number of immigrants “was a very bad thing
because of its finding that one race is just as good as another for American citizenship or any other
Correspondingly, the defenders of the 1952 legislation conceptualized the issue as fundamentally
one of ethnic warfare. Senator McCarran stated that subverting the national origins system “would, in
the course of a generation or so, tend to change the ethnic and cultural composition of this nation” (in
Bennett, 1963, p. 185), and Richard Arens, a Congressional staff member who had a prominent role in
the hearings on the McCarran-Walter bill as well as in the activities of the HUAC, stated that “these are
the critics who do not like America as it is and has been. They think our people exist in unfair ethnic
proportions. They prefer that we bear a greater resemblance or ethnic relationship to the foreign peoples
whom they favor and for whom they are seeking disproportionately greater immigration privileges” (in
Bennett, 1963, 186). As Divine (1957, p. 188) notes, ethnic interests predominated on both sides; the
charges of racism made against the restrictionists who were advocating the ethnic status quo were
balanced against the attempts by anti-restrictionists to alter the ethnic status quo in a manner that
conformed to their own perceived ethnic interests.
The salience of Jewish involvement in immigration during this period is also apparent in several
other incidents. In 1950 the representative of the AJCongress testified that the retention of national
origins in any form would be “a political and moral catastrophe” (“Revision of Immigration Laws” Joint
Hearings, 1950, pp. 336-337). The national origins formula implies that “persons in quest of the
opportunity to live in this land are to be judged according to breed like cattle at a country fair and not on
the basis of their character fitness or capacity” (Congress Weekly 21, 1952, pp. 3-4). Divine (1957, p.
173) characterizes the AJCongress as representing “the more militant wing” of the opposition because of
its principled opposition to any form of the national origins formula, whereas other opponents merely
wanted to be able to distribute unused quotas to Southern and Eastern Europe.
Representative Francis Walter noted the “propaganda drive that is being engaged in now by
certain members of the American Jewish Congress opposed to the Immigration and Nationality Code”
(Cong. Rec. Mar, 13, 1952, p. 2283), noting particularly the activities of Dr. Israel Goldstein, president
of the AJCongress, who had been reported in the New York Times as having stated that the Immigration
and Nationality law would place “a legislative seal of inferiority on all persons of other than Anglo-
Saxon origin.” Representative Walter then noted the special role that Jewish organizations had played in
attempting to foster family reunion rather than special skills as the basis of United States immigration
policy. After Representative Jacob Javits stated that opposition to the law was “not confined to the one
group the gentleman mentioned” (Congressional Record, March 13, 1952, p. 2284), Walter responded
I might call your attention to the fact that Mr. Harry N. Rosenfield, Commissioner of the
Displaced Persons Commission and incidentally a brother-in-law of a lawyer who is stirring up
all this agitation, in a speech recently said:
The proposed legislation is America’s Nuremberg trial. It is “racious” and archaic,
based on a theory that people with different styles of noses should be treated
Representative Walter then went on to note that during the hearings on the bill, the only two
organizations that were hostile to the entire bill were the AJCongress and the Association of
Immigration and Nationality Lawyers, the latter “represented by an attorney who is also advising and
counseling the American Jewish Congress.” (Indeed, Goldstein [1952b] himself noted that “at the time
of the Joint House-Senate hearings on the McCarran bill, the American Jewish Congress was the only
civic group which dared flatly to oppose the national origins quota formula.”)
Representative Emanuel Celler then stated that Walter “should not have overemphasized as he
did the people of one particular faith who are opposing the bill” (p. 2285). Representative Walter agreed
with Celler’s comments, noting that “there are other very fine Jewish groups who endorse the bill.”
Nevertheless, the principle Jewish organizations, including the AJCongress, the AJCommittee, the ADL,
the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, did indeed oppose the
bill (Cong. Rec., April 23, 1952, p. 4247), and when Judge Simon Rifkind testified against the bill in the
Joint Hearings, he emphasized that he represented a very wide range of Jewish groups, “the entire body
of religious opinion and lay opinion within the Jewish group, religiously speaking, from the extreme
right and extreme left” (p. 563).22 Rifkind represented a long list of national and local Jewish groups,
including in addition to the above, the Synagogue Council of America, the Jewish Labor Committee, the
Jewish War Veterans of the United States, and 27 local Jewish councils throughout the United States.
Moreover, the fight against the bill was led by Jewish members of Congress, including especially Celler,
Javits, and Lehman, all of whom, as indicated above, were prominent members of the ADL.
Albeit by indirection, Representative Walter was clearly calling attention to the special Jewish
role in the immigration conflict of 1952. The special role of the AJCongress in opposing the McCarran-
Walter act was a source of pride within the group: on the verge of victory in 1965, the Congress bi-
Weekly editorialized that it was “a cause of pride” that Rabbi Israel Goldstein had been “singled out by
Rep. Walter for attack on the floor of the House of Representatives as the prime organizer of the
campaign against the measures he co-sponsored” (Feb. 1, 1965; p. 3).
The perception that Jewish concerns were an important feature of the opposition to the
McCarran-Walter act can also be seen in the following exchange between Representative Celler and
Representative Walter. Celler noted that “The national origin theory upon which our immigration law is
based . . . [mocks] our protestations based on a question of equality of opportunity for all peoples,
regardless of race, color, or creed.” Representative Walter replied that “a great menace to America lies
in the fact that so many professionals, including professional Jews, are shedding crocodile tears for no
reason whatsoever” (Cong. Rec. Jan. 13, 1953, p. 372). And in a comment referring to the peculiarities
of Jewish interests in immigration legislation, Richard Arens, Staff Director of the Senate subcommittee
that produced the McCarran-Walter act, pointedly noted that “one of the curious things about those who
most loudly claim that the 1952 act is ‘discriminatory’ and that it does not make allowance for a
sufficient number of alleged refugees, is that they oppose admission of any of the approximately one
million Arab refugees in camps where they are living in pitiful circumstances after having been driven
out of Israel” (in Bennett, 1963, p. 181).
The McCarran-Walter Act was passed over President Truman’s veto, and Truman’s “alleged
partisanship to Jews was a favorite target of anti-Semites” (Cohen, 1972, p. 377). Prior to the veto,
Truman was intensively lobbied, “particularly [by] Jewish societies” opposed to the bill, while
government agencies, including the State Department urged Truman to sign the bill (Divine, 1957, p.
184). Moreover, individuals with openly anti-Semitic attitudes, such as John Beaty (1951), often focused
on Jewish involvement in the immigration battles during this period.
Jewish Anti-Restrictionist Activity, 1953-1965.
During this period, the Congress Weekly regularly noted the role of Jewish organizations as the
vanguard of liberalized immigration laws: For example, in its editorial of Feb. 20, 1956 (p. 3), it
congratulated President Eisenhower for his “unequivocal opposition to the quota system which, more
than any other feature of our immigration policy, has excited the most widespread and most intense
aversion among Americans. In advancing this proposal for ‘new guidelines and standards’ in
determining admissions, President Eisenhower has courageously taken a stand in advance of even many
advocates of a liberal immigration policy and embraced a position which had at first been urged by the
American Jewish Congress and other Jewish agencies.”
The AJCommittee made a major effort to keep the immigration issue alive during a period of
widespread apathy among the American public between the passage of the McCarran-Walter act and the
early 1960s. Jewish organizations intensified their effort during this period (Cohen, 1972, pp. 370-373;
Neuringer, 1971, p. 358), with the AJCommittee helping to establish the Joint Conference on Alien
Legislation and the American Immigration Conference (organizations representing pro-immigration
forces) as well as providing most of the funding and performing most of the work of these groups. In
1955 the AJCommittee organized a group of influential citizens as the National Commission on
Immigration and Citizenship “in order to give prestige to the campaign” (Cohen, 1972, p. 373). “All
these groups studied immigration laws, disseminated information to the public, presented testimony to
Congress, and planned other appropriate activities. . . . There were no immediate or dramatic results; but
AJC’s dogged campaign in conjunction with like-minded organizations ultimately prodded the Kennedy
and Johnson administrations to action” (Cohen, 1972, p. 373).
An article by Oscar Handlin (1952), the prominent Harvard historian of immigration, is a
fascinating microcosm of the Jewish approach to immigration during this period. Writing in
Commentary (a publication of the AJCommittee) almost 30 years after the 1924 defeat and in the
immediate aftermath of the McCarran-Walter act, Handlin entitled his article “The immigration fight has
only begun: Lessons of the McCarran-Walter setback.” The title is a remarkable indication of the
tenacity and persistence of Jewish commitment to this issue. The message is to not be discouraged by
the recent defeat which occurred despite “all the effort toward securing the revision of our immigration
laws” (p. 2).
Handlin attempts to cast the argument in universalist terms as benefiting all Americans and as
conforming to American ideals that “all men, being brothers, are equally capable of being Americans”
(p.7). Current immigration law reflects “racist xenophobia” (p. 2) by its token quotas for Asians and its
deprivation of the right of West Indian Blacks to take advantage of British quotas. Handlin ascribes the
restrictionist sentiments of Pat McCarran to “the hatred of foreigners that was all about him in his youth
and by the dim, recalled fear that he himself might be counted among them” (p. 3)— a sort of
psychoanalytic identification-with-the-aggressor argument (McCarran was Catholic).
In his article Handlin repeatedly uses the term “we” (as in “(i)f we cannot beat McCarran and his
cohorts with their own weapons, we can do much to destroy the efficacy of those weapons (p. 4),”
suggesting Handlin’s belief in a unified Jewish interest in liberal immigration policy and presaging a
prolonged “chipping away” of the 1952 legislation in the ensuing years. Handlin’s anti-restrictionist
strategy included altering the views of social scientists to the effect “that it was possible and necessary
to distinguish among the ‘races’ of immigrants that clamored for admission to the United States” (p. 4).
Handlin’s proposal to recruit social scientists in the immigration battles is congruent with the political
agenda of the Boasian school of anthropology discussed above. And as Higham (1984) notes, the
ascendancy of such views was as an important component of the ultimate victory over restrictionism.
In an arguably tendentious rendering of the logic of preserving the ethnic status quo that
underlay the arguments for restriction in the period from 1921-1952, Handlin stated:
The laws are bad because they rest on the racist assumption that mankind is divided into fixed
breeds, biologically and culturally separated from each other, and because, within that
framework, they assume that Americans are Anglo-Saxons by origin and ought to remain so.
To all other peoples, the laws say that the United States ranks them in terms of their racial
proximity to our own ‘superior’ stock; and upon the many, many millions of Americans not
descended from the Anglo-Saxons, the laws cast a distinct imputation of inferiority (p. 5).
Handlin then deplored the apathy of other “hyphenated Americans” to share the enthusiasm of
the Jewish effort: “Many groups failed to see the relevance of the McCarran-Walter Bill to their own
position;” he suggested that they ought to act as groups to assert their rightful interests: “The Italian
American has the right to be heard on these issues precisely as an Italian American” (p. 7; italics in
text). The implicit assumption is that America ought to be composed of cohesive subgroups with a clear
sense of their group interests in opposition to the peoples deriving from Northern and Western Europe or
of the United States as a whole. And there is the implication that Italian-Americans have an interest in
furthering immigration of Africans and Asians and in creating such a multiracial and multicultural
Shortly after Handlin’s article, William Petersen (1955), also writing in Commentary, argued that
pro-immigration forces should be explicit in their advocacy of a multicultural society, and that the
importance of this goal transcended the importance of achieving any self-interested goal of the United
States, such as obtaining needed skills or improving foreign relations. In making his case he cited a
group of predominantly Jewish social scientists whose works, beginning with Horace Kallen’s plea for a
multicultural, pluralistic society, “constitute the beginning of a scholarly legitimization of the different
immigration policy that will perhaps one day become law” (p. 86), including, besides Kallen, Melville
Herskovits, Geoffrey Gorer, Samuel Lubell, David Riesman, Thorsten Sellin, and Milton Konvitz.
These social scientists did indeed contribute to the immigration battles. For example, the
following quotation from a scholarly book on immigration policy by Milton Konvitz of Cornell
University reflects the rejection of national interest as an element of United States immigration policy—
a hallmark of the Jewish approach to immigration:
To place so much emphasis on technological and vocational qualifications is to remove every
vestige of humanitarianism from our immigration policy. We deserve small thanks from those
who come here if they are admitted because we find that they are “urgently” needed, by reason
of their training and experience, to advance our national interests. This is hardly immigration; it
is the importation of special skills or know-how, not greatly different from the importation of
coffee or rubber. It is hardly in the spirit of American ideals to disregard a man’s character and
promise and to look only at his education and the vocational opportunities he had the good
fortune to enjoy (Konvitz, 1953, p. 26).
Handlin wrote that the McCarran-Walter law was only a temporary setback and he was right.
Thirty years after the triumph of restrictionism, only Jewish groups remained as persistent and tenacious
advocates of a multicultural America. Forty-one years after the 1924 triumph of restrictionism and the
national origins provision and only 13 years after its reaffirmation with the McCarran-Walter Act of
1952, Jewish organizations successfully supported ending the geographically based national origins
basis of immigration intended to result in an ethnic status quo in what was now a radically altered
intellectual and political climate.
Particularly important is the provision in the Immigration Act of 1965 that expanded the number
of non-quota immigrants. Beginning in their testimony on the 1924 law, Jewish spokesmen had been in
the forefront in attempts to admit family members on a nonquota basis (Neuringer, 1971, p. 191). During
the House debates on immigration surrounding the McCarran-Walter Act, Representative Walter (Cong.
Rec., p. 2284, March 13, 1952) noted the special focus that Jewish organizations had on family reunion
rather than on special skills. Responding to Representative Javits who had complained that under the bill
50% of the quota for “Negroes” from the British West Indies colonies would be reserved for people with
special skills, Walter noted that “I would like to call the gentleman’s attention to the fact that this is the
principle of using 50 percent of the quota for people needed in the United States. But, if that entire 50
percent is not used in that category, then the unused numbers go down to the next category which replies
to the objections that these Jewish organizations make much of, that families are being separated.”
Prior to the 1965 law, Bennett (1963, p. 244), commenting on the family unification aspects of
the 1961 immigration legislation, noted that the “relationship by blood or marriage and the principle of
uniting families have become the ‘open Sesame’ to the immigration gates.” Moreover, despite repeated
denials by the anti-restrictionists that their proposals would affect the ethnic balance of the country,
Bennett (1963, p. 256) commented that the “repeated, persistent extension of nonquota status to
immigrants from countries with oversubscribed quotas and flatly discriminated against by [the
McCarran-Walter act] together with administrative waivers of inadmissibility, adjustment of status and
private bills, is helping to speed and make apparently inevitable a change in the ethnic face of the
nation” (p. 257)— a reference to the “chipping away” of the 1952 law recommended as a strategy in
Handlin’s article. Indeed, a major argument apparent in the debate over the 1965 legislation was that the
1952 law had been so weakened that it had largely become irrelevant and there was a need to overhaul
immigration legislation to legitimize a de facto situation.
Bennett also noted that “(t)he stress on the immigration issue arises from insistence of those who
regard quotas as ceilings, not floors [opponents of restriction often referred to unused quotas as
“wasted”], who want to remake America in the image of small-quota countries and who do not like our
basic ideology, cultural attitudes and heritage. They insist that it is the duty of the United States to
accept immigrants irrespective of their assimilability or our own population problems. They insist on
remaining hyphenated Americans” (1963, p. 295).
The family-based emphasis of the quota regulations of the 1965 law (e.g., the provision that at
least 24% of the quota for each area be set aside for brothers and sisters of citizens) has resulted in a
multiplier effect which ultimately subverted the quota system entirely by allowing for a “chaining”
phenomenon in which endless chains of the close relatives of close relatives are admitted outside the
Imagine one immigrant, say an engineering student, who was studying in the U. S. during the
1960’s. If he found a job after graduation, he could then bring over his wife [as the spouse of a
resident alien], and six years later, after being naturalized, his bothers and sisters [as siblings of
a citizen]. They, in turn, could bring their wives, husbands, and children. Within a dozen years,
one immigrant entering as a skilled worker could easily generate 25 visas for in-laws, nieces,
and nephews (McConnell 1988, p. 98).
The 1965 law also de-emphasized the criterion that immigrants should have needed skills. (In
1986, less than 4% of immigrants were admitted on the basis of needed skills, while 74% were admitted
on the basis of kinship [see Brimelow, 1995].) As indicated above, the rejection of a skill requirement or
other tests of competence in favor of “humanitarian goals” and family unification had been an element
of Jewish immigration policy at least since debate on the McCarran-Walter act of the early 1950s and
extending really to the long opposition to literacy tests dating from the end of the nineteenth century.
Senator Jacob Javits played a prominent role in the Senate hearings on the 1965 bill, and
Emanuel Celler, who fought for unrestricted immigration for over 40 years in the House of
Representatives, introduced similar legislation in that body. Jewish organizations (American Council for
Judaism Philanthropic Fund; Council of Jewish Federations & Welfare Funds; B’nai B’rith Women)
filed briefs in support of the measure before the Senate Subcommittee, as did organizations such as the
ACLU and the Americans for Democratic Action with a large Jewish membership.
Indeed, it is noteworthy that well before the ultimate triumph of the Jewish policy on
immigration, Javits (1951) authored an article entitled “Let’s open the gates” that proposed immigration
level of 500,000 per year for 20 years with no restrictions on national origin. In 1961 Javits proposed a
bill that “sought to destroy the [national origins quota system] by a flank attack and to increase quota
and nonquota immigration” (Bennett, 1963, p. 250). In addition to provisions aimed at removing barriers
due to race, ethnic and national origins, included in this bill was a provision that brothers, sisters, and
married sons or daughters of United States citizens and their spouses and children who had become
eligible under the quota system in legislation of 1957 be included as nonquota immigrants— an even
more radical version of the provision whose incorporation in the 1965 law facilitated non-European
immigration into the United States. Although this provision of Javit’s bill was not approved at the time,
the bill’s proposals for softening previous restrictions on Asian and Black immigration as well as
removing racial classification from visa documents (thus allowing unlimited nonquota immigration of
Asians born in the Western Hemisphere) were approved.
It is also interesting that the main victory of the restrictionists in 1965 was that Western
Hemisphere nations were included in the new quota system thus ending the possibility of unrestricted
immigration from those regions. In speeches before the Senate, Senator Javits (Cong. Rec. 111, 1965, p.
24469) bitterly opposed this extension of the quota system, arguing that placing any limits on
immigration of all of the people of the Western Hemisphere would have severely negative implications
on United States foreign policy. In a highly revealing discussion of the bill before the Senate, Senator
Sam Ervin (Cong. Rec. 89th Congress, 1st session, pp. 24446-51, 1965) noted that “those who disagree
with me express no shock that Britain, in the future, can send us 10,000 fewer immigrants than she has
sent on an annual average in the past. They are only shocked that British Guyana cannot send us every
single citizen of that country who wishes to come.” Clearly the forces of liberal immigration really
wanted unlimited immigration into the United States.
The pro-immigrationists also failed to prevent a requirement that the Secretary of Labor
determine that there are insufficient Americans able and willing to perform the labor which the aliens
intend to perform, and that the employment of such aliens will not adversely affect the wages and
working conditions of American workers. Writing in the American Jewish Year Book, Liskofsky (1966,
174) notes that pro-immigration groups opposed these regulations but agreed to them in order to get a
bill that ended the national origins provisions. After passage “they became intensely concerned. They
voiced publicly the fear that the new, administratively cumbersome procedure might easily result in
paralyzing most immigration of skilled and unskilled workers as well as of non-preference immigrants.”
Reflecting the long Jewish opposition to the idea that immigration policy should be in the national
interest, the economic welfare of American citizens was irrelevant; securing high levels of immigration
had become an end in itself.
The 1965 law is having the effect that it seems reasonable to suppose had been intended by its
Jewish advocates all along: the Census Bureau projects that by the year 2050, European-derived peoples
will no longer be a majority of the population of America. Moreover, multiculturalism has already
become a powerful ideological and political reality (Brimelow, 1995). Although the proponents of the
1965 legislation continued to insist that the bill would not affect the ethnic balance of the United States
or even impact its culture, it is difficult to believe that at least some of the proponents were unaware of
the eventual implications. Opponents, certainly, were quite clear that it would indeed affect the ethnic
balance of the United States. Given the intense involvement of organizations such as the AJCommittee
in the details of immigration legislation and their very negative attitudes toward the North-Western
European bias of pre-1965 United States immigration policy and very negative attitudes toward the idea
of an ethnic status quo embodied, e.g., in the PCIN document Whom We Shall Welcome, it appears
unlikely to suppose that these organizations were unaware of the inaccuracy of the projections of the
effects of this legislation that were made by its supporters. Given the clearly articulated interests in
ending the ethnic status quo evident in the arguments of anti-restrictionists throughout the period from
1924-1965, the 1965 law would not have been perceived by its proponents as a victory unless they
viewed it as ultimately changing the ethnic status quo. Revealingly, the 1965 law was viewed as a
victory by the anti-restrictionists, and it is noteworthy that after regularly condemning United States
immigration law and championing the eradication of the national origins formula precisely because it
had produced an ethnic status quo, The Congress bi-Weekly completely ceased publishing articles on
Moreover, Lawrence Auster (1990, p. 31ff) shows that the supporters of the legislation
repeatedly glossed over the distinction between quota and non-quota immigration and failed to mention
the effect that the legislation would have on non-quota immigration. Projections of the number of new
immigrants failed to take account of the well-known and often commented-upon fact that the old quotas
favoring Western European countries were not being filled. Moreover, continuing a tradition of over 40
years, the rhetoric of those in favor of the bill presented the legislation of 1924 and 1952 as based on
theories of racial superiority and as involving racial discrimination rather than in terms of an attempt to
create an ethnic status quo.
Even in 1952, Senator McCarran was well aware of the high stakes at risk in immigration policy:
I believe that this nation is the last hope of Western civilization and if this oasis of the world
shall be overrun, perverted, contaminated or destroyed, then the last flickering light of
humanity will be extinguished. I take no issue with those who would praise the contributions
which have been made to our society by people of many races, of varied creeds and colors.
America is indeed a joining together of many streams which go to form a mighty river which
we call the American way. However, we have in the United States today hard-core, indigestible
blocs which have not become integrated into the American way of life, but which, on the
contrary are its deadly enemies. Today, as never before, untold millions are storming our gates
for admission and those gates are cracking under the strain. The solution of the problems of
Europe and Asia will not come through a transplanting of those problems en masse to the
United States. . . . I do not intend to become prophetic, but if the enemies of this legislation
succeed in riddling it to pieces, or in amending it beyond recognition, they will have
contributed more to promote this nation’s downfall than any other group since we achieved our
independence as a nation (Senator Pat McCarran, Cong. Rec., March 2, 1953, p. 1518.)
The defeats of 1924 and 1952 did not prevent the ultimate victory of the Jewish interest in
combating the cultural, political, and demographic dominance of the European-derived peoples of the
United States. What is truly remarkable is the tenacity with which Jewish ethnic interests were pursued
for a period of close to 100 years. Also remarkable was the ability to frame the argument of
immigration-restrictionists in terms of racial superiority in the period from 1924-1965 rather than in
such positive terms as the ethnic interests of the peoples of northern and western Europe in maintaining
a status quo as of 1924.
During the period between 1924 and 1965 Jewish interests were largely thwarted, but this did not
prevent the ultimate triumph of the Jewish perspective on immigration. In a very real sense the result of
the immigration changes fostered by Jewish intellectual and political activity have constituted a long
term victory over the political, demographic, and cultural representation of “the common people of the
South and West” (Higham 1984, 49) whose congressional delegates were in the forefront of the
restrictionist forces. Former Secretary of the Navy James Webb (1995) notes that it is the descendants of
those WASPS who settled the West and South who “by and large did the most to lay out the
infrastructure of this country, quite often suffering educational and professional regression as they tamed
the wilderness, built the towns, roads and schools, and initiated a democratic way of life that later white
cultures were able to take advantage of without paying the price of pioneering. Today they have the
least, socioeconomically, to show for these contributions. And if one would care to check a map, they
are from the areas now evincing the greatest resistance to government practices.” Webb’s ideas are not
new but reflect the sentiments a great many congressmen voiced during the immigration debates of the
It is instructive to consider the possible long term effects of this sea change in American
immigration policy combined with the current emphasis on multi-culturalism. The shift to
multiculturalism has coincided with an enormous growth of immigration from non-European-derived
peoples beginning with the Immigration Act of 1965 which favored immigrants from non-European
countries. Many of these immigrants come from non-Western countries where cultural, gender, and
genetic segregation are the norm. Within the context of multicultural America, they are encouraged to
retain their own languages and religions and encouraged to marry within the group.
The movement toward ethnic separatism is highly problematic. Historically, ethnic separatism
has been an extremely divisive force within societies. At the present time there are ethnically based
conflicts on every continent, and formerly multi-ethnic societies are breaking away and establishing
ethno-states based on ethnic homogeneity (Tullberg & Tullberg, 1997). These results confirm the
expectation that indeed ethnicity is important in human affairs. People appear to be extremely aware of
group membership, and ethnicity remains a common source of group identity. Individuals are also
keenly aware of the relative standing of their own group in terms of resource control and social status.
And they are willing to take extraordinary steps in order to achieve and retain economic and political
power in defense of these group imperatives.
It is instructive to think of the circumstances which could minimize group conflict given the
assumption of ethnic separatism. Theorists of cultural pluralism, such as Horace Kallen, envision the
possibility that different ethnic groups would retain their distinctive identity in the context of complete
political equality and economic opportunity. The difficulty with this scenario is that no provision is
made for the results of competition for resources within the society.
In the best of circumstances one might suppose that the separated ethnic groups would engage in
absolute reciprocity with each other, so that there would be no differences in terms of any measure of
success in the society, including social class membership, economic role (e.g., producer versus
consumer; creditor versus debtor; manager versus worker), or fertility between the separated ethnic
groups. All groups would have approximately equal numbers and equal political power, or if there were
different numbers there would be provisions ensuring that minorities could retain equitable
representation in terms of the markers of success. Such conditions would minimize hostility between the
groups because it would be difficult to attribute one’s status to the actions of the other group.
However, given the existence of ethnic separatism, it would still be in the interests of each group
to advance its own interests at the expense of the other groups. All things being equal, a given ethnic
group would be better off if it ensured that the other group had fewer resources, a lower social status,
lower fertility, and proportionately less political power than itself. (Indeed, lowering the political and
demographic power of the European-derived peoples of the United States has clearly been the aim of the
Jewish political and intellectual activities discussed here.) The hypothesized steady state of equality
therefore implies a set of balance of power relationships— each side constantly checking to make sure
that the other is not cheating; each side constantly looking for ways to obtain dominance and
exploitation by any possible means; each side willing to compromise only because of the threat of
retaliation by the other side; each side willing to cooperate in a manner which involves a cost only if
forced to do so by, e.g., the presence of external threat. Clearly any type of cooperation which would
involve true altruism toward the other group would not be expected.
Thus the ideal situation of absolute equality would certainly require a great deal of monitoring
and undoubtedly be characterized by a great deal of mutual suspicion. However, in the real world even
this rather grim ideal is highly unlikely. In the real world, ethnic groups differ in their talents and
abilities; they differ in their numbers, fertility, and the extent to which they encourage parenting
practices conducive to resource acquisition; and they differ in the resources held at any point in time and
in their political power. Equality or proportionate equity would be extremely difficult to attain, or to
maintain after it has been achieved, without extraordinary levels of monitoring and without extremely
intense social controls which would enforce ethnic quotas on the accumulation of wealth, admission to
universities, obtaining high status jobs, etc.
Because of differing talents and abilities and differing parenting styles between ethnic groups,
there would be a need to have different criteria for qualifying and retaining jobs depending on ethnic
group membership.23 In the real world, therefore, there would have to be extraordinary efforts made to
attain this steady state of ethnic balance of power and resources. It is of great interest that the ideology
of Jewish-gentile co-existence has sometimes included the idea that the different ethnic groups develop a
similar occupational profile and (implicitly) control resources in proportion to their numbers. The dream
of the German assimilationists during the nineteenth-century was that the occupational profile of the
Jews after emancipation would be highly similar to that of the gentiles— a “utopian expectation . . .
shared by many, Jews and non-Jews alike” (Katz, 1986, p. 67). Efforts were made to decrease the
percentage of Jews involved in trade and increase the percentages involved in agriculture and artisanry.
In the event, however, the result of emancipation was that Jews were vastly overrepresented among the
economic and cultural elite of the society, and this overrepresentation was a critical feature of German
anti-Semitism from 1870-1933.
Similarly, during the 1920s plans were proposed in which each ethnic group received a
percentage of placements at Harvard and other universities reflecting the percentage of racial and
national groups in the United States. These plans certainly reflect the importance of ethnicity in human
affairs, but surely a society based on this type of ethnic special interest is not one which a social
engineer in the manner of Lycurgus, Moses, Plato, or the American Founding Fathers would design as a
blueprint for an entire society. The levels of social tension are bound to be chronically high. Moreover,
there is a considerable chance that ethnic warfare would occur even if precise parity had been achieved
via intensive social controls: as indicated above, it would always be in the interests of any ethnic group
to obtain hegemony over the others.
If one adopts a cultural pluralism model in which there is free competition for resources and
reproductive success, differences between ethnic groups are inevitable, and history suggests that such
differences would result in animosity from the groups that are losing out. The Tutsi/Hutu struggle in
Rwanda and its neighbors is only the latest of many tragic examples. Assuming that there are ethnic
differences in talents and abilities, the supposition that ethnic separatism could be a stable situation
without ethnic animosity requires either a balance of power situation maintained with powerful social
controls, as described above, or it requires that at least some ethnic groups be unconcerned that they are
losing in the competition.
I regard this last possibility as remote at best. The proposition that an ethnic group should or
would be unconcerned with its own eclipse and domination is certainly not expected by any theoretical
or ideological perspective of which I am aware. The present immigration policy essentially places
America “in play” as an arena of ethnic competition in a sense which does not apply in the non-Western
nations of the world where the implicit assumption is that territory is held by its historically-dominant
people. Under present policies, each racial/ethnic group in the world is encouraged to press its interest in
expanding its demographic and political presence in America and can be expected to do so if given the
Contrary to policies they advocate for the United States, American Jews have had no interest at
all in proposing that immigration to Israel should be similarly multi-ethnic or that Israel should have an
immigration policy that would threaten the hegemony of Jews in Israel. Indeed, the very deep ethnic
conflict within Israel is an excellent example of the failure of multi-culturalism. Similarly, while Jews
have been on the forefront of movements to separate church and state in the United States and often
protested lack of religious freedom in the Soviet Union, the control of religious affairs by the Orthodox
in Israel has received only belated and half-hearted opposition by American Jewish organizations
(Cohen, 1972, 317) and has not prevented the all-out support of Israel by American Jews, despite the
fact that Israel’s policy regarding immigration is quite the opposite of that of Western democracies.
At present the interests of non-European-derived peoples to expand demographically and
politically in the United States are widely perceived as a moral imperative, while the attempts of the
European-derived peoples to retain demographic, political, and cultural control are represented as
“racist” and patently immoral. From the perspective of these European-derived peoples, the prescribed
morality entails altruism and self-sacrifice, and it is unlikely to be viable in the long run. And, as we
have seen, the viability of such a morality of self-sacrifice is especially problematic in the context of a
multicultural society in which everyone is highly conscious of group membership and there is
between-group competition for resources.
Although the success of the anti-restrictionist effort is an indication that people can be induced to
be altruistic toward other groups, I rather doubt such altruism will continue to occur if there are obvious
signs that the status and political power of the European-derived group is decreasing while the power of
other groups increases as a result of immigration and other social policies. The prediction, both on
common sense grounds and on the basis of psychological research on social identity process (e.g., Hogg
& Abrams, 1987), is that as other groups become increasingly powerful and salient in a multicultural
society, the European-derived peoples of the United States will become increasingly unified and that
contemporary divisive influences among the European-derived peoples of the United States (e.g., issues
related to gender and sexual orientation; social class differences; religious differences) will be
increasingly perceived as unimportant. Eventually these groups will develop greater cohesion and a
sense of common interest in their interactions with the other ethnic groups with profound consequences
on the future history of America and the West.
1 Raab is associated with the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL), and is executive director
emeritus of the Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University. He is also a columnist
for the San Francisco Jewish Bulletin. Among other works, he is co-author, with Seymour Lipset of The
Politics of Unreason: Right Wing-Extremism in America, 1790-1970 (Lipset & Raab 1970), a volume in
a series of books on anti-Semitism in the United States sponsored by the ADL.
2 In Australia, Miriam Faine, an editorial committee member of the Australian Jewish Democrat stated
that “The strengthening of multicultural or diverse Australia is also our most effective insurance policy
against anti-semitism. The day Australia has a Chinese Australian Governor General I would feel more
confident of my freedom to live as a Jewish Australian” (in McCormack 1994, p. 11).
3 Moreover, a deep concern that an ethnically and culturally homogeneous America would compromise
Jewish interests can be seen in Silberman’s comments on the attraction of Jews to “the Democratic party
. . . with its traditional hospitality to non-WASP ethnic groups. . . . A distinguished economist who
strongly disagreed with Mondale’s economic policies voted for him nonetheless. ‘I watched the
conventions on television,’ he explained, ‘and the Republicans did not look like my kind of people.”
That same reaction led many Jews to vote for Carter in 1980 despite their dislike of him; ‘I’d rather live
in a country governed by the faces I saw at the Democratic convention than by those I saw at the
Republican convention’ a well-known author told me” (pp. 347-348).
4 Goldberg (1996, 160) notes that the future neo-conservatives were disciples of Trotskyist theoretician
Max Schachtman. A good example is Irving Kristol’s (1983) “Memoirs of a Trotskyist.”
5 Grant’s letter to the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization emphasized the principle
argument of the restrictionists, i.e., that the use of the 1890 census of the foreign born as the basis of the
immigration law was fair to all ethnic groups currently in the country, and that the use of the 1910
census discriminated against the “native Americans whose ancestors were in this country before its
independence.” He also argued in favor of quotas from Western Hemisphere nations because these
countries “in some cases furnish very undesirable immigrants. The Mexicans who come into the United
States are overwhelmingly of Indian blood, and the recent intelligence tests have shown their very low
intellectual status. We have already got too many of them in our Southwestern States, and a check
should be put on their increase” (p. 571). Grant was also concerned about the unassimilability of recent
immigrants. He included with his letter a Chicago Tribune editorial commenting on a situation in
Hamtramck, Michigan in which recent immigrants were described as demanding “Polish rule,” the
expulsion of non-Poles, and that only the Polish language be spoken even by federal officials. Grant also
argued that differences in reproductive rate would result in displacement of groups that delayed marriage
and had fewer children— clearly a concern that as a result of immigration his ethnic group would be
displaced by ethnic groups with a higher rate of natural increase. (Restriction of Immigration; Hearings
Before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization House of Representatives, sixty-eighth
Congress, First Session, Jan. 5, 1924; p. 570.)
6 Restriction of Immigration; Hearings Before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization House
of Representatives, sixty-eighth Congress, First Session, Jan. 5, 1924; p. 580-581.
7 Statement of the AJCongress, Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees of the Committees on the
Judiciary, 82nd Congress, first session, on S. 716, H. R. 2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951, p.
8 Restriction of Immigration; Hearings Before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization House
of Representatives, sixty-eighth Congress, First Session, Jan. 3, 1924; p. 303.
9 Restriction of Immigration; Hearings Before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization House
of Representatives, sixty-eighth Congress, First Session, Jan. 3, 1924; p. 341.
10 For example, in the Senate debates of April 15-19, 1924, Nordic superiority was not mentioned by any
of the proponents of the legislation but was mentioned by the following opponents of the legislation:
Senators Colt (p. 6542), Reed (p. 6468), Walsh (p. 6355). In the House debates of April 5, 8, and 15,
virtually all of the opponents of the legislation raised the racial inferiority issue, including Reps. Celler
(p. 5914-5915), Clancy (p. 5930), Connery (p. 5683), Dickstein (p. 5655-5656, 5686), Gallivan (p.
5849), Jacobstein (p. 5864), James (p. 5670), Kunz (p. 5896), LaGuardia (p. 5657), Mooney (p. 5909-
5910), O’Connell (p. 5836), O’Connor (p. 5648), Oliver (p. 5870), O’Sullivan (p. 5899), Perlman (p.
5651); Sabath (p. 5651, 5662), and Tague (p. 5873). Several representatives (e.g., Reps. Dickinson [p.
6267), Garber [pp. 5689-5693] and Smith [p. 5705]) contrasted the positive characteristics of the Nordic
immigrants with the negative characteristics of more recent immigrants without distinguishing genetic
from environmental reasons as possible influences. They, along with several others, noted especially the
lack of assimilation of the recent immigrants and their tendencies to cluster in urban areas. Rep. Allen
argued that there is a “necessity for purifying and keeping pure the blood of America” (p. 5693). Rep.
McSwain, who argued for the need to preserve Nordic hegemony, did not do so on the basis of Nordic
superiority but on the basis of legitimate ethnic self-interest (pp. 5683-5; see also comments of Reps.
Lea and Miller). Rep. Gasque introduced a newspaper article that referred to the “laws of heredity” and
to the swamping of the race that had built America (p. 6270).
11 Restriction of Immigration. Hearings Before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization House
of Representatives, sixty-eighth Congress, First Session, Jan. 3, 1924; p. 351.
12 See, e.g., Restriction of Immigration; Hearings Before the Committee on Immigration and
Naturalization House of Representatives, sixty-eighth Congress, First Session, Jan. 5, 1924; p. 733ff.
13 Hearings before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, House of Representatives, May
24-June 1, 1939: Joint Resolutions to Authorize the Admission to the United States of a Limited
Number of German Refugee Children, p. 1.
14 Hearings before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, House of Representatives, May
24-June 1, 1939: Joint Resolutions to Authorize the Admission to the United States of a Limited
Number of German Refugee Children, p. 78.
15 Hearings before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, House of Representatives, May
24-June 1, 1939: Joint Resolutions to Authorize the Admission to the United States of a Limited
Number of German Refugee Children, p. 140.
16 Statement of the AJCongress, Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees of the Committees on the
Judiciary, 82nd Congress, first session, on S. 716, H. R. 2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951, p.
17 Statement of the AJCongress, Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees of the Committees on the
Judiciary, 82nd Congress, first session, on S. 716, H. R. 2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951, p.
566. See also statement of Rabbi Bernard J. Bamberger, President of the Synagogue Council of
America; See also the statement of the AJCongress, pp. 560-561.
18 Statement of Will Maslow representing the AJCongress, Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees of
the Committees on the Judiciary, 82nd Congress, first session, on S. 716, H. R. 2379, and H. R. 2816.
March 6-April 9, 1951, p. 394.
19 Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees of the Committees on the Judiciary, 82nd Congress, first
session, on S. 716, H. R. 2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951, pp. 562-595.
20 Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees of the Committees on the Judiciary, 82nd Congress, first
session, on S. 716, H. R. 2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951, p. 410.
21 Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees of the Committees on the Judiciary, 82nd Congress, first
session, on S. 716, H. R. 2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951, p. 404.
22 Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees of the Committees on the Judiciary, 82nd Congress, first
session, on S. 716, H. R. 2379, and H. R. 2816. March 6-April 9, 1951, p. 563.
23 Moreover, achieving parity between Jews and other ethnic groups would entail a very high level of
discrimination against individual Jews for admission to universities or employment opportunities, and
would even entail a large taxation on Jews in order to prevent the present Jewish advantage in the
possession of wealth, since at present Jews are vastly over-represented among the wealthy and the
successful in the United States (e.g., Ginsberg, 1994; Lipsett & Raab, 1995). Beginning in the 1920s,
studies have repeatedly shown that Ashkenazi Jews have a full-scale IQ of approximately 117 and a
verbal IQ in the range of 125 (see MacDonald, 1994 for a review). By 1988, Jews constituted about 40%
of admissions to Ivy League colleges and Jewish income was at least double that of gentiles (Shapiro
(1992, p. 116). Shapiro also shows that Jews are overrepresented by at least a factor of nine on indexes
of wealth, but that this is a conservative estimate because much Jewish wealth is in real estate which is
difficult to determine and easy to hide. While constituting approximately 2.4% of the population of the
United States, Jews represented one half of the top 100 Wall Street executives. Lipset and Raab (1995)
note that Jews contribute between one-quarter and one-third of all political contributions in the United
States, including one-half of Democratic Party contributions and one-fourth of Republican contributions.
Indeed, many Jewish intellectuals (including “neo-conservatives” such as Daniel Bell, Sidney Hook,
Irving Howe, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, Norman Podhoretz, and Earl Raab) as well as Jewish
organizations (including the ADL, the AJCommittee, and the AJCongress) have been eloquent
opponents of affirmative action and quota mechanisms for distributing resources (see Sachar 1992, p.
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