Category Archives: News

President’s Message: New Land Record Database Now Available!

Great News! In 2018, NEHFES asked title researcher Carol Spenser to create a database of all land transactions – purchases and sales – in Montville, from 1890 – 1920. The intent was to help member descendants discover exactly when their ancestors first purchased land in Chesterfield. We also hoped to estimate how many individual families lived there during those years. (We now think it’s about 475.) With considerable knowledge of historic Connecticut and Rhode Island land records, Spenser spent days culling names from the Town of Montville’s archival land indexes.

The resulting database of more than 1,000 transactions, now on our website, provides a specific volume and page number for every deed and can be searched by family name. Our webmaster and VP, Michael Kirsch, and Board Member John Lieberman have spent hours making the database page intelligible and workable. For the sake of historic accuracy, and amusement, we retained all orthographic variations of both the first and last names of the same person. I am certain that the Montville town scribes did their best converting Russian, Polish or Rumanian names into pronounceable, phonetic English!

Many of the early mortgages were held by the Baron de Hirsch Fund, capitalized in New York City in 1891. Its mission was to encourage Jewish immigrants from Czarist Russia, and then from the tenements of New York City, to buy land and establish themselves as independent, tax-paying American citizens. In the spring of 1892, the Fund wrote a $3,000.00 mortgage to finance the construction of the Creamery and contributed to the construction of the New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanuel Society’s new synagogue as well. Chesterfield’s inexpensive, rock-strewn farmland could be had for a down payment of $300 to $500, and a mortgage from the Fund at 5%. Thus did our Yiddish-speaking ancestors buy acres of land from Yankee owners. Many continued to sell tracts back and forth among themselves or to newcomers.

The Baron Maurice de Hirsch had a vision:

“What I desire to accomplish, what, after many failures has come to be the object of my life and that for which I am ready to stake my wealth and my intellectual powers, is to give to a portion of my companions in faith the possibility of finding a new existence, primarily as farmers, and also as handicraftsmen, in those lands where the laws and religious tolerance permit them to carry on the struggle for existence as noble and responsible subjects of a humane government.”

Moses of the New World: The Work of Baron de Hirsch, Samuel J. Lee, Thomas Yoseloff Publisher, New York 1970, page 214.

When incorporated in 1892 as the New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanuel Society, the intent was to form a society for public worship and to “perpetuate the cause of Judaism.” But our great-great-grandparents and great-grandparents also went about the business of assimilation with hard work and dedication to an ethical life and to family betterment. They sent their children to the village one-room schoolhouse and onto Bulkeley High School in New London. The next generation married and moved out to establish businesses in Hartford, New London, New York and beyond. Their grandchildren graduated major colleges and universities. Today, the succeeding generations of Chesterfield’s vibrant Russian Jewish Immigrant community have successfully entered the American mainstream in the fields of law, education, academia, finance, business, media, government, science, medicine and more. This trajectory was the perfect embodiment of the “American Dream.” The Baron would be very pleased.

Nancy R. Savin, President, NEHFES
Riverdale, New York
September 20, 2019

Annual NEHFES Membership Meeting – June 9, 2019

Annual NEHFES Membership Meeting – June 9, 2019

The Annual Meeting of The New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanuel Society (NEHFES) of Chesterfield, CT will be held on Sunday, June 9, 2019 at the New London County Historical Society, 11 Blinman Street, New London, Connecticut 06320 . The guest speaker will be Andrew Stout, the Eastern Regional Director for TAC (The Archaeological… Continue Reading

Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, 1964-2018

The NY Times has reported the death of Dr. Aaron D. Panken, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute, in a private plane crash 70 miles northwest of NYC. “A distinguished rabbi and scholar, dedicated teacher and exemplary leader of the Reform Movement in American for nearly three decades,” Rabbi Panken was also a direct… Continue Reading

Welcome Letter from Our President, Nancy R. Savin

Hello and welcome to our NEHFES website! We are delighted that you found us and invite to you to stay a while! NEHFES had a great 125th Anniversary on June 11, 2017 roughly 125 years from May 6, 1892, the day the New England Hebrew Farmers dedicated Connecticut’s first rural synagogue. On May 8, 2017,… Continue Reading

Annual NEHFES Membership Meeting – June 10, 2018

Please join us for the Annual NEHFES Membership Meeting on Sunday, June 10, 2018, at the Chesterfield Firehouse.  The membership meeting will begin at 1:00, followed by a public presentation beginning at 3:00. The featured speaker at the 3:00 public presentation will be Miriam Leberstein, the Yiddishist who translated our NEHFES Minutes and Ledger Book. Her… Continue Reading

NEHFES 125th Anniversary Celebration

The New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanuel Society celebrated its 125th Anniversary on Sunday, June 11, 2017.  The event program is available for download.  In addition, NEHFES members can download materials from the event on the Document Archives page (you should have received an email with the required password). Continue Reading

NEHFES Minutes and Ledger Book Available Online

NEHFES Minutes and Ledger Book Available Online

NEHFES President Nancy Savin is thrilled to announce that the NEHFES Minutes and Ledger Book (1892 – 1933) has been added to the Yiddish Book Center’s Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library. This document comprises the (scanned) facsimile of the MLB together with explanatory information, translator Miriam Leberstein’s intro and her superb English translation and an… Continue Reading

NEHFES Featured in Public Television Documentary, “Harvesting Stones”

NEHFES Featured in Public Television Documentary, “Harvesting Stones”

Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network recently aired “Harvesting Stones,” a documentary about the early Jewish farmers of Eastern Connecticut. The documentary, originally shown on May 25 and rebroadcast on May 29, includes footage of the NEHFES site taken during the excavation in 2012, photos about NEHFES, and an interview with NEHFES president Nancy Savin. Additional information about the… Continue Reading