In an op-ed published in JTA, Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman explains how Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s (R-WI) anti-union agenda is in direct contradiction to several core Jewish values. Zimmerman writes:
Jewish support for the labor movement often stems from religious texts mandating workers’ rights. As the Torah states, ‘You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer.’ Or it stems from pride in our involvement and leadership in the labor movement in the early 20th century.
While Jewish opposition to Walker’s attempts to destroy labor unions is certainly rooted in these religious and secular ideals, it also centers on fundamental questions at the heart of our Jewish values: What kind of society do we want to live in? What kind of world do we want to leave to our children? How can we stand idly by when proposed legislation will devastate the very fabric of our communities?
Last week all eight rabbis in Madison representing the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements of Judaism signed on to a letter distributed to colleagues throughout the country that strongly opposes Walker’s proposed legislation. We have enjoyed deep and broad support for this letter because there is a significant consensus that the governor’s bill will have dreadful effects on our state.
This is an affront to our Jewish values. Far from being a coddled class, public employees are our teachers, bus drivers, prison guards, firefighters and police officers—the very heart of our communities. They are streaming into our Capitol day after day from around the state because their livelihood is in jeopardy.
It is not just the public employees who are protesting. The more than 70,000 people who converged on the Capitol on Feb. 26 were quite diverse: young and old, rural and urban, wealthy and poor. It is a testament to how deeply they care about our future. Their passion and commitment demonstrate our human capacity to raise our voices when people’s health, security and well-being are threatened and to work diligently to create a better world.
As Rabbi Hillel once said, ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?’
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