LARRY GLICKMAN: My name is Larry Glickman. I teach in the history department and the American studies department at Cornell. And I want to welcome you all to the conference Di Linke, The Yiddish Immigrant Left From Popular Front To Cold War, on Wednesday, December 9. This recording of this session will be available later, and I think that's true of all the sessions for this webinar series.
First, I'd like to thank our sponsors, most especially Cornell's and Syracuse's Jewish studies programs, The Central New York Humanities Corridor, the Cornell Center for Social Sciences, The Kheel Center's Catherwood Library, and Cornell Society for The Humanities. In addition, many academic departments and programs have helped sponsor this conference, including Cornell's Departments of History, Anthropology, Near Eastern Studies, Government, as well as the American Studies Program. Co-sponsors include the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, New York University, Tamiment Library, and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives.
This is a webinar series. Today's panel is the Internationale. As I mentioned before, I teach History and American Studies at Cornell University. This webinar series conference is exploring the IWO JPFO, a Jewish-Yiddishist multi-ethnic fraternal order that was supportive of the Soviet Union.
Most materials about them are in the Cornell Archive at the Catherwood Library. They were, in effect, confiscated by New York state and given to Cornell in 1961. So this conference is specifically about this set of people. It's not about the Jewish-speaking left across the spectrum of ideologies. And there are some links, I think, posted in the chat for further background-- that will be posted.
There is a Q&A button. And Jennifer Young will curate and help the discussion at the end, after our three speakers and our commentator have spoken. But you can post in the Q&A at any time.
So what I'm going to do is introduce each of our three speakers and our commentators before they go. So we're going to start with our first speaker. And that is Henry Srebrnik.
He teaches Comparative Politics and Ethnic Relations in the Department of Political Science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown, PEI, Canada. In his research, he examines the impact of nationalism and ethnically-based political conflict among diasporic peoples. He obtained his MA and BA degrees in political science and history at McGill University in Montreal, an MA in contemporary Jewish studies at Brandeis University.
And his PhD is from the University of Birmingham in England in political science. His dissertation was entitled The Jewish Communist Movement In Stepney Ideological Mobilization And Political Victories In An East London Borough, 1935 to 1945. He has written three books on the subject of Jewish communities and communist movements, London Jews And British Communism, 1935 to 1945, Jerusalem On The Amur, Birobidzhan and the Canadian Jewish Communist Movement, 1924 to 1951, and Dreams Of Nationhood, American-Jewish Communists And The Soviet Birobidzhan Project, 1924 to 1951.
With Matthew Hoffman, he coedited A Vanished Ideology, Essays On The Jewish Communist Movement In The English-Speaking World In The 20th Century. He also wrote Creating The Chupa, The Zionist Movement And The Drive For Jewish Communal Unity In Canada, 1898 to 1921, and coedited De Facto States, The Quest For Sovereignty. Henry will be presenting a paper entitled "A Constellation Of One's Own, Canadian-Jewish Communists And Their Mass Organizations." So thank you, Henry.
HENRY SREBRNIK: Right. Can I be heard? Hello?
LARRY GLICKMAN: Yes.
HENRY SREBRNIK: Am I am I heard? OK.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Yes.
HENRY SREBRNIK: OK. When the Jewish state emerged out of the ruins of the tsarist empire, for many Jewish radicals, it heralded the approaching end of some two millennia of persecution and marginalization. As in the United States, of course, in Canada, many became involved with the Communist Party of Canada, formed around the same time, in 1921. And it already had a national Jewish bureau by 1927, with members in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg, where the vast, vast majority of Jews lived in those three cities, especially Montreal and Toronto.
In 1929, some 20% of the CP membership was Jewish. In the 1940s, some 30% in Toronto was Jewish, while in Montreal, it may have been as high as 70%. Montreal is a very different case because of Quebec.
According to David Roman, historian, the Jewish group was the most vital faction in the Canadian communist movement. They saw themselves, of course, as we know, as part of a larger movement in Canada, the USA, Mexico, Argentina, Great Britain, France, South Africa, even Mandate Palestine.
So a variety of front organizations operated in the Jewish community, especially among the large urban working class. The Friends of The Soviet Union, for example, founded in 1930, grew in numbers and influence. Specific Jewish groups are also created as tensions between anti-Soviet Social Democrats and pro-Soviet radicals group, particularly in the Arbeiter Ring, Working Circles, it was called.
In 1923, the Jewish communists in Toronto opened a Frayhayt club and organized the Jewish Women's Labour League, the Yidishe Arbayter Froyen Farayn. One year later, they formed the Labour League, the Arbayter Farband, which will be a kind of parallel to the JPFO. In Winnipeg, The Jewish Workers Cultural League, Yidisher Arbayter Kultur Farband, and, in Montreal, the Canadian Labour League, Kanader Arbayter Ring, were founded at the same time. In Winnipeg, which in terms of per capita membership was probably a greater percentage of Jewish communists than either of the two bigger cities, there they managed to keep control of the Liberty temple, which they renamed the Arbeiter Frayhayt Temple, and radical Jewish women there formed the Muter Farayn, or Mothers League.
The Jewish communists had their own weekly newspaper, Der Kamf, kind of like the Morgn Frayhayt. They also work on behalf of the new Jewish autonomous region in Birobidzhan, which the Soviets had established in 1928 in the far east of the USSR. And they kept insisting it would eventually become a full-fledged union republic. Of course, that never happened.
So two organizations were founded in the United States at first. The organization for Jewish colonization in Russia, Yidishe Kolonizatsye Organizatsye in Ratn-farband, known as ICOR in the acronym. This was in 1924. Its Canadian branches were part of the American organization until 1935.
The second one was the American Committee for The Settlement of Jews in Ambijan-- in Birobidzhan, known as Ambijan. This was a group for English-speaking, middle class Jews. It was founded in 1934 in the United States, right at the beginning of the popular front period when communists were seeking alliances against the increasing menace of Nazism and fascism.
The Canadian counterpart, which was called the Canadian Birobidzhan Committee, actually did not operate separately until after World War II. So this was the popular front period, of course. It was the heyday of cultural creativity and activism.
We had groups such as the YKUF, of course, Leadership [NON-ENGLISH], choirs, sports leagues, dance and drama groups, reading circles, mandolin orchestras, Jewish schools, summer camps. And, just like [NON-ENGLISH], they provided members, as in the IWO, with mutual aid in the form of life insurance, health and medical care, credit unions, unemployment benefits, and funeral facilities. They also had a camp, Kinderwelt, which was started in 1925. And just like the American ones, concerts, plays, dances, et cetera, children ingested the progressive politics to all of these means. And it was a magnet which sometimes drew people into the advent of the adult organizations, who might not otherwise have even approached it.
Since I don't have much time, I'm just highlighting a few specific things. In 1937, the Spanish Civil War, of course, had taken center stage in the communist movement and the international brigades that entered the war on the republican side. In Canada, the branches-- this is a quote from Hermann Abramovitch at the December 1937 ICOR Conference, all of this in Yiddish, of course.
"The branches across the country have taken a very lively part in the work of raising aid for the Spanish people's government," he reported. "In Montreal, the ICOR had already taken the initiative in organizing a committee comprising over 80 other Jewish organizations to raise money for Dr. Norman Bethune." Here in Canada, quite famous. He had a medical unit in Spain.
"A Toronto conference later that year decided to mount a special campaign to help the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, formed in July 1937, the equivalent of the Abraham Lincoln one in the United States. The three Toronto ICOR branches and the 14 Toronto branches of the labor league resolved to support ICOR's campaign on behalf of the Spanish Republicans.
Perhaps due to such social and political activities, the league-- and the various labor leagues, unlike many other CP-led groups, managed to survive the hiatus of 1939, the period of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. And after 1941, of course, with the invasion of the USSR by Hitler, as Maurice Biederman, one of the main people in this would recall in his autobiography, the league benefited and became acceptable in the community as Toronto's outspoken Jewish pro-Soviet organization. At the tail end of the war, 1944-45, the various pro-Soviet groups in all these cities, and in smaller ones like Calgary, Vancouver, et cetera, came together to form the [NON-ENGLISH], the United Jewish Peoples Order, the UJPO.
And this really became the equivalent of the JPFO. And in fact, there were many cross-border connections with these American sister organizations. So this was an acknowledgment that the Jewish movement was a legitimate, yet separate component of the Jewish world and also the communist world. It even gained recognition within the larger Jewish community.
It was admitted without difficulty, as a member in good standing, to The Canadian Jewish Congress, the umbrella organization for Canada's Jewish community. It was the main Jewish organization in Canada for some 70, 80 years. Most of the leaders of the organization were communists. Although, Maurice Biederman, who I mentioned, who was the national secretary. estimated that only 5% were CP members, or even self-identified as communists.
With its network of schools, cultural centers, choirs, camps, et cetera. They, of course, hope to become a major force in the Canadian Jewish community. They sponsored fundraising dinners that included guests such as Nathan Phillips, a future mayor of Toronto-- the first Jewish mayor of Toronto-- Abraham Feinberg, rabbi of Toronto's then-preeminent synagogue, Holy Blossom Temple. And the Vochenblatt, which was the name that gave Der Kampf in the popular front era, became its de facto organ.
So from 1941 to about '51, these years were a decade of significant left wing influence in the Jewish community. In 1943, in the heavily Jewish constituency of Cartier in Montreal in a by-election, Fred Rose was elected to the Canadian Parliament. I don't know if you can see this, but here is both in English and in Yiddish one of his posters. Rose, by the way, would end up being arrested for spying for the Soviet Union and served six years in jail during the Cold War. But that's another story.
In Toronto, JB Salsberg, Joe Salsberg, won elections to the Ontario legislature, again, in a very Jewish constituency, St. Andrew in downtown Toronto, that whole Spadina area. Both of them ran for the Labor-Progressive Party, the Communist Party's legal party. Because the CP itself had been banned in 1940 under the War Measures Act. Canada had much tougher legislation against left wing movements than the United States during this period. So this was their legal organization.
Rose and Salsberg were both prominent Jewish communists. They ran as Jews, not just as communists and working class people. They were trade union leaders and, of course, UJPO members Salsberg emphasized his Jewishness in his political and trade union activities. And as Gerald Tulchinsky, who wrote a biography of him noted, "the Communist Party for him was a vehicle for celebrating secular Judaism and cultural nationalism expressed through the medium of Yiddish." He sort of became a grand old man with Yiddish column in the Canadian Jewish News much later in life.
With the war over, Abraham Jenofsky national secretary of ICOR in the US, complained that not enough was being done for Birobidzhan in Canada. So UJPO began efforts to develop a Canadian-wide organization. And that wasn't all that hard to do.
In November of 1945, representatives agreed to form a provisional Canadian Birobidzhan Committee. It held its first meeting in Montreal in February of 1946. Over 200 delegates, including Fred Rose, attended the conference. JM Budish, of the chair of the American Birobidzhan committee and its Executive Vice President and probably one of the most significant American Jewish communists that ever lived, by the way, JM Budish, traveled to Montreal from New York to report on recent developments in Birobidzhan and of the activities of Ambijan, which was going to become a really huge American organization after World War II.
In Canada, the communists began a dominion-wide fundraising campaign. The Birobidzhan Committee held its first dominion-wide conference on May 26, 1946 in Montreal. Mass meetings and concerts were held. Rabbi Abraham Bick, who was very big in Ambijan's National Committee, he was a Brooklyn Jew, was a keynote speaker. Joshua Gershman, the national organizer for the recently formed, at that time, National Jewish Committee of the Labor-Progressive Party spoke, underscored the significance of an organization. A message of greetings from the Soviet embassy was read out, praising the committee for its efforts, and all kinds of people came out--
LARRY GLICKMAN: Henry, you've got-- this is your one minute warning, Henry.
HENRY SREBRNIK: Oh. BZ Goldberg, for example, spoke in Toronto, the journalist for Der Tog. Anyway, I've only got one minute left. This was the, I would say, the exact moment when the movement had reached its apogee. The Soviets had defeated Nazi Germany. Birobidzhan was supposedly being built as a Jewish autonomous region. By 1947, of course, the Soviets had switched and, of course, supported the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
And anti-Semitism, of course, had been, quote, unquote "defeated" in all the people's democracies in Eastern Europe. So this was it. I'll end here, I guess, because after 1951, it's all going to start going downhill-- the same year, by the way, they're thrown out of the Canadian Jewish Congress. And then we get 1956. And that really is an incredible blow. So I'll end right here. OK.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Thank you, Henry, for a fascinating paper. All right, next paper will be presented by Nerina Visacovsky. She has a PhD in history and education from the University of Buenos Aires, where she says the weather is lovely today. She is a research fellow at the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research and an Assistant Professor at the School of Politics and Government at San Martín University. She has published several articles and book chapters on the identity and culture of left-wing Jews in Argentina and Latin America.
She has been invited to lecture and teach courses at institutes and universities in Brazil, Uruguay, Spain, Germany, Israel, Russia, and Cuba. Her book, Argentine, Jewish, and Comrades: Pursuing the Socialist Utopia from 2015 reflects the main axes of her studies. She is also the founder and director of the Pinie Katz Documentation Center and Library in Buenos Aires. So her paper today will be called "Di progressive: YKUF in Argentina and South America." So thank you, Nerina.
NERINA VISACOVSKY: Thank you, Larry. Well, wait a minute. Yes, here. OK. It's OK like this? We are going to-- OK. So good afternoon.
I would like to express how honored I am to participate in this meeting. I'm bringing the voice Di Linke from South America. I want to especially to thank Elissa Sampson, Jonathan Boyarin, and the Jewish Studies Program team at Cornell University for this wonderful invitation. I also want to thank Victoria Mista from Entre Ríos, Argentina and Sonia Bloom from Brooklyn, two smart ladies who helped me with my English.
Although I was very excited about our face-to-face meeting, I will try in this short time through this Zoom technology-- and it's very difficult-- to offer a brief overview of Di Progressive and then we can expand it according to the comments or questions.
To start-- wait a minute. Yes, here. To start, I would like to say that I have spent my childhood and teen years in an YKUF institution called I.L. Peretz in Villa Lynch. Villa Lynch was the neighborhood in the north in Buenos Aires where many Polish Jewish immigrants, mostly Bundists and Communists worked in textile trades. Then the small workshops or big factories developed since the interwar years. And in 1960, Villa Lynch was known as the Argentinian Manchester.
And the Peretz Center started to grow. So it had a six-story building, an Olympic swimming pool, a shule, a mitlshul, a theater where prominent artists of the national scene perform. And, well, you know, as a researcher, I study this ethnic and political movement. But I want to say, I have also lived what I call the YKUFist experience. And similar activities were generated in many institutions, especially in Brazil and Uruguay.
However, when I started to investigate the pedagogical proposal of the YKUFist shules-- that was my main topic-- I discovered that there was an absence of research and also difficulties in explaining this identity. So the first questions I asked myself were, if the YKUFists reject religion, Zionism, and new generations do not speak Yiddish anymore, what kind of Jewish were they?
Second, if they didn't act directly in the ranks of the Communist Party and a good part of them were not even affiliated, what kind of communists were they? Why were their educational and cultural contributions so well recognized in the national sphere? And finally, what and how was the link between the YKUF network and the Communist Party?
Then when I began my interview work about 15 years ago, a very prominent activist explained to me the YKUF institutions were a creation of the Communist Party. But a few days later, another one, also very important, declare, the institutions were left wing, but they had nothing to do with the Communist Party. Only a couple of leaders were card-carrying members.
While another told me, and I quote, "For us, to be a communist was to think in a certain way in favor of peace, solidarity, equal human treatment, and reading the Undzer Lebn journal." So thinking in all these answers, I could realize that there was a rich problem to figure out, and soon I understood that these diverse and sometimes opposing viewpoints were due to the atmosphere of the Popular Front.
Briefly, beginning in the mid-'30s in the Spanish Civil War and later the Second World War, affected the political and social climate in many South American cities, especially the bigger and cosmopolitan ones like Buenos Aires, creating the fear that some of these events could be replicated here. As you know, since 1935 the Comintern abandoned the class against class line and called for building alliances in the defense of democracy with other progressives, especially the progressive bourgeoisie. So many Jewish immigrants joined antifascist organizations. And that's why liberals, socialists, and communist forces were together in that period. And that was the context of where YKUF was created.
So let's briefly review some facts. When the American and French writers organize the first Congress of Jewish Culture from which YKUF emerged, 23 countries were participating, among them, five from Latin America-- Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, the last two ones represented by the famous Yiddish writer and journalist, Pinie Katz.
As I do not have time enough, I cannot speak about the immigration. But here you have a table with approximate figures, just to give you an idea of the size of the Jewish population in our countries and why they were invited to this congress in Paris. So I want to say that in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and other cities with secular Jews, there was a previous commitment with the preservation of the Jewish culture and the creation of the Yiddish schools.
As you see, this is a picture, for example, of a congress, a cultural congress in 1915 in La Plata city-- it's a city close to Buenos Aires-- in a library called Max Nordau that later belonged to the YKUF network. Pinie Katz also was there-- a younger Pinie Katz-- but after Russian revolution, the Comintern encouraged Jewish to use their Yiddish for spreading communist affiliation. And that is why in the '20s, sympathies for Idsektzie-- we call it here, Idishe Sektzie, started to grow.
And this was expressed in the expansion of the Birobidzhan committees called PROCOR, as you call it ICOR there, and the Workers Cause or arbeter shuln. But this was a process very centralized in Buenos Aires-- oh, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. Oh, no, no, no, oh, sorry, ah, here. Sorry. This was a process very centralized in Buenos Aires where the main industries were located. And so Jews with more political experience were living and working, especially in textile, garment, and wood trades.
So now let's go back to the YKUF foundational congress in Buenos Aires in 1941. And I would like to clarify here that in North America, as you know, the YKUF play an important cultural role publishing many books. And the foremost is the Yidishe Kultur journal magazine you know, you mentioned it, by Itche Goldberg. But in Buenos Aires, in addition to that, the YKUF played a [? federative ?] role similar, I believe, to that one of the Jewish People's Fraternal Order or the United People Jewish Order in Canada.
That is, YKUF organized the institutions in a network and provided them with an ideological framework. How it was, through the congresses, the progressive press work, and the political alliance coming from this Jewish Formation of the Communist Party. So when Pinie Katz returned from Paris along with other activists, Ioel Lincovsky, Sanson Drucaroff, Sznaier Waserman, many of them began to organize the South American section of the YKUF Kultur Farband and in bringing together 57 institutions from the region in April of 1941. These institutions-- schools, theaters, summer camps, and, especially, youth and-- wait, ah, here-- youth and women's-- wait, wait-- sorry-- women's groups were formed on the basis of the anti-fascist organizations that were very active during the war.
Then these institutions started to diversify their activities. That is to say, they were multifaceted institutions. Sometimes the groups would merge, change addresses, buildings, or names. But despite this, the period of great expansion for Di Linke was during the late '40s, '50s, and early 60s. That was due to the social economic rights of immigrants, the positive image of the Soviet Union after the Second War, reinforced later by the Cuban Revolution, and a new generation of children who continued with their immigrant parents' legacy.
And this last point is very important to note because I believe that if the YKUF experience was still strong during the Cold War, that was because of the people's affection for the clubs and schools more so or at least in an equal part than the narrow party line convictions. As you can see, this is a map with the cities where the progressives had or still have institutions. Argentina with 20,000 members in 1955 had the main network. But Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and Montevideo in Uruguay also were very important and nowadays, they participate in the current YKUF congresses.
Very quickly, I would like to share some conclusions. The study of the YKUF identity in South America has been misunderstood from most of the research works dedicated to Jewish communities and also communist parties. And that happened because to understand it, we need to cross elements from both fields at the same time. And also, I think it's necessary to establish differences between YKUF as a federation or organization, YKUF as an ideology, and the people who integrate YKUF-- I mean, the members who really act in the institutions.
These three spheres coexisted, but they were not exactly the same. And it's not exactly the same the results of the research work in each one. And for me, to analyze the last one, I mean, the real life of the people in each neighborhood, each school, and each country, allowed to understand many things about this complex identity, with its deep conflicts.
I mean, to explain the contradictory views I pointed out at the beginning in relation with the Communist Party, for example, I need to observe not only the progressive journal or the official documents, but the human relationships or human configurations, as Norbert Elias would say. I mean, this way I could verify that Di Linke's great desire was to see their children integrated as full citizens in their new homeland, something that was not possible for them in Europe, but for that they had to fight very hard with commitment to build the new man and equal world in order to avoid the tragic history that happened in the Alter Heim.
Finally, this identity was built in a field of tensions between the Jewish organizations-- hegemonized by Zionism after 1948-- for one side and the Communist Party on the other side. But it was also fundamentally a movement emphatically dedicated to promote culture and education left wing activities.
So to conclude, I would like to underline what a privilege it is for me to participate here and learn from all of you and the importance of being in contact with this archive at Cornell University, which is an inspiration and model for us. Because since last year, very recently, we have been organizing in Buenos Aires is a new archive, a library called CeDoB Pinie Katz, which aims are to preserve Di Linke heritage to generate and keep carefully immigrant testimonies and to-- and this is very important-- to transmit this story to the new generations and, of course, to provide researchers with an archive where they can find documentation that allows them to build further stories about our past and our present as left wing Jewish people. And that's all. A sheinem dank. Thank you very much.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Thank you, Nerina, for your fascinating paper. We are going to now hear from Amelia Glaser who teaches Russian and Comparative Literature at UC San Diego where she also directs the Jewish Studies at Russian East European and Eurasian Studies programs. Her most recent book, Songs in Dark Times-- Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine was published in November. So it's hot off the presses with Harvard University Press. She is also the author of Jews and Ukrainians in Russia's Literary , Borderlands, the editor of Stories of Khmelnytsky-- Competing Literary Legacies of Ukrainian Cossack, and with Steven Lee, the book, Comintern Aesthetics.
She began reading and researching the poetry of Di Linke in graduate school when she translated a series of Yiddish poems collected in Proletpen-- America's Rebel Yiddish Poets, which was published in 2005 by the University of Wisconsin Press. Amelia today will talk about-- her paper will be called "Proletpen-- the Relationship Between American Proletpen Writers and African-Americans During the Scottsboro Trial." So I'll turn it over to you, Amelia.
AMELIA GLASER: Thank you so much. I want to thank the organizers of the conference, Elissa and the entire team at Cornell for inviting me. The original in-person conference, of course, was going to be in the spring when I was still finishing the book. And I was thinking, oh perfect, I'll manage to ask all of my remaining questions to the people that come to the conference. And now I'll just have to incorporate it into the next project.
But I am going to be drawing from the book, which just came out a couple of weeks ago, Songs in Dark Times, as well as from some of the poems that I published in Proletpen, which came out in 2005, so 15 years ago. And this was a book of poems that I translated from Yiddish into English by writers who were affiliated with the Proletpen communist-aligned writers movement in the US.
So can everyone see my screen OK? I've gone ahead and shared a PDF version of my PowerPoint.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Yes.
AMELIA GLASER: OK, awesome, so when I was-- back when I was in graduate school, when I was first doing research on the Proletpen Yiddish poets. I was doing this for a master's degree that I did at Oxford in 2000, so 20 years ago, I came back to New York to do my archival research because they didn't have a good microform version of the Daily Frayhayt in England.
And I-- you know, I found this poem that was buried in the Frayhayt microfiche called "Niger afn sobvey." And I was-- I was shocked-- I was kind of horrified to find a Yiddish poem published, no less, in this communist daily newspaper that used the most horrifying English racial slur. And, Malka Lee-- I'll go ahead and share a little part of the poem. Malka Lee, the poet wasn't using the unmarked term, negel, but rather ni/eger, which is a transliteration of the English word.
The poem is about a Black man who's pacing through a subway car in New York and he describes for everyone sitting in the car the lynching of someone who he calls his brother in the South. And I think the facts that Malka Lee later changed the title of the poem for its publication in her collection tells me that she also became uncomfortable with her initial choice.
But what was striking to me about this poem is the way that-- is the way that Malka Lee presents the white passenger's response. And I've just included the very last part of the poem for you here. "Now I hear his young cry on the wind. My brother's body is swinging from a pine. He waves his fist, clenching it tight. He sees the murderer's picture in every white." I'll just-- I probably won't have time to read all of the Yiddish that I'm going to be sharing with you. But I'll just read a couple of lines, you know, the last two lines. "Er hoybt zayn foyst un beylt zi vild! In yedn vaysn zet er dem merder's bild."
Malka Lee was a Yiddish poet born in Galicia. And she's writing here about the implicated white, including Jewish subject, who witnesses the trauma of Black Americans. In other works, she chose to identify with the victims of race violence, rather than with the uncomfortable onlookers. And she draws images from pogrom poetry to describe lynchings. So I'll share one of those briefly. My apologies that I realize I made this one a little bit small. Hopefully you can see it. But if not, I'll just read it to you.
So this is a poem published a year earlier, a year before "Ni/eger afn sobvey." And it's titled, "Gots shvartser lam," or "God's Black Lamb." She describes here a mother who's mourning her son. And it opens, "They led him outside with bare feet and bound hands-- his skin burnt by Southern sand, his flesh became suddenly oily, his black body sparkled in tears. The woods bowed low is cut by a knife. Go back go back, God's black lamb tore himself from the rope."
Well, this poem was published early in the Scottsboro trial. Most of us are probably familiar with the details of the Scottsboro case, but just to refresh your memories, in 1931, nine young Black men were falsely accused of raping two white women on the roof of an Alabama freight train. The Scottsboro trial began that year and lasted well over a decade. It absorbed the American literary imagination, especially on the far left.
It mobilized a great many Yiddish writers to describe the horrific racism they were witnessing in the United States. And the Party, in fact, mobilized on behalf of the defense of the Scottsboro 9. So I'm going to focus my comments today on the left-wing Yiddish poet who at the very height of this trial chose to describe American racism in their Yiddish poetry.
And I'm concerned in my larger project, in the book that just came out, Songs in Dark Times, with explaining how poets developed and merged a vocabulary of collective Jewish identity with the poetics of internationalism. And I argue that they did this by applying Jewish passwords, terms that were specific to Jewish practice and collective memory, to the contemporaneous struggles of non-Jewish minorities.
So, for example, you have the poet H. Leivick in a poem dedicated to Sacco and Vanzetti, the Italian anarchists who were put to death in 1927, and Leivick spoke of their trial as "dos zelbe shlekhts fun kateyger tsu kateyger,", the same evil from accuser to accuser. Here he's localizing the term kateyger, a prosecuting angel, from Jewish tradition to the sentencing and execution of the Italian anarchists.
And when Malka Lee uses the term "Gots shvarters lam," God's black lamb, to liken the victim of a lynching to Jesus, she's also likening the lynching victim to pogrom victims who were commonly cast as Jesus figures in Jewish modernist poetry. She's drawing at the same time from Black American poets like Langston Hughes and Frank Marshall Davis who describe lynching victims as Christ figures. Langston Hughes in his 1931 poem, "Scottsboro," wrote, "Who comes? Christ, who fought alone--" and then lists a bunch of different freedom fighters, John Brown and so forth.
In his "Christ in Alabama," which was published as part of his pamphlet book, Scottsboro Limited, he writes, "Christ is a nigger, beaten and black-- O, bare your back. Mary is His Mother, Mammy of the South, Silence your Mouth. God's His Father-- White Master above, Grant us your love. Most holy bastard of the bleeding mouth: Nigger Christ on the cross of the South."
And I'd like to just call your attention to the fact that Malka Lee is publishing her poem, "Ni/eger afn sobvey" the same year that Langston Hughes publishes Christ in Alabama and is quite likely drawing the use of this horrifying racial epithet directly from Harlem Renaissance poets that she admired. Frank Marshall Davis in his 1937, "Christ is a Dixie Nigger" writes, "My Christ is a black bastard. Maybe Joe did tell the neighbors God bigged Mary. But he fooled nobody. They all knew Christ's father was Mr. Jim who owns the big plantation. And when Christ started bawling out back in the cabins Mr. Jim made all three git."
So this poetry of the Christ-like lynching victim was already present in the American literary scene. And these were Yiddish writers who were reading these poems, Scottsboro was the Alabama town where the defendants were incarcerated. And Scottsboro too became a password for racial inequality in the United States throughout the 1930s. Yiddish poets titled their works "Scottsboro" to signal their support for the nine young Black men and the Comintern-inspired International Labor Defense, the ILD which sponsored their defense and had underwritten Sacco and Vanzetti's defense a few years earlier.
The historian Robin Kelley has highlighted the positive outcomes of the Communist involvement in the case. This is Kelley writing, "they reversed the policy of criminalization, turning young black men-- and young working-class white women-- into victims and the state into the criminal. It opened a path for thinking about incarcerated black people as class-war prisoners."
So a conversation about class struggle and Scottsboro was beginning to take place among left-wing Yiddish writers internationally. And in Romania in 1936, Zishe Bagish had published a collection of translations, Dos gezang fun neger-folk, The Song of the Negro People, which included a large selection of translations of Langston Hughes' poems with commentary. You also had theater troops that were performing "Scottsboro Limited," as well as Leyb Malakh's dramatization of the Scottsboro trial, "Mississippi." Alyssa Quint has written very eloquently about Vaykhert's staging of "Mississippi" recently in Warsaw.
In Europe, the Scottsboro Boys were a way of expanding the boundaries of leftist Jewish internationalism. For many Jews in the US, Scottsboro heightened concerns about anti-Semitism and invited a renewed commitment to combating all forms of American ethnic discrimination. Jews may not have been slave owners by and large, but they were beneficiaries of an unjust system, to borrow a term from Bruce Robbins to discuss white culpability. Black crucifixions presented a Christian American mainstream with similar irony to the Christological Yiddish pogrom poems of Uri Zvi Greenberg or paintings of Marc Chagall. So whereas in her poems, her poem about the subway, Malka Lee is challenging a Yiddish speaking community to take responsibility for race violence, in "God's Black Lamb," she's building upon a poetics of victimhood that Yiddish readers would recognize from pogrom poems.
Well, the question that I think Malka Lee and others were asking is one that we're still asking today, how should a Jewish poet speak out against racist violence in the United States? Michael Rothberg responds in his recent book, The Implicated Subject, to what Hannah Arendt it called the "vicarious responsibility for things we may not have done" by proposing a view of memory and trauma that resists the either/or logic of the zero-sum game, to cite Rothberg.
In the '30s, Yiddish poets were developing a language to simultaneously address the anti-Semitism in Europe and the racial injustice in their adopted country. The Yiddish poets who describe lynchings in the '30s used passwords in two different directions. They borrowed Jewish terms to apply to Black Americans. And they borrowed language from Black poets and terms, including the term Scottsboro, as a way of marking their poetry as leftist and internationalist.
So one example that I wanted to bring in the time that remains is Yitzkhok Elkhanan Rontsh or YE Rontsh, as he was better known, who in his "Skotsboro--" he actually wrote extensively about African-American culture-- but in his poem "Scottsboro" from 1936, he appears to borrow directly from Richard Wright.
Rontsh's poem begins, "I've seen Black masses on their knees, ecstatic for Jesus the savior, and glowing eyes' eternal gaze and calloused hand stretched out in prayer." So it begins, "Ikh hob gezen di shvartse mase kniyen in ekstaz far yezusn dem reter." Well, the poem traces the development of Black workers' political awareness from exploitation to revolution. Rontsh ends his poem with African-American subjects rejecting religion and standing up to fight.
What matters is-- and I'm quoting Rontsh here-- "not Jesus-- Lord, not spirituals, not genuflection, but only Scottsboro and the fight against the enemies." "Nit Yezus- lord, nit 'spiritshuels', nit koyrim faln." Rontsh published this poem two years after Richard Wright published his, "I Have Seen Black Hands," which appeared in New Masses in 1934.
I'll just jump ahead. Both poem juxtapose Black bodies moving from work towards rebellion. Wright identifies himself as Black at the beginning of the poem and focuses on material needs. So he opens it, "I am black. And I have seen black hands, millions and millions of them, reaching hesitantly out of days of slow death for the goods that they have made. But the bosses warned that the goods were private and didn't belong to them." And Wright's conclusion evokes the possibility of solidarity across cultures. "I'm black and I've seen black hands raised in fists of revolt side by side with the fists of white workers.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Amelia, you've got like a minute to finish up.
AMELIA GLASER: A minute to finish up, I'll finish up, no problem. So Rontsh writing in 1940, a little bit later, asserted that the writers associated with the communist Proletpen movement-- you can see some of the publications here-- came the closest to describing the conditions of Black Americans. Rontsh described Malka Lee's poetry, for example, as written with love and pain. And he goes on to talk about how earlier poets, of course, had also described lynching, but it was only the communist-aligned Proletpen poems-- poets who were really able to identify with them. In a certain sense, I agree with him.
I'll go ahead and end there. But I'm happy to bring up some of these other examples in the Q&A if you are interested. What I will say is that this movement to represent others is something that began to fade by the end of the 1930s when many of these poems, these poets started to turn inward with the rise of the Hitler-Stalin pact. But you do see a resurgence of poems representing African-Americans in the 1960s with the Civil Rights Movement. Some of the same poets would actually come back and begin to write again after they've been writing about Jews for a while, begin to write again about Black struggle in the US. Thanks so much.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Thank you, Amelia. Well, to comment on these three totally fascinating papers, we're lucky to have Jack Jacobs. He's a professor of political science at John Jay College at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. He is the author of, On Socialists and The Jewish Question after Marx, Bundist Counterculture in Interwar Poland, and The Frankfurt School, Jewish Lives, and Anti-Semitism. He's also the editor of Jewish Politics in Eastern Europe-- The Bund at 100 and Jews and Leftist Politics. Professor Jacobs was a Fulbright scholar at Tel Aviv University in 1996-97 and a Fulbright scholar at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute in 2009.
He served as the Louis and Helen Padnos Visiting Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan in 2016, as the Jacob Kronhill Visiting Scholar at the YIVO Institute in 2017, and in 2018 as a Visiting Fellow of the British Academy and an Honorary Research Fellow of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck University of London. So let me turn it over to Jack for his comments.
JACK JACOBS: Thank you, Larry. And my thanks to the organizers of this conference for inviting me to this event. And, finally, my thanks to all three presenters on this panel for their very interesting talks. As many in this afternoon's audience are likely to know, and as some of our speakers have mentioned, Jewish leftists who were sympathetic to the Soviet Union fostered institutions, not only in the USA, Canada, and Argentina, but also in a number of other lands including France, Palestine, South Africa, Australia, and as Nerina has pointed out, several different countries in South America.
Given that this panel has been entitled, "The Internationale" and given the expertise of our speakers, I would, therefore, like to begin by seeing whether I can encourage comparative analysis. I'm interested in the parallels among the pro-Soviet Jewish organizations and strongly suspect that they drew on similar demographic groups for their members, had quite similar political positions, and that their histories by and large had similar arcs, that is to say, similar trajectories of rise and decline.
So far as I know, there have not been full-scale academic studies which have compared the editorial positions of, let's say, the Canadian Vochenblatt, New York's Morgen Frayhayt, Naya Prese, which was issued in Paris, Foroys, an organ of the Palestine Communist Party, and Royter Shtern, which was published in Argentina in the '20s and '30s. I understand that it would be a tall order, but I, for one, would be delighted if those taking part in this conference would consider embarking on such a study, perhaps collectively. However, I'm far more interested in any differences you may uncover among the Jewish pro-Soviet groupings than I am in the similarities among them.
To what degree did local factors impact on the size, the functioning, the activities, and the survival of these groups and periodicals? Did the relationships of the Jewish communist-oriented groups to the non-Jewish populations of the countries in which they operated parallel one another to the same extent as did, I suspect, their political positions? Or did some countries, some non-Jewish populations provide more fertile ground than others? If so, which and why?
So, I turn first to Henry. Henry, as this audience knows from Larry's introduction, you're the co-editor of a very important volume of essays on Jewish communist-oriented movements in English-speaking countries which contains chapters on relevant organizations in five different countries in different parts of the world and for which you wrote an important chapter on Canada. And, therefore, it seems to me that you are well positioned to answer a number of specific questions, or at least I hope you are. The remarks you delivered today, of course, dealt only with Canada.
And, of course, I understand you only had a few minutes in which to make those remarks. But would you be able to tell us how the size of the organizations in Canada compare to the size of such organizations in, for example, the US in similar periods? The Jewish population of the US was and is, obviously, much larger than that of Canada. So what I'm interested in is not so much the absolute size of the Canadian groups, but rather their relative size as a proportion of Canadian Jewry.
And how, if we can tell, that relative size compares to that of their sister organizations in the US and/or in other lands. And I'm also interested in the interaction of the communist-oriented or Soviet-sympathizing Canadian Jewish groups with non-Jewish Canadians. The French-speaking population of Montreal is obviously not only linguistically, but also culturally markedly different than the English-speaking populations of Toronto, or for that matter, New York. Did this impact on the functioning of UJPO in different sectors of Canada? And, if so, how?
We know that not only the Yiddish language periodical produced by this sector in Canada eventually ceased publication, as have all of the Yiddish language periodicals I mentioned a moment or two ago, but that the English language periodical associated with this sector in Canada-- and I'm thinking was Henry surely knows about Canadian Jewish Outlook, well, it ultimately ceased publication as well. So my final question for Henry, could you reflect on why Jewish Currents, based in New York, has been able to survive, indeed thrive, while Outlook did not.
Predictably, the questions I have for Nerina parallel those which I have just posed to Henry. You point out, Nerina, that the study of YKUFism, as you call it-- it's a good term-- has by and large been excluded from most works on the Jewish communities of Latin America.
And though I, alas, don't know the relevant Spanish language literature and I'm very sorry to report that I have not been able to read your book on these themes, which so far as I know is not yet available in English, I can attest that there is precious little in the way of scholarly literature on the pro-Soviet Jewish organizations of Latin America available in English.
But there were a few articles here and there that touch on the subjects which I'm interested in and that take comparative approaches. In the book that edited by Gennady Estraikh and Mikhail Krutikov that's entitled Yiddish and the Left, for example, Efraim Zadoff has a piece that compares the Jewish schools of Argentina and Mexico. And he briefly discusses changes in the attitudes of those responsible for the YKUF schools in Buenos Aires and elsewhere.
And in the volume that's entitled Rebels Against Zion edited by August Grabski, there's a chapter written by Silvia Schenkolewski-Kroll that compares and contrasts the Zionists of Argentina and the pro-Soviet Jews of that country. But there's not many such articles. So Nerina, first of all, I eagerly await the translation of your works into English. And I'm hoping that you might be able at this time to address some comparative questions.
Were relations between the YKUF groups in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Chile and the larger wider Jewish communities of these lands similar to one another or were there significant local variations? How did the rather different political contexts in which these YKUF groups operated in specific South American lands impact upon them? You point out that in 1955, there were 20,000 people associated with YKUF in Argentina, a large and noteworthy proportion of the Jewish population.
Now there is detailed information available on representation of the various Jewish tendencies on Jewish communal bodies in Argentina in the late 1960s, for example. And we know that in that period, that is to say the late 1960s, on the board of directors of the largest Jewish organization in all of Argentina, the slate that was called Labor, which was close to the Labor Party of Israel, obtained 41% of the vote, Likud, 13%, the general Zionists, 9%, Agudes Yisroel 8%, [? Mizrahi, ?] 8%, Shinui, 6%, and Fraye shtime, the slate for which I presume those associated with YKUF would have been most likely to vote, obtained 5% of the vote.
So what happened? We know about the political revelations of the '50s that decreased support for the pro-Soviet sector. Did anti-Semitism have a disproportionate impact on the YKUF sector in Argentina when compared to the Jewish community as a whole? Did economic turmoil have a disproportionate impact on YKUF?
I turn, finally, to Amelia's remarks. Amelia, I know precious little about literary criticism. But upon reading your talk, I recalled that two years ago, I heard Marc Caplan deliver a lecture on lynching, race, and racism in the Yiddish language work by Opatoshu that's entitled "Lintsheray." So I wrote to Mark a couple of days ago. And he very generously sent me a published piece by him on themes he had alluded to in his talk.
Marc's piece, I would note-- I suspect that you know the piece-- begins with a discussion of a poem that was published a few years before Malka Lee's poem "Neger in Sobvey." That is, it begins with a poem by the prominent Yiddish writer, "Niger in subvey" Glantz-Leyeles that's entitled "In Subvey," and which dates from 1926. Leyeles, I must underscore for the broader audience-- not for you-- was not post-Soviet, was not a leftist. He was closely associated with the Inzikhistin.
And yet, as was true in the poem by Malka Lee, about which Amelia spoke, the poem by Leyeles also contains images of a Black man in the subway. And the Leyeles' poem, like that of Lee, also explicitly invokes a lynching, "Lintsh-fayern -- flaker, flaker. Shlayf fun t'liye -- shtayfer, shtayfer." Leyeles writes, "lynching fires flaming, flaming, loops of a gallows brighter, brighter," in the translation of this work that was published and prepared by Benjamin and Barbara Harshav.
What struck me as I read the draft of your remarks, Amelia, which you were kind enough to send me in advance, is that, you know, it was not exclusively those associated with Proletpen who made use of images of lynching. Yiddish writers from different points on the political and cultural spectrum did so. And as Marc taught me, we find explicit references to lynching, for example, in the work of such significant American poets writing in Yiddish as Moyshe-Leyb Halpern and Yisroel-Yankev Shvarts.
Now time is short, so I cut to the quick. Do you, Amelia, see a marked difference in the attitudes towards race that we find in the Proletpen writers and the attitudes of those of their contemporaries who also wrote in Yiddish, also wrote poetry, and also wrote on American racism, but who were not necessarily sympathetic to the pro-Soviet left? Thank you.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Thank you, Jack. My understanding is that we have about 12 minutes or so, so fairly brief time for the panelists to respond briefly to those really excellent comments by Jack. And the reason we do that in a relatively brief time is so that we also have time to get questions and feedback from the audience. So maybe each of you could take three or four minutes in turn and just respond, obviously, very briefly.
And then we'll turn it over to Jennifer. We've got a real-- a whole lot of questions coming in in the Q&A. And by the way, if you're in the audience and you'd like to ask a question, you can post it in the Q&A. So maybe we could start with you, Henry, and then Nerina, and then Amelia in that order. I think you're muted, Henry.
HENRY SREBRNIK: Oh, there we go. Am I on now? Yes?
LARRY GLICKMAN: Yes.
HENRY SREBRNIK: OK, so you can hear me.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Yes.
HENRY SREBRNIK: OK, OK, so some of the people have been asking about the relative size of the Jewish left in Canada's portion of-- and Jack was doing that too-- of the Canadian Jewish population vis a vis the US. Off hand, I'm not sure actually about that. I'd have to look into all kinds of files. But it was obviously much more concentrated in Canada. As I say, virtually all-- virtually the entire so-called Canadian Jewish community just lived in three cities when you come right down to it, and a scattering of outposts here and there like Vancouver and Calgary and Saint John, New Brunswick, but nothing like the US. It wasn't nearly as spread out.
And about non-Jewish communists, relations with non-Jewish communist, Ukrainians, of course, and Finns also had fairly large communist organizations or organizations allied to the CP. But, you know, I think their interests didn't really overlap all that much.
I mean, one of the things up here in Canada, perhaps even more than in the US, is that the Jewish left was-- I think the Jewish left was much more internal and more marginalized vis a vis the larger society other than people who were involved in trade union work, the kind of people like Salsberg and Rose and, obviously, the garment, the needle trades, which were huge in Montreal and, to a lesser extent, Toronto. Ruth Frager has written that book Sweatshop Strife on mostly women workers in the needle trades, the [INAUDIBLE] trades in Toronto. And I guess Ester Reiter has a lot of this in her book on the UJPO.
But, you know, the Canadian Jewish communists-- maybe it's because I've been looking at mostly the ICOR, Ambijan kind of organizations, they seemed-- perhaps more than the American ones, certainly in the '20s and '30s-- they were virtually territorialists, you know, that whole ideology that was kind of a form of Zionism except it didn't have to relate to Palestine. And what was Birobidzhan if not a territorial project?
You know, we know about the Uganda project in 1903 which almost split the Zionists apart and there were-- Argentina, for that matter, Baron Hirsch sending people to Argentina. And there were all these schemes about Jewish republics here and there, western Australia, all over the world just about. And I think they were much more of a support group for this kind of territorialism vis a vis the USSR-- and it wasn't just Birobidzhan.
Because, of course, in the 1920s, you had all of those Jewish collectives in Crimea, in southern Ukraine, and all these places. So and after the war too, I mean, it also changed. The business about why did the Outlook fold and Jewish Currents hasn't? They ended up being totally different publications, really. The UJPO, especially in Montreal, never moved away from its absolute Yiddish roots. And it folded after 1956 for that reason.
And, of course, Quebec was the most hostile place, probably in all of North America outside the US South, to any kind of left-wing Jewish activity. Until 1960, it was, in effect, run by the Catholic Church. And the closest thing to Juan Perón that you could have had in North America, Maurice Duplessis, whose regime was virtually a fascist regime. Nobody did anything about it in Canada. French Canadian anti-Semitism was fierce. It was it was a kind of clerical fascism, supporting Franco in the Civil War, supporting Vichy France after 1940, a lot of them liked Mussolini, different than the kind of Anglo--
LARRY GLICKMAN: Henry, we have to-- have to finish up. We'll get back to more questions.
HENRY SREBRNIK: Right, OK.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Thank you so much. It's fascinating. Nerina, OK.
NERINA VISACOVSKY: Here we are. OK. Thank you, Larry. Well, thank you, Jack, for your comments, very interesting. I mean, there are too much, too many things to say. I mean, I completely agree that we need more comparative studies between countries. That is very necessary task. And we are working on that, you know, Elissa, Paul Mishler, many of-- Ester Reiter from Canada-- many of the people who is attending this conference, we are in connection to achieve that objective, very necessary.
Well, many things, as I had very little time, I couldn't develop a lot of many things that I would like to. But I know there are kind of some exceptions about articles and work refers to the YKUF network. And, I mean, Efraim Zadoff, as you mentioned, is very important reference for me, he was.
But his object of study was the AMIA Vaad Hajinuj, I mean, the commission of education of the AMIA is our Mutual Association Israeli, Argentinian-- I mean, the Mutual Aid, who has a Hajinuj commission of education and that was the main object of him. Also Schenkolewski-Kroll has an interesting article. But I think to do work with the human resources, I mean, interviews in the YKUF people, I mean, nobody before did what I'm proposing here, that is, talking with the people who were the characters of this movement.
This is what I mean. And, well, I have many things. I want to say that, I pointed out especially that the congress from YKUF in Argentina was in 1941 in April, you know? And the congress was being prepared from one or two years before, as you know. So in 1940, they were preparing.
And, finally, before June 1941, 57 institutions were coming. So I believe-- I'm not very sure because I'm not a specialist in this-- that was not as relevant as was in the United States, the German-Soviet Pact, I mean, and in split the groups. I mean, there were discussions and, of course, with Bundists and socialist groups. But they were not so strong and intensive that I think it was in North America.
But we have to study. I mean, this is a very interesting point for Comparative Studies, of course. And when you referred to AMIA, you know, these mutual associations who-- all the institutions are represented by AMIA. So many groups can vote during the elections. And you say in 1947, approximately YKUF has maybe 40% of votes, and after, in the '60s, 5%. No? Something like this.
Of course, it was a problem, a big problem. That was very significant in 1952 with the Prague trial, you know, where people from Vaad Hachinuch and from AMIA ask YKUF network to sign a declaration against Soviet Union. And they didn't want. So they were expelled-- cherem, we call it here-- from the main organization. That's why after they had not been represented in the elections.
Anyway, some members, very prominent and active members, were leave, left the organizations. But what I want to point out is that is just the Argentinian Jewish population, maybe it was 300,000. And people who was voting in AMIA was 35,000 or 40,000. I mean, AMIA's election was not representative enough of what the people, Jewish people in Argentina were thinking.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Nerina, sorry, we have to stop, but just temporarily, because we'll have-- I think we'll have plenty of time to come back to all this. So I do apologize.
NERINA VISACOVSKY: Yes, OK, no, I think it's just a question of method, because today, for instance, AMIA, the board of directors of AMIA and people who vote is orthodox people from-- sorry-- Orthodox people, Orthodox groups. So you can think that people in Argentina, if you think it's representative, you can think that people in Argentina is Orthodox and it's not. I mean, it's not a good-- it's not a reference enough to see the size and to see how the people in Argentina, Jewish people in Argentina is thinking. I hope you understand.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Thank you very much.
NERINA VISACOVSKY: Thank you. Sorry.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Thank you. OK, we'll turn it over to Amelia for her brief comments. And that everyone will get a chance to interact more after this initial response to Jack's comments.
AMELIA GLASER: Great, thank you. Yeah, and I hope we will have time to answer some of the Q&A that showed up in the written comments. Because I have just started to peek at some of them. And there are some really great questions there. Thank you so much, Jack, for this question and also for advertising Marc's wonderful piece on Opatoshu. And everyone here should know that Jessica Kirzane has actually translated that-- that work "Lintsheray" by Opatoshu It's a very difficult piece to read. It's a very, you know, racially frustrating piece to read. But, you know, important we should have it. We should be able to refer to it and maybe even occasionally teach it.
I want to be a little bit careful about the term left. What I'm identifying as the left in my book is-- although I do, you know, constantly sort of qualify that in various ways-- is people that published at any point in a Party-aligned journal. Because people change. People moved in and out of the so-called Left. And so if we're going to talk about the far left or the Party-aligned Left, that's what I'm talking about.
But, of course, Leyeles was-- you know, Leyeles was a Trotskyist. He wasn't a right-winger. He was a leftist, as well, even though he wasn't aligned with the Party, especially after 1929. He was very, very critical of the Party after '29.
And, yeah, so the poets-- how do I distinguish what the Proletpen-aligned poets were doing during the Scottsboro trial from what other poets had been doing, including modernists who were either of their generation or like a couple of years older which made them much older at that moment in time, had been doing in the '20s? And I think what Leivick was writing was, it was wonderful.
And Leyeles and Ludvig-- I see-- I read the poems a little bit differently. I read the poems that were written in the '20s-- and even really up to 1930. You know, Moyshe-Leyb Halpern publishes his salute in the splinter journal Di Vokh in 1930, which is an indictment of passivity in the face of American racism that was before Scottsboro had happened. So I think all the stuff that was written before Scottsboro is kind of figuring out race, integrating Black Americans into a poetics of modernism-- and I can go into detail about trying to sort out what I mean by that. But I believe what happened after Scottsboro was a new kind of awareness of subjectivity.
And so the poets that are starting to write about race and about pogroms during the Scottsboro trials, they are, on the one hand, they're mostly party-aligned poets are the ones who are using a Scottsboro shibboleth because it was a case that was so polarized politically. But they were poets who were-- they had a kind of heightened awareness of the subjecthood of the defendants, of the Scottsboro defendants. And so when Malka Lee writes her "Subway" poem-- I believe, I totally agree with you. She's responding to Leyeles. And I go into detail of the chapter that I drew this from in discussing that.
But I think she's drawing from Leyeles, but she's doing something different. She's describing a different kind of intimacy between the white onlooker and this Black figure on the subway where the guilt of the white onlooker is highlighted and the subjecthood of this Black man who's thinking about what's going on in the South-- he's not even himself a victim, but he's talking about it and it's driving him to a kind of madness-- that's highlighted.
Whereas, in the Leyeles poem, it's a sort of erotic between, you know, there's this Black man and this white woman and he has-- you know, it's a death wish that he has by squeezing tighter and tighter to the white woman. But it's not-- he doesn't have his own subjecthood. It doesn't come out in the same way.
So it's a subtle distinction. But I think it's a heightened awareness of what the party was trying to do, which had its upsides and its downsides. It was something that compelled Party-aligned writers in the 1930s to change the way they thought about the African-American subject. And so there's this very subtle shift that happened in the '30s and after 1931.
So that's the difference that I would kind of impose on that. And it's a difficult one. I really struggled with this when I was writing my chapters. Was it really just the same thing these guys were doing in 1920? I don't think so. I think that the adoption of a language of identification of African-Americans as part of the same group that they were part of, workers of the world, changes the way that these poets look at them. So that's, I guess, that's my short answer. I could go on and on about that distinction.
I do want to-- when I talk about writers that were sort of-- when they were affiliated with the left, when they weren't affiliated with the left, Scottsboro, it comes at a really complicated moment for the Jewish Left. Because in 1929, you had this enormous rift in the left during the disturbances in Palestine that took place at the end of August up to the beginning of September. So the Hebron disturbances, violence that took place in Hebron and elsewhere in Palestine was welcomed by the party as an uprising and was decried by those who were not willing to accept that as a pogrom.
And this created an enormous rift. Many of us who work on this are really familiar with this, but just to remind all of us, this created such a rift that many former Frayhayt contributors left the Frayhayt and effectively had to turn their back on the party in 1929. And that included Leivick. It included Moyshe-Leyb Halpern. Malka Lee also stopped publishing in the Frayhayt for a couple of years. She would go back and start publishing in the Frayhayt again.
So for a couple of years after Hebron, Leivick and others started this very short lived, but really interesting journal Vokh, which both Tony Michels and I have been working on. I write about Vokh extensively in the chapter-- of the previous chapter, which deals with Palestine. Vokh was a journal that was kind of a safe haven for those who weren't quite ready to leave the Party, but they weren't accepting the Party's stance on Palestine. So you had Malka Lee publishing in it. You had a number of other-- Esther Shumyatsher-- a number of people were publishing in those pages and then would return to the Frayhayt with Scottsboro. Because Scottsboro was-- sorry. Do I need to stop?
LARRY GLICKMAN: Yeah, I think we should, yeah, [INAUDIBLE].
AMELIA GLASER: OK, so I'll just say that Leivick returned, Malka Lee returned. Moyshe-Leyb Halpern died in 1931. So he died a little bit too soon to fully make a return. But there's a lot of moving back and forth.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Thank you all. And I'm sorry that you all had such a brief time to respond to such rich questions. But as I said, I think there'll be more time. My understanding is that Jennifer Young is now going to come out and curate the many fascinating questions we got. And I hope we'll get to as many as possible. So welcome Jennifer.
JENNIFER YOUNG: Thank you Larry. Thank you everyone. This has been tremendous. Can everyone hear me?
LARRY GLICKMAN: Yes.
JENNIFER YOUNG: OK, so, we've obviously predictably had an incredible range of questions for all the panelists. I'm going to start out by posing a couple of questions that any or all of the panelists can choose to answer since they're larger, overview questions. One is kind of a classic question-- they're both classic questions.
Can we speak to the disproportionate number of Jews in the Communist Party in North America and Europe? Is that a real number? If so, why? And also with regards to the Jewish members of the Communist Party in the various parts of North America and Europe, how can we distinguish between what Isaac Deutscher called the non-Jewish Jew and Jewishness in a Marxist sense or Jewish in an IWO JPFO sense? It seems that those are all different definitions of Jewishness. So how did they compete with each other? How did they work together?
So I'm going to go through and read some questions for each of the panelists. And then I'm going to turn it over to Larry to call on the panelists one by one to answer those questions. So from the Q&A, the questions for Henry are, can you elaborate even more on the unique aspects of the Canadian left with regard to the Ukrainian and Finnish left and the conservatism of some Ukrainian groups and the Quebecois. You did speak to that before, but if you can elaborate even more on what made that distinctive for Canada vis a vis the United States. How did ICOR and Ambijan react to the purging of Birobidzhan leadership by Soviet authorities in the 1930s?
Can you say more about the specific Canadian situation of the Communist Party? We have a situation where the Canadian government made the Communist Party illegal, which did not happen in the United States.
On the flip side, we know that the IWO was disbanded by the government, effectively, in the United States, whereas UJPO, the Canadian version of the JPFO was not disbanded. So can you speak, again, to those differences? And then can you just briefly outline population-wise what Birobidzhan, what the population, the Jewish population of Birobidzhan was at its height and what it might be today.
For Nerina, there is a question about Moisés Ville as an outpost of the Jewish community in Argentina and were the people, Jews there involved in left-wing movements the same way that Jews were in Buenos Aires and other places? How connected was the YKUF in Buenos Aires with YKUF organizations in Mexico or Canada and the US?
Can you say more about how it is navigated a distinct identity between Zionism and communism, as you say in your paper? And can you speak to what aspects of a Yiddishist YKUFist identity still endure today or were passed down amongst families, more-- maybe speaking more to your own experience with that.
What is the current status of the shules and also Di Linke community in Argentina today? Are there still organizations that are active? Elsewhere in South America is that also the case? And what role did immigration laws play in the composition of the Jewish communities in Argentina before and after World War II?
Amelia, you answered a lot of the questions in your response already with regard to the porous boundaries of Di Linke, but the specific questions about the leftist affiliations with H. Leivick and Opatoshu, if you could speak a little bit more to that.
A lot of people wanted to know, did writers like Malka Lee actually know the Black intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance? Did Malka Lee ever get to speak to Langston Hughes? What about other Black writers and activists? Did Langston Hughes ever read Malka Lee? What kind of reception was going back and forth between these two groups of writers?
Were poets like Malka Lee translated into English at this time? Did they write in English? Were other of their works out there for other writers, non-Yiddish writers, to see?
And looking beyond Scottsboro, what about the Harlem riots of 1935 or the "don't buy where you can't work" campaigns or, in general, if we're looking at Harlem, the role of Black political movements that may have targeted Jews in some way, such as Jewish shop owners or Jewish landlords.
And then the final question is, we know that there were Black Jewish communities active in Harlem and Chicago at the time. Is there a response in Yiddish literature that reaches out to this group as well? So those are all the questions I have right now. So Larry, if you want to call on people and get them to-- get everyone involved in answering these questions, then we can take it from there. We've got a half hour to answer these questions and then probably to grab a couple of more from the Q&A.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Yeah, so Jennifer, my suggestion is that maybe each panelist take about six or seven minutes now so that we'll have a little bit of time at the end to see if there are follow-ups. Does that make sense to you?
JENNIFER YOUNG: Perfect, yeah.
LARRY GLICKMAN: OK, so, again, I'm sorry, you all got such great and so many wonderful questions. So I'm going to ask you again to be fairly brief here. But why don't we start again with you, Henry, to kind of try to briefly deal with the many fascinating questions brought to your attention?
HENRY SREBRNIK: OK. OK, I tried to kind of shorthand to write down what people were asking. I don't know if you can hear me?
LARRY GLICKMAN: Yes.
HENRY SREBRNIK: Am I on?
LARRY GLICKMAN: Yes, yes, you're on.
HENRY SREBRNIK: OK. OK, well, the one about-- one person asked about Birobidzhan itself, how many people live there and so forth and so on. Now, of course, it was designated a Jewish autonomous region in 1936 in the Stalin Constitution, as it's called. And so it was elevated from what it was in 1928. And there was a considerable movement to Birobidzhan. David Bergelson, for example, the writer, went there for a while. People visited.
Pesach Novick wrote a whole little booklet about his visit to Birobidzhan in 1936, the famous American Yiddish communist. There may have been as many as 50-- I think Soviet statistics can't be believed, but, anyway, there have been as many as 59,000 or so. But as somebody pointed out, they were asking about the various purges.
There were three waves of purges of the Birobidzhan Jewish leadership between '36 and '39. In each case, the person who took over from the previous one was then murdered. There was a Professor Lieberman. I think he may have been the first one. They were all considered Trotskyists, the usual thing, you know, that Stalin got all these people for.
And then, of course, the War came and so it was pretty much ended. After World War II though, because there had been so much anti-Semitism in Ukraine and a lot of people didn't want Jews coming back after '45 when it was liberated, so many people that had lived in various Ukrainian cities-- Kiev, Zhytomyr, or whatever-- decided to go out there.
They made a big deal of it in organizations like Ambijan and ICOR and all the rest of it. And many pamphlets were written about it by the CPUSA-- you can find them-- and here in Canada. And then, of course, Stalin shuts the whole thing down with the Pravda article by Ilya Ehrenburg, right? And the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee is shut down and all the rest of it.
Some Jews from Ukraine kept going there. After '51, Ambijan in the US and its Canadian counterparts were all closed down. The height of the Cold War, Korean War was on, the Rosenbergs, everything. And in Birobidzhan itself, the library was destroyed. They burned all the Yiddish books, if I'm not mistaken. And, you know, the community kind of just lingered on. After the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, most of them went to Israel, ironically.
And I'm not sure how many Jews living Birobidzhan these days. You can still read about it. It's still a Jewish autonomous region officially, even under Putin. But the Lubavitchers run it, another irony, right? I think the chief rabbi is a Lubavitcher.
And, you know, the person who asked about the purges, it's interesting that none of these communist Jewish organizations seem to have been-- that we know of-- against the death penalty especially in the USSR. At the same time that the Scottsboro and lynchings and all of that was going on, all of these Jews were being killed in the Soviet Union by Stalin, of course, being Trotskyists, German and Japanese spies, Zionists, everything you can throw at them.
Well, in Montreal, it was really different. First of all, all the Jews lived in Montreal, virtually. There were a couple of farmers here and there in the Laurentians, maybe in the eastern townships, but it was a Montreal community.
It was kind of embedded in a indifferent to-- anti-Semitic in a genteel way Anglo community in Montreal, which in those days was very strong. And other than working relationships in factories and so forth, as would have been the case in the Pale of Settlement even. They had nothing to do with the French Canadian population. Very few of them even knew how to speak French. The campaign of Fred Rose in 1943, the man who won the Cartier seat, the main opponent was a guy called Paul Massé of the Bloc Populaire, which was, of course, against the War, didn't want the War to be fought.
As I say, a huge number of the intelligentsia, the French Canadian intelligentsia supported Vichy and Franco, not Hitler, admittedly. And their main newspaper intellectual newspaper was Le Devoir, which carried on a number of anti-Semitic campaigns throughout the 1930s and 40s. So it's a completely different situation. Toronto was much more-- and even Winnipeg-- like what would have been going on in the United States.
The business with the Outlook and Jewish Currents though, what's also interesting is although the Canadian-- I suspect that in many ways the Canadian Jewish community was probably less hostile to the communist movement than might have been the case in the US. But they turned against it in a way that hasn't-- it wasn't transformed the way it has been in the United States.
You know, the way Jewish Life became Jewish Currents. And Jewish Currents today is kind of Occupy Wall Street and the 1% and all that stuff. There's no equivalent of that. In Canada, by the beginning of the 21st century, most Jews outside Quebec where they vote Liberal because of the whole separatist issue in Quebec, in Toronto, the majority of Jews now vote for the Conservative Party. It's as if a majority of people in New York were voting for Trump-- not that I'm comparing, you know, the Conservative Party in Canada to Trump.
So it's really a very different thing. But it is true that UJPO, again, kind of transformed itself, but in a very minor way compared to the Jewish Currents kind of thing in Toronto. In Montreal, it disappeared completely. It's gone.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Thank you, Henry. I think we should move on to Nerina and then, again, we'll have some time, hopefully some time at the very end to kind of come back.
NERINA VISACOVSKY: OK, thank you, Larry. Well, many questions for six minutes. OK, I would say, I will start with this. Today this movement, YKUF movement is 10 times or maybe 15 times smaller than in the '50s, but still it's alive. I mean, there are eight institutions from different provinces in Argentina who are joined and participate together in activities and congresses. And they have been kinder club for children and for teens, for teenagers, activities.
And also our summer camp, the name is Kinderland, similar to the Camp Kinderland-- sorry, it's Zumerland similar to Camp Kinderland, Camp Naivelt in Canada. And it's a very successful educational proposal. It was from the very beginning and still is very recognized. And we have the theater, similar to ARTEF, the Idisher Folk Teater.
And we have a school here in a famous neighborhood in Buenos Aires where many Jewish people live. The name is Villa Crespo. And the school is Scholem Aleijem. It's scholem, but it's not, of course, it's not a shul. I mean, we don't teach Yiddish anymore. And we don't teach Hebrew as many Zionist schools still does.
So the network is alive. And also there is an institution, a sister institution in Montevideo, Uruguay, very active also, and both-- two more in Sao Paulo, Folk House, Casa de Povo in Sao Paulo, and Asociación Scholem Aleijem in Rio de Janeiro. So the network, it's alive. They meet, they join in the congresses and they do activities together.
In the past, I mean, it's a long story, but especially in Buenos Aires, where a lot of Jewish were, there were three different lines of Di Linke, I mean, the Bundists, the Idsektzie, and the Linke Poale Zion, I mean, they were culturally very similar because they were all immigrants from-- they were all Di Linke.
But they were different in their political position, as you know. So they couldn't achieve the goal of making a big institution or a big movement together. And that was sort of explain that many times, they tried to do it, but they couldn't, they couldn't arrive to an agreement.
So in the '50s, you can see very clearly these three lines very divided-- Bundist schools, also named Peretz, Idsektzie Yiddish institutions close to the Communist Party, YKUF, and the other one, Linke Poale Zion. But taking a question of Bob-- Robert about the name of the institutions, Palace Haim Zhitlovsky in Montevideo, I mean Zhitlovsky, Scholem Aleijem and Peretz were the name of Di Linke, I mean, all of them from the three lines. And this is very significant. Because all these writers were important reference for all of them. And Zhitlovsky especially, that Robert asked me, was that the main figure in the party's congress in 1937. But he couldn't be there because he was ill. But so it was very significant for them because it was like the father of the YKUF movement.
Mexico and Canada relationship, well, I almost gave-- [INAUDIBLE] I like very much to think that in Uruguay before taking the name Zhitlovsky Palace, the group of the '20s and '30s was named Morris Winchevsky as the institution in Canada. And sometimes still today Canada's Morris Winchevsky make-- participate and give messages to South American institutions.
I mean, their relations today are not so fluid as they were in the past when they were Yiddish speakers. Because they had a language in common, you know? Language is also a thinking. I cannot think in English.
I'm sorry. I mean, I try to do my best, but language is thinking. My ideas, my way of processing information is in Spanish. And that's a very powerful-- and it can be an example for the problem of the disconnected countries after the second and third generations start to speak in English, in Portuguese, or in Spanish.
So that was a big problem. And that's what was one of the obstacles to make and to build comparative studies. So I have-- I know, Larry, no, it's my time, OK. Thank you.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Thank you. Thank you very much. I'm so sorry. It's fascinating.
NERINA VISACOVSKY: No, I'm so sorry.
LARRY GLICKMAN: So Amelia, you get your time now, not nearly enough, but please go ahead.
AMELIA GLASER: Yeah, thank you. And I-- you know, I've been flipping through these questions and they're great ones. So I probably won't be able to answer all of them, but I'll do my best. Yeah, I mean, I've been asked by so many people what the relationship was on the ground between these Yiddish writers and Black poets, Black writers. And I think I've gotten the question enough just in this conference, but also in others that I think I probably need to sit down and do the research and write something about it and just see what I can find, what I can dig up.
Here's what I can tell you. The writers that I'm treating, these are Yiddish-language writers who are writing for Yiddish-speaking readers were publishing largely-- my primary archive for doing this research was initially the Morgen Frayhayt and then also the far-left journals that were coming out of the same movement, the same group of people. These were being written for Jews, not necessarily for communists, right?
You had a huge subscription pool for the Frayhayt. So you had lots of Jews that were reading this stuff. And it was really there to convince them, right? I see the 1930s as a time when you have these poets who are trying to redefine what it means to be "us," right? Are we Jews or are we something else?
And for many of these writers, there was a translation of the "we-ness" of being Jews, a kind of religious, insular group to a little bit of a larger pool, which was a "we-ness" of being workers, being workers of the world. But it was still somewhat insular in that we were talking about the issues of-- these writers were talking about-- these issues of fairness and discrimination and work and so forth. So they were taking-- you know, often, they were taking their cues from the party.
But they were really writing to move hearts and minds. They were trying to move their readers. And these were Jewish readers. They didn't have to write to answer to a Black readership, which gave them a certain amount of leverage, which allowed them probably to use terminology that they would have had to think a second time about using if they were writing for English-language readers.
You did have some cases of translation, not many. I have found more translations at the moment, you know, close to the time these poems were written, into Russian than I have found into English. Some exceptions are the 1925 trilingual journal Spartak that came out in one issue. And Langston Hughes has a piece in there. He surely knew that he had a piece that was published there. It wasn't just, you know, taken from him. You also had pieces by writers like Alexander Pomerantz, Vladimir Mayakovsky in Russian. And Mayakovsky was somehow tangentially involved in this as well. That was the year that he'd made a visit to New York.
So you did have attempts to bridge these gaps. And you had a lot of influence going in the direction of, you know, English language stuff making its way into Yiddish. So a couple of people asked questions about songs. You know, "Scottsboro Boys Shall Be Free" and "Strange Fruit." And these were songs that these writers knew, that they were inspired by. These were songs that were coming out of a communist Jewish milieu, but in English. And so there was-- the directionality kind of went from English into Yiddish, and not the reverse.
However, if I can find a smoking gun, like a party that everybody went to together, I would be so excited to write that piece. Later, you do have some translations that go back and forth. I mean, I translated a lot of these pieces for the first time as a graduate student when I was encountering them.
But you did have writers like Aaron Kurtz, who was the president of Proletpen for a while. He later-- this was after the war, but he later married the American poet Olga Cabral, the American English-language poet who was of Canadian, Spanish, Portuguese, Trinidadian descent. And she learned Yiddish and translated a lot of his stuff into English. And he translated a lot of her writing into Yiddish. So you had cases where these writers' work got out.
But most of the stuff that Cabral translated by Kurtz was later writing, writing that was written after the war, either about the Holocaust or about the civil rights. You know, that all happened a little bit after the fact. This is newspaper poetry that we're talking about in the 1930s. So we didn't see a ton of kind of mainstreaming of it into English as far as my research tells me thus far. But I would be so happy to find that cache of stuff.
Other people had asked-- I'm just trying to look through and see which questions should be answered. Other people had asked questions about the affiliation of Leivick and Opatoshu and I see that David Goldberg has begun to answer this question that Opatoshu was very close to the Proletpen writers. He was a prose writer. He was this strange case of someone that was able to dance at the two weddings. He could still hang out and be friends with Markish. And he could also published in Vokh.
So he was very close to the Party. He was never a Party member. But many of them weren't. And somehow he didn't get demonized as someone who had left the Party in the same way that Leivick did.
There were a few writers who declared their departure kind of in big flashing letters. And those were the writers that got really beat up and demonized in the Communist press for having left. But even so, some of them still went back and published a couple of things in the Frayhayt later. So that's kind of the beginning of some answers.
Oh, there was the question about the Harlem riots of 1935, "don't buy where you can't work." There were writers that addressed these things. You don't see as much poetry about it as you see about lynchings. And I think part of that is just the appeal, the poetic appeal of the abject horror of a lynching. There was an immediate opportunity to translate pogrom poems that had not necessarily been Party-aligned poems into something that was Party-aligned because they were writing about a different group, but still a group of potentially workers.
You have writers like Berish Weinstein who was really apolitical, so you can't count him as a leftist in many understandings of the word. But he did write about the Harlem riots. Malka Lee continued to write about Black struggles in the United States and wrote poems that were not necessarily about lynchings, but not that many.
Y.E. Rontsh wrote about-- or [INAUDIBLE], sorry, [INAUDIBLE] wrote about the Proletpen 10 writers' treatment of Black Americans in 1940. And he kind of talks about the spectrum. He talks a little bit about New York poems and New York poems about different ethnicities. But he's mostly focusing on lynchings. And he makes this big point about Proletpen writers being more aware than the earlier writers.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Thank you so much, Amelia. Jack, I believe you wanted to respond to a couple of the questions as well.
JACK JACOBS: Yeah, thanks a lot, Larry. I'd like to go back to what I think was the very first of the questions summarized by Jennifer-- or if not the first, amongst the very first. And that was the question of how are we to explain the disproportionate presence of Jews in communist movements? And I think that that's really a core question for this conference.
Because it actually was true not only in the specific countries that we'll be concerned with, but also in many, many countries where organizations like YKUF did not exist. That is to say, it was true in any number of different countries in Central and Western and Eastern Europe, for that matter, as well. And there have been, in a nutshell, three major explanations of why it was that Jews were attracted to the left. I would dismiss the first two almost out of hand.
One has to do with Jewish religious tenets. There have been lots of people who have tried to trace the affinity of Jews for the left back to Judaism. If we had a long time, I could explain why I think that's wrong, but I do think it's wrong.
There have been other people who have attempted to explain the affinity of Jews to the left because of some kind of Jewish characteristics or personality. That's been an explanation offered above all by people with anti-Jewish tendencies of one kind or another.
Once again, I think the explanation that makes most sense has to do with Jewish marginality, is to say that Jews were marginal to the countries in which they lived due to anti-Semitism and for other reasons at the point when the left developed, not after 1917. I'm talking about in the 19th century. And that their marginality, which closed them out of any number of institutions of power, led them to seek alternative ways to express their political views and led them to the left.
And when we're talking about things like YKUF or JPFO or in Argentina or in Canada or in the United States, we're talking about Jews that brought their attitudes-- including their sense of marginality with them to this hemisphere from the other hemisphere, that is to say. And that sense of marginality and the reality of marginality lasted for a very, very long time.
A second note and then I'll stop, there was, I think, an interesting question and distinction, so to speak, made about Jews like Isaac Deutscher on the one hand and Jews associated in organizations like YKUF or JPFO on the other. And, of course, Isaac Deutscher is most famous for his essay on "The Non-Jewish Jew." But my response in a two-sentence version to the contention is by definition, non-Jewish Jews are also Jews.
Deutscher was also a Jew. Deutscher, who lived in England from the 1930s on for the rest of his life, was once approached by a fairly snobby young student and asked about his roots. And Deutscher's answer was, "Trees have roots. Jews have legs." And that explains an awful lot about how Jews got to Canada or Argentina or to the United States.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Thank you very much. Jennifer, do you have any final wrap-up-- we just have a few minutes left.
JENNIFER YOUNG: Yeah, thank you for everyone for this incredibly thought-provoking panel and these threads of conversations that we've been-- we started on Sunday and are continuing to bear fruit as the week goes on. So I just want to make sure everyone knows that we're meeting again tomorrow at 3:00 o'clock for the "Kultur Arbet" panel and then again on Monday.
And Monday will be a really important day because we have a keynote presentation from Ben Katchor. And then we're going to do a session on memories and reflections that will touch on the scholars and friends that we've lost this year, as well as participation from people who've grown up in the movement who will reflect on those experiences.
So I just want to thank everyone for your participation today and for all the really fruitful conversations that have been going on and just the wealth of knowledge that's been shared. So I'm going to post some final links into the chat. And if there's any last questions or thoughts, we have a couple of minutes if anyone else wants to share anything.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Why don't we give each of the panelists just a chance to say something very brief if they'd like.
HENRY SREBRNIK: Can I go?
LARRY GLICKMAN: Sure.
HENRY SREBRNIK: You know, sort of apropos Deutscher, of the non-Jewish Jew, I think in all of these countries, there has been this whole debate between Jews who are communists because they're Jewish and Jews who became communists because they weren't quite sure they wanted to be Jewish. In Britain, for example-- because I actually started all this when I was doing my PhD in Britain. Jason Heppell and Stephen Cullen, who is one of the people in A Vanished Ideology.
They discussed this whole issue of Jewish communists versus communist Jews. Off the top of my head, I can't remember which is which. But one of them is the kind of Jew-- well, for instance, if you take UJPO, to pick a Canadian example, when all the real Jews, let's call them Yiddishists, when they all quit after 1956 and '59, who took over the UJPO? A guy called Sam Carr who had not really been involved in that thing at all. He was a regular communist who happened to be Jewish-- I wouldn't say happened, he was. Obviously, he knew enough Yiddish and so forth.
But, you know, they just kind of slotted him in to run UJPO. And all the other ones left because the other ones were really more Jewish than they were communists. And when Salsberg came back after '56 and Khrushchev's speech and discovered that they had all been supporting a state that actually propagated anti-Semitism, well, of course, they all quit. Carr didn't quit because he was more interested in being a communist.
So that, of course, is one of the main things. And Britain, which had a much smaller population, the Workers Circle, as they called it over there, didn't even split in the 1920s the way they did in Canada and the United States. It wasn't big enough. But they had different chapters.
Anarchists were quite big, actually, among the Jewish left in Britain-- I think much more so, relatively speaking, than here in North America. So this was a big issue. And so a lot of the Jews who were communists not because they were Jewish were already, I guess, more assimilated, if you want to use that word. And plenty of them didn't know Yiddish.
I noticed that Lawrence & Wishart, the communist publishers in England, just put out a book maybe two or three weeks ago. I was looking at it. I can't remember what it is anymore, biographical sketches of about 100 important people who were in the CPGB, you know, until the end. Not too many of them are Jewish but the ones who are Jewish were not involved in anything Jewish.
The ones that I studied, Lazar Zaidman, Chimen Abramsky, all these kinds of people, they don't make it into the book. They've been erased, so to speak, from history. So I think that is one of the main differences. And, of course, JPFO and UJPO and all these things by definition were dealing with communists who are communists because they're Jewish not because they happen to be Jewish.
LARRY GLICKMAN: All right, we're kind of running over, but I feel like Nerina and Amelia want to quickly say something very fast.
NERINA VISACOVSKY: Yes, yes. An idea, because I saw very quickly in the questions there's someone from the Los Angeles asking for contact on this. So I offered to give my email so to answer one by one the questions that I couldn't answer-- that I can't answer now. Please, write to me. And I will be delighted to answer you one by one.
And well, [INAUDIBLE] it was an honor for me to have the Jack Jacobs' comments and the last questions that he mentioned give me the-- the point to say something. Why so many Jewish in the Communist Party [? acting. ?] And he said because the marginalization situation. And what I propose in my research work is that second and third generations in Argentina, in North and South America, have become integrated in the plural society and with non-Jewish people. And the outcome of that is that the institutions start to decrease and disappear because the integration was bigger, the integration process.
So in what way-- and also, in the communist party, it's smaller. So, of course, there are important events, international events. But also in the socialization feel inside the country, inside the networks in the country, what happened is that the children and grandchildren of these immigrants became Argentinian, Uruguayan, Brazilian citizens, first citizens, I mean, so integrated that they didn't need to be in the Jewish institution anymore.
LARRY GLICKMAN: OK--
NERINA VISACOVSKY: And they are not voting, for instance, in AMIA. But I consider them Jewish. That's why I told you that we have to study, as researchers, Jewish community from outside the main organizations. I know, I hope to be clear.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Thank you.
NERINA VISACOVSKY: Thank you. Thank you so much, wonderful.
LARRY GLICKMAN: Sorry. Amelia.
AMELIA GLASER: Thanks so much for having me. I really, really appreciated being here. I don't need to say anything to conclude. I'm so happy to just send you off to read the book because it just came out. And even if, you know, one of you picks it up, I'll be thrilled. But just, thank you to the organizers again. This has been so fruitful. And Nerina and Henry, I've learned so much from your presentations. Thank you.
NERINA VISACOVSKY: Thank you. Thank you, the co-panelists, wonderful.
LARRY GLICKMAN: I just want to say, as an outsider who's not in the field of Jewish studies how much I learned from all of these papers and from Jack's comments. So thank you all so much. This was just absolutely generative for me. So great job, everyone.
NERINA VISACOVSKY: Thank you.
LARRY GLICKMAN: All right, so hopefully I'll see you all at some of the other panels. Thank you, audience. Bye bye.
NERINA VISACOVSKY: Thank you, bye.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact email@example.com if you have any questions about this request.
"Di Linke: the Yiddish Immigrant Left from Popular Front to Cold War" explores the history, cultural and political activities of the Jewish People’s Fraternal Order (JPFO), a significant component of the Yiddishist immigrant Jewish Left. The JPFO, the Jewish section of the Soviet-oriented multi-ethnic International Workers Order (IWO), was shut down with the IWO during the Cold War when its funds and organizational archives were confiscated. Much of the material discussed is from the now partially-digitized IWO/JPFO archive housed at Cornell’s ILR School Kheel Center.
In this session: Henry Srebrnik, Nerina Visacovsky, Amelia Glaser, Jack Jacobs, and Larry Glickman discuss the JPFO’s relations with the Yiddishist Left, Black Jewish relations, the Soviet Union and Communism as seen in immigrant politics and culture in Latin America, the US, and Canada.