Norma (Aug. 23)
The story of the “American Chalutzim,” the Jewish pioneers who settled at Alliance, N. J., in 1882, was retold at the Golden Jubilee celebration, marking the 50th anniversary of Alliance, Norma and Brotmanville, at Rainbow Lake, Norma, over the week-end. From all parts of the United States over 600 descendants of the original settlers and former residents gathered to renew acquaintance, see their old home and pay tribute to the remaining few pioneers and to the memory of those who had passed on.
In a number of addresses, delivered at the final banquet Sunday afternoon, the hardships and struggles of the first settlers were vividly recalled; how the Alliance Israelite Universelle had purchased the tract of land in the South Jersey wilderness; how the settlers starved and scrimped and finally cleared the land after the Baron De Hirsch Fund had come to their rescue, and the bitter struggle to eke a living out of the sandy, rocky soil, were all pictured. The joys of building and the humble pleasures of these Russian Jewish immigrants was not forgotten in the recital of the history of the colonies.
Dr. Jacob Billikopf, director of the Federation of Jewish Charities, Philadelphia, declared that the South Jersey colonies had given the impetus to the great Jewish migration from Russia and Poland to the United States following 1882. In the course of his address he said that the farmer, deep rooted in the soil, had fared better in the economic struggle, in many instances, than his brethren in the large cities.
Hon. Joseph Perski, city solicitor of Atlantic City, son of one of the 43 original settlers in the colonies, in recounting the early struggles, referred to the fact that “the worst piece of land in New Jersey” had been chosen to start the Jew on an agricultural career in the United States. Only the idealism that actuated the pioneers, could have carried them through, he declared.
Philip R. Strisik and Dr. Goward, of the Jewish Agriculture Society; Jacob H. Perskie, Harry D. Steinberg, Herman Eisenberg and Sigmund Steunberg, of Philadelphia, members of the arrangements committee; Prof. S. Louis Mounier, Vineland, educational director of the colonies for many years; Joseph Greenblatt, Vineland, and Joseph Zager, one of the first settlers, were other speakers at the jubilee banquet. A memorial service for the pioneers who had passed away was held earlier in the day at the Alliance Cemetery.
Gilbert Seldes, author, who was also born at Alliance, where his father was postmaster, sent a letter of greeting to the celebration committee.
A feature of the observance was the issuance of “Yoval,” a book commemorating the 50th anniversary. Chief interest centered in an article by Sidney Bailey, Sr., one of the surviving pioneers, on the history of the settlement. Others who are still living include Mrs. Bailey, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Zager, Mr. and Mrs. William Cohen, Mr. and Mrs. S. Spiegel, Meyer Solunsky and Israel Opachinsky.
Harry D. Steinberg, Philadelphia, was the general Jubilee Committee chairman, and there were representatives in nine cities. Jacob D. Spiegel, president of the New Jersey State Association of Township Committeemen, and Jacob Crystal were the co-chairmen of the reception committee.