(US-Kansas) Early Jewish (US) Prairie Settlements #usa
Jan Meisels Allen
In the 1882 before the Baron de Hirsh Fund launched the Jewish Agricultural
Society, the Beersheeba colony in Kansas was funded and conceived by the
Hebrew Union Agricultural Society. This was the brainchild of Rabbi Isaac
Mayer Wise, founder of the American Jewish Reform Movement. Jews had to
flee Russia after Czar Alexander lll rescinded the more lenient Jewish
policies developed by his late father. Under the new edicts, Jews were
prohibited >from owning or leasing land and subject to pogroms.
Rabbi Wise funded the resettlement program with appeals through the American
Israelite publication. The US government promised via the Homestead Act,
160 acres to any citizen or would-be citizen who improved their acreage,
built a dwelling or resided there for five years. Beersheba community
members would homestead in Southwestern Kansas. By July 1882, 59 families
were selected by the Society to populate the settlement.
Beersheeba was not the only farming community to be established for Jews in
the Western U.S. Communities were settled in Colorado, North Dakota, and in
Oregon. Due to disputes the Beersheeba community started to seek their
fortunes elsewhere- although about half stayed in Beersheeba, but it ended
in 1887, but six other short-lived agricultural communities, were
established between 1883 and 1890 .
To read the Tablet article on these early American Jewish agricultural
settlements in the mid-west and west see:
Jan Meisels Allen Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee