Galveston Movement Symposium highlighted Texas' Jewish immigrants' stories
America is the land of the free, yet for immigrants, coming here involved some costs.
Posted: September 3, 2009
Dr. Stuart Rockoff
The Galveston Movement Symposium, held on Sept. 10-11, 2009 at The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, explored those costs in scholarly papers, presentations by story-tellers, and lively conversations among the descendants of those who came to America via the island city.
The event was planned by Dr. Suzanne Seriff of the Department of Anthropology and hosted by Dr. Robert Abzug, History Department member and director of the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, and The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Scholars, fiction writers, public health experts, filmmakers, and family storytellers came to explore the dramatic tales of thousands of Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe who managed to enter this country not through the “golden door” of Ellis Island, but through the southern gateway of Galveston, Texas between 1907 and 1914.
The History Department was well represented. Dr. Stuart Rockoff, a 2000 graduate of the department's Ph.D. program, gave the keynote address. Rockoff is currently director of the history department at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life and the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in Jackson, Miss.
He discussed various aspects of the Galveston Plan devised by philanthropist Jacob Schiff, who wished to disperse new immigrants beyond the already crowded tenement neighborhoods of New York. John McKiernan-Gonzalez, a professor in the department, delivered a paper on the role of public health in immigration.
A capacity audience of 115 registrants participated through the day and a half of lectures, panels, entertainments, and meals. It marked not only a fine conference that brought together academics and members of the broader community, but also a model for collaboration between units of the university and such public institutions as the Bullock History Museum.
Galveston Project keynote address (PDF, 180KB)