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Tony Michels: “The Roots of Jewish Socialism: From New York to Russia and Back”
January 11, 2011 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm | Stevenson Fireside Lounge
In the late nineteenth century, a socialist workers’ movement burst onto the scene in New York City’s immigrant Jewish “ghetto.” Over subsequent decades and in cities around the country, hundreds of thousands of men and women participated in this Jewish labor movement. They recast Jewish culture and community, and made a strong imprint on American politics and social movements. Where did the Jewish labor movement come from? According to an old and widespread misperception, immigrants transplanted radical traditions from Russia onto American soil. In fact, the reverse was true. In the 1880s and 1890s, most immigrants first discovered socialism in New York and other cities. They built the Jewish labor movement from scratch without support from Russia. Indeed, New Yorkers provided crucial assistance to Russian Jewish revolutionaries, enabling to start a workers movement of their own.
Tony Michels is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz (Stevenson, ’89) and is now a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His book, A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York, won the Salo Baron Prize from the American Academy for Jewish Research for the best first book in Jewish Studies. Michels is editor of the forthcoming book Jewish Radicals: A Documentary History and co-editor of the Cambridge History of Judaism: The Modern Era, to be published in 2013. He is currently writing a history of Jewish Communists and Anti-Communists in the United States.