Immigration

The Congressional Dillingham Commission, which operated between 1907 and 1911, impacted Jewish immigrants to America in what way?

A. Until the turn of the 20th century, United States senators were elected by state legislatures. Based on the recommendation of the Dillingham Commission, the Seventeenth Amendment to the constitution was proposed, and eventually ratified in 1913, bringing about direct election of senators by popular vote. This benefited the Jews because no state legislature had ever elected a Jewish senator, but with a popular vote rather than one dependent upon bargaining and politicking in state legislatures, the first Jewish senator, Isidor Rayner, an immigrant from Lodz, Poland, was elected from the state of Maryland in 1914.

B. The Dillingham Commission was created to study how to better integrate the huge influx of eastern European immigrants, including Jews, into the United States military. Among their findings was a need to provide kosher food for Jewish soldiers, resulting in an arrangement with the National Jewish Welfare Board to provide this food, as well as matzah at Passover time, and kiddush wine on Friday nights.

C. Studying immigration issues, the Commission concluded that the huge number of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe (including millions of Jews) was a serious threat to American society. This led to increasing restrictions on the number of immigrants, and eventually an almost total closure of the borders to Jewish and other immigration through the Emergency Immigration Act and the Immigration Restriction Act of 1921, followed by the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924.

D. As modern refrigeration methods had not yet been invented, the Dillingham Commission studied safety in the food industry, and in particular the new “Dillingham” process of pickling pig meat in order to preserve it. With the approval of this method of preserving ham, pork and other pig products, many poor immigrant Jews chose to abandon the rules of kashrut at a time when kosher meat was expensive and difficult to store safely.

E. Huge numbers of Jewish children were fleeing pogroms in Europe by stowing away on ships sailing to America. To prevent the influx of these illegal immigrants, the Dillingham Commission recommended the construction of a border fence around Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to prevent these illegal aliens from entering America and taking jobs from American citizens.

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