Re: Baron de HIrsch Fund and the Woodbine, NJ Agricultural Colony #records #usa

Jeff Marx



Your question of how settlers were selected for the Woodbine colony is one that pertains to other Jewish agricultural colonies that were set up, as well, during this time across the US by the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society (HEAS), the Montefiore Agricultural Aid Society, and the Hebrew Union Agricultural Society. It appears that only a few groups were formed in Europe and came over together in cohorts (usually as part of the Am Olam movement). (The best book to check out on the whole phenomenon, if you haven’t already, is Uri Hirscher, Jewish Agricultural Utopias in America).  

In a recent article I published in Kansas History (Spring, 2020), I explored the formation of the Touro and Lesser colonies in 1886. By working backwards and exploring census, boat manifests, and vital records for the known colonists, I determined that most did not know one another in New York and, most certainly, did not know one another in Eastern Europe (originating in Ukraine, Russia, Austria and Hungary) before the formation of the colony. How they were recruited, selected, or volunteered, once they arrived in New York, is a mystery.

(One researcher I recently talked with, suggested to look in the Yiddish press to see if any of the sponsoring groups advertised for colonists. The Jewish Daily Forward, however, didn’t start until 1897, after the date that Woodbine and many other of these colonies began).


Jeff Marx

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