I have written several stories in the JN about the contributions of Jews to the labor movement in America. In particular, in Michigan, many Jews contributed to the success of the United Automobile Workers (UAW), and some members, like Irving Bluestone and Sam Fishman, became national labor leaders.
So, because many Jews have supported labor, one might ask, “What has the labor movement done for Jews?”
One answer to this question can be found in the June 16, 1961, issue of the JN, where you’ll find an advertisement and story regarding a testimonial dinner for famous UAW President Walter Reuther, citing him as “Labor Man of the Decade,” as well as a photo with members of the testimonial committee, which included Rabbi Morris Adler.
While Reuther was clearly one of the most powerful and influential union leaders in American history, Detroit’s Jewish community was honoring Reuther for his work and that of the UAW on behalf of Israel. Michael Comay, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, came to Detroit to present an award from the State of Israel to Reuther.
Beyond Reuther’s personal support for Israel and his relationships with labor and political leaders there, the UAW also purchased $100,000 in Israeli Bonds. A tidy sum for 1961.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.
By Mike Smith, DJN Foundation Archivist