The current brouhaha over immigration policy is nothing new. Neither is the defamation of immigrants as criminals or political undesirables. While American nativist animus today falls upon Mexican, Central American, and Muslim migrants, about 100 years ago, this same hatred was aimed at the Jews.
Taking aim with their poison pens, Der groyser kundes, the Lower East Side’s premier Yiddish satire weekly, attacked the Immigration Quota Acts of 1921 and 1924, which were enacted to severely stifle Jewish immigration to the U.S. Well-acquainted with the dire circumstances in which Eastern European Jews found themselves, Yiddish cartoonists understood that a more fair immigration policy would be beneficial to both Jews and to America. Using political, cultural, and traditional Jewish imagery, the artists of Der groyser kundes crafted numerous cartoons that considered the situation from the perspective of a Jewish immigrant community for which the matter was potentially a matter of life and death.
100 years later, the players have changed. But the issues have remained remarkably similar.
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