The Alliance Colony was a Jewish agricultural community that was founded in Alliance, New Jersey on May 10, 1882. It was named after the Alliance Israélite Universelle of Paris and was funded by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of New York and Philadelphia and The Baron De Hirsch Fund.
Following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, numerous pogroms targeting Russian Jews prompted many families to move to America. Many began their lives in America in tenements on Manhattan's Lower East Side. As the numbers of Jewish people in America increased there was a strong desire to leave the confinement and crowded conditions in the cities. Some Jewish thinkers and community leaders proclaimed that recent Jewish immigrants ought "to become tillers of the soil and thus shake off the accusation that we were petty mercenaries living upon the toil of others." They settled in communities across the country, but many wished to continue living in predominately Jewish areas. These immigrants recognized that self-sufficiency would be paramount to their survival, which led them into agriculture. The leader of Alliance Colony, Moses Bayuk(Moshe Bajuk), came to Norma, New Jersey from the Russian Empire in 1880. The Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society granted Bayuk a parcel of land near the Maurice River adjacent to the Norma train station. His property was the beginning of Alliance Colony. Alliance was founded by a core group of twenty-five settlers but many more followed and, by the end of the first summer, there were 60-70 families living in the colony.
The land that was settled consisted of 40 acres (160,000 m2) per family on farmland that needed to be cleared and farmed. The immigrant colony members had little knowledge of agriculture and had difficulty farming the sandy south Jersey soil but received training from their neighbors. The HIAS paid workers weekly during the period in which land was cleared. Initially, Alliance was also supported by local politicians who arranged for 1,000+ army tents for the community for shelter until permanent housing could be built.
The Alliance Colony was primarily a farming community but also included various craftsmen, such as cabinetmaking, blacksmithing and masonry. Eventually a clothing factory was established, which is still in existence.
In 1901, there were 151 adults at Alliance and 345 children, 27 of whom were married. There were 78 farms worth $135,250. The community owned 1,886 acres (7.63 km2) of land, of which 1,354 were cleared.
Alliance focused on education, building several well recognized schools as well as four synagogues--at least one of which still is in operation--as well as a Jewish cemetery.
Prominent Americans from Alliance Colony include Gilbert Seldes, born January 3, 1893, writer and cultural critic, and his older brother George Seldes, born November 16, 1890, an investigative journalist and media critic. Joseph Perskie become the first Jewish justice to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court, and the Bayuk brothers went on to found the Phillies Cigar company.
All of the Jewish Agricultural Societies of the late 19th century and early 20th century have faded away.
Remnants of Alliance Colony exist today, the cemetery is still in use for the Jewish communities in Cumberland and Salem Counties and is well maintained, the home of Moses Bayuk, the founder of the colony is still standing and there are plans to turn the property into a cultural center and museum.
The last known survivor of the Alliance Colony, Lillian Greenblatt Braun, celebrated her 100th birthday in 2005. She celebrated her 110th birthday in August 2015 and lives in Maryland.
The Jewish Federation of Cumberland, Gloucester & Salem Counties is currently working on building a Jewish Heritage Center on the property to commemorate the community's history, the history of Jews in America and their participation in farming.
- JewishEncyclopedia.com - ALLIANCE
- The Last of the Jewish Farmgirls - New York Times
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- Brandes, Joseph. Immigrants to Freedom: Jewish Communities in Rural New Jersey since 1882. U of Pennsylvania P, Philadelphia: 1971.
- Israelowitz, Oscar (2006). Jewish New Jersey in Vintage Photographs. Brooklyn, NY: Israelowitz Publishing. p. 113. ISBN 1-878741-59-4.
- Preserving the History of a Colony - New York Times
- Rediscovering Jewish Infrastructure: Update on United States Nineteenth Century Synagogues, Mark Gordon, American Jewish History 84.1 (1996) 20-27