A Center City protest last week to draw public attention to the campaign to raise the minimum wage had a decidedly young Jewish component, thanks to the efforts of the Philadelphia chapter of Habonim Dror, the Zionist youth movement that advocates for social change.
The April 18 March for Minimum Wage, which wound its way from Rittenhouse Square to City Hall to Independence Hall, grew to include more than 150 participants, including Joseph Schwartz, a political science professor at Temple, and two Democratic candidates for Congress in the 13th District — Val Arkoosh, a physician and health care reformer, and Pennsylvania State Sen. Daylin Leach, each of whom spoke about how they saw a need to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15.
Other speakers included food service workers who detailed their struggles to make ends meet amid an uncertain employment future.
The event was initially envisioned solely as a Habonim Dror activity, according to the organizers, but then was expanded to bring in a number of organizations for a full-fledged march.
One of the Habonim Dror organizers, Pele Irgang Laden, a 21-year-old student at Temple University, said the reason for the march was to publicly show his group’s fight against systemic injustice.
In addition to helping to finance the event by paying for the posters, banners and permits, the group also brought in fellow Habonim Dror activists from Maryland and New York. Among the groups that joined the protest was the Philadelphia chapter of the Jewish Labor Committee.
Habonim Dror and the Jewish Labor Committee, along with Kol Tzedek Synagogue, also focused on the minimum wage issue and workers’ rights at the annual Philadelphia Labor Seder the night before the march.
Asked about Habonim Dror’s involvement in a protest, given that many of its members are too young to vote and don’t need to support themselves, Laden responded:“Kids are 100 percent people who have opinions and the capacity to voice those opinions and advocate for change.”