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Farming Communities of New Jersey
After World War II



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Compiled by Barbara Ellman

Created: Sep. 2015

Updated Feb 2018

Copyright 2015-2018 Barbara Ellman

After World War II the former quota limits against Eastern Europeans were relaxed, and in 1948 President Truman signed a bill to admit some displaced persons, including survivors of the concentration camps.  In 1950, another bill expanded the numbers who would be admitted to the United States.

Thus another wave of Jewish immigrants migrated to farm lands in South Jersey.



Between 1946 and 1952 approximately 2500-3000 Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe settled on small farms in New Jersey.  These refugees were guided by the Jewish Agricultural Society and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.  They were relatively young, but had been deprived of education and normal social lives as a result of the war and their experience in the concentration camps.

Most settled in the farming centers of Farmingdale, Flemington,Toms River, Lakewood and the Vineland area.

Living of these farms was a means of overcoming anti-semitism and provided an alternative to a difficult life of poverty in the slums of New York or Boston.  In the New Jersey farm land, they could maintain their Jewish identities better than in the urban areas where there was greater pressure to assimilate.  Additionally, the transformation to becoming "American" was easier in an all-Jewish environment.  Although American Jews were not warm and welcoming, they tolerated and assisted the immigrants.  Social interaction between these groups was limited.



About 1000 of these Holocaust survivors came to the Vineland area, "The Egg Basket of New Jersey".  The Vineland-Bridgeton-Millville triangle, originally settled in 1882 with the Alliance Colony, was under-populated with plenty of land available.  It had an ideal situation with its poximity to both Philadelphia and New York, perfect for marketing of crops. 

These inexperienced farm settlers established poultry farms which needed a relatively small amount of land and required physical labor that was not very strenuous.  The income was regular and immediate.

In many instances, the farm land reminded them of home, and the work and life weregood spiritually.  There was not an immediate problem with language as they lived in a community of other Holocaust survivors who shared their experiences and language.  Even religious Jews were drawn to the farm life as feeding of animals on the Sabbath was permitted among the Orthodox.



The Holocaust survivors built friendships and community.  Soon there were five new synagogues in the Vineland area.  A yeshiva was eventually started for the area's children.  Many children attended the local public schools while helping on the family farm during the weekends.  The children played together, building strong bonds because of their differences from surrounding community.  Their parents spoke with foreign accents and most had numbers tatooed on their arms.  This generation learned a strong work ethic and acheived through education.

The 1950's were the most prosperous years for the New Jersey Jewish farmer.  Employment  on farms declined by two-thirds between 1950 and 1968.  The price of eggs dropped substantially in the late 1950s because of automation, mechanization, and competition from the South.  Combined with the high cost of labor and feed grain, these circumstances caused much suffering for the Jewish poultry farmers.

Many of the farmers moved to nearby towns and cities.  They went into manufacturing, building, real estate and small businesses.  The second generation went off to college, encouraged by their parents and subsequently entered professions in bigger cities or other South Jersey communities.  For the Holocaust survivors, the poultry farms of New Jersey provided an environment that enabled them to successfully enter into the diverse community.



Farm
                      Crossroads 1960

    Fresh Eggs (Ehrlich's Poultry Farm) circa 1960

Photo courtesy of Isaac Ehrlich



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