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ENGLISH TEST
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A Boys Journey (Document 1)


My name is Seymour Rechtzeit and I was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1912. My family is Jewish, and I
first
began singing in our temple. By the time I was four, I was called wunderkind, or wonder child in
English.
Soon I was singing in concerts all over Poland.
My family decided that I should come to America, where there would be more opportunities for me.
World
5 War I had just ended, and it was a bad time in Europe. I had an uncle in America, and he sent two
tickets
for my father and me. The rest of my family stayed in Poland. The plan was that my father and I
would make
enough money to bring them to America, too.
In Danzig, now known as Gdansk, we boarded a ship called The Lapland. It was 1920, and I was
on my
way to America.
10 Riding on a big boat across the Atlantic Ocean may sound like fun, but it wasnt. The two-week
trip was
miserable! Our room was in steerage, way down in the bottom of the boat. It was lined with bunks,
one
on top of the other. It was uncomfortable and crowded. I went up deck all the time, just to have
room to
move around.
We hit many bad storms at sea. It rained hard, and I was wet and shivering. By the time we sailed
into New
15 York Harbor past the Statue of Liberty, I had a very bad cold. Still, I was up on deck, in my good
white suit,
cheering along with everyone else at the awesome sight of the statue.
Back then, immigrants had to pass a medical examination to be allowed to enter the country. Many
people
were sent back to where they came from. I was eight years old and I was ill. I didnt know what was
going
to happen to me in America.
20 At Ellis Island, my father, who was not sick, had to leave the ship. He stood in long lines and
officials asked
him lots of questions about where he came from, what he did for a living back in Poland, and what
his plans
were in America. All newcomers had to answer those questions. Only then could you leave Ellis
Island and
take a ferry to New York and finally set foot in America.
When the doctor examined me, he discovered I had a cold. He said I could not go with my father. I
cried
25 and begged. I was terrified to be alone in this strange place.
I stayed on Ellis Island for a few days, until I was feeling better. I had no toys with me. I didnt know
of such
things. But there were other sick boys to keep me company. Some of them spoke Yiddish, my
language.
We ate in a huge dining room. The food was different it was American style. But it was good,
especially
the milk.
30 There was a long gate that led to the boats that took people off the island, across New York
Harbor*, to the
city. Every day, we boys would walk to the gate and look out over the water. We wanted to see
America. It19
was like being in jail. We felt sad and wondered if we would ever get through the gate and onto a
boat for
that final journey to our new country, the United States.
My cold went away, and soon the officials told me that my father and uncle were coming to get me.
35 As I stepped off the boat from Ellis Island, I felt a rush of joy. All around me were hundreds of
families
greetings their relatives, welcoming them to America.
That was the beginning of my new life in New York. Right away I started singing in concerts and
making
money to help bring the rest of my family to America. I sang in school, too. I sang My Country Tis
of Thee*
and The Star-Spangled Banner*. I learned quickly.
40 I became a child star of vaudeville. Thats a kind of entertainment in which actors sing and tell
stories. I was
very popular because I was a kid. I traveled* from place to place to entertain.
In a few years I had made enough money to bring my mother, brothers and sisters to America. But I
faced
a new problem. It was 1924, and not as many immigrants were being allowed into America. My
family
could not get permission to come. They were in Poland, and my father and I were in America.
How would we be a family again ?
45

Seymour Rechtzeit, A Boys Journey (2002),


Scholastic D.R.

*My Country Tis of Thee: First national anthem of the United States.

Ellis Island, in the early 20th century.

JACOB moved on toward the second inspection team. "You speak English?"
" A little," said Jacob.
"I see you limp slightly. Something wrong with your leg?"
No.
He began to sweat. The wound from the Cossack's bullet had long since healed, but
sometimes it ached a bit. The doctor marked something on his coat.
"What that mean?" asked Jacob.
"Your leg will have to be looked at. What's three and three?"
"Six. But nothing wrong with my leg!"
"It'll have to be looked at. Move on."
Jacob obeyed. Now he was a wreck.
Oh God, he thought, don't send me back! Please!
He entered a small room, immaculately clean, filled with medical furniture. A nice-looking
young doctor with sandy hair looked at the chalk mark on his coat.
'"There nothing wrong with me," Jacob blurted out. "You see! I healthy!'"
Calm down
"How can I be calm? I can't go back to Russia. They kill me!"
The doctor looked surprised, and Jacob realized he should have shut up.
"Why?"
"They kill all Jews," he said quickly. "Russians hate Jews."
"Yes, so I hear. Drop your pants, please."
Nervously Jacob obeyed. The doctor leaned down to examine the bullet wound.
"What's that?" he said.
"I got shot. Hunting accident." The doctor looked at him suspiciously. "Hunting? Did a doctor
treat it?"
"No. I mean, yes! It all right. Honest! No problem! I healthy, make good American. You see."
The doctor straightened. "All right, pull your pants up. What's the real story?"
Jacob quickly pulled up his pants. "I tell truth. Hunting accident in Russia. I healthy.Look: fee!
muscle. Strong! Healthy! See?
Jacob was in such an agony of apprehension that Dr. Carl Travers almost laughed.
"Yes, I think you are healthy," he said. "And welcome to America."
Jacob was staring at him.
"You mean I pass?"
"That's right. I have a funny feeling you were what they were hunting, but you pass."

Fred Mustard STEWART, Ellis Island (1983)

READING COMPREHENSION :
(Document 1) A Boys Journey
STRUCTURE OF THE TEXT /2
Skim the text to put the following events into their correct order :
Farewell to Poland / Crossing the Atlantic / Ellis Island / Life in
New York
/0.5 This text is a first person narrative

/1 The story is told from the point of view of Seymour


Rechtzeit , the young narrator.
/0.5 It is an extract from an autobiographical novel

a- Complete the grid : /3

Main characters full Country of Year of birth Religion Special talent


name origin
Seymour Rechtzeit In Lodz, 1912 Jewish / a His voice / a
POLAND Jew singer/ a wonder
child

b-Tick the correct answer . Justify ,, by quoting from


the text: /5

The expression wonder child means : enfant prodige

The family thought that the child would do well in America . YES
(l.4) My family decided that I should come to America where
there would be more opportunities for me.
Once in America he would earn money for his family . YES
(l.7) The plan was that my father and I would make enough
money to bring them to America.
It was after World War I and conditions in Europe were hopeful. NO
(l.5) World War 1 had just ended, and it was a bad time in
Europe.

PART TWO
Complete the grid /4
Port Name Year Name of the Length of Part of the ship for 3rd Final
of of ship of departure ocean the trip class destination
departure to be crossed passengers
The 1920 The Two in steerage America /
Danzig Laplan Atlantic weeks New York
known d Ocean City
as
Gdansk

PART THREE

Right or wrong ? Justify answers , by quoting from the


text : /3.5

Seymour was allowed to leave with his father , although he was sick . NO
(l.24) He said I could not go with my father.
He stayed on Ellis Island until his cold went away . YES

(l.26) I stayed on Ellis Island for a few days.

Yiddish refers to the traditional language of the Jewish people in


Europe

PART FOUR
a) What does the Star-Spangled Banner (l.39) refer to in
the text ? /1
It doesnt refer to the American flag in the text, but to the
national anthem of the United States of America.
b) Right or wrong ? Justify by quoting from the text : /3

Seymour s family was not allowed to come to the United States in 1924 . YES
(l.43) It was 1924 and not as many immigrants were being

allowed into America.

He was quickly known as a famous actor and singer in New York and the US .
YES (l.41) I was very popular because I was a kid. I traveled*
from place to place to entertain.
How do we know this is a real-life story ? (20-30 words) /4
This is a real life story because the story is told from the point of
view of Seymour Rechtzeit who is both the narrator and the
author of the novel. It is a first person narrative which is based on
a true story. It tells the true story of a talented Jewish singer from
Poland who immigrated to America with his family in search of a
better life and who quickly became a star of Yiddish Theatre in
New York. The reader is given many autobiographical details
about the narrator, his family background, the journey across the
Atlantic, his processing onto Ellis Island, his new life as a star of
Yiddish Theater etc. which enables the reader to see through his
eyes, to experience his feelings and to be in his shoes. The
reader is given an insight into the boys journey as an immigrant.

The journey across the Atlantic was difficult and consequently


full of suspense.
Give 3 details indicating the difficulties. /4
The journey across the Atlantic must have been tiring as it lasted
2 weeks and they travelled in steerage ( they had third-class
tickets which meant travelling uncomfortably) surrounded by
many passengers and had no room to move / it was crowded with
little room) On top of that the weather conditions were really bad
(hit bad storms/ cold and rainy) . It must have been cold in
steerage, thats why he got sick on the boat. It was not a healthy
way to travel in the cold and rain.
Another element of suspense happens on Ellis Island. Which
one ? Explain why the reader fears for (= craindre pour
quelquun /avoir peur ) Seymour and sympathizes with (= avoir de la

sympathie pour) him. /4


When the boy was diagnosed as having a cold ( they found out
about his being sick) , he was not allowed to take the ferry with
his Dad (he was not given permission to leave the island with his
Dad) and consequently he got stuck on the island. The reader
feels sorry for Seymour and sympathizes with the young boy as
we can easily imagine how frustrating and upsetting it must have
been for a 8-year-old boy to find himself in a foreign country,
surrounded by people he didnt know (=strangers). He must have
felt lost and helpless as he could not make himself understood (=
did not speak the language)
Tick the adjectives which best describe Seymours personality
and justify your choices. /2
courageous cheerful determined sociable impatient
enthusiastic

(Document 2) Dont Send Me Back !


Don't Send Me Back is an extract from the novel Ellis Island
written by Fred Mustard Stewart and published in 1983
Briefly introduce the main character (Name, probable age, nationality,
religion.) /2
The main character is called Jacob who is a Russian Jew who is
probably in his twenties.
Who are the other characters present in the text ? /2
A Ellis Island inspector and a young doctor called Dr. Carl Travers.
How are they related to the main character ? /2
They are in charge of (the medical tests) examining Jacob on the
Island to decide if he is healthy enough to enter the country.
Where and when does the action take place ? /3

The action takes place on Ellis Island at the immigration station


in the early 20th century, more precisely on the narrators arrival
in America.
Why did the main character decide to leave his home county ?
Explain in your own words and then justify quoting from the text /
3
He decided to flee his home country because being Jewish he must
have suffered religious persecution back in Russia (his
homeland) / he must have been the prey of the Russian hunters
(soldiers) "They kill all Jews" / "How can I be calm? I can't go back
to Russia. They kill me !"
What happened to Jacob? Try to account for / explain the origin
of his wound. /3
He was hunted by soldiers and they shot him like a rabbit, thats
how he got his wound. He was prey of the Russian hunters
(soldiers) . However he pretends his wound was caused by a
hunting accident in Russia. / Jacob doesn't want to admit that he
has a problem because he doesn't want to be sent back to Russia
Are the following statements Right or Wrong? Justify quoting
from the text. /7.5

a- Jacob wishes he had not mentioned his life was threatened in Russia. Right
Jacob realized he should have shut up.
b- The doctor looks down on Jacob. He is disdainful /despiteful. Wrong
Calm down
c- The doctor who examines Jacob is gullible and believes his story about the hunting
accident. Wrong
The doctor looked at him suspiciously / Whats the real
story?
d- Jacob is very eager to show he will be able to fit into the American society . Right
I healthy. Look ! fee! muscle. Strong! Healthy! See?
e- Jacob fails the test and is going to be sent back to his home-country . Wrong
"Yes, I think you are healthy," he said. "And welcome to
America."

Analyse Dr Travers attitude towards Jacob. How do you explain


that he eventually lets him pass? /4
The doctor is open-minded and understanding towards Jacob and
his fear of being sent back to Russia. Even if he understands the
origin of Jacobs wound, he decides to let him enter the American
territory. The doctor obviously doesnt believe Jacob especially
when he says I have the funny feeling you were what they were
hunting .
(Document 1 & Document 2)

Compare and contrast the two main characters in both texts?


(50 words) /6
Both text is a clear illustration of millions of immigrants who
landed on Ellis Island during one century (from the
mid19th century to the mid 20th century). Through both stories of
Jacob and Seymour , we understand what the immigrants had to
undergo on Elis Island when they arrived on Ellis Island (fear,
anguish, medical inspection, humiliation and separation for many
of them). Despite their young ages, both characters came in
search of a new life, to escape their miserable lives in their
country of origin and live in a land of freedom and opportunity,.
Both characters were Jewish immigrants. Unlike Seymour who fled
poverty in his homeland, Jacob left to flee the war and religious
persecution (he was persecuted in Russia for his being Jewish).
Despite his wound, Jacob was allowed into the country, while
Seymour was stuck on the island for a few days. Both Seymour
and Jacob were welcomed and were eventually allowed to enter
the country. None of them were sent back. Both characters
experienced fear on the island and at one point they were in a
state of complete panic.

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