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Opportunity for Promoting Agricultural Colonisation of Polish Jews?

There are a number of Jews in Poland who are engaged in fruit and vegetable gardening and also in agriculture, the Yiddish daily “Najer Hajnt” writes to-day. They are organised in a society, the President of which is a certain M. Streit, and the Vice-President is Councillor Isaac Engelman, a member of the Warsaw City Council. The leaders of this Organisation have drawn up a plan for settling no less than 200,000 Jews on the Land in Poland. On Saturday night, Messrs. Streit and Engelman called a meeting, at which they outlined their plan. Mr. Engelman, who is himself a big landowner and an agriculturist on a large scale, stated that there are in Poland a large number of Jewish landowhers who own 600,000 morgen of land. Because of the bad conditions in agriculture at present, these Jewish landowners, he said, are ready at any moment to parcel out their land and sell it for small farms. If they rckoned 20 morgen land as necessary for a family to earn its living, these 600,000 morgen of land in Jewish possession (land not in Jewish possession would be impossible to buy) could be divided up among 30,000 Jewish families, comprising about 200,000 souls.

According to Mr. Engelman’s plan, based on his expert knowledge of agriculture, 15 of the 20 morgen land could be used for growing corn, and the other 5 for meadow land, so arranged that each colony would have a wide stretch of meadow land worked on co-operative lines. Asked how much 20 morgen of land would cost, Mr. Engelman said that with land as cheap as it is now, especially in the border districts, it should cost 5,000 zlotys. A two-roomed house and kitchen should cost 2,000 zlotys, stables 1,000 zlotys, 3 cows 450 zlotys, implements and share of a collective tractor 1,000 zlotys, two horses 250 zlotys, cost of living for one year till the farm brings returns 1,500 zlotys, and unanticipated expenditure 500 zlotys, making a total of 11,700 zlotys. These are outside figures, Mr. Engelman said, which in most cases can be reduced.

Mr. Streit put forward an alternative plan, for fruit and vegetable farming, for which, he said, only four morgen of land would be necessary per family, and it would cost only 7,700 zlotys to settle a Jewish family.

How was the money to be raised? There are three million Jews in Poland, Mr. Streit said. If each gives 20 groschen a month, they would have 600,000 zlotys a year, and with this money they would gradually be able to settle Jews on the land. The money could be collected by the Jewish communities in each town and township and forwarded to the central organisation. Mr. Engelman, however, thought that the Jewish organisations, both in Poland and abroad would find it possible to help in providing some of the funds, so that the work could be speeded up.

GOVERNMENT FAVOURS SCHEME INITIATORS CLAIM: I AM A ZIONIST MR. ENGELMAN SAYS AND HAVE NO IDEA OF COMPETING WITH PALESTINE BUT WHEREVER OPPORTUNITY OFFERS OF PRODUCTIVISING JEWS IT SHOULD BE TAKEN

Where would they find the colonists? In the first place, they said, among the declassed traders, who would be given a training in land work in the same way as the Haluzim are trained before going out to Palestine, for which purpose they would have a central training farm belonging to the organisation. They would organise co-operatives, through which the Jewish colonists would sell their products.

This is no fantasy, Mr. Engelman said. I say that as an expert in these things. Land is cheap now, cattle are cheap poultry are cheap, timber is cheap, labour is cheap, the colonists are easily obtainable because great numbers of Jews have nothing to do and there is really no choice for them. I doubt whether such an opportunity will recur in our generation, and the present opportunity should, therefore, be utilised so that as many Jews as possible should be settled on the land now.

Mr. Engelman said that he had discussed the matter with a number of Government officials and with the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, and he could tell them that the Government was with them, and would put no obstacles in the way. The initiators would proceed with their plan. A commission of three members, consisting of himself, Mr. Streit, and Senator Mendelssohn had been constituted, and they were going to work. There would be a second public meeting on February 20th.

I myself, Mr. Engelman said, am a Zionist, a Mizrachist. I believe in Palestine, and in the Zionist ideal, and I cannot be accused of running this scheme in competition to Palestine. By only point is that wherever there is a chance of productivising Jews by helping to put them on the land, that chance must be taken and used to the full.

The audience listened very attentively to the plan as outlined at the meeting, the “Hajnt” concludes, and although it sounded fantastic, it adds, it was certainly very interesting.

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