VINELAND, city in southern New Jersey, 30 miles (50 km) from Philadelphia. The Jewish community of Vineland dates back to the early 1880s, with the establishment of immigrant colonies outside of the city limits. Synagogues were prohibited within city limits until toward the end of the first decade of the 20th century. The first such colony was Alliance, founded in 1882 in Salem County by the Alliance Israélite Universelle (France) and the Baron de Hirsch Fund (Belgium), three miles out of Vineland, followed by others with biblical names like Carmel. In nearby Cape May County, the Baron de Hirsch Fund established Woodbine in 1891, which was incorporated by 1903 as an all-Jewish borough. Some settlers embraced the *Am Olam ideology of return to the soil as a means of salvation for the oppressed Jews of Russia. Men like Moshe Herder, H.L. Sabsovich, Sidney Bailey, and Moses Bayuk envisioned in well-balanced rural communities the basis for creative life. Subsidies were provided by philanthropic organizations in Western Europe and the United States – Alliance Israélite Universelle, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and the Baron de Hirsch Fund – as well as American Jewish leaders such as Jacob Schiff and Myer S. Isaacs, who hoped to create viable communities on the principles of self-help within American society. In each colony the fabric of life developed, including at least Orthodox synagogues and religious schools, as well as an array of clubs, fraternal orders, and debating and athletic groups.
An early necessity was manufacturing to supplement farm incomes. The soil was poor, the 10–15 acre lots inadequate; markets were distant, and the settlers untrained in agricultural methods. Subsistence depended on the sewing machine, especially in Carmel, Rosenhayn, Norma, and Brotmanville, as well as Woodbine, where industry was subsidized from the outset. Although the Jewish population grew slowly to about 3,500 in 1901, it dropped to 2,700 by 1919. To some extent this reflected growing American urbanization, as well as the second generation's struggle for better educational and economic opportunities. Among their sons who achieved prominence were Jacob G. Lipman, an agronomist and dean of Rutgers' College of Agriculture; Gilbert Seldes, author, critic, dean of the School of Communications, University of Pennsylvania; and Benjamin M. Golder, Philadelphia congressman. Some moved to New York or Philadelphia, but many settled in Vineland proper, operating stores or small factories. Arthur Goldhaft, a distinguished veterinarian, founded the Vineland Poultry Laboratories. During the 1960s, the Jewish community peaked at just over 10,000 people, with five synagogues in the city and another six in surrounding communities. The largest influx to the community was from several hundred survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, drawn to the area from large cities such as New York and Philadelphia with offers of assistance in the establishment of poultry farms and a quiet country life. These immigrants formed the Jewish Poultry Farmers' Association and a free loan society, as well as several diverse congregations. A Jewish day school, founded in 1953, supplemented the established congregational schools. Community life has included Zionist organizations, B'nai B'rith, Hadassah, Hebrew Women's Benevolent Society, Jewish War Veterans, and participation by Jews in all civic and political activities. The Jewish Community Council, which is today Jewish Federation of Cumberland County, was established in 1924, has been active in local, national and Israeli affairs, and has helped to maintain the community's vibrant Jewish life. Notable residents of national acclaim include Miles Lerman, founding chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Ben Zion Leuchter and Magda Leuchter, a local newspaper publisher and founding chairman of The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL); and Esther Raab, a tireless Holocaust survivor and educator, upon whose life are based the play Dear Esther and the film Escape from Sobibor. Samuel Gassel served as borough commissioner and mayor of the City of Vineland; I. Harry Levin as municipal judge in adjoining townships; Dr. Tevis Goldhaft as chairman of the Board of Education; and Stanley S. Brotman as presiding senior judge of the U.S. District Court. The population in 2005 was 1,800.
P.R. Goldstein, Social Aspects of the Jewish Colonies of South Jersey (1912); A.D. Goldhaft, The Golden Egg (1957) J. Brandes, Immigrants to Freedom (1971).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.