The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire that took place in New York City a century ago is now being memorialized in programs across the country. It took that fire on March 25, 1911, and the deaths of 146 innocent garment workers – mostly women, mostly Jewish, mostly immigrants – to bring about meaningful safety regulations, and to respect the call of workers struggling to secure the benefits of union membership. Many of our grandparents and great-grandparents played a critical role in building a strong and vibrant labor movement with the hope that it would endure and remain a permanent feature of American life. Through their actions and their struggle, our lives and the lives of most Americans were made better. Today, those hard-fought gains are under threat in communities across the United States.
In the streets of Madison, we can hear the echoes of Torah. From Moses to Maimonides to modern day Rabbis across the country, Jews have a long and lively history of supporting the rights of working people. Rabbis Bonnie Margulis and Jonathan Biatch recently reported from Wisconsin that standing for worker’s rights is “absolutely” the Jewish thing to do. Now is a good moment to ask ourselves, why?