The Jewish Anarchist Movement in America A Historical Review and Personal Reminiscences


Publisher: AK Press
Format: Book
Binding: pb
Pages: 600
Released: June 4, 2024
ISBN-13: 9781849355483

Essential reading in Jewish labor history, culture, and radicalism.

Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe once comprised the largest segment of the anarchist movement in the United States. Part historical excavation and part memoir, Joseph Cohen chronicles both well-known events and behind-the-scenes conflicts among radicals, as well as profiles of famous personalities like Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman and of the rank-and-file radicals who sustained the anarchist movement across North America from the 1880s to the 1940s.

The Jewish Anarchist Movement in America brings Joseph Cohen’s irreplaceable 1945 Yiddish-language study of America’s Jewish anarchists to an English-speaking audience for the first time and remains the most detailed examination of this neglected history.

The book also contains Cohen’s own reflections on anarchist theory and tactics, based upon his experiences and observations over four decades. Edited and fully annotated, this edition includes a wealth of supplementary information about the people, places, and events central to American anarchist history.


Praise for The Jewish Anarchist Movement in America:

“Essential reading in Jewish labor history, culture, and radicalism...Joseph Cohen, Esther Dolgoff, and Kenyon Zimmer: What a treasured legacy they have bequeathed to us — to have rescued this book, and so many idealistic souls, from oblivion!” —Eric A. Gordon, People's World

“A landmark publication in the history of Jewish anarchism in the US. The big, lively volume—so long awaited—brings together the original history by Joseph Cohen, the translation skills of the anarchist stalwart Esther Dolgoff, and the apt annotation of Kenyon Zimmer. Cohen writes as historian and participant. He defends anarchism while navigating its internal divisions and bringing its characters, many lost in existing accounts, to life.” —David Roediger, professor of American Studies and History at the University of Kansas, author of The Wages of Whiteness and coeditor of Haymarket Scrapbook

"This monumental yet humble book offers the best of history-from-below. Better yet, it does so through a series of charming, page-turning reminiscences by a participant who lived and helped make this history, allowing us, in Cohen’s words, to 'look back to the future' as inspiration for our pursuit of the 'grand ideal [of] complete liberation' in the present. Thanks to Kenyon Zimmer’s meticulous edits and annotations, Cohen’s stories, at once so engagingly anarchist and so Jewish, come to life, along with the names, lives, and actions of hundreds of otherwise-forgotten Jewish rebels. A true labor of love, The Jewish Anarchist Movement in America fills an enormous missing chapter of anarchist history and is a kaddish to honor the beautiful legacy of (our) Jewish anarchist ancestors." —Cindy Barukh Milstein, editor of There Is Nothing So Whole as a Broken Heart

"This long-overdue translation of Cohen’s landmark memoir opens a unique window to the vibrant world of agitators, educators, and organizers who animated the American anarchist movement in the early twentieth century. Fluently transmitted and thoroughly annotated, it deserves attention from contemporary activists, who are increasingly turning to their movements’ rich heritage for insight and inspiration." —Uri Gordon, cofounder of the Anarchist Studies Network and coauthor of Anarchists Against the Wall: Direct Action and Solidarity with the Palestinian Popular Struggle 


Joseph Cohen (1878–1953) was a central figure of twentieth-century American anarchism. He was born in Belarus and emigrated to the United States in 1903 with his wife, Sophie, and settled first in Philadelphia, where they raised two children. For twelve years, Cohen edited the famed Yiddish paper the Fraye arbeter shtime (Free Voice of Labor). Throughout his life he took part in various anarchist institutions such as the Radical Library, New York's Francisco Ferrer Center, and the Stelton and Sunrise colonies. Cohen is the author of two previously published books, The House Stood Forlorn (1954) and In Quest of Heaven: The Story of the Sunrise Co-operative Farm Community (1957).

Kenyon Zimmer is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Arlington. He is the author of Immigrants Against the State: Yiddish and Italian Anarchism in America (2015) and co-editor of Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW (2017), Deportation in the Americas: Histories of Exclusion and Resistance (2018), and With Freedom in Our Ears: Histories of Jewish Anarchism (2023).

Esther Dolgoff (1905–1989) was a lifelong anarchist who was raised in Ohio and later settled in New York City with her husband, Sam. Dolgoff was a central figure of American anarchism her entire adult life.


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