Joseph Nudelman: Jewish Farm Community Leader of North Dakota

Joseph Nudelman

Values Codes I – H – E – L


Joseph Nudelman

Joseph Nudelman was born in 1844, in a small village outside of Odessa, Russia.

His father was Mordechai Nudelman. Over a 40-year span – and with at least two wives – Mordechai had twelve children who ended up in Portland, Oregon.

Joseph Nudelman was educated in Jewish schools to read and understand Jewish texts, and spoke both Yiddish and Russian.

In his 20s, Joseph was apprenticed as a carpenter.

In the early 1870’s, due to pogroms in Russia, Nudelman moved to Romania where he was a wine and grain merchant.

In the 1880’s, he became involved in the Am Olam movement, which wanted to create Jewish farm settlements in North Central United States and Canada.

Financed by Baron de Hirsh, Nudelman gathered 25 families that left for America in 1881.

Nudelman was forced to remain behind because of his wife’s illness.

In 1882, he left for America with his family and additional Jewish settlers.


Along the Way . . .

The settlers first gathered in Denver, Colorado.

There, some worked laying tracks for the railroad, while others mined silver in the famous Leadville mines.


North Dakota

In 1883, Nudelman gathered most of the families and settled in the great prairie, in a place called Painted Woods, known as a “New Jerusalem,” north of Bismark, North Dakota.

Rabbi Judah Weschler helped the colony with their settlement.

“Excitable, jabbering, queerly dressed . . . and poor material for prairie farmers.”

— William Brown, non-Jewish pioneer at their arrival

The first year the settlers built shelters and cleared land.

In 1884, the colony consisted of 54 families — about 200 people.

Each family received their 160 acres to homestead.

Then came the winters, with snow, more snow, cold, and blizzards.

By 1885, the colony was down to 40 families.

The rest had moved to towns or cities. Some returned to Europe.

To make matters worse, 1888 was the year of a great drought.

In 1892 Joseph Nudelman moved his family, first to Portland, Oregon, and a year later to Tulare County, California, where 20 other families joined him.

The smaller colony later moved to different areas of the San Joaquin Valley and Carson City, Nevada.

Like most Jewish agricultural colonies, with the weather and work required, it did not last longer than the first generation — if even that long.

Eventually Joseph Nudelman returned to Portland, Oregon where he ran the Western Meat Market.



in 1887, Nudelman became active in the local New Jerusalem School Board as treasurer.

By 1888, he opened a postal station and renamed the North Dakota town “Nudelman.”



In his early 20s, Joseph Nudelman married Anna Berth in Romania.

Together they had four children: Samuel, Maurice, Sophie, and Pearl.

Unfortunately, Anna Nudelman passed away in 1884, at 34 years of age.

Later in 1884, Joseph married Fannie Kosofski. Her family also settled at Painted Woods.

Together they had three children: Hyman, Robert, and Dora.


Joseph Nudelman passed away in 1935.



  • Harvey J. Fields, “Joseph Nudelman: The Dakota Years, 1844-1934,” Western States Jewish History 35/1.

Most of this information came from Rabbi Harvey J. Fields z’l, great-grandson of Joseph Nudelman.