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July 1: The Galveston Movement

July 1, 2013

GalvestonThe Galveston Movement, a plan to divert Eastern European Jewish immigrants away from the overcrowded tenements of New York, began on this date in 1907 with the landing of the SS Cassel in Galveston, Texas, with 87 Russian Jews aboard. Over the course of seven years, the effort would bring ten thousand Jews through the Galveston port, on some 100 ships, until World War I put an end to it. New York philanthropist Jacob Schiff was the driving force behind Galveston Movement, in which he invested $500,000; Rabbi Henry Cohen of Galveston’s Reform Congregation threw himself into the immigration work wholeheartedly and was usually on the docks to greet the arriving people. The immigrants received aid from a system of Jewish agencies extending from the Mississippi to the Pacific Coast, working closely with B’nai B’rith Lodges and other Jewish fraternal societies, which helped the people find jobs and homes.

“The committee had assumed that its efforts to deflect immigration from the congested centers of the North Atlantic Coast and open a new route leading directly into the American ‘Hinterland,’ where the laborer is still much in demand, would meet with every encouragement on the part of the Federal authorities . . . [Instead], the proportion of the excluded whose prompt deportation is insisted upon by the Government equals 5% as compared with an average of 1.21% at all other American ports.” —Jacob Schiff, 1914