The Galveston Movement

Bringing Eastern European Jews to the American West.

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This piece was written in June 1914. The author, Jacob Schiff, was the driving force behind the Galveston movement. Rabbi Henry Cohen of Galveston led the efforts in Texas, meeting ships at the port and helping immigrants make their way to their destinations. Many of the Jewish populations in the western portion of the United States can trace their origins to this project.

This article is disseminated with the permission of the Jewish Communal Service Association, publishers of The Journal of Jewish Communal Service. Subscriptions are available on line at Provided by the Berman Jewish Policy Archive.

The so-called "Galveston movement" was initiated in 1907 for the purposes of deflecting some part of the large emigration which has been flowing practically exclusively into the North Atlantic seaports--notably into New York--and directing it toward the Gulf, with the view of distributing these immigrants over the American "Hinterland" west of the Mississippi. Galveston was chosen as the most available port of entrance and a Jewish Immigrants' Information Bureau was established there under the auspices of a committee, which had its headquarters at New York and of which the writer of this was made chairman, with David M. Bressler as honorary secretary and managing director.

The "Ito"

The committee placed itself promptly after its organization into communication with the Jewish Territorial Organization, of which Israel Zangwill is the head, and an arrangement was entered into between that organization and the Galveston Committee, under which the former undertook to make propaganda in Russia and Roumania for acquainting intending emigrants with the advantages of going into the United States through Galveston, rather than to and through the overcrowded and congested North Atlantic ports.

family of Galveston immigrants

A family of Jewish Polish immigrants in Galveston

The Jewish Territorial Organization or "Ito," as it is popularly called, to this end established a number of committees in Russia under the able management of Dr. Jochelmann, of Kieff, where the headquarters of the "Ito" Emigration Regulation Department became located. It was stipulated, and this was carried into effect throughout, that, as demanded by the laws of the United States, no pecuniary assistance was to be extended to emigrants, but that the "Ito" and its committees should limit their activities to efforts destined to smooth the way of the emigrant, through a perfected system of supervision and advice, from the moment he left his home until his arrival at Galveston.

Reaching Galveston, immigrants are taken under the care of the Jewish Immigrants' Information Bureau. This bureau, originally established with Morris D. Waldman as its manager, who in turn was succeeded by Henry Berman and latterly by Maurice Epstein, gradually organized a system of agencies over the entire territory, extending from the Mississippi to the Pacific Coast, got in close touch with B'nai B'rith Lodges and kindred societies, from whom it obtained valuable support and cooperation, and thus it has been made possible to procure prompt employment for the immigrants, as these reached Galveston from time to time, and to distribute them over the large territory from the Mississippi to the Pacific Coast and from the Gulf to the Dominion boundary.

The expense of the Galveston establishment, the maintenance of immigrants' until employment had been found for them, the cost of transportation from Galveston to places of destination were all borne by the Galveston Committee, a sum approaching $300,000 having been expended to date for the between nine and ten thousand immigrants which have come to Galveston and have been distributed by the committee.

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Jacob Schiff was the driving force behind the Galveston movement. Schiff coordinated the Industrial Removal Office (IRO) in New York City, and the Jewish Territorial Organization (ITO) in Great Britain, to send Jewish immigrants to the port of Galveston, Texas.