Monday, May 1, 2017
Due to my latest film project, A Trip to Philippson, I've been researching about this Jewish colony in Brazil, actually the first one in the country, established in 1904 by the JCA (Jewish Colonization Association), which had been helmed by the late Baron Hirsch. I was there three times between 2015 and 2017. The place where 38 families were placed after a long trip from Bessarabia to become farmers and consequently save themselves from the violent pogroms, is now a peaceful farm. The Philippson Farm has been reduced in size comparing the original 4,472 hectares, but it's still hauntingly beautiful, with its rolling hills, vast green fields, secret rivers and water ponds. It eerily resembles the Moldovan countryside landscape.
From the old colony days, only a few things remain. The cemetery has been recently renovated and is one of the most important historical monuments of local Jewish history. And at first sight, that's it. The houses, railway, school and synagogue have vanished. But with the help of a guide, we could locate some foundations of the school and synagogue, and then later we heard there is still the mikvah somewhere around.
Philippson is now a profitable example of soy and corn harvesting farm, and no more a colony. One can read stories about it in books, but cannot be witness to its memories. Only a few photographs of that time remain. In A Trip to Philippson, much of these images will be shown.
I was glad to be there and will never forget it. It is there that modern Jewish life in Brazil began, and like most immigration stories, it was not an easy one. The settlers suffered from all kinds of issues, but were successful in surviving and moving onto a new life.
Philippson was not alone. Experiments like this were held in Argentina, Uruguay, the US, Canada and Turkey. Thanks to the Baron Hirsch and the JCA, many Jews were able to flee persecution in the old World to start anew in a land that was not theirs, but that would soon become their descendants'.