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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
This blog is designed to collect and tell the stories of the Jewish farmers that Baron Maurice de Hirsch supported in North and South America and the follow on stories of their descendants worldwide.
The blog proposes to unite many of today’s beneficiaries of the Baron’s generosity, We believe that cooperation and sharing among us could result in many inspiring and amazing ideas and projects.
We hope you will send us your stories and permission to publish them. Click here to contact us. And if you have a particular question about this immigration phenomenon, let us know. We will research the answer and write a post.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Baron Maurice de Hirsch, the builder of the Vienna-Constantinople Railroad, and his friends, sponsored the settlement of Eastern European Jews in many lands. Primarily they worked in North and South America. This blog presents written works and visuals depicting the original immigrants. It also relates the achievements of the descendants of these immigrants. And there are many achievements. Our forebears were courageous and ingenious people as are their grand and great grand children.