Push and Pull Factors

Italian Push and Pull Factors: St. Maria Goretti Roman Catholic Church

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In the heart of a busy intersection, the St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church stands proudly, a tower of ornate brick and stone statuary.  It is the amalgamation of three former parishes: the St. Lawrence O’Toole, Immaculate Conception, and St. Joseph’s Catholic Churches (“Saint Maria Goretti.”).  St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church was founded by German immigrants in 1867, accommodating a surge in Bloomfield’s population during the late 18th century (“Saint Joseph (German), Manchester.”).  The Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church was established in 1906, serving an Italian immigrant congregation.  The first major group of immigrants arrived in the 1900s, with another wave settling in the area before and during the Second World War (Grano, Anthony.).

Italian immigrants came to America in search of better lives.  Because of population growth in Italy, many native Italians were forced to live in smaller and more crowded homes and communities, barely eking out a living.  These men and women were prohibited from obtaining better lives in Italy due to a dearth of financial resources, so they searched for brighter futures elsewhere.  Unfortunately, most Italian immigrants still found poverty upon arrival, being forced by language barriers into unskilled labor and low wages.  However, their lives were still often better than those they left behind, so the flow of emigration continued (Hay, Jeff.)

The majority of Italian immigrants emigrated from Southern Italy, as the 1860 reunification of Southern and Northern Italy led to a government that “favored the North”. Another important factor in this mass exodus was familial ties, as many hoped to settle with siblings and parents who had already crossed the Atlantic (“Immigration Library”).  Due to strong family ties and religious values like those exhibited by the congregation of the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Italian immigrants  gradually integrated with mainstream American society.

1- “Saint Joseph (German), Manchester.” Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh |. Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, 2014. Web. 03 May 2014.

2- “Saint Maria Goretti.” Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh |. Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, 2014. Web. 03 May 2014.

3- “Immaculate Conception, Bloomfield.” Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh |. Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, 2014. Web. 03 May 2014.

4- Grano, Anthony. “Bloomfield, Pittsburgh’s Little Italy | Lagazzettaitaliana.com.” Bloomfield, Pittsburgh’s Little Italy | Lagazzettaitaliana.com. La Gazzetta Italiana, n.d. Web. 03 May 2014.

5- Hay, Jeff. “Immigrants from Italy.” Immigration. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2001. 81-83. Print.

6- “Immigration Library.” Immigration Library. The Advocates for Human Rights, 2011. Web. 02 May 2014.


Jewish Push and Pull Factors: Rodef Shalom

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The inscription on the synagogue entrance reads “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people”.  As I walk through the well-manicured garden of the Rodef Shalom, the concave, aquamarine roof casts an oblong shadow on the abstract menorahs that light the grounds.  The synagogue has a convoluted history; it was split into two congregations in 1855, then reunited after reconciliation in 1860.  Over the following decades, Rodef Shalom changed from Orthodox Judaism to Reform Judaism, instituting major changes in doctrine and services.  In 1870, Rabbi Lippman Mayer began delivering sermons in English rather than the traditional German, then hosted a meeting of other Pittsburgh Reform rabbis in 1885.  This new “Pittsburgh Platform” led to a change of doctrine, deciding that the Bible was not to be used as “the infallible word of God” and stating that keeping Kosher was no longer mandatory.  These decisions served as the official platform for North American Reform Judaism until 1937.  Because of the significance and importance of Rodef Shalom, many Jewish immigrants moving from Europe settled in the area and joined the congregation (“History of Rodef Shalom”).

Much of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community emigrated to America to escape discrimination and persecution in their home communities.  In 1904, the largest wave of Jewish Immigrants fled Russia and Poland’s Tsarist government, which restricted the areas in which they could reside and their available jobs.  The Russian Pogroms in 1881- 1884 and 1903- 1906 forced many Jews to flee their ancestral homes for a safer life in America (“American Jewish Immigration”).  German Jews fled during the late 1840s and 1850s after failed liberal revolutions, continuing this political mindset throughout their lives in America.  Like the congregation of Rodef Shalom, many synagogues embraced Reform Judaism over Orthodox Judaism (Bazelon, Bruce.).

Besides emigrating to America for personal safety and freedom, Jewish Immigrants also made the difficult trans-Atlantic journey for religious and economic reasons.  In Poland, rural cooperatives were created to exclude Jews from the local economy, and the Romanian government attempted to “drive them out of the country”.  Many Eastern European governments used persecution and intimidation to attempt to solve “the Jewish problem”, and fueled much Semitic emigration out of Europe and into the United States (Ettinger, Shmuel.).

1-Bazelon, Bruce. “Jews in Pennsylvania.” Groups. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1986. Web. 03 May 2014.

2-“History of Rodef Shalom.” Rodef Shalom. Rodef Shalom Congregation, n.d. Web. 03 May 2014.

3- Hay, Jeff. “Jewish Peoples in the United States.” Immigration. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2001. 84-85. Print.

4- Ettinger, Shmuel. “Jewish Emigration in the 19th Century – My Jewish Learning.” Jewish Emigration in the 19th Century – My Jewish Learning. My Jewish Learning, n.d. Web. 03 May 2014.

5-“American Jewish Immigration.” The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art RSS. The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, n.d. Web. 02 May 2014.



Polish Push and Pull Factors: Immaculate Heart of Mary Church

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As I walk up the debris littered slope of Polish Hill, the turquoise cupola atop the massive dome of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church stands sentinel over the panorama of Pittsburgh neighborhoods.  This Catholic Church, according to an earnest usher within the main foyer, was built by Polish immigrants who would labor an additional eight hours upon arriving home from a 12 hour shift.  His enthusiasm is soon dampened, however as he explains that “many young people are abandoning the beautiful church” and its congregation is shrinking.  Despite this modern exodus, however, the traditional beliefs and practices of the original parish are evident in the ethnic traditions still celebrated and the ornate artwork filling the interior of the sanctuary (“Catholic Church Pittsburgh”).

Polish immigrants came to America seeking land and a better economic prospects.  The steel mills of Pittsburgh provided a steady, if dangerous, source of income.  However, Polish Americans often were accused of “ruining” the economy, as they sent money back home to relatives who had not yet emigrated (“Immigration Library.”).  Some anti- immigrant vigilante groups, including militant members of the Know Nothing Party, violently reacted to this stigma with raids and assaults (Hay 25).  According to an elderly churchgoer of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Party once destroyed the enormous stained glass windows that adorn the sides of the church with stones, attempting to drive the Catholics out of Polish Hill.  Despite these accusations and hardships, the Polish Americans continued to arrive and work, becoming an important factor in the Industrial Revolution.

Although financial incentives spurred the migration to America from Poland, the poor and dangerous conditions back home served to force many immigrants out of the country.  In 1919, in fact, “60% of the land was owned by 2% of the population”.  This discrepancy forced thousands of Poles to seek land and property elsewhere (“Immigration Library.”).  Religious liberty, too, spurred the mass exodus from Europe.  The largely Roman Catholic Polish immigrants, such as those that founded the Immaculate Heart of Mary, were scattered and persecuted by the Russian, Austria-Hungarian, and Prussian Empires (“Polish/Russian – The Nation of Polonia”). These and other factors galvanized the mass departure of Polish immigrants out of Europe and into Pittsburgh.

1-“Catholic Church Pittsburgh, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church History.” Catholic Church Pittsburgh, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church History. Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.

2- Hay, Jeff. Immigration. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001. Print.

3-“Immigration Library.” Immigration Library. The Advocates for Human Rights, 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

4-“An Interior Ellis Island.” An Interior Ellis Island. MTU Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, 2007. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

5-“Polish/Russian – The Nation of Polonia – Immigration…- Classroom Presentation | Teacher Resources – Library of Congress.”Polish/Russian – The Nation of Polonia – Immigration…- Classroom Presentation | Teacher Resources – Library of Congress. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.


German Immigration: Push and Pull Factors

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I walk a Pittsburgh street studded with plaques commemorating the German immigrants who first settled here, finally arriving at the historic Priory hotel, formerly a home for Benedictine priests and Brothers (“Priory Hotel History”).

The German immigrants who worshipped here arrived in their greatest numbers in the 1880s. In this decade, almost 1.5 million emigrated to the United States, seeking better lives and new opportunities (“The Germans in America”). Catholic immigrants, especially priests like those in the Priory, fled Bismark’s Kulturkampf, in which the Catholic Church and the Prussian State fought for influence and control. The German 1878 -1890 Anti-Socialist law forced many Democratic and Socialist activists to emigrate to American cities, hoping to campaign in an environment more conducive to free speech. Finally, many German minority immigrants fled to America to escape the horrors of the Holocaust in the 1935- 1945 era (Adams, Willi Paul).

The many German immigrants who are commemorated with the plaques along Pittsburgh’s Lockhart Street left their homes for a multitude of reasons, propelled by the desire for a better life. They sought to gain religious and intellectual freedom, finding a dearth of such liberties under the regimes of Bismarck and Hitler (Addams, Willi Paul). Another motivational factor in this great migration was economic prosperity, as America’s industries surpassed those of Germany and offered a chance at greater riches (“Waves of German Immigrants”)

As I walk through the ornate hallways of the Priory Hotel, I appreciate the beautiful architecture and array of historic artifacts lining the walls. The building itself, repurposed as a hotel in 1888, still maintains strong ties with its rich history (“Priory Hotel History.”). Framed maps, blueprints, and photographs provide physical testimony to the changes wrought in Pittsburgh society by arriving immigrants. Building this edifice was, for many, a fulfillment of the American Dream.

1- “Priory Hotel History.” The Historic Priory Hotel in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. The Priory Hotel, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.

2- “The Germans in America.” Chronology : (European Reading Room, Library of Congress). The Library of Congress, 21 Sept. 2010. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

3- Adams, Willi Paul, Lavern J. Rippley, and Eberhard Reichmann. “The German-Americans-Chapter Two.” The German-Americans: An Ethnic Experience. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.

4- “Waves of German Immigrants.” Immigration Library. The Advocates for Human Rights, 2011. Web. 04 Apr. 2014.