They came back from the dead to cheat their fellow man

New York’s Undocumented Day Laborers Fight for Their Piece of the Big Apple

On the Corner

The Village Voice

Week of July 25 — 31, 2001

Text and photographs by Michael Kamber


Teresa’s attitude is not unique. Resentment is high between the Satmar Jews of Williamsburg and a hundred or so Polish day laborers who clean for them. A half-century after the war, the slaughter of their brethren burns the Jews like a live wire. Ask nearly any Satmar to define the neighborhood and he or she will tell you, “We’re a community of Holocaust survivors.” They’re keenly aware that Poland’s large Jewish population was annihilated during the war. Ask the Polish women how they like their work, and many ignore the question: “The Jews blame us for the death camps in Poland,” they say. Echoing the Polish government’s longtime position, they add, “It was the Nazis that killed the Jews. Not the Polish people.”


[…] We are poor people; the average family here has 12 children; many of the husbands make less than they’re paying the cleaning woman. How can we pay them more?” A prominent local rabbi asks simply, “If they can make more elsewhere, why are they here working for us?”