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Mostly Morgenthaus, by Henry Morgenthau III

- Abstract

Storybook histories of old-line German-Jewish families in America resemble one another to a remarkable degree. They typically begin with a pedigree, conveniently traced back to some well-known Jewish luminary “whose works are still studied and read.” From there, they turn to 19th-century Germany, where conditions are inevitably grim owing to economic discrimination and religious oppression. The hero, a young, enterprising, unmarried Jewish male, courageously resolves to abandon this Old World with its heritage of privation and anti-Jewish prejudice, and to strike out on his own for the New World, where, he has heard, opportunities abound and Jews receive the same treatment as everybody else.

Once on these shores, the new immigrant soon takes up with fellow Jews who, he happily discovers, hail from the same general area of Central Europe and are ready to extend assistance and credit. And so he trudges off to earn a living, starting as a lowly peddler and then slowly but surely working his way up the economic ladder to modest commercial prosperity. In time, he settles down, marries, starts a family. Taking advantage of opportunities during and immediately after the Civil War, he prospers. His children follow him into the business and expand it.

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