The American Dream is an impossibility for too many hardworking Americans who face the daily anguish, devastation and hopelessness of poverty and near poverty. Torah and Jewish tradition teach us that it is our obligation to pursue justice for those who are in need. Every year, in the weeks surrounding Labor Day, we read from Parshat Shoftim: " Tzedek, tzedek tirdof: Justice, justice shall you pursue." We have the opportunity to put this ancient teaching into practice when we seek justice for workers.
In September 2011, Labor on the Bimah focused on unemployment and attacks on workers’ rights to organize. Labor on the Bimah is part of an annual initiative sponsored by Interfaith Worker Justice and the AFL-CIO.
Advocacy Resources from the RAC:
Please see below for more resources from the RAC and its partner organizations.
Materials & Resources
Explore toolkits, sample prayers and faith-specific resources from the leading union organization in the United States.
Ensuring Ethical Practices in Employing Domestic Workers
Domestic workers are indispensable to the American economy, yet there are few laws governing their treatment. Jewish tradition and values can provide that ethical foundation and guidance. America's families - including members of Reform congregations - depend on services provided by cleaning personnel, nannies, yard workers, and elder care workers. Domestic workers are common in American society. Yet, there are few laws governing their treatment and limited resources to assist families wrestling with the ethical issues that frequently arise around the employment of these workers. Jewish tradition and values can provide that ethical foundation and guidance for our congregants.
Guide to Assist the Unemployed through Congregational Job Banks and Networks
To combat poverty and unemployment, congregations can advocate for the right of all human beings to fair wages and attempt to assist our fellow citizens in finding work. This guide provides background information, sermon starters and an example of how your congregation can set up a job bank.
Guide: Sweatshops - Raising Awareness in Congregations
Sweatshops persist because they employ workers who believe that they have no other option. When we educate ourselves about the human rights violations in our world, we can then encourage others to be morally responsible in their actions.
Interfaith Worker Justice Labor on the Bimah Materials
Read about the two areas of focus for this year’s Labor on the Bimah—joblessness and attacks on workers’ rights—from the sponsor of this annual interfaith event. Browse sample sermons and prayers, congregational/organizational commitment pledges and more.
Jewish Funds for Justice Text Study: Workers and Unions
Rabbinic texts with accompanying discussion questions bring forth issues of workers rights.
Jewish Labor Committee
The Jewish Labor Committee seeks to sound the voice of the Jewish community in the labor movement and the voice of the labor movement in the Jewish community by bringing both groups together to work on shared interests and concerns. Look to see if there’s a Jewish Labor Committee chapter in your area with which you can collaborate.
Jews United for Justice Labor on the Bimah Resource Packet
Newly updated for 2011, this resource packet focuses on workers' right to organize. It includes background on labor organizing, Jewish sources on collective bargaining and workers' rights, and sample sermons.
Labor Day Programming for Children
Discussion questions, suggested books and other opportunities to engage youth in conversations about the treatment of employees.
The RAC provides a Living Talmud text study page to guide your exploration of Jewish values and domestic workers’ rights.
No Shvitz: Your One-Stop Guide to Fighting Sweatshops
The Progressive Jewish Alliance created this interdisciplinary book about garment industry sweatshops that draw upon Jewish tradition, American history and current world events to provide a holistic look at one of the most serious injustices afflicting contemporary society.
Check out Jews United for Justice’s list of which Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia congregations are hosting Labor on the Bimah events.
Bned the Arc: A Jewish Fund for Justice
Focused on asserting a progressive Jewish presence in California, Bend the Arc is a leader on workers’ rights issues, including the rights of domestic workers and low-wage workers.