In 1942, YIVO held a contest for the best autobiography by a Jewish immigrant on the theme “Why I Left the Old Country and What I Have Accomplished in America.” Chosen from over two hundred entries, and translated from Yiddish, the nine life stories in My Future Is in America provide a compelling portrait of American Jewish life in the immigrant generation at the turn of the twentieth century.
The writers arrived in America in every decade from the 1890s to the 1920s. They include manual workers, shopkeepers, housewives, communal activists, and professionals who came from all parts of Eastern Europe and ushered in a new era in American Jewish history. In their own words, the immigrant writers convey the complexities of the transition between the Old and New Worlds.
An Introduction places the writings in historical and literary context, and annotations explain historical and cultural allusions made by the writers. This unique volume introduces readers to the complex world of Yiddish-speaking immigrants while at the same time elucidating important themes and topics of interest to those in immigration studies, ethnic studies, labor history, and literary studies.
Published in conjunction with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.
Introduction: Yiddish Social Science and Jewish Immigrant Autobiography
Jocelyn Cohen and Daniel Soyer
1 Success or Failure?
2 Why I Came to America
3 I Have Nothing to Complain About
4 Why I Left My Old Home and What I Have Accomplished in America
5 What Drove Me to America and My Experiences in Europe and America
6 My Future Is in America
7 The Movies Pale in Comparison
8 Why I Left the Old Country and What I Have Accomplished in America
9 I Haven’t Lost Anything by Coming to America
"Cohen and Soyer have done a masterful job of collecting and translating these gripping immigrant narratives. A must read for anyone interested in immigration, American history, or the Jewish experience in America." ~Beth S. Wenger,Katz Family Chair in American Jewish History, University of Pennsylvania
"A treasure trove of Yiddish autobiographical gems available for the first time in English. These heartfelt and moving narratives reveal the rich, complex and multi-textured experience of the East European Jewish immigrant milieu. The masterful translations rendered by Cohen and Soyer capture the lyric, sophisticated and often times profound dimensions of the writers' contributions. To this considerable achievement, Cohen and Soyer add a valuable introductory essay and detailed notes that make the book accessible to students, researchers and thoughtful readers alike. This volume plugs a significant gap in the field of modern Jewish studies and belongs in every library collection, where it will update and complement classics like A Bintel Brief and World of Our Fathers" ~Mark A. Raider,author of American Jewish Women and the Zionist Enterprise and The Plough Woman: Records of the Pioneer Women of Palestine