The Jew and the Club

"I find it rather difficult to make it clear to my children why we are not eligible, for from one point of view it isn't quite clear to me."

Undoubtedly, it will be felt that I am making a mountain out of a molehill and that in the everyday life of our people, Jews and others, all this plays no role.  It may be felt that what I say concerns only a small class of the wealthy who have not been accorded the social recognition which they believe to be their due. But this is not the whole story. I have dwelt at length upon clubs, because the facts there are less easily denied; there they have become generally recognized.  For as I stated at the outset, the trouble with so much of it all is that it is hidden and not admitted, and so cannot be fought in the open.  The Jewish controversy at Harvard is well known. It was at least open and above board, though it made the lot of Harvard men of Jewish extraction more difficult. However, at Harvard the question was settled in such fashion that the Jew is not discriminated against officially, at any rate. At many other universities, however, the same problem has appeared and open discussion has been carefully avoided for fear of giving offense to possible donors with Jewish antecedents.  It is well known, however, that Jewish boys and girls have much difficulty in gaining admission to these institutions, and conditions similar to those in Romania, Poland, and various Balkan states have developed.

Least of all is it realized that discrimination of this kind is gaining marked headway in business life. It is natural that the men whose social life is spent together should also desire to be associated together in business. They know each other from all angles; they are congenial, for otherwise they would not be together outside of business; and when favorable business opportunities arise their thoughts quite naturally turn to each other. This sort of consideration cannot affect a business owned by an individual or a very small group. It will arise in concerns where the social side is well developed, as in banks, where officers are apt to belong to clubs of one kind or another, though this development is by no means confined to banks.  Of course, no bank or other business would admit that it discriminates against Jews and Catholics leastwise not if its customers are large in number and belong to all classes of society.  Nevertheless, it is well known to the initiated that several of the larger New York banks will employ no Jews and at least one of the very largest also has the bars raised to keep out Catholics.  In some of the other cities, some of the larger banks have one or two Jewish officers and perhaps here and there a Jewish member of the board of directors.  In some instances this is with deliberate intent to attract Jewish customers. But even so, it is becoming rarer and rarer to employ Jews in banks other than those where the controlling interest is Jewish.

I have mentioned the situation of Jewish students, but not only are Jewish students excluded from our universities primarily because they are Jews, but Jews are finding it more and more impossible to obtain teaching positions in universities, and Jewish students of medicine are experiencing difficulty in obtaining desirable internships in our hospitals, though as yet we have not reached the condition of Rumania, where Jewish students can dissect only if Jewish cadavers are available.


Anyone concerned about the future of the country may well pause a moment. There are at least eleven million people of Negro descent in the country, who form an indissoluble mass in the population. There are approximately four million Jews, who, as indicated, are being driven to form another separate entity. Moreover, the tendency is to segregate also the Catholic elements from the rest of the population. The effect produced by the attitude of the majority upon the minorities mentioned is to harden and make more permanent the cleavages and divisions in the population, the very reverse of the aim of the Americanization movement. Curiously enough, the very people who are desirous of making good Americans out of the foreign-born are in many instances those who, by their attitude, are frustrating the success of this movement.

Personally, my associations have been largely non-Jewish.  Nevertheless, I feel, in my own case, much more than I used to, a desire to emphasize my Jewish nationality, and I feel that I am becoming more sensitive to slights, real or imagined. My children will probably, under the circumstances, feel all this more keenly than I do and are likely to associate much more exclusively than I do with people of Jewish origin. The result will be to accentuate any Jewish traits which they may have inherited and by that very fact to set them off more sharply from others. A similar result will follow in the case of those other elements in the population to which I have referred. We have already in our large cities definite sections of the town reserved for the Negro population. Very likely, in time, we shall have other parts of our large cities definitely reserved for the Jews. Not that the lot of the Jews is at all comparable to that of the Negro. So far, at least, their intelligence and economic standing have preserved them from actual persecution. In some respects, their lot is worse than that of the Negroes because, being fewer in number, they are unable to find a sufficient number of congenial spirits among their own people with whom to associate. At least, this is true outside of New York. The Negroes belong mostly to the laboring class, with little of the social aspirations of the educated and cultured, while a large number of Jews, as regards breeding and education, belong to the highest social strata.  What the lot of a really educated Negro in this country is, I hardly dare contemplate. If I had a son, I have often thought that I should advise him to leave this country and go elsewhere, say to some southern country where, while he might suffer political disability, he would probably not suffer any social disability, and as I have sought to indicate, the latter is really at times more galling than the former.

I stated at the outset that I do not think the raising of the religious question at the recent Democratic Convention has been an unmixed evil.  It may wreck the fortunes of the Democratic Party, but on the other hand, it may be the best service that could be rendered to the country as a whole. It is very important that we begin to realize whither we are drifting.

Many of my friends read with interest the work of Ludwig Lewisohn, Up Stream. The only criticism—and it was a constant one—was to the effect that it was to be regretted that his work had such an undercurrent of bitterness.  I can only smile at such a remark. What other feeling is a man to have than that of bitterness when he feels conscious that in descent, education, manners, and ideals he is the equal of those about him and that, nevertheless, he and the members of his family are excluded not only from clubs, but even from hotels, and from many of the ordinary pursuits open to those among whom he lives.

As I sit here writing this article, I am not even certain that any magazine will publish it, or at least a magazine which reaches the people for whom such an article might prove of value. For we are so afraid of criticism, we are so fearful of bringing to light the ugly sores which infest the body politic, but which unless recognized can never be healed, that we refuse to listen to criticism, however well meant, and decline to read anything which will enlighten us.  Persecution begets persecution and tolerance begets tolerance. What will the future bring? I wonder.

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