Life on a Toms River Chicken Farm

The Good, the Bad and the Worse

By Joyce Zelnick Weiss

Toms River, NJ, near the shore just south of Lakewood, 80 miles from Brooklyn

How did a little girl from the big city end up on a chicken farm in the middle of New Jersey?


I will try to tell you my story of living on a farm in the middle of nowhere. In the 1940s Toms River was much further from Brooklyn than it is now. Transportation was not readily available. We would ride on a bus for a few hours while passengers came and went at various stops in New Jersey. For those lucky enough to have a car it was a shorter trip.

BROOKLYN – TOMS RIVER

I was 9 years old when my father, Max, and mother, Bess, decided to move to Toms River. My father was a pharmacist who owned his own store in Brooklyn, N.Y. We lived on the top floor of a two-family house, and Bess’s parents lived downstairs. My parents were immigrants from Ukraine, and it was common to live close to the relatives and friends that one knew from the old country. So my comfort circle of people that I saw all the time were mostly all related to us.

We used to visit my Uncle Philip and Aunt Bertha in Toms River, New Jersey, on their chicken farm which they bought after selling their grocery business in Newark, N.J. Uncle Philip was one of my father’s older brothers, and he was married to Aunt Bertha.

I don’t know how my relatives ended up in Toms River, and I never did find out but, for reasons unknown to me, my parents decided that getting out of the city and moving to the country was a good decision for them and for their children. I don’t recall how long it took for us to pack up and move, but before I knew what was happening, we had moved.

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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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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

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