Jewish Labor Committee, Chicago Records and Photographs
Language of Materials
Founded in 1934, the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) originated in an effort to link the forces of Jewish unions and other labor and Jewish fraternal organizations in the fight against fascism. In an immediate response to the successful organization of the JLC in New York, a Chicago chapter was established. The collection of records and photographs from the Chicago JLC provides limited but pertinent documentation of the Committee's activity from the early 1950s until the 1990s.
Founded in 1934, the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) originated in an effort to link the forces of Jewish unions and other labor and Jewish fraternal organizations in the fight against fascism. Baruch Charney Vladeck, general manager of the Jewish Daily Forward, organized the founding meeting of the JLC on February 25, 1934 in New York City. In an immediate response to the successful organization of the JLC in New York, a Chicago chapter was established. The activities of the JLC were national in scope and thus the Chicago office participated in campaigns and activities inaugurated by the New York headquarters, as well as undertaking locally-based programs. Jacob Siegel, managing editor of the Chicago edition of the Jewish Daily Forward and a leader of the Workmen's Circle, became the first chairman of the Chicago JLC and led the Chicago JLC until his death in 1965. As did Siegel, executive members and field representatives of the Chicago JLC arose from the ranks of trade unions and the Jewish press. Leading members of the Chicago JLC during Siegel s tenure and in the years following included: Morris Bialis (ILGWU), David Schacter (SEIU), and Aaron ("Archie") Aronin (Chicago Forward.)
Efforts to aid Jews and other victims of Nazi domination, as well as to publicize their plight, were the chief activities of the JLC in its early years. To this end, the JLC joined with the American Jewish Congress to organize a boycott of Nazi goods. During the 1930s the JLC made every effort to aid victims of Nazism in Europe, through collections of money, food and clothing drives, and other forms of assistance to refugees and exiles. Following the Allied victory, the JLC contributed to the rehabilitation of war-torn Europe by creating schools, clinics and homes for destitute children, and by providing services for Holocaust survivors in displaced persons camps.
The JLC s aim to "impress upon the Jewish masses that they must fight hand in hand with the general forces of democracy" remained the guiding principle of the JLC after the War. During the decades following the War, the JLC worked toward ensuring democratic rights for workers and minorities in the United States.
An interesting period of the Chicago JLC s activity is documented in the correspondence of the 1950s and 1960s. It was during this time that Chicago initiated their efforts in support of civil rights. Notable among the materials from this time period are the reports detailing the annual Labor Conferences on Civil Rights. Sponsored by the Chicago JLC, these conferences brought civil rights leaders and union officials together in a discussion of how equality could be attained. Inaugurated in 1955, the conferences continued to be held until 1982. In the collection is material concerning the Labor Conferences for 1956, 1965, 1967-1974, 1976-1981, and 1986.
Beginning in the 1970s, much of the JLC s activity was directed in support of Israel and Soviet Jewry. Numerous letters of protest regarding the American government's position with regard to these two areas reflect the JLC s lobbying efforts.
During the 1980s the Chicago JLC attempted to spark revitalization in their labor-oriented activities. Faced by a threatened dismantling of labor rights under the Reagan administration, the JLC sought to strengthen its connections to trade unions. An outgrowth of this effort was the Ethnic Labor Coalition, a coalition created by the Jewish Labor Committee in conjunction with the A. Philip Randolph Institute. The other agencies which formed this coalition were: Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Coalition of Labor Working Women, Hispanic American Labor Council, Italian-American Labor Council, Labor for Latin American Advancement, and Polish-American Labor Council.
· Malmgreen, Gail. "Labor and the Holocaust: The Jewish Labor Committee and the Anti-Nazi Struggle." Labor's Heritage, October 1991.
· Weiler, N. Sue "Freedom-Equality-Human Dignity-For All: Conferences on Civil Rights, Jewish Labor Committee." Typescript, n.d. 32pp. (Copy available at the Wagner Labor Archives.)
The files are grouped into fives series: Series I. Constitutions, Bylaws, and Executive Board Minutes Series II. Scrapbook Series III. Correspondence Series IV. General Files Series V. Photographs
Folders are generally arranged alphabetically within each series except for correspondence which is arranged chronologically. The researcher should consult series descriptions for individual series arrangement.
Scope and Content Note
The collection of photographs and records from the Chicago Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) provides limited but pertinent documentation of the Committee's activity from the early 1950s until the 1990s. Throughout their history, leading trade union representatives participated as chairpersons or executive board members of the committee. The researcher will find material concerning the following individuals: Irving Abrams, Workmen s Circle; Morris Bialis, ILGWU; Sol Brandzel, ACTWU; Harold Schwartz, ILGWU; David Schacter, SEIU.
Letters between the JLC and the other constituent parts of the Ethnic Labor Coalition document the response of labor to the political and economic environment of the 1980s. Other items of note are the various brochures produced by the JLC Chicago; a clippings scrapbook covering the years 1952-1953; a card file detailing the constituent organizations of the Chicago JLC as well as contributions by individual members, and a file documenting the "Bicentennial Project," a conference and a series of forums devoted to the history of the Jewish labor movement in Chicago organized by Professor Stanely Rosen in cooperation with the Chicago Labor Education Program, the University of Illinois -Chicago, and Spertus College of Judaica. Photographs are of events held or attended by the Chicago JLC from the 1950s through the 1990s.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by the Jewish Labor Commitee, Chicago, were transferred to New York University in 1995 by N. Sue Weiler and Stanley Rosen. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives. Please contact email@example.com, (212) 998-2630.
Identification of item, date; Jewish Labor Committee, Chicago Records; WAG 160; box number; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Stanley Rosen, executive board member, and N. Sue Weiler, Director of the Jewish Labor Committee, Chicago. The records were received during the summer of 1995 and the fall of 1996.The accession numbers associated with these gifts are 1995.022 and 1995.025.
The accession number 2018.022 is also associated with this collection.
A substantial collection of photographs accompanied the Chicago JLC materials and have been transferred to the Wagner Labor Archives Non-Print Collection. The subjects of many of the photos are persons involved with the Labor Conferences on Civil Rights.
About this Guide
Photographs were separated from this collection during initial processing and were established as a separate collection, the Jewish Labor Committee, Chicago Photographs (PHOTOS 071). In 2013, the photograph collection was arranged and described by the archivist and reincorporated into the Jewish Labor Committee, Chicago Records and Photographs.