By the 1880s, the Jews of Eastern Europe began arriving in large numbers, keen to find safe haven in South America. The timing of the wave of immigrated prompted a very fine German philanthropist Baron Maurice Hirsch to establish a Jewish Colonisation Association in 1890, set up specifically to help the new arrivals to become autonomous agricultural settlers. Fortunately Hirsch’s plan coincided with Argentina's vigorous campaign to attract immigrants.
The Russians, Ukrainians, Poles and Romanians arrivals did not speak Spanish, they had no money and South America seemed like a very mysterious, remote continent to them. So the majority settled in the big cities where they could find work and community support. However some moved to the autonomous agricultural settlements that were becoming established in three areas of Argentina: 1] Buenos Aires Province in the centre of the country and 2] Entre Rias Province and 3] Sante Fe Province, both immediately to the north of Buenos Aires Province.
Baron Hirsch City Library in Moisesville
Sante Fe Province
in Entre Rios Province,
photo credit: Argentina Heritage Tours
in Sante Fe Province
photo credit: Jerusalem Report 24th March 2014.
Historic and Communal Museum of Jewish Colonisation
in the town hall of Moiseville
When one group of Eastern European Jews landed in Santa Fe Province in 1890, they were taken from the ship and settled in the colony of Moiseville/Moses Town. Coming from the cities and towns of the Ukraine, the original settlers must have had a difficult time, making a living off the land. They were more used to being shopkeepers, traders and craftsmen than they were wheat farmers or people who milked cows. And they may have starved, had it not been for the local gauchos who taught the settlers how to survive. The Jewish Colonisation Association bought 600,000 hectares of land, making Moiseville a proud settlement with all the facilities that a settled Jewish community would need: four synagogues, Jewish schools, and Argentina’s first Jewish cemetery.
Moiseville in Santa Fe Province was not a newly established settlement, but in 1891, one Jewish colony WAS established from the ground up by the Jewish Colonisation Association. In fact the members of Colonía Mauricio in Buenos Aires Province became contractually linked to the JCA. But this settlement was bound to succeed – the land was more fertile than at Moiseville and the railway links with the city were excellent. By the outbreak of WW2 the colony was a shadow of its former self, but today the Cemetery and Moctezuma synagogue remind tourists of what a well planned town this once was.
photo credit: Jewish Encyclopaedia
Some immigrants knew they were going to rural settlements. By far the largest group of Jewish colonies in Argentina was Clara in Entre Rios Province, which was established by the Jewish Colonisation Association in 1894. Settlers in Clara were pre-organised in Russia and brought in ten groups, of about forty families each. These were taken directly from the ships in which they arrived to the farms on which they were to settle, where houses, cattle, seeds, implements, and the food necessary for them between seed-time and harvest had already been provided. The first three groups to arrive were settled in three villages of fifty houses each.
Edgardo Zablotsky discussed the entire programme of Jewish agricultural settlements that were created: two in the provinces of Buenos Aires, seven in the province of Entre Ríos and Moiseville in Santa Fe Province. In total there were nearly 10,000 Jews settled on the land, mainly in Entre Ríos. This programme was a large experiment in social welfare, promoting the organised immigration of thousands of people from the old Russian Empire to Argentina and setting up agricultural colonies. To my mind, it was very much like the experience of urban Lithuanian Jews who were strongly encouraged to move south to Ukrainian agricultural settlements. Except in the Ukraine, there were no Yiddish-speaking gauchos.
Map of Argentina.
Note the three provinces surrounded in red.
Entre Ríos had the majority of the Jewish agricultural settlements