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HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN RUSSIA AND POLAND - S.M. Dubnow




jewish genealogy in Argentina

HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN RUSSIA AND POLAND

FROM THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER I UNTIL THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER III

by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook

2. THE JEWISH COLONIZATION ASSOCIATION AND COLLAPSE OF THE ARGENTINIAN SCHEME

White's report was discussed by Baron Hirsch in conjunction with the leading Jews of Western Europe. As a result, the decision was reached to establish a society which should undertake on a large scale the colonization of Argentina and other American territories with Russian Jews. The society was founded in London in the autumn of 1891, under the name of the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA), in the form of a stock company, with a capital of fifty million francs which was almost entirely subscribed by Baron Hirsch. White was dispatched to St. Petersburg a second time to obtain permission for organizing the emigration committees in Russia and to secure the necessary privileges for the emigrants. The English delegate, who was familiar with the frame of mind of the leading Government circles in Russia, unfolded before them the far-reaching plans of Baron Hirsch. The Jewish Colonization Association was to transplant 25,000 Jews to Argentina in the course of 1892 and henceforward to increase progressively the ratio of emigrants, so that in the course of twenty-five years, 3,250,000 Jews would be taken out of Russia.

This brilliant perspective of a Jewish exodus cheered the hearts of the neo-Egyptian dignitaries. Their imagination caught fire. When the question came up before the Committee of Ministers, the Minister of the Navy, Chikhachev, proposed to pay the Jewish Colonization Association a bonus of a few rubles for each emigrant and thus enable it to transfer no less than 130,000 people during the very first year, so that the contemplated number of 3,250,000 might be distributed evenly over twenty-five years. A suggestion was also made to transplant the Jews with their own money, i.e., to use the residue of the Jewish meat tax for that purpose, but the suggestion was not considered feasible. The official chronicler testifies that "the fascinating proposition of Baron Hirsch appeared to the Russian Government hardly capable of realization." Nevertheless, prompted by the hope that at least part of the contemplated millions of Jews would leave Russia, the Government sanctioned the establishment of a Central Committee of the Jewish Colonization Association in St. Petersburg, with branches in the provinces. It further promised to issue to the emigrants free of charge permits to leave the country and to relieve them from military duty on condition that they never return to Russia.

In. May, 1893, the constitution of the Jewish Colonization Association was ratified by the Tzar. At that time the emigration tide of the previous year was gradually ebbing. The flight from Russia to North and South America had reached its climax in the summer and autumn of 1891. The expulsion from Moscow as well as alarming rumors of imminent persecutions, on the one hand, and exaggerated news about the plans of Baron Hirsch, on the other, had resulted in uprooting tens of thousands of people. Huge masses of refugees had flocked to Berlin, Hamburg, Antwerp, and London, imploring to be transferred to the United States or to the Argentinian colonies. Everywhere relief committees were being organized, but there was no way of forwarding the emigrants to their new destination, particularly to Argentina, where the large territories purchased by Hirsch were not yet ready for the reception of colonists. Baron Hirsch was compelled to send out an appeal to all Jewish communities, calling upon they to stem for the present this disorderly human avalanche.

Ere long Baron Hirsch's dream of transplanting millions of people with millions of money proved an utter failure. When, after long preparations, the selected Jewish colonists were at last dispatched to Argentina, it was found that the original figure of 25,000 emigrants calculated for the first year had shrunk to about 2500. Altogether, during the first three years, from 1892 to 1894, the Argentinian emigration absorbed some six thousand people. Half of these remained in the capital of the republic, in Buenos Ayres, while the other half managed to settle in the colonies, after enduring all the hardships connected with an agricultural colonization in a new land and under new climatic conditions. A few years later it was commonly realized that the mountain had given birth to a mouse. Instead of the million Jews, as originally planned, the Jewish Colonization Association succeeded in transplanting during the first decade only 10,000 Jews, who were distributed over six Argentinian colonies.

The main current of Jewish emigration flowed as heretofore in the direction of North America, towards the United States and Canada. In the course of the year 1891, with its numerous panics, the United States alone absorbed more than 100,000 emigrants, over 42,000 of whom succeeded in arriving the same year, while 76,000 were held back in various European centers and managed to come over the year after. The following two years show again the former annual ratio of emigration, wavering between 30,000 to 35,000.

The same fateful year of 1891 gave rise to a colonization fever even in quiet Palestine. Already in the beginning of 1890 the Russian Government had legalized the Palestinian colonization movement in Russia by sanctioning the constitution of the "Society for Granting Assistance to Jewish Colonists and Artisans in Syria and Palestine," which had its headquarters in Odessa. [1] This sanction enabled the _Hobebe Zion_ societies which were scattered all over the country to group themselves around a legalized center and collect money openly for their purposes. The Palestinian propaganda gained a new lease of life. This propaganda, which was intensified in its effect by the emigration panic of the "terrible year," resulted in the formation of a number of societies in Russia with the object of purchasing land in Palestine. In the beginning of 1891 delegates of these societies suddenly appeared in Palestine _en masse_, and, with the co-operation of a Jaffa representative of the Odessa Palestine Society, began feverishly to buy up the land from the Arabs. This led to a real estate speculation which artificially raised the price of land. Moreover, the Turkish Government became alarmed, and forbade the wholesale colonization of Jews from Russia. The result was a financial crash.

[Footnote 1: The first president of the Society was the exponent of the idea of "Antoemancipation," Dr. Leon Pinsker, who occupied this post until his death, at the end of 1891.]

The attempt at a wholesale immigration into destitute Palestine with its primitive patriarchal conditions proved a failure. During the following years the colonization of the Holy Land with Russian Jews proceeded again at a slow pace. One colony after another rose gradually into being. A large part of the old and the new settlers were under the charge of Baron Rothschild's administration, with the exception of two or three colonies which were maintained by the Palestine Society in Odessa. It was evident that, in view of the slow advance of the Palestinian colonization, its political and economic importance for the Russian-Jewish millions was practically nil and that its only advantage over and against the American emigration day in its spiritual significance, in the fact that on the historic soil of Judaism there there rose into being a small Jewish center with a purer national culture than was possible in the Diaspora. This idea was championed by Ahad Ha'am[1], the exponent of the neo-Palestine movement, who had made his first appearance in Hebrew literature in 1889 and in a short time forged his way to the front.

[Footnote 1: "One of the People," the Hebrew pen-name of Asher Ginzberg.]



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