Surely this has happened to you: One day you have a knotty research question. You begin with, say, Wikipedia. You click on a footnote link, one click leads to another and before you know it, it’s tomorrow! How you landed where you are is a mystery.
It was by just such a series of virtual leaps that I discovered the rich but relatively brief history of Jewish egg and poultry farmers of the early-to-mid twentieth century, most of which were located in New Jersey.
A few more clicks and I happened upon The Land Was Theirs: Jewish Farmers in the Garden Stateby Gertrude Wishnick Dubrovsky (1992, University of Alabama Press). The book captured my attention not only because of the subject matter but also because my mother’s maiden name is Dubrov, and her ancestors were indentured farmers to a wealthy estate owner in Russia. Perhaps my own interest in farmers and farming is bred in the bone.
I had always assumed that all Jewish immigrants to America went to cities, found work, and stayed put. If we eventually moved out to the suburbs, our work was still city-based. I didn’t imagine Jews settling in rural communities and making their living in agriculture. Yet there has been a continuous, if small, Jewish farming presence in the U.S. for more than 100 years.