A Gift to Biro-Bidjan: Chicago, 1937
From Despair to New Hope

Biro-Bidjan and American Support

The Starsk gold mine in Biro-Bidjan, ca. 1936.
Preface and 
The Biro-Bidjan Project
Biro-Bidjan and American Support
The Woodcut as a Social 
The Title Page
Alex Topchevsky
William Jacobs
Aaron Bohrod
David Bekker
Louis Weiner
Mitchell Siporin
Edward Millman
Fritzi Brod
Bernece Berkman
Moris Topchevsky
Abraham Weiner
Raymond Katz
Todros Geller
Ceil Rosenberg

Despite an ideological conflict with the Zionist movement, which advocated for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, American Jews founded two organizations to support the Jewish autonomy in the Soviet Union. 

In 1926, a group of American Jews met in Philadelphia to form ICOR, Jewish Colonization in the Soviet Union (the acronym stands for the Yiddish translation). Their first mission was to raise funds for Jewish collectives in the Crimea. One of the chief supporters of ICOR in Chicago was Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Company and founder of the Museum of Science and Industry. He opposed the principles of the Soviet government, but he believed it was essential to take a chance on the good faith of the Soviet leaders and their proposal for Jewish autonomy. 

Rosenwald contributed more than $2 million to ICOR. Although some historians have discovered connections between ICOR and the American Communist Party in promoting socialism in Biro-Bidjan, the main goal of this organization was a humanitarian effort to save the European Jews from the future Holocaust. 

In February 1936, Jacob Grossberg, a Chicago attorney and one of the founders of the American Jewish Congress, met with prominent Chicago Jews to form a local chapter of Ambijan, an organization founded in New York to support Biro-Bidjan. Despite fierce opposition from those who preferred to assist the Jews in Palestine, Grossberg and the members of Chicago Ambijan, like those in ICOR, truly believed that moving Jews from Europe to Biro-Bidjan would protect them from persecution and future disaster.