The Museum of Family History

HOME          SITE MAP          ABOUT THE MUSEUM          FEEDBACK          OPPORTUNITIES          LINKS


The Jewish Farmer

From The Sun newspaper, August 17, 1890.




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 Successful.



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.

On the Road to Vineland.


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 successes.

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 from persecution.


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 for life.

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 America.

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.

The Pioneer of the Colonists.


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.

The barracks.


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 were disheartening.

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 and industrious.


In the Vineyard.

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 among them.

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 settlement.

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 the colonists.

"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 farmers."


Building Their First Brick House.

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 pictures."

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.


The Sort of Houses Now Building.

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 were plain.

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 farm house.

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 dining room.

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 the colony.

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 Belle of Alliance.

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.


The Orthodox Synagogue.

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.

Lubiroff, One of the Leading Citizens.


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.


A Typical House of the Early Kind.

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.


The House of the Patriarch.

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 Postmaster.

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.

A Federal Institution.


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 teachers.

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 kinds.

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.

Related exhibitions:


Copyright 2006-9 Museum of  Family History

All rights reserved.  Image Use Policy