My Crusade Against Sweatshops

Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?

Two years ago I didn’t think twice about what brand name I was wearing, let alone where the article of clothing was manufactured. Mexico, Vietnam, China—until last year, they were little more than locations on a map to me. It was September, and I had been recently elected regional Treasurer of the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), a non-profit Jewish youth organization. Among my broad responsibilities of leading the region, my job was to design and order merchandise for the couple hundred teens attending each event. I was preparing to place my first order, when my Regional Advisor asked me if I had considered ordering from a sweatshop-free manufacturer. I didn’t even know such an option existed.

After researching sweatshop practices, I decided to choose an ethical manufacturer. I realized that I was elected not to just design merchandise, but also to uphold the integrity of my organization as a leader, including its commitment to tikkun olam, the Jewish value of repairing the world. As leaders, we are expected to be role models, and our choices should reflect our values; I wasn’t going to let a slightly higher price tag stand in the way of justice.

We may not eradicate sweatshops, but I knew that we could at...

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