Print / View Finding Aid as Single Page

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives logo

Guide to the Baruch Charney Vladeck Papers and Photographs TAM.037

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Tamiment Library staff, 1964; cataloged by Maxine Trust in 1985; the second donation was processed by Daniel Bender, 1996.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on April 20, 2018
Description is in English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Historical/Biographical Note

Although his career was shortened by his untimely death at age 52, Baruch Charney Vladeck (1886-1938) emerged as one of the leading figures of the Jewish socialist movement of the twentieth century. He was born Baruch Charney in Dukora, a small village near Minsk, Russia in 1886. His mother, left a widow with six children at age thirty-five, hoped that Baruch and his brother Samuel would become rabbis. But they soon rebelled against the traditional yeshiva education and were caught up in the ferment of radical, secularizing ideas in Jewish cultural circles in Minsk. Young Charney was soon conducting classes for workers in a labor Zionist school. The Czarist police found some of his recommended reading too liberal and early in 1904 he was arrested and sentenced to six months in the Minsk jail.

On his release he joined the "Bund," a Jewish labor and socialist party affiliated with the Russian Social Democratic party. He spent the next four years in fugitive life as an organizer (under the pen name "Vladeck") until, fearful of arrest, he fled to the United States in 1908. For three years Vladeck toured the country, lecturing to Jewish and socialist groups and obtaining a wide first-hand acquaintance with America. In 1911 he married Clara Richman, and they eventually had three children, May, Stephen and William.

Settling in Philadelphia, Vladeck became, in 1912, manager of the Philadelphia edition of the New York Jewish Daily Forward, the largest and most influential Yiddish daily in the United States. While in Philadelphia he studied economics and English at the University of Pennsylvania, and became an American citizen in 1915.

During World War I Vladeck emerged as a leaders in the Socialist Party of America. Moving in 1916 to New York City, he became city editor of the Forward, and only one year later he was one of a group of Socialists elected to the NYC Board of Aldermen. He was reelected in 1919 but lost his seat two years later when his district was gerrymandered. In the Socialist Party split of 1919 Vladeck energetically fought the Communist wing. In 1930 he ran unsuccessfully for Congress (8th District) on the Socialist ticket. Later in the 1930s, when the newly revitalized Socialist Party was again divided between Norman Thomas's left wing and a right wing led, after the death of Morris Hillquit, by Louis Waldman, Vladeck sought to play a mediating role. When the breach became final, he allied himself with the right wing and, together with David Dubinsky, became one of the founders of the American Labor Party.

Vladeck's early service on the NYC Board of Aldermen had quickened his interest in municipal housing, and in 1934 he was named by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia as a member of the New York City Housing Authority. This experience stood him in good stead when, in 1937, he was elected to the New York City Council on the ALP ticket. As majority leader of a labor anti-Tammany coalition in the Council, he initiated one of the first municipal slum-clearance projects in the country. In later tribute, New York named one of its great municipal projects the Vladeck Houses.

Meanwhile, as general manager of the Jewish Daily Forward, a post he held from 1918 until his death, and because of his own large gifts of oratory and persuasion, Vladeck had assumed a leading role in American Jewish life. He served as head of a number of organizations. In 1934 he founded and became first president of the Jewish Labor Committee, an umbrella group of Jewish labor and fraternal organizations which organized anti-Nazi activity in the U.S. and rescue and relief work for victims of fascism in Europe. Through his close ties with its president, William Green, he was able to induce the American Federation of Labor to endorse the anti-Nazi boycott and to set up a Labor Chest for the Relief and Liberation of the Workers of Europe. He also chaired the American ORT foundation.

A streak of revolutionary romanticism, a residue of his youth, always remained in Vladeck's character and showed itself most directly in his efforts to aid the daring underground operations in Germany, during the early days of Hitler's regime, of a group of dissident left-wing socialists known as the New Beginning. He called himself an "evolutionist rather than a revolutionist," and, although a lifelong Socialist, supported Franklin D. Roosevelt for president in 1936 and Fiorello La Guardia for mayor of New York in 1937.

Vladeck died of a coronary thrombosis on October 31, 1938. The affection in which he was held by the people of New York was demonstrated at his funeral, when over 50,000 persons massed in Rutgers Square, facing the Forward building, to hear funeral orations by Gov. Herbert Lehman, Senator Robert F. Wagner and other notables. Countless others lined the streets to view the cortege that bore his remains to Mt. Carmel Cemetery. The evolution of Vladeck's thought mirrors a similar adaptation by thousands of other socialists and radicals including the leaders of the large and powerful needle-trades unions. His career symbolizes the transformations wrought by American institutions on a European-shaped radicalism.


  • Herling, John. "Baruch Charney Vladeck," American Jewish Yearbook41 (1939-1940): 78-93.
  • Jonas, Franklin L. The Early Life and Career of B. Charney Vladeck. (Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1972).
  • Vladeck, Baruch Charney. B. Vladeck in Leben un Shafen. New York: Forverts, 1936.