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Archive for : Immigration

Supporting Workers’ Rights on the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

100 years ago today, a fire struck New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist Company building. The fire, which was likely caused by an accidental cigarette tossed into a waste bin, spread quickly – trapping hundreds of garment workers (mostly women) inside, and killing over 150 people.

The Forward (then called The Forverts) founder, Abraham Cahan, wrote a stark editorial two days after the fire which read: “The entire neighborhood is sitting shiva. Every heart is torn in mourning. The human heart is drowning in tears. What a catastrophe! What a dark misfortune!”
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Monday Link Roundup

Happy day after daylight savings – you must be tired. To help wake you up, here are some inspiring and powerful stories of service from around the web.

  • The situation in Japan post-last week’s earthquake and tsunami is still very grim, but help is starting to trickle in. On the Jewish aid front, JDC is continuing to collect emergency relief funds, and JTA reported that the Israeli humanitarian organization IsraAid dispatched a civilian search and rescue team to Japan.
  • Meanwhile, is helping to mobilize young volunteers to make and/or photograph 100,000 origami cranes as a symbol of “relief and healing to all who affected by this tragic natural disaster.”
  • The New York Jewish Week shared a story about young Jewish and Muslim leaders in New York City joining together in support of immigrant rights. In light of the recent tragic events in the West Bank, the need for glimpses of hope and cooperation like this become all the more important.
  • Rabbi Jill Jacobs published a compelling and personal essay on the Huffington Post about tomatoes, Trader Joe’s, and farm labor rights.
  • A profile published on GOOD introduces us to Josh Evans, an inspiring college student and member of the Yale Sustainable Food Project.

Repair Interview: Shoshana Wineburg and the Yahel Social Change Program

Yahel is a new and exciting addition to the world of Jewish service (and also a Repair the World grantee). Founded in 2009 by Dana Talmi, the organization is already making huge strides in promoting service in Israel. Their programs work to create a society where “people work side by side in order to bring about personal and social change.”

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Repair Interview: Andrew Cohen and Hot Molasses Rock Out for Justice

The Boston-based band, Hot Molasses is known for two things: its raucous rock and roll sound, and its commitment to social action.

This past January, Hot Molasses teamed up with Moishe/Kavod House for a benefit show to raise money for the grassroots community organizing non-profit City Life/Vida Urbana. Band leader and Jewish Organizing Initiative (JOI) alum, Andrew Cohen, took a moment to explain the inspiration behind the show, the band’s dual-mission, and where, exactly, they got their name.
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Poetry Competition Honors the Memory of The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Calling all poets, wordsmiths and rhymers: The Forward is sponsoring a poetry contest to remember the tragic fire that engulfed the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in lower Manhattan on March 25, 1911. According to their website:

“A century ago, 146 workers – mostly immigrant women – died as flames engulfed the floors where they worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory in New York City.” The fire itself was started innocently – a flare up in a scrap bin under a cutter’s table – but, largely due to the neglectful management and unsafe, sweatshop-like conditions of the factory, it led to one of the deadliest industrial incidents in New York’s history.
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Weekly Torah: Parshat Mishpatim 5771

This post is part of a weekly series of Torah commentaries presented by the American Jewish World Service. It was contributed by Dani Passow.

After describing a series of laws dealing with property, damages, injury and other torts, our parsha concludes the section with a final warning: “Do not oppress the stranger; you know the feelings of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. ((Shemot 23:9)) Explaining the seemingly odd placement of this verse, Rabbi Shimshon Refael Hirsch, a 19th century German rabbi, writes:

Twenty-four times, whenever, and in every case, where the Torah lays down the law concerning rights of persons and things, the “stranger in the land” is placed under the special protection of the law. The degree of justice in a land is measured, not so much by the rights accorded to the native-born inhabitants, to the rich, or people who have, at any rate, representatives or connections that look after their interests, but by what justice is meted out to the completely unprotected “stranger.” The absolute equality in the eyes of the law between the native and the foreigner forms the very basic foundation of Jewish jurisdiction. ((Commentary on Shemot 1:14))

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Service in Pictures

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is perhaps best known for its international charitable work, bringing volunteers, supplies and services to foreign countries where Jews live, no matter how small the population may be in those parts. Their JDC Short-Term Service programs focus not on only those in need but on engaging the younger set – North American college students and young professionals — by sponsoring service trips all over the globe. They have sent missions to Morocco, Cuba and Haiti, just to name a few. But now, after all of this service work abroad, they’re finally coming to a (New York) City near you. At least their pictures are.

From now until January 26th, the Bronfman Center at NYU is hosting a photo exhibit called “Caution: Children at Play.” The pictures were culled from a short-term service trip to Tel Aviv’s Hatikvah neighborhood, which was run in conjunction with JDC’s Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI). In June, 19 student volunteers from NYU, the New School, FIT and SVA traveled to Israel to work with children of parents who are refugees, asylum-seekers, and foreign workers from Sudan, Eritrea, Ghana, the Philippines, and other countries. Though in the late 90s, there were just 100 asylum seekers in Israel, that number has increased many times over and at present, they are over 22,000 such individuals.
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Citizenship Day Coming Up This Friday 9/17

This Friday night, September 17th, is Erev Yom Kippur – the start of the Jewish calendar’s most sacred day. But September 17th also marks another notable event: Citizenship Day.

Founded in 2004, Citizenship Day marks the anniversary of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. It’s history, however, stretches back a bit further. According to,

“The roots of Citizenship Day stretch much farther back beginning in 1940 when I am an American Day was initiated by Congress for the third Sunday in May. The day of September 17th was reached by citizens themselves. In 1952 Olga T. Weber of Ohio successfully convinced her municipality to name the date Constitution Day. The next year she went a step further and petitioned the Ohio government to celebrate the holiday statewide as Constitution Week from September 17-23 and the movement was soon passed.

Citizenship Day, which will celebrate its 14th year this year, gives all Americans an opportunity to express their pride in their citizenship and their country. And what better way to do that than with service? There are many ways you can get involved this Friday – from volunteering at a local retirement community or health center, to getting involved with a local campaign, or organizing a day of learning. And because of the timing, celebrating with service on Friday morning or afternoon is also a great lead into the spiritual services of Yom Kippur.

9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance

Last year, President Barack Obama amended the Patriot Day proclamation to make September 11th a nationally recognized day of service and remembrance. In the proclamation he wrote:

As we pay tribute to loved ones, friends, fellow citizens, and all who died, we reaffirm our commitment to the ideas and ideals that united Americans in the aftermath of the attacks… I call upon all Americans to join in service and honor the lives we lost, the heroes who responded in our hour of need, and the brave men and women in uniform who continue to protect our country at home and abroad…

Originated by the family members of those who lost loved ones on 9/11, the National Day of Service and Remembrance is an opportunity to salute the heroes of 9/11, recapture the spirit of unity and compassion that inspired our Nation following the attacks, and rededicate ourselves to sustained service to our communities.

In honor of the 9/11 day of service, people in towns and cities across the country are planning acts of service – large and small – to strengthen their communities and build stronger bonds with the issues and people they care about. The range of service projects being posted on includes everything from reading to kids in an after school program, to organizing food drives, donating blood, spending a day visiting elderly people in the hospital, and giving funds to cancer research organizations.

Find out how you can help to make 9/11 more than “just another day” by doing an act of service or adopting a local charity here.

Read President Obama’s full proclamation here.

Repair Interview: Beth deBeer and AJWS

Beth deBeer found meaningful work – and a surprising connection to community – during her time volunteering with Shan Youth Power, a grantee organization of American Jewish World Service (AJWS) in Burma. Read below to find out more about her experience and check out a short video she made to raise awareness about the issues facing the Shan State population.

How did you end up volunteering with AJWS?
In college I was part of a cultural exchange program that sent participants to Ghana. Because of that trip, I decided to go to Ethiopia where my cousin was living. While there I volunteered with the Jewish Agency and JDC and realized I wanted to go back to the developing world again and do that same kind of [service] work. A friend of mine had been on AJWS’ summer program and that’s how I got involved.

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