The Jewish community has been in the forefront of struggles for social and economic justice for generations. For many, the iconic historical moment is the period in the early 20th century when immigrant Jewish garment workers, newly arrived from the radical milieu of czarist Russia, united in a mass mobilization remembered as the Jewish labor movement—a broad network that included the great garment workers’ unions, various socialist and anarchist parties and Yiddish newspapers such as the Jewish Daily Forward and the Morning Freiheit.
The Jewish commitment to economic justice is older than that, though. It can be traced back to the biblical dictates of the Torah and the prophets and to later rabbinic literature, as well as the communitarian welfare structures of medieval Jewish communities. And while the heyday of the Jewish labor movement passed as the immigrants’ children entered the middle class, some contemporary Jewish organizations and a great many individual Jewish activists remain deeply involved in the struggle for social and economic justice.