From the annals of history, we are often left with the mistaken impression that all Jewish immigrants to the United States in the early twentieth century arrived through Ellis Island. Certainly, millions of Eastern European Jews did come through New York, where many of them settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. However, Ellis Island was not the only port of entry to the United States, and approximately 10,000 Eastern European Jews came to the United States as part of the Galveston Movement, also known as the “Galveston Plan,” which brought them to Galveston, Texas.

A distinct majority of the new Jewish immigrants fit the description of the Statue of Liberty’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” They came to America in near poverty to escape persecution and turned to the already established Jewish community for help. The sheer numbers, however, were overwhelming. Jacob Schiff, a successful Jewish banker, businessman and philanthropist and a pillar of the German-Jewish community in New York, initiated and financed the Galveston Movement to divert the flow of immigration from the overcrowded tenements of New York.

In 1907, the Jewish Immigrants Information Bureau (JIIB) was created to organize the Galveston Movement. They partnered with the European Jewish Territorial Organization (ITO), which promoted and implemented the plan in Russia and Romania.  The emigrant Jews first traveled to Breman, Germany, and from there to Galveston, Texas, where they came under the care of Rabbi Henry Cohen of Congregation B’nai Israel. He greeted the immigrants, assisted them through the immigration process and then helped them move to other parts of the midwest, as Galveston was not a particularly large city. 

The Galveston Movement was in effect from 1907 until 1914, as the outbreak of World War I ended this era of Jewish immigration to Galveston.

This Treat was written in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month (May).

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