PICK At Home in Utopia: Just One of the Treats at the Seattle Jewish Film Festival

Presented by the Seattle Jewish Film Festival (see the Weekly Wire), this worthwhile documentary recalls the cooperative housing movement of the radical '20s. Communists, socialists, and workers' groups of every stripe pooled their resources to build co-ops in New York's outer boroughs (just then being reached by subway). The Bronx became a mecca, as it were, for this housing experiment, a means of escaping the Lower East Side and other urban slums. Predominantly speaking Yiddish, residents enjoyed "a fortress of the working class against its enemies" (as described in a community paper of the day). This is a period when New York's May Day parade drew 100,000 marchers, when Stalin was still cheerful Uncle Joe overseas. Famed architect Daniel Libeskind, who grew up in "the coops," recalls, "The way you built houses could also foster a new social contract." Some ideas, like allowing African-Americans to integrate the co-ops, were a little too new for some. One resident recalls how, during the '50s, his dating a black girl got them threatened with arrest. (Later, happily, they marry.) But as socialism fell out of favor during the postwar years, third-generation immigrant Jews began moving to the suburbs like everyone else, leaving the coops to a new flock.

 
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