I. AMERICA, THE "PROMISED LAND"
II. THE RELUCTANT RESCUERS
III. BACK TO THE LAND
IV. "HO, FOR KANSAS!"
V. BEERSHEBA: "GOD'S PURE AIR ON GOVERNMENT LAND
VI. "DRY GOODS, GROCERIES, BOOTS AND SHOES"
VII. MONTEFIORE: "NO WATER HERE"
VIII. LASKER: "THE JEWISH COVERED WAGON"
IX. HEBRON AND GILEAD: GYP HILLS JERUSALEMS
X. TOURO AND LEESER: "OUR RUSSIAN FRIENDS"
XI. FROM SHTETL TO PRAIRIE
XII. SOD JERUSALEMS
Map of Colony Locations
NOTE: Numbers in brackets refer to footnotes for this text; footnotes
are numbered separately by chapter and published at the end of the work.
IT WAS a good 18 miles from Dodge City to Ford, Kansas, and then at least another 12, south and a little west, almost to the Clark County line, to where Elias Brownstein had built his one- room soddy. Its walls were blocks of the prairie; the planks of its door had been hewn from a nearby tree. Stones had been pried from the ground, brought inside and arranged into a kind of fireplace that could be used for cooking and heating. Years later, Mr. Brownstein would remember it as something like a cabin, but in 1885, it was his home -- home for him, his wife, Fannie, and their nine children, two of whom were born there.With God's help, my folks all arrived out there in No Man's Land...
The house was a brown chunk of a building, its sides held together by tough, dried matted grass, weeds sticking from its pores, sitting alone on a dismal prairie that seemed to stretch and roll forever with only a few trees, no streams, and creamy, rough rocks punching out of the earth where, back East, green grass would have grown.
Mrs. Brownstein saw it all. And, as she later told her children and grandchildren, the first time she saw it she got down on her hands and knees and kissed the earth and said her prayers. The Brownsteins were Russian Jews. God had saved them. God had brought them to Kansas. 
* * * * * * * * * * *
During 1882-86, there were seven attempts to start Jewish agricultural colonies in Western Kansas as havens for Russian refugees who had come to the United States to escape czarist pogroms and persecution. None lasted more than a few years as a colony. Most had disappeared by 1890, although a few Jews remained in the communities. By 1900, however, virtually all Jews were gone and the colonies had vanished.
It is the intention of this study to establish the locations of the colonies, to tell something about them and their role in Kansas history as well as in Jewish history in America. Each colony had its own particular story, yet they all shared common reasons for their early demises. They were poorly financed. They lacked good communications with their sponsors, being too far from the centers of Jewish emigrant settlement in New York, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. They were established during years of droughts, grasshoppers and incredibly difficult winters. Most of the emigrants who established them were not farmers in Russia and were inexperienced at farming. Most were dissatisfied with farming. They remained on the farms only as long as was necessary until they could start businesses, stores and shops as they had done in Russia. Yet to say that the colonies were failures would be to oversimplify them. It would be to judge them only by their brief durations.
The first colony, Beersheba, established in 1882, was in Hodgeman County, about 25 miles northeast of Cimarron. As a colony, it lasted two to three years, but Jewish residents were in the area for as long as seven to eight years after that. A second colony, Moses Montefiore, was begun in 1884 in Pratt County, but it lasted only a year. The third colony, established in 1885, was south of Ford, Kansas and was named after the German statesman, Edward Lasker. Like Beersheba, it had a sod house synagogue for schooling and religious services. The Brownsteins were a part of the Lasker colony, although Mr. Brownstein later acquired property at Beersheba as well.
The other short-lived colonies, established in 1884-86 were Hebron, Gilead, Touro and Leeser. Hebron, also known as New Jerusalem, was in Barber County, and at its peak, 1885-86, may have had as many as 200 residents including Hungarian, Austrian and German Jews as well as Russian Jews. Gilead, begun in 1886, was a Rumanian Jewish community in Comanche County only a few miles southwest of Hebron. Touro, in Kearny County, and Leeser, in Finney County, were both started in 1886 and Touro also included at least one former Beersheba resident as a landowner.