The decline of the traditional way of life significantly shook the foundations of the sexual morality of East European Jewry. Emancipation, assimilation, and contact with the life of other nations alien to Jewry were accompanied by the assimilation of not only language and culture, but also vicious morals.
The growth of prostitution among Jews of the first wave of mass emigration from Eastern Europe to England and the USA (1880s), when the sudden rejection of the traditional way of life and related moral ideas was not compensated by integration in the new environment and assimilation of its values, is especially noticeable.
Various, but related factors – the growth of anti-Semitism, urbanization, impoverishment, the loss of traditional religious and moral ideas – contributed to the spread of prostitution among Jews in many countries (in Russia and other European countries, in Argentina, the USA, North and South Africa, Turkey etc.).
In the 19th century the so-called commercial prostitution was widespread, among the organizers of which there were many Jews. This phenomenon was used and in every possible way exaggerated by anti-Semitic propaganda. The English scientist M. Ryan wrote in the book Philosophy of Marriage (London, 1839) about the emergence of commercial prostitution in London: “… the hellish process continues to intensify, especially in the eastern part of the city, and is carried out mainly by Jews.
These traders of white goods trap young girls in their lairs of lawlessness, and then sell them to disgusting libertines … “According to statistics published in 1867 by the Paris monthly” Archive Israelite de France “, among prostitutes in Paris, London, Brussels, In Hamburg, Vienna, Warsaw and Krakow, the percentage of Jews was significantly higher than non-Jews. Commercial prostitution has received a new incentive in connection with the settlement of vast territories in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa.
Information about Jewish pimps who married Jewish girls from Eastern Europe who wanted to escape from poverty and lack of rights, took them to South America and forced them to sell their bodies there, are preserved in the records of court hearings in the archives of large cities (Berlin, Hamburg, London and others). In 1900, a total of 578 pimps were arrested in these cities, of which 214 (37%) were Jews.
Such a high percentage of Jews among those arrested is explained by the fact that Jewish organizations were constantly fighting prostitution and ruthlessly extradited pimps to the police. Most Jewish pimps came from cities and towns in Eastern Europe. Especially a lot of them acted in Argentina. Expelled from the community, these “unclean” created their own organization “Zvi Migdal”, which had a separate synagogue and cemetery in Buenos Aires.
The spread of prostitution among the Jews of the Russian Empire was also associated with the pogroms of 1881–82, with the eviction of Jews from the villages, which deprived about half a million people of livelihood with the expulsion of Jews from Moscow (1891) and other anti-Jewish actions. There are facts when Jewish girls from the Pale of Permit obtained official permission to engage in prostitution – the “yellow ticket”, thanks to which they received the right to live in St. Petersburg and Moscow, where they wanted to get higher education.
Big cities became centers of prostitution. In 1872, in Warsaw, Jewish women made up 70% of women who had a “yellow ticket”; in Vilna in 1873 – 47%, in Lviv and Krakow in 1874 – 27%. In 30 of the 36 brothels operating in 1889 in the Kherson province, Jewish women were also kept. The leaders of the Jewish communities of Warsaw have repeatedly appealed to various authorities with complaints about the unhindered activity of pimps who transported women seduced by them abroad. Jewish communities everywhere struggled with prostitution and pimping. In 1905, in Warsaw, Jewish workers (mostly members of the Bund) staged the rout of Jewish brothels and clandestine dens (the so-called Alphonse Pogrom); among the dead were Jewish pimps.
Mass political protests against “white slavery” took place in New York in 1900–1901, in Chicago in 1909, in Buenos Aires in 1930. In the struggle against prostitution, Jewish communities resorted to cherem and ostracism. Jewish public figures, including C.J. G. Montefiore and S. Cohen (Secretary of the Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women), played a significant role in this struggle. A study of prostitution among Jews in Galicia in 1903 found women prostitutes from orthodox families.
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