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Mar 1, 2023

As a preservationist, I have always believed that if you knew about the history of a place, it would make you care more about it. And if you uncovered the history, you’d feel inspired by the stories of the people who came before you. This episode reveals the importance of “citizen historians” - people who are dedicated to saving a historic place’s story as well as preserving the site for future generations.


Masses of Eastern European Jews began immigrating to the United States in the 1880s. Between 1881 and 1924, more than two and a half million Jews arrived in America. Many settled in large cities such as New York. But some were aided in becoming farmers and land- owners by the philanthropy of the Baron de Hirsch, a wealthy German Jew who amassed a fortune in building railroads. Funded by de Hirsch, the American Jewish Agricultural Society helped Jews to buy farmland, provided money for synagogues, published a Yiddish farm magazine and had Jewish farm agents. In Connecticut, an early Jewish farm community was established in Chesterfield in the town of Montville northwest of New London. In this episode, we hear more about how this early Jewish community’s history was saved by a group of descendants and how the site of the group’s first synagogue and creamery was preserved as an archeological site.    


Author and historian Mary Donohue interviews Nancy Savin, the 2022 winner of Preservation Connecticut’s Harlan H. Griswold Award presented by Preservation Connecticut and the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office. Harlan Griswold once said, “To me, preservation is more about my grandchildren than about my grandparents.” Her award citation reads “Through her selfless preservation efforts, both small and large, Nancy Savin is helping to build a better future for our children and grandchildren.”


A college graduate in voice and music history, Nancy spent 17 years at Connecticut Public as award-wining producer/host of arts and culture programming. But she is also the great-great granddaughter of Hirsch Kaplan, an Eastern European immigrant who arrived in New York City in 1887. So how did he end up in tiny Chesterfield as a Jewish farmer? And what was the New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanuel Society?  We’ll find in this episode.


Visit the website of the New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanual Society here:


Read more about the New England Hebrew Farmers in Nancy’s article in Connecticut Explored’s Winter 2022 issue here:


And Jewish farmers here-


Listen to our Grating the Nutmeg podcast on Jewish farmers here:

You can buy the book A Life of the Land: Connecticut’s Jewish Farmers by Mary M. Donohue and Briann G. Greenfield from the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford here:


Order Micki Savin’s book, I Remember Chesterfield on Amazon in hardcover, softcover or Kindle versions.

Read the minutes book of the NEHFES at the Yiddish Book Center here:

Fresh episodes of Grating the Nutmeg are brought to you every two weeks with support from our listeners. You can help us continue to produce the podcast by donating directly to Grating the Nutmeg on the Connecticut Explored website at   Click the donate button at the top and then look for the Grating the Nutmeg donation link at the bottom. Donations in any amount are greatly appreciated-we thank you!


This episode of Grating the Nutmeg was produced by Mary Donohue and engineered by Patrick O’Sullivan at Donohue may be reached at