Congregation B’Nai Israel will host a presentation this weekend on the history of the families that founded the century-old Fleischmanns synagogue.
Merrie Blocker, a retired U.S. diplomat-turned-historian and founder of the Baron Hirsch Jewish Farmers Community, will present “A Historical Look at the Jewish Farmers of the Western Catskills” at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 25.
“There’s been a lot of research and writing on the Jewish farmers in Sullivan County, but not as much in Delaware and Greene counties,” congregation President Gil Rubin said.
Rubin said he encountered Blocker’s work while researching the congregation’s history when applying for a historical marker from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, which was dedicated last month.
The synagogue was founded by a small group of Jewish farmers and businessmen who settled the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, according to Rubin.
“Jewish people across the centuries, in all the lands we were kicked out of, were never allowed to own land,” he said.
Jewish settlements throughout North and South America owe their founding to Baron Maurice de Hirsch, a German Jewish financier who amassed his wealth building the Vienna-Constantinople Railroad and invested the modern equivalent of $3 billion in promoting Jewish land ownership and agriculture.
Hirsch founded the Jewish Colonization Association to facilitate the mass emigration of eastern European Jews to burgeoning agricultural colonies, according to Rubin. The organization remains active in Israel, promoting development projects as the Jewish Charitable Association.