Children of the Ghetto: Zangwill’s title announced his intention to explore how the Ghetto experience had shaped new English residents who came from Eastern Europe and Russia. Instead of the “Pale of Settlement,” the term for the residence of the Jews in Eastern Europe and Russia, he turned to Italian Jewish history and the Venetian/Italian language to designate what the Jews had become in their long European exile. In Zangwill’s view, the Ghetto was the defining space of modern Jewish life and — not exactly a promised land — generated the psychological drive in the Jews to imagine alternative modern Jewish spaces.
The gates of the Ghetto are not easily forgotten: internalized, the Jewish space of the Venice and Rome Ghettos becomes in modern times a psychological force, and even we might say, a central trope in the discourse of modern Jewish experience. The institutionalized practices of the English, “especially regarding matters of education, language, and the poor, prompt the immigrant Ashkenazim” to be, in Zangwill’s phrasing, “their own Ghetto gates.” Like their Italian Ghetto forebears, these immigrant Ashkenazim in England must forge their identities out of an either/or situation.
Zangwill, novelist, social critic, and ethnographer devised in Children of the Ghetto a cultural turnabout of the European stigmatized Jewish stereotype.