JEWISH LABOR COMMITTEE


JEWISH LABOR COMMITTEE, a Jewish communal agency linking the organized Jewish community and the Labor movement. Representatives from a number of trade unions and other organizations traditionally identified with the Jewish labor movement assembled at a conference in New York City in 1934 and launched the Jewish Labor Committee, charging it with the following tasks: (1) support of Jewish labor institutions in European countries; (2) assistance to the anti-Hitler underground movement; (3) aid to the victims of Nazism; (4) cooperation with American organized labor in fighting anti-democratic forces; (5) combating antisemitism and other evil effects of Fascism and Nazism upon American life.

During the first five years of its existence, the Jewish Labor Committee concentrated mainly on supporting anti-Nazi labor forces in Europe and sending relief to Jewish labor institutions there, especially those maintained by the *Jewish Labor Bund and the "left" Labor Zionist movement (the "right" Labor Zionists organized their own relief and rehabilitation committee), and encouraging and strengthening U.S. and Canadian opposition to the Nazis, in the labor and democratic left, as well as in the community-at-large. At the same time it organized mass anti-Nazi demonstrations; in 1936, with the American Jewish Congress, through the Joint Boycott Council, it conducted a boycott on German goods and services.

After the outbreak of World War II, the emphasis shifted to efforts to save Jewish cultural and political figures, as well as Jewish and non-Jewish labor and socialist leaders facing certain death at the hands of the Nazis. With powerful help from the American Federation of Labor, the Committee succeeded in bringing over a thousand such individuals to the United States, or to temporary shelter elsewhere.

Beginning in the late 1930s, the Committee became increasingly concerned with Jewish defense work and community relations in the United States. It was one of the four founders of the short-lived General Jewish Council and helped organize the National Community Relations Advisory Council [re-named the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council in 1968 and Jewish Council for Public Affairs in the 1997], of which it is still an active member. Unlike other community relations agencies, the JLC has its sphere of action clearly delineated: it strives to represent Jewish interests in the American labor movement, and labor interests in the Jewish community. Working with the American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organization since the federation's formation in 1956, the JLC works with and has the support of a wide range of unions and their associated organizations, locally as well as nationally. Comprising diverse organizations and a variety of ideological groups, the Committee has been guided in its work by pragmatic policies rather than by a clear Jewish philosophy. While Bundist influence was significant in the organization, particularly in the early period, the organization has had a positive position on the State of Israel since 1948.

The JLC is a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, as well as the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. The JLC holds both national conventions of delegates and committee meetings of its executive committee and national board. In 2005, the organization, with headquarters in New York, had staffed field offices in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and Los Angeles, and lay-led groups in Washington, D.C.; Cleveland, Ohio; Phoenix, Arizona; and Seattle, Washington. Its funding comes from independent campaigns, contributions from trade unions, allocations from welfare funds, and grants from foundations. Originally a body of organizations and unions, the Committee has also had individual members since the mid-1960s.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish Labor Committee in Action (1948); idem, The Time is Now… (1951); idem, Finf un Tsvantsik Yor… (1960); idem, The Jewish Labor Committee Story (2004); W. Herberg, "The Jewish Labor Movement in the United States," in: AJYB, 53 (1952), 3–74; I. Knox, Jewish Labor Movementsin America (1958). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Malmgreen, "Labor and the Holocaust: The Jewish Labor Committee and the Anti-Nazi Struggle," in: Labor's Heritage (October 1991).

[Charles Bezalel Sherman /

Arieh Lebowitz (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.