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January 20: The Federation of Jewish Farmers

January 20, 2016

jewish_farmers_of_america_agricultural_fairThe Federation of Jewish Farmers was organized in New York City on this date in 1909. It was a federation of thirteen organizations (Connecticut farmers constituted the largest group) that grew to thirty-five within two years. According to the Jewish Women’s Archive, the organization held an agricultural fair in its first years during the week of Sukkot, held at the Educational Alliance, and “gave Jewish farmers more purchasing power, starting a bureau to give liberal credit to farmers who needed more help, and offering good prices on seeds and farming implements to those who needed them.” Among its accomplishments were the establishment of nineteen credit unions and the Agrarian Bank, and agricultural and citizenship education for Jewish farmers via a traveling consultant. “[T]he Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society,” which founded the Federation, writes Mark A. Raider, was “originally an American department of the Baron de Hirsch Fund.... [It] resettled several thousand Jewish immigrants on farms across the country” and “regarded Jewish colonization in the United States as an essential political act. In 1921, for example, when Congress passed the Johnson-Reed Act [1924, actually—Editor], drastically restricting Jewish, Slavic, and Italian immigration, JAIAS aggressively campaigned on behalf of the cause of Jewish farming.”

“[T]he poorest farms are in the Berkshire region, while the best farms are in the fertile Connecticut River Valley. It is not uncommon for a Jewish farmer to realize as high as $6,000 in one year from the sale of tobacco alone.” —American Jewish Yearbook