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Our People of the Century
Abraham Brotman:
Early Industrialist Knew His Workers Were The Key   

Nearly one hundred years after Abraham Brotman moved his coat from Brooklyn to Southern New Jersey, his great grandson produced a documentary on the founding of the Alliance and Brotmanville colonies.

Little was left of the two villages that once served as an incubator for Eastern European Jewish immigrants, by the time Richard Brotman's college project sent him digging into the past. And he could help but wonder about the realities or life in the villages and particularly his great-grandfather’s factory.

The clothing factory offered an alternative and supplement to the farming that had established the Alliance colony in 1882. Some urban factories in the late-1800s and early 1900s were sweatshops, their own feeding off the desparation of immigrant workers. Richard Brotman discovered what his father, the Hon. Stanley Brotman of the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, already knew.

The record shows that Abraham Brotman was a pioneer who connected to his people. He wanted to help other immigrants by giving them a means to earn a living and pay off their debts. He built modest homes and established a nurturing community where Jewish immigrants like himself could learn the language and ways of their new country amidst their rich cultural heritage.

Some 60 families, including Abraham and Minnie Brotman and their 11 children, relied on the clothing factory.

Into the early 1900s, those early immigrants acclimated and the communities grew and prospered. They raised and educated their children, and those children moved away to seek their own American dreams.

The fact that those early colonies didn’t last through this century is testimony to their effectiveness. As did other ethnic groups before and after them, Jewish immigrants became part of the texture of America. It could be said that Abraham Brotman's dreams came true especially in the decline of his beloved Brotmanville. His connection to his people and his sense of fairness live on in his descendants.

"I learned from him that you have to give something of yourself to people," says Judge Stanley Brotman, who came home to Vineland after Harvard Law School and military service during World War II and the Korean conflict. “For my grandfather, it wasn’t a matter of dollars and cents. It was doing something for his people."

Brotman practiced law in Vineland for more than 20 years before President Gerald Ford appointed him in 1975 to the federal bench. He and his wife, Suzanne, have been active in the community, and they have raised their two children, Richard and Alison, here.

Brotman credits his love of the law to his uncle Aaron, a lawyer who died in 1939 at only 29.

As a judge, Brotman feels his grandfather's influence every day. "I feel strongly that I am here to serve as a fair-mind person, to dispense a justice that is fair, equitable, and objective to all people."

Among the joys of his job are naturalization ceremonies. In his remarks, he tells the new citizens that he is the second generation born in the United States.

"I tell them my grandparents were foreign born and I can appreciate the emotional feeling they have."

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