HIRSCH FUND, BARON DE:
A fund of $2,400,000 for ameliorating the condition of certain Jewish immigrants to the United States. This fund was incorporated under the laws of the state of New York, Feb. 12, 1891, the trustees being M. S. Isaacs, president; Jacob H. Schiff, vice-president; Jesse Seligman, treasurer; Dr. Julius Goldman, honorary secretary; Henry Rice, James H. Hoffman, and Oscar S. Straus, of New York; and Mayer Sulzberger and W. B. Hackenburg, of Philadelphia. The large immigration to the United States in 1890-1891, caused by the enforcement in Russia of the May Laws of 1881, induced Baron Maurice de Hirsch, who had learned of the conditions in New York from Oscar S. Straus, to establish this foundation. The deed of trust directed that the funds be used to afford relief to the Jewish immigrants from Russia and Rumania and to educate them, and to furnish transportation to immigrants—selected, after their arrival in America, on account of fitness in regard to age, character, and capacity—to places in which the condition of the labor market gives promise of their becoming self-supporting; to provide free transportation to others to places where relatives or friends reside who will take care of the immigrants until they can care for themselves; to teach immigrants trades and to contribute to their support, if necessary, while learning; to furnish the tools or implements needed for carrying on such trades after the course of instruction has been completed; to afford to immigrants instruction in agricultural work; and, finally, to provide adequate instruction in the English language.First Attempts at Relief.
The trustees of the Baron de Hirsch Fund at first used the amount at their disposal in relieving the immediate material necessities of the refugees; and, in order to make the immigrants self-supporting, numbers were given instruction in the manufacture of clothing, white goods, etc. The United Hebrew Charities of New York was made the agent through which the material necessities were relieved, and a monthly sum is still given to that institution to be used exclusively for the relief of needy Russian and Rumanian Jews who have been less than two years in the United States.
When the great pressure due to the rapid immigration of indigent refugees had been somewhat relaxed, the trustees carefully matured their plans for the amelioration of the condition of these people, the aim of all their activities being the permanent elevation of the standard of life of the Russian and the Rumanian Jew in America and the bringing about of a feeling of loyalty to their adopted country.
The main channels whereby these ends were to be reached were education and colonization. In order to teach children and adults the English language, day classes for the former and evening classes forthe latter were established on the lower East Side of New York. In these classes the children of Jewish immigrants are prepared to enter the public schools, special attention being given to the rapid acquisition of English. In 1900 these classes, which met in the building of the Educational Alliance at East Broadway and Jefferson street, were turned over to that institution together with an annual appropriation from the Baron de Hirsch Fund sufficient to carry on the work. There are now from 500 to 600 children under instruction by a principal and eight teachers.
The evening school in English for adult foreigners was also consigned to the Educational Alliance at the same time and under similar conditions.Trade-School.
The Baron de Hirsch Trade-School was established for the purpose of providing free instruction in the mechanical trades to immigrants from Russia and Rumania. For a time the school was conducted in a leased building; but later a new school building was erected on East Sixty-fourth street, between Second and Third avenues, at a cost of $150,000, which sum was given by the Baroness de Hirsch for the purpose in the summer of 1897.
With the exception of a short time during which wood-carving was taught, the same trades as those taught at the present time, namely, carpentry, house- and sign-painting, plumbing, and the machinist's and electrician's trades, have been the subjects of instruction. The Baron de Hirsch Trade-School does not attempt to turn out skilled mechanics, for pupils receive instruction during five and one-half months only. The aim is, by a good elementary training to make them intelligent apprentices or helpers, and to afford them the opportunity to enter profitable trades under the most favorable conditions.
For a time the trustees maintained a public bath-house; but in view of the fact that public baths were being provided by the municipality, it was discontinued.Colonization.
The chief enterprise attempted along the lines of colonization was the founding of the town of Woodbine, New Jersey. After investigating sites in various parts of the country, the choice of the trustees fell upon a tract of land in the northern part of Cape May county, New Jersey, on which an agricultural colony for the Jewish refugees from Russia was established. Selected families, chosen because of their apparent fitness as pioneers, were sent to the colony (see
To the southwest of the town proper lies the Woodbine Agricultural School, started in a small way in 1893 by the trustees, and gradually enlarged from year to year to meet the demands of Jewish youths for instruction in agriculture. At the present time (1903) the buildings consist of a schoolhouse of brick (completed in 1900) capable of accommodating 250 pupils, a cottage for the staff of teachers, a dormitory for 100 pupils, and the necessary outhouses and paraphernalia of a farming school.
In 1893, lessons in English, arithmetic, etc., were given to the boys; and for them as well as their parents illustrated lectures on practical agriculture were delivered once a week during the winter months. The result was so encouraging that a preliminary course was given from March to Oct., 1894, when 42 pupils received practical training in planting, grafting, and the care of fruit-trees, and in the growing of truck and field crops. In Oct., 1894, the first regular class, consisting of 15 boys, was organized. Since that time the school has gradually grown; there are enrolled at present (1903) 100 resident pupils, the full capacity of the dormitory, besides a number of day pupils, the children of residents of Woodbine and of the surrounding farmers.
The school is entirely free. Since 1900 the course of study and work extends over a period of four years. The graduates have become farmers, florists, machinists, etc., for the most part, but pupils of exceptional ability have obtained positions under the government and in educational institutions. The object of the school is "to raise intelligent, practical farmers." A competent faculty of experts in particular lines of work and study is in charge of the pupils under the direction of the superintendent, Prof. H. L. Sabsovich. The conditions of admission are good moral character, good health, and an elementary education; and the minimum age of entry is fourteen years. The pupils work from six to eight hours in summer, and from four to five hours in winter, and study from two to five hours daily.
The Baron de Hirsch Fund gives a portion of its yearly income to the Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society, which has its offices in New York. Among the objects of this association is the encouragement of agriculture among Jews by lending money on mortgage for the purchase of farms It also, through a system of agents, organized as the Industrial Removal Office, secures work in cities and towns throughout the United States for newly arrived Jewish immigrants and for dwellers in the overcrowded part of New York, furnishing them with free transportation to such places. A regular annual subvention is also granted to this society by the Jewish Colonization Association.
The Baron de Hirsch Fund also grants yearly sums to be used in Americanizing newly arrived Jewish immigrants by means of education, etc., in Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, Brooklyn, and Boston.