The Birth of Jewish Culture in a Young America
Life in the "New World" for many Jewish families who immigrated to America was not as glorious and rewarding as they had hoped it would be. In fact, the new environment and surroundings brought upon much hardship and suffering for hopeful European families who were trying to create new and successful lives in America. The novel Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska is a moving story about the lives of the Smolinsky family hoping to leave their suffering in Europe behind them and build life in America. The novel, Bread Givers is labeled as a pure fictional story of a Jewish family’s migration into a new world. Sara Smolensk’s story, and the story of her sisters is not unusual for the time, and provides the reader with details of how these Jewish immigrants lived and worked in the ghettos of New York. Even as a young girl, Sara rejects the Orthodox Jewish teachings of her father, a rabbi. She refuses to accept the Torah's idea that without a man, a woman is "less than nothing" (205). Sara recognized her father's dominance over the family, and struggled to make a life for herself, which her sisters did not have the strength to do. She said plaintively, "I don't want to sell herring for the rest of my days. I want to learn something. I want to do something" (Yezierska 66). She broke away from the family and suffered incredible hardships to educate herself . In addition, these experiences give great insight into the personal history of the people, and of the time. Bread Givers is a source of cultural and social history because, even though it is fictionalized, it gives rich details of life in the early 20th century and illustrates many social conditions. For example, Sarah has the courage to protest at the restaurant when the cook gives her less meat because she is a woman. Aggravated Sarah questions “but you didn’t give me as much as you gave him. Isn’t my money as good as his?”(Yezierska168). Although she knows her place in...
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