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September 24: The National Farm School

September 23, 2015

The Board of Commissioners of Public Charities in Pennsylvania visited the National Farm School in Doylestown, Pennsylvania on this date in 1899. The school, on 122 acres, had been chartered three years earlier under the leadership of Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf (1958-1923), the spiritual leader of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, the oldest reform synagogue in Philadelphia, “to help American agricultural science by helping the youth of the cities to secure a training in scientific agriculture,” according to a 1934 Jewish Telegraph Agency article. Krauskopf had been inspired by a visit he made to Leo Tolstoy while investigating the status of Russian Jews, who were emigrating to the U.S. in the thousands; Tolstoy had told him, “Lead the tens of thousands of people of your cities to your idle, fertile lands, and you will bless not only them, but your country, and spread a good name for your people throughout the land, for all the world honors and protects the bread producer and is eager to welcome him. Begin with the young and the old will follow.” The National Farm School admitted young men on a nonsectarian basis but had many Jews among its students and its board of directors. It offered a four-year course in agricultural science, and by 1935 had graduated 800 while expanding to 1,300 acres. Today it is Delaware Valley University, which has an undergraduate body of nearly 2,000 students; women were first admitted in 1969.

“Not yet have we grasped the scientific truth that society is an organic whole in which the welfare of all is dependent upon the well-being of each...” —Joseph Krauskopf