Collective Action: Lessons from the Labor Movement

A small garment factory, circa 1910.
Courtesy of ILGWU Archives, Kheel Center, Cornell University

What is the meaning of work? What conditions cause workers to suffer and what inspires them to take action to improve their lives? What can Jewish history teach us about contemporary labor issues and our responsibility towards workers around the world? This online learning program models how to investigate historical photographs and memoirs. You will hear several stories about American Jewish labor history and explore connections to contemporary labor issues.

Session Recording

Watch the recording to learn more about the Labor Movement & collective action and to watch modeled document studies.

Session Materials

Documents and Primary Sources

Related Resources from the Jewish Women’s Archive

From the Field

Previous winners of the Natalia Twersky Educator Award have included primary sources from Jewish women in the Labor Movement in the lesson plans they created.

Collective Action and the Labor Movement elsewhere on the web

Jewish Texts and Jewish Values

At the end of the program, San Francisco-based educator Marilyn Heiss raised the following point: “I think my students would not see this as a Jewish issue, as opposed as to an issue for all.” This is an ongoing conversation in many of our professional development programs: Is social justice really a Jewish issue? Why or why not? Is it important for students to learn about social justice through a Jewish lens? Why or why not? How can we teach about social justice in a way that is both Jewish and relevant to our students?

Another participant, Rabbi Michael Rothbaum, shared two Jewish texts that may help you explore these issues through a Jewish lens.

  • Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Eruvin 65b: Rabbi Ilai says, “A person makes their character known in three ways: how they drink (“koso”), how they spend (“kiso”), and how they express anger (“ka'aso”)." (Hebrew text and translation can be found on
  • “A man may stumble over his brother” (Leviticus 26:37) One may come to sin because of his brother, teaching that all of us [Jews?] are responsible for each other. [The Talmud answers:] There [Torah] is referring to one who had the power to protest, and did not protest.”—Sanhedrin 27b (Courtesy of Rabbi Michael Rothbaum)

Please add your thoughts/comments below or join the conversation on JWA's National Educators' Network.


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Collective Action: Lessons from the Labor Movement." (Viewed on May 19, 2024) <>.