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Jewish Labor Committee Records, Part III

Call Number



1903-2009, inclusive
; 1960-1999, bulk


Jewish Labor Committee (U.S.)
Jewish Labor Committee (U.S.) (Role: Donor)


423 Linear Feet
in 390 record cartons, 2 manuscript boxes, 24 card file boxes, 24 oversize flat boxes, and 1 folder in a shared oversize flat box

Language of Materials

Materials are primarily in English, though a significant amount of material is in Yiddish. To a lesser extent, the collection includes materials in Arabic as well as in French, German, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and other Indo-European languages.


The Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) is an umbrella group of Jewish trade unions and fraternal organizations. Founded in 1934, the JLC's initial goals were to organize opposition to Nazism and provide assistance to the victims of Nazi persecution. As the immediate need for relief passed, the JLC turned its energies toward various civil, human, and trade union rights causes. Though largely focused on issues of domestic social and economic justice after the 1950s, the JLC continued to campaign on international matters, particularly the support of the State of Israel and the opposition of discrimination against Soviet Jews. Part III of the JLC Records focus primarily on the JLC's post-war activities, though some materials from its relief and rescue period are also present. The records in Part III, which date mostly from the 1960s to the 1990s, reflect the diversity of the JLC's interests and areas of advocacy and the JLC's role as a liaison between the Jewish community and organized labor.

Historical Note

The Jewish Labor Committee (JLC), an umbrella group of Jewish trade unions and fraternal organizations, was founded on February 25, 1934, largely to lobby for the American labor movement's support against the growing threat of Nazism. The JLC's first president, Baruch Charney Vladeck, was active in the Jewish Labor Bund, one of the JLC's founding organizations. Leaders of the Workmen's Circle, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA), and the Jewish Daily Forward also cofounded the JLC. A Canadian branch of the JLC was formed two years later, with a similar mission as the U.S. JLC.

The JLC's initial goals were to organize opposition to Nazism and provide assistance to the victims of Nazi persecution. By working with European resistance movements, the JLC was able to aid the rescue of several thousand labor and socialist activists and their families. One of the many relief efforts the JLC organized was a child "adoption" program, whereby unions and other organizations and individuals served as "parent" sponsors to children orphaned or otherwise affected by the Holocaust. Sponsors gave the children financial support to be put toward food, clothing, school materials, and other items. The JLC also provided immigration assistance and offered help with employment and housing for refugees who came to the United States.

After World War II, the JLC continued its relief programs for Holocaust victims. As the immediate need for aid started to decline, the JLC shifted much of its attention to supporting the U.S. labor movement and raising awareness about issues of concern to the American Jewish community. In a departure from its earlier anti-Zionist stance, the JLC helped mobilize the labor movement's support for the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. In the decades that followed, the JLC would continue its efforts to garner support for Israel and its trade union principles.

From the 1950s onward, the JLC increasingly focused its energies on encouraging support for the labor movement's issues within the Jewish community, and vice versa. The JLC thus solidified its role as a link between the labor movement and the organized Jewish community in the latter half of the twentieth century. It campaigned on a variety of issues related to civil rights, human rights, and trade union rights. Though mostly concerned with domestic matters, the JLC also continued to be active in foreign affairs.

The JLC's concern with the spread of Nazi propaganda during World War II foretold its involvement in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. The National Trade Union Council for Human Rights (NTUC) was founded by the JLC in response to the growth of anti-Semitic and anti-African American groups. Through the efforts of the NTUC and the wider JLC, the JLC combatted discrimination in the workplace, in education, and in society at large by supporting civil rights legislation, working with U.S. and Canadian unions to establish local committees, and participating in civil rights marches and the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights.

The JLC was also one of the earliest advocates for the Jewish population living in the Soviet Union. The organization raised awareness among the labor community about the widespread oppression of the Jewish community under the Communist governments, which limited their right to religious expression even more so than other religious groups. In 1963, the JLC was one of the founding members of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry (later the National Conference on Soviet Jewry), an organization that would play an important role in the Soviet Jewry movement.

The Canadian branch of the JLC ceased its operations in the 1970s, but the U.S. JLC continued to be active on the home front and internationally. Trade union seminars in Israel, organized by the JLC, educated a new generation of emerging American labor leaders about the development of the State of Israel and its relationship to the U.S. labor movement.

In the 1980s, the JLC took a strong stance on workers' rights, supporting the fights to stop plant closings, increase the minimum wage, and prevent the reintroduction of industrial homework. Holocaust education was also a top priority during this period, with the JLC Educators' Chapter playing a key role in the formation of the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers' Program. The program, led by JLC vice president Vladka Meed, sent thirty secondary teachers to Israel and Poland in the summer of 1985 to visit memorials and historic sites and receive instruction from local historians and academics. The mid 1980s also saw the JLC heighten its awareness of its relationship to other ethnicities and cultures, as evidenced by the formation of the Ethnic Labor Coalition (ELC). The ELC works to strengthen support for the labor movement in the Italian, African American, Hispanic, and Jewish communities, as well as improve relations between these different ethnic groups.

Internationally, the JLC remained committed to the Soviet Jewry movement, cofounding the Trade Union Council for Soviet Jewry with the AFL-CIO in the late 1980s. The JLC also created the Labor for a Secure Israel program, which mobilizes support for Israel in U.S. states with small Jewish populations. In 1988, the JLC made a presentation before the Office of the United States Trade Representative in defense of Israel against allegations that Palestinian workers were being mistreated.

In addition to its many ongoing programs, the JLC continues to campaign for issues of concern to the labor community. The JLC is a member of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (formerly the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council) and works with the AFL-CIO and other Jewish and labor organizations to further its mission. Recently, the JLC has advocated on behalf of agricultural and sweatshop workers and hosted local Labor Seders. With many local chapters located through the country and an active national leadership, the JLC continues to be an influential presence in both the Jewish and labor communities.


The collection is arranged into ten series:

Series I: National Administration; Series II: Operations and Subject Files; Series III: Officers and Staff Members; Subseries A: Lasar Epstein; Subseries B: Samuel Estrin; Subseries C: Martin Lapan; Subseries D: Vladka Meed; Subseries E: Benjamin Tabachinsky; Subseries F: Michael Perry; Subseries G: Other Officers and Staff Members; Series IV: Regional Offices and Local Chapters; Series V: Departments, Chapters, and Divisions; Subseries A: Anti-Discrimination Department; Subseries B: National Trade Union Council (NTUC); Subseries C: Women's Division; Subseries D: Yiddish Department; Subseries E: Educators' Chapter; Series VI: Jewish Labour Committee, Canada; Series VII: Microfilm; Series VIII: Tamiment Library Collection of Jewish Labor Committee Records; Series IX: Archived Website; and Series X: Media and Graphics.

Part III of the Jewish Labor Committee (U.S.) collection is organized into 8 series, with a number of sub-series, as follows:

Series I: Minutes, 1957-1989; Series II: General Files, 1955-1993; Series III: Field Office Files, 1944-1978; Series IV: Jewish Labor Committee of Canada, 1957-1978; Series V: Scrapbooks and Clippings, 1952-1964; Series VI; Officers' and Staff Files, 1952-1984; Series VII: JLC Relations with Welfare Funds and Local Federations, 1939-1983; and Series VIII: Departments and Divisions of the JLC, 1945-1969.

All series are arranged alphabetically, except for Series V and Series VIII.A, which are arranged chronologically by year and then alphabetically within years.

Scope and Content Note

The Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) Records throughly document the entire history of the organization, from its founding in 1934 up to the 2000s. The records trace the evolution of the JLC from a rescue-and-relief organization during the World War II era to its role as a liaison between the Jewish and labor communities in the latter half of the twentieth century. Though earlier material is present, the majority of the records in Part III of the collection date from the 1960s to the 1990s. Researchers interested in earlier material should also consult Part I (WAG 025.001) and Part II (WAG 025.002) of the collection, located at this repository. The first five series in Part III document the activities of the JLC in the United States, while the last series documents the JLC's Canadian branch.

Approximately one-third of the collection is comprised of the general subject and programming files maintained by various members of the JLC staff, starting in the post-war era as the JLC broadened its agenda. These files reflect the range of the JLC's interests and activities and contain material produced by the JLC and by the many organizations it worked with or researched. Though mostly focused on domestic activities, the materials reflect the overlap between issues at home and abroad. For instance, the JLC was dedicated to combatting discrimination of all forms, actively involved in the civil rights movement in the United States while at the same time working to raise awareness about the oppression of Soviet Jews. The materials reflect the JLC's close relationships with other national labor and Jewish organizations.

The records of the JLC's Anti-Discrimination Department also make up a significant portion of the collection. Spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s, these records detail the JLC's efforts to end discrimination through lobbying and collaboration with various labor, Jewish, and/or civil rights groups. Other divisions represented in the collection illuminate some of the JLC's other areas of prioritization from the 1950s onward, while personal papers of prominent leaders within the JLC reflect the areas of interest for each individual.

To a lesser extent, files related to the administration of the JLC at the national level, including the records of its national conferences, governing bodies, and fundraising efforts, signify what the JLC deemed its greatest accomplishments and what its most pressing needs were moving forward. The records of the JLC's field offices and regional chapters provide insight into how the JLC exerted influence at the local level and reveal the issues of concern to the labor and Jewish communities in specific regions. A small amount of material also documents the now defunct Canadian JLC, a group that often mirrored the U.S. JLC in its goals and activities, particularly regarding anti-discrimination campaigns.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection, created by the Jewish Labor Committee was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Jewish Labor Committee Records, Part III; WAG 025.003; box number; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

Location of Materials

Most materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact at least two business days prior to research visit.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The first shipment of the Jewish Labor Committee Records arrived at the Tamiment Library in 1984. The accession numbers associated with these donations are 1984.002 and 1984.006. A number of addition donations to the collection have been made by the JLC and its individual members over the years. The majority of materials that comprise Part III of the collection were likely donated throughout the 2000s, including a donation by Florence Cohen in 2007 and presumably by the JLC as a whole in 2011. Some of the accession numbers associated with the Part III donations include 2008.014 and 2011.131.

Four audiocassette tapes from National Alumni Conferences, a scrapbook of news clippings on Nazism, the materials that comprise Series VIII were found in the repository and added to the collection in May 2014. The accession numbers associated with the audiotapes is 2014.098. The accession number associated with the scrapbook is 2014.136. The accession number associated with Series VIII is 2014.113.

Custodial History

The archived website was migrated from the California Digital Library's Web Archiving Service to the Internet Archive's Archive-It Service in November 2015. The link to California Digital Library was removed in October 2017.

Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures

Audiovisual materials have not been preserved and may not be available to researchers. Materials not yet digitized will need to have access copies made before they can be used. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact, (212) 998-2630 with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Series VII contains microfilm.


During the processing which occurred in 2013 and 2014, materials that document the JLC's processes and activities were retained, but individual examples of these processes and activities were weeded from the collection. For instance, copies of blank registration forms from the JLC's various conferences and lists of conference attendees were retained, but individual registration forms were not retained. Similarly, information about the JLC's internship program was maintained, but personnel files on interns (which also included Social Security numbers) were designated for disposal. Requests for reimbursement completed by conference attendees and the JLC's local chapters were discarded, but expense reports were retained.

Obvious duplicates within individual folders were sampled and the remainder of the duplicates discarded. Some administrative materials relating to the creation of the JLC's biennial convention journals, mainly pertaining to payment for advertisements in the journals, were also discarded. The archivist also discarded refund requests from individuals who did not ultimately attend the JLC's conferences, some materials relating to conference hotel arrangements, order forms for T-shirts, and individual checks.

Separated Materials

During the processing work that occurred after 1985 through 2012, some materials from the Jewish Labor Committee Records were separated to other Tamiment Library collections. Photographs and other graphic material were separated to the partially processed Jewish Labor Committee (U.S.) Photographs (PHOTOS 048). Posters, artwork, artifacts, and other ephemera were separated to the unprocessed Jewish Labor Committee Ephemera (EPHEMERA 003) collection.

Also during this period, certain materials were separated to external institutions. A portion of materials from the JLC Records at the Tamiment Library were donated to the Center for Jewish History's American Jewish Historical Society in 1997. Throughout the 1990s, Tamiment donated approximately 300 audio tapes, mostly recordings of the JLC's radio broadcasts or of various JLC events, to the Center for Jewish History's YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. In 2009, Tamiment also donated to YIVO approximately 4 linear feet of Yiddish transcripts of the JLC's radio program, as well as family photographs of Martin Lapan, former Executive Director of the JLC. Eight volumes of Holocaust survivor lists, which were duplicated in the JLC records at Tamiment, were donated to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in 1990.

During the processing work that occurred in 2013 and 2014, significant runs of the JLC's publications and the publications of other organizations collected by the JLC were separated for library cataloging. These publications are accessible via NYU's online catalog, BobCat.

Related Archival Materials

The following Jewish Labor Committee materials are located at this repository:
Jewish Labor Committee (U.S.) Records, Part I (WAG 025.001)
Jewish Labor Committee (U.S.) Records, Part II (WAG 025.002)
Jewish Labor Committee, Boston Records (WAG 159)
Jewish Labor Committee, Chicago Records (WAG 160)
Jewish Labor Committee (U.S.) Oral History Collection (OH 027)
Jewish Labor Committee (U.S.) Photograph Collection (PHOTOS 048)
Jewish Labor Committee films (FILMS 001)
Jewish Labor Committee Ephemera (EPHEMERA 003)
Issues of the JLC Review
Issues of JLC Outlook
Issues of the JLC Civil Rights Newsletter
JLC Biennial Convention Journals

The following related archival collections are also located at the Tamiment Library:
Ad Hoc Committee on the Human Rights and Genocide Treaties Records (WAG 037)
Julius Bernstein Papers (WAG 116)
Edward S. Goldstein: Jewish Labor Committee Research Files (WAG 232)
Isaiah Minkoff Papers (WAG 086)
Jacob Pat Papers (WAG 127)
Baruch Charney Vladeck Papers (TAM 037)

The records of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council are located at the Center for Jewish History's American Jewish Historical Society in New York City.

Collection processed by

Craig Savino and Joanna Blokker, 2004-2007; Rachel Menyuk, 2009-2010; Gail Malmgreen, 2011-2012; and Rachel Schimke, 2013-2014 (with assistance from Stephen Sutton and Giana Ricci)

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2024-06-12 17:27:18 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid is in English

Processing Information

After 1985 through 2012, Boxes 118 through 365 of the JLC Records, Part III (WAG 025.003), as well as the materials that comprise Part I (WAG 025.001) and Part II (WAG 025.002), were rehoused and described by multiple Tamiment archivists. Between September 2013 and February 2014, an addendum of unprocessed JLC records was incorporated into the existing finding aid for the JLC Records, Part III (WAG 025.003). The addendum was previously known as the JLC Records, Part IV (WAG 025.004), and though some processing work had been done on the collection and a partial inventory existed, no description of these materials was made public. Part IV of the collection was eliminated after these materials were incorporated into Part III. Parts I (WAG 025.001) and II (WAG 025.002), which are available on microfilm, remain unchanged.

The process of incorporating the addendum into the JLC Records, Part III (WAG 025.003) required revising the existing intellectual arrangement of Part III, though the physical arrangement of materials within Boxes 118 through 365 is unchanged. New finding aid notes were written and existing notes were revised to more accurately reflect the collection's content and processing history. The previously unprocessed materials, which now comprise Boxes 366 through 490 of Part III, were assessed for preservation needs. Some materials from these boxes were rehoused into archival quality boxes and folders. Original folders were retained whenever possible, but many materials required rehousing because the original folders had unclear titles, were unlabeled, or were damaging the materials. Original folder titles were also largely retained, and titles supplied by the archivist for the sake of clarity or for loose materials are indicated with square brackets on the folders. Before original folders were discarded, any significant annotations on the original folders were photocopied and placed in the new folders. Materials in untraditional housing, including binders of mimeographed mailings, photographs housed in small photograph books, and some scrapbooks, were also rehoused.

Select folders were removed by the archivists who processed the collection prior to 2013, and placeholder folder titles stating that "Folder [XX] has been deleted" were put in place of the removed folders. During the processing work that occurred in 2013 and 2014, the archivist removed references to these deleted folders from the container list; therefore, researchers may note that folders are occasionally missing from the container list.

In 2014, four audiocassette tapes from National Alumni Conferences, a scrapbook of news clippings on Nazism, and the materials that comprise Series VIII were discovered in the repository and added to the collection. Also in 2014, the archived website was added as Series IX.

Series X: Media and graphics added in 2018 as Accession 2018.023.

In June 2024, scrapbooks from Series II were disbound and rehoused by conservators due to their fragile condition. All scrapbooks were originally in boxes 199 through 202, and several new box numbers were added as a result.

Revisions to this Guide

December 2023: Updated by Rachel Mahre to add to the Related Materials note.
June 2024: Updated by Weatherly Stephan to reflect rehousing of scrapbooks in Series II


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
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