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96 SHOFAR Spring 1994 Vol. 12, No.3 THE JEWISH lABOR COMMITTEE: PAST AND PRESENT Arieh Lebowitz Program Associate Jewish Labor Committee The Jewish Labor Committee was founded in February 1934 in New York by leaders of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA), the Workmen's Circle, the Jewish Daily Forward Association, the Jewish Labor Bund, and other kindred groups in response to the rise of Nazism in Europe. Before and during America's entry into World War II, the JLC raised emergency funds for partisan forces, rescued over a thousand political and cultural leaders-jews and non-Jews-and organized an American coordinating committee for the trade union, social democratic, and Jewish anti-Nazi resistance movements in Europe. Much of the antiNazi work done by the American labor movement (most notably the work of the ILGWU and its leader, David Dubinsky) was either initiated or coordinated by the JLC. In 1941, the JLC was instrumental in arranging for AFL President William Green to secure emergency temporary visas from the U.S. State Department, which were ultimately used to rescue over 1,000 individuals. After the war, the Jewish Labor Committee was actively involved in relief and rehabilitation work for the survivors. A special Child Adoption Program was organized, wherein American groups such as ILGWU and other union locals, Workmen's Circle, and Jewish Labor Bund branches, as well as the JLC itself, sponsored the cost of helping child survivors in the aftermath of the war. The JLC also helped found and support children's homes, libraries, and other institutions in postwar Europe. Many of the non-Jewish leaders who were rescued by the JLC returned to their countries and established democratic institutions, parties, and trade union movements in a number of West European countries. In the 1950s, theJewish Labor Committee's focus changed, to working to combat prejudice and discrimination amongAmerican workers. TheJLC established over two dozen local committees to combat intolerance around the United States and Canada. These became the foundation for the AFL- Jewish Labor Committee 97 CIO's Civil Rights Department, formed after the merger of the AFL and the CIO. A similar process occurred in Canada. Since that time, the JLC has continued to evolve, and it is now one among the network ofpermanently establishedJewish communityrelations agencies, drawing upon its mandate to build upon its historically strong ties with both American labor and the Jewish community. Copies of recent "Program Highlights" are available from their national headquarters upon written request (address at the end of this article). The JLC Collection at the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, NYU In early 1985, the non-current records of the JLC were transferred to the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University. This vast collection, comprising some 800 boxes of material covering the period 1934-1980, includes manuscript and printed documents in English, Yiddish, Polish, and other languages, as well as photographs, scrapbooks, posters, and films. Here is the whole story of the JLC, from its earliest struggles against the rise of Nazism to its post-war activities in the fields of civil rights, labor justice, and human dignity everywhere. The Holocaust-period files of the JLC will be of special interest to scholars and others researching: 1. anti-Nazi, rescue, and relief activity in the 1930s and 1940s; 2. Jewish underground movements and resistance in wartime Europe; 3. the JLC's interaction with other Jewish organizations, such as the Jewish Labor Bund, Labor Zionists, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Workmen's Circle, the American Jewish Congress, the Va'ad Ha'hatzalah, and many others, in the anti-Nazi effort; 4. Jewish immigration and family history; biographical data on Holocaust survivors and other refugees; s. the history of efforts to preserve Yiddish culture after the War; 6. American labor's dealings with the social democratic and labor movements of Western Europe. Geographically arranged sections of the JLC Collection include files on all major u.S. and Canadian cities, and files on other countries, most extensive for Poland, Sweden, France, Austria, Mexico, and China. Researchers are invited to make use of and publicize the accessibility of this...


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