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Jews in the Progressive Era


Jake: How much for the little girl? The women? How much for the women?
Customer: What?
Jake: Your women. I want to buy your women. The little girl, your daughters. Sell them to me. Sell me your children!


So, before reading the article “The Unstable Other: Locating the Jew in Progressive-Era”, I had never before heard the Jews associated as blacks. To me, the racial differentiations had always been evident as skin tone, but the Jews and other immigrant groups being discriminated because of their different “races” all appeared white and European. It causes me to wonder how they became grouped on the “blacker” end of the racial hierarchy people believed in at the time. The article also mentioned how blacks and Jews were associated together because they both preferred to intermarry within their “race”. This doesn’t make much sense however, because I think most people prefer to be around and marry people that are similar to them, including white people.


I had also never heard of the association of the Jews with prostitution. This stereotype, now explained, makes the aforementioned seen from “Blues Brothers” more understandable than just random antics. I had already heard of the stereotype of Jews as stingy and money loving, but never such exaggerations that make them pyromaniacs in order to collect insurance money. Such claims make me wonder if the “white” people were not jealous of the Jews work ethics and apparent road to successfully making a better future for themselves.


Some of the stereotypes, once explained, become very clear in the character Superman. Located in the city, Clark Kent displays the traits of “nervousness, intellectuality, and a lack of physical development”. By associating him with the Jews, but making him a valuable hero, the Jewish creators could be subtly manipulating the public’s negative attitude toward the Jewish “race” and reinforcing the positive attitudes.

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