Contemporary Jewish Labor Campaigns: The Labor Movement Begins at Home
Explore contemporary Jewish labor campaigns on issues such as the living wage and the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, and analyze how and why Jewish organizations are advocating in solidarity with oppressed workers.
- Mechanisms for protecting the rights of laborers found in the Classical Jewish tradition continue to serve us in the contemporary Jewish world.
- As employers, employees, and consumers, we are all engaged in labor relations and responsible for making sure working conditions are fair.
- What does Jewish tradition teach about fair and unfair working conditions and why everyone should be concerned, regardless of whether they experience harsh working conditions themselves?
- In what ways do unfair labor practices violate basic human rights and what approaches are currently being used to abolish them?
Notes to Teacher
In this lesson, students will learn about two contemporary labor issues that look at labor relations “at home” (both within the home and within the Jewish community) and why and how Jewish organizations are working in solidarity with oppressed workers. Students will use classical Jewish sources, as well as primary and secondary sources, to create contemporary labor “before” and “after” improvisational (improv) scenes. It’s important that students understand that being concerned about and responding to these social problems is not uniquely Jewish —domestic workers and low-paid workers have allies in many different communities. However, as Jews, we and our students can make use of traditional texts to remind us of our responsibility for these problems and their resolution. It’s also important for students to understand that while they themselves may not be victimized workers (although young employees are often subject to worker abuses), they may be witnesses to or beneficiaries of unfair, abusive, and illegal employment practices. For example, the cleaning staff in their school may be paid less than a living wage even if they are paid minimum wage; and the nanny looking after the kids next door may not be given a day off every week.
This lesson will work well in conjunction with Lesson 4, as both lessons look at the role of contemporary Jews as potential allies of workers. In addition, we refer you back to Lesson 2 for materials about origins of Jewish working women in the labor movement.
Additionally, Lesson 2 walks students through the process of writing their own personal work manifestos which will allow them explore their principles and intentions for their work lives. This activity could be a good way to wrap up Lesson 8 and to tie the larger themes and struggles of the labor movement to a piece of students' individual experience.
Strike at Chicago's Plaza Hotel
Rabbis for Human Rights-Campaign for Fair Food
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
abUSed: The Postville Raid
Tav HaYosher-Organizing Just Workplaces
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Contemporary Jewish Labor Campaigns: The Labor Movement Begins at Home." (Viewed on November 30, 2023) <https://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy/labor/contemporary-jewish-labor-campaigns-labor-movement-begins-at-home>.