A Brief History of Jewish Agriculture on Four Continents in the Modern Era (Mini-Course)

When: Sunday, May 01, 2022

Time: 12:00 p.m.

Two-part mini-course

Wednesday February 16 and Sunday May 1

Taught by Professor Jonathan Dekel-Chen, Bildner Visiting Scholar and Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Following the recent launch of the Bildner Center’s exciting new digital exhibit, Jewish Agriculture in the Garden State, this mini-course will explore the history of the global Jewish agricultural colonization movement from the 1880s to the 1950s, as well as some of its most recent developments in the United States and Israel. Almost completely forgotten in collective memory, agriculture was a major feature of Jewish life for decades in the Americas, Eastern Europe, the Land of Israel and, of course, New Jersey. What did that mean then? What could that mean today?

“The era of modern Jewish agriculture began in the early 1800s and spanned four continents, with hundreds of thousands of Jewish farmers working millions of acres. Tsar Alexander I allowed Jews trapped in the settlement area to settle on empty farmland in New Russia. Decades later, Eastern European Jews, with the help of benefactors like Baron de Hirsch, established agricultural colonies in the Americas. Israel’s Blooming Desert Miracle evolved as part of this global project. Each is a chapter in the larger story of rural Jewish life.
—Jonathan Dekel-Chen

The event will take place virtually. Prior registration is required.

Register now


Professor Jonathan Dekel-Chen holds the Rabbi Edward Sandrow Chair of Soviet and Eastern European Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he serves in a dual capacity in the Department of Jewish History and the Department of general history. He served from 2007 to 2019 as Academic Chairman of the Leonid Nevzlin Research Center for Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe. He is currently Chairman of the Department of Russian Studies. Dekel-Chen’s publications have appeared in prestigious scholarly presses. His current research and publications focus on transnational philanthropy and advocacy, non-state diplomacy, agrarian history and migration. In 2014, he co-founded the Bikurim Youth Village for the Performing Arts in Eshkol, which provides world-class arts education to underprivileged high school students across Israel.


Top image: Abe and Martha Crystal on their poultry farm, Alliance Colony, New Jersey, undated. (Alliance Heritage Center)