The Jewish Colonization Society
A branch of the Jewish Colonization Society (JCS) was set up in St. Petersburg in 1893, two years after the Society was founded on the initiative of well-known Jewish philanthropist Baron Maurice de Hirsch. After the death of his only son, the money which he would have otherwise bequeathed to him, de Hirsch instead gave to charity. With these funds he created the Jewish Colonization Society in London with the aim of aiding Eastern European Jews, primarily from the Russian Empire. De Hirsch believed that as the Jews had no future in Russia, a place had to be found for them to live safely and productively. Thus the Argentinean project was developed. The Society acquired lands in Argentina for agricultural settlements of East European Jews.
Word of Baron de Hirsch's charities caused tens of thousands to move. To coordinate this process, a JCS branch was set up in Russia. At de Hirsch's request it was headed by Baron Horace Gunzburg, who could not ignore this movement even though he did not support the idea of mass emigration. JCS planned to arrange for 3.5 million people - almost the entire Jewish population - to leave Russia over a quarter of a century. The Russian government was favorable to the Jewish emigration. The migrants were entitled to exemption from military duty, received documents free of charge and enjoyed reduced railway fares. JCS local representatives were to find families of prospective emigrants, and advise and assist them in obtaining documents and benefits.
In addition to the department in charge of emigration to Argentina, another department was soon set up in the JCS to promote Jewish emigration to other countries which would admit them. The JCS information office published dictionaries and brochures in Russian and Yiddish with information about immigration laws in the USA, conditions of life in Canada, Australia, and South Africa. All these editions were so cheap that even the poorest Jews could afford to buy them; dictionaries cost 10 kopecks and brochures 1 to 6 kopecks. The JCS also published "The Jewish Emigrant" magazine. The "Argentinean project" did not prove to be a success. Nearly one half of those who came to Argentina remained in Buenos-Aires and only a few settled in the agricultural colonies (which never flourished). However, the JCS-sponsored emigration helped to solve problems for many Jews.
In the early 20th century JCS's activity in Russia was not yet limited to emigration. Horace Gunzburg agreed to head the Russian branch of JCS on the condition that it would also set up Jewish agricultural colonies in Russia. Such colonies were soon organized at the Gunzburgs' expense in the south of the country. Like ORT, JCS began to organize various vocational courses for Jews and open small enterprises, mainly for training purposes. Thus, thanks to Horace Gunzburg, JCS played a certain role in the professional adaptation of Jews to the new conditions in Russia.
Production of canned foods at the JCS nursery. A photograph dated 1903