|“I shall try to make for them a new home |
in different lands, where as free farmers on their own soil,
they can make themselves useful to that country.”
|Baron Maurice de Hirsch in The Forum (August 1891)|
The late 19th century was a period of transition and change for Eastern European Jewry. Pogroms, harsh restrictions and the deterioration of their economic situation led many Jews to leave Europe. Some of these immigrants were inspired by the idealism of the Russian socialist Am Olam movement, which aimed to create Jewish agricultural settlements. About 24 settlements directly inspired by Am Olam were founded in America in the early 1880s.
The largest and most durable Am Olam settlements were located in New Jersey. Alliance, the first Jewish agricultural colony in the United States, was founded in southern New Jersey in 1882. By the late 1880s, four other Jewish farming colonies had been created in the same region: Carmel, Rosenhayn, Brotmanville, and Norma .
The founding of Woodbine in 1891 was unique in that the sponsors, the Baron de Hirsch Fund, envisioned a mix of industry and agriculture. The addition of an industrial component to the economy was a key factor in the growth and development of Woodbine, which, in 1903, became the first Jewish borough to be incorporated in America.
|Alliance Cemetery of the Alliance Colony of Jewish Farmers|
|Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the distinctly Jewish character of the Am Olam settlements dissipated, as succeeding generations left for economic opportunities in cities such as Philadelphia, New York, and to the larger, thriving Jewish community in Vineland, New Jersey.|
|Residents of Woodbine, NJ pose for a group portrait – 1910|
|Though the initial dream of Am Olam faded, these Jewish agricultural colonies did prove to be successful vehicles for the integration of an immigrant population into the mainstream of American society.|
|Vineland Jewish Community 1923 – Picnic at Rainbow Lake|