By Marvin S. Zuckerman, November 8, 2023
(From a Talk to the Yiddish Culture Club in Los Angeles. Published in Yiddish in Afn Shvel in 2010) Translated by the Author*
Rudolf Rocker, the beloved leader of the Yiddish Anarchist movement, represents an unusual occurrence in Yiddish language, literature, and political life at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth–in other words, of our recent past.
Rocker, a German from the city of Mainz, raised Catholic, taught himself the Yiddish language, and not only wrote in that language and lectured in it, but also became the editor of three Yiddish periodicals–Dos Fraye Vort, Zherminal, and Arbeter Fraynd (The Free Word, Germinal, and Friend of Labor), and was drawn into a certain Yiddish milieu, becoming the beloved leader of a large and significant Yiddish folk-movement. His story and how this happened, what kind of a person he was, is not only interesting, but also, I would say, heartwarming.
Rudolf Rocker was born in Germany in 1873 and died in America in 1958 at the age of 85. All his life, until his death, he was esteemed and beloved as the leader of the “Jewish Free Socialist Movement,” i.e., the Yiddish Anarchist Movement.