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Jewish Agricultural Colonies In America (Part I)

“A considerable number of our people has indeed come to this country, but without a common plan, without a fixed object to unite their interests; and every one, therefore, was obliged to rely upon himself. As many had not learned a trade, and a few only understanding agriculture, commerce was the only resource which they had left; but most of them being without the necessary means to be merchants in the proper sense of the word, they were obliged to become itinerant traders or peddlers, a business most troublesome, and, in the present scarcity of money, most unproductive and most onerous. Under these circumstances these people cannot possibly attain that happiness, for which their heart yearned when they were still in their native country.…

“Not until we are able to earn a respectable and independent livelihood, and live without the corroding care of procuring our daily bread, shall we be able to rejoice for having emigrated from Europe, look upon this land as a second fatherland, and cherish it from the core of our heart. But to attain this object it is requisite that the greater part of us should devote themselves to the pursuits of agriculture and the breeding of cattle, which occupations are the best props of every state, the safest means of securing to a family a happiness based upon a rock which can brave the storms of the times.

“This object could be best accomplished, and would require comparatively little exertion and outlay of money, if a number of Israelites were to purchase a large tract of land in one of the western territories, where Congress disposes of the land at $1.25 per acre. On this tract a number of dwellings might be immediately erected for those who are not occupied in agriculture, in a place which would form the center of the first agricultural district. The farmers would of course live each on his farm.

“In such a colony, the highest capacities of mind and heart, which, as every unprejudiced observer will confess, can readily be discovered in a large number of individuals of our nation, would be sooner and more rapidly developed than our present social life admits of, where so many circumstances unite to stifle the most splendid, most promising natural abilities in the bud.

“Facts would soon prove that the idea that our people are too lazy to till the ground is but a foolish prejudice. It would soon become evident that their aptness and intelligence would produce also in this branch of human industry useful inventions and salutary improvements. In the breeding of cattle, the acuteness of perception of our people and their application would also become distinguished, and lead to many favorable results.

“Many factories of different kinds would no doubt form another branch of their industry, and their articles of commerce would not only consist of cattle, flour, salted provision, butter, and wool, but would also comprise different kinds of manufactured goods.

“Upon our holy religion…the blessed and salutary influence of such a social reunion would be most evident, for never will it be able to appear in all its dignity, its glory and greatness, so long as our people live dispersed among the followers of other creeds. And more completely yet might all these ends be encompassed if the Israelites were gradually to transform their colony into a state, a thing by no means impracticable, as, according to the laws of the United States, only 70,680 souls are necessary for this purpose. This would entitle them to their own legislature, and by a general law, they might obtain the privilege of consecrating to the Lord, as it was in the flourishing times of our nation, every week a silent and holy Sabbath.

About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.


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Last month’s column outlined some efforts during the first half of the nineteenth century to establish Jewish agricultural colonies in America. In only one case was a colony actually established.

There were very few Jewish farmers in Europe during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed, in many parts of Europe Jews were forbidden to own land. Despite this there were some Jews who always felt they should return to the agrarian way of life their forefathers had pursued in ancient times, and that America was an ideal place to establish Jewish agricultural colonies.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/jewish-agricultural-colonies-in-america-part-i/2014/02/05/

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