Perelman Jewish Day School Bars Teachers Union

— by Lynne Fox, Chairperson, Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee

The Perelman Jewish Day School board has unilaterally withdrawn its recognition of the union which has represented their teachers without interruption since 1976 and refuses to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.

Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee stands firmly with the teachers, their union and the parents and community leaders who have reached out to us as the board violates the rights of the school’s teachers to bargain collectively.

Although the school claims a religious exception to the relevant labor laws, it is the teachers’ concerns which are in alignment with tenets of Conservative Judaism. By dismantling the union and denying employees the power of collective bargaining, the Perelman Jewish Day School is acting in opposition both to major halakhic authorities and to the official position of the Conservative Movement. In 2008, the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards passed a teshuvah (legal position) which obliges institutions affiliated with the movement to comply with a series of Jewish labor laws. Among these, employers must pay a living wage and “may not interfere in any way with organizing drives.”

More after the jump.
This teshuvah draws upon a consistent line of rabbinic authority dating back to the Talmud. The third century Mishnah and Tosefta instructs employers to meet or exceed local custom in terms of wages and benefits, and the Babylonian Talmud gives town residents the right to intervene between a local employer and a worker to insure that wages are fair.

In 1945, Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, a leading Israeli Ashkanzi scholar and posek (authoritative adjudicator of questions related to Jewish law), recognized the right of workers to organize and to have their regulations and rules seen as binding. He also recognized, in certain conditions, their right to strike.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986), a Lithuanian Orthodox rabbi, scholar and posek, concurred in a series of Responsa that extended Rabbi Waldenberg’s holding to include the right of workers to prevent scabs from doing their jobs and to include the rights of religious school teachers to bargain collectively, even though community funds and the religious obligation to teach Torah were at stake.

The Perelman Jewish Day School has based its identity on a fidelity to halakhah (Jewish law) and derekh eretz (Jewish ethics). We call upon the school’s administration to bring this same dedication to its obligations as an employer of teachers who work hard every day to make the institution a center of Torah.

Jewish tradition has been clear and consistent — the treatment of workers and their right to organize are among the basic underpinnings of a just society. We therefore call upon the Perelman Jewish Day School to reverse their decision and begin to bargain with the teachers union over the terms of the next collective bargaining agreement.  

Shema Flashmobs Support Anat Hoffman & Religious Pluralism

Today USCJ is coordinating a Global Sh’ma FlashMob in support of Jewish pluralism in the face of the arrest of Anat Hoffman for chanting the Shema at the Kotel. Those in the states are timed to those held today in Israel.

KOACH is asking kehillot, members, friends and affiliates and everyone who cares about this matter to gather to recite or sing the Sh’ma, adding a short statement about who they are, where they are located and why they support the cause of religious pluralism in Israel. Each public Sh’ma recitation and statement should be filmed (keep it low-tech; smart-phones are fine) and then immediately posted to this Facebook page.

If you can’t make it, then do this with your friends, classes, groups all week somewhere!

More after the jump.

University Flashmobs so far
Pace University – 12:15 – Spotlight
NYU – 1pm – Bronfman Center
University of Illinois – 1:30PM – Hillel
University of Hartford – 1PM – Alumni Plaza

Please post yours in the comments here:…

KOACH is a project of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

USY students break dreidel spinning record in Philadelphia

Some 900 Jewish high school students, gathered in Center City Philadelphia from across North America this week for United Synagogue Youth’s annual international convention, appear to have “topped” the official world record for the most Hanukkah dreidels spun simultaneously in the same room.  With so many more present than needed to break the current record of 541, these Jewish teens fully expected to reach their goal and independent observers say preliminarily that they believe 687 of them successfully achieved their goal.

More after the jump.
It takes several months for the Guinness Book of World Records to verify and authenticate such claims, but official observers included the manager and staff of the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

The USYers, as they are known, just back from a morning of community service – including some dressed as “mitzvah clowns,” having performed at a nearby children’s hospital – were seated ten-to-a-table, at nearly 100 tables in a large ballroom, screaming and cheering themselves and each other on.  As one observer noted, “The group readied themselves, steadied their hands, and spun without abandon.”

The current Guinness world record of 541 Hanukkah dreidels being spun simultaneously for at least ten seconds was set in 2005 at Temple Emmanuel in Cherry Hill, NJ.  Others have since claimed to top that official record but have yet to be verified.

Dreidel is a popular Yiddish-named children’s game of chance, traditionally played on Hanukkah, which began this year at sundown Tuesday night, December 20.  Players spin tops – in this case, colorful plastic ones with a distinctive shape and slender top – with a Hebrew letter on each side, winning or losing gelt, usually chocolate coins wrapped in foil, with each spin.

The USY convention, the largest annual gathering of Jewish youth, wraps up a year of events marking USY’s 60th anniversary, also includes remarks Thursday by four-star General Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, the highest ranking Jewish member of the U.S. military.

United Synagogue’s youth organization was established in 1951, and since then it has given Jewish teenagers the opportunity to come together to celebrate and learn about Judaism, develop a sense of Jewish identity, acquire leadership skills, and build lifelong friendships.  It has become one of the largest and most active Jewish youth groups in the world.

According to USY Convention Director Karen Stein:

Part of our objective is to teach the Jewish values of g’milut hasadim (performing acts of loving-kindness for others) and tikkun olam, which is, literally, repairing the world,” .  “We make a positive impact on the surrounding community while teaching our youth the importance of helping others, regardless of faith or race.  It’s amazing how the positive energy generated by students’ experiences at Convention can have an impact for months afterward.  USYers return to their regions and chapters full of new ideas that give a real boost to the level of programming and involvement in USY.