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Rabbi Michael Miller's Remarks at October 2009 JLC Dinner

Thank you, Stuart, for that warm introduction. And I thank you and Sybil for all that you have done to lead the Jewish Labor Committee, with such dedication and vision, as we celebrate JLC’s 75th anniversary and carry forward through the 21st century.

I’m so pleased to join you here this evening.

The Jewish Community Relations Council’s relationship with the Jewish Labor Committee goes back nearly four decades to the founding of the JCRC. It was JLC’s then New York Director, Martin Lapan, of blessed memory, who, behind the scenes, was instrumental in bringing together the diverse elements of our Jewish community to form what Marty knew was needed -- a central resource and coordinating body for the Metropolitan area’s Jewish community, with a strategic role to be played by organized labor.
And Marty’s vision was prophetic. Indeed, there have been numerous issues on which we have worked hand in hand. Far more than that, I do not hesitate to say that whenever the Jewish community sought the support of the labor movement, the JCRC knew that we could turn to the Jewish Labor Committee and that the doors would be open to cooperation and partnership.

Tonight’s event is entitled the 2009 Human Rights Award Dinner, and I congratulate all of your fine and deserving honorees.

I dare say that it’s the theme of this gathering which impels me to ask, where would the Jewish community have been when we were advocating for the human rights of the Jews in the former Soviet Union, and might I add of the trade unionists too, without the support of organized labor? I still vividly remember back in the '70s and '80s how every year, here in New York, we marched arm in arm with our union brothers and sisters at our Solidarity Sunday for Soviet Jewry marches.

Where would the State of Israel be today without the major investments organized labor, and particularly, President Trumka, the AFL-CIO has made in that country’s infrastructure through State of Israel Bonds, as well as the consistently powerful advocacy of the labor movement for Israel’s safety and security.

And with the menacing threat now emanating from Iran, as mentioned earlier by Stuart Appelbaum, once again, it was the JLC and organized labor who stood together with us a few weeks ago on September 24th at the “Stand for Freedom in Iran Rally” across from the United Nations. It was Stuart, both as JLC President and President of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, along with J. David Cox as National Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees, who lifted the spirits of the thousands of demonstrators with their remarks. And how heartening it was to receive the endorsements for this compelling human rights cause from the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, thank you President Ahern, as well as the American Federation of Teachers, New York's United Federation of Teachers, and others.

And now during these difficult economic times, it has been a labor of love to work in cooperation with our union colleagues in assisting the least fortunate and most vulnerable of New Yorkers, with the Jewish Labor Committee serving as a welcoming bridge between us, linking us.

On behalf of the Jewish community of New York, I commend the JLC and you, all of you, our brothers and sisters in labor, for all that you do. And I pray that our brotherhood and sisterhood will never weaken, only strengthen, and, even more so, continue to grow, from strength to strength.
May all of our joint efforts bear the fruit of freedom, security, prosperity, dignity and peace for the peoples of New York, the United States, the State of Israel, and the world over.

Thank you for inviting me to join you here this evening.
Shalom.