The Roosevelt Public School, in Roosevelt, western Monmouth County, will host a documentary reading, “Benjamin Brown: In Pursuit of the Cooperative Dream,” a multi-media presentation by Ben Johnson in the school gymnasium at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 26.
Residents of all communities are welcome to attend the presentation. There is a suggested donation of $5 at the door. The Roosevelt Public School is at 2 School Lane, Roosevelt.
Born in the Ukraine, Benjamin Brown (1885-1939), immigrated to the United
States in his teen years, a driven idealist bent on bettering the lives of American Jewish
workers, according to a press release from the Roosevelt Arts Project.
Brown was the central force in the development of the Jewish agrarian colony of
Clarion, Utah. After its demise in 1915, Brown co-founded a successful cooperative
poultry association in the western states which quickly established a distribution agency
serving the east coast, according to the press release.
A nationally recognized expert in the organizing of agrarian settlements, Brown was a consultant in this capacity in Palestine and the Soviet Union.
In 1933, Brown was the primary impetus behind the establishment of a unique Jewish triple cooperative in rural Monmouth County, carved out of Millstone Township and initially called Jersey Homesteads, and drawing on Jewish garment workers largely from New York City, according to the press release.
Jersey Homesteads was subsequently renamed Roosevelt to honor the life of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
“Benjamin Brown: In Pursuit of the Cooperative Dream” is a multi-media presentation of a
narrated play/documentary about Brown’s life and times. The work draws heavily on quotes from oral histories of those who were original settlers, augmented by academic studies and journalistic pieces about these communities, according to the press release.
The over-arching theme consists of the struggles and successes of a strong-willed idealist
butting up against a world enamored with conventional capitalism. Brown believed the
most rewarding economic model for the individual was a blend of capitalism and
socialism: a cooperative in which each household shares the costs of the community and
also shares its profits, according to the press release.
Woven into this belief system was Brown’s unstinting dedication to improving the human
condition. More specifically, he strove to better the lives of urban Jewish garment
workers in the United States, according to the press release.
The Oct. 26 event will consist of four speakers whose quotes were selected to yield the story of the dramatic life of a remarkable man, forged by two narrators into a compelling portrait. The periodic insertion of still images, video and audio clips projected onto a screen adds another dimension to the portrayal. Read live before an audience, the performance will be recorded for a DVD production, according to the press release.