“Workers of the world, unite” was more than a slogan to 1,200 pioneering families in cooperative Bronx apartment complexes; it symbolized a way of life — and a vital experiment that started in 1926. The 1,000 rooms of “the Coops” (rhymes with “groups”) represented a dream of social equality and justice. The residents, mostly immigrant garment workers from Russia and other Eastern European countries, thrived amid greenery “like the rich” while meeting head-on the evils of poverty, anti-Semitism and racism.
At Home in Utopia, an affectionate documentary, places us in the world of parades down New York avenues by working people of all stripes fighting for workers’ rights. Actress Linda Lavin narrates the story of these tough men and women who typically embraced communist, socialist and union movements from their “fortress of the working class,” a place some labeled “Little Moscow.” Contemporary interviews and colorful scenes of the locales seamlessly blend with archival black & white footage that portrays articulate individuals who spoke in Yiddish, Russian and English. Filmmaker Michal Goldman skillfully captures the visionary ideals that formed the United Workers Cooperative Colony, putting a human faces on a slice of history that, in one way or another, is the proud heritage of countless American Jews.