Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler: Stop sending us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, please!

Here is a fascinating letter British Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler sent to Hamaggid (January 10, 1889). He urges his rabbinic colleagues in Russia, Poland and Lithuania to help stem the tide of Jewish emigration to Great Britain, which had begun in waves after 1881 when a great wave of pogroms had begun to take place. Rabbi Adler points out that the British Jewish community has done it all it could for the refugees. The rabbis should know that there is no livelihood for them in Britain. Most work on the Sabbath and holidays, and some have even converted to Christianity. It is simply not possible for the Jewish community to do more. London is not a golden city. Therefore he requests all these rabbis publicize these things, so the people will know that immigration to Britain is not an ascent, it's a descent..

The same letter was also sent to Yehuda Leib Gordon's Hameliz, where for some strange reason R. Adler labored under the impression that the rabbinic audience he addressed was reading. It appeared in the January 11, 1889 issue:


  1. At least this was for a legit reason, not 'das torah' that America or wherever was treif. Wonder if anyone listened to his request and how many people might have been saved from WW1 and WW2 though.

  2. The subtext is "We can't assimilate them and they're embarrassing," not that his reasons aren't undoubtedly true.

  3. Wow!! You can get a good idea of the phenomenon Rabbi Adler was referring to in I Zangwill's books.

  4. "Trueish" is what I should have said.

  5. does your title refer to emma lazarus's poem as a contrast to adler?
    although she was active on behalf of the immigrants who came to america, she also preferred they'd go elsewhere. "wretched refuse" etc. wasn't entirely complimentary and here zionism was influenced by a desire to see the immigrants flow deflected elsewhere.

  6. Well, the rabbonim kept telling their constituents not to move to America, and millions paid them no attention at all.

  7. There's actually a lot more to say about the subject. Established British Jewry really really resented the Russian immigration and tried their best to convince the Jews to stop coming, to little avail.

    In a related note, when an immigrant chevra challenged the hegemony of the Chief Rabbinate on religious issues, particularly kashrus, R. Adler wrote a letter to R. Yitzchak Elchanan asking for support. In his letter he hinted that his support or lack of would influence future charitable giving from British Jewry. R. Yitzchak Elchanan complied, although it's interesting to speculate whether the threat was even necessary.



Related Posts with Thumbnails