Baron Hirsch Genealogical and Historical Archives

Baron Maurice de Hirsch

The genealogical and historical archives described below contain reports and correspondence relating to Baron Hirsch-funded Jewish farming projects and individual immigrants who received aid from the Baron Hirsch charitable organizations. These archives are scattered around the world. Some of the holdings have been described digitally – see the links below – but most are only available on-site. The archives are listed here in alphabetical order by city.

For texts in French, Spanish and Portuguese I suggest copy-pasting into google translate. It really works.

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The Catskills, Farming the Jewish Alps

Hospitality and Kosher Chickens

Original Grossinger Farm at Ferndale, Library of Congress, John Margolies, photographer

In 1913, Selig and Malke Grossinger, aided by the Baron Hirsch Fund’s Jewish Agricultural Society (JAS), bought a farm in the Catskills Mountains in Ferndale, New York, 100 miles north of Manhattan. They began to take in paying guests who were fleeing New York City’s heat and humidity each summer. 1

The Grossingers were among the close to two thousand other Jewish immigrant families who bought farms in the foothills of the Catskills mountains in the 1890s or during the first decades of the twentieth century, many with JAS assistance. Like these other farmers, the Grossingers found that the rocky Catskills soil, which had allowed them to buy the land cheaply, did not respond well to crop raising. 

Grossingers Front View, Liberty, NY, Library of Congress, John Margolies, photographer

But summer guests seeking cool air and kosher food were indeed profitable. The Grossingers’ enterprise became extremely profitable, with 150,000 guests each year, served in a property of over 1200 acres that boasted its own airfield and performers as famous as Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis. Grossingers was also the first resort in the country to use artificial snow on its ski slopes. And Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher were married at Grossingers.

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  1. Lavender, Abraham, and Steinberg, Clarence, Jewish farmers of the Catskills, In the Catskills, A Century of the Jewish Experience in The Mountains. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. p. 33. []

Nightingale’s Nest, a Catskill Summer Story

This delightful short story was offered to thebaronhirschcommunity.org by the author’s daughter, Nora Fischer Kisch, and the author’s niece and nephew, Tamra Hope Miller and Jon Meyerson. We are very grateful for their generosity.

An Ulster County farm in 1922

The Nightingale’s Nest takes place in 1920 on a Jewish farm in Ulster County NY, in the Catskill mountains, 100 miles northwest of Manhattan. You can read more about Jewish farming in the Catskills and the Baron Hirsch Fund’s support for these efforts right here.

Many Jewish farmers in the Catskills,, like the family in The Nightingale’s Nest, rented rooms to summer visitors from crowded New York neighborhoods. These paying guests frequently were on the kuchalayn plan, cooking their own meals, offering the farmers a ready market for their products. Like the Lippman – Miller family, from Belarus, described in this story, these Jewish farmers often obtained financing to purchase these farms from the Baron Hirsch Jewish Agricultural Society.

In 1936 the author and her mystery writer husband, Bruno Fischer, returned to the idyllic landscapes north of New York City where they became founders of the Three Arrows Cooperative Society , a 125 acre vacation colony based on socialist ideas. Located just south of the Catskills in Putnam Valley, NY , Three Arrows is still active and homes are for sale.

The Catskill’s Nightingale’s Nest

by Ruth Fischer
The author, Ruth Fischer, about the time when she wrote the Nightingale’s Nest. ( courtesy of Nora Fischer Kisch)

Nobody cared for animals more than Grandma, if they met her simple specifications of giving milk or eggs. She tolerated a cat for necessary service, but it was only grudgingly given house room.


For as long as I can remember, there was a running battle between my grandmother and grandfather because of his affection for a horse. During the summer when the horse grazed on the open fields and required no greater expenditure than labor, she could overlook his absurd extravagance. But in the winter it was a different story; she would make life miserable for poor Grandpa when the feed bills came in.

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Baron De Hirsch Agricultural School

Woodbine, New Jersey, 1894-1917

by Paul Batesel https://www.lostcolleges.com/baron-de-hirsch-agricultural-school

History

From The Jewish Farmer, published by the Baron Hirsch Fund

Baron Maurice de Hirsch, a German financier, created a $2,400,000 fund in 1891 to assist Jewish refugees from Russia and Eastern Europe in achieving economic independence in the United States.  With $37,500 of the fund, the settlers purchased land for the colony of Woodbine in southern New Jersey.  In 1894 the Baron De Hirsch Agricultural School was founded to teach scientific agriculture and to provide young Jewish people with the practical skills to become successful farmers.  It was the first agricultural high school in the nation.

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Jewish Farming Today

Baron Hirsch’s Work Lives On

Did you know that today there is a renaissance in Jewish farming? For example,  Jewish farms have been sprouting recently in Upstate New York right near many colonies supported by Baron Hirsch.  Read all about it in this article by Leah Koenig that appeared in TABLET magazine

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/75488/farmville

Or follow news of today’s Jewish farmers around the world through the Jewish Farmer Network.

And for more information on today’s Jewish farmers throughout the United States see this article from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Jewish farms are booming. Now the farmers want to grow their community.

A Jewish Egg Farmers’ Community – Toms River, NJ

welcome to toms river

courtesy tomsriver.org

This is the story of the Toms River Jewish farmers who made Ocean County, New Jersey an egg-producing capital. It was early spring, 1910. Sam Kaufman, owner of the biggest bar in Brooklyn, was worried about his sick daughters. He knew he had to get them out of the stale New York City air. Perhaps he could buy a farm. But the Catskills, where he first looked, lacked schools and he had five daughters to educate. Then he learned of Toms River, near the sea in central New Jersey.  It was only  75 miles south of where he lived in Brooklyn. NY. Toms River had reasonably priced farmland, a small town atmosphere, only 800 inhabitants.   Most importantly, it had a good high school.

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Connecticut Jewish Farmers

LisbonCT_AnsheiIsraelSynagogue
Anshei Israel Synagogue in Lisbon, Connecticut , built in 1936

In this post, videos, an interactive map and many references supplement a short history of Jewish farming communities in Connecticut.

Beginning as early as 1891, Baron Hirsch supported the settlement of Jewish farmers in Connecticut. By 1928 there were over 5000 Jewish farm families in the state. The Baron Hirsch Fund and its subsidiary the Jewish Agricultural Society (JAS) sponsored these projects. The projects continued throughout the first half of the 20th Century. They not only helped the Russian Jews escaping pogroms in the first part of the century, but after WWII Holocaust survivors as well.

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The Alliance Jewish Farming Community; Southern New Jersey

Tiferet Israel shul, Alliance, New Jersey alliance-tc-1425816200

The Tifereth Israel Synagogue, Alliance Community, New Jersey , Built 1884-1885

Going to the southern Jersey shore this summer?  Take a day trip to nearby Pittsgrove Township, the site of the Baron Hirsch funded Alliance farming community.  In May 1882, 42 Russian Jewish families arrived to form this cooperative.

Read more about it in this article from the FORWARD newspaper and this Wikipedia entry

http://forward.com/articles/11628/historic-community-historic-community-celebrate-00486/?utm_source=Email%20Article&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Email%20Article

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alliance_Colony

1909 Jewish Farmers Fair

Jewish_Farmers_of_America_-_ca1909

1909 Exhibition of Jewish Farmers of America, Library of Congress photo

This post includes photos and references on the October 1909 Jewish Federation of Farmers conference and fair in New York City. It was held at the Educational Alliance at the corner of East Broadway and Jefferson.  The most popular of the 225 exhibits were presented by the  Baron Hirsch Agricultural College in Woodbine, New Jersey.  Over 50,000 people visited the exhibit. Speakers included the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, the honorable W.M. Hays. 

The Cornell Agricultural College, one of the most important agricultural schools in the United States, as well as the New Haven Experiment Station, the New Jersey College of Agriculture and the Massachusetts Agricultural College, participated in the exhibition.  In the 1935 History of the Baron de Hirsch Fund,  the author called this participation “true public recognition: American universities taking part in an agricultural exposition organized by Russian Jews.” 1

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  1.   Joseph, Samuel. The History of the Baron Hirsch Fund, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1935. p. 142. []

Why Jews Don’t Farm

Boy in Woodbine NJ Baron Hirsch Farming Colony c. 1900 from Center for Jewish History

Check out the article from SLATE at the  link below, on why Jews don’t farm. It is written by  a descendent of an immigrant to the Baron Hirsch farming community in Woodbine, New Jersey. It  is fun to read.  But, contrary to his thesis, there were Jewish farming communities in  Ukraine and Bessarabia  and even Siberia.   In fact before the assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881, Jews were allowed, and often encouraged, to buy land and farm in Russia.

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/everyday_economics/2003/06/why_jews_dont_farm.html

For video interviews  with American Jews who did farm go to

https://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/language-literature-culture/heft-notebook/wexler-oral-history-project-collections/american-jewish