From The Sun
newspaper, August 17, 1890.
WILL THEY MAKE FARMERS?
RUSSIAN JEWS TRYING A NEW OCCUPATION IN NEW
The Story of an Interesting Experiment--120
Jewish Families, Escaping from Persecution,
Form a Farming Colony--Irksome at First, but Great Progress Made--
They Live in Happy Anarchy and Have Only Once Invoked the Law--
Will the Other Russian Jews Do as Well?--Other Colonies Not so
Cable dispatches from apparently trustworthy
sources indicate that thousands of Russian Jews will be on their
way to this country shortly. Banished from the dominions of the
Czar, and in many instances deprived of their property, these
persecuted wanderers will be brought to America as the only
country in which they will be received. Of course, the great
majority will be assisted by the various Hebrew societies formed
for the protection of the down-trodden race the world over. That
means, to state the case frankly, that many of these immigrants
will be assisted paupers. Their passage money, baggage, and means
of subsistence after landing must be provided by these societies.
Before the United States Government will allow
these immigrants to enter its ports, the immigrants will have to
furnish ample proof that they will not become burdens on the
American people. The only way in which that can be satisfactorily
done will be by securing from the New York Hebrew societies
interested in this immigration bonds that will be practical
guarantees against pauperism. The Baron Hirsch Committee on the
Relief of Russian Jews in New York, with its income of $10,000 a
month, can do a great deal for such of the immigrants as get into
the country; but it has frequently been asserted by officers of
the committee that this fund is not intended to be used to assist
immigration, but only to ameliorate the condition of Russian Jews
in this city.
The only society that can be relied on to
help the immigrants to land here is the Jewish Emigration
Protective Society. The immigrants are likely to get their
chief assistance from the Hebrews of Europe, especially the
Paris Hebrew Alliance. It is the purpose of the prominent
Hebrews here to prevent the immigrants, if they do get in,
from settling in the large cities, especially in New York.
The squalor and misery of the east side Jewish quarter is
great enough now, and would be much increased if the
population were added to by the green and helpless Russians.
The only hope of the latter is to become farmers, but it is no
easy task to make them believe this. For centuries the Russian Jews
have been compelled to devote themselves to trade. No other source
of income was open to them. They have now an unholy idea of the
power of money; they want to gather it in the quickest way, and
they don't know how to do this better than in barter and trade.
They haven't the faintest idea of farming, they are unused to
manual labor, and last but not least, they are averse to the
discomforts of farm life.
Their own mode of living is not
bound up with luxury, but yet it is not so rough and continuously
toilsome as the average farmer's. Many attempts have been made to
establish them on farms in this country, but very few have been
successful. Many colonies have had to be abandoned altogether
after much money had been expended in the attempt to establish
them; of the others, only two or three can be considered real
Of the latter, the settlement at Alliance, in New Jersey, is
an excellent type. In its history are revealed much of the nature
and the ideas of these Russian Jews, and in their present
condition are manifested the results of a few years of freedom
|Nestled among the rich fruit farms of southern
New Jersey, about five miles from Vineland, and half that distance
from Norma, on the Central Railroad of New Jersey, is the colony
of Alliance, the most strange, curious, and not quiet settlement
in this part of the United States at least. It was founded in the
spring, eight years ago, under circumstances very similar to those
which now obtain among the brethren of the settlers in their
native land. Then, as now, persecution had burst forth with great
fury, and many scenes of violence were witnessed before its rigor
had eased--families separated, property destroyed, women ravished,
and men murdered by bigoted peasants and mechanics. Perhaps the
Jews were not altogether blameless for the outburst, and perhaps
the property destroyed was not altogether honorably won, but yet
there was hardly excuse for the cruel and bitter methods adopted
by their persecutors. Had it not been for the more honorable and
enlightened Russian Christians, the numbers of the Jews would have
been greatly depleted. These, however, did what the Government
failed to do. They secreted and protected the Jews until the storm
had blown over and then assisted them out of the country. The
Government would not only not interfere in the violent actions of
its people, but it attempted so far as it could to prevent the
escape of the persecuted ones from the country. It threatened with
the terrors of Siberia those who asked for assistance from persons
outside of the country, and not a few were caught and transported
The frightened Jews held secret meetings and
established means of communication with the outside world, not
unlike the underground railroads the slaves of this country before
the war. Subterfuge and disguises were adopted to enable
messengers to reach London, Paris, and Berlin, and lay the facts
before the prominent Hebrews there. assistance was promised, but
the problem arose as to what shape it should take. France,
England, Germany, and in fact all Europe but Spain, were not
desirous of opening their doors to thousands of beggared, ignorant
Russians, whose traits and characteristics had gotten them into
trouble in their own country.
The Spanish Government, through its Prime Minister, offered
an asylum and assistance to any who chose to come, it being
thought that these Jews might put new vigor into the dying
commerce of the country. But the pride of the Jews of London and
Paris would not brook he acceptance of this offer.
"We shall never forget," they said proudly, "the
persecutions and cruelties to which our forefathers were subjected
by the people of Spain. The horrors of the Inquisition of
Ferdinand and Isabella will never fade from our memories. The land
where the most precious blood of our race was spilled in idle
persecution can never shelter us again."
The Russian Jews themselves wanted to go to Palestine and
settle in the land to which their hearts fondly turned as the Land
of Promise. But the Paris Jews again interfered. Previous attempts
to colonize poor Jews in Palestine had proved disastrous failures.
Neither the customs, the climate, nor the land were suitable to
this class of Jews. The Paris Jews said flatly that they would not
have anything to do with the Russian if they persisted in their
determination, and would only help; them if they would do as they
were directed. It was finally agreed that they should come to
The members of the Paris Hebrew Alliance communicated with
the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society of New York and with other Jewish
societies in this country, and arrangements were made for the
establishment in New Jersey and in the West of f number of farm
colonies. Many families started on their way to the New World, but
not all got here. Many who did land never got so far as the farms
in which they had been sent. Many remained in New York and other
cities. All the arrangements for the New Jersey colony were made
by the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society.
They purchased 1,100 acres of wild brush
land in Pittsgrove township. Salem county, removed from all
the villages and towns, and here the immigrants were taken.
Of the 120 families that were led out into the wild tract of
land on May 10, 1882, not one had ever handled a farm
implement, and not one knew one berry from another. When
they saw the spot selected for their new home they were
greatly disappointed, and set up howls and lamentations
similar to those described in various parts of the Old
Testament. In fact, it would have required very little
imagination to make one think he was back in those biblical
times when the Jews were a stiff-necked race all by
themselves, and when, as now, they looked to the leaders of
their race to assist them out of difficulties.
The faces and expressions were exactly like those handed
down by portraits of the olden times, and some of the ideas and
thoughts expressed bore a remarkable resemblance to the
expostulations and objections offered by their ancestors when they
were being led out of the wilderness.
Some of them had come from east and some from west Russia,
but nearly all had lived in cities. The land to which they were
now taken had been purchased for them from Leach Brothers, lumber
merchants from Vineland, and they had also erected five long, long
wooden structures, which they called barracks, which became the
first homes of the settlers.
Each had fourteen little rooms, similar
to stalls, and their appearance from the outside was
decidedly unpleasant. They were unpainted then, but have
since been coated with brownish yellow paint.
When the settlers got into them they
looked like five big hives filled to overflowing with noisy
bees. The necessities of the occasion divided the settlers
into five big family parties, and for some time jealousy
cropped out in plenty.
A committee of the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society saw them
settled safely, gave them plenty of provisions for some time
ahead, and provided such furniture as was absolutely necessary.
They divided the land so that each settler had fifteen acres of
ground for a farm and building site.
These were not given to them, but were sold at cost price
and mortgages taken upon them at 3 per cent. The interest payments
have ever since been counted against the principal. An expert
German farmer named Fred Schmitt was employed the first year to
instruct the settlers in the rudiments of practical farming. He
had a good deal of difficulty with his pupils at first, because
they were thoroughly dissatisfied and disgusted with their lot.
Many had been well to do in Russia, and their new deprivations
Those were very unpleasant times for the settlers and all
who had anything to do with them. The committee of the New York
society frequently visited them, and invariably went away
disgusted and discouraged. The people for whom they had done so
much, and on whom they were wasting valuable time, for all the
members of the committee were busy men, were anything but
grateful. They threatened to develop into the most abject beggars,
and they besieged the members of the committee with demands of
assistance. Some went away and the others remained and grumbled.
This state of affairs lasted several years. The first and second
seasons showed no encouraging results, and it looked to even the
most sanguine friends of the colony as though its history would be
but a repetition of that of many other colonies started in a
similar way and for similar purposes. But there came a change
finally. The old hard question of "root, hog, or die," was brought
home to the settlers with startling vividness. Their continued and
ceaseless requests for aid were beginning to tire their patrons,
and they were made to understand that they must look out for
themselves. The result showed the value of not pampering this
class of people.
Driven to hard work, they settled down to
it with a vim that was astonishing. Once convinced that they
must work for their living at the work laid before them, they
accomplished astonishing results. The farms began to improve
very rapidly. Luscious berries began to grow on every bush.
The settlers left the barracks and put up individual houses.
Vegetables were planted, and with the proceeds of the first
good season, horses and cows were purchased by the more frugal
Prospects began to brighten greatly, and
instead of certain ruin and degradation, the future began to
appear bright and rosy.
But in those days there was a good deal of
prejudice against the settlers among the farmers and villagers in
the vicinity. This prejudice was only natural at that time, for
the settlers were anything but pleasant persons to have around.
They had not yet been able to drive out of their minds the fact
that they were a hated and despised race. When they went into the
villages of Vineland or Binghamton, they never thought of walking
on the sidewalk, but tramped through the middle of the dusty
streets with their hats under their arms, bowing right and left in
the most humble and abject manner.
It was almost impossible to get them out of
this slavish habit. No matter who it was they met on the highway
or in the villages, whether it was a tramp or wealthy man, they
always behaved the same, showing by their actions a desire to
apologize for being alive. Of course, these things accentuated the
prejudice against them in the eyes of the more ignorant Jerseymen.
The children yelled after them in the streets, and the old farmers
and residents of Vineland showed by their manners that they felt
it a hardship that such an unprepossessing lot should be settled
They expected confidently to have their yards
filled with dirty peddlers and their poorhouses with paupers. The
settlers knew no one outside of the colony in those days and made
no attempt to become acquainted. When they went into a store to
purchase something they always remained in the corner until
everybody else had been waited upon, unmindful of their rights of
succession. For a long time they could not understand how it was
that they were not treated with a more open show of hostility.
They would probably have fulfilled the
expectations of the farmers and villagers, and would have become
settled inmates of the poorhouses had not the New York committee
stood by them so closely. The most important and vital principle
which the committee persistently endeavored to drum into their
heads was the fact that they could overcome any prejudice on the
part of their Christian neighbors by becoming honest,
straightforward, self-respecting American citizens.
"If you expect our assistance," said they, "if
you expect to succeed, you must, like us, become American
citizens; must learn to accommodate yourselves to the manners and
customs of those around you; must live honorable lives and learn
to speak the tongue of your adopted country. These things you can
do by learning to respect yourselves."
Constant reiteration of these sentiments
finally had effect. It grew upon the settlers very slowly that the
prejudice against them was nothing very deep, and by degrees they
became less obsequious and humble. They learned to walk on the
sidewalk like other men, and to hold up their heads and to keep
them covered unless occasion called for the contrary. They no
longer cringed to anybody, and from that time on began the era of
prosperity which has since marked their history.
Among the persons who assisted them were the
two brothers from whom the land on which they settled had been
purchased. The Leach brothers are known down in Vineland for
kind-hearted and charitable dispositions, and from the first they
felt that they must take an interest in the poor Russians. It was
largely owing to their influence that intelligent persons were
correctly informed as to the settlers, and that consequently
prejudice died out to a large extent. Now only a small minority
views the colony with anything like distrust, and many have
positively friendly feelings for it.
The New Yorker or average American who thinks
only of the Russian Jew as a peddler, pawnbroker, or cheap
merchant, would be both amazed and gratified if he could ride over
the farms of the Alliance colony, as did a SUN reporter one day
last week. To get there from New York it is usual to go to
Philadelphia on the Pennsylvania Railroad and thence to Vineland
on the Western Jersey Railroad. At Vineland it is easy enough to
get a good horse and a driver who knows considerable about the
The SUN reporter started from Vineland early
one hot, clear morning to drive over the farm. On the way the
driver regaled him with stories about the colony and the settlers.
He was a Jerseyman, and had had, as he frankly owned, his
prejudice against the colony when it was first formed. They had
disappeared, though, he said, in the changes that had come over
"Those Jews deserve a good deal of credit," he
said, "for having got along in the way they have. I remember when
I used to come over here with the committee from New York in the
first years of the colony; I used to think that I never saw such a
lot of dirty, low-lived people in all my days. They used to crowd
around the carriages begging, whining, and making everybody sick.
"Oh, Mr. Henry," they would yell, or some other man; "give me $5,"
or perhaps they would say $10 or $25.
"That is all we would hear when we were over
here. They used to live in the barracks then, like a of horses in
a barn. They were huddled in together so that it seemed as if they
couldn't turn around. Not one of them could talk a word of
English, except what I have just said. They learned how to beg
quick enough. I suppose they begged in their own language, too,
because they used to jabber like talking machines. It is no wonder
that nobody liked them then and I guess the most of us would have
been glad if they had picked up their duds and got out. It is
different now, though.
They have got a lot of good farms, and are
putting up nice houses. They are building all the time, too. They
know lots of people in the towns now, and they get along very well
with them. No Christians can settle inside of the colony, which is
reserved for these people, but they deal with Christians just the
same as they do among themselves, and they deal fair, too."
"That is all we would hear when we were over
here. They used to live in the barracks then, like a of horses in
a barn. They were huddled in together so that it seemed as if they
couldn't turn around.
Not one of them could talk a word of English,
except what I have just said. They learned how to beg quick
enough. I suppose they begged in their own language, too, because
they used to jabber like talking machines. It is no wonder that
nobody liked them then and I guess the most of us would have been
glad if they had picked up their duds and got out. It is different
now, though. They have got a lot of good farms, and are putting up
nice houses. They are building all the time, too. They know lots
of people in the towns now, and they get along very well with
them. No Christians can settle inside of the colony, which is
reserved for these people, but they deal with Christians just the
same as they do among themselves, and they deal fair, too."
The horse was getting out some distance
from the village now, and presently a man came walking along
the highway whose cast of features clearly betrayed his
origin. He was one of the settlers walking into Vineland. He
was a sturdily built fellow, with massive shoulders and a
rapid, swinging gait that denoted considerable physical
power. He had a bronzed face and short black hair, which was
set off by a pair of sparking black eyes. He looked the
driver and the reporter squarely in the eyes and nodded to
them in a free, off-hand manner, just as any other farmer
might if he were of a friendly disposition.
"He is going into Vineland," said the
driver, "to get some provisions, I guess. He is one of the
A little further up the road there was a
blacksmith shop where there were three more of the farmers. Two of
them had axes which they were having ground. They watched the
driver, waving their hand in recognition.
"We are going over to the colony," the driver
yelled to them. "We are going to look it over and take some
The men at once became interested, and came
running over to the carriage. They watched closely, and seemed to
suspect that the latter possessed occult powers. They were very
polite, but not obsequious.
"Who would be a good man to see in the colony?"
asked the reporter. "Who could tell me all about the colony?"
"Mr. Bajuk, Mr. Lubiroff, or Mr. Steinberg," they said.
When the carriage started on, they lifted their
hats and went back to the blacksmith shop. A little further on, a
buggy came up the road which the driver recognized as coming from
the settlement. The horse was a sleek, well-fed animal, and the
buggy would not have looked out of place in the streets of any
small city. Two black-bearded and black-eyed Jews sat in it. They
nodded to the driver as they drove past.
"They have got a number of good horses over
there," said the driver, "and some of them are worth two or three
hundred dollars apiece. They don't buy any poor horses."
The reporter now came across a curious sight.
It was the railroad station at Norma. In a little square at this
point were tethered a lot of horses attached to the carriages and
teams of the Alliance colonists. Piled up on the platform of the
station, so as to impede the progress even of foot passengers,
were crates upon crates of blackberries. The men were working like
beavers getting them up into piles that could be easily put on to
the trains, and there was a confusion and bustled which seemed
strangely out of place in that lonely strip of country. The men
had no time to indulge in curiosity, and therefore paid no
attention to the driver or his companion.
Some of the crates, which were open, revealed
berries as fine as any that ever came into the New York market.
Although the platform was so jammed, and the road was filled with
teams and horses, the driver said that this was a faint picture of
the scene during the busy season.
"It is getting very near toward the end of the
berry season," he said, "and farmers have almost got through
shipping. In the height of the season it is almost impossible to
drive a team through. There isn't a place anywhere around here
then, not even in Vineland, that looks as lively as this. They
ship all their things from here because it is nearer to their
farms than the Pennsylvania road. The Jews do more shipping than
any of the farmers around here. Most of their produce is sent to
New York, but some of it goes to Philadelphia.
Fromm the station out the main road goes
directly into the colony. The latter is a collection of scattered
houses, most of them being at least half an acre apart. The
country is not very much diversified, the hills being very low.
The houses are spread out over the whole tract of land, each house
being on a separate farm.
Along the road in the direction in which
the reporter was going, a number of buildings were being
erected. They were all of modern architecture and some of
them were exceptionally well build for farmhouses. one large
brick house was in course of erection, and the workmen
stopped to look at the carriage as it came up. The reporter,
who had never seen a Jewish mechanic before, although he had
been around a good deal in the Jewish quarter in New York,
was surprised to see that al the men engaged on this
building were Jews.
There were carpenters, bricklayers, masons,
plasterers, and glaziers, all with their implements and all
industriously at work. The reporter stopped to observe them for a
time and noticed that each one worked independently, there being
no boss. Each man seemed to have his own idea of how his work
should be done and worked according to that. Nevertheless, there
was no confusion of ideas presented in the result, and the
building looked solid and substantial in every part of it.
Alongside were several wooden houses just being
finished. They were modifications of the Queen Anne style. The
owners or builders had evidently desired to make them ornate, but
apparently the expense of the paint had deterred them when they
were half-finished. There was a light blue and a Pompeian read
paint under the eaves on two sides of the house, but the others
From this point the farms began to stretch out
in every direction. They were all under cultivation and every foot
of space had been put to some good purpose. Grape vines, peach
trees, berry bushes, and sweet potato fields stretched out one
after the other as far as the reporter could see. All the farms
appeared to be flourishing, but some were in better condition than
others. Several of the farms looked as though somebody had gone
over them every morning to pick up stray stones, pull off dead
leaves, and clear up the place generally. All the rows were as
regular as could be wished.
The vines were loaded down with green grapes,
but the peach trees and the berry bushes were nearly all bare. The
berrying season was practically all over, and the peach crop in
southern New Jersey has been a failure this year. While looking
over the farms, a man came up the road who was pointed out to the
reporter as Moses Bajuk, one of the leading colonists. Mr. Bajuk
was a rather kindly faced man of medium stature and a lighter
complexion than most of the colonists. He had brown hair and brown
beard and brown eyes. He was about 40 years old. The reporter had
a letter of introduction to him from Judge Isaacs of New York, one
of the members of the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society.
Mr. Bajuk greeted the reporter cordially, and
invited him up to his house. On the way, a number of farmhouses
were passed, and the reporter left Mr. Bajuk to look at these
before going further. Here he came across the first settlers at
work in the field. Two young Jews were weeding in a sweet potato
field. There were a number of weeds, but none of them escaped
their attention. They looked up as the reporter came along and
gave him a chance to get a snapshot at them with his camera. When
he told them that he had taken their portraits they looked amused,
but didn't seem to have any curiosity to see them. Possibly they
doubted the statement.
Mr. Bajuk's house stood back some distance from
the road, and there was quite a patch of ground, covered with
berry bushes and trees, in front of it. It was a small house, not
unlike the ordinary farm house, and contained six rooms. A
carriage stood at the door waiting for one of Mr. Bajuk's
visitors. The reporter was shown into the parlor, which reminded
him very much, in some respects, of the same room in a New England
Mr. Bajuk had evidently obtained his ideas of
furnishing from his Christian neighbors. He had the cheap lace
curtains, white as now; the bright patterned carpet, the black
walnut chairs, the prints in gilt frames, and the little glass
vases to be found in nearly every farm house parlor.
In other parts of the house, however, there
were certain distinctive and characteristic features. On the door
posts of every room were nailed little tin shells containing
Hebrew proverbs to ward off bad spirits, and the cheap wood cut
portraits of Moses and Aaron occupied places of honor in the
Mr. Bajuk came in immediately to receive the
reporter, and toddling in after him came three infantile bearers
of the same name, the difference in their years being difficult to
discover. Mr. Bajuk had come from Grodno, in Russia, and his
family consisted of six persons. He had altogether 17 acres of
land, 12 of which were laid out in fruit and 5 in sweet potatoes
and other vegetables. He was the first of the colonists to reach
the haven. He had been sent ahead to investigate and see whether
the land was desirable or not.
Since then some of the farmers have increased
the size of their holdings, having purchased in some instances,
more than double the original number of acres. When the colonists
first settled, some of them were sent over to Philadelphia, where
they learned to become skilled mechanics. It was these men who
have since become the carpenters, bricklayers, and so on of the
colony. Mr. Bajuk explained in very clear English the progress of
None of the colonists could speak English when
they first came there, and as they did not come in contact with
their neighbors for a long time they had to rely on their own
ingenuity to acquire the native tongue. He himself and many others
learned to speak English through books, Russian and English
readers, and the like. Mr. Bajuk spoke it almost without accent
and with surprising purity. His expressions were idiomatic, and he
appeared to understand the words that he used.
The early times of the colony had been very
unpleasant, he said, but those who stuck through were beginning to
reap the reward of their labors, and there was a general feeling
of satisfaction in the colony. The reporter was surprised to learn
that the 612 persons, comprising the colony, looked up to no one
as a leader. The colony is entirely without government, and the
settlers live in the purest and most ideal state of anarchy. No
one person has any authority over another.
Although there is a Justice of the Peace over
at Centretown and another one at Elmer who could be called in
in case of necessity, there never yet has been occasion to do
this. In the eight years in which the colony has existed, there
never has been a brawl or a row of any kind which would call for
police interference. They have no liquor and no drunkenness.
The men meet regularly once every two weeks in
the meeting rooms of one of the synagogues and there talk over the
affairs of the colony. There is no presiding officer, but each man
has his say. The majority vote decides upon every measure
proposed. Each one has the right to state his views and the others
must listen, but this too is an unwritten law and merely the
result of the general idea of fair play. The reporter asked Mr.
Bajuk if he did not think the colony would get along better if
there was one head to direct its affairs, but he said he did not.
All were on a footing of equality as it
was, and there was a spirit of fraternity which could not be
improved. Each man looked out for his own affairs, did as
his own conscience prompted him, and stood by the results.
if a man did not act honorably, he was generally shunned,
and no severer punishment could be imagined, he thought,
than that a man should be avoided by those upon whom he must
rely for companionship and friendship. There had been no
fixed idea when the colony was started of having it thus
free and independent of all law, but that had been the
natural development. Very few, and possibly none, of the
colonists had heard of such a thing as anarchy, or
understood it, if they had, to mean the style of
non-government which prevailed there. To be sure, the
committee of the New York Society still took some interest
in the affairs of the colony, but it had no governing power
and could only recommend to the individual settlers such
changes as it thought wise. They remained at liberty to
accept or reject them.
The farms have not all been paid for--in fact,
very few have paid off all that was originally expended on them,
but large payments have been made and the mortgages are constantly
growing less. The past two seasons have been very successful, and
some of the farmers cleared as much as $1,100 apiece on their
berries alone. Considering their small holdings, this was a very
substantial return. Although a good many of the farmers have
learned to speak English, the majority are still unable to
converse with their neighbors.
Four different languages are used in the
colony. These are Hebrew, English, German, and a jargon composed
of Hebrew, German, and Russian mixed. The jargon is used much more
than any of the others. The children are taught both in Hebrew and
English. Only three stores exist in the colony, and these are
small groceries, one of which also sells dry goods. A shoe store
will soon be opened.
One of the first things that was done after the
colony was established was to name the various roads cut through
it. They were named after the leading members of the New York
Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society in gratitude for their assistance.
they are all avenues, and it seems very odd to hear down in Jersey
such names as Isaacs, Henry, Gerschel, Eppinger, Mendez, Mendel,
Schiff, Reichendorfer, and Rosenfeld. The roads were all cut
through by the settlers themselves and made to connect with the
regular roads that had been established previously. Mr. Bajuk
thought that the settlers could get along much better if they had
larger farms. At present they have to buy all their corn and
hay, and keep only a limited number of cows and horses. With farms
of thirty and forty acres, they would be able to do much better.
The only objection to buying up land around there is the prejudice
of the settlers against getting to far from the centre of the
settlement. They all feel clannish in the sense that they want to
have their farms near enough together so they could get from one
to another. Even as it is now, the farms are getting pretty widely
scattered, and the boys who are growing up have to take farms very
far from the centre.
The question as to what is to be done with the
children is getting to be a serious one. Most of the boys are
willing to stay in the colonies and become farmers, while others
are going into the city to join the army of paid workers. Some
have already gone and are making cigars in the tenements, or
working over machines.
The great advantage about these farms is that
when the season is over, the work is done for the year. There is
no aftermath, and the farmer is at liberty to turn his attention
to other things, as soon as he has sold his produce. As a result,
a good many of the more industrious settlers have been doing other
work in the winter. They have received contracts for making
clothes which have enabled them to make the long winter nights pay
them very well. Men and women both work at these and add to the
net income. Some of the settlers, however, are averse to doing
this sort of work, and think that if they are farmers they should
stick to farming and do nothing else.
The progress of reform ideas in Judaism
has been noticed down even in this far out-of-the-way little
colony. There are two synagogues, and the colonists are
about equally divided between them.
One is known as Ashkenasy and the other
as Safardy. Really these names mean nothing in the way in
which in which they have been applied, but they serve to
distinguish the reform and the orthodox. The latter maintain
to the letter all the old customs and forms of religious
worship, and still look upon every act of labor on the
Sabbath as extremely sinful.
They were all this way when they came to the colony eight years
ago, but now the so-called reformers ride into town on the
Sabbath, light matches, do their cooking, and some of the men even
smoke cigars. There does not, however, appear to be any bitterness
in this difference in sentiment as there is elsewhere, and the
division in religious ideas does not appear to affect in any
way the every-day dealings of the settlers.
All of them cling strictly to the Mosaic laws,
and no meat is eaten except that of animals slaughtered by the
official butcher, or shochet, as he is called. In fact, the
settlers eat very little meat, anyhow. They have not many cattle
or fowl, and it is too expensive to purchase them for the mere
purposes of killing them. The result is that meat is rarely eaten
in any house more than once or twice a week. Mr. Bajuk said that
the settlers have outgrown their liking for meat, and have become
practical vegetarians. Eggs, however, still furnish them with a
part of their food, and the rest of it consists of berries and
vegetables. Their mode of life is simplicity itself, and yet they
have more amusement and society than most farmers have.
A number of the colonists who had pretty
hard experiences before they got away from Russia still
remember them and congratulate themselves upon their present
comparatively prosperous condition. Among these the most
prominent in the colony is Solomon Lubiroff. He, with the
other colonists who were the greatest sufferers by the
persecution, came from Elisawetgrad.
The persecutions there had been worse than in any other part
of Russia. Mr. Lubiroff had barely escaped with his life,
together with Elias Stavitsky and Jacob Rosinsky.
After leaving Mr. Bajuk's place the reporter
walked over to Lubiroff's farm. Mr. Lubiroff is a man about 40
years of age. He has a great deal of push and energy in his
composition. Like the other colonists, he came over practically
penniless. He had seen prosperous times in Russia and had been
agent of a large Virchow farm at the time when the persecutions
began. His property was all stolen or destroyed, and he and his
family had to take refuge with a Christian friend. Altogether 186
families had been driven from their homes. None of them was able
to take along any property, and had to rely upon such assistance
as was furnished by their co-religionists in other countries. Mr.
Lubiroff himself barely escaped being killed by an infuriated mob,
and was glad to get out of the country alive. The families went
first to a town in Austria, which was made a headquarters for all
of the immigrants, and from there they went to London, where they
embarked for America. Only about one-third got to the New Jersey
colony, the others being scattered throughout the country.
Mr. Lubiroff has recently put up a new
frame house which is one of the most pretentious on any farm
in that part of Jersey. It stands in front of the house
which was put up some years ago. Part of his new house is
used as a factory, for he has gone into the manufacture of
shirts, boys' waists, and summer clothing, and employs, when
busy, 120 hands. He has contracts from Baltimore,
Philadelphia and New York.
When the reporter came over, Mr. Lubiroff at
once conducted him into the parlor of his new house and called in
a half dozen members of his family. The parlor was very neatly
furnished and looked bright and cheerful. There were screens in
the windows and a wide piazza in front. The farm looked very well
with its berry bushes, grape vines, and peach and pear trees.
Mr. Lubiroff soon showed that he was a hustler
and that he was ambitious to increase his success. He thought that
it would assist the colony greatly if one or two factories were
put up. Mr. Lubiroff thought also that, inasmuch as the main
business done at Bradway station was done through the colonists,
it would be only fair to change the name to Alliance. There is
another station called Broadway, with which Bradway, he said, was
often confounded, and therefore it would be of advantage to
prevent confusion to have the one known as Alliance.
Mr. Lubiroff's father and mother, recent
arrivals in the colony, are among the oldest people in the
colony. The oldest of all is a man named Lubaskow, who lives
in Schiff avenue in a handsome new house. He is 75 years
old. Most of the colonists, however, are around 40. Those
who are older are parents who have been brought over since
the colony became successful, while those who are younger
are the children who have been born there or who were born
some short time previous to the settlement of the colony.
When the reporter started to go away, Lubiroff pressed him very
hard to remain and take dinner with his family.
"We have nothing but eggs and berries," he
said, "and good milk, but you are most welcome to what we have."
From Lubiroff's the reporter went over to one
of the barracks, which is still standing at the top of the hill on
the main road. He found it an ugly building, every inch of
its interior space occupied by families. The rooms were very small
and cheaply finished. A horde of infants of varying ages and a lot
of curious women came out to gaze at the reporter and the driver.
They talked together in jargon, and watched them all the time they
were there. In one room in which the reporter looked, the shochet
was seated at a table with about a dozen little children around
him. He had a Hebrew book, of which they had copies, and was
teaching them Hebrew prayers. as the reporter looked in the old
man was reading off:
"Boruch arto adonai (Blessed be Thou, oh Lord.)"
The children repeated each word after him in
chorus. Some of them could not have been over six years old, and
the oldest was probably not twelve. The old man was a typical east
side Polish Jew in appearance. He had a long gray beard, unkempt
hair, and slovenly dress. His house, a little bit of a frame
structure, was a short distance from the barracks. He could not
talk English, but understood and spoke German fairly well. He was
the first person that the reporter had met in the settlement who
had that air of suspicion which is characteristic of the east side
New York Jew.
He wanted to know what the reporter was there
for, and when he was told, he wanted to know whether that was
going to do the colony any good. He consented very readily to have
his portrait taken when he was assured that it wouldn't cost him
anything, but was disappointed at not getting a copy right away.
He insisted upon posing and could not be induced to get into a
natural position. He eyed the camera as though it was some
infernal machine that might go off at any moment.
A short distance below the old teacher's house
is a frame house occupied by a man named Behrman. It is some
little distance from the other houses, and the reporter learned
that Behrman was generally avoided by the other colonists.
Behrman, in fact, appears to be the only one of the colony who has
strayed very noticeably from the path of rectitude. He was well
thought of at first by the other colonists, and married a young
Jewish woman after he had secured his farm. One day a middle-aged
Jewess walked into the settlement from Vineland and announced
herself as Behrman's wife. He had married her in Russia and had
left her behind when he came to this country. Of course, there was
a row when she learned that there was a wife No. 2, and the latter
was also somewhat indignant; but Behrman stuck to the second wife,
and she also remained with him.
Some of the colonists sympathized with wife No.
1, and for the first and last time the law of the county was
invoked against one of the settlers. Before any criminal action
was instituted, however, friends of both parties secured a
compromise whereby wife No. 1 abandoned her claim upon Behrman in
return for certain payments of money. After she received her
money, however, she pushed her claim more vigorously than ever.
This act lost for her some of the friends she had gained, but she
was enabled to annoy her husband, and that was apparently her
chief object. The colonists have not approved of the methods
of either party, and Behrman has had to get along as best he could
without their friendship. He is said to be a very shrewd sort of
fellow, and has done some dabbling in real estate. His wife does
not live in the colony. When the reporter came down to his house,
Behrman thought he had struck a victim, and immediately offered to
secure a nice farm for him at a very low price.
The two synagogues of the colony are very much
alike in outward appearance. They are simple wooden structures,
containing a place for religious worship up stairs and two meeting
rooms down stairs. The one occupied by the orthodox is at the
corner of Gershel and Schiff avenues. The other is on Isaacs
avenue. Both are located on little hills, so that they can be seen
from any part of the colony. Besides the regular bi-weekly
meetings held in the meeting rooms, there are special meetings on
special occasions, and hitherto the children have been taught in
one of them. One hundred and twenty-five children attend the
school, which is taught by George S. Seldes, who is also the
Seldes is a young man of more than average
intelligence, and instructs the children in English and the
ordinary studios of the public schools. A library of all sorts of
books, including those printed in jargon and Hebrew, has been
given to the colony, and is in one of the meeting rooms. The
school season had closed before the reporter got there, but Mr.
Seldes said that the school had been a great success, and a number
of children had received prizes before the close of the term. Some
of the children used to go to the public school at Lower Neck, but
recently the State determined to erect a school in the colony,
which will be known as Alliance Pioneer School, District No. 71.
The foundations were being laid at the corner of Isaacs and Henry
avenues at this time.
The Post Office is a very unique affair.
It is a rough, unpainted wooden structure with a shingle out
over the entrance and a United States mail box also on the
outside. Mr. Seldes, besides being the Postmaster, is
district clerk of the school funds and has charge of the
money loaned from the State for school purposes. There are
two religious teachers in the colony, the shochet, Wolf
Levinsky, and N. Chipilacoff. There used to be another one,
a man named Randolph, who had a reputation for considerable
learning, but he wasn't one of the settlers, and had been in
the country a long time before he came here. He lives in
Philadelphia and only goes to the colony occasionally.
During the regular school term the children are taught their
Hebrew and catechism in the evenings at the houses of the
The cemetery of the colony is one of its most
neglected features. There have only been about a dozen deaths in
the eight years that the colony has been founded, and there is
only one tombstone erected. It is said that there has not been a
single child born alive that did not live, and as the population
of the colony has been increasing very steadily, this is a
marvelous fact. There is no doctor in the colony, and when one is
needed he is sent for from Vineland or some other town. The
cemetery is [in the] back of one of the farms, and is a very small
bit of land, enclosed by a picket fence. Bushes and shrubbery grow
at will, and the few graves are almost bidden.
Strange to say, in this Jewish community there
is no rabbi or cantor. As was explained to the reporter, there are
about a dozen of the colonists who are competent to lead the
services at any time, and these take turn as acting rabbi. Every
one of the colonists, when he gets up in the morning, binds a
black strap around his arm, and turning to the east, bows
repeatedly in the direction of Jerusalem and says his morning
prayers. The strap is wound and unwound a good many times, each
winding having its own significance. Every day some of the
colonists go into town, and they can be met in almost any of the
villages around the colony. Most of them, however, go to Vineland,
and here is where they buy their supplies. All through the farms
may be seen little places where arbors have been built, under the
shade of which the berries and other fruit are packed in crates
before they are taken to the station. When the reporter got back
to Vineland he as told by the Leach brothers that the children who
have been attending the public schools at Lower Neck have stood
very high in all the classes, almost invariably higher than
children of the same ages from the other villages. There has been
a good deal of prejudice on this account, it having been averred
that the Jewish children were not so neat and clean as the others,
but the trustees, who were not partial, put the objectors to the
test, and there was no evidence adduced to show that the children
of the colonists were not as well behaved and as cleanly as the
others. The Messrs. Leach said that while some prejudice still
existed, it was only in the minds of those who would not be
convinced under any circumstances. The industry of the colonists
was the marvel of the whole country side.
"It is wonderful," said one of the brothers,
"to observe the change that has been wrought in them since they
came here. It is almost impossible for us to believe that they are
the same persons who went shuffling through our streets, more
abject than any tramps, eight years ago. They are prospering and
rapidly paying off the mortgages on their farms, and are all eager
to acquire more land. In fact I never saw a set of men so land
hungry as these are. The last time the committee of the New York
society was down here, the settlers crowded around them very
anxious to get some more land from them. Several of the settlers
produced fat wallets, and one offered to put up a forfeit of $50
at once. In my opinion the colony is a great success."
There are two other colonies not far from that
of Alliance also settled by Russian Jews. Neither one, however, is
so flourishing or so typical. Carmel, which is nearer to
Binghamton than it is to Vineland, was originally settled by a
Jersey hotel keeper, who having made his pile in the city, and
being tired of its noise and bustle, retired to this spot and put
up an immensely big house containing eighteen rooms, which was the
wonder of the whole country side for years. Nevertheless, he did
not attract many people there, and about six years ago Michael
Heilprin, one of the editors of the Nation, and a
distinguished philanthropist, concluded to found a colony there on
the principle of the one at Alliance. He gathered together some
two or three hundred Russian Jews and bought land for them at
Carmel. It was his original intention to make this, like Alliance,
a farming colony, but for some reason the colonists didn't take to
farming and settled down to the same class of work that they do in
the city. This colony is not what could be called a success. Mr.
Miller, the hotel keeper referred to, is the only Christian living
in the colony now, but there are sixty families of Russian Jews.
Nearly all the land occupied by them was purchased by Mr. Miller.
The colonists here work on sewing machines the year around, and
except that they have more room, more air, and less squalor, they
are not much different from the same class of persons in New York.
Mr. Heilprin used to visit the colony very frequently during his
lifetime, and did much toward establishing it on a firm basis. he
devoted time and money and much patience to this project, but when
he died a few years ago, the colony was still in a very
unsatisfactory condition. Most of the clothing manufactured there
is of the light summer grades, such as seersuckers and similar
Last January an attempt was made under the
leadership of Joseph Parvin of Carmel to revive the farming idea
on a cooperative plan. The produce was to be sold directly to
consumers instead of the marketmen, and he consumers would become
shareholders in the society by purchasing shares at $10 apiece.
The individual holdings of land were to be given to the society,
which would give shares of interest in return. Mr. Parvin's ideas
were on a grand scale, and included sales deposits in New York and
Philadelphia, and dairies, wine factories, canning factories,
cider mills, and jelly factories in Carmel. A number of officers
with long titles were to supervise the affairs of the society
which, unlike the government of Alliance, came near being ideal
Socialism. Schools, physicians, and entertainments were embraced i
the scope of the society. Printed circulars have been sent out,
together with blank subscription lists for consumers. The fate of
this scheme has not yet been decided.
The third colony is at Rosenhayn. This was also
intended to be a farming colony, and was settled four years ago.
The settler--here, however, were not aided by anybody. There had
been some Christian families living there, and the Jews came there
and bought land through the building and loan associations. These
still hold mortgages on their farms, which are very small. In
fact, there is not land enough on any of these farms to make it
profitable to cultivate them. The houses are prettier than those
at Alliance, but they were all build by workmen from other places.
None of the settlers here is skilled in a trade as are those at
Alliance. There is very little farming attempted and, as at
Carmel, the settlers rely upon their work on the sewing machine
for their livelihood. The incomes from these, however, are by no
means large, and there is no prospect of these settlers becoming
as independent as those at Alliance.
They have practically no future before them
while every year sees material progress in the condition of the
Alliance farmers. It would not be at all surprising if both
Rosenhayn and Carmel were abandoned altogether in the not remote
future, but Alliance seems to be permanently and solidly
established. If all the Russian Jews who come to this country
could follow in the footsteps of the Alliance farmers, there is no
likelihood that American citizens would object to their presence.
But the difficulty that has attended the establishment of even
this colony, and the lack of success that has accompanied other
efforts, would make it clear to the student of this social problem
that no evidence has yet been adduced to warrant the presumption
that the coming immigrants will make successful farmers.
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