Rabbis Without Borders
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[Chart from the Jewish Labor Committee, the Jewish voice in the labor movement, and the voice of the labor movement in the Jewish community.]
Labor Day, the symbolic end of summer, is the closing parenthesis of a season marked by barbeques, beer and major sales at the mall. Where’s the “Labor” part of it? Congress and President Grover Cleveland established this holiday in 1887, envisioning “A street parade to exhibit to the public ‘the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations’, followed by a festival for the workers and their families.”
For most of us, the celebration of the Labor Movement is long lost.
This year, the Jewish calendar intersects Labor Day weekend with Selichot on Saturday night. A warm-up to the Days of Awe, Selichot highlights High Holiday penitential prayers. It opens with a plea that God hear our voices. Calling upon God’s compassion, graciousness, kindness and forgiveness, Selichot invites us to be honest with ourselves and with others, to humbly admit our wrongdoings and to summon the will to change.
The Labor Day/Selichot intersection is a call to honestly acknowledge the sin of rising inequality amidst diminished concern for the average American, and for those who labor and yet live in poverty.
On Selichot we recite the confessional, Ashamnu/We have sinned. We confess to arrogance, bigotry, and cynicism; deceit, egotism and greed; hatred, injustice, and jealousy. We have been lustful and malicious, obstinate, possessive and selfish. We have yielded to temptation and showed zeal for bad causes. We ask our Parent our Sovereign/Avinu Malkeinu to be gracious to us, to treat us generously and with kindness, and be our help.
On this Labor Day, let us confess our sins and regret our transgressions. May we merit Divine compassion and forgiveness. May we become “at one,” as one, through our atonement.
For the sins of greed and selfishness,
For the sin of willful inattention to the struggles of those who persevere at minimum wage jobs, unable to feed their families;
For the sin of treating immigrants as less human than ourselves, of demonizing those who seek to work to support their families, regardless of their birthplace or origin;
For the sin of wages given to athletes and celebrities, hundreds of multiples above our teachers, social workers and care givers, (Athletic salaries averaging $1.9-5.15 million),
For the sin of continuing to withhold universal healthcare for all,
For the sin of continuing to deny women equal pay for equal work,
For the sin of outsized corporate executive compensation (In 2009, CEOs of major U.S. corporations averaged 263 times the average compensation of American workers) while average Americans continue to lose economic prosperity,
For the sin of growing income inequality across this, the richest country in the world,
For the sin of entitlement, expecting that our own needs exceed the needs of others.
Avinu Malkeinu/Our Parent our Sovereign, be gracious to us, treat us generously and with kindness, and be our help.
Pronounced: roshe hah-SHAH-nah, also roshe ha-shah-NAH, Origin: Hebrew, the Jewish new year.
Pronounced: yohm KIPP-er, also yohm kee-PORE, Origin: Hebrew, The Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar and, with Rosh Hashanah, one of the High Holidays.