The WORKMEN'S CIRCLE, or Arbeiter Ring, is a secular Jewish fraternal organization founded to build a better world, foster cultural Jewishness, and offer friendships. Part of the national Workmen's Circle, started in 1900, the first Cleveland branch (#79) was chartered in 1904 to work for social legislation. Early on, the Circle was viewed as an organization of labor unionists, including Socialists, although there was no official connection. Members demonstrated for social security, unemployment compensation, child labor laws, workmen's compensation, and health security, and supported candidates who supported these issues. The group also provided lectures, poetry readings, plays, shows, and concerts in Yiddish. At its height in the 1930s, Cleveland had 4 Yiddish-speaking branches. The first English-speaking branch, #1030, was founded in 1939. The group bought its own cemetery in 1920 in PARMA. Camp Vladek (called the Workmen's Circle Camp) in Rock Creek was a summer resort for adults and a children's camp from 1950-63, when it was sold and the proceeds used to build a Workmen's Circle Educational Ctr. at 1980 Green Rd. in 1964.
The I. L. Peretz Workmen's Circle School first opened in 1918 on Scovill Ave., and with the exception of 1 semester in 1952, has been in continuous operation. Originally established to educate members' children, the school became a center for adult Yiddish classes and Yiddish cultural programming. Since the Holocaust, the Circle's emphasis has shifted to the preservation, promotion, and perpetuation of Yiddish language and culture. A Russian-speaking branch for Russian immigrants was established in 1975. In 1995 there were 3 branches in Cleveland and 1 in Akron; membership totaled approx. 1,200. The organization's director was Marilyn Fenton.