Persecution of ethnic minority in Russia led to the formation an abandoned town in Ford County.
In the 18th century, as things were improving in the Western World, Russia was discriminating against religious and ethnic minorities. A particular target of this discrimination were those practicing Judaism.
Things got so bad that in the 1880's, pogroms, or organized massacres, of Jewish people began across the empire. This resulted in a mass exodus of Jewish people from Russia; mainly to the United States and Holy Land. By 1920, the numbers of Jewish people who had left Russia reached more than two million.
In the midst of this upheaval, on March 27, 1884, a group of Jewish immigrants formed a colony in Pratt County where they hoped to grow wheat. The Montefiore Agricultural Aid Society of New York, which was formed by a Russian group called Am Olam, sponsored them.
The Society and the Colony were named to honor Sir Moses Montefiore's 100th birthday. Sir Moses had been a Jewish statesman who was instrumental in aiding those of the Jewish faith in their escape from Russia. He also defended Jewish people suffering all over the world.
Unfortunately, the soil, growing conditions and a drought proved to be too much for the immigrants who were not prepared for the overly strenuous work it would take to farm at this spot.
Some left for Alliance, New Jersey, but most, 17 families, moved a few counties west and, in April 1885, formed the settlement of Lasker in Ford County. Each family was given 160 acres to farm.
This farming community, about six to ten miles from the town of Ford, was meant to be an "utopian" colony. Though its exact location is unknown, 200 people were living on a space of nine square miles by spring of 1887.
No one is sure why the community died, but the years 1888 through 1891 were again plagued by drought, and during those years many other farmers in the region sold their claims. By 1891, nothing remained of Lasker.
Five other Jewish agricultural colonies in Kansas didn't fare any better. They included Beersheba in Hodgeman County; Gilead, Comanche County; Hebron, Barber County; Leeser, Finney County and Touro, Kearny County.
All have disappeared, but many of the people stayed. In 1890, Kansas had six Jewish congregations with 486 members. Those who remained enhanced the rich culture of our State.
As of 2017, Kansas's Jewish population was approximately 17,300 people.