Most of the synagogues are gone; a temple has been converted into a Baptist church. There is little indication to the passerby that the southern New Jersey’s Salem and Cumberland counties once contained active Jewish colonies—the largest and most successful in fact, of the settlement experiments undertaken by Russian-Jewish immigrants in America during the late nineteenth century. Ellen Eisenberg’s work focuses on the transformation of these colonies over a period of four decades, from agrarian, communal colonies to private mixed industrial-agricultural communities. The colonies grew out of the same “back to the land” sentiment that led to the development of the first modern Jewish agricultural settlements in Palestine. Founded in 1882, the settlements survived for over thirty years. The community of Alliance’s population alone grew to nearly 1000 by 1908.Originally established as socialistic agrarian settlements by young idealists from the Russian Jewish Am Olam movement, the colonies eventually became dependent on industrial employment, based on private ownership. The early independent, ideological settlers ultimately clashed with the financial sponsors and the migrants they recruited, who did not share the settlers’ communitarian and agrarian goals.
Ellen Eisenberg is Assistant Professor of history at Willamette University.
6 x 9, 0 pages, 10 black and white illustrations