As I write this, I sense that sad and wistful feeling that sneaks in every year when summer’s end is just around the corner. I got it as an 8 year old, when Labor Day meant leaving the beach house and the ocean I loved so much. I felt it as a teacher when the end of summer meant going back to 6 am alarms. I felt it as a mom when my kids started school and I knew that those early morning cuddles and stories in bed would be replaced by hurrying and scurrying to get to school on time. And I feel it now as I get my syllabus ready for another year.
Labor Day is that dividing line when we celebrate the workers of America.
The Torah says, “You shall not oppress a hired servant that is poor. … In the same day, you shall give him his hire.” (Deuteronomy 24, 14-15). We are further instructed to allow our workers to glean the fields. We remember our time as slaves in Egypt, so we treat those who work for us in a fair and just manner.
Perhaps it is this passage, and the story of our own enslavement, that led so many young Jewish workers to lead the cries for fair labor practices in America.
Samuel Gompers was a young Jewish immigrant from England who helped in his father’s cigar rolling business. In 1864, when Gompers was 14, he joined the Cigar Makers Union and was eventually elected president. Through his union work, he saw a need for the protection of other workers in other industries. Gompers founded the American Federation of Workers and developed a labor philosophy of decent wages, shorter working hours and safe working conditions. He wanted all American workers to be able to spend time with their families and have enough money to educate their children. While he also held some views that may be at odds with current thought, his contribution to the betterment of the life of the American worker cannot be denied.
Another young Jewish worker who helped shape labor practices in America was Clara Lemlich. She was a garment worker who, like many other young Jewish women, toiled in a sweatshop in New York. In 1909, at a rally of garment workers, she demanded to speak and then, in Yiddish, called on the thousands there to join her in a strike for better wages and safer working conditions. She pledged, drawing on her strong Jewish background: “If I turn traitor to the cause I now pledge, may this hand wither from the arm I now raise.” The strike, supported by 20,000 workers, lasted for several months and by its end, nearly all factories had signed on to the demands. One of the exceptions was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where her cousin worked and died.
Lemlich’s activities resulted in her being blacklisted from the garment industry, so she turned her efforts towards women’s suffrage, working with other Jewish activists. Even in her final years, she helped the workers in her Jewish nursing home organize for better wages and working conditions. She died at 96, in 1982.
These Jewish activists, and many more, led the fight for better working conditions for all workers in America. While we likely would not agree with all of their political views, we owe them a huge debt.
Fresh-From-the-Vine Tomato Soup (Dairy or Pareve)
This is made with the ripest, freshest tomatoes. Even those that are a bit overripe work well in this fresh, piquant soup. It is great hot, warm or icy cold.
3 to 4 cups, peeled, seeded and chopped fresh from the vine tomatoes
2 cups water
1 tsp. pareve chicken broth mix or vegetarian broth mix
1/2 to 3/4 cup mincead onion
1 clove garlic, or more to taste
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1/2 to 1 tsp. salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1/8 to 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
1 cup whole milk or soy milk
1 tbsp. olive oil
OPTIONAL: Fresh dill and fresh oregano can be used in place of the basil and thyme. Garnish with thin lemon slices or chopped green onions.
Heat a small skillet and add the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the minced garlic and sauté for another minute. Place the sauté in a medium sauce pot and add the tomatoes and water. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes, covered. Add the tomato paste and salt and pepper. Heat through. Pour into a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the sauce pan and add the fresh herbs, milk and pepper, to taste. Adjust seasonings as desired. Garnish with fresh herbs, chopped green onions, or croutons and serve hot or cold. Serves 4-6.
Peach and Raspberry Galette (Dairy or Pareve)
A galette is a rustic, free-form fruit tart and the last peaches and berries of summer are perfect for a quick dessert for family or company.
3 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup solid vegetable shortening, butter or pareve margarine
1/2 half cup ice- cold orange juice
2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. sugar
3/4 cup (heaping) almonds finely ground
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 extra large egg yolk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 to 6 large peaches or nectarines
2/3 cup raspberries
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch
2 tbsp. unsalted margarine or butter
3 tbsp. large crystal sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil and then parchment paper. Set aside.
In a food processor, blend the shortening with the flour, sugar and salt until the consistency of cornmeal. Pour the orange juice over ice cubes and discard the cubes. Drip the juice through the feed tube of the processor, processing just until the dough holds together. Remove, pat into a disc shape and refrigerate for an hour.
Place a piece of foil on your work surface. Flour generously. Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle.
Roll over the rolling pin and place the dough on the parchment lined baking sheet. Set aside
In a small bowl, mix the ground almonds, 1/3 cup sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, and egg yolk. Spread the almond paste on a circle about 8 inches across in the center of the dough.
Cut each peach or nectarine in half. Remove the pit and slice each half in thin slices.
Place in a bowl and add the raspberries. Add the sugar and lemon juice and the corn or tapioca starch. Toss to coat evenly.
Mound in the center of the galette crust.
Fold the dough up over the edges of the fruit and pinch the dough at intervals to hold it together.
You should have a hole in the center, about 3 to 4 inches wide.
Sprinkle the galette with the 3 tablespoons of sugar, dot the exposed fruit with the butter or margarine and bake for 45-55 minutes, until deep golden and the peaches are tender.
Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving with vanilla ice cream. Serves 6 to 8.