International Jewish Labor Bund

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The International Jewish Labor Bund was a New York-based international Jewish socialist organization, based on the legacy of the General Jewish Labour Bund founded in the Russian empire in 1897 and the Polish Bund that was active in the interwar years. The IJLB is composed by local Bundist groups around the world. It was an "associated organisation" of the Socialist International, similar in status to the World Labour Zionist Movement or the International League of Religious Socialists.[1] The World Coordinating Council/Committee of the Jewish Labor Bund was dissolved in New York in the mid-2000s.[citation needed] although local Bundist groups or groups inspired by the Jewish Labor Bund still exist in France, the UK, and most notably Australia.


Before World War Two, the Bund contributed heavily to the modernization of Jewish life as well as promoting the idea that Jews were not bound to a territory and instead were connected through history, language and culture.[2] Many historians believe that this original Bund was lost to the effects of the holocaust in Poland, the demise of the Jewish Working Class and therefore the demise of the Yiddish infrastructure.[3] However it was slowly reestablished by Bundists who escaped and survived World War Two as the International Jewish Labor Bund.[2]  They reconstituted the Bund in order to carry on fighting for the basic Bund principle that the Jewish problems can only be solved in places where Jews actively live through a democratic socialism that brings together Jews and non Jews. They established a World Coordinating Committee with the executives in New York City and the Secretariat in Paris. This committee perpetuates a worldwide victory over democracy and socialism wherever Jewish communities exist.[4]

The International Jewish Labor Bund (IJLB) was admitted with an observer statute on the June 1947 Zürich Conference of the reconstituted Socialist International and as an "associated organization" at the Frankfurt founding Congress of the new Socialist International in 1951.[5][6]

After 1947, Bund organizations were developed in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, England, Tel-Aviv, Haifa, Batyam, Bar Sheva, Natanya, Tiberius, Migdal-Ashkelon, Kfar Yavne, Ramat-Hasharon, Kiryat-gat, Lubl-Ramle, Melbourne, Sydney, Johannesburg, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Mexico City, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami, and Paterson.[4]

In 1997 commemorative events were organized to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Bund in New York City, London, Warsaw, Paris[7] and Brussels, where the chairwoman of the Belgian chapter, herself 100 years old, was present.[8]

Summary of ideology[edit]

In 1958, the Jewish Labor Bund released a pamphlet commemorating the organization's 60th birthday. In it, the Bund summed up its ideology in seven points.[9]

  1. Jews are dispersed throughout the World, and are a distinct nationality, though without a common state. They will remain in this situation in the foreseeable future. They cannot be remade into a one-state nation.
  2. The State of Israel does not represent the entire Jewish People. It does not solve the Jewish problem. Even now, the population of Israel is less than 15 percent of the world's Jewry. Consequently, Israeli leaders are not in a position to assert Zionist claims of leadership over world Jewry, and their policies of Hebraization of Jewish life and of downgrading all Jewish communities outside of Israel (including those in democratic countries, such as the U.S.A) as places of exile are harmful and fallacious.
  3. The key to the safety and the future of the Jews in Israel is peace with the Arabs. To achieve it, concessions on both sides are needed. Israel should recognize the moral right of the Arab refugees to repatriation and compensation. The Arab nations should recognize the existence of Israel. The United Nations should do their utmost to put an end to the Israeli-Arab conflict which invites Russian penetration into this turbulent region and is a menace to world peace.
  4. The overwhelming majority of the Jewish people live outside of Israel; almost half of all Jews live in the United States. Jewish problems must be solved in the countries in which the Jews live.
  5. Assimilation is an escape for individuals, not a solution for a whole people with a distinctive national culture and identity. Pluralism is the life-blood of real democracy, and this principle applies to national and cultural life within countries as well.
  6. Jewish national problems arising within the countries where Jews reside can be solved on the basis of freedom and democracy – more securely, by democratic Socialism – which will guarantee Jews the rights of freedom and equality, including the right to a free, autonomous self-determination to maintain their own Jewish identity and national culture. Within the Jewish community the Bund strives for a secularized Jewish culture in the Yiddish language.
  7. Two criteria of Jewish policies – one for Israel, another for the Diaspora - should not be followed. Wherever Jews live – whether as a national minority throughout the world or as a majority in Israel – Jewish policy, certainly Jewish Socialist policy, should be based on the same principles of freedom, democracy, international justice and brotherhood. Reconciliation of the claims of the Jewish people with the rights of other people is the essence of the Bund approach to Jewish problems, an approach which brings into harmony the Bund's Jewish national program with the spirit of democratic Socialist internationalism.

Bund Beliefs vs Zionist Beliefs[edit]

The Bund believes that Zionism was created as a product of anti-semitism. The mere presence of Jews among Christians causes anti-semitism and the only way to solve this problem is for the Jews to leave and settle Palestine. This differs from the Bundist belief that Antisemitism has cause in economic, political and psychological conditions of society and can be cured by changing the conditions that allowed it to exist in the first place. They believe the Jewish Problem is part of a general problem with humankind and can only be solved by improving humanity as a whole instead of focusing on a singular group.[4] Bundists also accused Zionists of failing to defend Jewish rights in Europe, collaborating with Polish anti-semites and they rejected the zionist goal of large-scale emigration to Palestine.[3] After Israel was established in 1948, a Bund Conference was held where they rejected the creation and instead called for a Binational Jewish Arab state in Palestine. They criticized the treatment and policies put in place by Zionists toward Palestinians.[3] As Zionism grew, its hatred of the Yiddish language grew with it. Zionists banned Yiddish in Palestine and became whole heartedly against the diaspora, claiming one could not be a real Jew and live somewhere that was not Palestine.[3]

Bundists teach international justice which combines the Jewish claims with respect for the rights of other groups as opposed to the Zionist ideals which propose nationalistic justice that ignores the suffering of other people. They promote and offer faith in humanity which severely contradicts the fear of non-jews that Zionism promotes. The Bund also advocates for greater cooperation with non Jews, especially the underprivileged and those who are suffering.[4] Bundists also believe in a concept called Doykeit in Yiddish and here-ness in English. The Bundist principle of Doykeit relates to their beliefs in non-zionism. It is the belief that national cultural autonomy of different groups of minorities within states is composed of many different minority groups.[10] Another Bundist principle, called Veltlekhkeit in Yiddish, loosely translates to secularism in English. It exists as a modern alternative to traditional religious obscurantism of communities in the Russian Empire and Poland before World War Two. Veltlekheit sees religion as an individual and private matter but does not exist to promote anti religion ideologies.[10] Following the Veltlekhkeit principles, the Bund envisioned a uprising and revolution of the oppressed against the oppressors. They aimed at liberating all victims of capitalism, regardless of country, nation or race.[11] The Bund placed their faith in a socialist revolution where the goal was to liberate all of humankind from political, economical and national oppression-included in this was anti semitism.[11]

The Bund in the United States[edit]

After World War Two, New York City became an epicenter of Yiddish life and the Bund played a very minor role in that. However, although small, it was also the most confident and vocal of all Bund organizations, frequently declaring its antipathy towards capitalism and mainstream politics. They also voiced support for civil rights and ending racial discrimination, and later on opposed the American intervention in Vietnam.  

The Bund in the US before 1945[edit]

At the turn of the 20th century the Jewish Labor Movement held significant influence on the American political and cultural arenas as well as on the Jewish streets. It played an important role and had largely visible contributions in the American Jewish communities. The mass emigration of thousands of Bundist exiles from the failed Russian Revolution in 1905 heightened the presence of American Yiddish Socialism in America. These Bundist migrants emphasized the inherent cultural value of Yiddish and promoted practicing Jewish Culture in communities that largely focused on rapid assimilation into western culture. However even with this Bundist presence in America, there was not a formal Bund organization established for the first half of the century. This was because the major epicenters of Bundist thought (Russian and then Poland) felt American conditions did not suit a Bund organization. Antisemitism was a defining characteristic of Jewish life in the Czarist Autocratic Russia where it was much less prominent in the democratic United States. This caused American Jews desire to assimilate with Western culture to skyrocket, proving different from their Russian Jewish counterparts. In Russia, Jews had been separated from Russians in all regards of life and therefore prevented them from wanting to assimilate with the Russian culture and become “Russian”. Before 1945, there were many attempts to establish a local Bund Organization and none were successful .

The establishment of the Jewish Labor Bund in the United States[edit]

A formal Bund organization was established in New York in 1946 due to damage to the Bund organizations in Europe. In Europe the Bund was physically and structurally damaged by the Nazis and overall Soviet Communism. The Polish Bund in particular was permanently damaged and became very weak soon after. Thousands of members of the Polish Bund escaped for the West and the American Jews began to realize the new, irreversibly altered, Bund reality. The Polish Bund would not survive the onslaught of the communist dominion and because of this the central administration point of Bund Organizations was formed in New York and a world conference of Bundist groups from across the globe was also established.

Emmanuel Nowogrodski was the secretary of the Bund World Coordinating Committee and he advocated for limiting support for the Polish Bund and instead focusing efforts into strengthening local socialism and building up the local socialist mass movement. American Jews felt a greater sense of duty to this cause in response to the fate of their European Jewish counterparts and became aware that now, the presence of Jewish life in all capitalist countries was in peril. At this point in time Zionism in the United States was at its peak strength and had a combined membership of about half a million people. This is vastly larger than the Bundist membership of a couple thousand, although an accurate number is hard to pin down as there are minimal records.

In November 1946 the Medem Club and the American Representation came together and established the first Bund Organization in New York. They promoted that the task of American Jews was to aid Jewish communities across the world but the only way they could do that was to first secure and strengthen their existence in the United States. Another, less official goal of the postwar Bund was to provide comfort to those whose lives had been destroyed by the holocaust and to ease their resettlement in America. Branches of the Bundist organization group were established in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Toronto and Montreal.[12]

The End of the International Jewish Labor Bund in the United States[edit]

The International Jewish Labor Bund slowly fizzled out after its reestablishment in the United States in 1946. This was primarily due to the decision to try and reinstate models of the Russian and Polish Bunds on new and developing Jewish Communities. The conditions of these young Bunds in the United States were not capable of absorbing the ideals that exists in the Russian and Polish pre-war Bunds.  In order to have had a successful restoration of the Bund in the postwar United States, they would have needed to develop new ideals that reflected the social, political and cultural aspects of each individual community.[3]  The Bund in the United States was intense about maintaining and recreating the pre-war Bund legacy into the post war Bund years. Therefore they focused on promoting socialism, revolution and Yiddish culture in multi ethnic cultures and overall focused on the global role of the Bund instead of the role of the Bund in individual communities.[2] This focus on the political and theoretical spheres led to the fall of the Bund in the United States and across the globe.[2]



General secretaries

Executives of the World Coordinating Committee[edit]

Executive of the World Coordinating Committee in 1957:[15] David Meier, Abraham Stolar, Emanuel Sherer, Emanuel Novogrodski, Benjamin Tabatchinski, Pinchas Schwartz, Leon Oler, Alexander Erlich, J.S. Hertz, Joseph Gutgold, Hershel Himelfarb, Baruch Shefner

Members of the World Coordinating Committee 1957:

Peretz Guterman, F. Shrager, Leon Stern (all three from France), Meyer Treibeer, Berl Fuchs (both from Brazil), Berl Rosner (England), Tschechanowski (Belgium), Shimon Yezher, Tuvie Meisel (both from Mexico), Kowalsman (Uruguay), Alexander Mints, Dr. M. Peretz (both from Argentina), S. M. Oshry, M. L. Polin, Ch. S. Kasdan (all from USA), Artur Lermer, Manie Reinhartz (both from Canada), Paul Olberg (Sweden), Bunem Wiener, Mendel Kosher, (both from Australia), Bentzl Zalwitz, Pesach Burshin, Israel Artuski (all three from Israel)

Bund Congresses[edit]

  1. 1947 (May 4–10) Brussels
  2. 1948 (October 1–8) New York[16]
  3. 1955 (April 8–15) Montreal[17]
    1. This was the third Bund World Conference and it had a more positive outlook on Israel than Bundist groups in the past. They acknowledged the development of  an Active Bund Organization inside Israel. At this meeting they acknowledged the existence of Israel while continuing to reject the Zionist identification of Israel as the homeland for all Jews and the international center of Jewish life.[3]
  4. 1965 (April 19–25) New York[18]
  5. 1972 New York
  6. 1985 New York

Affiliated groups[edit]

Bund groups continue to meet in the United Kingdom (Jewish Socialists' Group[19]), France (Centre Medem – Arbeiter Ring and Club laïque de l'Enfance juive, CLEJ [fr]),[20] Denmark, Canada, USA, Australia (Jewish Labour Bund and S.K.I.F.), Argentina (General Jewish Labour Bund), and Uruguay. The Israeli branch (Arbeter-ring in Yisroel – Brith Haavoda) ceased operating in 2019.[21]

From 1959–1978 the Bund operated a summer youth camp called Camp Hemshekh in the Catskills region of New York State. The surviving youth movement of the Bund, S.K.I.F., also ran summer camps in Canada and in Melbourne, Australia. Today, S.K.I.F. operates in Melbourne, Australia, and in France since 1963 as the Club laïque de l'Enfance juive, CLEJ [fr] (English: Secular Club of Jewish Children).[22]


There have been three publishing houses established across the world that have published a total of 50 volumes printed in Yiddish. The IJLB published in New York a monthly journal in Yiddish, Unser Tsait.[10] It also published the Jewish Labor Bund Bulletin and the Bulletin of the Jewish Youth Movement.[23] There was also Shloyme Mendelson Farlag in Mexico City and Idbuch in Buenos Aires. There were also many smaller volumes published across the world.[4]

In 1957, for the sixtieth years of existence of the Bund, the IJLB published a commemorative book in Yiddish and English with photographs, Der Bund In Bilder, 1897-1957.[24]

Unser Shtine: a Yiddish daily based out of Paris and circulated in all European Jewish Communities

Foroys: A bi-weekly paper based out of Mexico

Unser Gedank: A bi-weekly based in Buenos Aires

Unser Gedank: A monthly based in Melbourne, Australia

Lebnsfragen: A monthly based in Tel-Aviv.[4] Lebnsfragen was published in Yiddish.[10]


  1. ^ Socialist International, member parties
  2. ^ a b c d Slucki, David (Fall 2013). "A Party of Naysayers: The Jewish Labor Bund after the Holocaust" (PDF). AJS Perspectives.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Mended, Philip (Fall 2013). "The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Labor Bund: Nazism and Stalinism Delivered the Blows; Ideology Did the Rest" (PDF). Jewish Currents.
  4. ^ a b c d e f International Jewish Labor Bund, compiler. Jewish Labor Bund 1897-1957. New York, N.Y.,    International Jewish Labor Bund, 1958.
  5. ^ "Internationale Sozialistentagung in Zuerich vom 6. bis 8. Juni 1947". Sozialistische Mitteilungen (in German). London: London Representative of the German Social Democratic Party (100). June 1947. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  6. ^ Grabsky, August (August 10, 2005). "The Anti-Zionism of the Bund (1947-1972)". Workers' Liberty. Retrieved 2009-11-10.
  7. ^ see the poster
  8. ^ French: Union des progressistes juifs de Belgique, 100e anniversaire du Bund. Actes du Colloque, Minorités, Démocratie, Diasporas, Bruxelles, UPJB, 1997, ISSN 0770-5476
  9. ^ Jewish Labor Bund 1897–1957 (PDF). New York: International Jewish Labor Bund. 1958. pp. 20–21. OCLC 948867081.
  10. ^ a b c d Hisner, Micheal. "International Party" (PDF). Jewish Socialist.
  11. ^ a b Brumberg, Abraham (Spring–Summer 1999). "Anniversaries in Conflict: On the Centenary of the Jewish Socialist Labor Bund". Jewish Social Studies. 5 (3): 196–217. doi:10.2979/JSS.1999.5.3.196. JSTOR 4467559. S2CID 143856851.
  12. ^ Slucki, David (1984). "The International Jewish Labor Bund after 1945: Toward a Global History". Rutgers UP.
  13. ^ e.g. author of A Bundist Comments on History as It Was Being Made[permanent dead link], 2008
  14. ^ "Benjamin I. Nadel". 2014-12-30. Retrieved 2017-12-23.
  15. ^ Hertz, Jacob Sholem (1958). Unser Tsayṭ (ed.). Der Bund in bilder, 1897-1957 (in Yiddish and English). New York.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  16. ^ see Yiddish: Tsṿeyṭe Ṿelṭ-ḳonferents fun "Bund" : forgeḳumen in Nyu-Yorḳ fun 1ṭn biz 8ṭn Oḳṭober, 1948 : disḳusye-arṭiḳlen un genoyer barikhṭ fun der ḳonferents. צווייטע וועלט־קאנפערענץ פון ״בונד״ : פארגעקומען אין ניו־יארק פון 1טן ביז 8טן אקטאבער, 1948 : דיסקוסיע־ארטיקלען און גענויער באריכט פון קאנפערענץ
  17. ^ see Statements and resolutions adopted by the Third World Conference of the Bund : April 8-15, 1955, Montreal, Canada
  18. ^ see Bund konferents hert-oys barikhtn fun England, Belgye, Frankreykh, un Meksiko, 20 Apr 1965, Forverts
  19. ^ Jewish Socialists' Group, Who we are - JSG affiliations Archived 2009-11-01 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Centre Medem – Arbeter-Ring Centre culturel juif laïque". Centre Medem.
  21. ^ Shani Littman, "An anti-Zionist Movement That Promoted Judaism as a Secular Culture Shuts Its Doors", Haaretz, 19 September 2019
  22. ^ See Club laïque de l'Enfance juive, in the French-language Wikipedia
  23. ^ "Directory list" (PDF). Retrieved 2021-04-23.
  24. ^ Jacob Sholem Hertz, ed. (1958). Der Bund Un Bilder, 1897-1957 - The Jewish Labor Bund, a pictorial history, 1897-1957 (in Yiddish and English). New York: Unser Tsayṭ.

Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain: Jewish Labor Bund 1897-1957 (PDF). New York: International Jewish Labor Bund. 1958. p. 20. OCLC 948867081.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Twenty Years with the Jewish Labor Bund: A Memoir of Interwar Poland, by Bernard Goldstein, edited and translated from the Yiddish by Marvin Zuckerman, Purdue University Press, 2016.
  • The International Jewish Labor Bund after 1945: Toward a Global History by David Slucki, 2012