The Alliance Colony was a Jewish agricultural community that was founded on May 10, 1882, in Pittsgrove Township, in Salem County, New Jersey, United States. 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 emigrate. 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. Alliance was founded by a core group of 43 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 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.
In 2017, William Levin, a descendant of Moses Bayuk, and his wife Malya Levin, publicly launched the Alliance Community Reboot project (also known as ACRe), in an effort to renew the agricultural life of the old Alliance Colony. They began a collaboration with local Jewish farmer Nathan Kleinman of the Experimental Farm Network, who planted various heritage grains and other heirloom plants on one of the fields owned by the Levins, close to the old Tifereth Israel synagogue. They plan to expand operations over the coming years.
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with the Alliance Colony include:
- Joseph B. Perskie (1885-1957), Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1933 to 1947.
- JewishEncyclopedia.com - ALLIANCE
- Newman, Andy. "The Last of the Jewish Farmgirls", The New York Times, June 22, 2005. Accessed July 5, 2016.
- Eisenberg, Ellen. Jewish Agricultural Societies in New Jersey, 1882-1920. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse: 1995. 90-122.
- Brandes, Joseph. Immigrants to Freedom: Jewish Communities in Rural New Jersey since 1882. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia: 1971.
- Israelowitz, Oscar (2006). Jewish New Jersey in Vintage Photographs. Brooklyn, NY: Israelowitz Publishing. p. 113. ISBN 1-878741-59-4.
- Coyne, Kevin. "Preserving the History of a Colony", The New York Times, September 23, 2007. Accessed July 5, 2016.
- Gordon, Mark. "Rediscovering Jewish Infrastructure: Update on United States Nineteenth Century Synagogues", American Jewish History, 84.1 (1996), pp. 20-27
- Staff. "Joseph B. Perskie, Ex-Associate Justice Of New Jersey Supreme Court, Dies at 71", The New York Times, May 30, 1957. Accessed July 5, 2016. "A native of Alliance, Mr. Perskie came to the resort area at the age of 11. He attended public schools here and was graduated from Atlantic City High School in 1904 and Pennsylvania Law School in 1907."