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Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Job is a Job is a Job

I'm not a participant on this frum women's chat board, but occassionally I like to see what the ladies are talking about and this particular post caught my eye. It seems a husband has decided he is not fulfilled by his work and has decided to quit leaving the wife essentially up a creek. The husband has told her to cut back some more and she doesn't know where, especially since they are already neck deep in debt. The wife doesn't know what to do or what to say and is crying for help. Clearly, the ketubah requires the husband to provide for his family, but the wife didn't enter into her marriage with such an understanding put into practice from the get go, which makes the situation all that more difficult.

Another poster brought up the resistance that too many people in our communities have when it comes to taking jobs that are "below them." JS links communal financial problems and sense of entitlement with the eroding work ethic we unfortunately see around: "I was told growing up that every job had dignity, that there is a basic dignity in working. Our community also has an attitude that certain jobs are "beneath me". And it extends from the parents to the children, I know many parents who although unemployed wouldn't take certain jobs that weren't good enough or were "embarassing". And so the kids don't work because working as a check-out person in a supermarket is "embarassing", etc. If my grandmother could get down on her hands and knees and wash floors all day to build a better life for her family, I don't understand why others can't as well."

Growing up my mother used to tell me, "the primary purpose of a job is to make money. Enjoying your job is a bonus." I've lived by this motto and hope my kids will too.

22 comments:

Tamiri said...

Growing up my mother used to tell me, "the primary purpose of a job is to make money. Enjoying your job is a bonus." I've lived by this motto and hope my kids will too.

Yah, but where is the "self-fulfillment" and "good for my self-esteem" in there? I mean, you can't expect to be supporting a family if it doesn't make you feel good and worthy and useful, now, can you ;-)

triLcat said...

Every job teaches you something or gives you some benefit:

I have a friend who worked cutting food at a supermarket salad bar because he couldn't find anything better at the time. He's now the go-to guy for all things vegetable - how to make them keep longer, how to pick the best ones, etc.

I once worked at a Shawarma stand (mostly to feed my shawarma habit), and I can cut cucumbers and peppers like an expert.

I worked as a data entry clerk for a while, and I ended up able to touch type much faster than before.

I know someone who worked washing floors while at a seminary. She can wash her own floors in ten minutes flat now.

All fairly lousy jobs, but EVERY job gives you SOMETHING.

Oh, and rule #1 of financial independence: Don't leave a job unless you have something else lined up.

Zach Kessin said...

I've had my share of sucky jobs too. (Actually I like my current one).

If he wants to look for something better go for it, but until then suck it up and go to work, the rent has to be paid somehow and its your responsibility to make it happen.

David said...

I worked in food and retail for the better part of a decade. I have no sympathy for anyone who says that any job is "beneath" them, and I would not give such a person a nickel.

Bob Miller said...

When I lived in NJ, one neighbor was a Jewish journalist from Uruguay. She was working for the NJ Job Corps and had previously put in some time on an assembly line to make ends meet. She said that, as she worked on the assembly line, her mind was still free, so the job wasn't as stifling as one might think.

Ariella said...

As Americans do tend to define ourselves by "what we do," meaning our jobs. That is why taking a job that is considered menial would be tantamount to for some to admitting they are not worth much. It is not necessarily related to how much the job brings in. There is more prestige in being a teacher than a waitress, though the latter may earn quite a bit more with tips. White collar jobs are more sought after in our community than blue collar ones, though many blue collar workers earn more with union benefits, perks, overtime, etc.

When you think about it, we have that attitude even for the work involved in daily living. How many women have cleaning help not because they really don't have the time to do it themselves but because they don't like doing the work, or do they consider themselves too dainty to wring a mop? We've come a long way from Immahos who drew water for camels.

ora said...

I like the responses to the original post.

To play devil's advocate for a minute, it's not always easy for Jewish teens (or adults) to find certain jobs in the United States. I know that when I lived there I was completely unable to find anything in any store, cafe, restaurant, etc, where they didn't want me to work on Shabbat. Everywhere my friends worked, I couldn't work. I found work as a personal caretaker for the elderly/sick, which had its benefits, but the hours were limited. I also worked cleaning, but even when you're young, you can only do that for so many hours a day. When I was 19-21 I was able to make cleaning my full-time job when not in school, but now I'm in my mid-20s and I already couldn't do that anymore. It's not a question of being "too dainty," it's just that really not everyone has the physical strength to do tough labor for several hours a day (esp. while pregnant).

Basically, before assuming that everyone is capable of getting at least a minimum-wage job, it's worth checking the circumstances. Sometimes even getting work at Walmart or the local grocery store is just not possible.

Tamiri said...

An interesting observation is that many Jewish Americans claim they "can't" make Aliya even though they know they should because the "can't make a living" in Israel.
Russians, some of whom are Phds, engineers, MDs and the like came here with the intention of doing whatever it takes to "make it".
Including MDs washing floors, and engineers sweeping streets. Honest to G-d.
So, there is a little problem with the living Americans want to make, and the means they are willing to utilize to that end.
I must say that I, too, am guilty as charged even though my grandparents worked menial jobs when they moved from Europe to the U.S.

mlevin1220 said...

1. Russians? That's Russian_Speaking_Jews. Russians are goyim. You know the ones who hate the Jews, etc, etc.

2. These Russian_Speaking_Jews (RSJ) had no choice. They came seeking a better life, and doing menial labor in a free country is better than being a phd without liberty. American Jews who claim that they can't move to Israel because they can't make a living are correct. They are making a choice and they choose a more comfortable lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with that.

miriamp said...

it's not always easy for Jewish teens (or adults) to find certain jobs in the United States. I know that when I lived there I was completely unable to find anything in any store, cafe, restaurant, etc, where they didn't want me to work on Shabbat.

This country has come so far.... and yet in many ways, not moved an inch. This is still the case? My great-grandfather ran into this problem many many years ago. (He wound up going into business for himself as a taxi driver just so that he wouldn't have to work on Shabbos.)

ora said...

tamiri/mlevin

actually, many of the russians in Israel are just that, Russians (non-Jews). But yes, it's important to remember that the people in Israel who we call "russians" "ethiopians" "americans" etc, are actually (usually) Israeli Jews as much as anyone else.

I think the problem with Americans and aliyah is that many families make aliyah without doing proper planning. No Israeli would move to America without looking into the job market in their new community, seeing what they need to do to get professional certification and how long it will take, figuring out how much money they will need for the first year, and most importantly, learning English (many hire a private tutor for the family even if they're only going to be abroad for a year as shlichim (and that's after years of learning English in school and university)). And yet, surprisingly enough, I've heard of and even met dozens of American Jews who barely plan their aliyah at all. It's as if they think of Israel as a suburb of New York, and are shocked to discover that it's actually a different country, where little things like not knowing the language and having no experience in the Israeli job market actually matter.

Unfortunately, many of these people have a bad experience (shocker!) and end up back in the state, warning others away from aliyah. It's such a shame, because I've met so many people who say "well, my sister/friends/neighbors made aliyah and they couldn't make a living, they say there are no jobs without protektzia." If only their sister/friends/neighbors had thought about aliyah carefully, there's a very good chance they'd be living in Israel happily today and not scaring others off.

Anyway, the point of all this is that there are jobs in Israel, but only for those who really put the time into getting the necessary skills to hold a job in Israel. Unfortunately many American Jews have heard more horror stories than success stories, and so believe that they too would be unable to make a living here.

As for your last sentence, mlevin, I disagree. If they could make it in Israel, but are simply more comfortable elsewhere, there is something wrong with that. IMO, anyone in that situation doesn't fully understand the holiness of Eretz Israel and the importance of Jews living together in our homeland.

SephardiLady said...

For what it is worth, I have not had trouble finding part time, menial work that didn't include Saturdays.

Stubborn and Strong said...

My father always said to me, "who is more important? Hotel manager or Hotel cleaner person?

Anonymous said...

Amen, amen, amen to the post. I've seen plenty of this in the frum community, and it's terrible. My father taught by his words and his actions that man or woman who earns their bread honestly is ALWAYS deserving of respect. The only shameful job is no job.

Charlie Hall said...

'many Jewish Americans claim they "can't" make Aliya even though they know they should'

Leaving aside the fact that it isn't even clear that Jews are required to try to make aliyah, there actually are many good reasons why one would not do so.

I just got attacked on another blog for saying my family would not make aliyah in the forseeable future. Nobody seemed to care why not; people ganged up on me and accused me of not taking a mitzvah seriously. One commenter even compared me to someone who justifies not keeping kosher!

The facts: While there are a number of reasons why we are not making aliyah, the big one is my wife's six figure medical school debt. American physicians can't get licensed to practice medicine in Israel, and even if she could, she would make one third what she makes in the US. For us to make aliyah would mean welching on her debts -- which is an issur from the torah! Yishuv Eretz Yisrael does not override negative commandments from the torah.

Charlie Hall said...

"the ketubah requires the husband to provide for his family"

When was the last time a beit din enforced a ketubah? (I am in the midst of learning Ketubot in the Daf Yomi cycle and wonder if all these laws actually matter.)

Tamiri said...

Charlie: with what you wrote "The facts: While there are a number of reasons why we are not making aliyah, the big one is my wife's six figure medical school debt. American physicians can't get licensed to practice medicine in Israel, and even if she could, she would make one third what she makes in the US. For us to make aliyah would mean welching on her debts -- which is an issur from the torah! Yishuv Eretz Yisrael does not override negative commandments from the torah."
You really should not make Aliya. Would it have been a priority, your wife could have come and done med school here for a fraction of the cost. Doctors here are not burdened by school loans, but they don't make much either. They are in it for the idealism not for the rewards. So just say I don't want to be in Israel and that's it. For your information, there are THOUSANDS of U.S. trained MDs working in our system and they are generally every happy. I am sure none of them came with intention of paying off massive school loans, because that would be impossible on an Israeli salary. But they came, got re-certified and they are all over the place here. Important doctors too, not those youngsters straight out of medical school. One of our friends are a couple. He is a ped. neurologist, she is a geriatric psychiatrist. They upped and moved here because they weren't getting ahead spiritually. He is thrilled to now be working "regular" hours and he gets a shiur in before and after work. Another is a dermotologist with plenty of free time to... write Jewish books (yup, a talmid chacham AND an MD!!)

Zach Kessin said...

Tamiri, just to get this clear, you are Advocating that Charlie's wife just leave over $100,000 in loans unpaid? Which is to say steel that money from whomever holds the loan?

Is it your claim that living in Israel justifies this behavior?

Full Disclosure, Charlie was one of the aidim at my wedding, we have known each other for years. And yes I do live in Israel

Tamiri said...

ZACH: did you read my post? First thing I wrote was "You really should not make Aliya. Would it have been a priority, your wife could have come and done med school here for a fraction of the cost."
There is not way to cover costs if you learn there, then move here unless you have someone paying the loans off for you. If you read my quote further, you will see where I write that HAD Israel been a priority, those loans would not have been in existance. People planning Aliya know not to incur such debt - you usually can't pay off that kind of debt on an Israeli income.

Charlie Hall said...

From the Nefesh B'Nefesh web site:

"Israel has one of the highest physician to population ratios in the world."

Frankly, Israel has more physicians than it needs. The US does not. It makes perfect sense for the government and the Israeli Medical Association to actively discourage aliyah from physicians, which they do.

Charlie Hall said...

On another issue related to Orthonomics, the most expansive tuition voucher program ever proposed in the US was just badly defeated by voters in Utah, which is probably the most conservative state in the US. If a voucher program can't pass there, I don't know where one *can* pass. Yet our communal leaders have been pressing for vouchers as the solution to the school cost problem for decades, with almost no success whatsoever. Vouchers are clearly not a solution.

http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=2107793

Ben-David said...

Perhaps paradoxically, it's easier to take a "whatever it takes" attitude to menial labor rather than brainwork (and I've done both).

Here in Israel - and elswehere - outsiders are amused/aghast at the system of perks in the hi-tech sector. But the managers and HR people understand that "brain workers always volunteer the best part of themselves".

It's very, very difficult to persevere at a job involving brainwork or creativity if it's not what you really want to do. You cannot fake interest or engagement.

And it's easy to spot workers who are 'going through the motions' - with immediate career/financial consequences.