Last night I attended the Second Annual Bobbi Willig Memorial Labor Seder, sponsored by the Philadelphia Chapter of the Jewish Labor Committee, held at the Germantown Jewish Centre, 400 W. Ellet Street. The theme of the Seder this year was “A woman’s Place Is In Her Union,” and we honored two outstanding labor women-Laura Wentz, past President of the Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), and Nicole Fuller, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH).
Rabbi Ari Witkin led the religious portion of the service. An estimated 60 to 70 people attended; these included representatives of Philadelphia CLUW, PHILAPOSH, UFCW Local 1776, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), and a presentation by Cindy Heyward, Recording Secretary and Legislative Director of the Philadelphia Area Local, American Postal Workers Union (APWU).
The purpose of the Labor Seder is to commemorate the struggles of working and minority people in the world and the nation, tying them to the Passover story of the Israelites leaving oppression in Egypt. We had the custom of dipping out the drops of wine to remember the plagues that fell on Egypt-blood, frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the death of the first-born-along with plagues we suffer through today-child labor, slave labor, sweatshops, hunger, below-subsistence wages, sexism, racism, ethnic cleansing, domestic violence, and indifference to human suffering. (And these are not all the plagues we have in the world.) It’s always the rank-and-file people who suffer from the ignorance of their leaders.