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J.D.B. News Letter

December 19, 1928
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Jewish Land Settlement in France By Our Paris Correspondent

The work of Jewish land settlement in France is the subject of a report published here in the “Universe Israelite” by R. Gruenberg, the Director of the Paris Relief Committee for Jewish Migrants, which is the Paris Committee of the Hias-Ica-Emigdirekt Hicem.

The Paris Committee, Mr. Gruenberg writes, is engaged in assisting Jewish immigrants to take up agriculture in France. In the past year, the Committee has been able to settle Jewish land workers in some hundred different settlements, about the same number as in the previous year. It can not be said, he proceeds, that in point of size the results have been attained, but taking the conditions into consideration it is a considerable achievement. The human material was very different from that in the previous year. In 1927 the Committee took its Jewish land workers from Paris. They were skilled workers who were unemployed because of the industrial crisis, and they took up agriculture only for the time being, until the crisis was past. Most of them, indeed, returned to their factories as soon as the crisis was over. This year the Committee obtained its people not in Paris but abroad, mostly in Poland, where there are already a certain number of skilled Jewish land workers, people who took up agriculture intending to remain at it. Most of the Jewish land workers from Poland were Chaluzim, enthusiastic for the idea of Jewish land work in France as a stage on their road to Palestine.

This choice, Mr. Gruenberg goes on, was very fortunate. There was a considerable amount of scepticism in France concerning the agricultural abilities of the Jewish immigrants. This clement from Poland succeeded in the course of one season in completely destroying this legend, and they won the appreciation of all the farmers with whom they came into contact.

The experience of the past year, Mr. Gruenberg writes, has shown that the settlement of Jews on the land in France is a work of years, and that it would be a mistake to attempt in the near future to settle thousands of Jews on the land, thinking more of the extent of the work than of its quality. The Committee is of the opinion that the slower the pace of the Jewish land settlement work in France, the more secure and the broader will become the future foundations of the new Jewish land settlement activity. It will be also a much healthier process, if the Jewish immigrants who wish to engage in agriculture, work for a considerable period as hired laborers, and do not immediately plunge into farming rented land or into purchasing their own land. The Jewish land worker can be successful only when he has fully acclimated himself to French soil.

Unfortunately, he concludes, all Jewish land workers do not realize this, and as a result meet with difficulties by attempting to skip the various necessary stages of the work, with the idea of immediately becoming independent farmers. The training of a Jewish peasant class in France is possible only if they pass through all the stages which are essential for both the Jewish land-owner of the future and the agricultural conditions which obtain in France. A beginning has been made. It is now for the future to decide how far it can be developed.

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