Religion & Beliefs

Spirituality, Jewish sweatshops, and you

It’s sometimes hard to figure out what we mean by “spirituality” when it comes to Judaism, because so much of our faith is actually about practice. Because the dogma Jews embrace is a dogma of actions, and not so much … Read More

By / December 7, 2006

It’s sometimes hard to figure out what we mean by “spirituality” when it comes to Judaism, because so much of our faith is actually about practice. Because the dogma Jews embrace is a dogma of actions, and not so much a dogma of beliefs. In this, our religion is different from, say, Christianity. But often, even our own generic ideas about spirituality involve some unearthly kind of experience. Sweat lodges and meditations. People who speak in tongues. Weird shit we’ve never experienced. Or Jewish mysticism we don’t really believe in or know about. And this confusion (I think) leads people (including me) to say, “What do I know about spirituality?” So today I thought I’d bring up a way of being Jewish that a lot of people could stand to take more seriously, a kind of active spirituality: Jewish treatment of our workers. I’m talking about Jewish sweatshops. Which IS a spiritual issue, as the Torah establishes: You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land. You must pay him wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for he is needy and he urgently depends on it. (Deuteronomy 24:14-15) And according to this awesome site, the Babylonian Talmud has this to say: Whoever withholds an employee’s wages, it is as though he has taken the person’s life from him. We all know that Jews have a history of working in retail, textiles, etc. We own crappy restaurant chains. We own big-box stores. And if you think Jews aren’t treating immigrants like, slaves… you’re wrong. Jews are people. And people are greedy. So Jews sometimes get greedy and do bad things.

And what do we do? We go shopping. Buy crap made in China. So now, as a community, I think it’s time we got more involved in helping our fellow Jews do the right thing, and the world beyond. One thought I had was that I could agree to buy only Chanukah gifts this year made with fair trade practices, or from companies I can respect. But I'm having a bitch of a time finding a good list… so if anyone knows of one… Spiritually. By any means necessary.