Skip to comments.The Last of the Jewish Farmgirls
Posted on 06/22/2005 5:18:21 AM PDT by Pharmboy
Jane Therese for The New York Times
Lillian Greenblatt Braun in the Alliance Colony cemetery.
PITTSGROVE, N.J. - Lillian Greenblatt Braun's 100th birthday party-cum-homecoming began, appropriately enough, with a trip to the graveyard.
Leaning on a niece's arm in the bright sunshine on a recent Sunday, Mrs. Braun walked along the tombstones in the cemetery of the old Jewish agricultural colony of Alliance, deep in southern New Jersey.
"That's my mother," she said, pausing at a stone inscribed in English and Hebrew. "Here's Uncle Benny." The next plot was a blank patch of grass. "Yes, and I'm here."
The niece, Merle Greenblatt Zucker, caught Mrs. Braun's hand. "But you're not here," she said. "You can't go. You're our only connection."
She is indeed. Mrs. Braun, a petite, indomitable woman with wide blue eyes, appears to be the lone surviving native of the Alliance Colony, making her a vital link to an important but largely buried part of American Jewish history.
In the 1880's, pogroms and anti-Semitic laws in Russia caused a historic exodus of Jews. Most ended up crowded into tenements in American cities. But some Jewish thinkers urged their brethren, as one of them wrote, "to become tillers of the soil and thus shake off the accusation that we were petty mercenaries living upon the toil of others." And so hundreds of Jews established agricultural colonies on land bought for them by charities and philanthropists.
The odds were against them. Often the land was unyielding. The settlers, mostly tradesman or scholars, were ill prepared for a life of clearing tree stumps and birthing calves. (snip)
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
In... 1900, there were 5,737,372 farms in America and the average farm had 146 acres. Since then, the average farm size has increased enormously as corporate farming has displaced the farm families of earlier years.
Among these farmers were Jewish immigrants from Russia. Thus, in 1884, the British Lord Moses Montefiore sponsored a group called Am Olam (Eternal People), which established seven Jewish agricultural colonies in Kansas. These communities were called Beersheba, which already existed for two years, Lasker, Montefiore, Leeser, Touro, Gilead and Hebron.
Beersheba was the first of these colonies founded in 1882. They built sod houses, sod synagogues and schools in which children studied during the day and adults at night.
By the spring of 1883, Beersheba had more than 200 acres in production. Nevertheless, the community failed in 1886 because creditors reclaimed their livestock and their tools.
Then the newly founded Hebrew Union Agricultural Society assisted Eastern European Jews to establish agricultural careers. Other states also participated in this experiment, including Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, Oregon and Michigan. There was also a Jewish agricultural settlement in Sicily Island, Louisiana which a flood wiped out and there was a Jewish agricultural settlement in Oregon which was liquidated for debt in 1882.
The Ad Olam group had hoped to establish a home for the Jewish people fleeing the Russian Empire by the thousands and, after the accession of Alexander III to the throne of Russia in 1881, by the millions. Alexander III was a vicious bigot who blamed the murder of his father on the Jews because the killer, not at all Jewish, had a Jewish girlfriend.
Montefiore was another Kansas agricultural settlement begun by Jewish immigrants in 1884. The colony included 15 families. Yet drought defeated this colony as well, as many of its members moved to Lasker, which had been founded in 1885. Yet, by 1890, even Lasker was abandoned because drought had made farming impossible.
Both Gilead and Hebron had somewhat more success. Both colonies lasted from 1886 until 1895, when all the Jewish families had left. Jewish farming in Kansas came to an end by the beginning of the twentieth century. Today, there are a number of Jews in Kansas who descend from these farmers. Senator Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania was born in Kansas.
LOL! I knew someone would just HAVE to 'correct' me.
Sorry, but you asked for it. And as a Noachide who basically wants to undo the past two thousand years and reinstitute the Biblical world, who better to do it than me?
Besides, all that Lithuanian shtetl nostalgia gets in the way.
Thanks for the education, and just when I thought I knew everything. That was very interesting. It also shows human hubris and stupidity, re the banks conficating the means by which their loans could be repaid, are nothing new.
Thanks for the info. It is not my failing memory so much as it is not being exposed to all that. The history as told in the Old Testament I ignored as too far in the past to be relevant, reflecting instead on my own experience.
I suppose my stereo is much more modern. In the years of yore most of the population was rural so it seems natural that Jews would be part of that. However, Jews seem to be such excellent businessmen it is natural to think of them in that role.
It's an easy stereotype to make. More Jews end up as professionals (lawyers, doctors, accountants) than businessmen, though. ;)
You tend to find Jews all over doing all sorts of things, despite small numbers (I think there's only 13 million left in all the world). All parts of the political spectrum, all occupations and all over the world. My family, for example, has a large number of doctors, lawyers and soldiers (with, it seems, a particular aptitude for officers in field intelligence, and heavy weapon deployment)
LOL! Good point.
"As a result, he established the Distillers Corporation in 1924 in Montreal.
"So good call."
Good for him of course. But not for those poor souls to whom he sold this poison.
FROM the earliest contact between North American Indians and white European settlers, the Europeans held the upper hand. Almost unremittingly, the Europeans imposed their idea of private ownership of land on the Native Americans, obtaining it from them by purchase, stealth and war. Virtually every Indian tribe in North America found its contacts with white settlers painful, if not fatal, and few Indians trusted or respected, much less loved, the white men and women they knew.
One exception to this generalization was Solomon Bibo, a white trader who won the trust and affection of the Acoma Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. In 1888, "Don Solomono," as he was known to the Acomas, became governor of the Acoma Pueblo, the equivalent of chief of the tribe. Remarkably, the Acomas asked the United States to recognize Bibo as their leader. Even more remarkable is that Bibo was a Jew.
Solomon Bibo was born in Prussia in 1853, the sixth of eleven children. In 1866, two of Solomon's brothers ventured to America and settled in New Mexico, which in 1848 had become part of the United States after being first a Spanish colony and then part of Mexico. Initially, the older Bibo brothers worked for the Spiegelberg family, pioneer Jewish merchants in New Mexico, but moved on to the tiny village of Ceboletta, where they set up a trading post to exchange goods with the Navajos. In 1869, at the age of sixteen, Solomon Bibo left Germany for America. After spending some months on the East coast learning English, he joined his brothers in Ceboletta.
All three Bibo brothers developed reputations for fairness in their dealings with the local Indian tribes, who used to bring the Bibos the farm produce they grew. In turn, the Bibo's, under contract to the U. S. government, supplied the army forts in the area with this produce. The Indians were paid a fair price by the Bibo's, which encouraged the Indians to improve their farming techniques. The Bibos also became deeply involved in mediating the many disputes over land ownership that arose between the Indians and the Mexican residents of the area, who for centuries had coveted the Indians' lands. They also tried to intercede with local white Americans (Anglos) who tried to purchase Indian lands at below market prices. The Bibos were considered pro-Indian and were not particularly embraced by either the Mexicans or their fellow Anglos.
None of the Bibos became more endeared to the Indians than Solomon was to the Acomas. In 1882, he arrived at the pueblo and set up a trading post. He learned Queresan, the Acoma language, and helped the tribe fight its legal battles to restore its traditional lands. By treaty in 1877, the Acomas had been granted 94,000 acres of land by the U.S. government, far less than the Indians thought they were entitled to according to historical evidence. The Acomas were determined that they should lose no more than had already slipped through their hands.
To accomplish this end, in 1884 the tribe decided to offer Bibo a 30 year lease to all their land, in exchange for which he would pay them $12,000, protect their cattle, keep squatters away and mine the coal under the Acoma lands, for which he would pay the tribe a royalty of ten cents per ton for each ton extracted. Pedro Sanchez, the U.S. Indian agent from Santa Fe, learned of the deal and, jealous of the success of the "rico Israelito" (rich Jew), tried to get the federal government to void the lease..
The Bibo family fought back. Simon Bibo petitioned the Board of Indian Commissioners in Washington to the effect that his brother Solomon's "intentions with the Indians are of the best nature and beneficial to them - because the men, women and children love him as they would a father and he is in the same manner attached to them." In 1888, convinced finally that Bibo had acted honorably, the Indian agent for New Mexico wrote, "To the people of the pueblo of Acoma, having confidence in the ability, integrity and fidelity of Solomon Bibo. . I hereby appoint [him] governor of said pueblo."
In 1885, Solomon married an Acoma woman, Juana Valle, granddaughter of his predecessor as governor of the Acoma Pueblo. Juana was originally a Catholic, but observed the Jewish faith and raised her children as Jews. In 1898, wanting their children to receive a Jewish education, Solomon and Juana relocated to San Francisco, where he invested in real estate and opened a fancy food shop. Their oldest son was bar mitzvah at San Francisco's Ohabei Shalome, and the younger attended religious school at Temple Emanuel. Solomon Bibo died in 1934, Juana in 1941. Solomon Bibo, governor of the Acomas, America's only known Jewish Indian chief, is buried with his Indian princess in the Jewish cemetery in Colma, California.
That's the point. The "old testament" must become relevant and the experience of the past two thousand years must be shown to be an anomaly in Jewish history.
I meant more that he grew up in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The poster I was responding to was spot on regarding that. As to selling alcohol, I'm not opposed to its selling or moderate drinking, though I can see and sympathize where you're coming from. Being a brewer or distiller is not a 100% immoral occupation however.
Rome IS eternal.
In hoc signo vinces.
Rome's legend is eternal. It's heroes renown is immortal. But Rome, and Romans, are dead, buried and gone. Just as all things will be. Even, I hate to say it, America eventually. But, again like all things, it'll rise again, greater than before.
And personally, I like my school's motto. "Deo Legi Regi Gregi." God, Law, King, People.
I grew up in the South, a land renowned for prejudice, and attended schools which drew students for all over the city, rich and poor. I was aware than many of my friends were Jews only years later when traveled beyond my home environment and started to realize that certain names frequently indicated the person was a Jew. As I reflected on the people I knew in school I realized many were Jews and none were poor, reflecting their families livelihood. You are correct in they were a mixture of doctors, lawyers, and merchants.
The amusing thing about my memories is that I never viewed them through a prism of stereotype because I didn't know they were Jews. They were all just like the rest of us. Although in retrospect, a few did fit the stereotype, even if I didn't know it, and none of us reacted to them as such.
It's our mothers. There's a Jewish joke that goes "Every Jewish mother wants her son to grow up to be a doctor. If he's a bit stupid, a lawyer. If he's completley retarded, she'll settle for accountant."
Lots of social pressure to be a professional. That's all it is. That, and a high social value placed on academic excellence and hair-splitting. ;)
A similar argument is made against gun manufacturers. What about Botox, a virilent toxin when improperly used? (Like by Pelosi :-))
I have noticed the striving for achievement and acceptance and sometimes wondered if it was the result of a conditioned inferiority complex because the whole world seemed determine to kill them through the years.
Partially. But there's an ambition that is conditioned into us. Not really an inferiority complex (that manifests itself more as the fear that neo nazi in the right wing are going to start burning our homes at any moment like they did in the past. Much more prevalent in the older generation. Hence why more and more Jews are moving towards the right, especially under Bush. Not in rushes, but in a steady trickle of families who pretty much say "enough hypocrisy from the left. We know the real Christians are our real friends, and have stood up for us for centuries."
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