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Labor

Ruth Gay

With a few strokes of her pen, Ruth Glazer (later Gay) painted a vivid portrait of the culture of second-generation Jews in New York. As a free-lance writer and editor for over fifty years, she has explored the Jewish experience of both America and Germany.

Helene Gans

Active throughout her life in labor movements and consumer rights, Helene Gans devoted herself to improving the lives of working Americans.

Esther Frumkin

Esther (1880–1943) was the pseudonym of the Jewish educator, writer, and socialist-turned-communist, Malkah Lifchitz. Her married names were Frumkin and later Wichmann. An independent thinker and a unique woman in the Jewish labor movement, Esther devoted her life to leftist political activity in Russia and later the Soviet Union.

Betty Friedan

Considered by many as the “mother” of the second wave of modern feminism, activist and writer Betty Friedan was one of the most influential feminist leaders of the second half of the twentieth century, a co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and its first president. She served on the boards of leading women’s organizations, fought for legislation to ensure women’s equality and wrote books analyzing women’s role in society and the women’s movement.

Feminism in the United States

Jewish women have played a significant role in all aspects of the American feminist movement.

Sandra Feldman

For Sandra Feldman, president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers from 1986 to 1998, and president of the national American Federation of Teachers from 1997 to 2004, these were fighting words.

Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women's Clubs

The Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women’s Clubs (ELF), a progressive women’s group, grew out of the Emma Lazarus Division, founded in 1944 by the Women’s Division of the Jewish People’s Fraternal Order of the International Workers Order (IWO). Formed to provide relief to wartime victims, but especially to combat antisemitism and racism and to nurture positive Jewish identification through a broad program of Jewish education and women’s rights, the Emma Lazarus Division attracted a membership of leftist, largely Yiddish-speaking women, many of the immigrant generation. Among its founders was Clara Lemlich Shavelson, the young woman who had called for the general strike of garment workers that sparked the 1909 Uprising Of The 20,000. Shavelson and other organizers believed that, because of the Holocaust, thousands of women had become “newly aware of themselves as Jewish women,” but they urgently needed “history, self-knowledge as Jews, and cultural products” that could sustain the fight against fascism. In its early years, the division offered fellowships for fiction and history on Jewish themes. It also supported a home for French war orphans and a day nursery in Israel, and championed a broad range of women’s issues.

Eastern European Immigrants in the United States

Of all Jewish immigrants to the United States from 1886 to 1914, forty-four percent were women, far more than for other immigrants groups arriving during the heyday of mass immigration. The more than two million Jews from the Russian Empire, Romania, and Austria-Hungary who entered the United States in the years 1881 to 1924—when the American government imposed a restrictive quota system—came to stay. Only 7 percent chose to return to Europe, as opposed to about 30 percent of all immigrants. Jewish immigrants intended to raise American families. Ashkenazi (European) Jewish culture and American values as conveyed by social reformers as well as by advertising, and the economic realities of urban capitalist America, all influenced the position of women in immigrant Jewish society in America. Jewish immigrant women shared many of the attributes of immigrant women in general, but also displayed ethnic characteristics.

Devar Ha-Po'elet

Devar ha-Po’elet was founded in 1934 as the organ of the women workers’ movement. It was conceived as a monthly supplement to the daily newspaper Davar, both to increase its readership and in response to the demand of the women workers’ movement, which thus realized its goal of creating a women’s magazine—a goal it had cherished since the 1920s. The women’s magazine was both officially and financially subordinate to Davar, which provided printing and distribution services. The Mo’ezet ha-Po’alot (Council of Women Workers) was responsible for its funding, which it supplied through contributions and an allocation from the Histadrut (General Federation of Workers in Israel). An independent editorial staff, led by a woman editor, was responsible for content and design.

Dance Performance in the United States

Dance has always had a special place in the Jewish community because of its capacity to heighten communal and individual joy at weddings as prescribed in the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:416]Talmud[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], at bar and [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:301]bat mitzvah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] celebrations, and on other happy occasions. The Bible contains many mentions of dance in celebration of important holidays and Israelite victories. Jews have always danced with the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] scrolls in processionals on the holiday of [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:407]Simhat Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], and there are movement processionals on other holidays, as well as during the weekly Sabbath services. A very simple form of dance is even part of Jewish prayer, as the rhythmic rocking movement of davening (praying) literally embodies the notion of total devotion to God.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Labor." (Viewed on December 16, 2018) <https://jwa.org/topics/labor>.

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