afternoon I met on the street a man with a large, old straw
hat drawn far over his face. He was perspiring in his linen
coat, and carried two enormous tin boxes on his shoulders.
He had a large clay pipe in his mouth, a pair of golden
spectacles on his nose, and dragged himself along with painful
effort. I looked at him closely and recognized my friend
Stein. Upon noticing my astonishment, he said, smilingly:
of the German and Polish Jews in America look like this,
and the rest of them did till a very short time ago."
As he was going homeward I accompanied him to his house.
A quarter of an hour later he emerged completely metamorphosed.
He looked genteel again. He informed his wife laughingly
that I had met him in his peddler's costume. He now described
to me graphically the misery and the drudgery of the peddler's
Our people in this country, said he, may be divided into
the following classes: the basket peddler -- as yet altogether
dumb and hopeless: the trunk carrier who stammers some English
and hopes for better times; the pack carrier who carries
from one hundred to one hundred and fifty pounds upon his
back and indulges the thought that he will become a business
man some day; the wagon baron with a one or two horse team;
the jewelry count who carries his stock in a small trunk,
and is considered a rich man by some; the store prince who
has a shop and sells goods in it.
what about the people of intelligence?" asked I.
America," said he, "a man must be either all head or all
back. Those who are all head remain in Europe; those who
are in this country must be all back, and forego all intellectual
why?" I asked further.
order to become rich," said he. "The foreigner must either
become rich or go to the wall; he has no alternative. The
end and aim of all striving in this country is to become
rich; everything else is secondary. Home, friends, society,
honor, religion, knowledge, yes, even pleasure and enjoyment,
are all of slight import compared with this. Money, much
money, more money; this, it is, that moves the mind and
controls the activities of the body."
He continued in this vein, and drew a picture that was most
disagreeable to me.
spiritual treasures, then, are sacrificed to this chase
for material gain," cried I. "If so, then tell me why these
people form congregations and build synagogues?"
they do this from inherited habit," rejoined Stein. This
one wishes to become parnass [synagogue president], and
that one a trustee, in order to be able to give orders and
make his importance felt. He saw this at home and imitates
it here. There is no earnestness, no spirit, no idealism
in the whole proceeding.