On a Clear April Morning
Reviewed by Irena Karshenbaum. This review first appeared in the Winnipeg Jewish Post and News. Irena Karshenbaum is a writer, historian and heritage advocate who led a project that gifted one of the last surviving prairie synagogues — the 1916 Montefiore Institute — to Calgary’s Heritage Park. irenakarshenbaum.com
On a foggy December afternoon in 2021, I accidentally stumbled on a fascinating website, The Baron Hirsch Jewish Farmers Community. The golden field, on the home page, illuminated by the sun seemed to shine a ray of light into my gloomy living room. As I clicked through the different pages: Argentina, Brazil, USA, I was intrigued to discover that these countries had Jewish farming colonies and that they had received funding from Baron Maurice de Hirsch, one of 19th century’s wealthiest men and the most significant Jewish philanthropist of his time who wanted Jews to become farmers, then seen as the most honourable of occupations, and which, he believed, would be the answer to eliminating anti-Semitism.
Engrossed by the stories — the Catskills’ Grossinger’s resort had its start as a Jewish farm located on rocky soil that just could not make a go of it as a farm? Who knew? — I noticed conspicuously missing was a page on the Canadian Jewish farming experience. Since most Jewish farms in Canada received at least some financial assistance from the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA), the philanthropic organization Hirsch established, I thought a Canadian chapter was warranted.
I found an email address and wrote away asking if I can contribute a story on Jewish farming in Canada, specifically about a Jewish farming colony in eastern Alberta that was once home to a synagogue — the 1916 Montefiore Institute — which had received $300 towards its construction from JCA.
Then I waited and waited.Continue reading