a shenere un bessere velt

The just-about-legendary, yet historical, New York socialist community, The Workman's Circle, or Der Arbeter Ring celebrates over one hundred years of caring. Now exhibiting the effects of its success, or at least those of its age, it looks for ways to attract the young. With the humor and optimism which its members have always exhibited, the director of fund-raising efforts explains the strategy, "I don't want to say younger people are smarter, however there is one thing: they're going to be around longer."

It's a wonderful story.

The beginnings:

It was started in a tenement on the Lower East Side.

A handful of immigrant socialists, most of them Yiddish-speaking laborers, gathered in the Essex Street home of Sam Greenberg, a cloak maker, wanting to find a way to take care of one another through sickness and death as they tried to gain footholds in a formidable country. In the process, these newcomers hoped to ease their loneliness.

Quickly their idea, the Workmen's Circle, caught on. People seemed to like joining a group that helped tide them through an illness yet allowed them to sit with friends over a glass of tea and argue a fine point of radical politics. Within 30 years, the organization gained 80,000 members around the country, joined with the garment unions to broaden the rights of American workers and started an early and absurdly cheap version of health insurance and dozens of Yiddish schools.

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Published on October 31, 2002 2:30 PM.

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