Weekly Reader: The Story of Jewish Farmers

In the Soviet Union, Jews were looked upon as “rootless cosmopolitans.” Rootless because they were thought to have no national allegiances, and cosmopolitans because they were perceived as city dwellers, disconnected from the land. Today Jews are still thought of as urban creatures, and like most people in the modern world, we do live predominantly in cities. But to think of Jewish life in strictly urban terms would be overlooking the long history of Jewish farms and farmers, a history that goes back to biblical times and continues to this day. In the United States particularly, the story of Jewish farmers is an underappreciated, but fascinating, story.

Ezra Glinter

Clarion Colony

David Berg during an oral history interview

Around 1910, at the behest of Utah’s governor, a group of Philadelphia Jews founded Clarion Colony, a bold, if short-lived, Jewish farming community. In this oral history interview David Berg, a south Philadelphia native, talks about the colony and how it was partly responsible for his grandfather’s name change during the emigration process from “Leib Kalinsky” to “Louis Martin.”


Listen to an oral history interview about Clarion Colony



Yiddish Farmers

Two farmers in front of a field on cover of Pakn Treger

When Yisroel Bass and Naftali Ejdelman founded Yiddish Farm, they imagined a place that would not only grow crops but also cultivate a new cadre of fluent Yiddish speakers. During summer-long programs participants worked, cooked, ate, and hung out together—speaking only Yiddish. It was a rare refuge for total immersion in the language, a sojourn in what Ejdelman dubbed “Yiddish Land.”

Read an article about Yiddish Farm

Hebrew Farmers

Hebrew text on a piece of yellowed paper

One of the most interesting American experiments in Jewish farming was The New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanuel Society in Chesterfield, Connecticut. The community not only built Connecticut’s first rural synagogue in 1892 but also flourished as a vibrant, tightly knit social and religious congregation of over 50 families well into the 1920s and 1930s. While visiting the original location is certainly worth your while, you can also check out the society’s original minutes and ledger book right here on our website.


Read the minutes and ledger book of The New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanuel Society



Spring in Whitechapel

A man stands on a cliff with a large pen with a leaf on the tip

London’s East End was not known for its nature: it was crowded and dirty, and during the Depression workers, especially those in the tailoring trade, struggled to make ends meet. But that didn’t mean its inhabitants didn’t long for a bit of nature. This sketch, first published in the newspaper Di tsayt on April 24, 1932, ruefully laughs at the difficulty in finding a patch of sky, a ray of sunlight, running water, freshly picked flowers, earth, air and light, and milk straight from the cow.


Read a translation of “Spring in Whitechapel”