Among the many injustices of Russian
despotism is her cruel discrimination against Karaites, Stundists,
Finlanders, and Jews. Crowded as millions of the latter are into the
comparatively small southwestern portion of Russia they cannot live
under conditions as favorable as they might were they permitted to
settle in the interior where space is less valuable than it is on the
It is very difficult for one who has not visited the country to get a
true conception of the surroundings of the Jew in "White Russia" or "The
Pale." Writers like Leo Errera and Harold Frederic have given us
interesting literature on this subject, but they have been so touched by
the intolerance of Russian Christianity(?) that through their
sympathetic minds we can see only the picture of a great Inferno.
The Russian immigrant in America tells a somewhat different tale from
theirs. We must, however, remember that his native love of home and the
fatherland lends a rosy coloring to all his memories of far-away
Russland. He really loves his country and hates only the government
restrictions against him. He will tell you that the microbe-holding,
smell-emitting air-shaft of our modern tenement is unknown in Russia.
The tenements are rarely over three stories high, and each is provided
with a court-yard where the children may play free from the dangers and
temptations of the streets.
American sanitary plumbing is the finest in the world. But about
three-quarters of our population are permitted to live in homes
unprovided with this new preventive of disease; so we are really in this
matter not very far ahead of Russia. Laws for the prevention of
contagious diseases in America are more rigid and more carefully
enforced than are those of Russia, which may partly account for our
smaller child mortality.
The death rate among non-Jews in Russia is larger than that of the
Jewish population. This is due, above all, to the temperance of the Jew,
who rarely drinks the intoxicating vodka, and lives according to the
Mosaic law. Although orthodox Judaism is not so strong as it was a
generation ago, yet as habit is powerful there still exists a strict
adherence to the customs of the Mosaic code. Early marriages are still
the rule and home life throws its safeguards about the health and life
of the individual.
In Chicago there are Russian Jews of every class, from the
semi-millionaire to the day laborer, from the oriental- looking Jew
whose education is purely Talmudical to the professional man who
occupies a prominent position in modern literature or science.
Among the wealthier and the indifferent who do not care to live near the
orthodox shops and synagogues we find, of course, all modern appliances
for sanitation and health. These now live on the avenues and boulevards
where money is the open sesame to comfort and convenience. One would
hardly recognize in these people the same human beings who ten or
fifteen years before had lived on the West Side in uncomfortable
surroundings. No people rise more rapidly than these so soon as they
This paper will deal mainly with the poorer classes,--mechanics, factory
"hands," small manufacturers, shopkeepers, clerks, day laborers, and the
like. These are settled in four main districts, viz.: Englewood,
Brighton Park, the Northwest Side, and the West Side, in the Ninth Ward
and its vicinity. Many have also migrated to suburban towns,--Pullman,
Evanston, Kensington, East Chicago, South Chicago and Hegewisch, In
Englewood rents are low and housing conditions excellent. Yards,
bathrooms, and modern laundries are plentiful. Here we have an example
of how the Russian Jewish workingman and his family will live if given
the chance. While the moral, financial, and educational status of the
people there is about the same as that of the Jews in the Ninth Ward, no
one has yet called the Englewood district a Ghetto, nor has anyone so
designated the wards where wealthy Jews have chosen to live near their
temples, relatives, friends and social or business interests.
The Northwest Side is the home of many of Chicago's most intellectual
Russian Jews. There are many artistic homes here even where there is
little money, the educated mother and housewife making this possible.
Brighton Park bids fair to become another Englewood for the Jewish
artisan and small trader.
The West Side district contains about 30,000 Russian Jews, who pay high
rents for the privilege of living in insanitary houses. Fortunately
conditions are not so bad there as they seem on first sight. Walking
through the streets of the neighborhood one is shocked by the dirt and
disorder. But it is the aesthetic and not the moral sense which is
outraged. The district is not really a slum. Evidences of education,
morality, and intelligence are found in abundance. With the exception of
incorrigible boys and petty gamblers, there is no vicious element.
Temperance rules supreme. Soda water is sold at the grocery stores at
two cents a bottle and at the stands for one cent a glass. This in
summer and weak tea in winter are the national drinks of the Russian
Jewish populace. No neighborhood in our city, with the exception of
Prohibition districts, shows so few saloons to the number of population.
A growing demand for accommodations is causing landlords to build on
yard space. Accordingly, little children are compelled to use the
streets for play grounds, and there are little children galore. Passing
wagons and trolley cars, defective plank pavements, disease breeding
garbage boxes, and falling missiles play sad havoc with these innocents
who furnish ample material for the nearby clinics and dispensaries.
Boys and girls with faces and frocks besmirched, care-worn men and
women, disorderly shops, rickety shanties, which bring on pneumonia and
rheumatism, all on streets shamefully neglected by the city authorities,
make up a scene which must cause us to blush for our much vaunted
There is the aloofness and indifference of those who could be a powerful
help in changing the state of affairs. They should use their influence
for the enactment and enforcement of a law prohibiting the renting of
apartments which are not provided with proper sanitary appliances.
Our West Side settlement of Russian Jews is essentially a community of
homes. The "bunk" system, cheap lodging houses, trashy restaurants, and
men's boarding houses are conspicuous by their absence. The free lunch
saloon is rare. Single men and women without homes either rent furnished
rooms or board with families. Seldom will a family take more than one or
two "roomers" or boarders. The restaurants are high-priced and
wholesome. There is no hotel in the whole district. The poorest
individual pays a family one dollar a week for lodging and coffee or tea
in the morning. A penny roll for breakfast and another for supper make
up the morning and evening fare of some of these lodgers. For dinner the
kind housewife adds five cents' worth of meat to her pot for the lodger
and furnishes the cooking free. Thus much against his habit and personal
inclination many a poor student or peddler lives temporarily on one
dollar and fifty cents a week. However, the large majority of the
inhabitants of the district average about $3 per person for board alone.
In some few isolated cases a family occupies one room, but usually the
poorest have two rooms or more. The majority have three or four.
At the Foster Public School 1,730 children were questioned as to the
number of rooms occupied by their parents. The information obtained was
The majority of the children in this school are of Russian Jewish
At the Washburne School 798 were questioned. The result was as follows:
The Washburne is attended almost entirely by
children of Russian Jews.1
In the majority of West Side homes among
these people the kitchen is the only room that is suitably heated for
bathing purposes. It is also used for the family sitting and dining
room. The statement has often been made that soap and water are cheap,
but what of the warm private bath-room? Here there are thousands of
people compelled to live under conditions, that, to say the least, make
the bath at home exceedingly difficult. Often the tired workingman or
workingwoman and the growing boy or girl must wait until after midnight
before the only comfortable room in the flat is vacated. A real estate
agent, who has been fifteen years in the Ninth Ward, says that in the
district east of Halsted Street there is not one apartment in four
hundred furnished with a bathroom or hot water connections. In the
district bounded by Halsted, Canal, West Twelfth, and West Fourteenth
Streets, the distinctively Jewish section, but 373 out of a population
of 10,452, or 2.56 per cent., have bath tubs.2 Many families
are moving west of Halsted Street in the search for apartments with bath
There are some wealthy residents who occupy the few modern steam-heated
flats which are in great demand. There is one model apartment house at
the corner of Bunker and Desplaines Streets, but of its twenty-four
families only four are Jewish. These flats are heated by steam and have
sanitary plumbing and bath rooms. All the rooms are light and well
ventilated. There are porches, flower boxes, paved court-yards, and fire
escapes. The rents are from thirteen to sixteen dollars a month for a
flat of four or five rooms. The building is under the management of an
able social settlement worker, who herself lives in one of the flats.
She says that after deducting from the profits a sufficient amount to
pay for the natural depreciation in its value the house pays five per
cent. on the investment.
Such buildings, with good sanitary arrangements, and with humane and
intelligent agents on the premises, would mean the saving of life and
health to hundreds of men and women in our crowded city districts. In
our West Side community of Jews such tenements would help to lift the
lives of the young from discomfort and despair to happiness and hope. It
must be admitted, however, that agents would sometimes be necessary to
combat the slovenly housewife; not all the defects are due to the
At present the Ninth Ward is covered with small frame and brick
buildings originally intended for one or two families, but now
subdivided into four or five apartments which rent for from $2 to $3 a
month per room.
A few enterprising landlords have already put up insanitary tenements
with dark, disease-breeding bed-rooms. The time seems very near at hand
when Chicago is to develop the tenement-house horror as it exists in New
York City. Shall we not take warning now and prevent it? Mere laws on
the statute books, we have found by experience, do not wholly protect
the poor from municipal evils. The workingman is often too busy earning
a living to be able to protect his interests. The leisure class should
exercise eternal vigilance for the proper housing of the poor. Behind
the laws are needed interested individuals constantly watching in
reference to their enforcement.
Ninth Ward plumbing and closets are unhygienic. Rarely is there a house
fitted with screens. Thus, flies carry disease germs from house to
house. There are no laundry rooms. Chimneys are defective. The rooms are
cold and smoky during our long winters and close in summer. Frequently
dead rats lie rotting beneath the flooring in these old shanties.
Pavements are broken and steps are rickety. Ventilation without the
admission of draughts is almost impossible. Yet who cares? The poor
tenant cannot be forever quarreling with his landlord, who will tell him
to move on if he does not like conditions. There are people who could
alter these things if they would. Some have suggested moving the Jewish
people from the Ninth Ward to other places. This would still leave the
same vile buildings to be inhabited by other human beings. The erection
of model dwellings and shops, with the abolition of the street stand,
would remedy many of the evils.
That the Russian Jew does not belong to the life he is compelled to live
in the Ninth Ward is proven by the general discontent among the
residents, who live there only because of strong business or social ties
which make it seem to them necessary. Many regret this necessity, but
like the majority of humanity are ruled by circumstance.
This neighborhood supports six or more large private bathing
establishments, which charge from fifteen cents to twenty-five cents
each for baths. Besides, the barber shops do a thriving business by
furnishing baths for the younger men and boys. The women and older men
patronize the Russian bathing establishments. They are too expensive for
the children and are rarely used by the younger unmarried women whose
income is frequently not more than $4 per week. There are many classes
of poor in a great city. Each has its virtue. One virtue of the poorest
Russian Jewish family is that the bath house is patronized by them.
Another is that their standards of living are not low, as is amply
proven so far as house rents go, by the statistics in the report of the
City Homes Association, "Tenement Conditions in Chicago."
If they are not better cared for, others as well as they are
responsible. It is criminal to permit the renting to human beings of
apartments which are not better fitted for that purpose than are dog
kennels. The health of a whole city is endangered by insanitary
conditions in any of its parts. For our own protection we should insist
on good housing throughout the city.
You ask if the Russian Jew is discontented with his surroundings in the
Ninth Ward why does he not move to where rents are lower and houses
better? It is because of his peculiar observances. He does not ride on
the Sabbath day. Consequently he wants to live within walking distance
of his orthodox synagogue. He desires to eat food which can be obtained
only at the kosher (ceremonially clean) shops. Consequently he wishes to
live near these shops. Often he can speak only the Yiddish language.
Then, too, in many cases he can best earn his living among his own
people. Sometimes his work or business is within walking distance and he
wants to save care fares. He has, too, family ties and social interests.
Even if streets are neglected and houses are vile, he endeavors to adapt
himself to his environment. Who is to blame? He is, in so far as he does
not take action to compel landlords and city authorities to furnish
sanitary necessities and clean streets. We all are, in so far as we heap
cold "charity” on the community and do not co-operate with its members
to secure justice. These people give us untainted, splendid material for
the future American citizen. They toil in factory and store to supply
our needs, to give our children wealth and comfort. We owe them, at
least, health-preserving habitations; else our civilization is no
civilization and our social ethics are worthless.
A syndicate of the philanthropic could build model dwellings, shops and
market houses. These could be rented at reasonable rates to bring a
small profit. The sharp landlord would be driven out of business by such
an organization. He could no longer thrive at the expense of human life
and health. Such a philanthropic corporation would have large profits in
the joy of having saved families from disease and disgrace. The
aesthetic sense of the tenant would be stimulated by making order and
cleanliness possible and easy. Prizes offered in the schools,
synagogues, and chedarim (Hebrew schools) for well kept homes and shops
might wholly change the character of the ward. Much municipal
carelessness would be checked by a powerful association working in
co-operation with the tenants of insanitary neighborhoods. At present
greedy landlords club together to pay lawyers to prevent even much
needed street paving, thus leaving catch holes and culture beds for all
sorts of disease germs on our wooden pavements.
Those who think they will scatter the Russian Jewish people over other
parts of the city, when every law of nature, circumstance and religion
causes them to segregate as they do on the West Side, are much mistaken.
What they may hope to do is to change the character of the so-called
Ghetto. For the last thirty years thinkers and philanthropists here in
Chicago have tried to help the Jewish poor. They are learning that to
know and truly help a people one must live with them, love them, and
extend to them not only charity but friendship, sincere, earnest, and on
a plane of equality. Men here have talked and talked of the "poor
Russian." The "poor Russian" who knows that he is a strong,
great-hearted Russian in all but money has both laughed and wept as he
has listened to these discussions. You have not heard his answer because
he has not always had the command of your language. Read his Yiddish
newspapers. You will find his answer in them. He has for generations
been a student and thinker. He is rapidly learning our language. He will
work out his own salvation in time, even though left severely alone. The
philanthropist may hasten that time by judicious assistance, or defer it
by "charity" which weakens and pauperizes. Those who are ashamed of an
American Ghetto--and well they may be--have now the opportunity of
working for better conditions in the homes of their less fortunate
co-religionists and of showing the world by example that "the fittest
place for man to live is where he lives for man." There are wise,
powerful, and cultured Jews in Chicago. They belong to the Ninth Ward as
much as to any other and should go there frequently for its improvement.
When we consider the individual habits of these people we must admit
that all is not as we would wish. The Russian Jewish housewife, although
a good cook, is a poor laundress. She is often not methodical or neat.
She is intensely sociable and will frequently be found visiting her
neighbors when she should be cleaning her sinks or arranging her
closets. She will wear soiled aprons, and have many useless dust-holding
gewgaws in her home and is careless of her personal appearance. Her
husband often, in the words of George Eliot, "matches her." They are
both greatly overburdened by work and care. They will sit down to brood
over their troubles in the new country and thus sap the energy and
ambition which should be used for the betterment of their home
Fortunately, they have many religious holidays. The advent of these and
of the Sabbath rouses them from their lethargy. There is a general
cleaning of the houses. Children are bathed in preparation for the
holidays and the Sabbath. Men and women flock to the bath-houses.
Special meals are prepared. Tired brains and bodies are given a much
needed rest. The Passover in the spring is the occasion for a complete
housecleaning and for removing every crumb of leavened bread. With the
bread crumbs many a heap of dust and microbes is also removed.
A large number of the younger generation have departed from the ways of
their ancestors in the matter of religion. So long as they are single,
and when away from home, they eat without scruple foods prepared in
other than Orthodox Jewish ways. When, however, they marry and have
homes of their own, the wishes of parents, other relatives, or friends
are respected and a new orthodox home is established. Besides, their
tastes are for customary Jewish foods.
The minimum for which a family of six can ordinarily have its table
supplied is about a dollar a day. Half the food is bought at the Jewish
shops. The women are expert fish buyers. They will accept none but the
freshest. Orthodox Jews will buy only live fowl or those newly killed by
their own experts, who sever the blood vessels of the throat and drain
the animal of its blood. The blood is still further removed from all
meat by soaking and salting. After killing the animal the schochet
(slaughterer) looks over it for any diseased or abnormal condition,
which if found makes it immediately unfit for food and causes its
rejection. No Jewish butcher of repute among the people will sell meat
which is over six days old.
As their religion enjoins waiting six hours between the meat and the
milk meal, and as the Jewish housewife has an entirely separate set of
dishes for the meat meal-- which is prepared with much care--she becomes
a splendid ally of the physician in the treatment of rheumatism and
similar diseases. Few of the orthodox families have more than one meal a
day at which meat is served.
The Jew is supposed to search the carcass of any animal used as food, to
ascertain whether it is diseased. This, unfortunately, is not done
according to our modern knowledge of infectious diseases, so that the
ritual search of the schochetim (slaughterers) who are employed by the
great stockyard packers here amounts to almost nothing as a preventive
of any disease other than tuberculosis. The very careful examination of
the lungs results in discarding the tubercular animals.
The orthodox housewife is compelled to be minutely careful in the
selection of food. As the maggot is forbidden food, she will not buy
factory cheese. She carefully picks cherries, prunes and other fruits.
Cereals are tested on a warm tin plate in the search for maggots.
Cabbage is carefully picked for insects. Foul vegetables cannot be used.
The wine cup is in universal use for ceremonial purposes on all holidays
and on each Sabbath. The wine and brandy bottle have their place in
every home. There is no Jewish temperance organization, yet where can
one find less drunkenness and fewer saloons than in the West Side
settlement of Russian Jews?
Tobacco is everywhere in evidence. So are the tobacco throat and
nervousness. The cigarette and pipe are the boon companions of young men
and old. But the woman cigarette smoker finds no place among the Russian
Jews. The orthodox never smoke on the Sabbath; at every step their
religion fosters self-control.
To the credit of those great educational factors among Russian Jewish
Americans, the penny Yiddish and English newspapers, it must be said
that modern ideas of sanitation and health are being widely
disseminated. It is, however, doubtful whether the newer laws will be so
strictly adhered to as those that have the adamantine binding of
It is worthy of passing notice that the Russian Jew seldom has the Roman
nose. There seems to be a decided difference, too, in the features of
the younger immigrants as compared with the older.
Placing side by side the statistics of two of our Chicago hospitals, one
markedly non-Jewish in the nationality of its patients, the other in
which no less than 75 per cent. of the patients are Russian Jews, we
find in about 1,000 cases in each the following ratios:
These statistics are meagre, roughly
compiled, and somewhat inaccurate, but they will illustrate what
physicians coming much in contact with Russian Jews constantly notice,
namely, that they are especially prone to rheumatism, neurasthenia,
hernias, and pneumonia.
Dr. A. W. Schram, of Chicago, during his residence as interne at the
Michael Reese Hospital, told the writer that in his opinion the many
hernias were due to a weak muscularity.
Rheumatism and pneumonia are undoubtedly brought on by a lowered
resistance due to exposure in our severe climate.
The neurasthenia and hernias may be attributed to the fact that the
people are descendants of students and themselves frequently follow
As the two hospitals above referred to do not admit patients suffering
from tuberculosis, no statistics relative to this disease could be
obtained from those sources. Dr. Maurice Fishberg3 places the
death rate from tuberculosis among Jews at only 110.56 to 100,000 of
population as against 565.06 per 100,000 of other residents of New York
Statistics of tuberculosis among the living are unreliable because
frequently patients that are declared tubercular show in course of time
no development of the disease. Though many leave their homes in search
of health, the majority of the really consumptive go home to die, so
that the death rate may be considered a fair basis.
Tuberculosis is much too prevalent among Jews in Chicago but not more
than among other people; probably less. Unquestionably there is less
consumption in the Ninth Ward than in other wards where equally criminal
housing conditions prevail.
Carcinoma is comparatively frequent. Syphilis is rarely seen in its
worst forms, and the ulcerated sore throat almost never. General paresis
and locomotor ataxia are also very rare among orthodox Jews. That
circumcision is not a preventive of specific disease is proven by
Chicago clinics and dispensaries.
Osler4 states that the Jew is especially prone to diabetes.
English physicians point out that the Jew furnishes a large
proportionate quota of the insane. The enemy of the Jew has been quick
to attribute his nervous diathesis to greed for gain, and to
consanguineous marriages, and diabetes to overfeeding. Has it ever
occurred to those who make such statements that the Jew comes of a
studious ancestry, that his weak muscular system and high nervous
temperament are caused by student habits and religious zeal? The Jew is
by custom and religion the most temperate man in the world. Diabetes is
now believed by many to be a disease of the nervous system. Have the
critics ever endeavored to ascertain how many of their insane Jewish
patients show a history of consanguineous marriages? There are,
unfortunately, many of our Russian co-religionists in "the living death"
at the institutions for the insane of Illinois at Elgin, Watertown,
Kankakee, and Dunning. In the few cases which I have been able to
investigate I have not found one with a history of the marriage of near
relatives. It is to be hoped that some neurologist will give us ample
statistics on this subject.
Among a learned people, where one rarely finds an illiterate man, where
the field for gaining a livelihood has been narrowed down by the
oppressor, and where religious enthusiasm is at its height, we need not
look further for causes of the high-strung nervous system and relaxed
muscularity of the Russian Jew.
Venereal disease is less frequent than among many other classes. Early
marriages prevent in a measure that promiscuous association which so
often causes infection. Home life and purity are encouraged. It is
considered an act of charity to help an orphan or friendless girl to
marry. Frequently collections of money are made to start a young couple
in life. The professional matchmaker facilitates matrimony among all
The religious marital bath is largely patronized by the women. This
institution was created by men, who were the law-makers. They forgot to
make like laws for themselves. Let us hope that they thought their
superior intelligence did not need the the whip of religion, and that
they were as cleanly as they commanded their wives to be. Assuredly the
religious bath is a wise institution for the ignorant. Specific disease
is not absent but is rare even among the lowest class of orthodox Jews.
During the year 1900 the Ninth Ward (formerly the Seventh) had a
remarkably low death rate in spite of its unfortunate environments. To
every 1,000 of population the proportion was 11.99. For comparison, the
following figures as to death rates are quoted:
To every 1,000 of population, 1900: Philadelphia, 19.38; New York City,
19.59; Chicago, 14.68; Twenty-third Ward, Chicago, 18.69; Twenty-ninth
Ward, Chicago, 15.62; Ninth Ward, formerly the Seventh, Chicago, 11.99.
The Twenty-third and Twenty-ninth Wards have about the same number of
inhabitants as the Ninth and similar poor housing conditions. The annual
death rate for several years for these three wards is appended;
These figures, taken from Chicago's public
health reports, show a constant low death rate for eight years in the
Russian Jewish settlement.
Some writers have claimed for circumcision that it will prevent zymotic
disease. The practice is universal among Russian Jews, yet statistics
covering fifteen years for what was formerly the Seventh Ward indicate
as large a ratio of deaths from this class of cases, as compared with
the total number of deaths, as in any ward in Chicago. The experience of
physicians here is that typhoid fever, scarlet fever, croup, diphtheria,
smallpox, diarrheal diseases are not especially respecters of the
persons of the orthodox. A writer in an American medical journal5
recently complained of permitting ritual circumcision by any but
regularly qualified physicians. We should reinforce his efforts in
behalf of the Jewish infant. Much mischief is done by mohelim who are
not competent surgeons. A thorough knowledge of asepsis, haemostasis,
and stimulation are necessary for the work. It should at least be done
under the supervision of a physician, and only with his permission.
It is the custom in orthodox homes to bury the dead within twenty-four
hours after death, and with but little exposure. The body is not allowed
to remain on the family bedding but is removed to the cold, bare floor.
The custom is crude and primitive, yet the early removal of the dead
from among the living is best where disease may cause infection. The
washers of the dead are not paid. They do the work as an act of charity
for rich and poor alike. Flowers are forbidden. Simplicity is the rule.
Every visitor to the house of the dead is enjoined to wash his hands
before returning home. Doctors who know the custom of the people often
advise the washers to use an antiseptic solution for their hands after
they have performed their service. This should be made compulsory.
An insurance agent whose patronage is largely among Russian Jews states
that they are considered excellent risks by all life insurance
companies. I have been unable to procure figures as to the average life
of the Russian Jew, but for the Jew in general the expectation of life
is greater than that of the people among whom he lives.6
The Russian Jew is accustomed to self control. He loves his family. He
is very rarely guilty of murder. His wife and daughter are chaste and
moral, statements to the contrary notwithstanding. Sifted down we find
such statements based largely on hearsay evidence or on exceptional
cases of moral depravity. Those who know the people well and can judge
them without prejudice realize that there is no class who have so little
vice among them. Who better than the physician has the opportunity of
knowing the birth of illegitimate children? To a population of over
20,000 West Side Jews there are probably not over ten illegitimate
births a year. The mothers are usually young, almost children, and the
fathers not always Jews. The calculation was made after careful inquiry
among physicians who have a large West Side practice.
The low dance hall does not exist as we see it in some other wards of
large cities. The young people do attend dances, but in the same way as
the sons and daughters of the wealthy go to South Side club "receptions"
and "parties," namely, for innocent amusement and for sociability.
The working girl on the West Side indulges in wine more rarely than does
her wealthier sister. Her mother does not play poker and whist. If
fashionable clubs were raided as much as poor saloons the gambling
passion would be found in the former just as much as in the latter.
The small boy is the small boy here as elsewhere. He needs careful
guarding and guiding. When the home is healthful and wholesome and the
mother intelligent he may be under her watchful eye. When homes are
cubbyholes and mothers incompetent, he seeks diversion elsewhere.
Russian Jewish women have been instructed by their religion to care for
their persons, pots and pans. Education must be added to cultivate the
sense of the aesthetic. We have in these people an illustration
resulting from the notion that it is the woman's business on earth only
to bear children. To care for the home and to train the children
requires as cultivated a mind as does say noble profession. This the
parents of the Russian girl have not always realized. These women have
only their intuitive sense of goodness and their religious instruction
to guide them. Sometimes they are stubborn and will not allow the
daughter to inaugurate her better way in the home. Often there is a
pitiful breach between parents and children owing to differences in
tastes and ideas.
Some of the Russian Jewish people are so poor that they permit their
women to be used for teaching purposes during childbirth. This saves for
them the obstetrician's fee. Chicago medical colleges draw their
obstetrical instruction largely from Jewish mothers. From one to four
students usually witness the birth at the home of the woman. Colleges
vie with each other to get these obstetrical “cases.”
There are some who see the faults of the Russian Jew through a
magnifying glass and hasten to proclaim them from the house tops. They
do not seek to find his virtues and are surprised when these are pointed
out. Very often his critics have never associated with a single Russian
Jewish family on terms of equality. Their ideas are gathered from
mendicants whom they meet in connection with the charity societies. Many
of these critics know nothing of the Russian Jews as a whole. They see
them through a charity office, which is a clearing house for the poverty
stricken, the unfortunate, or the degraded. To judge a whole people in
this way is like judging the ocean by the foam on its waves.
There is a tendency now among Russian Jews to take up agricultural
pursuits. An agitation is afoot to build a gymnasium and to establish an
employment bureau in connection with the proposed Hebrew institute. All
this will help toward other occupations than in shops and factories. The
Russian Jew has awakened to the necessity of self help and cooperation.
As he progresses he will be on a par physically and financially where he
already is mentally and morally. The necessity in reference to Russian
Jews in America is to help them to help themselves. They have
intelligence. With the acquisition of other qualities they will take an
important place in the community.
These statistics were gathered through the courtesy of Min Flowers of
the Washburne School and the Misses Schgoldaver and Bernstein of the
Tenement Conditions in Chicago, p. 108.
“The Comparative Infrequency of Tuberculosis among Jews." American
Medicine November 2nd, 1901.
Practice of Medicine, p. 320.
Ferd, C. Valentine, M.D., “Surgical Circumcision,” Journal of the
American Medical Association, March 16, 1901.
See article “Expectation of Life." Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. V.