Memories about
Farming Communities of New Jersey

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Compiled by Barbara Ellman

Created: Sep. 2015
Updated Feb 2018

Copyright © 2018 Barbara Ellman

George Segal - Artist/Sculptor

South Brunswick

My father arrived in 1922--he was one of six or seven brothers all of whom were killed by the Nazis except my father, who was the only one who was annoyed enough, irritated enough, by European nonsense to leave Europe and come to America. And his brothers and all the members of his family were killed by the Germans. So, growing up I was made well aware of Nazis and Nazi attitudes towards Jews, and was made well aware of Jewish problems.

My mother and father were flat broke immigrants who were spending 16, 18 hours a day working for mere survival; and I thought, boy that's got to be stupid, it's got to be stupid, and yet there was the reality, rubbing up against my nose, how hard my father and all his friends, how hard they had to work for mere simple survival. And I couldn't accept it.
My father bought a farm in New Jersey--he had not been allowed to own land in Poland, and it was very important to him, somehow, to be a landowner. And the whole idea of owning a farm had something to do with his Jewishness--it had to do with the sense of returning to Israel, to work the land. It had to do with belief in Return to the Homeland. I think the Hebrew word is Aleeya, which is literally return to the land. It was connected with the idea of working your land. That idea was in the air--it was a socialist ideal, essentially I think.

I had to quit school (college) somehow, my father had nobody to work his chicken farm. And I was forced to quit school, forced to take care of the chickens. I used to spend my time drawing on the walls of the chicken houses.

During the war it was heavily subsidized, all farms were. The world needed all the American food that was being produced, and all the surplus eggs we produced were feeding the world, literally. So, during World War II, the Washington programs guaranteed that every farmer made a good living. The world, literally, needed the food.
Barbara Ellman

My mother told me about visiting her Mallow cousins on their Chicken farm during Purim and going to a Purim party at the Grange Hall.  All the children were dressed in costumes created for the holiday.

Great-uncle Morris sent a metal egg container with 3-dozen eggs to our Kagle family in Brooklyn every week from the farm in Farmingdale.  The container had an address label that could be reversed for returning it to the farm for the next week's bounty.

Susan Schulman

I remember my mother telling me about how the family would come to the farm in the evening, sit on the porch and sing Russian folk songs.

During the depression they would give away the "Fryers" or invite people over to eat the "fryers" with them.

My grandfather built all the chicken coups. Mom said she didnt like taking the eggs at first because the chickens would always peck her hands.

Sol Finkelstein

My father, a Holocaust survivor, came home to our apartment in New York and told my mother that he bought a parcel of land in Vineland where they could
feel free, where they didnít have to speak English, where nobody would tell them what to do or what not to do.

He and my uncles bought 10 acres with little houses and borrowed money to buy chicken coops.    Soon 400 Holocaust refugees came to Vineland to be chicken farmers!

The family was six survivors growing up in three bungalows raising seven cousins always eating in each others houses.  The feeling was like a kibbutz.

Everyone had an accent. Everyone had a tattoo.
Isaac Ehrlich
Purim Party 1955
at the Dorothy (NJ) Synagogue, "a  basement with a tar paper roof" at that time. It was  Purim and in this picture are pretty much all the Jewish farm kids with parent survivors.

Can you identify anyone in the photo?!


 ©  Isaac Ehrlich

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