18 February 2008

California: Celebrating Workmen's Circle

When Yiddish-speaking immigrant Jews came to North America, they found crowded tenements, dangerous working conditions, poverty and disease.

In 1892, a group of cloakmakers gathered in a New York Lower East Side tenement and formed a mutual aid society formally chartered in 1900 as The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring. It established schools and camps for children and adults, published books, operated a famous medical department for members and sanitariums for the infirm, ran credit unions for members, purchased land for cemeteries, and founded the garment workers' unions that agitated for better working conditions.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews have a historic link to The Workmen’s Circle, which today has active branches in New York, New Jersey, Boston, Los Angeles, Michigan, Florida, Cleveland and Toronto.

The Los Angeles Chapter celebrated its 100th anniversary in January 2008.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV) will host Eric A. Gordon, PhD on "100 years of the Workmen's Circle/Arbeiter Ring," at 2pm Sunday, March 2, at Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks.

Many of our immigrant ancestors belonged to this organization. This program will help attendees learn what records might be available to help research family members who were members.

Gordon has served as director of the Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring Southern California District since November 1995. He serves on the Western Region Administrative Committee of the Jewish Labor Committee, and sings with the Mit Gezang Yiddish Chorus of the Workmen's Circle, and with Voices of Conscience, the social action chorus of Los Angeles.

For more information, address, directions and newsletters, visit the JGSCV site.

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