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West of Hester Street (1983)

Galveston and Texas History Center - Rosenberg Library

Sound | 1983

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  •  Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe pour into the United States following the Russo-Japanese War 
  •  A plan emerges to redirect immigrants to the Port of Galveston 
  •  The SS Castle sails for Texas 
  •  Most of the immigrants soon leave Galveston to take jobs in other parts of Texas and the Midwest 
  •  An economic recession threatens the program’s survival 
  •  The special problems of being a Jew in Texas 
  •  Increased government restrictions on immigration lead to deportations 
  •  Putting down roots 
  •  The Jewish Immigration Information Bureau ceases its operations in Galveston 
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Written, produced, and directed by Allen Mondell and Cynthia Salzman Mondell, West of Hester Street is a 1983 documentary chronicling the movement of Jewish immigrants to Texas. Following the Russo-Japanese War in the early 1900s, Jewish immigrants began migrating en masse to the United States, mostly settling in New York City and other already crowded cities along the East Coast. Soon thereafter, the Jewish Immigration Information Bureau decided to redirect immigrants from Ellis Island to the Port of Galveston, alleviating potential conflicts arising from heavy immigration to the Northeast as well as strengthening Jewish communities in Texas. To tell this story, the documentary combines historical dramatizations of certain events with a fictionalized account of one immigrant’s story, the latter of which is narrated by Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Jaffe.