The “Bintel Brief” letters and responses from the Jewish Daily Forward editors are remarkable proof of how similar in nature, albeit different in shape, were the problems encountered by immigrant Americans throughout the twentieth century. The main topics revealed in letters and replies are the opinions of the inner circle, questions of ethics and morality in love, women’s rights, visible social inequality between children and parents. Interestingly, the editors provide fairly simple, unambiguous, and comprehensive answers without trying to “take the other side’s point of view,” as is today’s custom. This paper aims to explain immigrant experiences in America of the twentieth century.
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It’s no secret that life in America in the first half of the twentieth century was extremely difficult, especially for immigrants who had to work to the point of exhaustion to ensure a dream future for themselves and their families. Like the author of the first letter, some immigrants received parental support but still faced public disapproval of their roots or solutions. Others had to cope with difficulties alone, like the authors of the third and fifth letters.
It is sad that notions of life shaped by violent social currents, such as Social Darwinists and Nativists, had such a profound effect on young immigrants’ lives and more mature ‘aliens’ through their children. Social Darwinists, who came to a sudden conclusion that some people are of better quality than others, depending on how well they act in life, were obviously wrong, as were Nativists, who considered more Native Americans to be of a higher class. But more surprisingly, this approach still has a place in society, even 150 years after the Social Darwinist movement emerged in the 1870s. On the other hand, twentieth-century America was also home to people like the famous suffragist Jane Addams, who championed women’s rights to education and political participation.
Thus, a brief explanation of immigrant experiences in America in the twentieth century was presented. The Social Darwinists and Nativists, who promoted ideas of inequality, had a significant negative impact on the spiritual life of immigrants and presented them with sometimes insoluble moral and ethical dilemmas. All spheres of human life came under attack – love and romantic relationships, relationships between children and parents, relationships between husbands and wives. Therefore, these trends are an example of the destructive influence of popular ideas on people’s lives.