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The Bintel Brief: Jewish Culture in the U.S.

The Bintel Brief is a book of letters from the Jewish daily forward which brings the reality of the life of the Jews immigrant in the United States. It is a renowned advice column that gave fair-minded and practical advice to its readers in addition to giving them an opportunity for seeking advice as well as support on family matters to heart-pulling spiritual predicament to comical messes of the old world meeting the new world.

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TheBintel brief contains letters of more than sixty years which enable the readers to view different problems faced by the Jewish immigrant life in America as well as the tragic events of the first half of the century. Before their immigration to America, the Jews were faced with lots of problems though they were known to be good at overcoming the sufferings that came their way.

The letters of the Jews in the Bintel Brief make it clear that immigration became a cultural process. When the Jews migrated to the United States they had to adjust their culture to fit that of the Americans. For example, the Jews had to cut off their beards and eat illegitimate foods. The Jews had to merge in with their surroundings so that they could get themselves jobs. They went through harassment especially at workplaces but they knew they would bring their culture slowly when they got equal treatment from the Americans.

The Bintel Brief provides that, during the time of the Jews’ arrival in the U.S to become an American only meant that you are born on American soil, be of the white race, and a Christian. However, the Jews in the Bintel Brief considered an American to be one who goes to church on Sundays and is thinking conventionally (Isaac 11).

The Jews in the Bintel Brief had many expectations and dreams prior to getting to America. They thought that going to America would make them free from persecution. Most of them believed that immediately they alighted from their boats, all their sufferings would come to an end. Their dreams and expectations though they realized when they entered America that was too imaginary to be fulfilled.

In intel brief, the Jews were not just trying to overcome the genocide but were facing many hardships such as lack of love, poverty, missing members of the family, and various religious problems. When they arrived in the United States the Jews did not have anything except for the clothes that they had on their backs. Most of them did not have money and therefore had to start their lives from nothing. Even though they were working it became very difficult for them to save as most of them were working for a maximum of two dollars every week and had families to feed as well as meeting other expenses. For instance, many of their salaries were put into ship fare to get the remaining members of their families out of Eastern Europe to join them in the United States (Isaac 13).

During this stay, the Jews were getting married to partners from different religions. As a result, most of the relationships were failing especially marriage between a Jew and a Gentile since they claimed that the other partner was teaching the children wrong things. The Bintel Brief gave a remarkable amount of help to the Jews in their adjustment. The Jews wrote everything they felt in their letters and confided in the Bintel Brief as a place where they could reveal their problems and get answers.

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Reading the Bintel Brief gives hope for liking history, the true letters from the immigrants of the time make the reader think about what the Jews wanted when they came to America. Their immigration was however very difficult as the Jews had to let their children go so that they could get food and shelter, they became homesick as they missed the family members that they had left behind. Nevertheless thanks to the Bintel Brief which provided the Jews with a place to put their questions and get answers.


Isaac, Metzker. A Bintel Brief: Sixty Years of Letters from the Eastern Europe Side to the Jewish Daily Forward. New York: Shoken Books, 1971.

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