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May 3: “Every American Will Be Glad . . .”

May 3, 2013

220px-Maurice_de_Hirsch_-_Tableau“Every American will be glad to see the announcement of a scheme to colonize Jews” in Argentina, wrote the New York Times on this date in 1891, reporting on Maurice Baron de Hirsch’s program to build an agricultural colony for persecuted Russian Jews in South America. “He himself is said to have promised the sum of $15,000,000,” the article continued, “which would of itself suffice to transport a very large number of colonists and to equip a considerable colony” — and de Hirsch, the Times noted, “is by no means the richest Hebrew in Europe. It is confidently expected that his example will have its effect upon other rich Israelites.” The news of a curtailed migration of Russian Jews (“these wretched people”) to the U.S. would “be received by everyone with relief,” the article said, since they “assimilate to us very slowly and imperfectly.” Quite an article! Baron de Hirsch (1831-1896) was the founder of the Jewish Colonization Association, which did establish agricultural colonies for several thousand Russian Jews in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and the U.S.

“The immigration of the Russian Jews . . . seems to have been a nearly unmixed injury, economically, socially, and politically.” —The New York Times