Commitment and Crisis: Jews, Communism, and Anti-Communism in the U.S. (Oct. 18 and 19)

Tony Michels
Photograph of Tony Michels.

Associate Professor of History
University of Wisconsin, Madison

"Commitment and Crisis: Jews, Communism, and anti-Communism in the United States"

Thursday, Oct. 18
168 Dulles (230 W. 17th Ave.)

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.

The pre-circulated paper is available on the REN events page. Please click on the seminar link on the right; username: ren; password: ren.

Interested graduate students may meet with Professor Michels on
Friday, Oct. 19, 10-11AM
250 Dulles

Prof. Michels received his Ph.D. from Stanford University and is the author of A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York (Harvard University Press, 2005), which won the 2006 Salo Wittmayer Baron Prize given by the American Academy for Jewish Research.

Sponsored by the Melton Center for Jewish Studies with co-sponsorship from 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. For more information, contact Professor J. Wu ( or Professor Robin Judd (