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May 5: Irving Howe

Lawrence Bush
May 5, 2010

worldOfOurfathersIrving Howe (Irving Horenstein) died on this date in 1993 at age 72. His best-selling World of Our Fathers introduced thousands of readers to the Jewish immigrants’ world of Yiddish literature and political activism, and he collaborated with several translators (including Eliezer Greenberg and Kenneth Libo) to produce important anthologies of Yiddish fiction and poetry in translation. Howe was the rare anti-Communist socialist who also vociferously opposed McCarthyism. He was an active contributor to Partisan Review and frequently wrote for The New Republic, The Nation, and other journals before helping to found Dissent in 1954, which he edited until his death. An active critic of New Left radicalism, he nevertheless worked with members of the New American Movement, including many New Left veterans, to create the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee in the early 1970s, which evolved into the Democratic Socialists of America. Among Howe’s other books were an autobiography, A Margin of Hope, and an insightful collection of political essays, Socialism and America.
“We take pleasure in having been related to those self-educated workers, those sustaining women, those almost-forgotten writers and speakers devoted to excitements of controversy and thought . . . Let us now praise obscure men.” — Irving Howe, World of Our Fathers

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.