On behalf of the board and staff of Interfaith Worker Justice, I am honored to celebrate Roz Pelles, Vice President of IWJ's Board of Directors and the now retired Director of Civil Rights, Human and Women's Rights for the AFL-CIO. I first got to know Roz when she joined the IWJ Board of Directors nine years ago. My respect and admiration for her has grown steadily over time.
On International Women's Day, we celebrate women. Lots of people in our nation talk about their faith. Roz lives her faith, and recently retired from her work at the AFL-CIO. Today we'd like to honor Roz as a strong faithful leader in our work.
Perhaps the longest passage in the bible about women comes from Proverbs 31.
The passage is a mother telling her son what he should look for in a wife. But whether a wife, a husband, a partner, or most especially a co-worker, the values exalted in Scripture are reflected in Roz.
(Note: none of these values mention anything explicitly about church or synagogue attendance or outside trappings of religiosity.)
The passage begins: “A woman of noble character, who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Ah yes, that is Roz. On this International Women’s Day, let’s just call her Ruby Roz.
The text says, “She sets about her work vigorously.” Roz works hard and does what she says she will do.
“She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” Roz believes in unions because she cares about people. Her commitment to people drives her work.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Indeed, Roz is clothed with strength and dignity. She carries herself and her values so clearly. But, she can laugh at herself and situations in which we find ourselves.
“She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” Whenever I’ve sought Roz’s guidance, she has offered wise council that is honest, yet kind. Roz reminds us to stay focused on our work.
“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” This world is full of amazing women (and men) who do fabulous noble things. Roz is among them, a doer of justice, a speaker of the truth, and an example to us all.
The passage ends by saying, “Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise.” We are not sure what all the rewards Roz deserves, but we want them all for her, a faithful advocate for justice. She has shown us what it means to live with passion and humility. You have been a true witness of your faith.
We are all better for having known and worked with Roz. And we look forward to new ways to continue the struggle together. I just know our dear sister will continue to be blessed and be a blessing in the next phase of her journey.
Thank you for all your good work, Ruby Roz. I salute you.