By the turn of the twentieth century, political tensions in Eastern Europe forced Jewish families to move from their homelands looking for better opportunities in other countries. One of the most popular destinations was the United States, which resulted in a prominent immigrant-born population in cities such as New York and Philadelphia. However, establishing in a new place was not an easy task and the methods of transportation we enjoy today were not the same before, making travels longer. Furthermore, moving from one place to another as a foreign citizen was an arduous task, especially when belonging to a community who faced discrimination and religious persecution.
This lesson analyzes the experience of Jewish immigrants moving to the United States using Leon Boonin’s memories of his travel. This narrative details the reasons why his family left Russia, the difficulties they faced when leaving, and the journey that brought them to Philadelphia. Even though this was written decades later after their journey, this detailed memoir provides a first-hand experience of people moving across the globe during the early-twentieth century. Throughout the text, Boonin highlights methods of transportation he used, his perception about the people he met, the cities he visited in Europe, and the concerns regarding moving to a new country. This memoir will engage the students into a compelling narrative in which Boonin also reconstructs his family history, and how their lives as Jewish immigrants reshaped their identities in the search for a new home.
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