Michael Chabon’s novel “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” imagined Jewish refugees turning “Aleyska” into a Yiddish-speaking sanctuary for the “frozen chosen” in the 1940s. But truth is stranger than fiction. As I explain in a short documentary, which will be screened as part of a program on “Other Zions” at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York on July 6, the Freeland League for Jewish Territorial Colonization was a real-life Yiddish policemen’s union. They even considered colonizing Alaska.
The Yiddishists of the Freeland League were the torch-bearers of a political ideology known as territorialism, which sought to establish a Jewish homeland somewhere — anywhere — in the world. Territorialists pursued Jewish states outside of the land of Israel, including in Canada, Australia, northeastern Libya and Angola. (In fact, I will not be at the screening of my own film because I’ll be en route to Angola to conduct further research for my narrative history of territorialism.)