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What English Jews thought about German Jews

Discussion in 'Judaism DIR' started by Harel13, Jun 28, 2022.

  1. Harel13

    Harel13 Am Yisrael Chai
    Staff Member Premium Member

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    I had a test today about Jewish history in the modern era. One part of the test included analyzing one of two texts. I picked the second one which consisted of two letters written by a Jewish woman named Rivka Samuel who apparently moved from England to America some time circa the Revolution (it's unclear whether she came before, during or shortly after). In the letters, written to her parents (it's not entirely clear from the wording, but it seems they may have lived in London) in 1791, she told them about Jewish life in the States. One of the interesting things she said was that it was nice that there weren't any rabbis in America because then there was no one who could excommunicate Jews (נידוי).

    She also complained about the German Jews. She said that many German Jews came to America during the Revolution as soldiers in the Germanic forces (Hessians, etc) and stayed behind. She said they acted in a diasporic manner and also had bad manners in general. I thought that was an interesting window into what English-born American Jews thought of Jews in other places. Both England and Germany are Western European countries, but peasant Jews from Germany simply weren't classy enough for English Jews in the 18th century.

    Then there's the point she made about them acting in a diasporic manner - seems to have been a hint of seeing America as the New Land of Israel. I assume the letters were translated though this was not stated on the test. But in the text we got, she also used a term from Judges "everyone did as he pleased" which is a statement about the way people acted during the settlement period - when they were new to the land. I thought this flew a bit in the face of the main portions of her letters, where she explained how difficult it is to be a religious Jew in the States, though she and her family do the best they can. Of course, one might argue that in her mind she traded one Land of Israel for another, but...doubtful.
     
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