An encouraging example of the faith and hope with which young German Jewry looks towards its own future is to be found in a recent description in the Juedische Rundschau of a Jewish agricultural training farm.
“About an hour’s distance from Berlin,” says the article, “away from the railroad line and well segregated, lies the estate called ‘Winkel’, today an important training place for future chalutzim and chalutzos.” The director of the estate and teacher of the young would-be farmers is an old “Ahlemer”, one of the first to realize the necessity for training Jewish youth in the various branches of agriculture. The director is described as having been active in agriculture for years, a good teacher and an understanding guide for young people, a man to whom it is “immaterial whether later on the young people work here or abroad or in Palestine; the principal thing is that they have learned to do something.”
In the Rundschau article the estate is described as consisting of large grounds and many buildingsâ€”a villa-like manor house, a long narrow building in which the young people (called “probationers” here) live, stables and sheds and a canning factory. Surrounding the buildings are vegetable gardens and orchards, pastures and woodlands. There are in all about three hundred acres, eighty of which yield fruits and vegetables of many kinds, including raspberries and strawberries, grain, turnips and potatoes. Some of these are used to make marmalades, preserves and fruit juices in the canning factory on the grounds. The cattle, which are raised in large numbers, use the meadows for pasture. Many fowl, especially chickens, are also raised. A part of the land is artificially irrigated in order that it may not lie unused.
ROTATION OF LABOR
Every probationer on the estate works, at some time or other during his stay, at every type of work done on the farm. Naturally, this makes the running of the estate more difficult. Some of the young people sign up for a two-year course, while a number of others come to the estate for only half a year. Some of these, those who stand the test very well, may stay for another half or even a whole year. The young men are trained in the branches of agriculture, gardening and cattle raising. The girls learn agricultural home economics, that is, house cleaning, cooking and washing, the keeping of fowl, milking, the care of cattle, gardening, and the making of preserves. To this practical instruction is added a theoretical basis, which in summer consists in devoting an hour to the discussion of the work which has been performed. In winter, because of the shorter working hours, two hours of instruction, more scientifically devised, are provided. The instruction is given by the manager of the estate, who is aided in this work by an inspector. The girls, too, receive instruction, especially in the science of housekeeping, dietetics and dairy work. In winter every one is pledged to devote an hour a day to theoretical work.
Only young people, most of them between the ages of 16 and 22, are trained here. The various Zionist youth organizations and the Pioneer Youth Organization choose the probationers. Those whose applications are accepted go through a preliminary probationary period at the work, so that, if they make the grade, they can begin the actual training period. In summer there are about thirty probationers on the estate. About a third of these are girls. In winter the number is somewhat smaller. The greater part of them come directly from school; a few of them have already been in some commercial occupation.
BRING COOPERATIVE SPIRIT
The co-operative working of these boys and girls is especially furthered by the fact that nearly all of them come from some youth alliance and therefore bring with them some kind of spirit of co-operation. Nearly all of them are highly adaptable to the work. In the beginning, indeed, they find it difficult, and there are many days of illness, especially because of colds and minor accidents, but these are soon overcome, and a few months later the pale, thin city youngsters have become a band of strong, robust workers, the sight of whom is a joy! Seldom can one find anywhere a group of such mery and physically vital young Jewish people as these.
In any case, one must also admit that the living conditions at this place of occupational orientation are especially favorable. The probationers, it is true, receive no concessions at their work, and they are put sternly to task. They must work together with the old workers on the estate, from whom they learn the use of tools and the tempo of the work (at which, quite incidentally, there is said to be an exemplary relationship between young boys and girls and the old workers.) But the food, which is served by the wife of the director and the girls who are in training, is as good as it is tasty, and the building which is used for sleeping and living is, indeed, very plain, but very practically and cozily furnished.
Perhaps one can even say that in the light of the future that awaits them in Palestine, too much that is good obtains here. Naturally these favorable external circumstances make it easier for the young people to become accustomed to the work and promotes a comradely spirit among them. They study Hebrew zealously under a teacher who comes from Berlin every Sunday and in other ways prepare themselves for the spiritual side of their life in Palestine, where most of them are planning to go.
VISITORS HELP ALONG
Because the farm is so near Berlin, the potential Palestinian farmers maintain their contacts with friends in the city.
But despite all that is done and planned to make things easy and pleasant, it is not easy to make farmers of former students and merchants. As a result, both the director and the teachers have many problems. Many of the young people lack the stamina necessary for agricultural work. Having done a thing successfully once, many of them believe that they can go on to other, new tasks. Instead, they must stick to the routine. The director finds it necessary to stress continually the need for patience and perfection in the doing of each small task. It is difficult to impress this upon Jewish youths, for the German Jews have for generations been unaccustomed to every sort of practical activity and especially to agriculture. Most of the youngsters, the Rundschau says, have as yet no conception of the relative values of the things which they use in farm management, nor can they see their own errors.
Difficult as the work is, it yields fruit. The young people change, under the influence of the work, in a gratifying fashion. They become serious and determined to achieve their ambitions, and their earnestness and diligence carry them along from day to day, through many a difficulty and towards the establishment of a living Jewish life. They have bridged the gulf between theory and practice, and will know how to fashion their lives in Palestine in a manner that will do honor to themselves and to the land.