The colonization of their sons and the problem of Jewish education in the colonies were the chief topics of discussion at the recent annual convention of representatives of Jewish colonies of the Argentine.
The convention was the ninth annual gathering of the league of Jewish colonists’ cooperatives which is known as the “Fraternidad Agraria.” Neither the league nor the individual cooperatives are, formally speaking, Jewish institutions, since Argentinian law fo##ids religious or national differentiation among the cooperatives, each of which is supposed to be open to any inhabitant of the country. Nevertheless, both the individual Jewish cooperatives and their league are definitely Jewish, as everyone, including the government, knows.
COLONISTS AIRED JEWISH PROBLEMS
In addition to general questions such as those of planting and harvesting, which affect all colonists, the colonists discussed specifically Jewish questions.
There was first of all the matter of over-assessment of the various parcels of land. Prices set by the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) years ago were held to be out of line with present conditions. Colonists were finding it difficult to pay the high rate of interest, the principal, and even the leasehold rates. They urged a re-assessment to make these payments easier.
Then there was the question of increasing the amount of land held by each family in colonies where the soil is not uniformly fertile, as in Narsime Levin. Here each family holds 150 hectares. But experts declare that the minimum ground each family should cultivate, if it is to make a living on the soil, should be 200 to 225 hectares.
WHAT TO DO WITH THE SONS
The discussion of this problem leads logically to an ever more vital one: What to do with the sons of the colonists. This has long been a painful subject with the Jewish colonists. In the beginning the ICA would not even hear of permitting the second generation to colonize. The organization held, and no doubt rightly, that the land funds of the ICA should be used only to attract new immigrants to agriculture in the Argentine. But at present few new colonists are being established by the ICA, and the sons of the old colonists are forced to go to the cities in search of a livelihood.
Of late the ICA has begun to colonize these second generation farmers who have grown up on their fathers’ land and are skilled in agricultural pursuits. But none of them may occupy land adjacent to that held by their parents, on account of an old ICA ruling which was intended to prevent the creation of colonial family estates. In practice the observance of this regulation hinders the development of Jewish colonization.
BAR BACHELORS AS COLONISTS
Besides ruling that no son of a colonist may hold land which is not at least six kilometers distant from that occupied by his father, the ICA refuses to allot ground to unmarried men, despite their argument that they cannot marry before their economic future seems reasonably assured.
The question is so acute, indeed, that it manages to become involved in almost ##ery other. It came up at this convention during the discussions of the colonization fund and again when the agrarian bank was on the carpet.
PROGRESS DEPENDS ON PROBLEM’S SOLUTION
That the further development of Jewish colonization in the Argentine is dependent to a large extent on solving the problem of the colonistst’ sons may be seen from the following advertisement which appeared in the local Yiddishe Zeitung recently:
“At the initiative of several sons of colonists, an agrarian center of sons of colonists has been founded in Rivera, Buenos Aires Province. The reasons for the founding are the following:
“For a long time the problem of colonial sons has been on the agenda of all colonial and cooperative congresses. The question has never gone beyond the discussion stage and the future of the colonial youth is hopeless. They swarm to the cities, where they are no better off, because they have no experience in city life. This led to the founding of an agrarian center, where the youth will care for its own future.
CHIEF PURPOSE IS TO GET LAND
“The chief purpose of the center is to carry on negotiations with the ICA, to get land and credit of it, so that it will be possible to become established materially and to settle in groups, and develop culturally as well. Having ground under its feet, the youth will certainly not leave the camps and will seek means of bettering its living conditions.
“The center expects that the youth of all Jewish colonists will follow its example and will organize in order to be able to create a livelihood as colonists.”
As stated, the conventions of the colonial representatives are nominally purely for business purposes. Ways and means of paying their debts for seed are discussed, and how to buy rag bags, and how best to market grain individually and collectively. But in the midst of these deliberations there arise, suddenly, questions involving the permanence of Jewish colonization and of the entire Jewish community in the Argentine, if not of all Jewry.
SCHOOLS PROBLEM GETS ATTENTION
Illustrative of the interrelation of the colonization questions and those of Jewishness is the fact that a whole session of the convention was devoted to a discussion of the problem of the Jewish schools in the colonies.
The question was discussed unofficially, merely as one affecting those at the gathering in their private character as Jews. But the decisions adopted will actually have to be carried out by the colonial cooperatives, which will have the task of collecting the school tax decided upon.
One of the more prominent colonists at the convention, S. I. Hurwitz, pointed out the importance of the schools to the colonies. Since the ICA liquidated the last of the Jewish schools, he said, the colonies have no provision for Jewish education of the younger generation. The children are therefore compelled to study in the city, where they lose their contact with the life of the colony.
CONTRIBUTE TO LIFE OF ARGENTINE JEWRY
It should be emphasized that the cooperatives and their league are a positive contribution to the life of Argentinian Jewry and have weathered the days when there was a hue and cry against “Jewish” cooperatives and “Jewish” leagues. The nine years of the work of the organization have demonstrated practically that it can be Jewish despite the nominal strictures.
Much good work has been done during the period, even to the extent of preventing strikes, as in the case of the ICA Montefiore colony. If the ICA directorate would only really work hand in hand with the organization representing the colonists, it would not have as much land going to waste, uncultivated, as it has today and the whole Argentinian colonization movement would be able to show much better results.
COLONISTS GET MANIFESTO
In connection with the ninth annual convention of the ICA colonists a manifesto, from which the following passages are quoted, was issued to all Jewish colonists in the Argentine:
“In the European countries where the Jews built great Jewish communities, they were kept for hundreds of centuries from the noble occupation known as cultivation of the soil. That was the privilege of all citizens inhabiting the country, except the Jews.
“In this manner the Jew was forced to occupy himself with trade. A very insignificant percentage was able to rise to trading on a large scale. A few individuals even rose to the status of international financial magnates. The great mass of the Jewish people, however, was downed to the lowest stage of small trading and into the professions. At the first social unrest in any country the Jewish citizen was the first to be declassed and reduced to the status of the outcast.
HIRSCH GAVE FORTUNE TO COLONIZATION
“The sainted Baron Hirsch realized that this situation was abnormal, and devoted his collossal fortune to the reconstruction of Jewish economics by experimenting in moving portions of those Jews into agriculture in countries which provided the opportunity for so doing.
“Argentina, the country which is so hospitable and which has offered us its fields for cultivation, is the country where there is today a significant number of Jewish agriculturalists. Along with all the other agriculturalists, the Jews contribute to the progress of the adopted fatherland.
“Throughout the world, agriculture is now going through a terrible crisis and we Jewish colonists are not excepted. And yet Mother Earth is the surest source of an honest and independent livelihood…
“Social upheavals in various countries have shown us that if the Jew can find a safe spot in which to rest and supply his family with bread, that spot is at the noble task of farming. This lesson brought us by the plight of our brothers in Europe causes us to send this appeal to all the Jewish colonists working the Argentinian soil:
“Fight with every means in your possession. Hold on to the field. Keep up that courage which characterizes the farmer, who must constantly struggle with the forces of nature… Remember that having put the years of pioneering behind you, you have proven yourselves worthy of the agricultural calling. Keep in mind that the economic position of the Jewish merchant class is shattered and that there are many who would like to be in your places.
“We know that many colonists are burdened with heavy debts. Many colonists are in constant dread of their creditors. But this should not be reason for despair. Patience is necessary. Time will bring order back into agricultural economics. Bear i# mind that many generations of Jews strove towards the land. We have attained it. Therefore let us not permit it to slip through our fingers.”
The appeal was signed by Miguel Sacharoff, president of the Fraternidad, and Leon Sidi, secretary.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.