Few people are aware of the history of Woodbine, NJ, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this month (August). Established in 1891 on 5,300 acres purchased by the German industrialist and philanthropist Baron Maurice de Hirsch for the resettlement of Russian immigrants fleeing oppression in Europe, it was the first "Jewish town" in the United States — and later became known as "the first fully-governed Jewish community since the fall of the second temple in Jerusalem." Jews from Poland and the Ukraine came there a little later.
Within two years the immigrants had cleared that forested area of Dennis Township in Cape May County, built a town and thriving farms that provided produce for many of the nearby towns along the New Jersey seashore.
In 1894 the community created the Baron de Hirsch Agricultural College, a model of progressive education whose graduates won many state, national and international awards. It is now the Woodbine Developmental Center, a state-run facility for training the mentally handicapped. Eventually Woodbine became a haven for immigrants seeking employment in factories established as early as 1898.
During World War II the US Army built an airfield in Woodbine for use as a training base and for off-shore patrols that hunted German submarines operating off the east coast of America. Known today as the Woodbine Municipal Airport, it is a center of the town's redevelopment efforts.
As with any city, large or small, Woodbine is known for the notable people who were born there or their descendants. Among those associated with Woodbine are Hirsch Loeb Sabsovich, agronomist, chemist, and agricultural educator who served as Woodbine's first mayor; Robert Rabinowitz, creator of Beatlemania; Olympic athlete Judy Rabinowitz; Jay Rabinowitz, former Chief Justice of Alaska's Supreme Court; Gregory Goodwin Pincus, biologist and co-inventor of the combined oral contraceptive, and Billly Krechmer, one of the early East Coast jazz musicians (clarinet) and band leaders, and the owner for many years of the Jam Session nightclub in center city Philadelphia.
Beau Weisman, Editor