Skip to main content



I was born in Sirkova, a small Bessarabian village in Romania in the 1890's. The village had a Jewish population of about twenty families who earned their livelihood raising tobacco on land rented from the peasants . As a boy I worked in the tobacco fields during the summers and attended school in the winters. In 1914 I was conscripted into the Russian army, and shortly after had the opportunity to emigrate to Canada & Manitoba Province, where some members of my family had already settled.

After improving my English, I entered the University of Manitoba and finished two years at the College of Agriculture in Winnipeg . Farming has always been an  attractive vocation too as I enjoyed being close to nature and had a dream of working for my family and myself on my own farm.

In 1925 my wife, Pearl and I were married and came to the United States. We lived in New York City where Billey, our daughter, and Yosi, our son, were  born.  As  the economic crisis deepened it became difficult to retain work. Our family lived through many hardships as those were extremely difficult times for all people. After a prolonged period of unemployment, we took the advice and help of our friends to relocate in New Jersey. I became a vegetable man bringing fruit and vegetables in an old truck to the farmers around Lakewood, Toms River and Farmingdale. In 1938 on my wife's initiative, we rented an old chicken farm near Maxim Station in Farmingdale to  discover if the farming life was feasible for our family. The first spring Pearl ordered 300 baby chicks and took care of them while I continued the vegetable route and helped as much as  I could at night. Our first chicks grew and, became layers and on the basis of our success we began to look for a farm to purchase for ourselves.

In 1939, with the assistance of our Toms River friends Belyev, Dardick, Morris Latterman and the Brafmans, a 32 acre property was found on White Oak Bottom Road, and each of these friends lent us a sum of money  to meet the down payment required. We refurbished an old chicken coop on the property, moved ourselves and our stock, and became members of the Community of Jewish Farmers. In those days a newcomer was warmly welcomed into the community. There was no limit to the friendliness and assistance that was extended to help us become established. One man came to teach us how to vaccinate, another to cull, a third assisted in putting together the poultry equipment. Many an evening was spent discussing the layout of the brooder houses and the field rotation, the placement and design of the new chicken coops, and the best way to furnish them. Chudnov came bringing bulbs and flowers and to inspect the chickens and advise, and planted nut trees and red poppies in our yard which are still bearing. In the first year the Jewish Agricultural Society gave us a substantial  loan which we used to erect the first new buildings .

We eagerly joined in the activities of the Jewish Center on Old Freehold Road, which was the center of cultural and social life for both the farmers and the Jewish townspeople from Toms River. The children were enrolled in a Yiddish school and attended classes in Yiddish Saturday and Sunday mornings.  A teacher commuted from New York City and with the children planned and put on plays and activities during the Jewish holidays which the entire community attended and enjoyed. There were no baby sitters at that time, and whole families participated in the social activities. All the children were known individually and their progress noted. The Yiddish plays and speakers that came to the center, as Jewish organizations of all kinds multiplied, were a welcome relief to the nights spent in the egg cellar cleaning by hand with a little sandpaper buffer, 20 pails of eggs each and then weighing, sorting and packing them in cases to be shipped.

When we first entered the chicken business, farmers used to market their eggs through a middle-man, the egg dealer, and would purchase feed and supplies from private companies. Many egg dealers made a living buying eggs from the farmers and transporting them to the New York City market. Many were the stories of farmers who were underpaid, of eggs prepared and not collected by the egg dealer, or worse still, picked up and not promptly paid for. The first cooperative for farmers, the FEPCO, had been founded and we immediately joined. A few years later the White Oak Cooperative was founded to supply the farmer with equipment and supplies. A credit union provided welcome relief as local bankers often refused to extend credit to the small farmers. Our first loan went to buy our first car, a 1938 Chevy, which was about 4 years old and which we used for about 10 years. Our son took it with him to college. A cooperative was also founded to convert manure into fertilizer, but went bankrupt in the first year, so that all the investors lost their $100. It had seemed like a good idea as the one thing all the farmers had was plenty of manure.

Poultry farming became profitable around 1940 and many new families came into our community. There were teachers blacklisted in the City for their politics, refugees from the Holocaust in Europe, and middle aged couples from the sweatshops of the City who came to seek a better life in a rural setting. World War II brought a marked expansion of the Jewish farmer's community and all of us heartily supported the war effort. Many young people were drafted or enlisted in the armed services. Those too old or too young to join bought bonds, gave blood, collected scrap metal, entertained the service men, and took four hour watches sitting high on a tower on Borneman's farm to chart and identify planes as part of the coastal defense early warning system. Gasoline was rationed and so was food; cars broke down and couldn't be repaired; and the chickens one year couldn't be given  the proper feed and were a failure as layers. In the Community Center, a farmer's union was organized and Mrs. Harry Leber taught us the union songs and folk dancing at the socials.

The social life in the community center was very rich and satisfying. Elections for officers were held annually and were an important event and hotly prepared with electioneering up to the last minute. Baer, Pincus, and Ben Nevins were officers in the early years. Land was purchased for a cemetery and Mrs. Latterman was the first to be interred; she soon had company. The women founded Emma Lazarus Club; the teenagers formed the Jolly Jewish Juniors which sponsored roller skating parties on the tennis courts in the back. Zionist organizations became active and later a group of people formed a cultural club, too. Funds were collected for many causes and the farmers gave generously. The establishment of the State of Israel in 1947 was joyously celebrated and money was raised for Israel. Bonds were sold and a few families went to settle  in  Israel  as  chicken  farmers.    Each  year  a  memorial  service  was  held  to commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and their last will and testament honored: that the generations to come would remember and not forget or forgive the Nazis.

After the war was over, most of our young people returned to their homes; a few had lost their lives, others came back, settled down, married and founded their own farms. Most of the children from the community graduated Toms River High School and went on to colleges to graduate in many different fields of specialty, and settle in many far away places. After the war, an economic recession set in, and it became more and more difficult to earn a living. The feed companies developed giant combines in the South, opened chicken factories and because they could use feed at cost, competed unmercifully with the small farmers. Some of our farmers lost their farms; others gave up in disgust and sold and returned to the city. Older farmers retired to Florida and little by little, the Jewish farmers of Toms River have become a moment in history.

Having retired some years ago, I am now in my 80's living in Buffalo with my wife, and near my daughter and her family. We still feel close to the life and social activities of the Toms River Jewish Community and hope they will continue, as I do here, to join the efforts for world peace, for the security of the State of Israel, in friendship with her neighbors, and for the continuity of Jewish People everywhere with their progressive traditions and culture.

 Jack Weinstock