JLC Supports President Obama’s Efforts to Reform “Severely Flawed” U.S. Immigration System

President Stuart Appelbaum Calls on Congress to Enact Comprehensive Reform

November 21, 2014 - New York, NY: Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, just issued the following statement:

As an organization founded by working-class Jewish immigrants and their children, with roots in the labor movement, we know that immigrants enrich our country, culturally, economically, and socially. The Jewish Labor Committee has for many years supported meaningful and comprehensive immigration reform. While the United States Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the House of Representatives has unfortunately refused to act.

Aware that this is a pressing need directly affecting millions of people who work in the United States, their families and their communities, we therefore applaud President Obama's efforts to take steps to ensure that families are not torn apart, that undocumented immigrants can emerge from the shadows, that those who have committed crimes are held to account for those crimes, and that the borders of the United States are made more secure.

We call on all members of Congress to act NOW to make the changes announced by President Obama in the severely flawed immigration system of the United States permanent, and work in a bipartisan fashion to enact comprehensive reform as envisioned by the legislation that is still stalled in Congress. It is the right thing to do, and the time is now.

Philly Rallies for Public School Teachers and Schools

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Protestors shut down Broad Street, Philadelphia's main thoroughfare.
Photograph by Jessica Kourkounis for Education Week (additional photos below)

October 16, 2014 – Philadelphia: Community members from various sectors demonstrated a week after the city's School Reform Commission (SRC) announced, without notice or discussion, that it was not going to honor Philadelphia's public school teachers' contracts {collectively bargained between the city and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT)} after the end of this school year. "That's 16,000 teachers who will be forced to accept terms that are dictated to them by the SRC," Philadelphia JLC Director Michael Hersch told us.

Continue reading "Philly Rallies for Public School Teachers and Schools" »

Victory for the "Hyatt 100" - $1 million to the fired housekeepers and ...!

October 8, 2014 - Five years ago, three Hyatt Hotels in the Boston area abruptly fired 98 housekeepers. The hotels brought in replacement workers, paying them roughly half the hourly wage. The fired housekeepers had been told to train these new housekeepers who turned out to be their replacements.
The fired workers didn't belong to a union, but they quickly approached a local of UNITE-HERE. A nationwide boycott of Hyatt hotels and then a global boycott were among the results. The Jewish Labor Committee, its regional offices and members jumped in to support the workers. An historic settlement was reached with most Hyatt hotels, but not the ones in the Boston area. So the New England JLC kept up its activism.
Right from the beginning, the NE JLC was in the fight with both feet. Rabbi Barbara Penzner of Temple Hillel B'nai Torah and a co-chair of NE JLC along with our regional director Marya Axner, mobilized congregants, rabbis and JLC members. to support the boycott of the Hyatt Regency Boston, Hyatt Boston Harbor and Hyatt Regency Cambridge.
Rabbi Penzner drafted a petition signed by Jewish clergy around the country and worked to keep religious groups from holding events at Hyatt hotels. She traveled to Chicago to confront Hyatt executives and rallied clergy to disrupt shareholder meetings. The NE JLC participated in rallies (as did JLC in other parts of the country), arranged for letters to be written and helped keep the issue in front of the public.
Finally, a few weeks ago, the Boston-area Hyatts gave in, agreeing to pay $1 million to the fired housekeepers and offering them hiring preference at future Hyatt-operated hotels.
All of us at the JLC are proud of the work that the NE JLC did on behalf of the housekeepers and of the fact that the Boston Globe story and editorial in particular highlighted Rabbi Penzner's activity, which were so important to this victory.

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(l-r: Sandra Korn, Dave Borrus. Martha Plotkin, Amy Mazur, Roberta Bauer, Marya Axner, Jim Marshall, Dick Bauer, Stephanie Ainbinder, and Glen Dansker at a demonstration in Boston, July 26th, 2012.)

JLC turns out to support Philadelphia's McDonald's workers

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September 4, 2014 – Philadelphia: About 150 people turned out to support Philadelphia's McDonald's workers, as marches and rallies took place across the United States in support of fast food workers on strike for better wages and working conditions. The local event was sponsored by `Fight for Philly' and `Fast Food Forward'.

We gathered outside the McDonald's at the corner of Broad Street and Girard Avenue on behalf of striking McDonald's employees who earn a meager $7.25 and are victims of wage theft.

The Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee is involved with campaigns to raise the minimum wage and `Fast Food Forward'. Three Philadelphia JLC Board members - Bill Epstein, Jesse Kudler, and Sylvia Lieberman - were present, as was a group of younger people, representing Habonim Dror, the Labor Zionist Youth Movement (in the vertical photo, above).

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Bill Epstein (at right), long-time Philadelphia JLC Board member, along with representatives of the `Fight for $15' campaign to raise the hourly minimum wage in Philadelphia to $15.

It’s Time to Raise the Minimum Wage

A Labor Day message from Stuart Appelbaum

The Torah provides a moral imperative: “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” In practical terms in today’s economic environment, that means at the very least we should support a just minimum wage – a wage that will enable working people to support themselves and their families. And we must partner with others to ensure that it happens.

We in the Jewish Labor Committee are proud to be part of this campaign both on the federal level and in Alaska, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington DC, Los Angeles or wherever state and local governments are attempting to act while the Congress fails to.

The current federal minimum wage isn’t a living wage. At $7.25 an hour, today’s full-time minimum-wage worker makes just $15,080 a year. Even in a family with two people working minimum-wage jobs, household income hovers at the poverty level. And that’s assuming they are lucky enough to have full-time jobs.

Moreover, the makeup of minimum-wage workers has changed. Partly because of the latest economic downturn, more low-wage workers today are older and better educated than ever. In addition, more of those earning the minimum wage are people supporting their families, not teens earning money for movie tickets.

Meanwhile, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has plummeted. From January 1981 to April 1990, the federal minimum wage was never raised. In 2007, Congress raised the federal minimum wage by $2.10, to $7.25 per hour, as a first step toward restoring it to its historic value. But for the minimum wage to have the same purchasing power today that it had back in 1968, it would have to be more than $10 per hour now. That is why the federal rate is still not enough to support a family, and those living in communities where the state or city minimum wage has been raised a bit face a similar challenge.

American Jews should remember the situation confronting so many of our ancestors, who could earn only poverty wages in the garment trades and other sectors when they first arrived in the United States.

Continue reading "It’s Time to Raise the Minimum Wage" »

Unprovoked Rocket Attacks from Gaza Must Cease

July 11, 2014 – New York: Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, issued the following statement today:

As there is no let up in the unprovoked rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli towns and cities and as Israel considers enhanced ways to stop the assault, the Jewish Labor Committee expresses its solidarity with people, government and defense forces of Israel.

The Government of the State of Israel has both the right and the obligation to defend the country against a barrage of rockets from beyond its borders. Indeed, no country would be expected to do otherwise. It is the responsibility of the Government to defend all who live and work within the country.

After a long period of relative quiet in terms of rocket fire from Gaza, the most recent escalation by Hamas has placed the lives of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israelis in mortal danger, and we condemn the leaders of Hamas for their actions.

Having joined the government of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas has made it nearly impossible for the PA to continue to pursue a negotiated peace with Israel.

Hamas has endangered Palestinians by deliberately embedding rocket and missile launchers in civilian population centers, near homes, schools and medical facilities, placing a high proportion of the Palestinians in Gaza at risk when the Israeli Defense Forces respond to rockets and missiles fired indiscriminately at civilian centers within Israel.

We hope that Hamas will immediately cease firing rockets and missiles into Israel, and that as a result Israel will cease its retaliation

Our heats go out to the innocent victims on both sides of this confrontation. The death and suffering produced by this most recent round of military conflict must end. Irresponsible decisions will only lead to more of the same, and further harm the chances for a mutually-agreed upon two-state solution to the legitimate needs of the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Passes!

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July 10, 2014 – Boston: Since December of 2012, the New England Jewish Labor Committee (NE JLC) has been working to pass the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (DWBR), which would establish basic workplace rights for nannies, housekeepers and caregivers employed in private homes. For example, the NE JLC mobilized people to go the State House to advocate for the DWBR, organized living room talks to raise awareness of conditions for domestic workers among those who employ them, and spoke about the DWBR at several synagogues. Through the advocacy of the NE JLC, the Somerville Board of Alderman voted unanimously to support the DWBR.

The DWBR passed in the State House and was signed by the Governor on July 2nd, 2014. NE JLC will continue to work to educate the Jewish community and help implement the bill. For more information, contact Marya Axner, NE JLC Regional Director, at

Jewish Labor Committee Condemns Murder of Palestinian Teenager

July 7, 2014: New York, NY -- Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, issued the following statement:

The Jewish Labor Committee condemns the brutal murder of the Palestinian teenager, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and we offer our sympathy to the family and friends of this innocent boy and to the people of Palestine who mourn his death, just as we do for those who mourn the death of the three Israeli innocents who were murdered.

Those who committed this heinous act must be brought to justice through the rule of law, not through acts of unlawful revenge. We are encouraged that six suspects have quickly been apprehended. It is in both Israel's interest and the Palestinian Authority’s that Israeli authorities judge Israeli and Palestinian terrorists against the same standards, as reflected in recent Israeli government statements.

Incitement and violence will only lead to more violence and deaths.

The brutal murders of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel have made even more difficult the pursuit for a just peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, to which we remain committed.

Jewish Labor Committee Condemns Murders of Three Israel Teenagers

July 1, 2014: New York, NY -- Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, issued the following statement:

The Jewish Labor Committee condemns the kidnapping and brutal murder of the three Israeli teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel.

Those who committed these heinous acts must be pursued and brought to justice. We regret that this has further complicated the pursuit for a just peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and we offer our sympathy to the family and friends of these three innocent boys and to the people of Israel who mourn their death.

Israeli President Peres receives Congressional Gold Medal
Israeli President Shimon Peres, center, at Congressional Gold Medal ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite, AP, in the Citizen-Times)

June 26, 2014: Washington, DC -- Israeli President Shimon Peres received the Congressional Gold Medal today in an audience, which included Jewish Labor Committee Acting Executive Director Rita Freedman, filling the Capitol Rotunda.

After a career in public service that began before the State of Israel was founded, the 90-year old will be leaving the presidency in a matter of a few weeks. But he does not intend to give up his quest for peace. The speakers lauding him were Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, Congressman Joseph Kennedy III and Senator Kelly Ayotte.

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At Jewish Labor Committee Human Rights Awards Dinner, Al Sharpton calls for healing

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(l-r) Rev. Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network; Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; and JLC President Stuart Appelbaum at the JLC's awards dinner in New York, June 19th. (Miller Photography)

By Miriam Moster (JTA) Friday, June 20, 2014 -- Al Sharpton hasn’t always had the best relationship with the Jewish community.

But on Thursday night, he had a place of honor at the Jewish Labor Committee’s annual Human Rights Awards Dinner in New York.

Sharpton addressed the gathering to present the group’s Human Rights Award to Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

And Sharpton was in a bridge-building (perhaps even contrite?) mood.

“We that have done things that has led to the division of blacks and Jews have to work vigorously to heal the wounds that we’ve had in this city and correct the behavior that has divided us, and we say whatever we’ve done, we’ve got to do better,” Sharpton said.

Back in the 1990s, Sharpton was accused by critics of incitement during the Crown Heights riots and in protests targeting a Jewish-owned store in Harlem that boiled over into a deadly arson and shooting attack. But in recent years, he has achieved a degree of mainstream respectability, mending relations with old adversaries like the late New York mayor Ed Koch, cultivating ties with President Obama and landing a hosting gig on MSNBC.

Stuart Appelbaum, the JLC’s president, told JTA that the group decided to invite Sharpton as part of its effort to rebuild the alliance between blacks and Jews.

Continue reading " At Jewish Labor Committee Human Rights Awards Dinner, Al Sharpton calls for healing" »

Human Rights Awards Dinner June 19th 2014 in NYC

We are delighted to announce that Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley as well as the Reverend Al Sharpton will address the JLC Human Rights Dinner honoring AFSCME President Lee Saunders and Teamsters Vice President George Miranda.

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Make your reservations now. Click here for an RSVP form.

Just fill in the form, print it out, and either send it back to us via fax — 212-477-1918 — as an email attachment to, or by mail to
Jewish Labor Committee – 140 West 31st Street, 3rd Floor – New York NY 10001

You may make your reservation using a credit card: space is on the RSVP form, and you can also send us an email and write where to call you and when would be good.

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JLC Regrets Conference of Presidents Rejection of J Street Membership Application

May 1st, 2014: New York, NY -- “The Jewish Labor Committee voted in favor of J Street's application for membership in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Wednesday evening, and we are disappointed that J Street was not approved for membership,” stated Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee. The JLC is a founding member of the Conference of Presidents.

“The Conference of Presidents has a diverse membership that holds a variety of views representing those in the wider Jewish community in the United States,” Appelbaum noted. “That should allow for healthy discussion within the Presidents’ Conference of the range of issues that the group addresses. The admission of J Street to that membership would have added to that discussion in significant ways. At the same time, it would have demonstrated that the Conference member agencies were not afraid of a healthy level of diversity of opinion on the key issues that the Conference addresses, and that it truly wanted to represent the sentiment of the majority of American Jews.”

Bearing in mind that a significant number of current organizations affiliated with the Conference of Presidents did not initially have their memberships accepted, and had to reapply, Appelbaum encouraged J Street to reapply. “We are hopeful that it will be admitted for membership at a future meeting, and will support it if and when it does in fact reapply.”

One year after Bangladesh factory collapse, Chicago-area activists demand safer conditions for Walmart workers

Photo by Ashlee Rezin courtesy Progress Illinois

April 24, 2014: Chicago, IL -- Eli Fishman (holding sign, left), Chicago Jewish Labor Committee Director, represented the JLC at an Our Walmart demonstration in front of the Walmart Lakeview store on the north side of the "Windy City." The rally was called to commemorate the one year anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza sewing factory in Bangladesh that resulted in the death of more than 1,100 workers. Also recognized were workers from a Walmart warehouse who were recently fired for speaking out on safety issues.

For more details, read this item in "Progress Illinois"

JLC Condemns Attempts to use Ukrainian Jews as an Excuse to Destabilize Ukraine

April 18, 2014: New York, NY -- The Jewish Labor Committee today condemned the attempt to use the Ukrainian Jews as an excuse for Russia to destabilize and take over portions of Ukraine, stated JLC President Stuart Appelbaum.

On March 27, 2014, a group of prominent Ukrainian Jews -- businessmen, scientists, scholars, political figures, rabbis, artists and others -- issued an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, refuting his statements that they were being humiliated, discriminated against and in danger of a pogrom being launched against them by fascists attempting to dominate the government in Kiev. The group pointed out that while they are well aware that those who helped overthrow former Ukrainian president Viktor Yankovych included some ultra-nationalist groups who are indeed anti-Semitic, they "are well controlled by civil society and the new Ukrainian government - which is more than can be said for the Russian neo-Nazis, who are encouraged by your security services." The open letter went on to state: "Your certainty of the growth of anti-Semitism in Ukraine does not correspond to the actual facts. It seems you have confused Ukraine with Russia, where Jewish organizations have noticed growth in anti-Semitic tendencies last year."

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Your help needed re Perelman Jewish Day School

Dear friends:

We are reaching out to you now to make your voices heard, as we have done.

Teachers at the Perelman Jewish Day School have been members of a union local and represented by their union since 1976. Their contract ends on August 31. On March 24, following a closed door meeting, the school’s board of directors informed the school's faculty that the school would no longer recognize the union as of the end of the contract. The teachers work at campuses in Wynnewood and Elkins Park, PA.

The 59 union members were told to attend a night meeting with the board with less than 24-hours' notice to learn the details of a plan that took 10 months to develop and to pick up individual job offers and a new “Faculty Handbook.” They had to sign the individual contracts within two weeks or risk losing their job. At a meeting on Wednesday morning, union members were denied union representation, despite the board saying that the union contract was still in effect until the end of August. Under the new terms that would take effect in the fall, faculty members could be fired at any time without cause, a hearing or any recourse. Teachers would also give up seniority, tenure and other rights that are guaranteed under their current collective bargaining agreement.

The Perelman Jewish Day School, which is associated with the Conservative Movement’s Solomon Schechter school network, has three key words on its website: academics, ethics, and community. Yet, as the Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee (PJLC) pointed out in its public statement, “by dismantling the union and denying employees the power of collective bargaining, the Perelman Jewish Day School is acting in opposition both to major halakhic authorities and to the official position of the Conservative Movement.” {Please see the PJLC’s statement, below and in its entirety online here }

Continue reading "Your help needed re Perelman Jewish Day School" »

Philadelphia JLC Statement on the Perelman Jewish Day School Situation

(April 3, 2014) Philadelphia -- Parents and community leaders have reached out to the Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee regarding the Perelman Jewish Day School board’s unilateral withdrawal of union recognition and refusal to bargain with the teacher over the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Philadelphia JLC stands firmly with the teachers and their union as they fight for their collective bargaining rights, and also in alignment with tenets of Conservative Judaism.

By dismantling the union and denying employees the power of collective bargaining, the Perelman Jewish Day School is acting in opposition both to major halakhic authorities and to the official position of the Conservative Movement.

Continue reading "Philadelphia JLC Statement on the Perelman Jewish Day School Situation" »

“Raise the Federal Minimum Wage” Resolution Adopted at National Jewish Communal Affairs Gathering in Atlanta

Graphic from website of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs

(March 17, 2014) New York -- The Jewish Labor Committee is pleased to report that a resolution we cosponsored in support of Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10, as well as raising the wage of tipped workers, was passed by an overwhelming majority of 250 delegates, from 60 groups across the United States, at the annual conference of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, meeting one week ago in Atlanta, GA.

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, noted that passage of the resolution on raising the Federal minimum wage is part of a broader campaign that must be waged community by community, and across the United States.

"The Torah provides the moral imperative: `Justice, justice shall you pursue.’ In practical terms, that means that we should support a just minimum wage - a wage that will enable working people to support themselves and survive in our society. And we must partner with others to ensure it happens.

Continue reading "“Raise the Federal Minimum Wage” Resolution Adopted at National Jewish Communal Affairs Gathering in Atlanta" »

2-25-1934: JLC is formed - first goal is to oppose rise of Nazism in Europe

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Poster by Mitchell Loeb, 1934. The Jewish Labor Committee, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, the Labor Chest to Combat Nazism and Fascism, and others made use of it in outreach campaigns.

February 25, 1934, New York, NY - The Jewish Labor Committee was formed by Yiddish-speaking immigrant trade union leaders, and leaders of such groups as the Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring, the Jewish Labor Bund, and the United Hebrew Trades, in response to the rise of Nazism in Germany.

More than 1,000 delegates - representing about 300 different groups, including such unions as the ILGWU and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union of America, a range of union locals and a number of Jewish organizations - gathered at the Central Plaza in New York City's Lower East Side to organize a permanent body to fight Fascism, Nazism and anti-Semitism, and to study the challenges confronting working people not only abroad, but in the United States as well. The delegates had as a top priority mobilizing opposition to Nazism and Fascism in Europe. A Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) article on the conference appeared in the Feb. 26, 1934 issue of the Jewish Daily Bulletin, online here.

Continue reading "2-25-1934: JLC is formed - first goal is to oppose rise of Nazism in Europe" »

In Support of University of Illinois at Chicago United Faculty Local 6456
Overpass Light Brigade shows support for striking UIC faculty members. (Photo/Emily Brosious)

February 18, 2014, Chicago, IL - Faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago, members of United Faculty Local 6456, AFT-IFT, AAUP, voted to go on a two-day strike as part of their efforts to ensure their students get what all students deserve: reasonable class sizes, individualized instruction, support for cutting-edge research, and classrooms and labs that are safe and well-equipped. These are the rights of every student.
From the outset, the UIC United Faculty has bargained and the administration has stalled. While the administration rakes in millions in profits, and has hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves, it refuses to pay faculty what they deserve. The UIC administration can’t claim they have offered a fair contract when newly hired faculty make more than faculty who have dedicated many years to the institution; when some nontenure-track faculty earn just $30,000 a year — less than a living wage in Chicago; or when faculty who have been teaching more than 10 years have to wait until August each year to see if they still have a job for the upcoming school year.
The Chicago Jewish Labor Committee has issued the statement below.
You can do something as well! Click here to sign a petition in support of the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago!


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A Special Bond: Martin Luther King, Jr., Israel and American Jewry

by Stuart Appelbaum

This year, U.S. Jews, like other Americans, will mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by remembering him as a powerful voice against racism and for civil rights. But, for Jews, Dr. King was also something else: a uniquely important ally in the fight against anti-Semitism and for a secure Israel.

Today, Dr. King’s close bond with the Jewish community is treated only as a small footnote of his life and work. But, toward the end of his life, Dr. King devoted significant time and energy to strengthening what were becoming increasingly strained ties between black Americans and U.S. Jews. One issue Dr. King was particularly concerned with was the growing mischaracterization of Zionism as racism.

Dr. King spoke and wrote often about Israel. However, the true depth of Dr. King’s commitment to Israel was readily apparent in a September, 1967 letter he sent to Adolph Held, then president of the organization I now lead, the Jewish Labor Committee. Dr. King wrote Held after the Jewish leader contacted him regarding press accounts of a conference that Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference participated in. At the meeting, strongly worded resolutions blasting Zionism and embracing the position of the Arab powers had been considered.

Understanding Held’s worries, Dr. King explained that, beyond offering opening remarks, he had no part in the conference. But, Dr. King said, had he been present during the discussion of the resolutions “I would have made it crystal clear that I could not have supported any resolution calling for black separatism or calling for a condemnation of Israel and an unqualified endorsement of the policy of the Arab powers.”

Continue reading "A Special Bond: Martin Luther King, Jr., Israel and American Jewry" »

2013 11-Month Activity Report & Membership Form

You're invited to read the Jewish Labor Committee's Activity Report for the first 11 months of 2013, online here

To join the JLC, or to renew your membership, just print out, fill out, and mail back the (two-sided) JLC membership form online here.

In Opposition To Academic Boycotts

December 19, 2013: On Shanker Blog, "the voice of the Albert Shanker Institute," JLC President Rita Freedman discusses recent calls to boycott Israeli academic institutions in order to pressure Israel into an agreement with Palestine.

There is a growing, worldwide effort to ostracize Israel and to make it into a pariah state. (This despite the fact that Israel is still the only democratic country in the Middle East.) A key ingredient of this campaign is the call to boycott, divest from and impose sanctions on Israel (known as BDS for boycott, divest, sanction). Within the world of higher education, this takes the form of calls to boycott all Israeli academic institutions, sometimes including boycotting all Israeli scholars and researchers. The rationale is that this will somehow pressure Israel into an agreement with the Palestinians, one which will improve their lot and lead to an independent Palestinian state that exists adjacent to the State of Israel (although it is worth noting that some in the BDS movement envision a future without the existence of Israel).

Certainly, the goals of improving life for the Palestinian people, building their economy and supporting their democratic institutions – not to mention supporting the creation of an independent Palestine that is thriving and getting along peacefully with its Israeli neighbor – are entirely worthy.

And, certainly, Israeli (and indeed Palestinian) policies that obstruct progress toward these goals are not above criticism (a great deal of which can be found within the free press and lively opposition among the many political parties and independent judiciary within Israel itself). Individuals and groups in other nations should make their views known as well, and that includes the world of academia. Open discussion and debate of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ways to resolve it should be encouraged. However, those discussions should not be one-sided. They should consider the behavior of all those involved in the dispute. Otherwise, they are likely to produce the result opposite to the one intended.

An academic boycott of Israel is that kind of counter-productive action, effectively suppressing free and open speech, debate, exploration and constructive problem-solving. It is the antithesis of academic freedom, a basic principle of higher education, and is inconsistent with the basic democratic value of free expression. Nevertheless, on December 16, the American Studies Association (ASA) endorsed a boycott of Israeli universities, making it the largest group of U.S. scholars to do so.

Continue reading "In Opposition to Academic Boycotts"

JLC Opposes Draft ASA Academic Boycott Resolution

December 12, 2013, New York, NY - The President of the Jewish Labor Committee, Stuart Appelbaum, issued the following statement:

The Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) is extremely troubled by and stands opposed to the recommendation made by the National Council of the American Studies Association (ASA) that its members vote for a resolution supporting an academic boycott of Israel academic institutions. Such a resolution would be an anathema to academic freedom and is totally inconsistent with basic democratic value of free expression.

Academic boycotts assume that all Israeli academic institutions and the people associated with them – whether professors or researchers – are inherently guilty. It would essentially also hinder the exchange of important scientific research that can benefit all of humankind.

Boycotts of this nature – especially since they are directed at only one party -- undermine hopes for a peaceful and just settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. These actions do not encourage compromise; rather, they hurt moderates on each side and encourage extremists and rejectionists on both sides. Ironically, such a resolution would discourage an open discussion – in Israel, Palestine and in organizations like the ASA -- one that considers the behavior of all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ways to resolve it.

Instead, the JLC encourages organizations to be even-handed as they work to press both sides to negotiate in good faith, to support academic and other efforts that build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians, to support programs to grow democratic institutions throughout the Middle East and to support moderates on both sides to promote meaningful dialogue and exchanges.

For these reasons, we encourage the members of the ASA to vote against this resolution.

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