Rick and Jean Osofsky at book launch in July 2017. Rick and his brother Ronny own Ronnybrook Dairy in Pine Plains, and are grandsons of Nathan Osofsky who with his brother Max were among the first Russian Jews to come to Sharon. Photo from the Republican American, by Ruth Epstein

SELECTED BOOKS

The history of some 30 Russian Jewish immigrant families who in 1907 began to buy land in the Ellsworth Hills above Sharon, CT, where they attempted to become dairy farmers.
Three generations of strong-­minded Rosens have gone their own ways, repairing the world while keeping a safe distance from each other, when Peter Rosen, a widowed refugee from Nazi Germany and retired German professor, takes a bad fall in the snow and a call from Spooner Street prompts his estranged daughter, Marlene Rosen, to spend a long stretch in Madison with her ailing but difficult father.
Ten-year-old Eva Hoffman's family, Austrian refugees, have found precarious safety in Topeka, Kansas. It is 1951, the year of the landmark desegregation case. As the rising river inundates the town, the Hoffman's open their home to refugees from the flood, and Eva learns the complexities of prejudice - and courage - both within and outside her family.
Memoir
"A second generation chronicle that offers rich intellectual insights while stiring our deepest feelings." Leo Spitzer, author of Hotel Bolivia "Pursing her story across two continents, Ascher, the daughter of a Vienese psychoanalyst, explores the unsettling legacy of Nazi persecution on her complicated immigrant family and ultimately on herself, in this probing, well-written memoir." - Alix Kates Shulman

More From Carol Ascher

Welcome

"These are my roots. This book put me in touch with the resilience and determination of people like my grandparents, Harry and Anna Marcus. Their hard work and resourcefulness made it possible for those of us who came behind them to do well. As a historian, it helped me understand better how ordinary immigrants enriched American life, sometimes overcoming discrimination and other barriers in doing so."


~ Martin Klein, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto

A CHANCE FOR LAND AND FRESH AIR: Russian Jewish Immigrants in Sharon and Amenia, 1907-1940


In 1907, the first of thirty Russian Jewish families settled in the Ellsworth hills above Sharon to try their hand at dairy farming. Most of the immigrants purchased land with mortgage assistance from the Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society, an organization in New York City’s Lower East Side funded by the Belgian Jewish philanthropist, Baron Maurice de Hirsch. The Russian Czar had forbidden Jews to farm, and Hirsch hoped that farming would enable Jews to become productive and fully-respected citizens in America. But the Ellsworth hills were too stony for dairy farming, and most families subsidized their incomes by offering kosher vacations to New York City Jews wanting fresh air.

In the 1920s, as their children reached high school age, the Russian Jews began moving down from the hills, many to Amenia, New York, where the high school was more welcoming. Amenia was directly on the train line, and so accessible to vacationers. The immigrants built kosher boarding houses and small hotels, as well as a range of business. By the end of the decade, Amenia was a busy resort town, and the Jews were finally able to build a synagogue that ninety years later thrives as Congregation Beth David.

Ascher draws her important and moving story of Jewish rural life in the early decades of the twentieth century from photos and interviews with descendants, many of whom remain in the area, as well as from land records, census data and other historical documents. Thanks to funding from Baron de Hirsch, similar settlements of Russian Jewish farmers took place in other rural communities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, as well as throughout the United States and Canada.

A Chance for Land and Fresh Air is based on and expands an exhibit that Ascher curated for the Sharon Historical Society. The exhibit was on display at the Historical Society between October 2016 and April 2017. It is now permanently installed in Amenia’s Congregation Beth David,Congregation Beth David 3344 East Main Street, Route 343, Amenia, NY 12501

Purchase A Chance For Land and Fresh Air


ABRAHAM'S DAUGHTERS, AN INTERFAITH CONVERSATIONS


Abrahams Four Daughters, Carol Ascher, Nancy Latif, Eileen Epperson and Vjosa Qerimi, photo by Asher Pavel, taken at a presentation at the Salisbury Congregational Church, November 19, 2017
Carol Ascher, Eileen Epperson, Nancy Latif and Vjosa Qerimi, women of Jewish, Christian and Muslim backgrounds, share their personal religious journeys, and what they cherish in their faiths. Our goals are to both model a very personal conversation about spiritual beliefs that most people are shy of discussing, and to show that such conversations can occur amidst developing trust and friendship, despite very different notions of the divine.

Abraham's Daughters has been presenting interfaith conversations in churches, synagogues and other venues in northwest Connecticut and New York. Our aim is to help our audience become comfortable with discussions that involve differences in tradition and belief.

Upcoming Events:

November 19, 2pm, World Café, Salisbury Congregational Church, Salisbury, CT
December 9, 11 am, Congregation Ahavath Shalom, Great Barrington, MA
January 21, 11 am, United Congregational Church of Litchfield, Litchfield, CT
February 15, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford, CT. Check for time.
March 18, First Church, Middletown, CT. Check for time.


 
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Carol's Column, "On Reflection"