The Jew Store is a story written by a lady whose family moved to America from Russia in the early 1900s. The first moved to New York and then found their way down to the South. They finally ended up in Nashville as their first permanent residence. They would not last there very long though, as they ended up taking a chance moving to the northwest part of Tennessee in a city called Concordia. The family was of the Jewish decent. They first moved to New York because it was so heavily concentrated with Jews.
At this time and period in America, I think Jews were looked down on heavily; maybe not as much as the African Americans, but definitely in that way. They were treated this way because they were not ‘Protestants’ or Gentiles. Especially when they moved down south, everyone knew that the new family coming through would be called the Jewish or the Jew family; it’s just how it was. The Bronson’s came to Nashville mainly to pursue their father’s dreams of becoming a businessman or store owner. But after arriving in Nashville, the Bronson’s were facing the realization that they would never have an opportunity to own a store in Nashville.
And I would like to point out, in order to run these stores; the whole family must be involved. So, Mr. Bronson took a risk he had to take if he wanted to reach his dreams, and the family set out for Concordia, Tennessee. The first thing Mr. Bronson did when he got to Concordia was change his name to an American one. He changed his name to Avram(? ) to Aaron. He thought this would be a good idea because it would make him more acceptable within the community. Aaron was led a little bit into the adrift in my opinion.
I think when he left Nashville, he thought he had an automatic store that was going to be given to him, but yet when he got there, he didn’t even have a place to call his own. When they first arrived in town, they had to stay at Miss Brookie’s house, and she was nice enough to let them stay free of pay. Miss Brookie might have been one of the only early people to step up and help out the Bronsons. Miss Brookie also had connections within the town. Her uncle, Tom Dillon, was a wealthy man who rented out stores or something of that nature. This was Mr.
Bronson’s first contact within the city that could help him acquire a place for a store. Dillon wasn’t necessarily the most welcoming to Mr. Bronson. He knew that coming in, Bronson could give him problems and take customers away from him, so in the beginning; Mr. Bronson was already fighting an uphill battle. The Bronson’s finally came up with enough to buy a house of their own after staying with Miss Brookie for a while. When they made this move, the neighbors were very welcoming. They would participate in activities together such as gardening and painting.
As partial as the community was to the Bronson’s when they first came into town, as time went along they became more accepted. People in the community were allowed to associate with them without being looked down upon. With that being said, there was still a bridge and gap between the Bronson’s and the community. People knew they were Jewish and were not Protestants, so this created a gap between them, especially on Sunday’s. Miriam, Stella’s(the author) older sister, always complained about how boring Sunday’s were. The Bronson’s were pretty much on their own on these days because the rest of the community spent their time at the church.
When the Bronson’s first came into town, they knew they would have to compete with other stores for customers. With that being said, they decided to target an audience they knew would side with them. At this time, blacks and Jews were oft looked down upon, so Mr. Bronson thought that if he could attract the African American demographic that his business could thrive. So, this was definitely a way to separate themselves from the Protestants of this time. Many of the religious people only associated with blacks if they had one as a maid or something.
The Bronson’s did not homeschool their kids or anything of that nature, so this exposed them to the Protestants in Concordia. I think it was important for them to send their kids to school in public, because this is where they got some of their customers. Their kids’ friends’ parents ended up coming to their store. Even though at first the Bronson’s faced an uphill battle at the beginning, by the time they were about to leave Concordia, they were well accepted throughout the community. Mr. Bronson helped out this community more than it could have ever imagined. Before they left, Mr.
Bronson was the lead guy in heading up the fundraiser to help keep the local shoe factory open. He agreed to match anybody’s money offer penny for penny. And just a reminder, this was a guy who was looked down upon after he moved into this city. I think this helped started bridging the gap between Jews and Protestants. This family was a nice family that worked that just wanted to succeed. And they were willing to do a lot of things to do that. I am going to go out on a limb and say that if a Protestant family had entered a community with these types of circumstances they might never have prevailed.
So, by giving this generous gift of money to the town, I think the Protestants realized that maybe these people were ‘Jewish,’ but that they just wanted well for everyone. An incident involving Miriam occurred around the time she was five years old. She might have been in the school systems, but I know she was with people of her age. They were at a Presbyterian church and the leader asked her where she went to church. She ended up trying to pronounce Presbyterian properly, but the point is she had no idea what they were asking. I think this community was very insecure about this Jewish family coming to their town.
They did not know how to react to them. I don’t know if they thought they may or may not try to come in and convert them, but I do know one lady from the town said “Once a Jew, always a Jew. ” To me this means they(the community) were trying to set an example that no matter what they did, they would not fully be a member of the community since they weren’t Protestants. The Bronson’s put up a good fight, but I still think people looked down on them just because they were Jewish. There was also another time when Myriam or Stella went to church with one of her friends.
It was to a Methodist institution to witness the baptism of a newborn baby. I do not think Mrs. Bronson was aware that Stella was going to an actual church service. She told Stella to only go to Sunday school. This was sort of confusing to me, because I figured Mrs. Bronson would be all out one way or the other. But by letting one of her daughters go to church, it could have exposed her. The final straw for Mrs. Bronson in Concordia was Myriam about marrying a Gentile. One of the first friends they met when they moved to Concordia was T, who also had a brother. But as Myriam was becoming more and more serious with T, Mrs.
Bronson started sweating more and more. She did not want her daughter to marry a non-Jew. With the threat of this rising, she immediately recommended the Bronson’s move back to New York so Myriam would not be able to marry a non-Jew. And that they did, the Bronson’s packed up and left. Their time in Tennessee was well made and they made a lot of progressions, but in the end their religion made them move back. The fear of one of Mrs. Bronson’s daughters marrying out of religion was too much for her. So, this was the biggest step they took to separate themselves from Protestantism.
I think the Bronson’s had it the toughest of all out of the three books I read. In the other two books, Muslims in America and The Madonna of 115th Street, these people came over together as a mass and usually lived in communities together. These were tight knit communities that bonded together and wanted to see one another succeed. The Bronson’s on the other hand, went into a new community by themselves and came out a pretty successful and well respected family. They had nobody to lean with the exception of very few people such as Miss Brookie.
The Muslims and Catholics on the other hand had a whole community to fall back on. They also faced adversity of a whole city, but I would take that route any day of the week. Also, what I have perceived from reading these three books. Americans like doing it their way. They don’t like having other people come in and do things contradictory to them. Americans like surrounding themselves with people who agree with them and like them. That is their comfort zone, and I think at a time like now in America, tensions are higher than ever because of all the surrounding circumstances that go against what we believe in.
Courtney from Study Moose
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