About the Workmen’s Circle

SoCal Arbeter Ring/Workmen’s Circle

Since our first branch was established in 1908, the Workmen’s Circle has a proud history in Southern California. A history of celebrating the traditions of Eastern European Jewry, a history of social activism — our forebears founded the City of Hope Medical Center! — and a history of creating a community for our members. So we were in 1908, and so we are today.

With a unique slate of programs, classes, and events such as our A Shenere Velt Gallery, our Yiddish cultural programs and library, our social activism and much more, the Workmen’s Circle is a vibrant, dynamic part of the Southern California community.

Click to read a short history of the Workmen’s Circle in Southern California, or if you’re brave, the long history.

And make sure to see, and read about, the mural outside our building. This work of art beautifully articulates our mission.

Workmen’s Circle Around the Country

Mission: Building engaged Jewish learning communities with a passion to improve the world through activism.

The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring was founded in 1900 by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who sought to promote values of social and economic justice through a Jewish lens.

Over the past century, the organization has undergone significant changes in outlook and program, but has remained passionately committed to the principles of Jewish community, the promotion of an enlightened Jewish culture, and social justice. The Workmen’s Circle is now building a new national network of energetic, engaged Jewish learning communities to join our Signature Shules (schools), Camp Kinder Ring, and our retreat and learning center, Circle Lodge, all connected by a shared passion to celebrate our Jewish cultural heritage and collectively improve the world through social change activism.

Historic Overview

Towards the end of nineteenth century, Jewish emigration from Eastern Europe to the United States reached explosive proportions.  Having endured the hardships of a sometimes harrowing journey across the Atlantic, many among the newly arrived were dumbfounded by what greeted them in America: a land of freedom and opportunity to be sure, but one too of exploitative labor practices, blighted and overcrowded tenements, ethnic rivalries, and the daunting job of assimilating into an unfamiliar new culture. Recognizing the importance of facing these challenges with a unified front, and feeling the resonance of traditional and deeply-held Jewish values emphasizing community and social justice, a convocation of progressive-minded immigrants gathered in 1900 to found Der Arbeter Ring, in English, The Workmen’s Circle.

Our social institutions for years played a crucial ameliorative role in the lives of American Jews; through our camp, our schools, and through our lively communities across the country, we continue to play such a role today.  Yiddish was once the primary language of the majority of our members; we are today widely known and respected as a central force in the renaissance of fascination and creativity in Yiddish culture that includes literature, music, theater, and more.  Historically, the Workmen’s Circle raised a crucial voice in the struggles of American labor; today we work fiercely to remain a bulwark in the fight for the dignity and economic rights of immigrants, fairness in labor practices, decent health care for all Americans, in short, for the very promises that brought our organization’s founders to this nation in the first place.