Hyman Weinberg

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Chaim Leib Weinberg (1861-1939), also known as Hyman Weinberg or Hayim Weinberg, was an Anarchist activist active in Philadelphia in the early 20th century. Weinberg was best known as an orator and story-teller and spoke primarily in Yiddish, frequently speaking at the Radical Library. His main remaining written work are his memoirs, dictated in Yiddish to Marcus Graham near the end of his life, and published after his death.

Weinberg was a friend of Voltairine de Cleyre, and was arrested along with de Cleyre, and charged with inciting to riot, after speaking at the rally that preceded the Philadelphia riot of February 20, 1908.



New York Times (1908)

From "Woman Held As Riot Leader," New York Times (February 22, 1908):


Addresses Philadelphia Anarchists Before Their Clash with Police.
PHILADELPHIA, Penn., Feb. 21.—The demonstration on Broad Street yesterday by more than 1,000 unemployed foreigners, which ended in a serious clash with the police, was followed to-day by numerous arrests. Chief among those taken into custody was Voltairine de Cleyre, a professed Anarchist, who addressed a meeting of men which preceded their march to the City Hall, where they say they intended to ask Mayor Reyburn for work.
Hyman Weinberg, who also addressed this meeting and in whose possession the police say they found letters from New York Anarchists, together with David Cohen and Harry Granet, were others arrested. Miss De Cleyre was remanded on $2,500 bail for a further hearing on a charge of inciting to riot.

Paul Avrich, Anarchist Voices (1995)

From Paul Avrich, interview with Morris Beresin (November 28, 1971), in Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America AK Press, 1995/2005). 223.

I [Morris Beresin] became a dental technician and joined the Radical Library, which had been organized near the beginning of the century. It had about two hundred members, mostly Jewish with a few Italians and Russians. They were largely garment workers and tailors, some of them from the London East End, as well as cigar-makers and a few construction workers (painters, electricians). There were also teachers, librarians, and students. It was a cultural as much as a political organization. It sponsored lectures (every Sunday, in English) and forums, had a Sunday School for the children, distributed literature, and published books and pamphlets, including Joseph Cohen's history of the Jewish anarchists in America. The majority were moderates, engaged in propaganda work, but we had a small minority of militant revolutionists, including Marcus Graham.
The leading figure was Joseph Cohen, a cigarmaker by trade, who served as the group's librarian. [...] Other speakers included Rudolf Rocker, Charles Dana, Harry Overstreet, and Chaim Weinberg (called "der folksredner" [the people's tribune]), who held the audience's attention with his humor and treasure of anecdotes.

Peter Glassgold, Anarchy! An Anthology of Emma Goldman's MOTHER EARTH (2000)

From Peter Glassgold (2000), editor's commentary on Voltairine de Cleyre, "The Philadelphia Farce," in Anarchy! An Anthology of Emma Goldman's MOTHER EARTH, p. 246.

In the winter of 1907-1908, the United States was in the depths of a major depression. On February 20, Jewish and Italian anarchists in Philadelphia held a mass demonstration of the unemployed at the New Auditorium on South Third Street. Voltairine de Cleyre spoke briefly to the crowd of 2,000. Afterward, the demonstrators attempted to march on Broad Street but were blocked by club-wielding police. Dominick Donelli, an Italian anarchist, drew a pistol and fired it twice, hitting no one. Later in the day, police arrested de Cleyre at her home. She and an anarchist friend, Hyman Weinberg, were charged with inciting to riot. "The Philadelphia Farce," published in April, is de Cleyre's record of the prosecution's laughable ineptness in the conduct of their trial.

Robert P. Helms, "Weinberg's World: An Introduction" (2008)

From Robert P. Helms (2008), "Weinberg's World: An Introduction," in Chaim Weinberg, Forty Years in the Struggle: The Memoirs of a Jewish Anarchist" (1952/2008), p. x:

My examination of these memoirs stems from my long-term research project on the early anarchists of Philadelphia, which is now near completion. Weinberg's memoirs, which he dictated as an old man to a young fellow-anarchist named Marcus Graham in 1930, are one of the few sources that shed a focused light on my subject. After it was recorded, the manuscript lingered for 22 years before Weinberg's comrades published it in book form. The book, in turn, has been forgotten by all save a handful of scholars who focus on the early Jewish labor movement. Historians of anarchism rarely refer to it, perhaps because there are so many other, more glamorous and accessible sources available. Weinberg left his mark on the common workers who heard his voice, which disappeared along with the sounds and smells of his audience. Unlike his contemporary Emma Goldman, whose amazing career has had the unfortunate side-effect of over-dominating the historical record of anarchism in the United States, Weinberg wrote no articles, edited no newspaper, served no prison term, and was shadowed by far fewer detectives. Because he gave his speeches only in Yiddish, the journalists who described his public appearances were usually writing for Yiddish papers, and so even that small body of evidence is far beyond the reach of the general public. Weinberg is a folkloric entity, and the present volume will offer the very first dose of his medicine that has been available for half a century.

From Robert P. Helms (2008), "Weinberg's World: An Introduction," in Chaim Weinberg, Forty Years in the Struggle: The Memoirs of a Jewish Anarchist" (1952/2008), p. xi-xii:

There has been a need to reconstruct the picture of the old anarchist's family, associates, and contemporary figures in the anarchist movement. Weinberg has the noticeable habit of omitting from his tale everyone who did not fit into what he considered his world in 1930, if the person had once been his comrade. He makes no mention of any love-partner in America save Yetta, who was with him in his later life. He barely mentions the fact that he had offspring, and yet we can see that there were one or two. Also missing are his experiences as an advocate of Free Love (which he certainly was), perhaps out of respect for Yetta.
He barely mentions Emma Goldman, who was, for three quarters of the period he writes about, the most famous anarchist in America. We can easily surmise that Weinberg had never forgiven Goldman's bitter criticisms and public bull-whipping of Johann Most, from whom he drew his inspiration. In 1892, Most had treated the attempt by Alexander Berkman to kill the industrialist Henry Clay Frick with derision, which angered Goldman intensely. At the time, Most's hardcore followers shunned Goldman, and in some cases the rift remained for life. Weinberg seems to be such a case. His name never appears in the long saga of Goldman's speeches and Free Speech fights at Philadelphia, with dozens of speakers of different radical stripes chiming in on her behalf. For her part, Goldman mentions Weinberg only once in passing as "an eloquent Yiddish agitator," in her own memoirs, Living My Life, which were being written at the same time as Weinberg's, and published in 1931.
Perhaps Weinberg's most glaring omission is that of his longtime comrade Joseph J. Cohen, who didn't neglect to mention Weinberg when he wrote his own accounts of Jewish anarchism in American and whose accounts included many of the same events and personalities. There was a falling out between the two at the Sunrise Colony in 1933, which Chaim never let go of. We have included Cohen's remarks in the present volume.
Weinberg was a visionary and a passionate advocate for cooperatives. In this book he describes attempts at creating cooperative businesses, farms and homes. While Chaim tells us the Jewish tale, there were already radicals building coops in Philadelphia when he arrived and earlier, in particular the English-born Thomas Phillips, who was friendly with the English-speaking anarchists and probably well-known to Weinberg. The present reader may be surprised by his intense interest in gathering groups of radicals together to share a living arrangement, since this is now a very common practice.

Kate Sharpley Library, "Review of Forty Years in the Struggle: The Memoirs of a Jewish Anarchist"

From Kate Sharpley Library, "Review of Forty Years in the Struggle: The Memoirs of a Jewish Anarchist"

It is quite possible that the Yiddish speaking anarchist Chaim Leib Weinberg (1861-1939) encouraged at least as many people to engage with anarchists and their ideas as did some of the individuals who constitute the traditional anarchist pantheon of household names. At the very least he provided solace, inspiration, argument, and humor through a style of speaking that “drew us in and won our full confidence” (Yud Lamed Malamut). He spoke from his mind and his heart, never making the transition to writing, or appearing to counter Emma Goldman’s rather dismissive argument that “oral propaganda is at best a means of shaking people from their lethargy” (introduction to “Anarchism and Other Essays”). These newly translated and edited memoirs of Chaim Leib Weinberg were related to Marcus Graham during the summer of 1930, and first published in Yiddish in 1952 as Fertsik yor in kamf far sotsyaler bafrayung. This is the first English translation.

Candace Falk (2008)

From notes to Candace Falk (2008), Emma Goldman: A Documentary History of the American Years, Volume 2: Making Speech Free: 1902-1909, University of Illinois Press. 459n3.

3 The Radical Library was initially affiliated with the Ladies' Liberal League of Philadelphia, when the League joined the Radical Library around 1895. Guided by Voltairine de Cleyre and her friends, the Radical Library worked to "repair a deficit in the public libraries by furnishing radical works upon all subjects at convenient hours for working men and accessible to all at only a slight expense." In 1905, after the Ladies' Liberal League disbanded, Philadelphia anarchist Natasha Notkin, who had been the caretaker of the library, passed the books on to Joseph Cohen, a former student of de Cleyre's. Cohen started a new group, which settled at 424 Pine Street. The newly reconfigured Radical Library, led by Cohen, became an established center of Philadelphia anarchism. In 1906 the Radical Library and the Social Science Club sponsored a Paris Commune commemoration, at which Voltairine de Claire, George Brown, Frank Stephens, Chaim Weinberg as well as French and Italian anarchists spoke.