The achievements of ten thousand Jewish families, former tradesmen and city-dwellers, now settled as farmers in Russia, are described by Dr. Maurice Hexter, executive secretary of the Boston Federation of Jewish Charities, in a cable from Moscow to the United Jewish Campaign.
Dr. Hexter has spent four weeks in Russia, during which time he visited Cherson, Krivoi Rog and Crimea and made a survey of the colonization work.
“All descriptions, including mine, fail to do justice to the astounding achievements I have witnessed of the ten thousand Jewish families who are adjusting themselves in these regions to farming life,” says Dr. Hexter. “I saw the harvesting of a bumper wheat crop in the Jewish settlements. Part of this crop is being acquired by the government for seeding purposes.
“Four causes contribute to this amazing success.” Dr. Hexter’s cable continues. “The first is the relentless attention of the colonists to the government’s economic policy. This means that they stick closely to farming and make no side-ventures. Second, the surprising adaptability of these new Jewish settlers, supposed to be fitted only for city pursuits, to farming life, and their herculean efforts to succeed. Each one of them works as if he felt that the success of the whole enterprise, involving the fate of thousands already on the soil and many thousands more yet to follow, depends on him. Third, the unstinted aid that is being given this movement by the government. This aid takes various forms, chiefly grants of forest lands for timber purposes, financial credits of various types, the granting of reduced rates for transportation and freight rebates. Fourthly, the aid the Jewish farmers are receiving from American Jews, primarily through the funds raised in the United Jewish Campaign and administered by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
“Another vitally important factor in the success of this tremendous enterprise is the ability, infinite capacity and attention to detail of the personnel of the Joint Distribution Committee’s training staff, gathered and directed by Dr. Joseph A. Rosen, whose genius in this field is marked. These factors blend harmoniously with the zeal for success felt by each individual colony, which results in a unique esprite-de-corps.
The magnitude of the work can be grasped when I report that while I was in the Crimea there arrived a ship-load of one million French tiles intended for the roofs of settlers’ houses. The difficulties which naturally arise in the work of settlers of the first year are, in this undertaking, being lessened by the development of their technical skill due to the training given to them by Dr. Rosen’s staff, and the stimulus that comes to them from the knowledge of the splendid success of their predecessors in the Russian prairies.
“A gratifying feature of this work is the benefit which is being derived from it by all the farmers in the sections neighboring the Jewish settlements, especially from the assistance being given to the non-Jewish farmers by the Jewish tractor and well-digging squads.”
Dr. Hexter says in his cable that the social and religious problems of the Jewish colonists are already being solved by the older, that is by the three-year settlers. “I am convinced that this agricultural enterprise constitutes the way out for that portion of Russian Jewry affected by an economic policy which makes the change from city to farming life an absolute necessity,” Dr. Hexter’s cable continues. “The government is ready to continue its aid in the same friendly, substantial spirit as in the past, recognizing that the underprivileged status of the Jews under the old regime makes special treatment necessary if they are to be saved from the frightful economic dilemma they find themselves in now, due to the restrictive measures of the old Czaristic regime which barred them from productive careers.”
Dr. Hexter calls attention in his cable to the Zionist colonies in the Crimea. “There are twelve,” he says, “and the Joint Distribution Committee is using one of them for nursery purposes.”
Dr. Hexter was accompanied on his tour of the Jewish colonies in Russia by Reuben Brainin, honorary vice-president of the Zionist Organization of America; Prof. Chafkin of the Alliance Israelite, discoverer of the anti-cholera serum; Dr. I. Fuchs, a Zionist, president of the Moscow Jewish community and Dr. Lander, representing the Leningrad Jewish community.