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Harry Z. Cohen Collection on the Workmen's Circle in Rochester, New York

Identifier: MSS 0620

Scope and Content

Harry Z. Cohen Collection on the Workmen's Circle in Rochester, New York dates from 1936-2020 with the bulk of the records dating from 1950-1976. Records include the original Yiddish and an English translation of a speech on the "History of the Workmen's Circle in Rochester, New York" by Harry Z. Cohen in 1961 as well as news articles, correspondence, programs, and yearbooks related to Harry Z. Cohen and the Rochester, New York Branch of the Workmen's Circle. The records are arranged in chronological order after the files on the speech.


  • Creation: 1936 - 2020
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1950 - 1976


Language of Materials

Includes materials written in English and Yiddish.


The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

The Workmen’s Circle, (known in Yiddish as the Arbeter Ring) was formed on September 4, 1900 by Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe in New York City. It first began as a mutual aid society, to help members adapt to life in the United States, but soon became more politically focused on Yiddish cultural autonomy and socialist ideals. It also became very influential in the American labor movement and grew to serve more than 84,000 members through hundreds of branches around North America. With the Rochester branch of the Workmen’s Circle being founded in 1903. By the 1930s the group moved away from socialism and towards liberalism. By the 1960s, the group’s membership began to decline as Jewish communities began to move from the cities to the suburbs. In more recent years the Circle has rededicated its mission to education and promoting Jewish community, secular Yiddish culture, and social justice activism.

Harry Z. Cohen was born on April 15, 1883 in Grodno Russia (now Belarus). He emigrated to the United States in 1904. First living in New York City, before moving to Rochester, New York to work as a tailor for Weiner Brothers. He later worked for Bond Clothes, Inc. while he ran a farm on Canadice Hill in Ontario County. Later he worked for Hickey-Freeman Co., Inc. for 30 years before retiring in 1950 where he operated a farm in Webster. He was a longstanding champion of worker’s rights and served as a major organizer for the Workmen’s Circle Branch in Rochester and was active in the Workmen’s Circle School that taught Yiddish as well as Jewish history, ethics, and morals.


“Harry Cohen Dies; Helped Start Union”, The Times-Union, 1972 January 20.

“The Workers Circle.” Wikipedia, 14 Apr. 2023,


.21 Linear Feet (1 Box)


Speech on the "History of the Workmen's Circle in Rochester, New York" by Harry Z. Cohen and materials related to Cohen's work with the Workmen's Circle.


University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

Donated by Deborah Cohen-Crown on behalf of the family of the late Harry Z. and Esther Rebecca Cohen in October 2022.

Related Materials

Center for Jewish History - Records of the Workmen's Cricle

A Guide to the Harry Z. Cohen Collection on the Workmen's Circle in Rochester, New York
Finding aid created by Matt Kruse
May 2023
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America