The extended Walkowitz family arrived in Paterson from Lodz, Poland, as early as 1910. They worked in the textile mills, department stores and shops of the city while taking an active role in Yiddish theater, the Paterson Folk Chorus, and labor politics. It was a Jewish World of Yiddishkeit in which the author was raised and participated. As a radical student activist in the late 1950s and 1960s, he subsequently imagined himself walking in the footsteps of his Paterson grandparents who fought to improve the living and working conditions in the Lodz and Paterson mills. The author recounts the genealogical and archival research that allowed him to uncover the stories of this past (which he will share) in the US and in Eastern and Central Europe, where he sought to see and hear what of these roots appear in walking tours, Jewish museums and memorial sites. Illustrated with slides, the lecture will illustrate the disappointments and surprises that frame the robust and changing terrain of Jewish Heritage today.
Daniel J. Walkowitz, Emeritus Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and Professor of History at New York University, has specialized in labor history, urban history and public history. In nearly a dozen books, many articles and four films for public television he has worked to bring America’s past to both academic and broad public audiences. Among his books are Worker City, Company Town: Iron and Cotton Worker Protest in Troy and Cohoes, New York, 1855-1884 (Illinois, 1978), with Lewis Siegelbaum, Workers of the Donbass Speak: Survival and Identity in the New Ukraine, 1989-1994 (SUNY, Albany, 1994); Working With Class: Social Workers and the Politics of Middle-Class Identity (North Carolina, 1999), and, co-edited with Lisa Maya Knauer, Memory and the Impact of Political Transformation in Public Spaces (Duke, 2004) and Contested Histories in Public Space: Memory, Race, and Nation (Duke, 2009). In 2010 he published Rethinking U.S. Labor History, a co-edited (with Donna Haverty-Stacke), a collection of new work on work and labor published to mark the 25th anniversary of his 1984 collection (edited with Michael Frisch), Working-Class America. In 2010, he also published, City Folk: English Country Dance and the Politics of the Folk in Modern America (NYU Press). His most recent work includes a monograph, The Remembered and Forgotten Jewish World: Jewish Heritage in Europe and the United States (Rutgers, 2018).