There is a historical model for rural empowerment of ethnic minority groups resettled as productive farmers, most for the first time in their lives. I base this model on the long history of Jewish agrarianism from the late nineteenth until the mid-twentieth century. The article begins with an overview of the global arc of modern Jewish agrarianization, which at its height encompassed hundreds of thousands of farmers settled on millions of acres. It continues with a set of applied “lessons” from these organized resettlement projects that grew in a variety of political regimes and logistical landscapes. The article presents these lessons as a blueprint for reconstruction programs for endangered refugee communities today in Europe, the Near East, and elsewhere. These agrarian lessons could also perhaps ease some of the nationalist tensions in Europe around this latest wave of migration. This history informs us how refugee communities might be economically and socially empowered today. To that end, the article explores the significance of cooperative institutions, political advocacy, transnational philanthropic engagement, and the application of agro-technical expertise in the successful empowerment of new, ethnically “other” farmers in the midst of complex, at times hostile, local environments.
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© the Agricultural History Society, 2020