The Shmooze

Yiddish Songs and Workers' Rights: Notes From the PJA Dinner

By Rex Weiner

  • Print
  • Share Share
Courtesy of Jewish Funds for Justice

A couple of things became apparent during the Progressive Jewish Alliance’s annual gala in Los Angeles last week, factors which will surely shape the run-up to the 2012 election. These factors did not include the “Yiddish songs of the labor movement,” which were performed entertainingly enough by singer Cindy Paley as guests shmoozed pre-dinner, but are unlikely to be adopted as campaign anthems unless David Dubinsky rises from the grave and runs for office.

The fund-raising dinner held at Temple Sinai in Westwood, where the merger between the PJA and — what’s that other org? many of the evening’s speakers joked — ah yes, the Jewish Funds for Justice was officially announced, also featured as guest of honor U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. A Latina and an L.A. native, Solis extolled the virtues of the country in which she rose from humble origins to a cabinet post. She received warm applause for praising the community organizer’s vocation, to which many in the packed banquet room, including Freedom Rider and PJA-founding member Ralph Fertig, had been called.

The warmest applause, however, came at the point in Solis’s speech when she hailed her boss, the President (another community organizer), saying she would be happy to serve Obama for another four years. And from the room’s unanimous reaction it was clear that the White House is wasting no time mobilizing its potent force of surrogates who are already on the campaign trail, firing up the Democratic base.

The second factor was the newly announced first campaign by the Merged Entities (a committee is deliberating on a new name for the org) championing the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. The push for “ethical employment practices” urges employers to provide a living wage, overtime pay, insurance and contractual guarantees to household help. Two bills are currently moving through the legislative process — one in New York and the other in California, where last week PJA/JFJ activists lobbied lawmakers in Sacramento, and helped move AB 889 a few steps closer to passage, making the Merged Entities a political force as well as a force for change.

For as the Merged Entities continue to raise the labor issue in the coming months, more perilous looms the political pitfall for any candidates with an illegal nanny, undocumented yard worker, or repairman who might feel ill-used or underpaid. Squads of journalists are undoubtedly at this moment staking out playgrounds, eying those Spanish-speaking stroller-pushers and their blue-eyed charges, and chatting up the day-laborers outside Home Depot, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in hand, to catch unwary politicos.

Stay tuned for the next Nanny-gate, as well as the Merged Entities’ new name.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Progressive Jewish Alliance, Obama, Labor, Merged Entities, Jewish Funds For Justice, Hilda Solis, Democrats, Elections

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?








You may also be interested in our English-language newsletters:













We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.