The Workmen’s Circle or Arbeter Ring (אַרבעטער־רינג) is a Yiddish language-oriented American Jewish fraternal organization committed to Social Justice, Jewish Community, and Ashkenazic Culture. The Arbeter Ring provides old age homes for its aging members, as well as schools, camps, retreats, affordable health insurance, and year-round programs of concerts, lectures, and secular holiday celebrations.
The organization has District offices in Boston and Los Angeles, and a national headquarters in New York. There are approximately 11,000 members nationwide. They own and operate a summer camp located in Hopewell Junction, New York called Camp Kinder Ring. An adult vacation facility, Circle Lodge, shares the camp grounds and has bungalows and cottages.
Founded in 1900, the Ring was at one time influential in the labor movement through its participation in and leadership of the Jewish Labor Committee. Having shrunk from the days when it was the largest organization of its kind in the country, it is now struggling to reinvent itself before its rapidly shrinking membership disappears completely.
While strongly socialist (Bundist) and labor-oriented at its inception, the political perspective of the Arbeter Ring has subsequently moved to the right; on the American political spectrum it would generally be described as liberal with centrist influences. Today the Circle opposes the Iraq war and unfair labor practices, and supports comprehensive immigration reform, single-payer universal health care, gun control, and women's rights to reproductive freedom.
By 1949, the Workmen's Circle included 700 local branches with 70,000 members in the United States and Canada.
As an organization organically linked to the historic Jewish labor movement, many of the Workmen's Circle's leaders were involved from its inception through the start of the 21st century with The Forward (פֿאָרװערטס forverts); many of its members had carefully read the daily newspaper. The Yiddish-language paper, at its heyday was reputed to have had the largest national circulation of any non-English language newspaper in the United States, and was the most widely read Yiddish publication in the world. The Forward not only has an English language weekly edition, but also an English-language website that is updated daily. For a few years it also published a Russian-language weekly edition. The Yiddish newspaper continues to be published, but on a weekly basis; it, too, has a website. For a brief period between 2007 and 2009, all Workmen's Circle members received the magazine Jewish Currents.
The youth section of the Workmen's Circle in its early years was the Young Circle League of America (YCLA), established in 1930. The group self-identified as "first and foremost a cultural organization," sponsoring lectures, debates, and educational and recreational programs for its members. The YCLA also published its own magazine, The Call of Youth.
The Arbeter Ring runs many shuls, or schools of Jewish culture, for elementary through middle schoolers. Shuls emphasize the teaching of Jewish history, from Abraham onward. Jewish culture, including klezmer music and traditional Jewish cooking, is also emphasized, along with the Yiddish language and surrounding culture. Students learn to sing traditional songs in Yiddish, as well as in English and Hebrew. At the end of a student's time at shul, when he or she reaches age 12, a secular Bar/Bas Mitzvah ceremony, called a commencement, is held. Commencement students prepare a research paper, a family history paper, and a writeup on community service they have performed through the year. At the group commencement itself, students give a talk on their research topic of choice, often also telling their family history.
- ADL Joins Broad Coalition Opposing DC Gun Bill, September 23, 2008
- Joseph Baskin, "The Workmen's Circle," In Southern States, 1949: p. 5. Journal for the 1949 convention of the Southern Region of the Workmen's Circle, edited by Joseph Duntov.
- Jewish Currents Magazine and a Longtime Adversary Decide to Merge
- Y. Murray Goldman, "YCLA — Fraternal Order for Progressive Youth," The New Leader [New York], vol. 20, no. 18 (May 1, 1937), pg. 9.
|Name||Years of Service|
|Moishe "Mark" Mlotek||1996–2000|
- The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring
- I.L. Peretz Shule - Nassau Cultural Center
- The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring 2008 Resolutions
- The Workmen's Circle Camp Kinder Ring
- Jewish Currents magazine
- Arbeter Ring in Paris
- The Workmen's Circle, Philadelphia District Records, 1931-1968, including correspondence, financial accounts, minutes, membership records and an audio interview, are available for research use at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring Branch no. 304 Records. 1925-1971. 8.00 cubic feet. At the Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.