This post was written by guest author Ann Toback of the Workmen’s Circle.
There was a time when ‘Jewish’ in the popular political imagination meant things like civil rights, foreign radicals, and labor organizing. A time when fearless young Jewish women in the Lower East Side stood up for safe workplaces and higher wages. We’ve all seen those sepia-toned images of them wearing sashes in Yiddish or English, or the bearded socialists from a time when The Forward was a daily.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same. American Jews are largely secular, largely liberal, and disproportionately committed to social and economic justice and labor organizing. Socialists from Brooklyn are back in style (at least in some quarters…). Beards are hip again. All that is missing really, is the sashes.
And so, on Tuesday, Nov. 10th, the Workmen’s Circle is bringing those sashes back. We’ll be wearing them across Brooklyn and Manhattan as we rally with our Jewish and community allies for the Fight for $15 National Day of Action. We’ll be celebrating the Fight for $15’s recent successes (Gov. Cuomo has committed to help raise the minimum wage for all in NY). And we’ll be calling for more change (McDonald’s has yet to promise they’ll sit down and negotiate with its workers). Because these are some of the changes we need to transform what it means to work and making a living in our country today.
One of the slogans early last century was “The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.” Today, too many of our fellow Americans—and fellow Jews—are working for wages so low that they do not afford dignity. And now those sepia-toned images of yesterday’s heroism framing those young ladies in Yiddish sashes inspire us and command us to again stand up for the rights of all workers and demand workplace fairness.
Today we reclaim that image, sashes and all. It feels good to put something on that transports us back to what feels like a more heroic, vibrant age. It’s deeply fulfilling to embrace the parts of our Jewish heritage that hearken back to a time when our hunger for justice was driven by the urgency of our own physical hunger. When our shared commitment to a better world compelled us into action.
Join us on the picket lines this Nov. 10th. Join us in Fighting for $15. Join us in blowing a little harder on that glowing, old school ember.