Professor Sol Gittleman’s Talk on Immigration while Addresses Somerville Lions Club Tri-Meeting with Somerville Kiwanis and Rotary


By William Tauro

The Somerville Lions Club Hosted it’s very first tri-club meeting this past Tuesday night at the Mount Vernon in Somerville.

Somerville Lions Club President Gene Brune and its presidents and members of our local service clubs, The Somerville Lions, Somerville Kwanis and Somerville Rotary attended the dinner meeting with guest speaker Sol Gittleman from Tufts University who addressed the crowd.

Sol Giddleman’s. remarks made lastTuesday night at the combined meeting of Kiwanis, Rotary, and Lions caught everyone’s attention.

Sol Gittleman Bio:

Alice and Nathan Gantcher University Professor, Former Provost and Author
Read full bio >>
Tufts Degrees: H.D.H.L, 2010
Other Degrees: B.A., German, Drew University, 1955; M.A., Columbia University, 1956; Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1961
Honorary Degrees: Hebrew College; Stonehill College; Drew University; University of Tübingen
Awards & Honors: Robert J. McKenna Award for Career Achievement, New England Board of Education, 2009; Harbison Prize for Teaching, Danforth Foundation, 1970; Fulbright Scholarship 1956 and 1970.
Biography: Professor Sol Gittleman joined Tufts University as an assistant professor in German in 1964 and has built a career as an educator, writer, mentor and academic administrator. Throughout his five-decade career at Tufts, Professor Gittleman has served as University Professor, Vice President, Provost and Academic Advisor. As Professor Gittleman stepped down as Provost in 2002, after 21 years in the post, President Bacow called Professor Gittleman “the heart and soul of Tufts.”
Few at Tufts over the past half-century have escaped the influence of Professor Gittleman. He has epitomized the spirit and conscience, not only of Tufts University, but of all that is worthwhile in higher education. Professor Gittleman and his wife, Robyn Singer Gittleman, the associate dean for undergraduate education and director of the Experimental College, arrived at Tufts in 1964, in the vanguard of an enthusiastic generation of faculty who were bringing a spark of diversity and passion for scholarship to the campus. He taught German and Judaic studies and was chair of what was then known as the German and Russian Department. His reputation as a teacher spread far beyond his discipline: his Yiddish Culture course has for years been among the most popular at Tufts.
Professor Gittleman has done wide-ranging scholarly work on German cultural and intellectual history, Yiddish and Jewish-American literature, American immigration, comparative religion, and the history of baseball. His most recent book is Reynolds, Raschi, and Lopat: New York’s Big Three and the Great Yankee Dynasty of 1949–1953. He is also the author of An Entrepreneurial University: The Transformation of Tufts, 1976–2002, which was published in 2004.
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Gittleman spoke on “Immigration” from his own words.

Sol Gittleman’s Speech:


We have one hour to cover nearly 400 years of American history, but you should think that this is the opening of a 13-week semester: you’ll have my email address. You, like others before you, will keep in touch, ask questions that come to you later, and continue your education. You came for one evening, and you get the continuation free of charge, at no cost. The same goes for our students back at the university—the ones born in 1990. Their parents pay for four, the comes an event that is called “Commencement”, which means exactly that: the beginning, and they get the next forty years—if we last that long—free. Email is marvelous, and I am in regular touch with hundreds of my students. They are not “former students”; they are, like you, and me , will remain: students.

As to our subject: American immigration, let me make full disclosure. My mother, age fourteen, came in 1919 through the recently renovated Ellis Island station, opened in 1892 to handle the tidal wave of Jews and Italians who were pouting into this country from the wretched poverty of the Russian shtetls and Italian villages, the latest of the despised immigrants seeking a new life. The manifest gives me the ship name and the fact that my Aunt Bertha, the oldest of my mother’s eleven siblings, was waiting for her; there is no record of my father, who came two years later, in 1921.He remembered coming in a big boat with cases of whisky covering the deck, then off the coast of Long Island getting into a little boat, and rowing ashore. My father was an illegal immigrant arriving with the contraband Scotch whisky destined for Prohibition America. Neither knew a word of English. In 1938 they became naturalized Americans. My brother was born in 1931 and I in 1934. That is my full disclosure.

My opinions are irrelevant. I will be factual, detached, and without polemic, position, or argument. You make up your own minds on this passionate subject. Let me start with a question and an observation. How many of you were born outside of the USA? At least one parent? At least one grandparent? Keep your hands up. Eventually, how many hands am I going to get up? Characterizes general history of Americans: no or little memory. Sometimes we forget:Everyone in this room, unless you are a Penobscot, Wamponog, Seminole or Creek Indian, can trace his or her origins to some foreign land, and to some relative who was fleeing something, initially religious intolerance, then poverty. Many on the Mayflower were indentured servants, white slaves brought to work the salt marshes on Cape Cod, many for their entire lives. Never escape their indenture.

This is what has never changed: Very few people came to this country because they were doing terrific somewhere else!

Now to immigration…

Back in the 1830s the United States was visited by a young Frenchman names Alexis de Tocqueville, and in the year-and-a half he stayed here, he learned more about Americans than we ever learned about ourselves. He looked back on the 200 years of our history and noted several singular facts. 1) Everyone seemed to come from somewhere else, from another country, mostly somewhere in Europe (he saw that the eastern Indians had almost been wiped out and the black slaves had been dragged over from Africa.) He was commenting on the white settlers. 2) Once they got here, within one generation, they had forgotten where they had come from, abandoned their native languages, and soon forgot that they had ever been anywhere else. This political campaign….
But, DeTocqueville noted a paradox that he didn’t quite understand: newly arrived settlers were often met with suspicion and resentment by those who previously came, who might have been in this country for a few years or perhaps one or two generations. If the newcomers were in any way different, they were immediately given the overt or tacit command: Be like us, or else! It just so happens that DeT. Was in America when the first Irish Catholics arrived, and they were met with a blizzard of hatred, scorn, vicious attacks, both social and physical. More about the Irish later…

But, the admonition BE LIKE US has been the unique American prescription since the first Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock. They looked at themselves, these victims of religious persecution in Europe, then at those newly arrived English, German and Dutch refugees, and said: be careful whom you let in next! Now the first two hundred years of immigration, from 1620 to 1820, was almost exclusively Protestant; and they were primarily English speaking, but it didn’t take the earliest settlers long to find something wrong with the very next boatload, even if they were all victims of religious persecution in Europe. “Be like Us” meant that the religious persecution would very easily transfer to America. Because Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams prayed a little differently, they were driven out of Boston by the original settlers in the 1630s, very shortly after their arrival.
​The hostility to newcomers could be fatal. You can see that first hand on the Boston Common, where there is a monument to a woman named Mary Dyer, a member of a persecuted Protestant sect in England who arrived in Boston in 1634, and in 1660 was hanged because she quaked in the presence of God: she was a Quaker. Before the execution, the Harvard-educated Puritan church fathers nailed her tongue to the roof of her mouth, so she couldn’t speak on the way to the gallows. And they were all English to the core, spoke the same dialect, very homogenious, but they prayed a different way. Mary Dyer and many English Quakers paid with their lives.
​The Protestant denominations learned to hate each other. All through the 17th and 18 centuries who settled in NE and the South demonstrated the same intolerance. Besides Quakers, Puritans also attacked and drowned Baptists, Calvinists burned the houses of Presbyterians and Hugenouts. They founded colleges to keep their children, parishioners away from each other: Harvard/Congregationalist;Yale/Calvinists, Princeton Evangelican Presbyterians, Brown/Baptists, William & Mary Anglicans: and they were all English! All Protestant! When it came to others who spoke different languages, the suspicion turned to rage.

​Above all directed against the Germans, who were also mostly Protestant, dissidents persecuted in Europe, and looked upon by the earliest American immigrants as unfit to grace these shores, wedded to their European language which even Benjamin Franklin called a barbarous tongue. These German immigrants kept to themselves, wanted nothing to do with other cultures, and, it was
believed, would never assimilate. (We have one tragic example of that in events that took place over a year ago with the high school killings in the Amish community, a German group that indeed never did assimilate; they are called Pennsylvania Dutch, but they are really Pennsylvania DEUTSCH, Some of our Hassidic communities also prefer a totally insular life style in their walled off communities). The German language almost overwhelmed English in the 18th century in Pennsylvania. More German language newspapers in Philadelphia than English, street signs were often in German, a bill had been beaten back in the Congress to have the Constitution translated officially into German, and in 1791 a vote to make German the second official language of the U of Penn failed by one vote! Still a section of Philadelphia called Germantown.
The original Germans WERE very tied to their language. German settlers in New England wanted to call a part of the Northeast Kingdom known for its green mountains GRUENBERG. The English settlers want plane GREEN MOUNTAIN. But, the French won out, and called it VERMONT. So it goes with the early languages in America… Along with Dutch, the language spoken by the 8th president of the USA Martin van Buren, these were the languages that battled each other in 17th and 18th century America.
That was the way it was for 200 years, from 1620-1830, in America, then after 1775, the United States. A country of several languages many religious denominations, almost exclusively Protestant. The only Catholics came in the 17th century with Lord Baltimore, who named his track of land after the last Catholic Queen….Mary….land….Act of Toleration…By mid 18th century, Protestants in majority, Catholicism banned!!

Even before it was the USA, people where complaining that the country was filled up. Occasionally the steady flow from European became a tidal wave. On e such tsunami occurred in the 1750s, when Great Britain was solving it’s poverty problem by locking up everyone who couldn’t pay their debts (called Debtors Prisons), they had thousands of families incarcerated, mostly lowland Scotch Irish Presbyrterians. They tried to solve their problem by shipping them off to their colonies: where? When they arrived in the American towns they weren’t even given a moment’s respect; shipped through the gaps in the Appalachians and send out to settle in Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and further south. In England, these people were followers of the Dutch William of Orange and supported the Protestant cause. They were called mockingly by the rest of the English “Billy’s Boys”, King William. When they got to America and were shipped into the mountains, they were called “Hillbillies”, and that’s where they are today, speaking……

In 1794 came the first congressional attempt to cut off immigration….Connecticut congressman….”We all filled up! Made speech attacking “those boorish Germans” who threatened the English-speaking peoples of the now USA. Complained that street signs in Philadelphia were ubiquitous, and German-language newspapers were outnumbering English-language ones on the streets of the City of Brotherly Love. German newspapers in the newest settlements, and held up a copy of “Die Mississippi Blaetter” sold in St. Louis. He raged because a motion had been made on the floor of the Congress to have the laws of the US translated into German! In his legislation he proposed a waiting period of 14 years for all new arrivals before citizenship could be granted. Sufficient discouragement from coming for the wrong kind of people. He proposed no quotas. Just an additional statement that no people of the yellow race could ever become citizens. Bill passed both houses and became the law of the land, until the Supreme Court of John Marshall overturned it as unconstitutional.

Ironically, the cry of overcrowding soon to lose its power. Events soon would dictate the need for more immigrants. WHAT? In 1803 President Jefferson negotiated the purchase of a tract of land from France that more than doubled the size of the USA: THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE. After Lewis and Clark made it clear that America needed many more immigrants, turn to Europe again.
By 1820s, still hated the Catholics..”vermin, maggots,,lowest form of humanitytoo ignorant to learn…lazy, prostitutes and criminals,degenate, unteachable, never learn English, a flood of worthless papists, fit only for jobs as servants and streetcleaners. For anything else, IRISH NEED NOT APPLY…Scorsese’s STREETS OF NEW YORK…stayed that way for 60 years. Just “google” ‘anti-Irish cartoons in 19th century American newspapers’…The Irish were not considered white: the field of eugenics being taught at institutions such as Harvard by Professor Agassiz argued the thesis of inferior races, the lowest of which were the colored people, and that included the Irish. They had to earn their whiteness, and they eventually did. They fought and died in the CIVIL WAR…boat to battlefield…Gettysburg, germans and slavs, Bohemians..buyouts for $100, later $300. Week after the battle casualty lists published, irish mothers rioted in NYC…Chinese and blacks lynched, black orphanage burned to ground, poor vs. poor. Streets were burning in July, 1863.

However, within 20 years, after civil war, irish had pulled themselves to lace curtain respectability: politics, teachers, police, sports, construction(great western railroads). Crime. 1884 first irish catholic mayor of Boston, Hugh Duffy, Tammany Hall in NYC, John L.ullivan, Gentleman Jim Corbett, Bob Fitzimmons, in baseball John McGraw, Wee Willie Keeler, Ned Hanlon, Connie Mack, Charles Commiskey, along with a host of German ballplayers who dominated baseball. Gehrig and Ruth, the National Pastime.
DeTocqueville said race could be the only thing to destroy democracy in USA. He saw what America did to the redman, black,and yellow. Andrew Jackson and native Americans…Supreme Court said no, he said, “try and stop me.! Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma. Chinese coolies built the Great Western railroads,. Golden spike,..Promintory point 1869..soon became first to be banned completely by federal law. Chinese Exclusionary Act of 1882. Japanese soon to follow…alpine passes…Irish…Chinatowns…

Mid-19th century America. Languages, coast to coast, a polyglot., Chicago: 2nd largest Polish, 2nd largest Swedish in world.Estimated that 70 fl spoken in the USA, with newspapers in most of them. NY TIMES complained about walking on east side of manhatten for miles hearing only German. No one excluded who was white…Ellis Island official federal facility in 1892, government placed restrictions on diseases of the eye, tubercolosis, mental retardation. Still no quotas. (Remember little Vito Corleone in Part II of the GODFATHER?)

From time to time political parties made it a plank. Two major parties after civil war stayed committed to open doors, but one said close ‘em; Know Nothing party, strong popular nativism, led by irish who wanted no more competition. The Gilded Age, robber barons, and an insatiable appetite for cheap labor, like the WSJ today. (pictures of rotting pears in imperial valley). Technology and industry required cheap labor; America now needed enormous amounts of ready-to-wear clothing for the masses pouring into the country and for needs of a population with increased spending power. NYC became the late 19th and early 20th century version of Bangladesh, culminating in the Triangle Shirt Waist Fire of 1910, where Jewish, Italian, and Irish girls were suffocated or burned to death in a horrible fire, locked into their work rooms.

The1880s produced the two last giant immigration waves of 19th and 20th century: two new people: one catholic from italy, one non-christian from czarist Russia, both despised. Were Italian Catholics welcomed by Irish Catholics? Not on your life!(spagheii o story)..anarchists, marxists, black hand, hated…Other immigrant group from Czarist Russia: East European Jews. Like Italians, came by the millions between 1880 and 1920.. No waiting hospitatlity from German Jews(100,000), who openly despised these Chassidic , filthy fellow religionists…Not distinguished from Italians; Just both hated…these two groups joined together out of mutual enemies, both despised, living cheek to jowl in the filthy ghettos of major urban metropolitan areas. Protestant establishment and German Jews bound together to hate them all. In 1894, Senator H.C. Lodge of Mass. Formed the IMMIGRATION RESTRICTION LEAGUE. In one speech he quoted a journalist in the NY TIMES in 1893 describing the lower east side of nyc next to little italy. It was called little Israel.

“ The neighborhood where these people live is the eyesore of nyc and perhaps the filthiest place on the western continent. It is impossible for a Christian to live there, because he will be driven out by the stench. Cleanliness is an unknown quantity to these people. They cannot be lifted to a higher plane, because they do not want to be.”

The reporter was a second-generation Irish-American., who obviously had forgotten how his ancestors had been described.

Lodged produced hearings…academic eugenicists…Harvard, mit, Hopkins..congenitally unable to become Americanized..p[hrenologists gave academic evidence about the shape of the immigrants skulls (eugenics movement from usa to England to germany….)law passed in1906 saying oath of allegiance had to be in English, but never enforced…business community fought off opposition… cheap ready to wear industry needed Italian and jewish tailors and young girls in sweatshops…Even in spite of Italian and Jewish labor unrest, business had its way until 1920, when two Italian anarchists held up a payroll in Braintree, ma. Killed two men…changed everything…Two Italian anarchists named Sacco/Vanzetti shortly after the crime. Two weeks after their arrest, the NY Stock Exchange was blown up in reprisal, and 38 people—mostly young messengers, were killed. Urban terrorism is as
American as apple pie. In 1910, the Los Angeles Times Building was blown up, and two Irish labor organizers were arrested and convicted. The Sacco/Vanzetti trial from 1920-1927, when they were executed in the electric chair, did it….between 1920 and 1927 american wrote first laws that closed its doors and restricted who came in…first use of word ‘quotas’. Doors stayed closed for 50 years. Of course money to be made, and illegals started immediately…Boat Jumpers Society in NJ…my father’s big boat and little boat. During wwII the Braceros program got Mexican immigration going. Some wanted to stay. 1954 biggest year of illegal immigration ever, coming across the rio grande and from Europe, because our doors still closed, and millions in displaced persons camps all over Europe.
Mid 1970s collapse of Vietnam..legislation to allow victims of communism in, and over next 15 years laws loosened, until two Wyoming republicans wrote a bi-partisan bill that let in approximately 700,000 a year. Trouble was, twice than number wanted to come.

New source…few Europeans..why? not risk takers anymore, except Bosnians, Albanians, others not desperate. Like the safety net and comfort of Europe. Remember: FEW COME HERE BECAUSE THEY ARE DOING TERRIFIC SOMEWHERE ELSE!! Only those swimming in shark-infested waters, coming across horrible deserts, or in suffocating containers, willing to sell of themselves or one of their children to get their families in. what’s changed? Their colors.
Now comes the debate and the arguments. I stay out of them. You decide for yourselves, but try to find accurate evidence. “they refuse to learn English and never will~” evidence? Article on US born latinos..first names of first generation: Ashley and Kevin! First generation Latinos who marry non-Latinos: 6%; second generation Latinos who marry not Latinos: 26%. No matter how we teach: they learn English within two generations, just like the Germans, the Poles, the Jews. The Italians. Already a shortage of native Spanish speakers in Miami. Pew Hispanic Center data.(attached) After two generations, accents disappear.

Here is your premise:start the argument here. ATTITUDES TOWARD IMMIGRANTS HAVEN’T CHANGED IN AMERICA IN 370 YEARS, SINCE THE FIRST PILGRIM PUT A FOOT ON PLYMOUTH ROCK. My job is to place the material in front of you with disinterest. Just remind you; these battles over immigration are as American as apple pie. Each generation has to relearn the lessons of the past for themselves…just don’t forget: 50 ft. fence; 51 foot ladder! Human trafficking, not illegal arms, or illegal drugs; it’s trafficking in human beings that is the largest source of illegal wealth in the world; there are ancillary industries that branch off human trafficking, such as pornography and prostitution, exploding all over the world;the place where the world wants to go is America. Some things never change..Thankyou…. We have ten minutes…let’s go…


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