In 1881, Russian Czar Alexander II was assassinated. The Russian government blamed Jews for the assassination and undertook violent physical attacks — called pograms — on them. In 1882, the government passed the May Laws, which sharply curtailed Jews' ability to earn a living and participate in Russian society.Faced with outright hostility and ostracism, many Jews left Eastern Europe, believing that the United States offered religious tolerance, economic opportunity, and the possibility for starting a new life. Eastern European Jews referred to the United States as the "goldineh medinah," Yiddish for golden land. In spite of physical problems leaving Eastern Europe — the difficulty of getting a passport, the high price of a steamship ticket, and the hunger, thirst, and sickness caused by the sea passage
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