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Preaching Eugenics$

Christine Rosen

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195156799

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2005

DOI: 10.1093/019515679X.001.0001

Protestant Promoters and Jewish Eugenics

(p.85) 3 Protestant Promoters and Jewish Eugenics
Preaching Eugenics

Christine Rosen (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter continues the discussion of religious enthusiasts of eugenics by tracing the support the movement garnered from prominent Protestants such as Rev. Newell Dwight Hillis of Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, who helped eugenics supporters such as Dr. John Harvey Kellogg organize the First and Second National Race Betterment Conferences in 1915 and 1916. At the same time, Reform rabbis such as Max Reichler began to assess the eugenics movement in light of the teachings of the Jewish faith at a time when fears about Jewish and Catholic immigration to the United States were rising; at the same time, a heated debate was occurring among Jews about the benefits and dangers of intermarriage. Finally, this chapter discusses how opponents of immigration, such as eugenicist Madison Grant, were employing eugenic rhetoric to argue that the American “melting pot” could no longer absorb new arrivals.

Keywords:   Rev. Newell Dwight Hillis, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, Race Betterment Foundation, Reform Judaism, Rabbi Max Reichler, immigration, melting pot, Madison Grant, intermarriage

For he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.

—Galatians 6:8, text of Rev. Newell Dwight Hillis's speech to First National Conference on Race Betterment, 1914

When health reformer and eugenics supporter Dr. John Harvey Kellogg delivered his welcoming address to the First National Conference on Race Betterment in 1914, he credited a Protestant minister with inspiring the meeting. “If you esteem it a privilege to gather here for the discussion of great questions which concern the welfare of the race,” he said, “you are most of all indebted to our greatly esteemed friend, the eminent Dr. Hillis, of Plymouth Church, for it was he who last summer suggested to me and to other members of the Central Committee the idea of this Conference.”1

Hillis and Kellogg were unlikely allies. The Race Betterment Conference where they joined forces mirrored the eclectic philosophy of its host institution, the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, and its director. Raised a Seventh-Day Adventist (though he was excommunicated in 1907), John Harvey Kellogg (1852–1943) incorporated into his Battle Creek program Adventist leader Ellen G. White's philosophy of treating health reform as a religious obligation. Kellogg was a physician and skilled surgeon—he loved to regale correspondents with tales of his success in removing patients' penetrating stomach ulcers and intestinal blockages—with boundless energy and a slightly quirky personality; later in life he took to wearing all-white clothing, among other affectations. By the 1910s (p.86) he had built a sanitarium with an excellent reputation, an impressive roster of former patients (including Upton Sinclair, Amelia Earhart, Thomas Edison, and Admiral Richard Byrd), and the motto “Health through Right Living.” The Battle Creek program required plenty of exercise, water cures, and a diet void of most animal products and stimulants; one 1914 advertisement promised patients “the most thorough-going physical examination possible,” including close inspection of “kidney and bowel excretions, the blood and stomach contentsa complete and accurate `inventory' of the whole body.” The testimonial juxtaposed this fairly graphic text with sunny pictures of patients playing golf and tennis and a view of a placid lake.2

Rev. Newell Dwight Hillis (1858–1929) was the minister of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn and by the 1910s was already a well-known and highly regarded religious leader, his prestige derived in part from the rich pedigree of his pulpit. Hillis's predecessors at Plymouth Church were Lyman

                   Protestant Promoters and Jewish Eugenics

figure 3.1 Rev. Newell Dwight Hillis, Plymouth Church, New York. Records of the Redpath Chautauqua, Special Collections Department, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

(p.87) Abbott and Henry Ward Beecher, the latter of whom had made the church famous in antebellum times through his charismatic preaching and strong denunciations of slavery. Hillis graduated from McCormack Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Chicago in 1887 and was ordained that same year; he was called to Plymouth Church in 1899. Early in his Brooklyn ministry, in The Influence of Christ in Modern Life (1900), he outlined his hopes for a church oriented toward solving modern problems. “The time has come when the preacher must be a universal scholar,” Hillis said. “He must make himself an expert in social reform,” including knowledge of “physiology and hygiene.”3By the 1910s, Hillis's Plymouth Church embodied this philosophy of expanded church service rhetorically and architecturally: a generous endowment from Brooklyn coffee merchant John Arbuckle made possible the raising of the Plymouth Institute adjacent to the main sanctuary. The Institute's art gallery, gymnasium, bowling alley, clubhouse, and classrooms became, by one contemporary account, “a vital part of the church's mission in helping to improve standards and conditions, moral, social, and physical, for all over whom its influence falls.”4

A highly regarded speaker and favorite on the Chautauqua lecture circuit, the bristly, dark-haired Hillis's pulpit mien was undemonstrative, a “curbed animation” that nevertheless earned him enough fans to secure hundreds of speaking engagements across the country every year.5 Rev. Hillis also demonstrated an early interest in heredity. Along with thoughts on John Ruskin, the “New Germany,” and “Self-Help: The Golden Secret of Success,” Hillis traveled the Chautauqua tent circuit preaching about better breeding. In 1913, the New York Times reported that he was “cooperating” with actor and eugenics promoter Richard Bennett “in a eugenics crusade.”6 One year later he was serving on the Eugenics Record Office's Expert Advisory Committee, charged with investigating the moral and ethical issues raised by eugenics and gauging the general attitude of the churches on eugenics.7

Hillis was deeply serious about the importance of heredity. At the Race Betterment Conference that he was credited with organizing and where he served as vice president, he delivered a wide-ranging speech on race degeneracy that deployed wrathful, Old Testament imagery to drive home dire warnings about humanity's precipitous racial decline. “The time has gone by when we can any longer say that race degeneracy is simply a bugaboo created by pessimists and alarmists,” Hillis said. “A tide of degeneracy is rolling in upon us,” and “for the individual and the nation, it is true that `he who soweth the wind shall reap the whirlwind.'” That whirlwind was taking form. Hillis cited the work of eugenicists in England and the United States to demonstrate that the population of insane and feebleminded persons was growing. Paraphrasing from the New Testament book of Galatians, Hillis warned, “It is for the people of this nation to remember that he who sows to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.”8

(p.88) The solution Hillis offered to conference-goers drew as much on his religious training as on his considerable enthusiasm for eugenics. Society must place its hopes for the future on that part of the population that was “God-fearing, law-loving, pure-living,” he said. For Hillis, eugenics offered hope not only for the long-term physical well-being of the human race, but also for its spiritual health. Sounding the same theme other Protestant ministers had touched on, he argued that a race made physically strong by eugenics would be better equipped to receive and promote the spiritual message of Christian salvation. In an artful melding of Congregationalist and eugenics rhetoric, Hillis called this hoped-for future race “the elect.” The Puritan intonations of the phrase were deliberate. Hillis insisted that such a group would be physically and spiritually superior, a Christian “aristocracy of health.”9

It was typical of Hillis to make grandiose leaps from Protestant theology to practical reform. As one contemporary noted, “He is not a theologian in the ordinary sense, for he loves flowers more than botany.”10 Like Dean Walter T. Sumner of Chicago, who had recently announced his proposal for eugenic health certificates, Hillis also worked backward from reform to bedrock principles, his energies always focused first on practical action and only secondarily on finding biblical justifications for it. Not all of his religious colleagues were pleased with this intellectual dance, nor with Hillis's outspokenness on matters related to reproduction. The editors of the conservative Protestant magazine The Presbyterian took him to task over an article he published in the Christian Work and Evangelist in 1913 on “The Social Diseases and Heredity.” In it, Hillis criticized the pinched silence that had marked discussion of sexual matters, especially venereal disease and hereditary degeneracy, and urged more widespread public education.11

The editors of The Presbyterian were aghast. In fact, they wrote, “There is probably no subject upon which the American people are really better informed” than on sexual matters, for socially minded clergy such as Hillis insisted on an unseemly amount of “promiscuous publicity” on the issue. It was in 1913, after all, that the journal Current Opinion, commenting on the contemporary candidness about such matters, claimed that it had struck “Sex O'Clock” in America. The editors of The Presbyterian urged religious leaders to “quit the damnable practice of conceiving sin to be chiefly social” and turn their attention to the one remedy “which in all the history of our race has ever been able to check the evil and remove the sin, that is, repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ.”12 The Protestant Episcopal Church periodical The Churchman offered a similar critique of the Battle Creek Race Betterment Conference as a whole, claiming that it had “lost sight of the one most hopeful element in any effort for racial betterment,” namely, “God and the gifts which God imparts to men through His church.”13 Hidebound in their insistence that salvation was more important than social reform, they urged the clergy to focus on the souls of their congregants, not the social (and sexual) ills of the nation.

(p.89) Judging by the continued popularity of Hillis personally, and the Race Betterment Conferences generally, criticism from conservative evangelical Protestants had little impact. Hillis was playing to a broader audience. Unlike the gatherings sponsored by the ERO at Cold Spring Harbor or the International Eugenics Congresses, whose delegates were largely scientists and social scientists, the Race Betterment Conference hosted a more diverse range of participants. The president of the Conference, Dr. Stephen Smith, worked for the New York State Board of Charities, and the vice presidents (in addition to Rev. Hillis and eugenicist Irving Fisher) were Indiana State Commissioner of Health Dr. J. N. Hurty and U.S. Sen. Robert L. Owen from Oklahoma. Social workers were well-represented by Jacob Riis and Graham Taylor, among others, and the list of local cooperating organizations included the Battle Creek Ministers' Association, the YWCA and the YMCA, the Ladies' Aid Societies of the Nine Churches of Battle Creek, and the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Dean Sumner sat on the Conference's General Committee and presented a paper, “The Health Certificate: A Safeguard against Vicious Selection in Marriage,” that was, according to Kellogg, one of the most widely attended sessions of the whole conference.14

The summary of “constructive suggestions” presented at the conference reflected the diversity of the “race betterment” rubric: calls for the prohibition of alcohol, anti-spitting ordinances, nationwide better babies contests, more

                   Protestant Promoters and Jewish Eugenics

figure 3.2 Banquet for delegates to the First National Conference on Race Betterment, Battle Creek Sanitarium, 1914. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

(p.90) widespread eugenic education efforts, stricter immigration laws, advice on how women could “suppress” brothels, calls for women's suffrage, and better meat and milk inspection all gained a hearing. The wide array of topics evidently attracted public interest; reports from the Conference noted that audiences at each session numbered between 1,500 and 2,000 people, with up to 200 turned away at the doors due to lack of seating.15

Hillis's alter ego at the conference, Dr. Kellogg, was no less committed to understanding heredity, but his understanding of “race betterment” included more than a commitment to the eugenics promoted by biologists such as Charles Davenport. It involved health and environmental reforms as well. Unlike the amateur eugenicists whose claims so incensed the high priests of the organized eugenics movement, Kellogg cultivated cooperative relationships with leading eugenicists and regarded his health crusades as complementary measures in the latter's campaign. He paid for Davenport to travel to Battle Creek for the First Race Betterment Conference in 1914, for example, and frequently wrote him flattering letters filled with questions about eugenics.16

Religious questions also occupied Kellogg. Indeed, the Adventist religion within which he was raised, and which emphasized the connections between spirituality and health, permeated his life's work and likely served as a bridge to religious leaders such as Rev. Hillis. In an 1886 address delivered at Battle Creek, Kellogg sounded a theme that Francis Galton had first composed when he suggested, “Religion affords a means by which the beasts of appetite and passion may be subdued and chained—yea, even slain.” It was the “one radical cure” and “the most essential of all aids” in battling degeneracy.17Kellogg, like Galton, admired the disciplinary power of organized religion and hoped to harness similar sentiments for his own crusade for race betterment.

Kellogg and Hillis also succeeded in luring other clerics to the gathering. Many ministers attended the 1914 Race Betterment Conference, and each session opened with prayer. The Battle Creek Ministers' Association deemed the Sunday during the Conference “Race Betterment Day” in the city's churches and “selected their topics accordingly” for their morning services. On Sunday evening Rev. Thornton Anthony Mills of the Independent Congregational Church of Battle Creek went one step further and used his church as a forum for a discussion of race betterment. In his presidential address, Dr. Stephen Smith noted “the power of Christian consciousness, when awakened to activity, to change the most savage tribes into highly civilized communities” and, like Galton and Kellogg, suggested the need to apply this consciousness to the campaign for race betterment.18

The success of the first conference was followed by a Second National Race Betterment Conference in 1915, held in San Francisco as part of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Moral questions took center stage at the gathering, where more than five thousand conference attendees crowded (p.91) into the Oakland Civic Auditorium to witness a “morality masque” aptly titled Redemption. Two years earlier, Frenchman Eugene Brieux's play about venereal disease, Damaged Goods, had debuted on Broadway, slightly scandalizing the matrons of Manhattan. Redemption posed no such danger for social guardians on the West Coast. Heavy on moralizing and low on titillation, with a Pilgrim's Progress–style allegory as its centerpiece, Redemption was numbingly earnest. The masque's main characters included “Mankind,” “Womankind,” “Neglected Child,” “Science,” “Pity,” “Unseen Spirit,” Faith,” and “Religion”; minor characters included “Pleasure,” “Scoffer,” and “Ignorance, Poverty, Vice—the companions of Disease.” The plot followed Mankind and Womankind as they pursued pleasure at the expense of their children and ignored the warnings of Unseen Spirit, who appeared at opportune moments to warn the couple of the imminent disasters awaiting them. Tragedy, predictably, strikes, but it is only when their son, Neglected Child, is crippled by disease and prone on his deathbed that Mankind and Womankind finally realize the error of their ways. With belated penitence they call on Art, Science, and Religion to aid them in saving his life but find that “Art fails unless the race is strong physically,” Science was brought in too late to help, and “Religion can give comfort to the soul, but cannot alone save the body from death.” Neglected Child dies. The “redemption” of the play's title comes in the form of a new, eugenically healthy child named “Fortunate,” whom Mankind and Womankind vow to rear correctly. As the drama ends, the couple offers a prayer of thanks to Unseen Spirit and summon Art, Science, and Religion to usher in “the salvation of the race.”19

Redemption was not overtly religious, despite its drawing on religious themes, but its evangelizing message was clear: Eugenics was star and savior of this production called life. No amount of clever staging would give religion (or art or old-fashioned science) anything other than a supporting role in the cast. As Prof. Irving Fisher of Yale University reminded his audience at the Second Race Betterment Conference, eugenics was “the foremost plan of human redemption.”20Religion, a necessary but unscientific force, was secondary, and eugenicists continued to view religious leaders as a Conference of Bishops might view a chemist who offered them his views on theodicy: with a gracious but bemused tolerance—and with assurance of the superiority of their own knowledge.

Nevertheless, the Race Betterment Conferences provided a venue for preachers interested in exploring eugenic ideas. Under the rubric of “race betterment,” many religious leaders felt comfortable offering their support to the eugenics movement, even in a formal capacity. At the 1915 Conference, for example, Bishop John W. Hamilton of the Methodist Episcopal Church, San Francisco, served on the Advisory Board.21The wider reach of the Race Betterment Conferences, extending as they did into areas of social reform with which liberal Protestant ministers were familiar, also provided a less rigorously sci (p.92) entific environment in which to discuss race improvement. The Conferences thus offered scientific and nonscientific supporters of eugenics an opportunity to explore common ground.

It was a brief window of opportunity for the two. By the time the Third Race Betterment Conference convened on 2 January 1928, most of the delegates were health reformers, physicians, and nutritionists, not ministers and social reformers, and the emphasis was less on eugenics than on health reforms more amenable to Kellogg's offbeat nutritional philosophies. The “Morality Masque” of 1915 was replaced in 1928 by the musical stylings of “Seven Vivacious Vegetarians,” children of a local herbivorous family who presented a light program of musical solos, duets, and choruses.22

Nevertheless, Dr. Kellogg continued to cultivate relationships with eugenicists, and in the process encouraged their study of religious matters. Ever on the lookout for potential sources for eugenical family studies, Charles Davenport wrote to Kellogg in 1914 to inquire after missionaries who had gone to the Battle Creek Sanitarium while on furlough from their evangelizing in foreign countries. “I would suggest that a number of studies should be made upon these missionaries,” Davenport wrote, including an examination of the existence of the following traits: “interest in theology, piety, love of natural history, love of travel, love of language, and love of outdoor life.” Davenport hoped to untangle “the `why' of a foreign missionary as opposed to a home missionary or a home clergyman,” surmising that people drawn to foreign missions might have an inborn restlessness and piety that made such work particularly appealing to them. He furnished blank ERO family schedules for Kellogg to pass along to his visitors.23

Two years later, Kellogg convinced Davenport to travel to Battle Creek to deliver a lecture for the Golden Jubilee of the Sanitarium. It is unclear if Kellogg recommended a particular topic, but the one Davenport settled on suggests an understanding of his host's interests, “Eugenics as a Religion.” For a man not noted for his enthusiasm or skill as a speaker (the “aromatic acid phenylaline” and descriptions of “wild allelomorphs” marked the heights of his hortatory prowess), the subject of eugenics and religion inspired Davenport to summon his inner orator. With a nod to Francis Galton, he argued that the chief strength of organized religion was its ability to suppress humanity's baser instincts. Religion was able, he said, “to train the inhibitions” and “to supply those whose inhibitions are weak with a different means of control.” Religion, in other words, offered far more powerful deterrents; hell and eternal torment, he noted, were harsher goads to maintaining good behavior.24 Although his was a more crudely stated version, Davenport's argument resembled that of Protestant minister F. B. Meyer and Catholic priest Thomas Gerrard, both of whom had remarked on religion's disciplinary features in their discussions of eugenics a few years earlier.

Yet, just as Meyer and Gerrard had criticized eugenicists for neglecting the (p.93)

                   Protestant Promoters and Jewish Eugenics

figure 3.3 Charles B. Davenport, 1929. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

inspirational force of religion and the spiritual element of man's nature, Davenport faulted religious leaders for not giving heredity its due. Religions “fail to regard the importance for society of inheritable racial traits,” he said. Only eugenics recognized this need, for it had as its primary objective the development of a social order of the “highest, most effective type.” In this, Davenport, like Galton, ultimately rejected the need for organized religion. The achievement of the “most effective type” was an aim guided by the discoveries of (p.94) science, not religion. If one accepted what science had proven, Davenport told his audience, then eugenics became the “religion that may determine your behavior.” He closed his speech with a eugenic replacement for the Apostle's Creed: an eleven-point “creed for the religion of eugenics” that included statements such as “I believe that I am the trustee of the germ plasm that I carry” and “I believe in repressing my instincts when to follow them would injure the next generation.”25 Davenport's eugenics was a replacement for organized religion; nevertheless, it was still a religion, complete with creed (hereditary science), sanctuary (the laboratory), texts (family studies), and, as Davenport himself surely demonstrated, high priests. Soon enough this cosmology would spawn heretics.

The implicit themes of degeneration and decline raised by Davenport in his speech and touched on explicitly by participants in the Race Betterment Conferences became more prominent in the eugenics movement after 1914. With the outbreak of war in Europe, eugenicists' thoughts turned to the implications of war for the human race. They explored the biological implications of war, including its effects on what they viewed as an alarming differential birthrate. Threats to the security of democracy abroad also sparked reevaluations of the health of such ideas at home, including the state of the American character. Authors of eugenics textbooks began to make distinctions among physical, mental, and moral defectives and adopted a new vocabulary that included the seemingly self-explanatory descriptor “moral imbecile,” for example.26

As a rule, most eugenicists believed that war of any kind was dysgenic (harmful to the race) because nations enlisted the physically strongest young men to fight wars, losing many of them on the battlefield and leaving behind only the old and feeble to produce the next generation. As eugenicist Irving Fisher told the New York Times in 1915, war is “a waste of germ plasm.”27In War's Aftermath, a study published just after conflict erupted in Europe, brothers David Starr Jordan of Stanford University and Harvey Ernest Jordan of the University of Virginia made the eugenic implications of warfare explicit through a case study of the biological implications of the Civil War. They concluded that the Civil War had “seriously impoverished this country of its best human values,” and that the current conflict would do the same. War “destroys men who are superior,” leaving “the relatively inferior to perpetuate the race.”28

Eugenicists did not translate their worries over the fate of America's germ plasm into a stout pacifism. Instead, they joined the others whose concerns over the country's preparedness for war led them to the U.S. Army training camps. Between 1917 and 1918, the Army became a proving ground for the social schemes of many a reformer. The training camps were a microcosm of Progressive Era tinkering: Anti–venereal disease crusaders, psychologists intent on measuring military minds, YMCA leaders, and a happy host of others descended on the camps. The Army's Commission on Training Camp Activi (p.95) ties (CTCA), headed by former settlement house worker Raymond B. Fosdick, established a comprehensive program of recreation, education, and entertainment whose consistent message was a pseudo-eugenic insistence on keeping U.S. troops healthy and “fit to fight” through avoidance of prostitutes, alcohol, and other “race poisons.”29 The result was an amalgam of reform activities, many of which resembled the moral-scientific eugenic marriage certificate crusade of Dean Sumner in that they attacked “racial poisons” such as venereal disease using a vocabulary furnished by the eugenics movement.30 Psychologist Robert M. Yerkes's success in initiating Army-wide mental testing of recruits yielded the most startling results for eugenicists, results that would fuel fears of feeblemindedness well into the 1920s: Testers found the average mental age of white recruits to be only 13 years.31

Religious leaders were not immune to the pull of these forces; they too responded to the swelling patriotism and jingoistic rhetoric of wartime, eager to cleanse the country of imported radicalism and race degeneration. Their efforts were not modest. Historians have noted how Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders of all theological stripes “lifted their voices in a chorus of support for the war.”32 The chorus, more often than not, was shrill. Protestant evangelist Billy Sunday warned large crowds in 1917 and 1918, “If you turn hell upside down, you will find `Made in Germany' stamped on the bottom” and helped raise money for the Liberty Loan fund by painting a portrait of “pretzel-chewing, sauerkraut spawn of blood-thirsty Huns” overtaking the world. Rev. Cortlandt R. Myers of the Baptist Temple in Brooklyn expressed a common sentiment when he told his congregation, “If the Kaiser is a Christian then the devil in hell is a Christian, and I am an atheist.”33 Wartime fervor left little room for detractors, even among religious leaders. Pacifists such as the Unitarian minister John Haynes Holmes were scorned as “passivists” and found themselves regularly flayed in the press by boosters for the war.34 Few religious leaders passed up opportunities to denounce Germany with “hymns of hate.”35

Eugenic and anti-German sentiment achieved a startling symmetry in the rhetoric of Race Betterment Conference veteran Hillis. An avid lecturer who had traveled extensively in Germany before the war, Hillis had been speaking for years about the excellent qualities of German political and social institutions. Nevertheless, his good feelings evaporated after the United States' entry into the conflict, and, not content to sit idly by, he became the cross-country-stumping darling of the American Bankers Association, which was sponsoring the Liberty Loan drive. His new position as war propagandist required him to recant much of his prewar public praise of the “genius of the German people,” a process he undertook with swiftness and enthusiasm. By 1917 he was eagerly condemning German militarism. Speaking more than four hundred times in 162 cities in 1917–1918, Hillis was credited with raising more than $100 million in forty-six days. He electrified crowds with stories of the atrocities supposedly committed by German soldiers, which he catalogued in print under (p.96) such lurid titles as German Atrocities and The Blot on the Kaiser's `Scutcheon. In the latter work, Rev. Hillis combined his enthusiasm for eugenics with his newfound loathing for the German people, whom he described as “brutes” who “must be cast out of society.” His solution called on “statesmen, generals, diplomats, and editors” to pass an international decree modeled on the state of Indiana's eugenic sterilization law. One can imagine the anticipatory glee of a Liberty Loan audience as Hillis intimated that implementation of his plan was drawing nigh. “Surgeons are preparing to advocate the calling of a world conference to consider the sterilization of 10,000,000 Germans soldiers and the segregation of the women,” Hillis said. “When this generation of Germans goes, civilized cities, states and races may be rid of this awful cancer that must be cut clean out of the body of society.”36

Rev. Hillis's inflammatory statements placed him squarely in the mainstream; war fever infected a substantial portion of U.S. religious leaders during the years of the conflict. Indeed, Hillis's vitriolic denunciations of the Germans heightened his appeal as a Liberty Loan crusader. The rapid adjustments these ministers made to their beliefs suggests a degree of malleability in their theologies, Hillis's intellectual about-face on Germany being only one of many examples of this process. In the hothouse of wartime, many ministers, priests, and rabbis adjusted their public statements to suit the times and used their pulpits to promote the war. But this process of adaptation was not new, merely unusually swift. In a compressed fashion it resembled the adjustments liberal religious leaders had been making for decades as they stippled their theologies with ideas that conformed to the demands of modern times: historical criticism of the Bible and evolutionary theory, for example. Their worldviews proved tractable long before they began to accommodate warmongering.

Extreme patriotism proved a more seductive lure than other causes, of course. Unlike the eugenics movement, which drew religious support almost entirely from liberal leaders, the war garnered a broad spectrum of religious devotees; conservative evangelist Billy Sunday and liberal leader Newell Dwight Hillis likely never again served as spokesmen for the same social cause. Still, they shared a willingness to reinterpret long-held convictions in light of recent events (or even simply to marshal biblical evidence to justify participation in a cause). In this context, men such as Hillis, who gave eugenics and war boosterism equal enthusiasm, departed from their coreligionists only in the degree of their conformity to modern circumstances, not in their willingness to engage in conforming altogether.

If demonizing the Germans assuaged the worries of pulpit leaders, it did not do the same for eugenicists. The world war raised a more worrisome question for them: What was happening to America's best people? Drawing on new studies of the original Mayflower families, eugenicists located a disturbing trend: If the present low birthrate of the Pilgrim descendants continued, in the (p.97) near future it would be possible to load all surviving descendants back onto a Mayflower-size ship “with no overcrowding.” Embedded in the germ plasm of the Pilgrims had been the traits that ensured the moral health of future generations of Americans—the best the Old World had to offer the New, in eugenicists' view. A sharp decline in the birthrate of Pilgrim descendants threatened the survival of these qualities in the American population. “Considering the role which the Mayflower descendants have played in the history of our nation,” two eugenicists wrote, “this result is certainly one to be greatly deplored.” The linchpin of the Mayflower studies was the congruence of religious belief and fecundity: Whereas religion still exercised an influence over Jews and Catholics (“families are unusually large in certain sects”), it no longer held sway over Protestants. “Religion,” the same study warned, “has largely ceased to make itself effective among Protestants.”37

Worse, the replacement population for these hardy Pilgrims was unlikely to match its forebearers' good works. As “the old New England families are dying out,” Prof. Edwin Grant Conklin said, “their places are being taken by recent immigrants.”38 For eugenicists, who viewed southern and eastern European immigrants as inferior types, this trend posed a threat to the nation's race health. In the country at large, fears of imported radicalism, fueled by wartime fervor, had changed the tone of U.S. efforts to assimilate immigrants. Americanization in the war years became “the civilian side of national defense.”39 The campaign for “100% Americanism” that emerged in these years resembled earlier glorifications of Anglo-Saxonism (such as Rev. Josiah Strong's hymns of racial uplift), but the mood of the country in the 1910s was becoming more pessimistic. A few social critics saw the real danger of immigration as accelerating already nefarious cultural trends. The melting pot brewed “a tasteless, colorless fluid of uniformity,” Randolph Bourne said. Immigrants became “the flotsam and jetsam of American life, the downward undertow of our civilization with its leering cheapness and falseness of taste and spiritual work.”40 But most observers did not worry that the vaunted American melting pot was producing a cultural gruel; they feared it was boiling over, the country incapable of assimilating such untoward stock. Writer Andrew Siegfried observed that the old Protestant majority “have a vague uneasy fear of being overwhelmed from within, and of suddenly finding one day that they are no longer themselves.”41

This depleting Protestant majority surely was uneasy, as Siegfried suggested, but they were not all vague in their assessments of the situation. Eugenicist Madison Grant declared that in the United States, “the melting pot is an absolute failure.”42 For eugenicists, immigration, like war, had serious implications for the future health of the race. The public might view it as an economic or political problem, but these aspects of immigration “are temporary and insignificant as compared with its biological consequences,” as eu (p.98) genicist Conklin warned. Only immigration restriction, a necessary form of world eugenics, could keep superior races geographically separated from inferior races.43

Eugenicists' pessimistic prognostications about immigration were summarized well by University of Wisconsin sociologist Edward A. Ross in 1915. Asked by the American Journal of Sociology to answer the question “What is Americanism?” Ross described a nation governed by eugenic social policies, including stricter control of immigration to “forestall the weakening of our social and political democracy by ignorant superstitious people from the backward lands, many of whom not only lend themselves readily to exploitation, but can also be employed politically as instruments for the exploitation of others.” Rather than note the immigrants' potential for success in the New World, Ross focused on what he saw as their easily exploitable natures, which, he concluded, posed a threat to democracy.44

The most vitriolic denunciation of the new immigrants came from that maligner of the melting pot, Madison Grant. A wealthy lawyer and amateur naturalist from New York City and a founder and president of the New York Zoological Society, Grant combined his belief in Nordic racial superiority with alarmist sentiments about immigration to produce The Passing of the Great Race in 1916. Grant's adoration of Nordicism rather than Anglo-Saxonism was motivated by the circumstances of the current European conflict. Like Rev. Hillis, Grant had to reformulate his theories to conform to the country's condemnation of Germans. His book was a paean to the physical and mental characteristics of the Nordic race and a plea to halt the process of race mixing (Grant subscribed to a theory of reversion that posited that race mixing led to the reemergence of latent characteristics of earlier, primitive types, and hence to race deterioration). Like Ross, he saw eugenics as the solution and proposed applying negative eugenic measures “to an ever widening circle of social discards,” beginning with criminals and the mentally ill, but “extending gradually to types which may be called weaklings” and eventually “to worthless race types.”45

Eugenicists' calls for immigration restriction pitted the Protestant establishment against arriving Catholic and Jewish immigrants, and the anti-immigrant philippics of this period contain strong currents of religious bias. Grant saved the worst of his accusations for Polish Jews. Old-stock Americans were “today being literally driven off the streets of New York City by the swarms of Polish Jews,” he wrote, “whose dwarf stature, peculiar mentality, and ruthless concentration on self-interest are being engrafted upon the stock of the nation.” His paranoia elevated, Grant charged, “These immigrants adopt the language of the native American; they wear his clothes; they steal his name; and they are beginning to take his women, but they seldom adopt his religion or understand his ideals, and while he is being elbowed out of his own home the American looks calmly abroad and urges on others the suicidal ethics which (p.99) are exterminating his own race.” He urged his readers to put aside the “maudlin sentimentalism” surrounding immigration and stop the nation's sweep “toward a racial abyss.”46

Eugenicists were not the only members of the Protestant social order who viewed Jewish and Catholic immigrants as a threat. Protestant ministers were not immune to such fears. In The New Opportunities of the Ministry, Rev. Frederick Lynch characterized southern and eastern European immigrants as “full of superstitions and with a very childlike apprehension of religion.” He asked, “Can the Christian Church transform this seething pot of Jews and Slavs and Latins into Christians, convert the Jew and redeem the former Christian?”47 Similarly, British cleric F. B. Meyer, author of Religion and Race-Regeneration, lamented the high birthrates of Jews, Catholics, and the feebleminded, lumping them together as a collective menace to society.48

Not all religious leaders agreed with these dire pronouncements. Writing in the North American Review in 1912, Rev. Percy Stickney Grant dismissed the immigration restrictionists by noting, “Every race considers itself superior; its diatribes against other races are sheer vanity.” He recommended a reconstruction of the U.S. understanding of democracy, one that could include a broader range of peoples.49 Catholic and Jewish leaders also defended the new immigrants, though not always to the satisfaction of the native-born workers who felt their livelihoods jeopardized by the arrival of so many low-paid laborers. After listening to a university president and a Catholic archbishop both denounce immigration restrictionists, one observer mused: “I wonder what they would say if two shiploads, one of college presidents and another of archbishops, had landed last week, and the foreign-born college presidents and archbishops were now trying to get their jobs.”50

Anti-immigrant grumbling did prompt government action, but none as sweeping as the restrictive legislation that would appear in the 1920s; for the most part, the public remained guardedly optimistic about assimilation. Attempts by Congress to require a literacy test for admission of immigrants were thwarted by presidential vetoes in 1911 and 1915, for example.51 Writing in The Nation in 1915, essayist Horace Kallen likened the new immigrants not to a menacing, swarming horde, but to instruments in an orchestra, each with its specific timbre. Unlike a symphony, however, which is written before it is played, “in the symphony of civilization the playing is the writing, so that there is nothing so fixed and inevitable about its progressions as in music.” For Kallen, this meant that the variety of American harmonies “became wider and richer and more beautiful” as a result of the new tones.52

This was the theme of British dramatist Israel Zangwill's 1908 play, The Melting Pot. Zangwill (1864–1926), the son of Jewish immigrants, was raised in the Whitechapel ghetto of London's East End and his experience there shaped the themes that marked his work: assimilation and toleration of Jews, world peace, social reform, and Zionism. The Melting Pot focused on the issue (p.100) of assimilation through the fictional experiences of David Quixano, a young Jewish immigrant and violin player from the Russian Pale who lives in New York with his uncle and his uncle's mother. In the story, David meets and falls in love with Vera Revendal, a fellow Russian immigrant who, in preternaturally perfect progressive fashion, is both a Christian and a settlement house worker. Despite David's faith in America as a “race crucible,” capable of assimilating all those who come to her shores, however, he and Vera are unable to overcome their religious differences and marry. The tone of the play is, nevertheless, optimistic. Zangwill used the character of David to argue that, in the United States, opportunities for immigrants of all creeds were limitless; the play was promoted as a “drama of the amalgamation of the races.” “The real American has not yet arrived,” David tells his uncle, an irascible fellow who scoffs at David's optimism. “He is only in the Crucible, I tell you—he will be the fusion of all races, perhaps the coming superman.”53

The subtext throughout Zangwill's play is the strain intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews added to the already great challenge of assimilation. When young David expresses his desire to marry the Christian Vera, his uncle accuses him of rejecting “the call of our blood through immemorial generations” and throws him out of the house. David remains firm in his rejection of his religious heritage, emphasizing instead his and Vera's common identities as Americans. The image of the melting pot is his guide, and the play closes with David ecstatically praising what it stands for: “There she lies, the great Melting Pot—listen! Can't you hear the roaring and the bubbling? There gapes her mouth—the harbour where a thousand mammoth feeders come from the ends of the world to pour in their human freight. Ah, what a stirring and seethingHow the great Alchemist melts and fuses them with his purging flame!” As the curtain falls, the audience hears the piping strains of “My Country 'tis of Thee” and David predicts, “Here shall they all unite to build the Republic of Man and the Kingdom of God.”54

Zangwill captured well the clash of culture and faith sparked by assimilation, but his work reveals that he was also sensitive to the disruptions that immigration could create for a society. Unlike eugenicists, however, he argued vociferously against restricting immigration. “The notion that the few millions of people in America have a moral right to exclude others is monstrous,” he said, and in his nonfiction writing he characterized the vetting procedures at Ellis Island as unreasonably cruel.55

Zangwill's version of the American melting pot was at odds with the pessimistic posture of most eugenicists. Invoking the language of Zangwill's play, the American Breeders' Magazine editorialized, “We have in most unjustifiable and unscientific fashion been assuming that in this great `melting pot' the best qualities of all nations and all races are being run into one great flux from which there would be cast one superior individual—a superman—the American.” Such optimism about race mixture was unwarranted and dangerous, (p.101) they concluded, because the new immigrants were of inferior racial types.56 “Mental, spiritual, and moral traits,” Madison Grant reminded the public, “are closely associated with the physical distinctions among the different European races.” Unrestricted immigration by the wrong racial types would lead to spiritual and moral, as well as physical, deterioration.57

Zangwill's play debuted during a period of increased immigration by Jews. Between 1880 and 1921, over 2 million Jews arrived in the United States. Most came from eastern Europe (immigration to the United States during these years represented 33 percent of the Jews living in eastern Europe), and most settled in New York City's Lower East Side. By 1915, Jews made up 28 percent of the city's population. These immigrants were largely Orthodox Jews, fleeing the persecution of the Russian pogroms that had begun in the 1880s. Unlike their Americanized, German Jewish counterparts, most of whom were Reform Jews, the new immigrants raised questions in the minds of the native-born about their ability to assimilate. Most of the new immigrants spoke Yiddish, a mixture of Russian, Hebrew, and High German, and appeared both to non-Jews and to many American Reform Jews insular and unwilling to adapt to American culture.58

Abraham Cahan's novel The Rise of David Levinsky, published in 1917, recorded the immigrants' struggle and offered readers an entry into the broad sweep of Jewish immigrant life on the Lower East Side of New York. Cahan, a Russian Jewish immigrant who founded and edited the Yiddish newspaper, the Jewish Daily Forward, drew on his own experiences to craft the character of David Levinsky, a Russian immigrant whose assimilation was not rendered with as much optimism as Zangwill's enthusiastic David. Cahan's David discovers that, despite achieving material success in the United States, spiritual and personal fulfillment elude him because he sacrifices his faith to mammon. The closing pages of the novel find Levinsky despairing, “My sense of triumph is coupled with a brooding sense of emptiness and insignificance. There are cases when success is a tragedy.”59

The often difficult process of assimilation that Cahan depicted in his novel was a point of serious discussion among leading Jewish intellectuals at this time and was linked to their concerns about growing levels of anti-Semitism in the country. It is no coincidence that during these years of heavy immigration, Jews organized two major defense organizations, the American Jewish Committee, founded in 1906, and the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, founded in 1913. The murder trial and vigilante-style execution of Leo Frank, who was president of the local B'nai B'rith chapter in Atlanta, in 1913–1915, exposed the virulence of the nation's, and particularly the South's, anti-Semitism.60

Concerned as they were with the general problem of immigration, eugenicists nevertheless gave special attention to the issue of Jewish immigration and assimilation. Two questions dominated their discussions of Jews during (p.102) these years. First, were the Jews a distinct race? Although much of the groundwork for this debate had been laid in the nineteenth century by European race theorists such as Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, Ernest Renan, Georges Vacher de Lapouges, Werner Sombart, and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, U.S. eugenicists sought to craft a response to this question that incorporated the vagaries of the recent U.S. experience.61 The second question followed from the first, and was something eugenicists were asking of all new immigrants: What effects might assimilation, particularly intermarriage among different immigrant groups, have on American society?

On the first question, most eugenicists agreed, though with some equivocation, that the Jews were a distinct race. As early as 1909, eugenicist Caleb Saleeby had argued that the Jews were a separate race whose adherence to the hygienic dictates of their religion helped ensure their survival.62 In one sense, questions about racial distinctiveness stemmed from eugenicists' tendency to equate national and racial identity and to assume, for example, that Germans, Greeks, Italians, and Irish were each biologically different groups.63 In this rendering, Jews were a separate race as well, whom eugenicists sometimes referred to as Hebrews. What eugenicists could not agree on, however, was the criteria for determining racial distinctiveness.

In a lecture on immigration, Charles Davenport suggested that Jewish distinctiveness stemmed from a history of isolation. Not surprisingly, his interpretation of the Jewish experience in Europe was historically misguided and filled with stereotypes. “For centuries the peoples of Europehave established Ghettoes where Jews were segregated, partly by their own preference, much as the negroes are segregated in many Southern states,” Davenport told his audience. “Isolated by their instincts and their greed, [and] by their Yiddish language,” they formed “an alien people in the country where they dwelt and reproduced so unrestrictedly.”64 A letter from H. B. Hayden, a member of the Washington, D.C. Army and Navy Club, to Davenport demonstrated a similar anxiety about Jews. In the correspondence, Hayden asked about the advisability of a marriage between a friend's son, who was “a practically pure Nordic type,” and a woman whose ancestry included one Jewish grandparent; Hayden was concerned about the offspring of such a union. “Will they be a good addition to society or will they be queer?” he asked. Davenport's response was equivocal. Although the “Jewish type” was dominant in any intermarriage, he said, and this was not necessarily desirable from the standpoint of eugenics, these mixtures were becoming more common and at least “seem to be socially adaptible [sic].”65

British physician Redcliffe N. Salaman, writing in the Eugenics Review, also concluded that the Jews were a distinct race, but he emphasized their identifiable physical characteristics. Through an analysis of intermarriage case studies, Salaman concluded that a “Jewish facial type” existed that was “subject to the Mendelian law of Heredity” and was, among the children of intermarried (p.103) couples, a dominant trait. He described the facial expression thus: “a long and heavy nose, eyes somewhat close together with long upper eyelids, rounded angles to the jaw, prominent and rounded chin, and rounded and spacious forehead.” Salaman's methods for gathering this information eerily foreshadowed the Nazis', including intense genealogical excavation to find Jewish ancestors in supposedly non-Jewish families. Although Salaman was confident that such physical distinctions existed among world Jewry, he refrained from making judgments about Jewish mental traits. “At present,” he wrote, “one is in entire darkness as to whether the physical features that one recognises as Jewish are allied with any peculiar psychical qualities.” When he did venture a personal opinion on this question, he admitted that he had only a “strong feeling”—but no evidence—that there existed a “distinctive mental attitude which is Jewish.”66

Like Salaman, Prof. Louis Covitt of Clark University also argued that a distinct “facial expression” characterized Jews and served as evidence of their racial distinctiveness. However, he went further, speculating as to the causes of this trait. He identified as important “the pathos and tragedy of ages of persecution and martyrdom” and, in a willing embrace of the negative stereotypes common in this era, “the cunning and shrewdness that is characteristic of all people who have to live by their wits.” Covitt also argued that the Jews shared a common “psychic personality,” a “race consciousness” that was “fully alive” and growing in intensity in the modern era.67 This amorphous “race consciousness,” or “race solidarity,” as it was also called, was central to eugenicists' understanding of Jews. Eugenicists were convinced that it existed as a dominant trait, and they were even more certain that it was ineradicable. As one writer put it, “No amount of Americanization will be able to get it out of the system.” It was the factor that spelled doom for assimilation.68

The distinctiveness and, hence, the unassimilability of the Jews, like their supposedly excessive “shrewdness and cunning,” became stereotype staples for eugenicists who assumed that such qualities were heritable traits, bred over the course of centuries. Prof. Covitt matter-of-factly told readers, “These elements have by long use and repetition fused and become hereditary.”69 In a triumph of circular logic, the negative stereotypes held individually by many eugenicists became the basis for “scientific” arguments purportedly proving Jewish inferiority. Samples of statements from just a few of the country's prominent eugenicists suffice to prove the point. Just after World War I, one of anti-Semitism's incarnations came in publicly announced quotas for Jewish students seeking entry into prestigious universities such as Harvard and Yale. In a letter to a colleague, biologist Raymond Pearl explained his support for quotas by pointing to the Jews' “high survival rate.” “There is a complete absence [in Jews] of any inhibiting sense of morals or decency,” he said. Pearl went on to express paranoid fears of a race confrontation between Jews and Gentiles, asking fearfully, “Whose world is this to be, ours, or the Jews?”70 Eugenicist Mad (p.104) ison Grant (whose extreme racism Pearl, oddly enough, publicly criticized) warned Americans of Jewish plots to steal their women, an anti-Semitic paranoia ERO chief Charles Davenport candidly returned in a letter to Grant in 1925. Vexed over the country's unwillingness to take action on immigration restriction, Davenport wrote, “Our ancestors drove Baptists from Massachusetts Bay into Rhode Island, but we have no place to drive the Jews to.”71

Not all eugenicists expressed such extreme views. When they focused strictly on physical traits, such as susceptibility to diseases or infant mortality rates, a few eugenicists reported statistics that were favorable to Jews.72 Dr. Lester Levyn of New York, for example, catalogued the many ailments to which Jews proved less susceptible than non-Jews, including tuberculosis, pneumonia, smallpox, typhoid, and intestinal disorders. He attributed this physical hardiness to a process of selection “that has lasted two thousand years, and has been the most severe and most painful which living beings have ever had to endure.”73

Nevertheless, eugenicists often paired favorable statistics on physical health with unfavorable ones that purported to reveal higher rates of mental illness among Jews, particularly among eastern European Jewish immigrants. Dr. Levyn claimed that Jews were a disproportionate number of the nation's sufferers of nervous disorders such as hysteria, idiocy, apoplexy, and neurasthenia; as he had with physical diseases, he viewed the disorders as the logical outcome of centuries of persecution.74 Likewise, in a 1917 survey of arriving immigrants at Ellis Island, Henry H. Goddard classified 60 percent of Jews as morons. An even higher number, he claimed, were high-grade feebleminded. These statistics proved their inferiority as a race, Goddard concluded, and offered further fodder for his calls for stricter immigration laws.75

Still, there was dissent among scientists and social scientists over eugenicists' arguments about Jewish racial distinctiveness. Writing in the Journal of Heredity in 1916, Maynard Metcalf of the Orchard Laboratory at Oberlin College argued that, despite centuries of social ostracism, a “racial fusion” had occurred between Jews and their neighbors. A Jew in Syria, Germany, or Spain “resembles his local neighbor more than he resembles his brother Jew of another country,” Metcalf noted. To speak of Jews as a distinct race was, therefore, misleading.76 Picking up on this theme, psychiatrist A. A. Brill of New York Medical School argued that any claims (such as Levyn's and Goddard's) that Jews suffered higher rates of mental illness only because of inborn racial flaws was incorrect. Instead, he blamed the “past environment” of the Jews and their current struggles with assimilation. “A gradual transition from eastern to western civilization intelligently guided by a sound mental and social hygiene,” he wrote, “will prevent such abnormal reactions as neuroses, psychoses and criminality in the adjusting Jew.” Although Brill did assume that such a thing as the “sensitive Hebraic nature” existed, his emphasis on Jews' current environ (p.105) mental conditions challenged the eugenicists' static portrait of heredity-based Jewish inferiority.77

It was left to a physician, anthropologist, and Russian Jewish immigrant named Maurice Fishberg (1872–1934) to mount a definitive defense of the Jews against claims of racial inferiority. Dr. Fishberg recognized the danger inherent in claiming that the Jews were a distinctive race, and he stated it explicitly in his work. Anti-Semites attempted “to put a pseudo-scientific veneer on their agitation” by propounding “a theory that the `Jewish race' constitutes a branch of the Semitic race” that is “incapable of assimilating European standards of morals and fair-play.” Instead, he concluded in his 1911 study, The Jews: A Study of Race and Environment, there were “no differences between Jews and Christians which can solely be attributed to racial causes, and which depend solely on hereditary transmission.” His own statistical findings revealed that Jews produced a higher percentage of “physical and mental defectives” and a higher proportion of “persons of marked ability” than other groups. In Fishberg's telling, the Jews were not an example of a distinct race made purer through a rigorous process of natural selection-by-persecution. They were a conglomeration of “various racial elements” whose history demonstrated the force of religious, environmental, and social conditions.78

Following the lead of anthropologist Franz Boas, whose research demonstrated the decisive influence of environment on the supposedly intractable racial qualities of immigrants, Fishberg rejected the hereditarian interpretations of eugenicists. Rather, he claimed that observable differences between Jews and non-Jews were due to social factors—mainly differences in religious beliefs and practices—that he called the “separative tenets of Judaism.”79 Fishberg himself did not believe that all of these practices were good. In a series of articles published in the American Hebrew, he noted that although Jewish marriage and divorce laws were “more in accordance with the principles of eugenics than the Christian and Mohammedan marriage laws,” the Achnoses Jaleh (societies that provided dowries for marriage to poor Jewish women regardless of their physical or mental fitness) and Jewish charities sometimes exercised a dysgenic influence.80

On the whole, Fishberg's portrait of Jewish immigrants undermined eugenicists' claims of racial inferiority by arguing that cultural conditions, not heredity, explained differences. Rather than responding directly to the challenges Fishberg posed, however, eugenicists selectively reprinted his findings in their own journals. The Eugenical News, for example, reported the results of Fishberg's study on the high proportion of Jews with mental defects but gave no mention to his larger conclusion that such traits were the result of environmental rather than hereditary influences.81

In his defense of Jewish immigrants, Fishberg hoped to combat the misleading science of eugenicists and to counter the negative stereotypes of Jews (p.106) that made regular appearances in the popular publications. Magazines and newspapers continued to promulgate stereotypes of Jews as the parasitic masterminds of worldwide financial conspiracies.82 These stereotypes found a permanent home in Henry Ford's newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, which serialized passages from the notoriously anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion in 1920. Replete with spurious claims about a Jewish plot to take over the world, the articles (which appeared at the height of the Red Scare) tapped into Americans' fears of Jews as adherents and potential importers of the radical doctrines of the Russian Revolution.83

Like eugenicists, Protestant clergymen sometimes flavored their public statements with anti-Semitic rhetoric in these years. An unnamed Episcopal clergyman, writing in the American Citizen in 1912, argued that the Jew's “chauvinism, his race-pride, race conceit, race-exclusiveness, [and] race aloofness,” and not anti-Semitism, were causes of prejudice against them.84 Another anonymous Protestant minister, responding to a poll sponsored by the American Hebrew magazine, spoke of Jewish “snobbishness” and asked, “Have you not held yourself apart from the life of this New World in a nook of your ownlooking down from your fancied eminence as the chosen race?”85

These ministers' accusations of “race pride” and “race exclusiveness” echoed those made by eugenicists, but among Jewish leaders, a related debate had been raging about race distinctiveness and the effects of intermarriage on the contemporary Jewish community. The lightning rod in this debate was Israel Zangwill's play, The Melting Pot. In a speech delivered at the Free Synagogue in New York, Reform Rabbi Leon Harrison of Temple Israel in St. Louis claimed that Zangwill's message of assimilation was dangerous to Jews. “The Hebrew race has nothing to bind it together and preserve it, except its religion,” Harrison argued, “which is in turn dependent on its refusal to intermarry.” Lest anyone accuse Jews of extreme separatism for this prohibition, Harrison reminded his audience that the Catholic Church also condemned intermarriage. Invoking “holy traditions, sacred memories, and transcendent ideals,” he ended his speech with a plea to Jews to “fulfill your racial destiny from within” and reject intermarriage.86

Five months later, the leader of the Free Synagogue, Reform Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, joined Harrison in condemning intermarriage. According to the New York Times, Wise took “emphatic ground against the intermarriage of Jews and Christians” in his weekly sermon.87 Evidently, Rabbi Harrison's and Rabbi Wise's stance was not universally accepted by their Reform Jewish coreligionists, for a heated debate broke out over the question of intermarriage at the 1909 meeting of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Newspaper reports noted frayed tempers, especially among older rabbis in the conference who opposed intermarriage (one asked why the supporters of intermarriage, “in their denial of Jewish authority, did not all go over to Unitarianism”). The foes of intermarriage eventually triumphed and the Conference passed a mildly (p.107) worded resolution declaring “mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews contrary to the traditions of the Jewish religion” and urging the U.S. rabbinate to discourage such unions.88

Even the prosperous, assimilated character of David Levinsky in Abraham Cahan's novel harbored doubts about intermarriage. Considering marriage to a non-Jewish woman with whom he had developed a strong friendship, Levinsky says, “I saw clearly that it would be a mistake. It was not the faith of my father that was in the way. It was that medieval prejudice against our people which makes so many marriages between Jew and Gentile a failure.” Levinsky goes so far as to tell the object of his affection, “It's really a pity that there is the chasm of race between us. Otherwise I don't see why we couldn't be happy together.”89

In contrast, many secular Jewish leaders did not consider intermarriage a threat. Speaking also at the Free Synagogue, Charles Zueblin, a former sociology professor at the University of Chicago and editor of Twentieth Century magazine, responded to the opposition of Rabbis Harrison and Wise by arguing that intermarriage was desirable because it encouraged race mixing, and “strength comes from mixture.” Unlike eugenicists, who viewed this type of amalgamation with extreme skepticism, Zueblin optimistically predicted that the resulting mixture would “retain the best traits of both” and contribute to “the common racial good.”90 Dr. Fishberg had encouraged intermarriage for similar reasons, viewing it as the best means for ending the social and cultural isolation of the Jews in the United States.91

The intermarriage debate highlighted how the concept of race informed nearly every discussion of Jews in these years. Supporters of intermarriage encouraged “race mixing” and denied that a pure Jewish race even existed. Opponents of intermarriage justified their stance by calling on Jews to fulfill their “racial destiny” and maintain that supposedly nonexistent race purity. And many eugenicists continued to insist that the Jews harbored hereditary traits that threatened the nation's future. The “chasm of race” so clear to David Levinsky in Cahan's novel was felt in this debate as well.

Rabbi Max Reichler (1886–1957) attempted to bridge this chasm in a copiously annotated essay that outlined the common ground between Jewish teachings and eugenics. In “Jewish Eugenics,” a paper read before the New York Board of Jewish Ministers in 1915, Reichler argued that “eugenic rules” were “incorporated in the large collection of Biblical and Rabbinical laws.” Through a thorough excavation of those parts of the Talmud that engage the questions of marriage and reproduction, Reichler made his case.92

Rabbi Reichler brought a unique perspective to the eugenics movement. As an active Reform rabbi, serving first at the Sinai Temple in the Bronx and later at the Beth Sholem Peoples Temple in Brooklyn, as well as in numerous religious and civic organizations, he was connected to a wide web of secular and religious reformers. His interest in eugenics likely grew out of his expe (p.108) riences in this milieu. But Reichler was also an eastern European immigrant, having come to the United States from Presburg, Hungary, when he was 9 years old. Like Maurice Fishberg, another Jewish immigrant who examined the eugenics movement, Reichler was particularly sensitive to the anti-immigrant prejudices of the day.93

Reichler began his presentation to the Board of Jewish Ministers by noting the seriousness with which Jewish leaders approached the issues of marriage and reproduction. “The Rabbis, like the eugenists of to-day,” he wrote, “measured the success of a marriage by the number and quality of the offspring.” According to Talmudic teachings, the main objects of marriage were leshem piryah veribyah (the reproduction of the human race) and lethikun havlad (the augmentation of the favored stock). The latter occurred in part through strict adherence to the prohibitions against the marriage of “defectives” such as lepers, epileptics, the deaf and the dumb, and the lame and the blind.94 As interpreted by Reichler, these teachings were the central principles of what he called “Jewish eugenics.”

Eugenicists such as Caleb Saleeby had praised these hygienic rules, and popular eugenics books written by amateurs earlier in the century had made mention of them. The authors of The Science of Eugenics and Sex Life (1904), for example, noted, “The Jews as a race are singularly free from the contaminations arising from the sexual diseases” because they followed “the law of Moses on sex-hygiene.”95 Yet Reichler went one step further. He argued that Jewish eugenics had a “distinctive feature” lacking in the current eugenics movement: an emphasis on “psychical” as well as physical well-being. Rabbis had recognized that “both physical and psychical qualities were inherited,” Reichler said, endeavoring “by direct precept and law, as well as by indirect advice and admonition, to preserve and improve the inborn, wholesome qualities of the Jewish race.”96

Reichler was sensitive to the perception that his construction of a Jewish eugenics and his claims for the purity of the Jewish race might appear “narrow and chauvinistic,” but he justified his support for racial distinctiveness by turning the arguments of eugenicist William E. Kellicott in his favor. In his 1911 book, The Social Direction of Human Evolution, Kellicott argued that a “natural aristocracy” formed by the propitious pruning that Reichler said the Jews had undertaken “can become the guardians and trustees of a sound inborn heritage, which, incorruptible and undefiled,” can be preserved “in purity and vigor throughout whatever period of ignorance and decay may be in store for the nation at large.” Reichler argued that the Jews were just such a natural aristocracy, possessing three traits “unique to Israel”: sympathy, modesty, and philanthropy.97

Rabbi Reichler was clearly well versed in eugenics literature, citing, in addition to Kellicott, Galton, Davenport, and others to bolster his claims. His work did not go unnoticed by eugenicists; an excerpt of his essay, absent the (p.109) annotations, appeared in the Journal of Heredity in February 1917. Nor did secular Jewish leaders ignore it. Physician Maurice Fishberg cited the study and readily agreed with Reichler's conclusion that “rabbinical teachings are teeming with positive eugenic suggestions.” Indeed, Fishberg claimed that “the rabbis anticipated Galton by about sixteen hundred years.” Although Reichler's work emphasized the distinctive qualities of the Jewish race and Fishberg argued against that distinction, they did agree that Jewish religious dictates had hygienic benefits, or, as Fishberg put it, Judaism “utilized piety for the preservation of health.”98

Rabbi Reichler's work marked the first attempt by a rabbi to reconcile eugenics with the Jewish faith, but he was not alone among Jewish leaders in his interest and measured support for eugenics. Two years earlier, in November 1913, Rabbi Wise sponsored a series of lectures on eugenics and mental hygiene through Synagogue House, his congregation's social service department. Speakers included notable eugenicist Alexander Johnson of the Vineland Training School in New Jersey.99 Although it is impossible to assess the turnout for such events (or, for that matter, to assess the tenor of the discussions), it is nevertheless revealing that one of the country's most well-known Jewish leaders used his synagogue to sponsor discussions of eugenics.

The efforts of liberal-minded religious leaders such as Rabbis Wise and Reichler, as well as those of Rev. Hillis, mark a shift in the relationship between eugenicists and churchmen. The public's and, increasingly, the eugenics movement's own desire to find answers to the questions sparked by immigration and world war created space for pulpit leaders to fill. During these years eugenicists demonstrated a greater willingness to grant religious leaders a venue, whether at their national conferences or in the pages of their journals. This impulse to include the views of religious leaders in the eugenics movement would reach full flower in the 1920s with the creation of a new organization, the American Eugenics Society, which actively recruited religious leaders to the cause of race improvement. (p.110)


(1.) John Harvey Kellogg, “Address of Welcome to the Conference,” in Proceedings of the First National Conference on Race Betterment, January 8–12, 1914 (Battle Creek, MI: Race Betterment Foundation, 1914), 1 (hereafter cited as Proceedings, 1914).

(2.) Advertisement in Survey 31 (1913–1914). Kellogg is perhaps better known for two foods he developed and promoted: peanut butter and corn flakes (his brother founded the Kellogg's cereal company). Biographical information on Kellogg from Alden Whitman, ed., American Reformers (New York: H. W. Wilson, 1985), 494–496. On Seventh-Day Adventists, see W. W. Spaulding, A History of Seventh-Day Adventists, 2 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1949).

(3.) Newell Dwight Hillis, The Influence of Christ in Modern Life, Being a Study of the New Problems of the Church in American Society (New York: Macmillan, 1900), 32.

(4.) Biographical information from obituary, New York Times, 26 February 1929, 27; Dumas Malone, ed., Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932), 9: 56; “Plymouth Church's New Educational Building,” The Outlook 108 (2 December 1914): 745.

(5.) Newell Dwight Hillis, pamphlet, Redpath Chautauqua Collection, University of Iowa Libraries [19-?]: http://sdrcdata.lib.uiowa.edu/ libsdrc/ details.jsp?id=/ hillis/ 3, accessed 3 August 2002.


(6.) “Eugenic Marriage Topic of Pulpits,” New York Times, 9 June 1913, 9.

(7.) H. H. Laughlin, The Scope of the Committee's Work; Report of the Committee to Study and to Report on the Best Practical Means of Cutting Off the Defective Germ-Plasm in the American Population (Cold Spring Harbor, NY: ERO Bulletin No. 10A, 1914), 7. The summary of Hillis's Committee duties was as follows: “Morals and Ethics: Eugenics and democracy. The attitude of the various churches toward the proposal to sterilize persons known to possess defective germ-plasms. The ethical, moral, and ontological aspects of sterilization. Eugenical limitations of marriages by the ministry.” Other ministers on the General Committee included Rev. Caroline Bartlett Crane, an ordained Unitarian minister who by 1914 was a full-time social reformer, and Rev. Charles C. Creegan, president of Fargo College in Fargo, North Dakota.

(8.) Newell Dwight Hillis, “Factory Degeneration,” in Proceedings, 1914, 353, 351, 355; the first biblical passage quoted is Hosea 8:7, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.” The second passage is Galatians 6:8, “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

(9.) Ibid., 355.

(10.) Newell Dwight Hillis, Redpath Chautauqua Collection.

(11.) “Dr. Hillis on the Social Diseases,” The Presbyterian 83 (10 September 1913): 3–5.

(12.) Ibid.; quotation from Current Opinion cited in May, The End of American Innocence, 344.

(13.) “Race Betterment,” The Churchman 109 (31 January 1914): 135.

(14.) Proceedings, 1914, 2, 509–513. Other participants included eugenicists Charles Davenport, H. H. Laughlin, and Roswell Johnson, and reformers Booker T. Washington and Hastings Hart. J. H. Kellogg, “First Race Betterment Conference at Battle Creek,” Survey 31 (1913–1914): 652.

(15.) “Constructive Suggestions for Race Betterment—Summarized,” in Proceedings, 1914, 554–589.

“Report of the Secretary,” in Proceedings, 1914, 594–595.

(16.) John Harvey Kellogg to Charles Davenport, 24 September 1913, Davenport Papers, APS.

(17.) This was an argument that several Catholics and Protestants made with regard to eugenics in the early twentieth century; see ch. 1. Kellogg, Social Purity, 29–30, 34. The “Social Purity Pledge Card” that Kellogg evidently passed out at this lecture had in bold letters “Thou God Seest Me” and “Blessed are the Pure in Heart” printed on the top and bottom of each card.

(18.) “Report of the Secretary,” 594–596; Stephen Smith, “President's Address: The Principles of Race Betterment,” in Proceedings, 1914, 19.

(19.) Redemption: A Masque of Race Betterment, in Proceedings of the Second National Conference on Race Betterment, August 4–8, 1915 (Battle Creek, MI: Race Betterment Foundation, 1915), 138–143 (hereafter cited as Proceedings, 1915). The cast of over two hundred were students from the University of California, Berkeley; see Robert Rydell, World of Fairs: The Century of Progress Expositions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 42.

(20.) Proceedings, 1915, vi. See also John Harvey Kellogg to Charles Davenport, 29 (p.215) August 1915, Davenport Papers, APS. Religious participants at the 1915 Conference included Revs. Hillis, Sumner, Caroline Bartlett Crane, and A. F. Cunningham (of Texas) and Bishop John W. Hamilton (Methodist Episcopal Church, San Francisco).

(21.) Proceedings, 1915, xi. Bishop Hamilton came from a family that contributed several leaders to American Methodism. His father was a circuit-riding Methodist preacher, and of the five children born to the elder Hamilton, two became Methodist bishops and another a Methodist preacher. See Dictionary of American Biography, 21: 371–373.

(22.) Proceedings of the Third Race Betterment Conference, January 2–6, 1928 (Battle Creek, MI: Race Betterment Foundation, 1928).

(23.) Davenport to Kellogg, 14 May 1914; 15 January 1916; 16 March 1916, Davenport Papers, APS.

(24.) Charles Davenport, “Eugenics as a Religion,” 1916, Lectures, Davenport Papers, APS.

(25.) Ibid.

(26.) See, for example, Conklin, Heredity and Environment in the Development of Men, 424.

(27.) “Empty Cradles Worst War Horror: Professor Irving Fisher Says They Will Overshadow Every Other Tragedy of the Conflict,” New York Times, 25 July 1915, sec.4, 6; see also Paul Popenoe, “Is War Necessary?” Journal of Heredity 9 (October 1918): 257–262. Of course, not everyone agreed with this diagnosis. One writer cautioned the public against automatically accepting the “wild statements of the overenthusiastic eugenicists” with regard to war. This writer claimed that a natural readjustment occurred in a population after a conflict. See “Mistakes of the Eugenists about War,” New York Times, 3 December 1915, 10.

(28.) The book was written under the auspices of the World Peace Foundation. See “War's Aftermath Review,” Journal of Heredity 6 (September 1915): 404, 406.

(29.) The CTCA was established in April 1917 to organize and centralize training camp activities. The YMCA was another key player in the training camps, setting up “Hostess Houses” where girlfriends and wives could enjoy chaperoned visits with the enlisted men and organizing a wide range of athletic activities to provide, as Raymond Fosdick noted, “a legitimate expression for the healthy animal spirit which, when pent up, will invariably assert itself in some form of lawlessness.” See Brandt, No Magic Bullet, 60–61.

(30.) Ibid., 53, 59.

(31.) Daniel Kevles, “Testing the Army's Intelligence: Psychologists and the Military in World War I,” Journal of American History 55 (1968–1969): 580. On intelligence testing in World War I, see also Gould, The Mismeasure of Man, 192–233; John Carson, “Army Alpha, Army Brass, and the Search for Army Intelligence,” Isis 84 (1993): 278–309; JoAnne Brown, The Definition of a Profession: The Authority of Metaphor in the History of Intelligence Testing, 1890–1930 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 109–125.

(32.) Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People, 884.

(33.) Myers and Sunday quoted in Ray H.Abrams, Preachers Present Arms (New York: Round Table Press, 1933), 104, 106.

(34.) John Haynes Holmes, along with other pacifist religious leaders such as William P. Merrill, Robert E. Speer, Charles E. Jefferson, and Frederick Lynch, were ac (p.216) tive in antiwar organizations such as the American Union Against Militarism and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Holmes in particular was uncompromising in his stand, and wrote New Wars for Old in 1916, outlining his views. His pacifist stance clashed with the pro-war beliefs of the American Unitarian Association and was a major impetus for his severing ties with the Unitarians in 1919. His church became the nondenominational Community Church. On Holmes, see I Speak for Myself. Rev. George Reid Andrews of St. Paul's Congregational Church in Brooklyn called pacifists “passivists” in a sermon preached in 1918. See George Reid Andrews, When Love Fights, sermon, St. Paul's Congregational Church, Brooklyn, 10 March 1918, 6.

(35.) Abrams, Preachers Present Arms, 79, 112.

(36.) Ibid., 96–97, 98–100, 108–198; Dictionary of American Biography, 9: 56–57. There is no evidence that such a conference was ever planned or ever took place.

(37.) S. J. Holmes and C. M. Doud, “The Approaching Extinction of the Mayflower Descendants,” Journal of Heredity 9 (November 1918): 299, 296. See also J. Gardner Bartlett, “The Increase, Diffusion, and Decline of the Mayflower and other New England Stock,” Journal of Heredity 10 (March 1919): 141–142.

(38.) Conklin, Heredity and Environment, 450.

(39.) Higham, Strangers in the Land, 243.

(40.) Bourne quoted in Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics (New York: Norton, 1991), 334–335.

(41.) Andre Siegfried's observations are from his 1927 book America Comes of Age. Siegfried is quoted in Marty, Modern American Religion, 2: 64.

(42.) Madison Grant, “Discussion of Article on Democracy and Heredity,” Journal of Heredity 10 (1919): 165.

(43.) This argument was outlined in full in Prescott F. Hall, “Immigration Restriction and World Eugenics,” Journal of Heredity 10 (March 1919): 125–127: “Just as we isolate bacterial invasions, and starve out the bacteria by limiting the area and amount of their food supply, so we can compel an inferior race to remain in its native habitat, where its own multiplication in a limited area will, as with all organisms, eventually limit its numbers and therefore its influence.” See also Robert DeCourcy Ward, “Immigration after the War,” Journal of Heredity 8 (April 1917): 147–152.

(44.) It is worth noting that Ross focused on political exploitation and not on the exploitation immigrants were far more likely to suffer as workers. “What Is Americanism?” symposium, American Journal of Sociology 20 (January 1915): 471. On Ross, see also May, The End of American Innocence, 348–349; Dorothy Ross, The Origins of American Social Science, 233–235. Ross outlined his theories on immigration in full in his 1914 book The Old World in the New (New York: Century, 1914).

(45.) Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916), 46–47. See also Charles C. Alexander, “Prophet of American Racism: Madison Grant and the Nordic Myth,” Phylon 23 (spring 1962): 77.

(46.) M. Grant, The Passing of the Great Race, 81, 14, 44–45. Yet, if Grant directed his animus at Jews in particular, he also repudiated organized religion in general, an element of his work often overlooked by historians. Like other eugenicists' indictments, Grant's assault on Christianity emphasized that the misplaced altruism of churches had led to the perpetuation of the feebleminded. He called regard for “what are believed to be divine laws” utterly “mistaken,” and deemed the idea of the sanctity of human life “a sentimental belief.” The laws of nature “require the obliteration of (p.217) the unfit,” he said, “and human life is valuable only when it is of use to the community or race.” Although Grant did not mention Catholicism specifically, he did repeat Galton's criticism of Catholic clerical celibacy, noting that “it is now impossible to say to what extent the Roman Church by these methods has impaired the brain capacity of Europe,” leaving the perpetuation of the race “to be carried on by the brutal, the servile, and the stupid.” For Galton's criticism, see ch. 1. Higham mentions in passing Grant's assault on Christian humanitarianism; see Higham, Strangers in the Land, 157.

(47.) Frederick Lynch, The New Opportunities of the Ministry (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1912), 82–84.

(48.) F. Meyer, Religion and Race-Regeneration. On Meyer, see ch. 1.

(49.) Rev. Percy Stickney Grant, “American Ideals and Race Mixture,” North American Review 195 (April 1912): 514, 522.

(50.) W. Jett Lauck, “The Real Significance of Recent Immigration,” North American Review 195 (February 1912): 201.

(51.) Higham, Strangers in the Land, 189–193. Efforts to exclude the Chinese succeeded in 1902, and the Immigration Act of 1917 instituted further limits on Asian immigrants.

(52.) Horace M. Kallen, “Democracy versus the Melting Pot: A Study of American Nationality,” reprinted in Readings in Social Problems, ed. Albert B. Wolfe (Boston: Ginn, 1916), 370–371.

(53.) Israel Zangwill, The Melting-Pot (1908; reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975), 34. Biographical information from Daniel Walden, “Israel Zangwill,” in Dictionary of Literary Biography, ed. Stanley Weintraub (Michigan: Gale Research Company, 1982), 10: 238–242. On the question of intermarriage and Jewish racial identity, see Eric Louis Goldstein, “Race and the Construction of Jewish Identity in America, 1875–1945” (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 2000).

(54.) Zangwill, The Melting Pot, 95, 184–185.

(55.) Ibid., appendix, 210–211. See also Israel Zangwill, Chosen Peoples: The Hebraic Ideal versus the Teutonic (New York: Macmillan, 1919).

(56.) “Race Genetics Problems,” editorial, American Breeders' Magazine 2 (1911): 231.

(57.) M. Grant, The Passing of the Great Race, 197–198.

(58.) Leonard Dinnerstein, Anti-Semitism in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 58–59; Alan M. Kraut, Silent Travelers: Germs, Genes, and the “Immigrant Menace” (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), 143. See also Higham, Strangers in the Land, 66–67, 277–279; Nathan Glazer, American Judaism (1957; reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989); M. Meyer, Response to Modernity; Irving Howe, World of Our Fathers (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976).

(59.) Abraham Cahan, The Rise of David Levinsky (1917; reprint, New York: Harper and Row, 1960), 526, 529. For background on Cahan, see John Higham's introductory essay to the 1960 edition of The Rise of David Levinsky.

(60.) Dinnerstein, Anti-Semitism in America, 73–74, 181–185.

(61.) Robert Singerman, “The Jew as Racial Alien: The Genetic Component of American Anti-Semitism,” in Anti-Semitism in American History, ed. David A. Gerber (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 104–105.

(62.) On Saleeby, see ch. 1.


(63.) Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics, 46. See, for example, Charles Davenport, “Comparative Social Traits of Various Races,” Lectures, Davenport Papers, APS, a study of fifty-one students from the Washington Irving High School for Girls in New York City, 1921. In Davenport's rendering, Germans ranked highest for leadership, pertinacity, humor, frankness, loyalty, and generosity; Jews ranked highest in obtrusiveness.

(64.) Charles Davenport, “Immigration in Relation to the Physical, Mental and Moral Condition of the Population,” n.d., Lectures, Davenport Papers, APS.

(65.) H. B. Hayden to Frederick Osborn (later referred to Davenport), 8 April 1924; Charles Davenport to H. B. Hayden, 21 April 1924, Davenport Papers, APS.

(66.) R. N. Salaman, “Heredity and the Jew,” Eugenics Review 3 (October 1911): 197, 190, 192–193, 199.

(67.) Louis D. Covitt, “The Anthropology of the Jews,” The Monist 26 (July 1916): 395–396. Covitt's article was also summarized briefly in Eugenical News 2 (September 1917): 75.

(68.) Eugenicist quoted in Singerman, “The Jew as Racial Alien,” 109.

(69.) Covitt, “The Anthropology of the Jews,” 394.

(70.) Pearl quoted in Elazar Barkan, The Retreat of Scientific Racism: Changing Concepts of Race in Britain and the United States between the World Wars (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 215–217.

(71.) Charles Davenport to Madison Grant, 7 April 1923, Davenport Papers, APS.

(72.) Dr. Edward T. Devine, for example, reported much lower infant mortality rates for Jewish immigrants in New York than for other immigrant groups. See “The Increase of Ignorance,” Journal of Heredity 8 (April 1917): 181.

(73.) Levyn's findings were reprinted in Laughlin, The Scope of the Committee's Work, 32–33.

(74.) Ibid., 34.

(75.) Henry H. Goddard, “Mental Tests and the Immigrant,” Journal of Delinquency 2 (September 1917): 243–278, reprinted in Journal of Heredity 8 (December 1917): 554–556.

(76.) Maynard M. Metcalf, “Evolution and Man,” Journal of Heredity 7 (August 1916): 357.

(77.) A. A. Brill, “The Adjustment of the Jew to the American Environment,” Mental Hygiene 2 (April 1918): 220, 225, 231.

(78.) Maurice Fishberg, The Jews: A Study in Race and Environment (New York: Walter Scott, 1911), 516, 549–550. On Fishberg's career, see Kraut, Silent Travelers, 138–139, 147–157; Howard Markel, “Di Goldine Medina (The Golden Land): Historical Perspectives of Eugenics and the East European (Ashkenazi) Jewish-American Community, 1880–1925,” Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine (winter 1997): 61.

(79.) Fishberg, The Jews, 553. In 1911, Boas, a German Jewish immigrant, measured the skulls of immigrants and their children and, after documenting changes in head shape, concluded that environmental factors such as nutrition played a far greater role in determining these so-called racial characteristics. See Kraut, Silent Travelers, 146.

(80.) Extracts from these articles appeared in the Journal of Heredity; see Maurice Fishberg, “Eugenics in Jewish Life,” Journal of Heredity 8 (December 1917): 544–547.


(81.) “Jewish Racial Traits,” Eugenical News 5 (January 1920): 7–8. As historian Elazar Barkan has noted, Jewish scientists such as Fishberg faced another hurdle: They were “discredited on the question of race for having a subjective, minority, agenda.” See Barkan, The Retreat of Scientific Racism, 9.

(82.) William Trant, “Jew and Chinaman,” North American Review 195 (February 1912): 249–251. Another writer challenged Trant's portrait of Jews as inferior by noting the many leading intellectuals who were Jewish, concluding that “in the face of all these shining lights the argument that the Jews are an inferior race bursts like a soap-bubble.” Nahum Wolf, “Are the Jews an Inferior Race?” North American Review 195 (April 1912): 495.

(83.) Periodicals such as Current Opinion and Harper's Weekly condemned the publication of the Protocols. See, for example, “Is There a World-Wide Jewish Peril?” Current Opinion 69 (1920): 840–843. On Henry Ford's anti-Semitism, see Dinnerstein, Anti-Semitism in America, 80–83.

(84.) Quoted in Feldman, “The Social Gospel and the Jews,” 308–322.

(85.) American Hebrew (4 April 1890): 165, quoted in ibid., 308–322.

(86.) “Rabbi Sees Peril in Intermarriage,” New York Times, 10 May 1909, 4.

(87.) “Dr. Wise against Intermarriage,” New York Times, 4 October 1909, 20.

(88.) “Rabbis Cut Short Marriage Debate,” New York Times, 12 November 1909, 5; “Rabbis' Conference Split on Marriage,” New York Times, 17 November 1909, 7.

(89.) Cahan, The Rise of David Levinsky, 527–528.

(90.) Zueblin took his positive view of race mixture only so far. As to “the Negro question,” he said that “the black race is immature” and was therefore “not now near enough to the white race for mixture.” See “Says the Race Should Mix,” New York Times, 17 May 1909, 18.

(91.) Fishberg, The Jews, 554–555. Fishberg later presented a paper, “Intermarriage between Jews and Christians,” at the Second International Congress of Eugenics in 1921. See Eugenics in Race and State: Scientific Papers of the Second International Congress of Eugenics (Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1923). Intermarriage remained a point of tendentious debate among Jewish leaders despite the fact that, prior to 1960, intermarriage rates between Jews and non-Jews remained below 10 percent. See Dinnerstein, Anti-Semitism in America, 241; Glazer, American Judaism, 160–161.

(92.) Rabbi Max Reichler, Jewish Eugenics and Other Essays (New York: Bloch, 1916), 10–11. The other two essays in the book are Rabbi Joel Blau, “The Defective in Jewish Law and Literature,” and Rev. Dr. David de Sola Pool, “Capital Punishment among the Jews.” Pool later became a member of the American Eugenics Society; see ch. 4.

(93.) Biographical information from Reichler's obituary, New York Times, 24 August 1957, 15.

(94.) Reichler, Jewish Eugenics, 10–11, 12. The parenthetical definitions are Reichler's. The Talmudic passages he cited are Sifra, Mezora ch. 3; Pesachim 112b; and Nedarim 20a. On general prohibitions against marriage of “defectives,” see Tur Eben Haezer, Piryah Veribyah, ch. 4.

(95.) Walter J. Hadden, Charles H. Robinson, Mary Ries Melendy, et al. The Science of Eugenics and Sex Life, the Regeneration of the Human Race (Philadelphia, PA: National Publishing Co., ca. 1914), 73.


(96.) Reichler, Jewish Eugenics, 14–15, 17–18.

(97.) W. E. Kellicott, The Social Direction of Human Evolution: Outline of the Science of Eugenics (New York: D. Appleton, 1911), 238; Reichler, Jewish Eugenics., 18.

(98.) Fishberg, “Eugenics in Jewish Life,” 545.

Fisherg quoted in Kraut, Silent Travelers, 148.

(99.) Survey 31 (1913–1914): 170.