Conference on Yiddish Anarchism to be Held in NYC

by YIVO Institute for Jewish Research / Press Release

On Sunday, January 20, 2019 there will be a day long conference in New York City dubbed Yiddish Anarchism: New Scholarship on a Forgotten Tradition. The conference will be held from 10:00am to 8:00pm at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (15 W 16th Street) and is free and open to the public. Cosponsors of the event include: In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies, Immigration and Ethnic History Society, Labor and Working Class History Association, Tamiment Library at NYU, Working-Class Studies Association, and Yiddish Book Center. More information on the event can be found on YIVO’s website, including a schedule with a detailed list of panels and workshops.

Yiddish-speaking Jewish anarchists were one of the pillars of the U.S. anarchist movement before World War II. This largely immigrant radical milieu was centered in New York City and opposed capitalism, the state, and organized religion. Yiddish-speaking anarchists built militant unions, anarchist newspapers, and other organizations to further their cause. Many famous anarchists were linked to this movement, including Johann Most, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and Rudolf Rocker. Yiddish-speaking anarchists played a pivotal role in unions like the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU), while the Yiddish anarchist newspaper the Fraye Arbeter Shtime (The Free Voice of Labor) was the largest and longest-lasting U.S. anarchist publication and formed a significant part of the Yiddish cultural landscape. In the 1930s a second generation of bilingual Jewish anarchists emerged, including Sam and Esther Dolgoff, and Audrey Goodfriend, whose influence is still felt in today’s anarchist movement.

Despite the importance of Yiddish anarchism to the histories of both the U.S. Left and the Jewish community, it has been largely forgotten and written out of historical scholarship. This conference, the first of its kind, highlights the emerging new scholarship on the forgotten world of Yiddish-speaking anarchists. It brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars whose multilingual research examines the origin, evolution, and contributions of Jewish anarchism in New York City and beyond.

Scholars presenting will include Kenyon Zimmer, Tom Goyens, Anna Elena Torres, Mark Grueter, Nina Gurianova, Tony Michels, Reynolds Hahamovitch, Lilian Türk, Diana Clarke, and Anatole Dolgoff.


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