Photo: Children’s protest, Bronx Workmen’s Circle shul #2, 1934

The Museum of the City of New York is now showing an exhibit called Radicals in the Bronx about the cooperative movement in New York. From the exhibit site:

“In the 1920s, four left-wing organizations launched a daring experiment in the Bronx. Seeking to create a better life for working people, they mobilized the resources of their members and proceeded to build their own versions of utopia. The communities that they founded were designed to foster political activism, artistic engagement, and collective values.

This exhibition explores four Bronx cooperatives – the Amalgamated Houses, the Farband Houses, the Sholem Aleichem Cooperative, the United Workers’ Cooperative Colony (“the Coops”) – that were built by groups of primarily secular Jewish immigrants who wanted both to improve living conditions and to create a basis for transforming society.”

I really like this exhibit because this is the scene where my family comes from. Actually my family is not from the Bronx though – we’re from the Seward Park Houses in Manhattan which was financed and built by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. So much rich history.. My grandmother used to play mah jong with a woman named Ethel Rosenberg and my mother (as a young girl) awoke in the middle of the night in 1947 to find my grandparents boxing up world-war II rifles the many Jewish war veterans had brought home from the war as part of an effort to smuggle arms for the Jewish fighters in Palestine, under the watchful eyes of a framed photo of Theodor Herzl. The Herzl photo still hangs on her wall today though now it’s in Miami beach. She asked me if I wanted the photo not too long ago, and I thought about it for a bit, and told her I wasn’t ready for it yet.