History of Jewish Farming on Four Continents in the Modern Era
Taught by Prof. Jonathan Dekel-Chen, Bildner Visiting Scholar, and professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Following up on the recent launch of the Bildner Center’s exciting new digital exhibit Jewish Agriculturalism in the Garden State, this mini-course will explore the story of the Jewish global agricultural settlement movement from the 1880s until the 1950s as well as some of its more recent developments in the U.S. and Israel. Almost completely forgotten in collective memory, farming was a major feature of Jewish life for decades in the Americas, Eastern Europe, the Land of Israel and, of course, in New Jersey. What did it mean then? What might it mean today?
“The era of modern Jewish farming began in the early 1800s and spanned four continents, with hundreds of thousands of Jewish farmers working millions of acres. Tsar Alexander I allowed Jews trapped in the Pale of Settlement to move onto empty farmland in New Russia. Decades later, Eastern European Jews, with the help of benefactors like Baron de Hirsch, established agricultural colonies in the Americas. The miracle of Israel’s blooming desert evolved as part of this global project. Each of these is a chapter in the larger story of Jewish rural life.”
Professor Jonathan Dekel-Chen is Rabbi Edward Sandrow Chair in Soviet & East European Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he holds a dual appointment in the Department of Jewish History and in the Department of General History. He served from 2007-2019 as the Academic Chairman of the Leonid Nevzlin Research Center for Russian and East European Jewry. He is currently Chairman of the Russian Studies Department. Dekel-Chen’s publications have appeared in prestigious scholarly presses. His current research and publications deal with transnational philanthropy and advocacy, non-state diplomacy, agrarian history and migration. In 2014 he co-founded the Bikurim Youth Village for the Performing Arts in Eshkol, which provides world-class artistic training for underserved high school students from throughout Israel.
Top Image: Abe and Martha Crystal on their poultry farm, Alliance Colony, New Jersey, undated. (Alliance Heritage Center)