LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 24, No.3 - Fall 1978
Editor of this issue: Kęstutis Girnius
Copyright © 1978 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
The New Jersey Ethnic Experience, ed. by Barbara Cunningham. Wm. H. Wise & Co., Union City, New Jersey, 1977, 466 pages.
The state of New Jersey is to be commended for this splendid volume of 31 articles (all but two are original) about as many ethnic groups. The contributors, some of whom are specialists in immigrant history, write enthusiastically about their heritages. The notices average some fifteen pages each, and append a selected bibliography. The reader need not be an expert to relish these rewarding essays, enriched for the most part with introductions of European and Mideast background. It is good that Prof. Jack Stukas was available to pen the material on Lithuanians inasmuch as the editor indicates that 50 ethnic bodies were identified within the state, but not all responded to the request for participation. This review confines itself to the article of Stukas.
"Lithuanians" runs twenty pages, illustrated with four photographs, including a reading list of eighteen titles, and a short author's biography at the beginning. In the opening paragraphs, the writer sketches homeland history and Lithuanians in America. Then he devotes nine pages to ushering in the immigrants colony by colony: Elizabeth, Newark, Paterson, Bayonne, Linden, Jersey City, Trenton and Freehold. Stukas adds sections of national organizations and cultural life in New Jersey. The strength of the article is the portion on Lithuanian settlements.
This reviewer's chief reservation is the presentation of Lithuanians as if they were all Roman Catholics whose New Jersey experience was uninterruptedly placid. There is virtually no mention of socialists and freethinkers who represented a sizeable minority of these immigrants, nor is there a hint of intramural religious controversy. Such an approach is not satisfactory from the viewpoint of immigration history. By contrast, the piece on the Italians by Rudolph Vecoli is much more realistic, delving into conflict as it does.
One senses that the contributor moved hastily without checking his material. In the appended book list, Gerutis should be identified as editor of Lithuania 700 Years, and Budreckis' title is incomplete, lacking the dates 1651-1975. Most conspicuous by omission is the Encyclopedia Lituanica (Boston, 1970- ), the nearly-completed set of six volumes, and mention of Thomas G. Chase, The Story of Lithuania (New York, 1946). Factual errors include: p. 323 Aušra began in 1883 not 1886; p. 327the priest mentioned under "Newark" wrote his name Žebris, not with a "y", as is evident from his own signature on parish reports to his bishop; also, Žebris was pastor of St. Joseph, Waterbury in 1894; though he serviced the Hartford Lithuanians as a mission, 2ebris never lived in Hartford; p. 334mention of the "St." Algirdas Society is either a typesetter's slip, or the charter members incorrectly attributed to their patron a degree of heroic virtue not publicly acclaimed by church authorities.
Despite these flaws, Stukas has done a service to his ethnic stock by taking on the responsibility of sharing in this bicentennial collection. Perhaps he will inspire some other investigators to probe the ground he has broken by opening the way to a glimpse at New Jersey Lithuanians
Rev. Wm. Wolkovich-Valkavičius
Boston College (gr. st.)