Tony Michels

Commitment and Crisis: Jews and American Communism


During the 1920s, Jews formed the American Communist Party’s most important base of support. The party’s Jewish Federation, its Yiddish-speaking section, claimed around 2,000 members or 10% of the party’s overall membership in mid-decade. Yet that figure hardly conveys the extent of Jewish involvement with Communism during the 1920s. To begin with, a significant number of Jews were members of the party’s English-, Russian-, Polish-, and Hungarian-speaking units. Moreover, Communism’s influence among Jews extended far beyond the narrow precincts of party membership. The Communist Yiddish daily, Di frayhayt, enjoyed a reputation for literary excellence and reached a readership of 20,000-30,000, a higher circulation than any Communist newspaper, including the English-language Daily Worker. Jewish Communists built a network of summer camps, schools for adults and children, cultural societies, theater groups, choirs, orchestras, and even a housing cooperative in the Bronx that encompassed tens of thousands of Communist Party members, sympathizers, and their families....


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