Why St. Louis? #usa

Lee Jaffe

As it happens, a friend just sent me an article, "Bureaucracy, Agents, and Swindlers: The Hardships of Jewish Emigration from the Pale of Settlement in the Early 20th Century" by Gur Alroey (Studies in Contemporary Jewry : Volume XIX (2004), which focuses on the work of the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) founded by Baron Maurice de Hirsch to assist Jews trying to leave the Pale of Settlement.   One of the tools of the ICA was a series of informational booklets designed to aid emigres negotiating the journey out of Eastern Europe and then finding their way in their new countries.  With this thread on my mind, the following passage jumped out at me (emphasis is mine).  

The most comprehensive of these booklets was that dealing with the United States, which was updated annually in a 6,000-copy edition. It presented information on various cities (with an emphasis on employment opportunities). The ICA’s policy was to discourage immigrants from concentrating in large cities and to persuade them instead to settle further inland.

The ICA hasn't been mentioned elsewhere in this thread, so I hope hearing about their role in Jewish migration at the turn of the 20th c. will be useful and of interest.

I know that Baron de Hirsch sponsored a number of projects to help settle Jews departing the Pale. At least one of his projects, the New Jersey agricultural "colonies," were aimed toward getting Jews already established in the United States to leave slums in the big eastern cities and resettle in farm communities.  My great-grandfather Henry Jaffe initially settled in Memphis TN after leaving Poland in the late 1880s but moved the family to Philadelphia for a few years in the late 1890s before moving to Rosenhayn, one of a cluster of de Hirsch's New Jersey colonies.  https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/NJ_Farms/Rosenhayn.html   I don't know what brought my ggf to Memphis in the first place, why he decided to move to Philadelphia or how he came to own a farm in New Jersey.  I did hear from my grandfather about the family's brief experience at farming.  After shipping their entire year's yield of beans to the nearby Birdseye plant, they received a check for 3 and a half cents in return.  That convinced them that farming was not for them and they returned to Phila. and entered the shmata business.

In another version, he author Calvin Trillin who was born in Kansas City, MO wrote that his family settled there because the established and assimilated German Jews of New York were embarrassed by the arrival of masses of Eastern European Jews.  They arranged (how?) for subsequent ships to dock at ports other than New York – including Galveston, where Trillin's ancestors disembarked – encouraging them to settle in other parts of the country.  I don't know whether this scheme to divert steamships has been documented but it is true that Jews arrived at other ports and points of entry where they did find opportunities and supportive communities nearer by.

One further narrative of Jewish settlement elsewhere than NYC comes from The Jew Store by Stella Suberman, who described a pattern of established businesses branching out by sending a relative to start a new outpost down the road.  In many cases, they were pioneers, the first Jews in their new towns, but they became magnets for other Jews who followed and built up vibrant viable communities.   An extensive network of Jewish communities, growing around these branch businesses, was planted across the rural southern US in this way.  

Lee David Jaffe

Surnames / Towns:  Jaffe / Suchowola, Poland ; Stein (Sztejnsapir) / Bialystok and Rajgrod, Poland ; Joroff (Jaroff, Zarov) / Chernigov, Ukraine ; Schwartz (Schwarzman?, Schwarzstein?) / ? ;  Koshkin / Snovsk, Ukraine ; Rappoport / ? ; Braun / Wizajny, Suwalki, Poland,  Ludwinowski / Wizajny, Suwalki, Poland


Unfortunately when I first heard the term Industrial Removal Office I thought of the agency of the fictitious Lindburg administration in Philip Roth's novel The Plot Against America which encouraged (forced?) Jewish families from the urban northeast to move to rural parts of America. The intent of that program was clearly antisemitic.
Bob Malakoff 
Pittsburgh, PA


My mother’s uncle married a woman from St. Louis, although the two of them lived in New York City. Her name was Rose Bergman and she unfortunately died in the early 1920s after giving birth to two of my mother’s first cousins. Does the last name ring a bell to anyone from there?

Mindy Yochelson

Arlington, Va.

Virus-free. www.avg.com


I always thought the primary attraction of Saint Louis was the good German beer!

Seriously though, StLC was home to an enormous German community which had a tremendous cultural (and brewing) impact on the area. Members of this forum need to remember that all Germans - Gentile and Jew - were Landsmand in a new land and shared much in common. As with other immigrant groups, people settled where there were others from the same background and language. German Jews emigrated to the US in large numbers starting in the 1840s-50s. Germanic Jews did not segregate themselves. They integrated into StL, started businesses, created communities and Jewish institutions that exist today. This story is true for my ancestors who came to the US in the 19th century.

Pat Weinthal, USA

Cantor Dan Singer

Judith, where is your Singer surname from? Also Lithuania? If so, is it near Paneveys? My Singer family comes from Birzai, but most of the Singers who remained there were murdered in the Holocaust. Wondering if we have a connection.

Dan Singer.


My grandfather, Israel Druse, also settled in St Louis for a few years and then returned to NYC.  I do not know why.  Barbara Hacker Berman