Labor Rights

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Modern Dance Performance in the United States

Jewish immigrants to the New World brought with them their ritual and celebratory Jewish dances, but these traditional forms of Jewish dance waned in the United States. Working-class and poor Jewish immigrants parents sought out culture and education in the arts for their children, often as a vehicle for assimilation. Jewish women were particularly attracted to the field of modern dance.

Fannia M. Cohn

Fannia M. Cohn was one of the leading Jewish women trade union activists in the United States. Drawing on her Russian Jewish cultural traditions, she pioneered the development of educational programs within the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU).

Canada: From Outlaw to Supreme Court Justice, 1738-2005

The positive aspect of the Canadian mosaic has been a strong Jewish community (and other communities) which nurtured traditional ethnic and religious values and benefited from the talent and energy of women and men restrained from participation in the broader society. The negative aspect has included considerable antisemitism and, especially for women, the sometimes stifling narrowness and conservatism of the community which inhibited creative and exceptional people from charting their own individual paths.

Women in the Bund

Jewish women played leading roles in the formative years of the General Jewish Workers’ Bund, which was established in the Tsarist Empire in 1897, and initially participated in the movement in large numbers. However, the Bund had somewhat less success in mobilizing women in independent Poland between the two world wars than it had during the Tsarist era.

Alice Goldmark Brandeis

A longtime activist for women’s equality and labor rights, Alice Brandeis also promoted progressive causes through the work of her husband, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. Her efforts on behalf of Sacco and Vanzetti, radical presidential candidate Robert La Follette, and the Jewish activist Bergson Group stirred controversy.

Dina Blond

As chairwoman of the Bundist women’s organization Yidisher Arbeter Froy, Dina Blond was one of the most prominent representatives of the Jewish labor party in interwar Poland. At the same time, she was also one of the best-known Yiddish translators of her day.

Rahel Yanait Ben-Zvi

Rahel Yanait Ben-Zvi was the second First Lady of Israel, wife to President Yizhak Ben-Zvi. Before and after Ben-Zvi’s tenure, she was active in the labor movement in Palestine and Israel and in the independence movement, as well as a prolific writer and recorder of her experiences in Erez Israel.

Ruth Ben Israel

Ruth Ben Israel was an Israeli legal scholar who specialized in labor law, social equality, and women’s legal rights. While a member of Tel Aviv University’s law faculty from 1986 until her retirement in 2005, Ben Israel wrote more than fifteen influential books on labor law and served as a legal advisor to multiple Knesset Committees related to labor and women’s rights.

Dorothy Jacobs Bellanca

Born in Latvia before immigrating to Baltimore as a child, Dorothy Jacobs Bellanca was one of America’s most remarkable women’s labor leaders. An outstanding union organizer and a captivating speaker, Bellanca understood the problems of the working class—people of all genders, ages, and backgrounds—and sought to improve conditions for workers.

Elisheva Barak-Ussoskin

After earning her law degree in 1977, Elisheva Barak-Ussoskin quickly advanced through several positions before becoming a judge in the National Labor Court of Israel in 1995. Her rulings had a critical influence on the development of labor law and labor relations in Israel.

Anarchists, American Jewish women

The anarchist movement was based on a struggle against the tyranny of capitalism, on social equality and individual liberty, and on the promotion of positive communitarian ideals. American Jewish women were at the forefront of this movement and were active participants in labor organization.

Ray Alexander (Simons)

Ray Alexander began her involvement in communist and trade unionist organizations as a child in Latvia. After moving to South Africa as a teen, Alexander became a prominent organizer for several trade unions and faced banning and harassment from the government for her activism. She continued advocating for women’s rights, worker’s rights, and racial equality throughout her life.

Rubber workers, anarchists, and little Jewish ladies

Judith Rosenbaum

I was reading today about Rose Pesotta, a veteran unionorganizer with the ILGWU, who in February of 1936 went to Akron, Ohio to helpworkers striking at the Goodyear Rubber factory. She was sent to raise supportfor the strike among the workers' wives and daughters, but she was alsosuccessful in connecting with the workers themselves, ultimately helping to endthe strike with a negotiated settlement.

Topics: Labor Rights, Unions

A Living Wage

Lily Rabinoff-Goldman

A living wage? Before last week, I thought that was an issue facing underemployed workers breaking their backs for $9 an hour and trying to pay for housing, food, and child care. And yet, last week, the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards passed a Living Wage Teshuva (a legal “response” to a question of Jewish law) obligating Conservative organizations like schools, synagogues and summer camps to provide their employees with a living wage, defined by Rabbi Jill Jacobs via

"At Home in Utopia": An Interview with Filmmaker Michal Goldman


Filmmaker Michal Goldman's At Home in Utopia is a new documentary that traces the history of these "Bronx utopias," focusing on the United Workers Cooperative Colony, or simply "The Coops."

Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Jordan Namerow


"The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred! There are so many of us for one job it matters little if 146 of us are burned to death. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves, and the only way is through a strong working-class movement."

Topics: Labor Rights

Blogging for domestic workers

Judith Rosenbaum

According to salty femme, today is Blog for Domestic Workers day, timed to support JFREJ’s Shalom Bayit: Justice for Domestic Workers campaign and Domestic Workers United, who are trying to institute a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in New York State. This legislation would guarantee basic labor rights to domestic workers, who are excluded from most federal and state labor laws.

Happy May Day!

Judith Rosenbaum

Today is May 1, which, in addition to being an old pagan holiday celebrating the start of summer, is also International Workers’ Day and the start of the second annual Jewish American Heritage Month.

Is Hiring a Domestic Worker Dirty Business?

Michelle Cove

Twice a month, I have a “domestic worker” (no one says “cleaning lady” any more) come help at my house. By that I mean, she does all the tasks I stink at: removing the excess cat hair of three cats; de-griming the tub; and sweeping Cheerios from the bizarre places my two-year old drops them. Each time this woman comes, we sit for a little while, and share parenting stories and laugh. And even though I pay her well, I still feel guilty when she comes. Is there some reason I can’t manage to clean my own home? Am I spoiled?

Mikveh and workers' rights

Judith Rosenbaum

Reading last Friday’s Forward, I was struck by the juxtaposition of two articles about the Conservative movement Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Law and Standards.

Labor Day

Judith Rosenbaum

It’s Labor Day Weekend, which for some reason in this country is a time to barbeque, shop, and maybe spend one last weekend at the beach. Labor Day has come to mean the end of summer, rather than a day to consider and celebrate the role of workers in building and sustaining this country.

Topics: Labor Rights, Unions, Law

The Little Engine that Could

Judith Rosenbaum

Every day, I look at the poster of labor activist Rose Schneiderman in my office, and I draw inspiration from the stories of Jewish women who shook up the American labor movement in the early 20th century. So it was with both sadness and interest that I read the obituary of labor lobbyist Evelyn Dubrow last night.

Topics: Labor Rights, Unions


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