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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Brazil 02: Agriculture settlements

Jewish farmers in Dutch Brazil - agricultural settlements since 1891 - Philippson, Quatro Irmãos, Resende  - liquidation of the agricultural settlements since 1945 - individual Jews farming

from: Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Brazil, vol. 4

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)



<Agricultural Colonies.

[Jewish farmers in Dutch Brazil]

Many Jews farmed in northern Brazil during the Colonial Period and probably even introduced the cultivation of sugar cane.

[[The natives were driven away and the jungle was destroyed for this]].

[Plan of Jewish agricultural settlements since 1892 - Oswald Boxer's mission fails with his death]

More recently, the earliest discussion of a plan for the agricultural settlement of Jews took place in 1891, when the Deutsches Central Comitee fuer die Russischen Juden [[German Central Committee for Russian Jews]], established after the expulsion of Jews from Moscow, sent Oswald Boxer - a (col. 1325)

Viennese journalist and close friend of [[racist]] Herzl - to Brazil to investigate the possibilities of founding agricultural settlements for Russian refugees. Boxer was warmly received by government representatives and after an inspection tour, he reported to the committee that Jewish settlement could indeed prosper in Brazil and that the first settlers could be dispatched as early as March 1892. The revolution of Nov. 3, 1891, and the counterrevolution of Nov. 23, which ended the rule of General Deodoro da Fonseca, invalidated Boxer's forecast, and the project was finally abandoned in 1892, when Boxer died of yellow fever.

[Plan of Jewish agricultural settlements since 1901 with Belgian cooperation - experimental colony in the Santa Maria region - agricultural disaster in 1904 - the Jews change to other jobs]

In 1901,on the initiative of the vice-president of the *Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), who had contacts with the Belgian railway company in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil again became the objective of Jewish agricultural settlement. The lasting stagnation in the agricultural colonies of Argentina prompted ICA to seek new lands where the expenses of agricultural settlement would be less than in Argentina.

[[The natives were driven away and the jungle was destroyed for this]].

In 1902 ICA decided to set up a small experimental colony; 5,400 hectares (13,338 acres) were acquired in the Santa Maria region on the railroad line that later became the international railroad between Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro.

[[The natives were driven away and the jungle was destroyed for this]].

[The Jewish agricultural settlement Philippson]

In 1904, 37 families (267 persons) from Bessarabia settled at the colony named after its initiator, Philippson. This settlement encountered difficulties from its inception. Despite the *Kishinev pogrom in Bessarabia (April 1903), few Jews wanted to settle in Brazil, and the selection of candidates, who had to be experienced in agricultural work and possess certain financial means, was slow. the 1904 farming season was thus wasted.

Frequent changes in the administration, coupled with the lack of agricultural instruction, faulty planning, and insufficient funds prevented the development of the settlement, whose limited size also precluded the improvement of services.

Only in 1907 was a qualified teacher appointed and a cooperative formed, but its practical activity was limited. The meager chances of economic success in the settlement, contrasted with the prospect of a comfortable livelihood as a peddler or artisan in Santa Maria, soon caused the settlement's disintegration.

In Aug. 1926, the director of ICA in Buenos Aires reported that of the 122 families who settled in Philippson at various periods, only 17 remained, of whom only three worked the land themselves, the others leasing it or employing hired labour. Only 132 hectares (326 acres) were under cultivation, on which corn and beans were grown, and the overall value of the harvest was only £ 1,060. The report suggested the liquidation of the remaining ICA property in the colony, and this suggestion was adopted.

In 1968, two of the offspring of the original settlers, who live in Pôrto Alegre, still owned large tracts of the former colony's land.

[The Jewish agricultural region in northern Rio Grande do Sul in the Quatro Irmãos area - land sold to non-Jews since 1920 - liquidation of property since 1958]

Despite the preliminary difficulties at Philippson, on June 5, 1909, the ICA council decided to acquire an additional large tract in northern Rio Grande do Sul. It chose a largely afforested section of 93,850 hectares (231,810 acres) in the Quatro Irmãos area, where a large-scale government settlement was developing. The Quatro Irmãos settlers were to be chosen from among the agricultural labourers in ICA's colonies in Argentina and applicants for settlement specially selected in Russia.

While the screening operations met with difficulties because of the lack of confidence in the potential success of the Brazil project, other immigrants reached the colony. By January 1915, 1,678 persons had settled in Quatro Irmãos. Because of the lack of agricultural facilities, the newcomers were either engaged in building or received funds directly from ICA. (col. 1326)


Apart from keeping cows and chickens for their own consumption, the settlers had to make a living from their harvests of corn, wheat, beans, manioc, alfalfa, peanuts, and especially yerba maté maté [[maté herb]]. They also cleared fertile areas of forest and groves (mato), which were enriched by the wood ash created by burning the vegetation. the salvaged wood was sold to ICA's sawmills in the area, and, in order to facilitate transportation and marketing, ICA began building an 18-kilometer railroad that joined Quatro Irmãos and the town of Erebango early in 1918. Flour mills and a consumer cooperative organization were also established, and in 1912 a school was built and cultural life began to develop. (col. 1327)


World War I put an end to any chance of developing the colony. With the help of ICA, the immigrants therefore left the colony for towns in Rio Grande do Sul, Uruguay, (col. 1326)

and Argentina. By November 1915 only 72 of the original 232 families remained in the colony. (col. 1327)


Nevertheless, the settlement was undermined by administrative weakness, difficult living conditions, and, most particularly, by the civil war of 1923 (one of whose fiercest battles was fought on the colony's land). By 1926, 40 settlers remained, of whom only 16 lived on their own land and 24 lived in the village of Quatro Irmãos; another ten landowners lived outside the colony. The cooperative and the other public institutions were neglected, and instability reigned in the settlement.

In order to make a profit from its investments, in 1920 ICA began selling the land to non-Jewish settlers, mainly Germans and Italians. By 1926, however, it renewed Jewish settlement by establishing five new centers with a total of 97 families. ICA also renewed its efforts to encourage cooperatives, mixed farming, and the establishment of mills, oil presses, and so on. The economic crisis of 1929-30, however, drastically reduced crop prices and prevented the new centers from establishing themselves.

From 1930, despite all efforts, the colony began to decline. The ICA report of Dec. 31, 1935, indicated the existence of 104 Jewish families (464 persons) as compared with 419 non-Jewish families (2,080 persons) living in the colony. The severe restrictions on immigration, particularly from 1934 onward, also prevented any further expansion, and Quatro Irmãos remained a huge holding settled mainly by non-Jews and administered, together with its railroad and sawmills, by ICA.

The liquidation of this property began in 1958 [[because racist Herzl Israel became more attractive for Jewish "settlement" with the project of a racist "Greater Israel" from the Nile to the Euphrates]]: the railway was closed, more and more land was sold, and the remaining settlers began to disperse. ICA's report for 1965 notes that "the winding up of the Associations affairs in the state of Rio Grande do Sul was virtually completed." (col. 1327)

[The Jewish agricultural settlement of Resende in the state of Rio de Janeiro in 1935 - no entrance permits - settlement closed down in 1952]

Conditions in Germany in 1935 prompted ICA to make a third attempt at agricultural settlement in Brazil. In 1936, 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres) at Resende, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, were designated for settlers who would engage in mixed farming to provide produce for the local market in Rio. ICA representatives in Germany concurrently selected 20 farming families as candidates for settlement;however, despite continuous contacts with the Brazilian government about the implementation of the plan - which was adapted to the Brazilian immigration laws - the authorities refused to grant the settlers entry permits. The land that had been acquired was meanwhile put at the disposal of 15 other settlers. In 1948 ICA closed its offices in the colony, and in 1952, when part of the area was requisitioned to set up a military school, the Association liquidated the rest of its property there [[because racist Herzl Israel became more attractive for Jewish "settlement" with the project of a racist "Greater Israel" from the Nile to the Euphrates]].

[Individual Jews farming in Brazil: Mogi, São Miguel, Bahia, Natal]

Outside the organized settlement, individual Jews farmed in Brazil at Mogi; there are also vine growers from Bessarabia at São Miguel, in the São Paulo state; and in the Bahia state and in the Natal region of the Rio Grande do Norte state Jewish farmers own citrus groves and plantations. In contrast to Argentina, Jewish agricultural settlement in Brazil has not left its mark on Brazilian Jewish literature.

[H.A.]> (col. 1328)


Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Brazil,
                          vol. 4, col. 1325-1326
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Brazil, vol. 4, col. 1325-1326
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Brazil,
                          vol. 4, col. 1327-1328
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Brazil, vol. 4, col. 1327-1328

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