Letter of thanks to Rabbi Henry Cohen
"Angel of Mercy" helped Jewish immigrants coming through Galveston
Nearly 10,000 Jewish immigrants entered the United States through the Port of Galveston between 1907 and 1914. These immigrants were part of the "Galveston Movement," an organized plan led by the Jewish Immigrants’ Information Bureau to settle Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe in Texas and the Midwestern United States. When the immigrants arrived in Galveston they were often greeted by the friendly face of Rabbi Henry Cohen.
Thousands of Jewish immigrants were aided by people thought of as "angels of mercy" who guided immigrants through the often confusing inspection process. Rabbi Cohen was one such angel of mercy. A larger-than-life figure, Cohen reportedly met each immigrant ship to offer his services in navigating the bureaucracy.
Cohen and other religious leaders had unlimited access to the Galveston docks, allowing them to greet arriving immigrants and guide them through the inspection process. They often helped immigrants by intervening on their behalf with doctors and inspectors. In one instance, Cohen helped a male immigrant who had been detained because he had trachoma, a contagious eye disease. Cohen notified the immigrant’s brother in New Orleans of his situation. The brother, Max Scheinuk, asked if Cohen might help his brother get released so he could have his eye operated on. Cohen was able to help the immigrant, and his brother Max wrote to Cohen his profound thanks.
“I was very glad to hear that my brother won’t have to return. I congratulate you to your success and thank you for your trouble.” Max Scheinuk
After 1910, new federal inspectors in Galveston were especially strict on Jewish immigrants. The Jewish Immigrants’ Information Bureau decided to end the Galveston Movement after the inspectors disproportionately applied these strict regulations toward Jews coming through Galveston. Still, in the seven years of the Movement’s existence, the bureau successfully re-located Jews to cities throughout the Midwest. Fewer than 300 remained in Galveston.
Courtesy Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
Time Period: 1866 - 1936
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