Violent antisemitism against the Jews of Europe did not begin or end with the Holocaust. A long history of violence and discrimination was one of the major factors that caused Jews to seek refuge in the United States. For You Were Strangers focuses on what these immigrants were moving toward. While rising immigration triggered xenophobia and antisemitism in the United States, many Americans were eager to provide aid for their new neighbors. As a flood of immigrants came to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, individuals and communities formed new organizations to help the newest citizens.
“What they have accomplished here shows that they are a valuable addition to the population of the city.”-Pittsburgh Daily Post on May 7, 1903 describing the latest influx of Jewish refugees
For You Were Strangers also focuses on the resilience of these immigrants. Many came from situations of violence and abject poverty; they left Europe knowing that they may not have the opportunity to return. This is made all the more poignant by the devastation of the Holocaust, which in many cases annihilated the families that stayed behind. Nevertheless, generations of Jewish immigrants who came with almost nothing would become foundational to the entire community.
As we look at the actions taken then, we should ask ourselves now: What is our responsibility to our fellow human? For You Were Strangers examines our history, so that we may learn from seeing where previous generations succeeded and failed.