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On October 7, 1897—the same year Theodor Herzl famously assembled the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland—secular Jewish socialists in Vilnius, Lithuania, formed a workers’ union, the Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poyln un Rusland. Known simply as the Bund, it gained a following among Eastern European Jews in its heyday between the world wars (1918-1939). As Zionists pursued the goal of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, Bundists championed the idea that the home worth fighting for was the home where one was. This notion of “at-homeness” became the Bundist slogan “Where we live, there is our country!” and would later be encapsulated in one Yiddish word: doikayt—“hereness.”

The word combines do, the Yiddish word for “here,” and keit, a German suffix implying essence or a way of being (think Yiddishkeit, “Jewishness”). Its opposite is dortikayt (“dort” being Yiddish for “there”). And it’s this duality of hereness and thereness that gave rise to doikayt as a slogan for the Bund on the eve of Zionism realizing its dream of a Jewish state. It’s also one that resonates with today’s leftist American Jews who want to cultivate their Jewish identities separate from Zionism and are drawn to such histories of resistance.


Many who embrace doikayt today point to the founding of Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) in 1990 as an important reintroduction of hereness as an organizing principle for the Jewish left. The late feminist and lesbian activist Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz (as an adult she added the slash and her family’s original name to the anglicized “Kaye”) was the first executive director of the New York City-based grassroots organization. “Doikayt means Jews enter coalitions wherever we are, across lines that might divide us, to work together for universal equality and justice,” she wrote in her 2007 book The Colors of Jews: Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism.

In August of 2019, many more Americans would come across the word doikayt in Michelle Goldberg’s New York Times column (“Mazel Tov, Trump. You’ve Revived the Jewish Left”). Goldberg described doikayt as a central value “for much of left-wing Jewish culture” and quoted current JFREJ Executive Director Audrey Sasson: “Where we are is our home. This is what we fight for. This is where we seek kinship.” The following month, the New York-based YIVO Institute for Jewish Research hosted a panel titled “Bundism’s Influence Today.” Multiple speakers invoked doikayt.

Click here to read the full article in Moment Magazine