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Ties to the US Labor Movement

Updated: May 3, 2021

Proud to learn about the historic roles our labor and civil rights leaders impacted the Histadrut.

Tremendous thanks to Gavin Strassel, UAW Archivist at Wayne State University. These images and papers are from the UAW President's Office: Walter P. Reuther Records. For more information, below are the complete set of documents, which reference the Collection Name, Box #, Folder #, in Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, at Wayne State University.

The Histadrut, also known as the Israeli labor trade union, was closely affiliated and influenced by American labor union leadership in the mid-20th century. The General Federation of Jewish Labor as it was once known, in Israel, generally referred to as the Histadrut, occupies a unique place in the economic, social and political life of the country.

The Histadrut's uniqueness is manifested in the fact that it is active in many different fields and operates on many different levels. Under its single organizational roof, they formed a movement which is at the same time a trade union organization, an association of co-operatives in industry and agriculture, a holding company of economic enterprises, and an association for mutual aid represented by its Workers' Sick Fund. The multiplicity of its interests is directed to serve the common welfare of the labor movement as a whole.

In my grandfather, Zalman Unreich’s Collection, there are many interesting artifacts related to his involvement with the Histadrut, including his Histadrut guestbook. In reviewing that guestbook I discovered a special relationship he developed with an important leader in the United States Labor Union movement, Walter P. Reuther.

Mr. Reuther was an American leader of organized labor and a civil rights activist, credited with building the United Automobile Workers (UAW) into one of the most progressive labor unions in America. He was considered by John F. Kennedy for Vice President in 1960 and was a powerful ally of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement. Mr. Reuther marched with King in Detroit, Selma and other historic protests.

While searching for information about the late Mr. Reuther and his accomplishments in support of Labor Unions and Civil Rights, I stumbled across his archive at the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University. There, I discovered some records of Mr. Reuther’s trip to Israel in the late 1950’s, but the archive unfortunately didn’t have these artifacts on file, per Gavin Strassel, the UAW Archivist.

Mr. Strassel was able to share the following: “From my research here, Walter was a serious person who surrounded himself with others dedicated to the cause and also capable professionals. Those closest to him oftentimes were work associates accomplished in their own right or would later go on to achieve great things. So your grandfather's close relationship with him is telling and not to be taken lightly.”

Given that Zalman and Mr. Reuther had a similar vision and history of service within the labor movement, it is not surprising to discover their friendship. I would love to learn more about the ways they may have worked together and supported one another.

From Zalman's archive collection, the enclosed photo shows my grandfather being recognized by the Histadrut for his service time as part of the Israeli foreign ministry delegation to Czechoslovakia.


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