The Melton Center for Jewish Studies, the History Race, Ethnicity, and Nation Constellation, the Humanities Institute, the Arts and Humanities Division of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Comparative Studies, and the Modern U.S. History Seminar present:
Associate Professor of Jewish History
University of Wisconsin-Madison
At the dawn of the 1920s, tens of thousands of American Jews enthusiastically endorsed the Bolshevik Revolution. The most popular Yiddish newspapers applauded Soviet Russia, powerful labor unions raised money for Soviet reconstruction efforts, and a significant minority of Jews rallied behind the American Communist Party. Indeed, Jews constituted the American Communist movement's most important demographic component during the 1920s. Yet by the end of the decade the Communist cause was widely discredited within the Jewish community and the American Left broadly. Socialists and anarchists formed a labor-based, anti-Communist movement that grew into a powerful force over subsequent decades. Why did large numbers of Jews embrace Communism only to turn against it, well before the Cold War? How did the struggle over Communism affect American politics and intellectual life? This paper examines these questions by delving into the roots of American Communism and anti-Communism within the American Jewish community.