On July 1, 1907, the S.S. Cassel, a German steamship, docked in Galveston, Texas, bringing the first group of Jewish immigrants to the United States as part of the so-called Galveston Plan. The concept behind the plan, which functioned until 1914, was to ferry Eastern European Jews fleeing the pogroms of czarist Russia to someplace other than New York, from which they could branch out to make new homes for themselves in towns and cities in the American West. The people responsible for the plan were prominent German Jews in New York, who said they feared a rise in anti-Semitism if Russian Jews continued pouring into the East Coast.
The idea of the “removal” of Jewish immigrants — as the practice was called by immigration professionals at the time — to different parts of the young country had been around for a while. However, the proposal to accomplish this by direct transport to a distant port was the brainchild of Jacob Schiff, a German-born New York financier who was the unofficial leader of American-Jewish philanthropy. Schiff offered to put up $500,000 of his own money for the plan, which he described to Israel Zangwill, a hopeful ally, in the following manner: “to make propaganda to Russia itself for a change of this flow of emigration to the United States, from the Atlantic ports to New Orleans and other Gulf [of Mexico] ports, to arrange with steamship lines to furnish the necessary facilities and to do all the manifold work which is necessary to promoted a large immigration into the indicated channels.”
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