Year of Graduation
Level of Access
Open Access Thesis
Department or Program
This thesis investigates three predominantly Jewish housing cooperatives that emerged in the Bronx in the late 1920s. The Amalgamated Housing Cooperative, the United Workers Cooperative Colony (the “Coops”), and the Sholem Aleichem Houses offered garment workers utopian retreats from the drudgery of Lower East Side tenements where Jewish immigrants arrived in droves between 1890-1920. With each cooperative housing a distinct faction of the Jewish Left––from socialists to communists to Yiddish nationalists––the Bronx housing cooperatives, more than experiments in communal living, were the site of a highly contested battle over competing Jewish cultural and political worldviews across the 1930s and 1940s. Transcending the era that is typically considered the movement’s “peak” in the 1910s, this thesis demonstrates that the era of the Bronx cooperatives must be central to any study of the Jewish labor movement by revealing the ways radical Jews attempted to maintain and negotiate their various worldviews against the backdrop of the threats posed by the capitalist housing market, assimilation, and sectarian struggles. I reconsider the disproportionate attention the “success story” of the Amalgamated Cooperative has received, situating its politics as but one of many responses to the contradictions embedded in the housing cooperative model. Finally, I analyze the role of nostalgia present across resident recollections of the cooperatives and situate it in the contexts of 1970s neoliberal urban reform and suburbanization, while considering the discursive power of this emotion to obscure the persistent legacy of anti-black racism entangled in the cooperative housing movement despite its progressive reputation.
Architectural History and Criticism Commons, Cultural History Commons, Ethnic Studies Commons, Labor History Commons, Political History Commons, United States History Commons, Urban, Community and Regional Planning Commons