The Melting Pot: A Drama in Four Acts, Israel Zangwill, 1909

As a Jewish immigrant who had seen the worst of the pogromsPogrom, from the Russian word for “devastation,” refers to the attacks, riots and rampages against Jewish communities, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia. against Jews in Russia, DavidDavid was the King of Israel (c. 1000 BCE) credited with uniting the many tribes of Israel into a centralized kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. David is said to have planned for the Temple in Jerusalem, which was subsequently built by his son Solomon... Quixano, the main character of the play, has tremendous faith in America, his new land. He sees America as a place where the religious, national, and ethnic differences that had torn Europe apart can be overcome. Throughout the play, David, who is a composer, articulates his vision of America as a crucible or “melting pot.”  When he meets Vera Revendal, a young Russian settlement house worker who is Christian,  difficult issues of identity and prejudice arise as the two are attracted to one another, as can be seen in the excerpt here.


Vera: So your music finds inspiration in America?
David: Yes, in the seething of the Crucible.
Vera: The Crucible? I don’t understand!
David: Not understand! You, the Spirit of the Settlement!

[He rises and crossesThe cross is the central symbol of the Christian faith, pointing to the significance for the church of the whole Christ event: the life and teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. to her and leans over the table, facing her.]

Now understand that America is God’s Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming! Here you stand, good folk, think I, When I see them at Ellis Island, here you stand [graphically illustrating it at the table] in your fifty groups, with your fifty languages and histories, and your fifty blood hatreds and rivalries. But you won’t be long like that, brothers, for these are the fires of GodGod is a term used to refer to the Divine, the Supreme being, Transcendent deity, or Ultimate reality. you’ve come to—these are the fires of GodThe term god with a small “g” is used to refer to a deity or class of deities whose power is understood to be circumscribed or localized rather than universal, or to refer to a plurality of deities.. A fig for your feuds and vendettas! Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians—into the Crucible with you all!  God is making the American.

As much as Zangwill wanted to communicate the creation of a single American identity, his characters also struggle with the difficulties of overcoming both ethnic identity and the prejudice of others. Here Mendel, David’sDavid was the King of Israel (c. 1000 BCE) credited with uniting the many tribes of Israel into a centralized kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. David is said to have planned for the Temple in Jerusalem, which was subsequently built by his son Solomon... uncle, astonished to hear David say he will marry Vera, points out the importance of maintaining a Jewish identity.

Mendel: This is true? This is not some stupid PurimPurim is the Jewish festival commemorating the legendary rescue of the Jewish people from the threat of extermination in Persia. The festival celebration, with its costumes and revelry, always includes the reading of the book of Esther which tells the tal... joke?
David: True and sacred as the sunrise.
Mendel: But you are a Jew!
David: Yes, and just think! She was bred up to despise Jews—her father was a Russian baron—
Mendel: If she was the daughter of fifty barons, you cannot marry her.
David: [In pained amazement] Uncle! [slowly]  Then you hankering after the synagogueSynagogue, shul in Yiddish, is the most widely used term for a Jewish house of worship. Meaning a “place of gathering,” it is the central institution of Jewish communal life. The structure and role of synagogues has changed through the centuries, but ... was serious after all.
Mendel: It is not so much the synagogue—it its the call of our blood through immemorial generations.
David: You say that! You who have come to the heart of the Crucible, where the roaring fires of God are fusing our race with all the others.
Mendel [Passionately]: Not our race, not your race and mine.
David: What immunity has our race? [Meditatively] The pride and the prejudice, the dreams and the sacrifices, the traditions and the superstitions, the fasts and the feasts, things noble and things sordid—they must fall into the Crucible.
Mendel [With propheticA prophet is one who communicates a divine message or vision, sometimes calling people to repentance or awakening, sometimes predicting future events. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all look to Hebrew prophets, including Abraham and Moses. Muslims believe ... fury]: The Jew has been tried in a thousand fires and only tempered and annealed.
David: Fires of hate, not fires of love. That is what melts.
Mendel[Sneers}:  So I see.

[From IsraelLiterally “Wrestler with God”, Israel is the name given to the Jewish patriarch Jacob and came to refer to the entire nation, bound in an eternal covenant to God. Historically, Jews have continued to regard themselves as the continuation of the ancien... Zangwill, The Melting Pot: A Drama in Four Acts (New York: Macmillan & Co., 1919), 36-37, 94-96.]