At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in the United States, solidarity can literally mean the difference between life and death. More than half of Jewish Americans experienced anti-Semitism during the last five years, according to a survey by the Anti-Defamation League. Nine percent of responders stated they had been physically attacked because they were Jewish.
Jewish American Heritage Month recognizes the achievements and contributions of Jewish people to American culture and history, a time to raise awareness and our voices when it comes to our fellow Jewish union members, coworkers, neighbors and relatives. May is also Canadian Jewish Heritage Month and Labor History Month.
“I am proud of the historic role of the Jewish community in the promotion and defense of labour rights and social justice,” said Lou Pagrach, a Grand Lodge Representative in the IAM’s Canadian Territory.
“Many Jewish Canadians have served in our national politics,” Pagrach said. “Unfortunately racism, anti-Semitism and far-right groups are on the rise again. Even the labour movement is not immune.” He hopes union members can come together to educate others about the importance of unity and respect on and off the job.
Just as most IAM locals are part of local central labor councils, there are similar Jewish community relations councils across the U.S. and Canada. The Jewish Labor Committee is available to help locals connect with their nearest organized local Jewish communities.
The recent webinar Jewish Women in the Labor Movement is an educational resource that focuses on the struggles of sweatshop workers and union organizers to improve working conditions in the early 20th century, especially in the garment industry.
Today, the Jewish community has a long history of activism in the civil rights and social justice movements, working with other underrepresented groups, regardless of race, ethnicity or national origin. A Congressional Caucus on Black Jewish Relations takes place May 10 and will be streamed on the National Museum of American Jewish History’s website and Facebook page. A new Black-Jewish Entertainment Alliance has been launched, as an act of solidarity and mutual aid.
For more information on the Jewish voice in the labor movement and labor’s voice in the Jewish community, visit the Jewish Labor Committee website. JLC is an independent secular 501(c)3 organization with a wealth of historical information and resources.