Inside the Ark: The Hutterites in Canada and the United States

By Yossi Katz and John Lehr

Canadian Plains Research Center Press, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, 2012, 432 pages, softcover.

This book examines the social structure, governance and strategies for managing change within Hutterite society.

The Hutterites are the world’s longest-lasting and most successful communal society. Their colonies are based on a model of governance and a set of social relationships that have served them well for almost five hundred years. Today the Hutterite colonies face an array of new challenges as a result of increasing globalization and the advent of the digital revolution. In the past the colony was an ark, isolating the community from the secular world of the host society.

Today, the colony is losing much of its ability to exclude the influences of the outside world. Increasing integration with the world economy, contact with host institutions through state and provincial regulation of agriculture, and easy access to electronic communications media all conspire to reduce the isolation of Hutterite society. This is compounded by economic pressures to move beyond agriculture as a source of income.

Inside the Ark examines the historical process of change within Hutterite society and considers the ways in which the leadership has developed strategies to successfully manage it. The authors’ analysis is based on extensive fieldwork over many years with the Schmiedeleut branch of the Hutterites, who gave access to their Conference Letters and Regulations. In an extended appendix, a lightly edited version of these regulations is published for the first time in English translation. These provide invaluable insights into the Hutterites’ strategies for successfully managing change and for finding a balance between stability and vibrancy within their society.

About the authors

Yossi Katz

YOSSI KATZ is a professor of Geography at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. He holds the Chair for the Study of the History and Activities of the Jewish National Fund. He specializes in the modern history of Israel, Zionism, the process of Jewish settlement in Israel, and the Hutterite colonies’ settlement process in North America. He has published 23 books including: The Business of Settlement: Private Entrepreneurship in the Jewish Settlement of Palestine, 1900–1914 (1994); Partner to Partition: The Jewish Agency’s Partition Plan in the Mandate Era (1998); Between Jerusalem and Hebron: Jewish Settlement in the Pre-State Period (1999, 2nd printing, 2003); The Last Best West: Essays on the Historical Geography of the Canadian Prairies (with J.L. Lehr, 1999); The Religious Kibbutz Movement in the Land of Israel (1999, 2nd printing 2003); The Battle for the Land: The History of the Jewish National Fund (2005); Forgotten Property: What Became of the Assets in Israel of Holocaust Victims (Hebrew, 2002); The Forsaken: Israel, the Reparations Agreement and the Question of Compensation and Restitutions for the Holocaust Survivors (Hebrew 2009).

John Lehr

JOHN LEHR is a professor in the Geography Department at the University of Winnipeg. His research interests focus on the historical geography of agricultural settlement in western Canada. He is particularly interested in frontier settlement and in the processes of migration, cultural transfer and community formation by ethnic and religious groups in newly settled regions. He is author of Community and Frontier: A Ukrainian Settlement in the Canadian Parkland; co-author (with David McDowell) of Trailblazers: The Lives and Times of Michael and Muriel (Smith) Ewanchuk; and co-author (with Yossi Katz) of The Last Best West: Essays on the Historical Geography of the Canadian Prairies.

The next generation.
Herding geese, James Valley Colony.


Inside the Ark: The Hutterites in Canada
and the United States

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