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Podcast: David Evanier on the Rosenbergs, Morton Sobell, and Jewish Communism

July 3, 2019 | By: David Evanier

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The trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg is perhaps the most (in)famous espionage trial in all American history. While their conviction and execution remain familiar and controversial episodes in the Cold War, the fate of their co-conspirator Morton Sobell is less well-known.

In his Mosaic essay, “The Death of Morton Sobell and the End of the Rosenberg Affair,” author David Evanier digs into the details of Sobell’s life before and after the fall of the Rosenberg ring. As he looks back on this period in American history, Evanier also illuminates what Sobell’s life can tell us about the many Jews who attached themselves to the Communist movement. For while only a tiny number of Jews were Marxists, American Jewish Communists did make up a disproportionate share of the American party—much to the chagrin of their coreligionists.

In this podcast, Evanier joins Tikvah Fund Senior Director Jonathan Silver to discuss his essay. Evanier reviews the details of Sobell’s life—from his birth into “Jewish Communist royalty” to his late-in-life confession, explains how he came to know Sobell personally, and reflects on the beliefs and priorities of those Jews who were drawn to American Communism, even in the midst of the Cold War.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.


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