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Monday, October 19, 2009

Jews, Jobs, and Employment: A Fantastic Guest Post

With thanks to Mr. Bernstein, the author of the article I will reference below, who kindly pointed out an exchange of ideas in the Where, What, When. His response to a series of articles is a fantastic read and worthy of pointing out to friends, and perhaps most importantly, those who educate our children.

The Where, What, When in Baltimore published a series of articles under the titles "The Parnassah Dilemna." This first was titled, "The Parnassa Dilemma, The Rise of Community Colleges" which was designed to look at jobs for young people entering the job force, or more accurately, jobs that can be started without a bachelors since it is a "given" that young people are going to marry and start (large) families before finishing a degree. The meat of the article was more of was not a lot different that what I have covered lately, and while I certainly can relate to some of the negative commentary on colleges, and while I certainly believe that junior college or jumping straight to skill building is a valid path for some, I hate to see such peddled as the only valid choice. I also think the more we say out loud things like "college is no guarantee," the more we believe it. But the fact of the matter is that college and education do matter and do lead to greater success. But, of course, one has to understand the basics of statistics to understand that outliers do not destroy a strong correlation. The article was followed up by articles about job opportunities that you can get with minimal training and no degree including Bookkeeping (Quickbooks only) and Court Reporting. Perhaps I will make some comments on the Bookkeeping article at a later point, although the article below does make some excellent commentary on such.

Thankfully, Matt Bernstein responded to many of the misconceptions as well as laid out some information on how "the other half" (both employers and future employees) approach career building. After going back and forth, I have decided to print the entire article and add some highlights of my own:

Thoughts on the Parnassa Dilemma
from WhereWhatWhen

I also would like to see frum yeshiva students get good jobs. I am dealing with young people who are short on time and money. Yet I want to focus on the student who may be willing to make a handful of calculated decisions in order to set him or her self up for long-term career success.
© By Matt Bernstein

In the last issue’s article, “The Parnassa Dilemma,” Nama Schabb speaks to the individual who wants to find a job that is quickly learned, in demand, and provides a decent parnassa. Down the road, this individual may also want to work part- or full-time, with a schedule flexible enough to accommodate parenting and/or learning. Being a bookkeeper most certainly fulfills these requirements. I commend Mrs. Schabb for assessing a need within our community and for her pertinent employment suggestion.

With this said, I want to supplement Ms. Schabb’s advice by speaking to a different need within our community – and, I want to make a different suggestion about career paths. In the six years I have spent counseling yeshiva students in Silver Spring, Maryland, I have found many gaps in their understanding of career issues: what jobs are available, what jobs suit them, and how to prepare for those jobs. What is even sadder is that many of them have been led to believe that their seminary- and yeshiva-aided BAs qualify them to enter the world of work, only to find, when they apply for jobs, that they lack the qualities employers are looking for.

Like Mrs. Schabb, I would like to see frum young people get good jobs. And like her, I am dealing with young people who are short on time and money. Yet I want to focus on the student who may be willing to make a handful of calculated decisions in order to set him or her self up for long-term career success.

Let me present a scenario of how the “other half” does this. Serious public and private high school students know that getting a good education is crucial for their future. They work hard for good grades. They study for the SATs. They participate in as many extracurricular activities as they can, and they seek internships or jobs during the summer that often relate to a field of work they are considering. Then there is the long process of researching and applying to schools and searching for financial aid. Once they get into the college that will give them the best education, they work hard in school and continue to seek meaningful work experiences. During the senior year, there are job fairs, where top employers – ranging from PricewaterhouseCoopers to Procter & Gamble – come to pluck the best candidates and bring them into their companies. Most university graduates apply to other top companies and receive job offers with strong career paths from these organizations.

For the most part, our community is cut off from this process. We think of college as a means to acquire a “trade,” like an accountant or lawyer. But a whole world of jobs exists for which the job requirements are less specific. The top companies in America are not looking for a piece of paper or a cobbled-together degree. They are looking for bright, eager young people with a global “good education.” They want impressive employees who have demonstrated the ability to work hard, work smart, and behave ethically. These companies find such young people in the top universities (like Stanford and Princeton), the top small, liberal-arts colleges (like Williams and Middlebury), and at the top state schools (like the University of California-Berkeley and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill). They also find these job candidates in middle-tier colleges and universities. When they find such people, they bring them into their organizations and train and mentor them to rise within the company.

We all know that our children are smart, hardworking, socially capable, ethical, and more; they are 100 percent capable of getting and thriving within a quality job. But they don’t have access to these kinds of jobs that drive America, because we don’t participate in the process. Of course, there is good reason for rejecting attendance at residential universities, as it comes with a host of social and religious/moral problems. The question I hope to answer in this article, therefore, is can we, as frum Jews, compete for these same jobs without making sacrifices with relation to our Torah values? The answer is, most certainly, yes. With that said, there is work and real effort involved.

Taking Action

In vocational matters, as in so many things in life, decisions made early on have the potential to reap enormous benefits in the long term. Those benefits are many. Essentially, we would be opening up a source of parnassa to the members of the next generation that would allow them to more than comfortably provide for their families, reduce the daily stress in the home due to money issues, and work at jobs that are intellectually and emotionally stimulating.

It bears repeating, however, that in order to attain these desirable careers, the individual needs to take action. High school students need to make a calculated and determined decision to get a real quality education and obtain real work experience. Trying to fake an education and job experience is futile. Indeed, the most frustrating part of career counseling, for me, has to do with our shortcut mentality toward secular education and parnassa. The pervasive thinking goes like this: How do I do the least and get the most? In addition, there is an enormous amount of fear of going outside the accepted norms.

By the time I meet with kids at age 19, 20, and 21 to talk to them about their careers, it is already late in the game. They have not applied themselves to their secular studies. Typically, they were not even taught using the latest teaching methodologies or expected to achieve on a high level. They have not taken relevant summer jobs and internships. On one occasion, I was speaking with a 22-year-old boy who realized that he had not been properly advised and prepared for his impending career, and he started openly weeping. His job options were painfully limited, and, for all intents and purposes, he had to start all over again.

To change this state of affairs, we, as a community, need to guide our young people more effectively. Anyone who has been out in the world fighting the parnassa battle knows that there are better jobs and there are worse jobs. Yet, to many of the young men and women I have spoken with, most jobs “sound pretty good.” Young people are not always the best judges of what is a better and what is a worse job, especially since they are often looking at the job from a short-term perspective. That is why they definitely need guidance when selecting a career.

The key to creating a relevant career path is finding a mentor who is knowledgeable about the enormous spectrum of jobs and careers open to our frum children, as well as insightful when learning about these children. He or she should also be creative and interested in helping a young person find the career that is best suited to that unique individual. We need more such mentors in our communities. It is also very important that young people be involved in selecting their career path. The self-fulfillment they will experience, G-d willing, as they progress in their careers should be experienced at some level during these initial career discussions. Ideally, they should experience their career path as a path of self-discovery. And the first step on this path is picturing a point on the horizon that is appropriate for b’nai Torah, as well as financially viable and inspiring. We should settle for nothing less.

A Quality Education

Baltimore City Community College and the Community College of Baltimore County (Catonsville, etc.) can be strong options for getting an education both inexpensively and quickly. Similarly, young men and women can learn QuickBooks quickly and inexpensively from numerous resources. With that said, BCCC and other community colleges may not always be the best option for a young man or woman who is looking to make a strategic, long-term career move.

A well-known statistic indicates that there is a direct correlation between education level and income – that is, the more educated an individual, the more money he or she will make. It also holds true, statistically, that the Stanford University graduate will make more money than the community college graduate. The cynic may scoff and claim that the graduates of the top four-year colleges get paid more due to superficial reasons, including an overrated diploma. There may be some truth to these statements. Nonetheless, the name of a top four-year college, a graduate degree, etc. carries weight on your resume. Moreover, this weight is directly correlated to the actual quality of education at these schools. Statistically, the graduates of a top four-year college are better educated than the graduates of a community college, due primarily to the acceptance standards as well as the quality of education within the walls of the school.

The top four-year colleges are not judged as better schools because the U.S. News and World Report and the educationally elite say they are. The top four-year colleges are judged as better schools because, objectively, they are better schools. They have better facilities, better services (e.g. career development), better teachers, better students, better curriculum and coursework, better teaching methodologies, etc.

That said, a student can compensate for not going to a top four-year college. At the top, in terms of importance, is the ability to read and write critically. Knowing how to write well is crucial. A basic understanding of computers (e.g. Microsoft Office) is important. So, for that matter, are math, history, science, social sciences, and more. It certainly doesn’t hurt to take coursework that relates to one’s preferred parnassa, but the key is getting a good general education. Other factors that determine success include networking, hard work, and good mazal, but a quality education is a big piece of this parnassa puzzle.

College the Frum Way

This takes us back to our original conundrum: Not everyone can afford the time and money associated with four years of college. And again, we need to be careful about our children’s exposure to the social atmosphere that permeates most of the top four-year schools. To overcome these problems, as frum Jews, we get creative. We take AP classes in high school in order to qualify out of college courses. We take college courses in Eretz Yisrael that we transfer into four-year colleges. We go to school at night. We quickly and easily get an undergraduate degree from an online university and channel our limited time and money into a two-year master’s program.

These strategies are creative and can be effective. Again, the key is to make sure you’re really getting an education. To rationalize getting a “fake degree” – a college or university degree where you’ve received a BA, BS, and/or MA yet learned little, if anything – is a mistake. Those with yeshiva BAs will struggle to get good jobs, because they lack real work experience and a real education, which is what 90 percent of employers are looking for.

Our children need to be able to compete academically with the rest of the children in America. At the very least, they need a level of competency that is commensurate with a quality high school education. While many of our yeshivas and schools offer such an education, not always do the students get that education. Many of our students have the unfortunate attitude that secular studies don’t count. Could this be why yeshivas with “top-notch general studies programs” graduate far too many students who are reading and writing at a level that is far below the academic standards necessary to perform at a professional level? If our students cannot clear this lowest hurdle of educational competency, they will have to play catch-up, or suffer real consequences as their careers progress.

Creating Economic Value

A fundamental fact that I try to convey when counseling a young person is that most everyone works within a business. A business is any organization where money is going in and out and people are making a living. Some are standard businesses that provide goods or services, while others are not-for-profit organizations. The essence of business is the creation of economic value, or profit.

How does the creation of economic value relate to careers? With few exceptions, an employee’s salary directly correlates with the economic value that employee creates within the business. In grossly simplified terms, if I pay this new, young employee who is “learning the business” $50,000 per year for the next three years, will he or she develop into a worker who will make me $50,001 or more during that third year? Employers don’t pay employees salaries. Employers invest in employees. An employer may be patient and wait for an employee/investment to “turn around,” but, in the long term, all rational employers will seek to acquire good investments and divest themselves of bad ones.

Mrs. Schabb mentioned in her article that “doing your job is no guarantee of a professional future.” This is absolutely true. Creating economic value is the best – if not the only – guarantee of your economic future. Let me give an example: Mrs. Schabb correctly points out that accountants can’t do their job well unless a bookkeeper provides them with accurate data. However, this is much the same as CEOs who can’t do their job well unless a receptionist screens their calls. The accountant position is more than “more professional sounding”; it is qualitatively different than that of the bookkeeper, because the accountant is in a position to drive profitability, while the bookkeeper is not. In a large business, an accountant can make a suggestion that increases revenues or cuts costs – causing the business to profit by tens of millions of dollars. As a consequence, this same accountant will receive an increased salary, a bonus, or a promotion to reward the economic value he created. As proof, many senior employees are former accountants.

What about the employee who does not create value for the business? This type of employee might be called a “necessary cost.” For example, a receptionist is a necessary cost. No matter how fantastically a receptionist says, “Hello, may I help you?” when she answers the phone, she will add little, if any, economic value to the business. The $35,000 you pay this receptionist is not a good or a bad investment; it’s simply a necessary cost. The fair market price for most jobs of this ilk is not high. While employers are literally investing in some employees via business training, corporate seminars, and other educational and career growth experiences, the “necessary cost” employees are quietly doing their jobs. They receive minimal pay raises and infrequent promotions. ” Necessary cost” positions include secretaries, bookkeepers, computer programmers, network administrators, etc.

Please realize that these are not dead-end positions, nor are they bad jobs. They are merely jobs with limited salary and career growth opportunities (even if you do occasionally find an ambitious and able “necessary investment” employee leaving his or her job to become the COO of a small entrepreneurial business).

Young frum men and women should be aware that the quick, easy career that is tempting in the short term may result in the loss of innumerable long-term opportunities – opportunities for promotions, salary increases, and career growth that is commensurate with their true potential. While pursuing such careers as finance, brand management, management consulting, and a plethora of other careers may take longer and may earn less money in the short-term, the long-term possibilities are endless.

And if these careers are unfamiliar, it is because most of us have a very limited vision of what is an appropriate career for a frum Jew. Actually, the spectrum of such careers is enormous. And, there are numerous new careers being created. What’s important to recognize is that there is a plethora of great jobs in the world that are unequivocally not antithetical to our Torah values and that are ours to compete for and win. A real education and real job experience are the keys to attaining these positions.

Growth Careers

Growth careers are sometimes found in unexpected places. For example, one might say that being a teacher is a growth job. In the best high schools in America, teachers are mentored and supported. Eventually, they become chaired faculty, department heads, deans, headmasters, etc. Often, they move over into business. But, you need to be teaching in the right school. Many schools are far from a meritocracy, especially, private Jewish schools.

Law can be a growth job. A very high number of yeshiva boys are well prepared for the field. But it is competitive. If you didn’t graduate from a good law school in the top 10 percent, you’ll be a lawyer, but your first job, or jobs, will most likely not be very high paying.

Sales is a great growth job, but not a sales job that is paid by commission only. The good sales jobs are with large companies, who hire new college graduates and often train them for a full six months before they are allowed to call a single client. They are paid a substantial base salary plus commission, and they have an employer with a vested interest in preparing them to be a top-notch salesperson and sales manager. For this kind of job, you can’t fake it.

Another job that frum boys, and even girls, go into is being an entrepreneur. This is the ultimate growth job, but being an entrepreneur with limited education (and job experience) can be a bad idea. Most frum entrepreneurs are not making it big. The vast majority struggle. With a proper education, this isn’t necessary. What do they learn in business school that prevents failure? you might ask. While nothing guarantees entrepreneurial success, a good education can give you the tools to minimize the risks. Some of the subjects you study in business school are best practices within the fields of organizational behavior, marketing, operations, etc.

Science, engineering, and IT have as much potential as any career choice, although what aspect of them one chooses to pursue and how you navigate the course of the career is critical. Occupational and speech therapy, popular choices among girls, are good jobs – well-paying and flexible. They are great for women who have made a personal decision to be mothers primarily. What they are not are jobs with a “career path.”

The Hiring Process

As mentioned above, most employers are looking for “good investments” to be the future leaders and economic drivers of their business. Like any investor, the employer looks at the individual’s past performance in order to speculate about future performance. In order to accomplish this, the hiring process typically consists of a gradual weeding out process. Of the numerous resumes an employer receives, only a handful will be selected for interviews. Of that handful, one is selected for the job.

In order to move from the resume stage to the interview stage, our children need to impress potential employers with their resume. Our children don’t need a Nobel Prize in economics, as those they are competing against also don’t have a Nobel Prize in economics. But, our children do need examples, if not a track record, of past successes. Typically, these successes fall under the categories of employment history, education history, and other interests and accomplishments. Our children therefore do an enormous service to their careers by having jobs, going to schools, and being involved in extracurricular activities that demonstrate the capabilities we know they possess. Unless they have demonstrated their unique talents and abilities – and created a resume that documents them – it will be difficult for them to get an interview for a quality job.

The Parnassa Dilemma Revisited

After reading this article, as well as Mrs. Schabb’s, it will be obvious that there are different ways to approach the parnassa dilemma within the frum world. It is an important discussion for us to have. The suggestions I have made in this article speak to solving the parnassa dilemma through certain principles. Again, they are: 1) Take action early. The first few moves in a chess game seem simple enough, yet they set the tone for the entire game and, more often than not, directly lead to the final outcome of the match. 2) Get support and guidance in finding a career path that, for both the short and long term, is Torah-appropriate and career-appropriate, as well as inspiring for the individual young man or woman. 3) Be proactive while at yeshiva, during the summer, and wherever you can, in order to have a “track record of successes” for your resume. 4) While at yeshiva or college, make sure to attain both a diploma and an education. An education is not a superficial experience, and there are few better ways to sabotage a budding career than to be inadequately prepared educationally. These simple actions can reap enormous benefits. I hope the points outlined above can help interested frum men and women attain these career goals. Hatzlacha.


Anonymous said...

I read this article originally in Where What When and I'm glad Sephardi Lady has posted it here so many more can read it. Here is a way to gain the credentials you need without compromising the frum way of life: Live at home and attend an excellent college in your home town. Here's what I did: I lived with my parents in Baltimore and attended Johns Hopkins University. I applied and received a full scholarship for tuition and a grant for living costs which was renewed each year. Ultimately I won the departmental prize for my thesis. I gained an excellent general education, learned from top notch professors, spent time studying in their wonderful library, but had no social life whatsoever in the college. I went home to frum family and life. At the time I attended Johns Hopkins, Avi Shafran was also a student. He went on to become a spokesman for Agudah, a job he could not have had but for the superior secular education he gained at Hopkins, and the practice in writing. So if you live near a top notch college, try to get in and apply for a scholarship. It happened to me.

Commenter Abbi said...

If you live near a top notch college...hmmm... since the largest Jewish population in America is in New York, how hard can it be to live at home and attend: Columbia, Barnard, NYU, Princeton, even Yale (Metro North goes to New Haven). U of P is also doable on SEPTA.

However, while I agree that excellent schools make a difference, I think many people get into satisfying careers even if they "only" go to second tier schools. At 34, I can't say my college degree really makes that much of a difference to my life anymore and if I wanted to change career directions, I would just do it.

I think the chiddush is simply having a "career" direction to begin with, to be in the mode of thinking that successful career= parnassa, rather than parnassa= get rich quick schemes/failed business attempts/overloaded professional tracks (teaching).

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. I would add that career counseling should start early, that yeshivas and day schools should have career counselors and there is something to be said for bringing for having "career days" in school with speakers from a wide variety of professions and careers discussing how various careers and higher education can fit with a frum lifestyle. It is important to have good role models.

Larry Lennhoff said...

The Chareidi in Israel are also starting to support higher education - of course the classes are gender segregated and the material is all reviewed by their rabbis, but it still is a pathway to being self-supporting.

Miami Al said...

OTOH, the residential portion of college is hugely helpful in life. Having a network of like-minded individuals focused on success not only helps you focus, but gives you a peer group that you advance with in life.

Getting out of that shell and being able to socialize in the circles of elite business would be enhanced by that experience. People respect religious convictions and will play golf on Sunday, not schedule late Friday meetings, etc. People don't respect people that can't speak in standard English.

We would do well to drop the "frumisms" that are simply broken expressions in English, using a Yiddish phrase is fine. Examples of "broken speech" that I hear all the time "make Shabbos," "eat by," and in fact, saying Parnassah instead of career.

Misuse of prepositions is a clear signal of inferior education, and we signal that when we use them in speech, even if they are "grammatically correct Yiddish."

Members of the leadership in the black community are finally tackling the drawback of African American English, we should do so now, since people with a proper education are picking up the colloquialisms as an attempt to "act frum."

Anonymous said...

You do not need to socialize with your classmates to gain a superior education at a top university. You do not need to be a social butterfly on the job. If you know your work and do it superlatively, you don't have to golf or party. If you speak and write perfect English, you will appear like everyone else, even better. And Miami Al, the Yiddishisms come on and come off as needed, depending on the social context you're in. A Shabbos in Lakewood and I'm back to my Ameryiddish in a trice!

Thinking said...

Beautiful post!

The 20 year old frum boy or girl needs to realize that, in all likelihood, they will be working for the next 45 years. Take the time to find a career that you will enjoy and feel that you can excel at, the money will follow. If you care about what you do, you will spend the time to learn the field and be motivated to do well. You can become wealthy in many different ways, there is no secret other than hard work. So why not do it in a field you enjoy?

Dave said...

Networking is a vital part of managing your career in this day and age.

So yes, you do need practice in building your professional network and college is a good place to start.

And you do need to make and keep social connections at work.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al: one of my kids really has that habit of saying "today by lunch", "today by recess" etc. I remind her every time not to do so -- she gets a little defensive. But I have told her that if she says it at a college interview, it will be held against her. College for her is about 5 years away...

Anonymous said...

Interesting that YU is not noted as a possibility.
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

Thinking: Excellent point about the 45 years. Today's 20 year olds will probably be working until at least 70 given much longer life expectancies, social security disappearing, etc. Spending a few extra years (and some money) to get educated and trained is well worth it if you have a long-term time horizon in mind.

Anonymous said...

Commenter Abbi: Your raise good points about second tier schools. However, in some career paths, where you go to school can matter quite a bit as far as job prospects go for the first 5-10 years out, and sometimes longer. I am involved in hiring and in times like these when there are 100 applicants for an opening and I am only going to interview 5-7 of the applicants, the resumes of people who went to podunk colleges don't get a second look unless there is something amazing on the resume to offset the weak college. It may not be fair, but its reality.

Miami Al said...

Tesyaa, it's unfortunately not just college interviews, it's everything. How do you react if you hear someone with a southern drawl? Long Island ("Lon Gislan") accent, the Brooklyn New York accent? How do you react if you here that east coast prep school accent?

When I see one of the NYC "frummies" show up: girls with too much makeup on, expensive clothes that don't fit right, etc., guys in a black suit that looks like it was the wrong size, misfit, and several years out of style, misusing prepositions, that communicates a VERY different background and education that some in a current style outfit/suit, properly fit, and made up nicely.

It's very easy to complain about discrimination of being Orthodox, but it isn't that real, there isn't a HUGE amount of discrimination.

Oh, and teach your kids how to shake hands... the limp handshake is really perturbing.

SephardiLady said...

Let's not forget that there are top notch public universities and sometimes they sit next door to the frum community (UCLA comes to mind). I know there are others.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al, you are basing your impression of a person on nonessentials. What if the guy with the limp handshake and the ill-fitting suit is a talented accountant and can help your business? A good friend graduated from Cornell and Harvard Law School and guess what? He's from Brooklyn and has a definite Brooklyn accent. He has managed to overcome that terrible flaw in his successful career. I mean, these things are not important! Do not judge people by their clothing and their accents. You will find yourself disappointed in their character. Keep an open mind - see what a person says rather than what accent they say it in.

matthewberns said...

Agreed. Ill-fitting suits and yeshivish talk plays a small role in why our children aren’t qualified to compete for the best jobs that the US has to offer. The problem for many Yeshiva boys and girls is that their resumes are, to be kind, weak. Our children have limited if any real work experience. They have BA degrees but, often, nothing else to show from their college experience. (Graduating from Harvard is substantially less impressive if your top accomplishment while there was that you graduated.) Other Experience is typically limited to traveling in Israel. A resume needs to show a potential employer that if they hire you, you will impress them with your hard work, ability to work with others, leadership skills, etc. In far too many cases, the resumes of our children show all but the opposite. The real issue seems to be that the top employers are seeking employees with depth and our children, with our help, are preparing for their future careers by focusing on the superficial.

Miami Al said...

MatthewBerns: it's part of a package. The Yeshiva Boys do not communicate "I am a successful young, bright hotshot." They communicate, "I don't know why I'm here or how to behave in a professional setting."

Step 1: fix the attitude of whining and entitlement
Step 2: polish the resume... by actually DOING something.
Step 3: polish the appearance... look and act the part

Anon, talented accountants are a dime a dozen, as are MBAs, JDs, etc. Someone with solid quant skills that can work as part of a team and fit in the business cultural and push ahead, that's valuable.

CPAs are a relatively cheap position to fill, and good ones aren't that expensive. Now you have a Stanford/MIT AI PhD with interesting research and I don't care that you're a weirdo. But accountant? It's a nice career, you can earn a nice living, but to not matter that you lack social skills, nah.

You can justify bad first impressions, and you can overcome them. But it's hard work. Going to a reasonable suiting store, buying a reasonable suit, and learning to shake someone's hand seems easier than overcoming a shlubby first impression.

Then again, I don't come from Brooklyn and my in-laws don't support me, so I don't know what makes life a real challenge.

Anonymous said...

I've been involved in the hiring process for years. I work at a small trade association (25 employees). Earlier this year, we went forward with hiring 3 new entry (or near entry) level positions. For each, we received over 150 resumes and interviewed the top 3-5. With Absolute certainty, I can tell you the following:
--Education matters. I only had time to do 3-5 interviews. They went to the best potential candidates. Harvard, Yale, Hopkins, GW, Wash. U., American, UCLA, U. Michigan, Rutgers, and U. Maryland were schools that got noticed. As unfair as it may be places like Touro, YU, various certificate programs, and even local community colleges didnt make the first cut. Its not that I dont think there are exceptional people there, its that I have the time to interview only 2% of the 150 applicants and I'm picking my spots where I expect to have the most success. We are investing time, energy, and $$ (salary, infrastructure, benefits) in this person, and their education matters.
--Reading and writing matter. If I saw so much as one grammatical, spelling, or punctuation error on your resume or cover letter, I wont interview you. If you are unable or unwilling to put time and effort to ensuring those are perfect, I'm not going to hire you.
--Appearances matter. As an employee, you reflect on me, our members and our company. Just as I wont tolerate a skimpy clothing and mini-skirts where inappropriate, I also wont tolerate behavior (including dress) that is socially inappropriate to the time \ place. Shake my hand--firmly, look me in the eye, and speak to me speak in clear and correct English. If you can't do that, you can't work for me.
--Being a well rounded person matters. At the end of every interview, I ask the person what they do when they aren't at work. Its my time to see if you are a well rounded person. One co-worker plays poker, another is an avid rower \ bicyclist, another is a HUGE fan of a particular rock musician, still another is very active at her children's school. The gentleman in the office next to me plays guitar. I am active in my (orthodox) synagogue. You dont need a "great" answer to that question and I'm not trying to trick you, just have an answer. If you dont have an answer, or if you aren't telling the truth (and I may ask a follow-up), I won't hire you.

You can't fake your way through this and there aren't short cuts. I have 1 spot to fill, 150 people asking to fill it, and only time \ energy \ money to interview 3-5 candidates. I will pick the best and those who I believe gives my business the best chance at success.

I'm frustrated that the frum community doesn't get this and continues to believe there are shortcuts, especially in secular education (including the accompanying non-tangible social skills).

So I ask, why are we so afraid of this education?

matthewberns said...

Miami Al, I don't disagree. Impressions mean something. With this said, I'm speaking very practically. Frum kids aren't getting the interviews for a brand management position at Nabisco and, as a consequence, no one is seeing their suits, shaking their hands, etc. And, if Nabisco surprised us and asked them to come meet with them, these issues would be relatively easily fixed. Alternatively, educating these young men and women, inspiring these young men and women to strive to build the substance of their resumes, supporting these young men and women in their career pursuits, etc., these are critical paths to career success and, for good reason, these are the components that cannot be bought at a local clothing store. As parents and educators, there’s a place for teaching our children the derech eretz of corporate America. But, realistically, this simply isn’t the top priority. Your speaking of symptoms while our children are metaphorically suffering from a real disease. The top priority is properly educating our children, building awareness of careers that are open to them, inspiring our children to dare to dream of attaining one of these jobs and, lastly, supporting these same young men and women in making their dreams a reality.

Anonymous said...

Now, let me just say the most misinterpreted part of Tanya ch. 8, it is not exact quote, that the sin of bitul torah include someone who is OISEK in... Now there is more than one definition to that word OISEK in Hebrew: study in depth or work with dedication or toiling.

So how was that for Yidishism?

If you are toiling in intellectual wisdom of nations that are worshiping idols, it counts as bitul torah as well. And also it is worse than mindless chatter INSTEAD OF STUDYING TORAH -

[Now if we to interpret that it extends to the point whereas you are not allowed to study anything but Torah, than what is your excuse for going to work in the first place, it should also be a sin. So what did Alter Rebbe mean!? let him explain to what extent this prohibition extents.]

It is worse to substitute torah learning to toil in wisdom of those who also worship idols, than it is in mindless chatter because... It does not affect you as much (reasoning shortened)
While wisdom of nations that worship idols dresses in, and makes your CHaBa"D that is in your soul impure with impurity of klipath nogah...

[Wait a minute didn't just Alter Rebbe finished saying that it is type of klipah that CAN be used for good, and he uses Kosher Food as an example? Just like you need to eat to be a better Jew. But also can be used JUST to fill up your belly like an animal and you will pay for it while in hell.
So, is this also a two way road for this same type of klipah?
So let Alter Rebbe explain. AND THE ANSWER IS brace yourselves...]

UNLESS he is using it (this wisdom) in the way that an ax is used to provide for living.

[Well you can use an ax to kill somebody and WILL go to hell for that too! Same two way road for an ax]

And what kind of living? (Alter Rebbe uses the Yidish word) BREVACH not just earning minimum wage but a GOOD JOB!!! In order to be able to serve G-d better.

[HEY, there is another instance where it is a good thing and you are NOT going to hell for it!]

Or if he uses this wisdom for better understanding of Torah and service to G-d. Just like RaMBa"M, RaMBa"N and any one who helped them, actually TOILED IN THEM (these wisdoms).

[Don't take MY words, look at it CAREFULLY yourself].

In conclusion, there are two types of frum people, ones who are real servants and trying to serve G-d the best they can and do study torah occasionally. Then there are those we call Chasidishe bums, who besides looking frum do nothing for the living torah, never speak a word of torah and taking only Kosher pleasures from life. Still better than frei people, but not living in torah atmosphere. Alter Rebbe classifies our stance in these hierarchy:
Frei - speaks for itself.
Observant or just looking frum usually happens to FFBs that don't want to cut their ties with frum community completely, but don't leave a real torah life. So for this type it is better to engage in mindless chatter than to toil in this wisdom, since they don't speak a word of torah anyways and in that case, than it is to toil in that philosophy to substitute it with torah learning. The question is should they still learn it to get a job? Probably but not as recreational activity.
Than there are Jews that live a torah life and they should study this wisdom for proffession or even as an aid to understanding torah.

Yeah, but go to BT or FFB yeshiva and try to dispel the myth of no to secular studies under any circumstances, you will be treated as some sort of heretic. And this disservice to our youth still being brainwashed into young hearts and minds of our children.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:
"Education matters. I only had time to do 3-5 interviews. They went to the best potential candidates. Harvard, Yale, Hopkins, GW, Wash. U., American, UCLA, U. Michigan, Rutgers, and U. Maryland were schools that got noticed. As unfair as it may be places like Touro, YU, various certificate programs, and even local community colleges didnt make the first cut. Its not that I dont think there are exceptional people there, its that I have the time to interview only 2% of the 150 applicants and I'm picking my spots where I expect to have the most success. We are investing time, energy, and $$ (salary, infrastructure, benefits)"

You sound as if you come from anywhere else but few elitist places, it is like gloom and doom out there. Simply not true.
Not everyone can afford to be there and most other places are producing better employees. and Princeton is not made out rubber that can expand indefinitely to accept three hundred million Americans. And there ARE more jobs than Yale graduates in this country. And if its not your company, it is another company that will accept me, yours is just a try. It might not be as high paying as yours and will take me longer to climb the latter of a career, but it is possible, and believe me when I say possible, been there, done that. Eventually the longer the climb the better the experience, the better output.
I've seen some of those elitist people whose parents broke their backs to send them to Harvard, the bad outcome was is that they were hired into high positions way too fast, way too young and inexperienced, they thought too much of themselves, had unrealistic goals and expectations almost never made a good decision and never quite understood that theory and practice don't always go together.
But who can blame them? they never tested the real world only the ivy league idealism and the false premises of their liberal professors.
Yeah, tell me mister smart, who drove GM down by involving government into something that simple bankruptcy could take care of? Elite graduates.
Once great institutions of learning, these places were overrated over the time. They've become attraction to rich kids that go there to have some fun while getting empty label of being in a fancy place or robotic 'brainiacs' whose mind is only good for memorization and no initiative of their own - truly good robot followers but not leaders.
Yes it takes time to climb the latter from the bottom, but by the end of the day shiny idealism is uncompetitive to intimate knowledge of what it is like in a real world. You know why? When your first job is paying less for under qualified position and your present is over paying for over qualified - that is your best education you will ever get. Not when you propelled in 20 something into managing a life of a company with a degree in liberal economics and knowledge of Karl Marx's Das Kapital, you just not going to make it good no matter how you put it.
P.S. our last 3 idiotic presidents came out of elite establishment, all abused drugs, alcohol, hey latest one is taking steps to legalize it, so that the rest of his policies will finally make sense to us.
So, what good does it make for the country to have some unrealistic idealists trying to drive all down? It is the gray hair of experience not label that makes it real good.

Commenter Abbi said...

Anon 1:52 was a little longwinded, but I agree. You definitely do not need an Ivy League degree to have a comfortable life, which I think is what most frum pple want. Plenty of ppl get law, nursing, accounting degrees at second/third tier schools and go on to live very comfortable lives. The key is not the degree, but how creative and savvy you are in pursuing your career. What's missing in the yeshivish velt is this creativity (and probably polish).

Yes, it would be nice for everyone to get Ivy League degrees, but that's not happening any time soon. How about just start with a decent BA, good writing and critical thinking skills and a hava amina that everyone needs to figure out how to make a good living.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we don't have to push "Harvard" as the ideal, even though it opens some doors. I hear on good authority that for a middle-class teen to be admitted to Harvard today, he/she needs to have extraordinary extracurricular activities, such as starting their own successful charity or working in the Third World for a summer. Some of these activities require the parents to subsidize them, which just may be unaffordable. (Inner city youth get a pass on this). As SL said, there are fine public universities to choose from.

And the atmosphere of competition and the cheating it fosters is notorious at Harvard. It may not be the best place for some kids, in that respect. Wherever you go to college, make sure you take as many challenging classes as you can.

Mike S. said...

There is no magic; you have to be able to do something for your employer that justifies your salary. Even the best degree and resume won't do more than get you in the door; you have to be able and willing to perform on the job to keep it and to get ahead. And the ability to keep adjusting to changing requirements is also needed. Someone who lacks a top notch education (and that does not necessarily correlate with attending a prestigious school) is at a serious disadvantage.

Al, judging people by their accent is liable to put you in violation of equal employment laws. I'd suggest dropping that practice. Anonymous, if you are judging people on what they do outside of work, you also need to be careful that you do so in a way that does not discriminate based on race, religion family status and the like.

Eli B. said...

I would like to add a point regarding two types of jobs, actuary & pharmacist (Mine & my wife's).

We (a public firm with 2500+ employees) recently hired a Touro graduate out of college as an actuary. Pharmacists are not having problems being hired by the chains, especially outside NYC. So what is the catch?

1: Difficult national tests: Pharmacists have to go to an accredited pharmacy school for 4 years of postgrad, and then pass either two or three national tests. Actuaries continue taking tests while they are working, but (in most cases) have to pass one or two before they get looked at. The actuarial tests are known to be some of the hardest out there, and there are 9-10 of them.

2: Perseverance: Neither pharmacy or actuarial science are easy. The material is difficult, there is a lot of compitition, and you have to spent much of your time to pass your exams at the beginning of your career. You must apply yourself for success.

The advantages are that you don't need to go to a top tier school (although it still does help) and the hours are better that most other six figure jobs (pharmacists in many cases can make their own hours, and many if not most actuaries work 9-5 90% of the time). But you have to work at it while you are young, and many people, especially boys, are not willing to put effort into their careers before they actually "go to work", and at that point it is too late.

Anonymous said...

Eli raises some great points. The importance of what college or grad school you attend depends, in large part, on the particular area of study. There is a shortage of MD's and not that many schools, so it probably doesn't matter where you go. On the other hand, there are tons of lawyers. Unless you plan to be a sole practitioner (or join Daddy's firm), getting a job at a major firm or corporation and even the better government jobs often depends on going to one of the name schools. Geographic region also matters. If you want to get a law job in NY out of Fordham, for example, that's fine; whereas Fordham probably won't mean anything if you are trying to get a job in Texas or California or Boston.

Miami Al said...

Good luck with your children, parenting is tough, and we all communicate to our children what we think is important for them to learn. You have 18 years to turn them from newborns that only know how to cry into adults ready to take on the world.

This discussion has gotten ugly. I've hired numerous people, interviewed with entrepreneurs, met with clients, and worked in public companies, those are my experiences. My impression of the right-wing crowd is superficial because I'm not from that world, find little appealing there, and largely encounter people from there when they are on vacation or visiting people in south Florida.

I've told you what stands out in an interview. Others have told you what stands out on a resume and in an interview. You can tell us it doesn't matter, tell us it's superficial, insult us, but it doesn't change the fact that when we go to fill a position, there are always dozens of candidates for each position, and in a slow economy, 100+. It may not be "fair" that someone gets screened on the school they attended, but it's real.

There is a way that the "establishment" has preserved wealth and dominance of this country for over 200 years, and that path is open to Jews that are willing to learn to dress and act the part, and we see Jews in all areas of the country succeeding to various degrees.

There are several Senators/Congressmen that are affiliated in various ways with Orthodoxy, have Kosher homes, keep Shabbat (possibly to differing degrees, etc), with similar things all over business and science.

Since the Orthodox world is HIGHLY dependent on the most successful carrying the rest financially in terms of supporting Shuls, Mikvaot, Yeshivot, etc., it would behoove us to give those with an opportunity for success an opportunity to reach all levels of it. The article that we are discussing was talking about the career paths of modern American management, where brains, talent, and social skills matter more than degrees, certifications, and qualifications. What this means in terms of opportunities for your children is a decision that you have to make, but attacking the messenger doesn't make the message not true.

I noticed defenses of Brooklyn accents and attacks for the suggestion that it shouldn't matter. It shouldn't, but it does. My friends from the deep south had to unlearn the drawls to enter NYC business, and if you think New Yorkers "don't care" if you have a deep south accent from Alabama, you're delusional. You and you alone control the impression of yourself that you give people.

I don't think that there are shortcuts. I believe a large part of the "frummy culture" is at best unnecessary to Judaism, and at worst a violation of the obligation to conduct yourself modestly (showing off your piety is NOT being modest), pushes other Jews away from Torah, and unnecessarily makes it difficult to support oneself and ones family. Looking at work disparagingly, as opposed to being career focused, doesn't eliminate the ability to earn a living, but it certainly derails you. During the BT process, we played with some of the practices and were suffering some career derailment, and it was MUCH easier to get back on track with top 10 schools for undergraduate and graduate school on my resume than it would be with an undergrad from Touro and a certificate or two.

matthewberns said...

Three thoughts:

1- Harvard is a quality school. Amherst is a quality school. The University of Wisconsin is a quality school. There are lots of quality schools. There are also lots of schools that will leave the vast majority of potential recruiters scratching their heads. This includes junior colleges, community colleges and online universities. As a general rule, the better the school, the less likely the potential employer will scratch their head.
2- Hiring is very subjective. A Human Resources department may have standards and operational procedures, but more often than not, these standards and procedures are driven by the line people… who have very subjective opinions. One manager may hate candidates from Harvard because they’re all elitist scum (because he had an employee from Harvard and he really didn’t like) while another manager will only hire Ivy League grads (because he played football at Dartmouth and he feels a certain kinship to the Ivies). With this said, 99% of all employers will not see Harvard on someone’s resume as a negative. Similarly, 90% of all employers will not see UCLA on someone’s resume as a negative. Given a choice between bringing the Harvard guy or the UCLA guy in for an interview, Harvard will usually win. But, remember, this is only a small piece of the individual’s total resume. The key is not going to an Ivy League school. The key is having a good total resume. A total resume that will impress the highest percentage of subjective opinions. (Miami Al, I don’t disagree. I’m just saying that where you went to undergrad is a piece of the total resume. Harvard looks great. But so does starting a business that grossed $500K during the summer of 2005. There are lots of way to have an impressive resume.)
3- Most certainly a frum young man or woman can find a good job and make a living. What this article speaks to is the ability to have a better job. A job where a person is able to pay full tuition for his/her children, get more pleasure from their job, better fulfill one’s potential as an employee, etc. There’s no mystery that the frum world has financial issues. This article speaks in a very concrete way about how the, so to speak, best and brightest in America, prepare for and pursue careers. The same best and brightest in America who are garnering the, so to speak, best jobs in America. Painting with broad strokes, frum Jews are as good and as bright as these “best and brightest”. Yet, far too often, these same frum Jews have the jobs of the less-than-best-and-brightest. This article speaks to why so many of our best and brightest do not have the same career success as the best and brightest outside of the velt. And, most importantly, how this can be changed. No need for Harvard. No need for a summer feeding the poor in Ethiopia. etc. Just a career vision, an understanding of how a resume functions (i.e. a resume reflects you, your experiences, your middos, etc.), some guidance in receiving work experience, an education and other experiences and… Action. The final piece is implementation. Our children most certainly can attain these jobs. It just requires us as parents and as educators to start preparing our children at about the same time that the best and brightest are sending their kids to, literally and figuratively, preparatory school.

Thinking said...

I went to an Ivy league school and have been told several times that my degree was what got me the interviews I got. What I learned was not nearly as relevant as the degree.
Once I got the door open though, it was all up to me to impress the interviewer.

Having interviewed and hired, over the past 5 years, a number of employees and interns in NY, I will say that I do see a correlation between schools attended and successful employees. Alot of it has to do with intelligence and drive. Getting into an Ivy league schools takes intelligence and drive, something they continue to display once on the job. Ivy league graduates also often have great internships and work experience, something I rarely see from OJ applicants. Sorry, spending your summer in a camp in the catskills is nice, but interning a GE or PWC is going to get you hired.

matthewberns said...

Thinking: I very much agree. You received the interview because you went to an Ivy League school. And, a friend in B-school got interviews with numerous companies because during the summer of ’94, he started a daily newspaper dedicated to the World Cup of Soccer that grossed $1.6 million dollars. Another friend got interviews because he did an Ironman triathlon. As a general rule, companies love success. And, more specifically, companies want to hire successful people. And, right or wrong, the vast majority of companies do not appreciate the success that is inherent in finishing a mesechta. To get these, so to speak, best jobs, we need more. Wherever our children find their interests, we are doing our children a favor in encouraging them to be successful at the relevant pursuit.

Anonymous said...

The big elephant in the room is deferring marriage, or at least having children. It is more difficult (but not impossible) to get a good degree and develop the resume needed for a career if you have the financial and other responsibilities of being a parent at 20 or 21. Even being married can be harder financially since it means that you are not living at home for free or sharing an apartment with 10 other people, sleeping on a used mattress on the floor and eating macaroni for dinner every night.

mrmoose said...

Ironically, some of the frum young people I know who are doing the best have trade type skills. The demand for skilled labor has never been higher and a master plumber or electrician can make a very nice income as well as having a chance to start his own business. This is definite an area that more frum young men should consider

Jeffrey said...

I think a number of commentators are mixing up the points of correlation and causation. There's no question that people who are Ivy league grads do better on average than non-Ivy league grads. And there's no question that an Ivy league degree will help open doors. But that hardly means an Ivy league degree is necessary.

On an indiviudal basis, many of those who succeed wit an Ivy league degree would have succeeded with another degree. It's the family background, personal connections, and individual drive that helped individuals get into Harvard that would have helped the same student regardless of what college the student goes to.

What's my point? No doubt the degree can help but the personal qualities, ambition and drive are probably more important. Ivy league schools admit maybe 5-15% of applicants so its unrealistic to expect most students to get in, and if you don't get into Harvard, it's hardly a big deal. It's a much bigger deal if you haven't developed the personal traits that lend themselves to doing well.

Offwinger said...

I hope no one is letting the debate about which schools to go to (extremely field specific) detract from the key point here:

It is important to RESEARCH and LEARN about the career path(s) you are interested in and PLAN for that future. The earlier, the better.

Anecdotes are a helpful part of this process, but can also be misleading.

Here's our short version:

I am currently 1/2 of a DINK married couple. I went to an elite grad school, which was absolutely necessary (but not sufficient) for my current career path. It has set me up "for life" (at least to the extent any job is). However, I deliberately went to a non-elite undergrad school, choosing NOT to go to an elite school for various reasons, including the knowledge that it likely would not matter for my chosen field.

My better half, meanwhile, also has a successful career, even though he never went to university. When we meet people who know what I do, especially in the frum world, they are shocked to discover that he doesn't even have a bachelor's degree.

Instead, he had some work experience in his field and, more importantly, in the post high-school time he was working & taking a few community college courses, he took a not-too-easy-to-pass certification test that would demonstrate his smarts & proficiency to a few specific employers. It worked, and he was able to use this certification & some contacts he made to get his foot in the door over a decade ago. It worked, and his career has taken off since, as he's tackled new roles and responsibilities in his field, learning on the go.

Anyone making anecdotal determinations would say that to be successful, you must either go to an elite graduate school OR not go to college at all. Clearly, that's ridiculous. What matters is the field and what you do with the opportunities you're presented with.

Not being aware of what opportunities there are, and what you need to do to make them available to you is a severe communal problem. This problem can range from the right-wing rejection of secular studies to the modern orthodox rejection of all career paths other than a few white-collar choices (medicine, law, accounting, etc.).

Dave in DC said...

I'll object to lumping "computer programmers" in with ”Necessary cost” (or as we would call them "overhead") positions. IT Professionals (as opposed to Help Desk - no I cannot fix your printer) are highly skiled and well renumerated employees. IT as a career requires communications skills, creativity, a clear writing style, logical thinking and dedication to task. Certifications in Cisco, Java, Oracle or other popular tools can compensate for a degree from a second tier school. The opportunities for entrepreneurship, be it in the form of software development or IT consulting, are plenary. Alternatively, career paths within technology companies are often well defined, are replete with new challenges and can lead up to the executive suite. Conflicts with frumkeit are very rare (although I did know a frum system administrator who started his entry level job at an ISP unaware that their servers hosted almost exclusively obscene content).
I'm puzzled that this career was lumped together with secretaries and bookkeepers.
Not that I'm bitter or anything...

Dave said...

Whether programmers are a "necesary cost" or fall into the category of "value creating" depends very much on the business.

For businesses where the software is a key component of the product, programmers would by definition be "value creating" (and in fact, your best programmer had better be creating more value than your best accountant).

For many businesses, a top flight web site can be "value creating". That may be outsourced, but if done in house, the web team is "value creating".

In other cases, the programmers may well fall into the category of overhead. It all depends on the actual business.

Anonymous said...

1. Early in my career I heard from my boss that his boss told him no way I'd go out consulting with "that thing" on my head. I went to the boss of all bosses (for the office :-)) and told him I was a big boy, I understood their are antisemites in the world and I expected that if religion were a possible client issue, I wouldn't go. His response - which I will never forget- was "Joel, everyone has baggage. Some are fat, some are bald, some are shy, some are women and some are orthodox Jews. If you can make it work, fine, if not, find a job that you can make work"

2. It's all about leading a balanced life. Of course there are trade-offs. Going to YU instead of the Ivies says a lot about your priorities. Will it hold you back? - on average somewhat but so will being kovea itim latorah throughout your life. Everyone has to find their own dynamic balance. Just don't think you can have it all, you can't, so decide what your priorities are and go for it.

Joel Rich

matthewberns said...

Offwinger: This subject is most certainly very subjective. Unique for each person as well as to each career. To the young man who is a great learner, married to the Rosh Yeshiva’s daughter and interested in being a rebbi, much of what we’re discussing is irrelevant. To the 17 year-old who has always dreamed of being a plumber, much of what we’re saying may also be irrelevant. With this said, to the young men and women who are unsure what they want to do for a living (which is very common, especially within insular communities) getting a college education and allowing the young man or woman to organically discover their future career can make a lot of sense. With relation to your strategy, if a young man or woman has the time and money to get a simple undergrad degree and then get a graduate degree from a more-prestigious school, this can make a lot of sense. With relation to your husband, it’s wonderful he’s found a good career. None the less, with few exceptions, most people get a good job *despite* not going to college. Not because of it. But, again, your point remains true. This issue is very subjective.

Joel Rich: With all due respect, I‘m not sure that I 100% agree. If a young man treats school like you and I treat work where he’s up early to learn and daven (like a ba’al habais) goes to school (like a ba’al habais goes to work) and then comes home and does homework, has a night seder, etc., I have trouble seeing the loss for this young man. This schedule strikes me as a schedule that is very appropriate for a ben Torah. And, more than this, when the young man is taking an English, social science, history, math, business or whatever class he chooses, if he’s attending a good school, he may very well be receiving an excellent education that is preparing him well for his rapidly approaching future. YU is a good school. But to think that a young man is making a sacrifice by going to Columbia doesn’t ring true to me.

Anonymous said...

matthewberns ,
The proof would be in the pudding, but of course no one does any formal surveys. That being said, my anecdotal experience is that it is much harder to stay the course outside of YU than inside. Of course, it's possible those who do are stronger for it and everyone makes their own decisions. For the group as a whole, I'd go with YU as having the better outcome.
Joel Rich

bklynmom said...

Before discussing selective colleges and opportunities they afford, we have to discuss getting into one of those colleges. These schools look for top-notch students who, on a high school level, have shown accomplishment and promise. They look for kids with top grades in challenging coursework, high SAT scores, extra-curriculars, leadership positions, and meaningful summer experiences. These are opportunities not given to Jewish children by most yeshivas. Yes, these are experiences that can be obtained after school hours and during the summers, but they take commitment, time and money. They also take the courage to allow a teenager to go out into the world outside his/her immediate community--something few families are willing to do.
College-prep schools are well-oiled machines at advising students, writing letter of recommendation, making phone calls, doing whatever it takes to get their kids into the best colleges they can. These school are known to both college admissions officers and families who have their eyes on the prize.
The yeshiva high schools that educate their students in a way that opens doors to selective colleges are not right-wing enough for many in the Orthodox circles and very expensive.
The discussion comes back to elementary-school and high-school education--the yeshiva curriculum and the cost.

Lion of Zion said...


"I would like to add a point regarding two types of jobs, actuary & pharmacist (Mine & my wife's) . . ."

interesting. almost everything you wrote above is the exact opposite of what i or my friends would write about the field.

Lion of Zion said...


pharmacy, that is

Anonymous said...

I work for a Fortune 5 company and have worked in major US companies my entire career.

A couple of rules of the road to keep in mind:

1- Proper written English is the sine qua non. It warrants no further discussion.

Grammatically correct spoken English is almost as important.

2- A university diploma is the price of entry in order to be invited to the interview game.

3- An established university provides tremendous advantage in access via the alumni network.

4- Graduating major is relatively less important except in specialized fields, e.g., engineering.

5- As with most things, persistence is the key to success in landing a job.

6- Qualified woman and minorities are generally at an advantage for getting interviews. That's the way it is, good, bad or indifferent. Deal with it. On the other hand, married men have a very big advantage over single men in landing a job, even if it is a job that requires travel.

7- HR Departments main purpose in life is to protect the company from liability NOT TO HELP PEOPLE GET JOBS.

8- Nothing works better at getting a job than one's personal network. Learn to use it.

9- Nobody owes you anything and you are entitled to nothing.

Avi said...

Two points: IT careers can be extremely lucrative when IT is used as a competitive advantage for the company. Other than weekend software launches / server upgrades, a career as a software developer is extremely friendly to a frum lifestyle both for men and women.

However, this leads me to point #2: You need to be passionate to succeed. After all, if you're interested in a job that pays really well (and doesn't require you to live on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean), you'll be competing with a horde of people who are dying for that job, have been dreaming about it and preparing for it for years, and will do a great job because they genuinely want to. "When I have to stop learning I'll take a course" is completely inadequate. (When my wife first learned to program in the late-90's, she bought a book "Learn VB in 21 days." She finished the book in 3 days and proudly told me she was now a programmer. I didn't want to embarrass my new bride, but I couldn't stop laughing.) To succeed above the norm - which is what is required to earn enough to support an OJ family - requires drive, perseverance, and passion. Even in the MO schools the rabbeim teach that Torah is all important and that an occupation is something less than ideal. In the RW world, preparing for a career is, at best, a last resort. Learn Torah now, and you'll figure something out down the road with God's help if you need to. But at that point, you're basically asking God for a miracle, and even if you do manage to cobble together some skills and reluctantly enter the workforce, how are you going to compete with someone who lives for this stuff?

Avi said...

My second point (the importance of passion) is not limited to IT. You can't just waltz into a brand management job at Nike because you will be competing against someone who has been drawing swooshes on their notebook since grade school. You can't open a restaurant if you don't love it enough to work brutally long hours and still be nice to the patrons. You won't get promoted out of the entry level position in finance if you don't love the business.

But even passion won't overcome a poor command of written and spoken English.

Anonymous said...

"".You can't open a restaurant if you don't love it enough to work brutally long hours and still be nice to the patrons."

have you been to some glatt resturants and pizza stores in bergen county- there are quite a few that arent nice to their patrons

Avi said...

Anon 7:56 - yeah, I knew I was opening myself up to that. Just because there are lousy restaraunts that manage to stay open - at least for now - doesn't invalidate my point at all.

Zach Kessin said...

First of all go rent the movie "Stand and Deliver" no really it is very relevant to this conversation (and an amazing film)

A few other things to ponder...

In the non frum world most kids get jobs after school and in the summer. Often at McDonalds or the like. Its far from a fancy job but it does teach you how to work. This is often done with a goal in mind, like say buying a first car. I spent a summer as a kid working at the McDonalds in Laconia NH where my grandparents lived and it made me understand how to have a job. Show up on time, work well etc. It also made me want to learn to do something better. (I'm in software now).

I think it would be a very good thing for most kids to stop spending 18 hours a day in Yeshiva at some point and go get a job. Telling a young man "hey you want to do X, well save up the money for it" would cut down on a lot of they crazy stuff in the frum world.

Commenter Abbi said...

Zach- like my cousin in yeshiva who just got married at 21 and asked his parents for a gym membership a few weeks before he got married? Think he could use a few lessons on how to work?

Miami Al said...

Zach, the thing my wife and I have found MOST crazy in the observant world has been "camp" and the lack of working. Her mother didn't let her have a job in high school (studies first), and she felt she was worse for it.

I had a job to pay the costs of my car (insurance + gas), and it ABSOLUTELY taught me responsibility. Because I went through my network (a friend 2 years older working there), I got a decent job, and it actually helped on my resume. After freshman year of college, I was looking for my third job "in the computer industry" and not my first, and when interviewing with recruiters one even asked if I was graduating that May (didn't notice the intended year of graduation on the resume).

A string of jobs fast tracked me through the career path.

Now, plenty of kids didn't go that route, and their careers ran a few years slower than the handful of us with a two year jump. The "average" Yeshiva kid won't be the super high achieving "Ivy or bust" kid, but the bright one could and ought to be.

The problem as I see, Orthodox Judaism is expensive, Hareidi Judaism is almost as pricy overall, but hits harder and faster because the kids come a few years earlier.

Do we want young men to spend 4-5 years on "self discovery" in a new age sense, albeit pretending its an ancient Jewish value by tying it into the Yeshiva world? Do we want our young men married and fathers quickly? Those values are in conflict. If you want the young men married at 21 and fathers at 22, you better be graduating them from college at 18 with some AP/Community College credits and through undergrad at 22. Most of my classmates at 22 screwed around professionally for 3-5 years, picking up a masters in that time frame... much easier to do when you have a roommate and a two bedroom apartment, not married with 2 kids and a pregnant wife.

Ariella said...

Responding to commentator abbi and Miami Al: I see far more outrageous examples of parents paying for their children. I know of parents who bought the house, furniture, and much more for their son who married far older than 21 when already working at a professional job. At least the parents had the money to spare, though. What is worse is parents who don't want to say no to their children even when they really can't afford what their children desire. Someone proudly told me that her 14 year-old was going to take a winter vacation to Israel. He worked enough during the summer to earn half the price of the ticket, and his parents are paying the rest (BTW he also went last year, so don't think of this as the once-in-a-lifetime thing as a gift for his bar mitzvah). Sounds nice if you don't know that this family gets massive scholarships for school and is already in credit card debt and has not had proper dental care for the many children in the family b/c they only had the welfare type of dental coverage that is not accepted by most dentists. But, of course, I am the crazy one because I don't appreciate that it is a thing to be encouraged that this boy has a desire to visit the Holy Land.

Ariella said...

BTW my 11 year old worked this past summer even though she went to Sternberg last summer because it did not fit out budget. While I did let her spend some of the money (and give 10% to tzedaka) I directed most of it to her savings, just as I did with my other daughter who worked. I am training my kids to save for longer term goals than a trip 6 months later. Obviously, I am a bad parent. Just ask the one whose son is going to Israel. She was horrified that I declared I did consider myself a very good parent for setting high expectation of my children for thrift, studiousness and behavior. I told her the work of parenting includes saying "no," when it seems so much easier to say, "yes."

Anonymous said...

The post is terrific and should be required reading for all kids starting at about 13, all parents and all involved in education. The problem is that this advice is not realistic for those kids who are sent to school with very long days (no time for jobs, extracurricular, volunteer work, etc.) and where the secular studies get very short shrift and where students are taught that work comes second to study and secular = evil.

Anonymous said...

Zach: How do you tell a young man to stop sitting in Yeshiva 18 hours a day when its the parents who chose what yeshiva the boy attends and the parents and rabbis expect them to study all day and night?

Miami Al said...

Anon 9:45, Anon 10:16:
You can't. Parents sending their children to this school are setting their children up for failure... that's bad parenting in my book, but to each their own.

That's horrible. I find the camp thing bizarre for high schoolers. These are upper middle class children that should be participating in the job market to get some experience (and an understanding of how important it is to finish your education to get better ones) or in a community charity for the summer to get some other experience.
A 16 year old is two years from their majority, time to start transition toward adulthood, no?
It is hard enough for young adults to maintain the lifestyle that they grew accustomed to when they are starting out in the work force. It is damned near impossible if the parents have artificially boosted it with excessive leverage and sacrificing younger children/the girls health and well being.

Miami Al said...

The thing that makes this all so frustratingly insane is that Judaism inherently recognizes life cycle events and growing maturation, both with celebrations and responsibilities. In the Yeshiva culture that's been created, those remain for ritualistic purposes but not in reality. The divorce between ritual and reality is at the core of this problem.

A child turns 3 and is now presumed to be somewhat aware of their surroundings. At this age, we expect Kashrut, Shabbat, Tzitzit, and Kippot to be worn, symbolizing that they are now young Jews, which corresponds to ritual responsibility. This is also the age that children are no doubt capable of basic chores like helping set the table, etc., and becoming little people and not infants.

At age 9/10, three years before Bat/Bar Mitzvah, we expect them to start approaching their coming ritual adulthood with partial fasting, Tzniut, etc., which should also correspond to children having more responsibility in "reality" and not just ritual, more serious chores, responsibility, etc.

At 12/13, obtaining one's ritual maturity shouldn't just correspond to ritual maturity, but real maturity. It is at this age that children should be expected to help take care of younger siblings, but also be more responsible for their future scholastic success. This pre-high school age would be a perfect time for parents to talk about high school and college, because they are preparing to enter the years that will help define their adulthood, yet in the Yeshiva culture, we are treating them as children despite treating them as adults under Halacha.

At age 20, a child is responsible, as an adult, before a Beit Din as an adult for their sins. In preparation for this, shouldn't our children be becoming responsible for their adulthood. Part-time jobs, charity involvement, etc., should be part of a 4 year transition into this adulthood. We ritually recognize this age, but for some reason, we aren't considering "boys" at 20 as responsible for any of their living expenses or to be moving in a direction of supporting their family.

Marriage, ritually, creates a new family unit. But as we pushed marriage to an age before the child is ready to run a new family unit, our new "married family" is still financially dependent on parents, and expected to still be cocooned away.

If after 13 years of Jewish education, the child isn't ready to be thrust into the world for either education or livelihood without fear of temptation, then we've failed as parents.

If we looked at these events not as ritualistic, but the reality based Judaism that the Yeshiva world broke off from, we'd be raising young Jewish adults ready to start lives and families.

I think that it behooves parents to take more responsibility for the character of their children and their growing maturity. When I was a kid, with each birthday, I got a party, but also more autonomy (able to go further on my bike, make more decisions) and more responsibilities around that house. That made my childhood an evolution toward adulthood with lots of transitions. In the Orthodox culture, I see no transitions, parents making all the decisions, then wondering why, at 20, 25, 30, whatever, their adult child isn't ready to be an adult and support their family. Exasperated parents are advised to take strong actions like cutting them off, etc., instead of helping transition.

It would be nice to see our world not just pushing people toward ritual adulthood (Kashrut, Shabbat, Talmud Torah) but also toward the realities of growing up.

Summer camp and trips to Israel are a wonderful childhood experience for children, but each year it should be less childhood and more adulthood, instead of childhood until finally your father-in-law stops picking up the tab and you are left to sink or swim.

Tom said...

Going back to the interview filtering process: I think that one of the things that's been overlooked in the discussion is that the comments thus far have been focused on entry level resumes. Naturally, when there is little on the resume to evaluate, one has to go with the best available indicators of potential. The quick and dirty way to do this is to simply assume that the Ivy League graduates have the greatest potential and move on.
However, once we leave the land of entry level positions, the job history and accomplishments matter far more than the college attended in the dim distant past.
My degrees are NOT from "name" colleges so clearly, I am biased. However, I HAVE worked with my share of Harvard and MTI graduates over the years. Some have been very impressive and quite a few have failed to live up to expectations. What does this prove? Well, from a statistical point of view, not a darned thing. However, from my subjective perspective it tells me that one's alma mater is not a definitive indicator of future success.

Dave said...

It depends a lot on the line of work.

I see a lot of reqs for lawyers that specify (even with an extensive experience requirement) graduation from a top law school.

The secret is pretty straightforward. You need to get yourself considered by the person with the ability to say "Hire" (not just the people with the ability to say "No"), and you need to come across as the best qualfied applicant at the time they need to make the decision.

The devil is just in the details.

Credentials (including education especially initially, but also certainly including work history) are important. Networking is vitally important -- you may get job offers before the position is even posted.

Hell, if you're good enough, the hiring manager will create a job requirement that effectively is "Applicant must be You" to make sure that it goes cleanly through HR at some larger companies.

matthewberns said...

Tom, definitely not a definitive measure of future success. Getting into a good college speaks to your successes between the ages of 14 and 18. If your successes between the ages of 14 and 18 dictated your successes between the ages of 22 and beyond, this would be strange. With this said, successes between the ages of 14 and 18 mean something. And, more importantly, your successes between the ages of 18 and 22, while in college, say even more.

Miami Al said...

Tom, further along, it speaks to the importance of your network. When I was starting in my career, meeting with a senior marketing guy for a project he was talking about his network, I made a comment about not having much of one, and he told me something that has been proven true over the years.

When you start out, you don't have a network, because your network is other entry level people plus the occasional work friend. As you progress in your career, your network becomes more valuable as your friends advance in their career.

Friends from High School, College, and B-school have all moved forward and are now moving to Director/VP level positions at companies big and small. When I was 22, my extended network were all entry level. As an entrepreneur later in my twenties, I didn't have an extensive network to turn to. Now, the 10 year high school reunion had a lot of promising upstart lawyers and newly minted MBAs, following on Facebook, they are moving up through the ranks of accomplishing things. Pretty sure that by the 20 year reunion, we'll have people throughout the executive ranks.

You can build a career without these things, but having them helps.

In this past election, we heard about John McCain's class rank, Sarah Palin's struggles through college, and Barack Obama's Ivy League education (nobody seemed interested in Joe Biden's boring but adequate education). John McCain is 71, a retired Navy Captain, decades in the Senate, and we heard about his undergraduate education. We heard about Barack Obama's Law Review editorship.

When Bill Clinton was running, we heard about his Ivy League Law School and Rhodes Scholar achievements.

It's easy to dismiss accomplishments from 14-18, 18-22, etc., or dismiss graduate school because our kids can do it at a commuter school in their 40s because they have kids. You may not need the Masters in your career in your 20s, but it's easier to pick up from 22-24 than it is in your 40s when you aren't trying to save up for college while putting your children through Day School (plus two of their scholarship needing classmates at the same).

MatthewBerns commits what George Bush called the soft bigotry of low expectations. Listing careers that are possible with an AA while working through school is fine to help the less capable. But by declaring that Yeshiva graduates can't go to a top school (or even worse, suggesting that this was a GOOD decision because of exaggerated stories about campus life), he commits that fallacy. Bookkeeping as an entry level job is fine, but a 4 year degree in Accounting with a 5th year Masters lets you sit for the CPA exam without years of audit experience and provides double the income with far more growth potential.

Sure a bookkeeper with an AA can finish the BA over 5 or 6 years, then the Masters over 5 or 6 more and end up a CPA... but by doing that until your mid-30s, any opportunity for rapid growth as the "young up and comer" is getting choice assignments because they are seen as more of a go getter. People pay lip service to the "up by your bootstraps" type, but it's a harder slog.

Props for suggesting a less hard slog than current, and maybe reaching for the stars is a bit much, but how about reaching for the shelf.

Community College is a great way to help people move up, and there are lots of careers that make 40k - 75k that require an AA to start off and a BA over time... but setting that up as a the best our best and brightest can get... wow...

matthewberns said...

"MatthewBerns commits what George Bush called the soft bigotry of low expectations. Listing careers that are possible with an AA while working through school is fine to help the less capable. But by declaring that Yeshiva graduates can't go to a top school… he commits that fallacy”… I understand what you’re saying but have no idea what this has to do with anything I’ve said. I’m happy to respond to this but I have no idea what you’re referring to.

matthewberns said...

Miami Al: Ms. Schabb wrote an article that espouses the community college, typical, frum college route. An article was written as a retort to this article. In general, this entire thread has been a response to this latter article and the points that were made within the article. An article that explicitly speaks to going to better colleges, getting a better education, finding better jobs, the mindset of employers who are hiring within these better jobs, etc. And, my comments, without exception, have focused on the same. Why are you even speaking to the community college, typical, frum route? It doesn't seem relevant to this thread. i.e. You're preaching to the choir.

Miami Al said...

Sorry, her article was depressing, yours fell into a trap of the discussion being framed by her:

You wrote, "With this said, I'm speaking very practically. Frum kids aren't getting the interviews for a brand management position at Nabisco and, as a consequence, no one is seeing their suits, shaking their hands, etc. And, if Nabisco surprised us and asked them to come meet with them, these issues would be relatively easily fixed."

In another post, "nd, most importantly, how this can be changed. No need for Harvard. No need for a summer feeding the poor in Ethiopia. etc. Just a career vision, an understanding of how a resume functions (i.e. a resume reflects you, your experiences, your middos, etc.), some guidance in receiving work experience, an education and other experiences and… Action"

So you counter her "AA is the future of education" with "a little focus and you can do fine." So you commit the "soft bigotry of low expectations," while she is in another universe.

There are Orthodox Jews at Harvard, Yale, MIT, etc. There are Orthodox Jews in dorms, apartments, and even in fraternity houses. Reach for the stars.

I apologize if I muddled the issue by seemingly attributing her outrageous comments to you. Please accept my apologies, it was not intended.

matthewberns said...

Miami Al:

A couple of thoughts:

1. To the parents that feel comfortable having their son or daughter live in a coed dorm or fraternity/sorority house at Harvard, Yale, MIT or otherwise, this article is irrelevant. The issue we’re speaking of is not a, so to speak, modern orthodox issue. Look at the college matriculation of Ramaz and numerous other modern orthodox schools. These schools are explicitly college preparatory schools. The yeshivas, as opposed to the Hebrew Academies and JDS’s of the world, face a very different situation. This yeshiva, not modern orthodox high school, situation is what we’re speaking of.
2. If you look at the college matriculation of the premier private high schools in America, you’ll see that the students are going to a wide variety of *great* schools. The context for my saying “No need for Harvard” was with relation to a post that said, Does my child need to go to Harvard to set him/herself up for success in corporate America? and the answer is, most certainly, No. Harvard is great but so are innumerable other schools. The greatest number of Fortune 500 company CEOs went to the University of Wisconsin, not Harvard. Look at the list of prestigious alumni from Williams, Amherst, Middlebury and numerous other top-notch liberal arts colleges. The list of great schools is huge. And, most importantly, this list of great schools is extremely subjective and dictated by the relevant student. I would hardly say that putting Williams as your college top-choice is less than reaching for the stars. There isn’t a prep school in America that would agree with your perspective that all students should be shooting for Harvard.
3. Lastly, we’re discussing yeshiva boys and girls who are receiving a high school secular education that is the equivalent of an inner-city public school. These kids graduate and get fake degree from online colleges and weak degrees from community colleges. We’re discussing a situation that is pretty distressing and especially so for parents who have children within this system. We’re real parents with real concerns for our children.

With relation to the article and my posts, we are far from espousing a philosophy that suggests that if you have "a little focus, you can do fine." The article is much more detailed than this. We explicitly encourage students, parents and administrators to follow the best practices of the best high schools in America. We explicitly speak to putting students on track to become some of the most successful people in corporate America. This is far from committing the "soft bigotry of low expectations". Even if the relevant yeshiva student doesn't graduate from Harvard.

Zach Kessin said...

Zach: How do you tell a young man to stop sitting in Yeshiva 18 hours a day when its the parents who chose what yeshiva the boy attends and the parents and rabbis expect them to study all day and night?

I have no idea, but I think it needs to happen. We need to tell kids that if they want to have success in a career they will need to buckle down and work at it. There is no side door here.

Avi said...

@Zach - There is no easy cure for this: the culture has to change among the parents, rabbeim, and kids. Right now the frum world values money but does not value work.

Anonymous said...

Matthew said "we’re discussing yeshiva boys and girls who are receiving a high school secular education that is the equivalent of an inner-city public school . . . We’re discussing a situation that is pretty distressing and especially so for parents who have children within this system. We’re real parents with real concerns for our children."

If the secular education is so weak and of such concern, why are these real parents keeping their children in these schools? At some point, do these parents have an obligation to make sure their kids are getting a decent education?

matthewberns said...

@Anonymous 8:13 - For the Torah education. The Torah education is very good. But, unfortunately, the vast majority of yeshivas that demonstrate a profound respect for Torah do not share the same feelings towards general studies. The kids are getting a great education. Just not a great general studies education.

"At some point, do these parents have an obligation to make sure their kids are getting a decent education?"...

Eli B. said...


Which pharmacy school are/did your friends go to, and what are they working as now?

Remamber, pharmacy is a vast field. Perhaps they work as an owner, whcih then they also have the headache of running the business as well.

Anonymous said...

matthewberns: So are you saying that the good Torah education outweighs handicapping kids when it comes to getting good and satisfying jobs and careers? Do you think its impossible to give both a good Torah education and a good secular education that will let kids get good jobs and get into good colleges (and get scholarships) if they chose to get a higher education?

matthewberns said...

@Anonymous 10:12 - Yes. Torah is king. General Studies is the queen. Torah needs to come first. The problem is that the queen is often treated as a street beggar. This is the heart of the matter. General studies needs to be treated with more respect.

Also, in the name of clarity, the young men and women in yeshiva aren't just sitting around chewing bubble gum in the morning. The Torah learning is smart stuff. In general, yeshivas put out smart kids who are educated. There just not well educated in general studies.

It's undeniably possible to give both a good Torah and secular education. Just not currently being done at the high school level.

Thinking said...

Anon 10:12:

It is definitely possible, there are schools out there who declare that their goal is for students to graduate and be able to get into both Mir and Harvard. They are the exception though. Typically, schools who cater to the RW do not have strong secular programs and do not instill good study habits or work ethic. They have a very hard time getting into top schools. In addition, they do not help the students get good internships or encourage working pt.

matthewberns said...

Any yeshiva that has a goal of sending their students to the Mir and Harvard that doesn't post a list of the actual schools that the students went to should change their goal.

"My goal is to run a sub-3 hour marathon!"
"Did you run a marathon?"
"Did you run sub-3 hours?"
"I don't know."

It's ridiculous. Yeshivas are not creating Harvard candidates. the only exceptions would be the kids who are geting 2400 on their SATs and these kids are getting into Harvard despite their education. Not because of it. The yeshiva that is putting out Mir and Harvard quality students doesn't exist. With this said, thank G-d, the yeshivas that are creating Mir quality students does exist and we, as parents, are able to do something about the general studies.

Thinking said...


Generalize much?

Yes, I have seen it and yes the schools proudly publish the list of yeshivos and colleges their boys get into.

Back to the earnings question

Eli B. said...


As a counter-example, DRS in Woodmere has had students go to both Ivy league schools & Mir (after a few years in BM, as Mir is not for kids directly out of HS)

Miami Al said...

matthewberns, I come from a prospective of someone in the Miami area, not New York. Our Hebrew Academy had a recent graduate, accepted into MIT (top 5 school), choosing to go to Stern (top 50 school), with parental and Rabbi encouragement, a child from a very modern family. Our closest to a Jewish "prep school" brags if they send their top student to Brown, a good school, but the similarly priced non-Jewish prep schools are sending dozens to the Ivy League, and of those students going to top schools, they are disproportionately the Jewish kids.

Our Yeshivot are offering the horrid environment that you are describing, and I see Doctors and Lawyers (BTs) in my Modern community sending their children to those schools, with encouragement, because they are "more religious." So while they got a secular education and made a living from it, when spending a Shabbat meal at their house, my wife and I are mortified that their children struggle to lead Birkat Hamazon or read the D'var Torah (in English) given to them by their Rebbi.

When it comes to elementary education (pre-high school definitely, pre-middle school mostly), it doesn't matter what the subject matter is, it's whether you are learning critical thinking skills. The same logical skills I was taught in math and philosophy can be applied to learning Gemara, and the logical and critical skills they were taught learning Gemara can (and are) applied by them in IT, business strategy, marketing, etc. If you are teaching your kids to think in K-8, they can pick up whatever subject matter needed in 9-12 to rock the APs/SATs, go to a selective college and achieve.

The "soft bigotry" I see is a Yeshiva elementary system (in South Florida) that runs like a 1950s NYC inner city school, and a Day School system run like a 1950s NYC "mediocre" school. The schools are decades behind in the research in how to learn.

I want to know what the hell our "Rabbis" think that their kids are going to be able to do in the real world without the Internet. Bookkeeping? I hope you don't need to look up the proper way to record a transaction. Accounting? You think CPAs don't scour the IRS Publications with search engines instead of tomes. Law?

Everything is online, indexed, and searchable. Learning a Gemara from a book without Internet tools is about as useful a skill as conducting library research with a card catalog and paper encyclopedia... it's an obsolete skill. Memorizing the questions asked in the commentary to be posed to the Rebbe so he can give the answer in the commentary isn't learning to think critically, it's an approach to Judaism of the museum.

If you have a question in Halacha and have the ability to research the matter online, get the opinions of contemporaries, and check the citations in classic Jewish texts to prove their case you have the skills to pull up Tax law rulings and prepare a defense against the IRS. If your solution is ask your Rebbe and repeat his answer like it comes down from on high, you have the skills to be an accounts payable clerk. The difference between these two positions, $50k - $250k a year for a skilled and intelligent accountant vs. $25k - $35k for a clerk. The difference isn't just degrees/certifications, because people CAN and do get by with "lesser" lines on their resume, it's thought process. A good Yeshiva education is a law degree completed by 18, what our kids get is an inner city culture of dependence and pathetic life.

Two generations ago, our great Talmudists were skilled and able to enter new areas. Now, our Talmudists are characters in Fiddler on the Roof, repeating things that they heard from someone uneducated, pronounced in a "Frummy accent" encouraging a new Chumra based upon ignorance.

You are right that it is more fundamental, we just disagree as to how "to the core" broken it is.

matthewberns said...

@Think and @Eli B: Fair enough. I stand corrected. I'll change my none to very few. I can quibble this issue but... I stand corrected. With this said, there’s still an issue for children in non-Modern communities.

matthewberns said...

@Miami Al – C’mon, Al. “Learning a Gemara from a book without Internet tools is about as useful a skill as conducting library research with a card catalog and paper encyclopedia... it's an obsolete skill.” “Do we want young men to spend 4-5 years on self discovery in a new age sense, albeit pretending it’s an ancient Jewish value by tying it into the Yeshiva world” “If your solution is ask your Rebbe and repeat his answer like it comes down from on high…” Your veiled attacks aren’t so veiled. Discussing yeshivas and garnering a secular education is very different from denigrating Torah and Torah Jews. You’re off topic.

Miami Al said...

MatthewBerns, I'm not denigrating Torah or Torah Jews, I'm denigrating a Yeshiva World that is a fantasy world.

Even the uniform of the Yeshiva world is a silly joke. The white shirts and black suits... the Jews of Europe worked. A white shirt is a symbol of not working, because white shirts show dirt (ever hear the phrase white collar vs. blue collar, the executives far from the factory floor wore white to show that they didn't have grease on them, those on the factory wore blue because they were in a dirty environment).

The Torah is filled with laws about agriculture, crafts, trades, and business dealings. The Yeshiva world is rife with corruption, dishonest business dealings, and a dismissal of agricultural and tradesmen as "Am Haaretz."

RAMBAM tried to reconcile the best science of the time with Torah tradition. The Yeshiva world denies evolution, the existence of dinosaurs, etc.

The Jewish people were the people of the book, celebrating knowledge and education. The Yeshiva world celebrates ignorance.

I'm not denigrating Torah, I'm denigrating mixing of European pagan superstitions with Arab superstitions and calling it Torah.

At one point, the printing press was state of the art technology. While we keep Scribes for the transmission of the Holy Torah in tradition, we quickly printed the Talmud. Rashi is printed in "Rashi Script," a reminder of the font that was used when Rashi's works got mass produced.

The Internet is the printing press of today. A copy of SHAS on every bookshelf is a tribute to modern desktop publishing, word processing technology, and cheaper printing technologies.

Anonymous said...

Joel Rich

Thinking said...

Great article JR, thanks for sharing.

matthewberns said...

@JR: Agreed. I like that. A worthy project. Though stating the obvious, some of the fields were more thoroughly created than others. But, still, very much a worthy project. Also, I'd love to see a category called "Unsure" which speaks to frum young men and women who are ready to enter college but are unsure what career to pursue. Nice, JR.

Miami Al said...

JR, great find, thank you for sharing. Definitely inspiring to see others tackling this issue, particularly for Frum Jews who like their Judaism with a more Yeshivish bent.

Anonymous said...

Imagine living in an agrarian society where you have to be able to grow food and/or raise animals to survive, except for about 5% of the population who serve as blacksmiths, wheel and plowmakers, priests and kings. A a really good farmer would have a 90% chance of being able to feed his family notwithstanding the occasional draught, locusts, etc. The mediocre farmer would have 60% chance and would occassionally have to rely on the skilled farmers to eat, and the lazy or unskilled farmer about a 40% chance and would have to rely on the generosity of his neighbors to keep his family fed. Would we think that its fine not to try to train our children to be the very best farmers they can be and make sure that they know how to grow multiple types of crops since if all you plant is potatos and there is a potato blight you are finished, but if you also have wheat and corn you can survive since we don't want to take too much attention away from torah study?

Lion of Zion said...


all in community pharmacies, more in chains, but some in privates also

Anonymous said...

It was an interesting effort. I would add that I suppose that there are no average children in Lake Wobegon (orthodoxy) so parnassa issues are only for professionals? Also keep in mind that taking one anecdotal experience may not be the best representation of any profession.
Joel Rich

Eli B. said...


Interesting. I know of some pharmacists that are more "make your own hours", some that work for big Pharma and "work in PJ's" half the week (and lecture to doctors the other half), and some who teach (also not a bad job, with summers off). My wife works in a hospital and is there 9-5.

It may be that the chains will ask you to come in on sundays once a month (lets say), but then you will get off another day in the week.

Also relevant is if they work for frum people, who may be less (or more!) demanding, I don't know.

matthewberns said...

I just wanted to add one more point that I think we were reticent in touching on. A child discovering their career path doesn’t need to be a painful, intense experience. In theory, and hopefully in reality, our kids should be enjoying this pursuit. Keep in mind, our kids should be trying to find a career they’ll find financially as well as emotionally rewarding. Much like “the right college” is very subjective, so is “the right job”. Anyway, just another 10 cents. The importance of this career quest being a bottom-up, and not a top-down, experience and allowing our kids to actually enjoy this process.

Julie said...


Thank you for pointing out that a child discovering their career path doesn’t need to be a painful, intense experience. I remember how much fun it was spending summers working for the federal government. (No, I am not kidding; it was wonderful.) I learned so much about the work world, and I got a chance to consider careers that I hadn't even know existed.

matthewberns said...

Julie: Agreed. I remember being a busboy, graduating to being a waiter, graduating to being... etc. Few things feel better than those initial independent steps. Similarly, being a busboy and, after a couple of summers, recognizing that I hated being a busboy was also a great feeling. Recognizing that I hadn't figured out what i wanted to be when I greow up but also recognizing that I was continually moving towards it.

Charlie Hall said...

"Interesting that YU is not noted as a possibility."

I guess being exposed to decadent secularism is better than being exposed to modern Orthodoxy.

"shiny idealism is uncompetitive to intimate knowledge of what it is like in a real world"

At least three people who overlapped me at Harvard became billionaires. Another earned enough cash to try to buy a major league baseball team. If that isn't success "in the real world" I don't know what is.

And When did resentment at others' success become a Jewish value?

"And the atmosphere of competition and the cheating it fosters is notorious at Harvard."

I saw none of that when I was there.

"This discussion has gotten ugly."

Resentment at others' success will do that.

"There are several Senators/Congressmen that are affiliated in various ways with Orthodoxy"

The one Senator who is a fully observant Orthodox Jew went to Yale for undergraduate and law school.

"Joe Biden's boring but adequate education"

Adequate? He served 36 years in the United States Senate!

"careers that are possible with an AA while working through school "

My wife started Community College in her mid 20s. She graduated from medical school at age 40. It *is* possible but most Americans (frum or not) don't want to work that hard.

"The greatest number of Fortune 500 company CEOs went to the University of Wisconsin"

Wisconsin has a lot more undergraduate students.

Miami Al said...

Charlie Hall, your comments would be more appreciated if they weren't out of context.

To my comment: "There are several Senators/Congressmen that are affiliated in various ways with Orthodoxy"

You wrote:
The one Senator who is a fully observant Orthodox Jew went to Yale for undergraduate and law school.

Congressman Eric Cantor's Mother In Law lives and manages the cooking/shopping of the Cantor Household, which is Kosher, and attends an Orthodox synagoue. He's not fully observant, but affiliated with Orthodoxy, and part of the GOP Leadership.

There are several dozen Jewish Congressmen, and their affiliation isn't always public.

Then this out of context:
Me: "Joe Biden's boring but adequate education" - talking about how in his 70s people talked about McCain's undergraduate experience.

You wrote: Adequate? He served 36 years in the United States Senate!

Education, not career history.

Critiquer said...

This is a list of 20 factors affecting parnassa compiled from "Sefer HaMidos" by Rebbe Nachman of Breslev:

1. Lack of trust in Hashem vs. Trust in Hashem
2. Cruel to others vs. Compassionate
3. Lewdness vs. Shmiras HaBris
4. Alcohol vs. Spiritual awareness
5. Disdain of Torah vs. Respect of Torah
6. Foul Speech vs. Clean speech
7. Desecrating the Sabbath vs. Honoring the Sabbath
8. Failing to repent for old sins vs. Tshuva
9. Sadness and depression vs. Happiness
10. Ingratitude, especially to Hashem vs. Gratitude and prayer
11. Stinginess vs. Charity, especially a full tithe
12. Idol worship, blasphemy vs. Strengthening faith in Hashem
13. Immodesty vs. Modesty
14. Anger vs. Patience
15. Judging others severely vs. Judging others fairly
16. Dishonesty vs. Integrity
17. Arrogance vs. Humility
18. Infidelity vs. Honoring one's wife
19. Domestic strife vs. Peace in the home
20. Instigating hate vs. Making peace between people

He doesn't mention the following as factors:

work experience when a teen vs. camp

polished appearance vs. frummie look

polished English vs. Yinglish

attending a top college vs. quickie degree

choosing a career track vs. picking a minimal advancement job

The Chovos Ha'Levavos in his Shaar Ha'Bitachon states two factors: pick a job you like and that you're suited for AND know that it's not your job that brings in the $. You need to have the job because G-d wants you to make a channel through which the money will come in, but that's all it is, a channel.

I haven't noticed that this Rishon's presentation, accepted as a classic understanding of bitachon plays any role in the material presented in this blog entry.

This is a blog for Orthodox Jews - as in "ORTHOnomics"? It seems merely a guide for any person, Jewish or not, in how to establish themselves to be able to provide for themselves and their family. Nothing particularly Jewish about it.

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