Get Hired: How To Land Your Dream Job in 2018


Job hunting is as stressful as it is exciting. But the competition is fierce. Did you know there’s an average of 250 CVs received for every open job position? Of course, this doesn’t mean you should give up before you even begin. You need to work on your personal brand and take in mind some of the effective ways of standing out from the crowd. Not being proactive is not your option, especially not in 2018.

Your Resume is Crucial

 

HR officers are extremely busy. According to The Ladders, they spend an average of 6 seconds on a single resume before they make a decision of whether or not the candidate is worth interviewing. Making a good first impression is important and contrary to what many may think – it doesn’t happen when you first meet the employer. Your resume is that first encounter. It’s a showcase of your previous professional experience that speaks on your behalf. Pointing out your main accomplishments is advisable, as well as providing the HR recruiters with scannable content. You need to find a way to hook their attention. In case you’re not positive how to do that, get a professional to fix your resume and differentiate your CV from hundreds of others.

Be Mindful About How You Behave Online

 

Most of us use social media for entertainment and we don’t really take much thought into the digital footprint we leave behind. However, in case you post inappropriate content or show discriminatory behavior through comments related to race, gender, or religion – you might be labeled as a non-suitable candidate. Yes, social media screening is a thing: according to the CareerBuilder, 70% of employers snoop around candidate’s’ social media profiles in an attempt to assess if they would be a good fit for the company. When posting and interacting online, you reveal more about yourself than you probably assume. For instance, posting too frequently means you’re too irrational about how you spend your free time, while the way you comment can tell a lot about your communication skills.

Be Willing to Go an Extra Mile

 

When the competition is harsh, the only way to get ahead is by showing ambition and going an extra mile. With dozens of free website builders, basically anyone can build their own website and show expertise through blogging – but not everyone does. There are tons of opportunities to learn online (especially through free online courses), but not many choose to take advantage of these free or low-cost resources. Constantly working on your personal and professional development is a huge plus in the eyes of your potential employer.

Invest Your Time in Networking

 

While browsing through job ads is still the most frequent way of searching for a job, you should never underestimate the power of networking. Think of it like this: every single thing you say or do could get you hired. Mingle around events such as conferences, meetups, and seminars so to get an opportunity to exchange a few words with decision makers. Try building authority in your industry. Also, don’t be afraid to show initiative. Send your CV to companies even if they don’t have an open position. Suggest how you can make their businesses better. Market yourself, for no one will do it for you.

Going an extra mile can mean a difference between getting hired and getting bummed up once again for not being chosen “as there were more preferable candidates” who applied. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be one step closer to landing your dream job in 2018.

 

 

High Holy Days: Working for happiness


Did you know that many people actually find free time more difficult to enjoy than work? Although many people also find their work stressful, boring or meaningless, success doesn’t make people happy either. 

“More than a decade of groundbreaking research in the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience has proven in no uncertain terms that the relationship between success and happiness works the other way around,” writes Shawn Achor, one of the designers and teachers of Harvard’s famous Happiness course, in “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.” Research shows that happiness is the precursor to success, not the result, and that, together with optimism, it fuel success. This is what Achor means by the competitive edge he calls the “happiness advantage.” 

But can unhappy people – or even mildly content people – become happy? If so, how? And is it possible to be happy even at work?

Achor believes so. As the CEO of Good Think Inc., a global positive-psychology consulting company, Achor uses the latest in research to give practical steps to increase happiness in our daily lives. His TED talks on the subject have garnered millions of views. 

The Texan got a taste of happiness when he unexpectedly got into Harvard after applying on a dare. He then stayed in the dorms for the next 12 years, first as an undergraduate, then a graduate student and live-in resident to help students with academic and personal success. There he witnessed a pattern of students getting worried, overwhelmed, depressed and even failing. 

It was only after he went to visit a shantytown school in Soweto, South Africa, that he began to understand the answer. When he asked the kids if they like to do schoolwork,  most of the kids raised their hands. And they weren’t lying. A CEO from South Africa told him, “They see schoolwork as a privilege, one their parents did not have.”

When he returned to Harvard and saw people complaining about the very thing Soweto students saw as a privilege, “I started to realize just how much our interpretation of reality changes our experience of that reality.” Students who saw learning as a chore missed out on the opportunities in front of them, but those who saw Harvard as an opportunity shined.

The seven principles in “The Happiness Advantage” are not about putting on a happy face, Achor believes. It’s not about using positive thinking to pretend problems don’t exist, or that everything will always be great. It’s about harnessing our neuroplasticity, our brain’s ability to change and rewire itself. 

“The hardest part about happiness is remembering that we can choose it,” he says. 

Achor talked about the seven principles of “The Happiness Advantage.”

Principle No. 1 The Happiness Advantage Happiness, Achor says, is “the joy we feel striving toward our potential.” This definition links positive emotion with a cognitive awareness of growth. Positive emotion without growth is pleasure, which is fleeting. Growth without positive emotion is equally short-lived and leads to depression.

“Your brain works significantly better at positive than it does when neutral or negative,” Achor says, noting that when positive, the brain has triple the creativity, 31 percent higher levels of productivity, 23 percent fewer fatigue-related symptoms, 37 percent higher levels of sales — all resulting in higher profit and lower burnout. 

Principle No. 2: The Fulcrum and the Lever Achor learned at an early age that our brain can be thought of as “single processors capable of devoting only a finite amount of resources to experiencing the world.” You can use those resources to see the world through a lens of negativity, stress, pain and uncertainty, he says, or through a lens of gratitude, hope, resilience and optimism. 

“Happiness is not about lying to ourselves, or turning a blind eye to the negative, but about adjusting our brain so that we see the ways to rise above our circumstances.”

According to Yale psychologist Amy Wrzeniewski, a crucial part in work satisfaction is whether you view your work as a job (a means to a paycheck), a career (necessary to advance and succeed) or a calling (work as an end in itself contributing to a greater good). It doesn’t matter the work one does, it can always  be connected to one’s higher calling, Achor says. 

Principle No. 3 The Tetris Effect 

The brains of people who repeatedly play video games (like Tetris, where blocks have to fit geometrically) became stuck in a ‘cognitive after-image,’ which causes them to see the game wherever they go. People can also get stuck that way, especially accountants, lawyers and other professionals trained to be critical. Lawyers depose their children while accountants make spreadsheets of their wives’ faults. 

But you can create a ‘Positive Tetris Effect,’ i.e. train your brain to get stuck in a positive afterimage using happiness, gratitude and optimism. Make a list of three positive things at the end of the day, and your brain will have to scan for positive events. 

“This trains the brain to become more skilled at noticing and focusing on possibilities for personal and professional growth, and seizing opportunities to act on them,” he says. 

Principle No. 4 Falling Up 

The human brain has been wired to create mental maps to survive and navigate the world. After a failure, we create a map with three possible outcomes:  1. Circling in the same spot.  2.  Getting further lost (going down a more negative path).  3.  Getting to a place stronger than before.

The third way “is the difference between those who are crippled by failure and those who rise above it.” After repeated setbacks, some people learn helplessness and believe their actions are futile, while others have what psychologists call “adversarial growth” success after traumas or failures because of their positive mindset. 

Principle No. 5 The Zorro Circle 

Before he could become a hero, the fictional character Zorro had to learn to control his impulsiveness and master his skills one by one, first within a small circle. Often, Achor says, we feel out of control, especially when we try to tackle too many things at once. In a study of 7,400 employees published in The Lancet in 2007, people who felt they had little control over their deadlines had a 50 percent higher risk of heart disease. 

In times of stress, Achor says, it’s important to identify your feelings (whether in writing or in words), find out which parts of the situation you can control, then try to accomplish one small goal. Then another, and another. 

Principle No. 6: The 20-Second Rule

Neuroplasticity tells us that we can change our brains: bad habits wire them that way as do good habits. Achor works with people to replace a negative habit with a positive one “so that the brain’s resources are being allocated appropriately” toward change, he says. 

But to form a new habit, you have to create the path of least resistance (i.e., it needs to be easy). Achor found that committing to playing the guitar every day wasn’t enough when his guitar was stored in the closet. Once he moved it outside (“lower the barrier”), he incorporated guitar playing into his daily routine. 

Principle No. 7 Social Investment

In times of stress and crisis, many people retreat into their shells and cut off communication with their friends and loved ones. But happy, successful people do the opposite. “Instead of turning inward, they actually hold tighter to their social circle,” Achor says. Forming social bonds increases Oxytocin, reducing anxiety and improving concentration and focus.

In the end, Achor believes we can always be happy at work by creating positive habits and sticking with them. “But if you feel like you could grow more in another job, then optimism should fuel the belief that you can make that change successfully,” he says. But if change is not possible for some reason, “making the best of the current situation only makes good sense.”

The big switch: Eight practical steps to making a career change


Back in the olden days, Pops worked at the same manufacturing plant his entire adult life, waking up every morning at the same time, returning home with the same empty lunch pail, wearing the same faded work uniform. A carpenter was a carpenter for life; a lawyer stayed a lawyer and the town butcher never quit his job to pursue a career in fashion design.

But, alas, those days are long gone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people hold an average of 11 jobs by the time they turn 40. So if you’re in between jobs and contemplating a whole new line of work, you’ve got company. Especially during this recession hangover we’re still nursing.

At Jewish Vocational Service of Los Angeles, with locations in West Hollywood, Antelope Valley, Glendale, Sherman Oaks and West Hills, the “career changer” is the most common client walking through their doors. “Building better lives one job at a time” is no easy task, but the career counselors at JVS have plenty of tips to help you build yourself a new career. Jay Soloway, director of Career Services, shared some practical steps you can take right now to land that 10th job.

1. Review your history.
You know the saying: You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. So think back, way back, to that third, fifth and ninth job and write them all down. For one, it’ll show you how far you’ve come, and, if you’re like most Americans, it’ll illustrate just how many different tasks you’re capable of carrying out. Don’t forget to include volunteer positions.

2. Make a list. Or three. Write down all the skills you mastered at each of those jobs, even the seemingly trivial. That major makeover you pulled on the office lunch room may seem inconsequential, but it may be a clue that you have a future in interior design. On another page, list your interests. The things you like to do when you’re not earning a paycheck. List #3: your values. Write down what matters to you in the grander scheme of life. Being home by 6 p.m. to help the kids with their homework? Having flexible hours so you can choose to sleep at 2 p.m. and work at 2 a.m. if you wish?

3. Find a direction.
The lists you made are clues to a new direction, but you have to have the right tools to decode the signs. Soloway suggests using professional career and personality tests (check out careermaze.com as an example) to figure out what your skills and interests are telling you. Career counselors at JVS use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, among other tools, to narrow down the types of careers that fit your personality and talents. Objectivity is an important tool in assessing career choices, and professional counselors, unlike your wife, don’t have any incentive to tell you that you’re the next Joan Nathan.

4. Try on some shoes. You’ve narrowed down your options. Now how do you choose between pastry chef and greeting card designer? Dig in and find out everything you can about your prospective career: which skills are needed, which degrees are required, what is the pay, what the work conditions are like. Simple online research can fill in many of those blanks, but for the real dish, you have to network face to face. Contact professional societies and industry groups such as Public Relations Society of America (prsala.org) to schedule meet-and-greets. Find people on LinkedIn and request a phone conversation. Secure informational interviews with someone doing your dream job, or even better, that person’s manager. Ask questions. Lots of them. And if you’re really bold, ask permission to shadow someone for a day. Most people would be flattered that you’re showing an interest in what they do.

5. Stay busy.
Spending days at a time in your pajamas, rotating laptop, Blackberry and TV screens in front of your face will not only drag down your mood, it’ll sully your resumé. Use your free time wisely to show prospective employers that you are active, resourceful and willing to work, even without a paycheck as motivation. Volunteer at your synagogue, a local shelter, school or food bank. Bonus points if you do something that’s relevant to your field of interest. Look for internships, freelance opportunities and other ways to get your foot in the door.

6. Hit the books. To snag certain jobs, like an X-ray technician or an electrician, you’ll have to sign up for a vocational school. For others, you may be able to fill in the educational gap with classes at a community college, an online course, or some how-to books: i.e. Bartending for Dummies, Day Trading for Dummies, Event Planning for Dummies. Educating yourself shows initiative and drive, and even if the most important thing you learn in your creative writing class is that you can’t string a sentence together, at least you can cross Romance Novelist off your list of potential careers.

7. Take baby steps. Going from school psychologist to web designer is quite a leap, so consider making the transition in several steps. Soloway encourages clients to take “stepping stone jobs” that move them one step closer to their desired career. For instance, our psychologist can apply for a job writing content for the LAUSD website to gain some basic knowledge of what makes a site appealing.

8. Recruit cheerleaders.
Job hunting, especially for career shifters, is incremental in nature and may take years to achieve the final goal. You’re going to need a cheering section, with verve, and stamina for the long haul. The career counselors at JVS are there to hand you cups of water and granola bars throughout the marathon, Soloway says. But you can recruit your best friend, your daughter, your neighbor – whoever will be genuinely interested – to keep track of your progress and help you focus on the positive.

Changing hair styles is difficult. Changing careers is monumentally daunting. But with the right tools and the right attitude, it’s totally doable. Just look around. Nearly everyone you know has done it at least once or twice in their lives. Or maybe 11 times.

Bombing Suspect Ahmad Vahidi overwhelmingly chosen to be Iran’s defense minister [VIDEO]


From BBCNews.com.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad chose Ahmad Vahidi, wanted by Argentina over the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre, as his new defence minister.

Mr Vahidi was strongly supported by Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, with 227 MPs backing him out of 286, Iranian Speaker Ali Larijani said.

Read the full story at BBCNews.com.

 

Despite diplomas, Ethiopian Israelis can’t find jobs


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Asaf Negat, 29, made his way to Israel from Ethiopia as an 11-year-old boy and worked hard to find his way in a new land and learn to speak a new language. Eventually, Negat graduated with a business degree from one of the country’s top universities.

However, since completing his studies in the summer of 2006, he has not found work in his field. Unemployed, Negat spends his days trolling the Web sites of banks and investment houses, seeking job openings and sending out resumes.

“It’s not exactly a hopeful situation,” said Negat, whose only job since graduation has been as a counselor at an absorption center for newly arrived Ethiopian immigrants. “It makes people like me feel pessimistic, especially when we look at our younger brothers and sisters who see what we are going through.”

Negat is not alone.

Of the approximately 4,500 Ethiopian Israelis who have earned university degrees, fewer than 15 percent have found work in their professions, according to a recent study. Instead, most end up working temporary public-sector jobs serving the Ethiopian Israeli community, remaining disconnected from the larger professional Israeli workforce.

Working in such jobs, which often are project-based and subject to elimination once funding runs out, these Ethiopian Israelis earn less than other college-educated Israelis. Ethiopian Israeli graduates earn an average of $1,375 a month, compared with $1,925 monthly for their Jewish Israeli peers, according to a joint study of the Israeli government and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

“On the one hand, one wants Ethiopians with academic degrees to help make changes in the community by working within it, but on the other hand, these jobs are not highly paid, often not very stable and don’t have much potential for promotion,” said Sigal Shelach, director of programs for immigrants and minorities at Tevet, a joint government-JDC-Israel employment initiative. “So there is a kind of vicious circle going on.”

Negat’s easy smile vanishes when he speaks of the challenges of breaking into the ranks of the educated Israeli middle class.

“We are the role model for the younger generation,” he said. “But how are they supposed to react when they go from being encouraged by our studies to watching us finish university, only to return back at home, stuck, with no work?”

It’s hardly the fairy-tale landing into the white-collar Israeli workforce many young Ethiopian Israelis imagine for themselves once they make it beyond a host of obstacles to start their university careers.

However, in Israel, where personal connections and unwritten cultural codes are especially strong, Ethiopian Israeli graduates face a significant disadvantage in finding jobs compared with their native-born peers. For one thing, they are less likely to have the professional network of connections a typical Israeli might have to land a job.

“They think they graduate and that will be it, but most of them don’t have help of where to go and what to look for,” said Danny Admesu, who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia as a child and now is the director of the Israeli Association for Ethiopian Jews. “Usually in Israeli families relatives work in different fields, they have connections and can give advice. You learn not just in university but by meeting people and parents’ contacts. But these people graduate and then don’t know what to do.”

Furthermore, many Israeli employers rely on assessment centers to screen potential job candidates before granting interviews. Some experts say the centers have unintentional cultural biases — for example, asking questions about aggressive decision-making styles and leadership that Ethiopian Israeli job candidates answer much differently than native-born Israelis.

To address that problem, the JDC is piloting a program for more culturally sensitive screening tests.

Compounding matters, many Ethiopian Israelis come from Israel’s periphery — outside the heavily populated center of the country — where jobs are scarce.

There is also the problem of racism, some say.

“We cannot shut our eyes to it and need to talk about it,” said Ranan Hartman, founder and chair of the Ono Academic College, one of a handful of Israeli institutions trying to address the problems facing Ethiopian Israeli graduates. “If we hide from it, it won’t be solved.”

Hartman said the school’s outreach to Ethiopian Israelis, which is supported in part by the Jewish Agency for Israel, aims to achieve nothing less than a revolution in the Ethiopians’ status in Israeli society.

“How do you inform society to respect the Ethiopian community? You do it by creating islands of excellence, and the success stories can then go and break stigmas,” Hartman said.

The college boasts among its Ethiopian graduates the first Ethiopian diplomat and accountant in Israel.

Now in its second year, the program has provided 200 students and graduates with intensive workshops in job searching, management and leadership skills, connected them with mentors and made high-level connections and introductions to help pave their way to interviews and, hopefully, jobs.

Supported by the Jewish Agency and the UJA-Federation of New York, the program coordinates its efforts with the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya and Bank Hapoalim. Yifat Ovadiah, general director of the organization, said its goal is to help place 1,000 Ethiopian graduates in highly sought-after jobs in their fields in the next five to seven years.

“The idea is that 1,000 people can help change perceptions,” Ovadiah said. “By having visibility in places like the country’s largest accounting and law firms, these people will be able to advance and become influential themselves.”

The group taps top Israeli executives — the CEO of Bank Hapoalim is among the group’s volunteers — to spread the word about the program’s high-quality graduates.

Negat is one of this year’s participants. He said the program is his lifeline to finding work.

At a meeting center at Kibbutz Shfaim, Negat joined several others for a workshop where he had a one-on-one counseling session with an experienced businessman. Under the shadow of an oak tree, Danny Heller helped Negat troubleshoot how best to approach employers as he tries to embark on a career in finance.

Heller, also addressed a larger group of business and economics students during the workshop, reminding them of how extraordinary their journeys have been — and to play that up during their next job interview.

“You have incredible life stories,” the businessman told the group. “You went through things most people never had to, and your abilities, the walls you had to break down, are what will bring you to your next job.”

Note to new grads: it’s just the beginning!


College graduation: the distinctive rite of passage that marks a child as an adult. Adorned in ceremonious celebration and family gathering, it is an event that simultaneously acknowledges our accomplishments and introduces us to the possibilities — and realities — of our futures, where success is not measured in grades but in self-sufficiency.

My first act as a graduate two years ago was choosing to skip my commencement ceremony. Reluctant to put closure on four enriching years at the University of Florida, I turned in my final paper on “Trash Cinema” and bolted to the Florida Turnpike, figuring I had at least five hours to ruminate before life began.

Two years, four cities and more jobs than can fit on a resume later, I’ve been thinking about graduating (and not just because the Gators have won three NCAA Championship titles since).

As proof that destiny is not without a sense of humor, I recently found myself back at my alma mater saluting my little sister at her college graduation.

Watching her walk across the stage and knowing the immense journey ahead, I felt compelled to share what I’ve learned with her. With two fast but full years under my belt and scrolls of solicited wisdom from my esteemed elders, I’ve discovered how meaningful it is to throw your cap into the air.

But strip away the hype, the elaborate weekends steeped in family ritual and celebratory dining, how many graduates take their passage seriously? Aside from announcements that serve as financial solicitations to our nearest and dearest nowadays, how can graduates show they’re prepared for the next phase of life?

How does an individual prepare for the lifelong transition of becoming who they are meant to be?

In retrospect, I realize I wasn’t ready to graduate — from college, from parental support, from the carelessness of youth in which I considered myself quite skilled. My peers avoided this precipice similarly. Many blindly went from one institution to another, finishing undergrad and matriculating to graduate school. True, graduate study is an unparalleled opportunity for furthering passions or professional goals, but I found it odd, and even humorous, that so many of my peers immediately wound up in law school, yet I can’t remember many of my childhood friends broadcasting dreams of becoming lawyers.

Perhaps the naked confrontation with infinite possibility is too frightening, and many feel that arming themselves with fancy degrees will better equip them for the demands of the adult world. But everyone faces reality eventually, and a degree is simply a piece of paper until a person parlays it into a satisfying life.

Despite my absence from the ceremony, graduating was a cumulative process and not a single event; a period fraught with growth, change, struggle, new experiences and, finally, commitment to a pursuit. For me, that decision necessitated a move away from home, which truly signified my entry into an adult brand of independence.

This is what I learned during my graduation:

  • Don’t rush. The imminent grind of capitalism is yours for the taking — for the rest of your life — so ignore the ubiquitous pressure to become a millionaire before you turn 30, because if we all made our millions by then, a bunch of celebrity-obsessed, party-going 20-somethings would dominate the world’s largest economy. Secondly, it is more important and more rewarding to enjoy the fabric of the journey than to cross the finish line. After all, what would college graduation be if not for all those years we spent indulging in studenthood? What kind of adults might we be if not for our equal and opposite experience as children?
  • Experiment and expand. When you are young, every possibility is open to you. The ability to be malleable and reinvent yourself is a treasure of youth that disappears when permanent responsibilities like mortgage payments, tuition and (heaven forbid!) children of your own enter the scene. It is only later in life that you will understand how the various dots of your existence connect into a cohesive, logical framework.
  • Take risks. Safe choices are, at best, safe. But what makes life interesting and exciting are the unexpected adventures and opportunities that throw us off one course and onto another that is beyond our wildest dreams. Don’t be afraid to do something that scares you. Never miss an opportunity to make yourself a more interesting person.
  • Believe in yourself. People who believe in themselves cannot be hindered. Those are the people who change the world. They are the revolutionaries and visionaries with implacable dreams. They may not have a perfect plan, but they possess passion and conviction, and those qualities will fill the depths of your soul in ways a resume can never explain or encompass.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Like you, I am working hard to make that true.

The ‘revenge of the fired’ could fill a book — and does


Because I’ve been fired from nearly every job I’ve ever held, I always thought nobody in the world understands what I’ve been through. Boo-hoo, right?
But along comes Annabelle Gurwitch and her book, “Fired!: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, and Dismissed,” which includes the pink-slipped memories of folks like Robert Reich, Felicity Huffman and Bill Maher. So when Gurwitch hosted an event for the book not long ago — in a lovely, long, willowy slip-of-a-thing of her own — I immediately quit what I was doing (pretending to work) and attended.
 
Gurwitch first planned her literary revenge after being fired off a film set by Woody Allen.

 
“You look retarded,” he told her.

 
Now, she seems to have found fortune in the awful feelings that follow getting shown the door. Along with her anthology, there’s a CD and DVD. And she’s been taking her show on the road, including the performance I attended at the Skirball Cultural Center, which also included 10 funny fellow “firees.” She’ll lead a panel at this weekend’s West Hollywood Book Fair, with guests Jeff Garlin, Jeff Kahn, Glenn Rosenbloom and Cathryn Michon (for more information, see page 43).

 
“Have you ever been fired?” I ask the woman sitting next to me at the Skirball.
“No,” she says. “Unless you count my kids washing their hands of me.”

 
Not really. One time, I tell her, I was selling ice cream to kids and got fired right in the middle of my Good Humor route because they attacked my truck.
Skirball gal shushes me as the show starts.

 
The adorable Gurwitch recounts some of the aftermath of losing a job:

  • You deserve it.
  • It can lead to something so much better than you ever dreamed of in your entire life.
  • It was crappy, but you get a good story.

 
For example, while most of his high school friends in Evanston, Ill., worked at the Banana Republic, actor Matt Price spent one summer as a knife company salesman.

 
“Top-level cutlery?” he says. “That was a sign of becoming a man.” His clientele: “Forty-five-year-old Jewish women and 70-year-old Jewish women.”
Poor Price could cut a penny with the company’s scissors, but by July he had to “hang up the knit tie” when he discoveredthe company was a pyramid scheme.

 
Gurwitch hears stories from people who are canned for “not trimming the nose hairs of the boss” and for “not nesting” correctly. Like Jessica Van Der Valk, who found herself having to confront her boss one day with: “You’re firing me for not having any knickknacks in my cubicle?”

 
“Yep,” said the boss.

 
Actor Kahn, Gurwitch’s husband, calls his contribution to the book, “The World’s Worst Waiter.” At D.B. Kaplan’s Deli in Chicago, they require waiters to memorize the contents of hundreds of sandwiches. But Kahn says he really only knew three: “The Ditka,” “The Oprah” and “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow.”

 
Unable to total up checks correctly, Kahn had to take another job just to support the deli gig. Finally losing it after scorching his hand on a pile of hot cheese, he pulled a knife on an unsympathetic cook and … see ya!

 
Back at Skirball, Jonathan Goff described the dynamic between “the firer and the firee.” One of his first jobs was in Rhode Island announcing morning traffic reports from a Chevette. Just before being let go, he realized he was “driving a tiny car in the wee hours in a miniscule state with no traffic.”

 
Still, no matter what job you lose, “you feel small,” Groff said. “And they are tall.”

 
Speaking of self-worth, Gurwitch saved the strong and sensitive for last: Jane Edith Wilson, a striking redheaded comedian. Sure, she said, who isn’t happy to be “released from an astounding, soul-sucking job.” However, she added, any firing doesn’t feel good. “There’s something heavy in the air … once you have that stink on you.”

 
“You charm people,” one boss told her. “It’s disgusting.” Waitressing at the Greenwich Village V&G café, Wilson became known for her hilarious antics, like the dance she did with the plastic honey bears. (I remember; I used to enjoy her!)

 
She always exacted “a look of murder” at a customer, she says. “I wanted him to know I was deeply aware of my own self-worth.”

 
Wilson gave people lip, was “often hung-over” and always late. But after 12 years at V&G, “to this day,” says Wilson, “whenever I hear ‘Crazy for You’ by Madonna, I have an urge to put a plate of fries in front of a drunk person.”
In the moment of being fired, Wilson says she “felt an odd resignation.”

 
And I think I know what she means. I felt awful being fired from my job at a Westside car wash last summer. But I was resigned. They had to can me. I accidentally smashed a cherry Chevy Tahoe into a pole driving it to the drying area.

 
And when I got fired as deejay on “The Voice of Peace” pirate radio ship in Israel, peace ship owner Abie Natan sent an Arab dinghy out from Jaffa to yank me off the air. Now that was an interesting way to get thrown over.

 

Hank Rosenfeld has been fired from every radio announcing and car-washing job he’s ever had. “Fired!” books, CDs, and DVDs are available at www.firedbyannabellegurwitch.com.

Wolpe Leading Pick for Seminary Spot


The Forward newspaper has reported that Rabbi David Wolpe of Los Angeles has emerged as a top candidate to head the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York.

The Nov. 18 article, “L.A. Rabbi Eyed as Conservative Seminary Head,” asserted that “support is mounting for a prominent pulpit rabbi from Los Angeles to become the next chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, after he delivered an enthusiastically received speech last week on the future of Conservative Judaism.”

The position of JTS chancellor is widely viewed as the head of the entire Conservative movement, as well as the leader of its flagship institution.

Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Westwood told The Journal that he is flattered by the attention, but that he’s also happy with his current job. And that speech, he added, was hardly intended as part of a campaign strategy.

He said he planned his remarks six months ago, before Chancellor Ismar Schorsch announced that he would be retiring next June.

Wolpe’s Nov. 10 speech at the seminary, “What Does Conservative Judaism Have to Say to the 21st Century?” argued for changing the name of Conservative Judaism to “Covenantal Judaism,” to better encompass the view that rabbinic law is both binding and evolving.

Wolpe’s relative youth (he’s 47) and charisma have garnered him supporters. The search committee will make no comments, but other candidates are believed to include Rabbi Gordon Tucker, the rabbi of Temple Israel in White Plains, N.Y., known for his liberal positions, and Jack Wertheimer, the seminary’s provost, who, like the more conservative Schorsch, opposes ordaining gay rabbis.

Wolpe has served at Sinai Temple for eight years, and he’s known for political adroitness. He has, for example, never publicly stated his position on gays in the rabbinate, an issue of ongoing dispute. On the other hand, Wolpe stirred some controversy of his own in 2001 when he questioned whether the Exodus actually happened in a Passover sermon in front of his congregation.

 

Singles – Guilt Trip for Two


My parents have given me so much; it’s now time to start giving back to them. I’m referring to guilt in this case. Specifically, guilt about not living up to one’s potential, about not keeping up with the Joneses’ children, about not providing ammunition for bragging rights over Shabbat dinner with friends.

To be fair, my mother is pretty much innocent of the charges. And even my father, the guilty party, would never think of it as such. He merely believes there’s always room for improvement, and always time to mention it. This isn’t just about bringing home an A and being asked why it wasn’t an A+, although that happened often enough. From about junior high onward, there was always another kid who was doing just a little bit more, and a little bit better, that he could throw at me — for my own good, of course.

If poor, sweet Diane S. knew how many times her name was used (in vain) against me, she’d be surprised we were ever friends at all. Diane was taking more AP classes. She could sing her bat mitzvah haftorah portion like an angel. She went to Hebrew High School long after I opted out. She attended shul with her family regularly, without force or bribery.

Then the coup de grace: After college Diane married a nice Jewish lawyer, bought a house, brought forth three perfect children and they all have full dental.

I, meanwhile, moved clear across the country, got work in the film industry without benefits, dated outside the tribe and failed to propagate the species. In sum, I accomplished nothing that dad could talk about over herring at the men’s club on Sundays.

For the first five or 10 years of my L.A. Diaspora, he would send me clippings from The New York Times wedding section of every Jew in the tri-state area who was around my age and had married another Jew. When I asked him what he was doing, he would say oh so innocently that he thought maybe I knew the people in question, and would want to hear about their nachas.

After much pleading, those mailings finally stopped, but the occasional phone calls continued. Oh, not from him — from sons of friends of friends who had been given my number without my prior knowledge. At first I tried a couple of dates, to be polite to my father’s friends’ friends. They were so abysmal that I finally told my father that if he gave my digits out one more time, I would get an unlisted number and not give it to him.

My marital bliss has not been his sole preoccupation. He also suggested any number of professions to dissuade me from my creative pursuits. Not because they would make me happier, but because they were more secure. If I made a good point in an argument with him, he would encourage me to become a lawyer. If I was insightful about an emotional situation, he would recommend psychology (I recommended psychology to him, too, but he didn’t get my drift); something, anything, that would translate to an advanced degree. And if I also happened to meet some nice Jewish boys in my classes, so much the better.

At this point he’s given up, almost. In the last few years, working as a writer, I get to be the one to send clippings. He is wonderfully supportive, and tells me often how proud he is to see my name in print. He then goes on to ask why the publication in question won’t put me on staff already.

I know he’s not trying to be hurtful, but every time he asks why I don’t have a real job, or bemoans my husbandless state, I feel like a failure for not living up to his expectations. We love each other very much, but his idea of success just isn’t the same as mine.

But now, oh sweet vengeance, now it’s my turn, if I want to take it. Because you see, I have not one, but two friends whose fathers have written books. Eve Saltman’s dad wrote “The History and Politics of Voting Technology: In Quest of Integrity and Public Confidence,” which will be published by Palgrave McMillan in a few months. Jenny Frankfurt’s dad wrote “On Bull—-,” a New York Times best seller. He even got to go on “The Daily Show” and trade quips with Jon Stewart.

My dad, who knows a lot about both bull– — and integrity, has written bubkes, a couple of illegible notes at the top of those clippings he sent. Sure, he’s had an honorable career in the diplomatic corps, provided for a family and put four kids through college. He’s funny, affectionate and smart (he will correct the grammar in this piece without prompting). But has he made The New York Times best-seller list? I think not, and it’s my duty as his daughter to make note of it.

Of course, as an alternative, we could both try to appreciate each other just as we are.

On the other hand, what could make a papa more proud than knowing his child takes after him?

Lisa Rosen is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles who writes mostly about pop culture, including movies and television. Her work has also appeared in the magazines L.A. Architect and Better Homes and Gardens.

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Who Wants to Be Israel’s Ambassador?


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Quiet on the set,” shouts a production assistant, and silence falls over the fake marble floor of a studio designed to look like a conference room in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel.

As a makeup artist dabs more powder on the forehead of Yaakov Perry, former head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service, the contestants on Israel’s hit reality show, “The Ambassador,” adjust their dark, tailored suits, clutch leather attache cases and eye each other nervously.

The cameras roll and Nahman Shai, the thin, bespectacled former Israeli army spokesman who is one of the show’s three judges, looks up and says in a voice as serious as war, “It’s time to decide.”

The time has come to vote another contestant off of the show, which features 14 young Israelis competing to be chosen as the best person to promote Israel’s image abroad. The show taps into Israel’s desire to be better understood on the international stage, and to replace the army generals and stiff government spokesmen on CNN’s screens with engaging, telegenic young people who might more easily win sympathy for Israel’s side in its conflict with the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world.

Shai notes that Israel has been defending its right to exist since the state was born. “The Ambassador” has brought that task into the living rooms of Israelis, who for the first time are discussing such questions as how Israel should best explain its decision to build the security fence to the world at large.

On each slickly produced episode, the contestants are presented with a different challenge, ranging from debating the Israel-Arab conflict before an audience of Cambridge University students to meeting with real-life ambassadors to conducting television interviews with French and Arab journalists.

In between the serious parts, there are also reminders that this is reality television after all, with all the requisite backbiting, scheming and personality politics.

The contestants, all between 24 and 30 years old, include lawyers, business students, an Ethiopian immigrant and both religious and secular Jews. Selected from a pool of thousands of applicants, they are attractive and well-spoken in both Hebrew and English.

Like Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” at the end of every episode of “The Ambassador,” the panel of judges kicks another contestant off the show. The winner will be rewarded with a yearlong job at Israel at Heart, a New York-based organization that promotes Israel’s image.

“You watch the way Israel is seen around the world and it hurts,” said Joey Low, the American millionaire who founded Israel at Heart, explaining why he agreed to the producer’s request that he provide the prize.

Yael Ben-Dov, 27, one of the show’s finalists, acknowledged the difficulty of explaining to the world images that seem to show Israel as the aggressor.

“We need to let people see the whole picture, to let people know the facts before they judge us,” Ben-Dov said.

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Safire Says Book of Job Political


The Book of Job is commonly — and mistakenly — seen as a story of the “patience of Job.” And sometimes people have trouble locating its place in the Bible.

Asked by reporters last January to name his favorite book in the New Testament, Howard Dean answered, “The Book of Job.” He was one testament off, and returned later to tell reporters he knew it was in the Hebrew Bible. He said he liked it because it “sort of explains that bad things happen to very good people for no good reason.”

Dean’s confusion about the location of the Book of Job generated a fair amount of ridicule at the time from commentators — but not from William Safire, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of The New York Times, who is speaking next week about Job at Sinai Temple.

In his column that week, Safire said that Dean, in his description of Job, was “on to something.” The book, Safire wrote, is the “most controversial book in all theology” — the outraged cry of a blameless sufferer, a call for someone to “take God to court on a charge of moral mismanagement” (and perhaps breach of contract).

The story of Job is one of a righteous man from whom everything is taken — all his sons and daughters, all his wealth and then his health — and who rejects the comfort and counsel of his friends, with their established wisdom about God.

Job’s friends tell him he must have done something wrong (“Happy is the man whom God corrects”), that the experience should lead to greater piety (“If thou wert pure and upright, surely now God would awake for thee”), that in the end everything will be all right (“though there be darkness, it shall be as the morning”).

But Job is not consoled. On the contrary, he is outraged at the injustice. “The tents of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure.” But as for him, “I looked for good, and then evil came. When I expected light, then came darkness.”

Job curses his life and dreams of escaping God: “For now I shall lie in the earth; thou wilt seek me, but I shall not be.” Above all, he wants it known that “God has wronged me” — and that God should respond.

At the end, after a series of speeches by Job of unusual power and eloquence, God does appear. In the longest speech by God in the Bible, Job receives his response — and it is a non-answer. God simply invokes sheer power and superior knowledge: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if you have the understanding.”

As Safire noted, not everyone thinks God comes off well in that response. Others fault Job for his confrontation with God, or for his subsequent response to God’s speech. The ending to the story is controversial. But what is indisputable is that the confrontation caps a literary, religious and political story that is among the greatest of all time.

Even if viewed only as literature, the Book of Job is extraordinary. Thomas Carlyle said there is “nothing written, I think, in the Bible or out of it, of equal literary merit.”

Alfred Lord Tennyson called it the “greatest poem of ancient and modern times.”

Cynthia Ozick went even further. In an essay devoted to Job, she says the words in the book spring from “an artistry so far beyond the grasp of mind and tongue” that we think of the Greek plays; we think of Shakespeare — and still that is not marvel enough.”

Safire added a new perspective on Job, interpreting the book as a political parable. Since his college days, Safire had been collecting books about Job, and in 1992 he published a remarkable book titled “The First Dissident: The Book of Job in Today’s Politics” (Random House). Reviewing Safire’s book in Commentary, Edward Luttwak called it a “profound discourse on politics and theology.”

Safire viewed the story as a victory for Job — because Job called the Lord of the universe to account. It was the archetypal dialogue between a powerless individual and an all-powerful authority — a model for the miraculous things that, in modern times, powerless individuals had achieved, standing only on the moral questions they raised: Andrei Sakharov in the Soviet Union, Ghandi in India, Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States.

Job’s questions of God — why do the wicked thrive, why do the innocent suffer — endure (in Ozick’s words) in “death camp and hatred, in tyranny and anthrax, in bomb and bloodshed.”

In Archibald MacLeish’s “J.B,” a character notes how many modern Jobs — blameless sufferers caught in unspeakable conditions — there have been:

Millions and millions of mankind

Burned, crushed, broken, mutilated

Slaughtered, and for what? For thinking!

For walking round the world in the wrong

Skin, the wrong-shaped noses, eyelids:

Sleeping the wrong night wrong city —

London, Dresden, Hiroshima.

And after Sept. 11, we can add: for going to work on time in Manhattan on a beautiful fall day; for boarding a plane in Boston on a trip to the coast; for dancing in a discotheque or eating at a pizza parlor in Tel Aviv. The world is not just. It is not Eden. But that awareness is the beginning of the story, not its end.

Safire’s book drew from Job a message about political injustice: It need not be accepted. On the contrary, justice must be pursued, and established authority confronted. One person can make a difference — and ultimately justice in this world is not God’s responsibility, but our own.

In his 1999 book, “Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times” (Riverheads), Rabbi David Wolpe drew a similar message from Job about confronting life’s inexplicable injustices. His book did not seek to explain God, but rather mapped a path to making our inevitable losses meaningful, even absent an explanation for their origin or cause. He saw in Job a larger lesson about the nature of our lives and our relationship with God.

Written thousands of years ago, with literary beauty, religious insights and political lessons still relevant today, it is hard to think of a more remarkable book than Job, or more important books than the ones Job has inspired.

On Nov. 20, William Safire will speak at a luncheon at Sinai Temple on “The Book of Job and Today’s Politics,” followed by a dialogue with Rabbi David Wolpe. He will speak at a brunch on Nov. 21 on “The Significance of the Election on the Next Four Years.” Reservations are required. To R.S.V.P., call (310) 474-1518.

20-Somethings


Do you remember what it’s like to be in your 20s?

You’ve just finished college, or maybe you’ve had an entry-level job or two, or maybe you’ve put off entering "the real world" for another couple of years by going into grad school and into unbearable debt. You’re wondering what it all means and how exactly you fit in the picture. You’re unsure about almost every single thing and yet you are interested in all of it just the same.

As I sat on a small stage at the Universal Studios Hilton Hotel on Tuesday looking at the anxious, inquisitive faces of a few dozen 20-somethings who were here at this particular hour to find out about career options in the Jewish community, all the heady uncertainty of that decade came back to me in a rush. The panel was part of a three-day conference called Professional Leadership Project: 20-Something Think Tank and CareerBreak, which brought together 145 21-29 year olds from around the country to figure out the needs of the future Jewish community. Although the participants were brought here to be studied, their concerns for their own career paths were so palpable I could recall that time quite clearly.

OK, maybe it wasn’t so long ago that I left my 20s, but it certainly seems like a quite some time has passed since I was fresh out of college, facing a world spread out frighteningly in front of me, with a million opportunities and only one possible direction that I alone could decide to take.

"I’m listening to all of you talk about the paths you’ve taken to become Jewish professionals, and I’m wondering right now if I’m doing the right thing, if I’m in the right job," a participant from the audience said to the panel: Matthew Grossman (B’nai B’rith Youth Organization executive director), Michelle Kleinert (Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s deputy director of community affairs), Craig Taubman (musician, composer, producer) and me. We, along with four others on a concurrent panel in another room, were meant to serve as young(ish) examples of Jewish professionals — people who have chosen to make their careers serving the Jewish community in one way or another. Sponsored by William M. Davidson, the Charles and Lynn Shusterman Family Foundation, Michael Steinhardt/Jewish Life Network, Eugene and Marcia Applebaum and Robert Aronson, the Aug. 22-24 conference may sound like many other well-funded, well-intended and well-attended ho-hum Jewish "renewal" programs, but in reality there was something different in the air, something that I would call the "winds of change" if I weren’t afraid of sounding like… an eager 20-something or an aging hippie.

Here’s the thing: As I sat on stage answering questions and giving advice about what it’s like to work in the Jewish community, based on having been in it for more than 10 years, I thought, when I was their age, I never had something like this.

When I was coming of age who was interested in what I thought? Who, besides my parents and friends, cared about my ideas? And I — like most whippersnappers — had puh-lenty of ideas. But who wanted to listen? Who was interested in how I could contribute meaningfully to the world, to the Jewish community, to anything at all? More importantly, who cared about what I wanted to change about the world, society and the Jewish community?

No one.

When I graduated college and tried to find myself, all I got — after hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on Jewish education, summer camp, seminars, leadership programs etc. — was to be told what was expected of me. To be told how I should fit in to the world around me, to be told what there was, take it or leave it. I went to lectures, programs, seminars, you name it, and there were plenty of people who were willing to tell me the way to lead my life, but it seemed like no one was really interested in anything I had to say. And why should they be? The world wasn’t created for me, it wasn’t stopping or changing just because I was about to participate in it and, sadly, it felt like the only way that there would be room for me is if I’d play by whatever and whosever rules were there. That’s life, right?

Ah, but maybe — and I don’t know, it’s just a thought sparked by this conference — maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.

PLP gathered 146 people — only about a third are already working in the Jewish community — in order to ask them what they think, to find out what they need in order to be involved in Jewish life, what they want to get from being Jewishly involved and how existing Jewish life could change (change!) in order to accommodate them. To attract them. To keep them. To retain them. To get these bright, talented, creative, young people who are just beginning their lives, to begin them in the Jewish community. Not at a computer start-up or law firm or theater company or secular nonprofit, but here in the Jewish community.

Here, in the Jewish community — you know, the one that always complains about "Brain Drain," about losing its best and its brightest, about the "graying" of Jewish community organizations, the Jewish community in which all institutions try and try and try to make themselves "relevant" and "meaningful" so that they can attract the next generation.

This generation, the one sitting right in front of me.

This "think tank" has gathered a few of that next generation here in order to survey them, and analyze them so that PLP can come up with the answers from the grass-roots. It’s the Howard Dean of Jewish programming: instead of established institutions providing top-down stop-gap solutions to the core issues facing the Jewish community, the think tank plans to glean information from the very focus group it is trying to attract. Results will be compiled, studied and published. The question is, of course, what will they find? And will anybody listen?

"Maybe it’s not fair of me to abandon [Jewish community work] because I was having a hard time," Rachel Hochheiser told me privately after our group discussion. Hochheiser, 26, had left her job at Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life after three years because she felt "frustrated and burnt out," in her words, although they’re words I hear all the time from Jewish professionals. Hochheiser is currently getting her MBA in St. Louis, and now, after the emotional highs of the conference — of discussing Jewish issues pertaining to spirituality, history, current events, leadership and contribution — she was troubled: Should she work in the business world that she was being trained for, or go back to the Jewish world she loved but ultimately left?

"There is no career path in the Jewish community; there is no next step," she explained. When Jewish organizations worry about attracting the next generation, they lament the fact that their even within their own ranks, the primary color is gray. Hochheiser talks about it from the other end of the spectrum, from working inside Jewish organizations. "There is something for 25-year-olds, maybe 27-year-olds, and also for 45-year-olds," she said about jobs within Jewish organizations. She worried "what was going to happen when I turn 30? There’s just no middle ground."

The interesting thing about Hochheiser — and many other participants — was that money plays little part in deciding whether to become a Jewish professional.

"Money doesn’t matter, it’s just a certain threshold," Seattle resident Josh Miller said.

Many participants said they were willing to start at low salaries as long as there was promise for growth, because they believed the trade-off would be doing something they loved and believed in.

"I realize how much I care, how much I hope to continue working in the Jewish community," Hochheiser said.

Still, she and others have other concerns: Is there a level of professionalism in Jewish life that you can find in the outside world? Are there people who are open to new ideas?

At 30, Miller is at the end of the decade under examination, and he is confident in his career: post-MBA, he is now the director of Jconnect in Seattle (www.jconnectseattle.org), what he described as a nonprofit for social, religious and cultural activities for — guess who? — 20-somethings.

Why 20? What is it that is so important about this newly defined target group? (Most marketing groups are 18-24 and 25-34, and here, some of the 27- and 28-year-olds felt like they were in a different category than 21- and 22-year-olds.)

"I think we need some sort of 20-something successor to teen youth groups and Hillel," said Jason Brzoska, a 24-year-old from Albany who works at MyJewishLearning.com.

"There is no obvious path for someone who wants to remain involved Jewishly," he said, pointing out that men’s clubs, sisterhoods, all those things were for people who are older and/or in a more settled phase of life.

Times are a changin’. It used to be that after high school and college people got married — especially in the family-oriented Jewish community. Then they joined synagogues, had babies, sent them to Jewish schools, Jewish camps and even conferences. Today, as anyone who’s ever seen one episode of "Seinfeld" or "Friends" can attest, most people get married later. And while people in the Jewish community tend to get married at a somewhat younger age than the general population, it’s unusual to get married at 22. Or 23. Or 24 or even 25.

One way that the organized community has dealt with the changing times is to try push Jewish singles events: Get young Jews married to other Jews, the thinking goes, and then they’ll start having babies and families and be ready for the organized life of the Jewish community — in other words, for the men’s clubs, the sisterhoods, the federations and everything that already exists. That philosophy works, to an extent. New innovations like JDate and SpeedDating have been successful.

But successful at what? Preventing intermarriage, creating new Jewish families, finding someone’s soul mate, for sure. But is it a solution for creating Jewish leaders? For involving passionate post-college students who aren’t ready for marriage, but seem to be yearning for something else?

"Some sort of youth group for 20-somethings is what we need to remain connected to the Jewish world," Brzoska said. "Too many people get lost."

Most of the participants were far from lost, though. They were more like lit matches looking for the right hearth to light their fires. I met Yotam Hod, a 26-year-old public school teacher who had already worked for two years in the Peace Corps, and was just searching for any way to gain entry into working for his own community — maybe with Palestinian and Israeli kids, maybe first going back to graduate school in Jewish studies (alumni from various grad schools with Jewish programming also led a session).

There was Tamar Auber, who runs a nonprofit soup kitchen/food pantry/intervention center in Brooklyn that services 5,000 people. She’s only 26 and already feeling overwhelmed, but here, at the conference, found so many participants who want to volunteer. The conference also pushed volunteerism and philanthropy as ways to get involved Jewishly if you weren’t going to make it your career.

There was Rachel Cohen, who works for an ambassador at the United Nations and wants to improve the image of the Jewish people and Israel there.

And then there were a few people unsatisfied with their experience.

"I felt I missed out on the entire purpose I was coming for — I was trying to figure out how to get [other] 20-somethings involved that aren’t involved," said a 23-year-old Chicagoan, who preferred not to give his name.

"This think tank is not for blank slates," Rhoda Weisman, the executive director of PLP, said at the closing session of the conference, an open-mike evaluation session. "This is specifically for people who have strong Jewish passions, to be involved in something like this."

Questionnaires were filled out, the microphone was passed around, people said what they loved, what they didn’t love, what they’re going to do, what they hope to do.

Weisman previously worked for 10 years as chief creative officer for Hillel and much of this project is borne out of her experience in working closely with college students and within the Jewish organizational world. At 46, She is one of those "middle ground" professionals, and perhaps it is in this place that she can bring the fire of the youth to the hearth that is the staid Jewish organizational life.

"Initially our thoughts are that this could be the forerunner of an institution that will attract first-class people to the Jewish communal world and will incentivize them through fellowships, will mentor them, will keep them together throughout their careers, through various approaches," Michael Steinhardt told me from a lounge chair in the hotel lobby, where we were interrupted by dozens of conference participants who wanted to hang out with him. Steinhardt is one of the other impetuses behind this unprecedented project. As the founder of Birthright, the program that has sent thousands of 20-somethings on free trips to Israel, Steinhardt is used to defying the norm. Back then, he said, "they" said Birthright couldn’t be done, and now "it’s a transformative milestone of Jewish identity."

Will PLP be the next Birthright? Both Weisman and Steinhardt insist that the think tank part of the project is a one-time deal intended to produce an actionable study. But PLP as an organization is now incorporating into non-profit status to continue working with 20-somethings, providing fellowships and career guidance. PLP leaders are hoping what will turn into a continuing national program is CareerBreak — a mentoring program. After the three day conference, 25 participants will "shadow" Los Angeles Jewish professionals to get a taste of working life. Mentors include Jewish Federation President John Fishel, Progressive Jewish Alliance Executive Director Daniel Sokatch, Zimmer Museum Director Esther Netter and Pressman Academy Education Director Rabbi Mitchel Malkus.

"We don’t realize how difficult it is to get in [to Jewish life,] said Rabbi Ron Wolfson, University of Judaism’s vice president and dean of its Fingerhut School of Education, who is also serving as a CareerBreak mentor.

All mentors are being paid for their time, "because people need to know that Jewish professionals’ time and expertise is valuable too," Weisman said.

Full disclosure: the payment part came as news to me, as I had volunteered long ago to become a mentor. My mentee’s name is Lauren Leonardi, a writer who has spent the last five years in Savannah, Ga., and has recently moved back to N.Y. She feels deeply connected to Judaism, but is not sure how to incorporate it into her work.

"Why should I work at a Jewish newspaper?" she asked me. "Why should I work in Jewish life at all?" she said — and this was at the end of PLP on Tuesday night, before CareerBreak began. I’ll have been with her on Wednesday and Thursday, taking her with me to put together this newspaper. I don’t know how I’ll answer the questions — if I can even answer the questions — or if I’ll be a good mentor. Twenty-somethings aren’t the only ones with questions.

Study of Federations Finds Job Sexism


While a new report says that sexism pervades the North American Jewish federation system, in Los Angeles, the facts paint a much more positive picture of gender equality.

An old-boys’ network and an attitude that rejects women’s leadership skills have kept women from reaching the top echelons of the federation system, according to research released recently by the United Jewish Communities (UJC) and a group called Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community.

The study, based on interviews with a cross-section of North American federation leaders conducted from January to September 2003, sought to understand why women have not reached top executive spots in the 20 largest Jewish communities in North America. Some of those quoted in the report seem to reflect sexist attitudes.

"Just because a man might look at a woman as a sexual object doesn’t mean that he’s not taking her seriously professionally," said one male lay leader interviewed in the report. "I mean, does every woman have to be Golda Meir?"

"My advice to women is to be presentable and play to your femininity," he said. "Men want to preen, and they will respond favorably to the right package."

In its recommendations, the report advised the system to groom a significant number of low- and mid-level female staff members for senior positions, create flexible work environments that make it easier to balance career and family and make gender balance a criterion of executive search processes.

The report recommends experimenting with new models to promote gender equity, monitoring progress through data collection and integrating women’s initiatives into federations’ executive development programs.

The UJC, the umbrella group for North American Jewish federations, paid for and commissioned the report at the request of Stephen Hoffman, the group’s president and CEO.

At The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, women appear to have more opportunities than their colleagues elsewhere. Of The Federation’s 11 vice presidents and senior vice presidents, nine are women. To name but a few, Carol Koransky, the highest-ranking woman, serves as associate executive vice president and executive director of Valley Alliance; Tzivia Schwartz-Getzug is senior vice president of public affairs; and Carol Levy holds the title of senior vice president of leadership enhancement and development.

"I think there’s definitely a desire to achieve gender equality and to be an open place for women to come and succeed," said Sue Wellerstein, senior vice president of human resources at The Federation.

Women hold none of The Federation’s top three professional staff spots. However, they now hold the top three lay leader positions.

The L.A. Federation is believed to be the only one in the country with women occupying the top positions at the same time, Wellerstein said. Harriet Hochman is the board chair, Laurie Konheim serves as campaign chair and Sharon Janks heads the women’s campaign chair.

The Federation’s relatively strong record on hiring women for important positions mirrors a trend elsewhere at other Southern California Jewish institutions, Koransky said. Unlike on the East Coast, women in Los Angeles and other Western cities hold important positions in federations and Jewish agencies, she said.

At the national level, Hoffman said the situation reflects the gender imbalance in the corporate world, with which many federation volunteers are associated. While he doesn’t yet have a precise plan to address the issue, "the first thing you do is you throw light on the issue," Hoffman said, and then "keep the light focused on this."

The report comes as the UJC is seeking a successor to Hoffman, who is stepping down in June. The search committee’s top choices are said to come from the pool of large-city federation executives, all of whom are men and some of whom have been considered for the job in the past. The UJC has not hired an external search firm, which some say would be more likely to consider a wider field of candidates.

Shifra Bronznick, president of Advancing Women Professionals, called the report a "breakthrough."

Among the report’s findings:

Female professionals face a "leaky pipeline" in the federation system, with sizable numbers in lower ranks but few at the top. The representation of female professionals increases as job prestige declines.

No women hold chief executive positions in Jewish federations in the largest U.S. cities — though some, as in Los Angeles, have held the top lay positions — and women hold just 28 percent of subexecutive positions in those cities. In large-intermediate cities, women hold 16 percent of the chief executive positions and 47 percent of subexecutive positions.

Women are held to a different standard than men. For example, the report claims, aggressive leadership is valued in men but is disdained in women and can cost them top jobs.

Despite advances in women’s philanthropy, federation leaders question women’s ability to raise funds, a key requirement for top executive positions.

The network that refers and recruits executive-level candidates is male-dominated and more likely to recommend other men.

According to Bronznick, UJC must apply the recommendations quickly but shouldn’t regard the report as a recipe to which federations can simply "add water and stir."

"It has to be about people really understanding what all the elements of change are and grappling with them themselves," she said. "Otherwise things are going to be very superficial."

Senior Writer Marc Ballon contributed to this report.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker Find Me a Job


Benjamin Brown found out a master’s degree in Jewish history didn’t help him much in finding a job. So a few years ago, Brown, 29, launched an employment Web site for the Jewish community, which he named JewishJobs.com. The initiative seems to have been a success: Brown not only secured a job at the now-defunct United Jewish Communities’ (UJC) Trust for Jewish Philanthropy, he has attracted more than 6,000 job seekers to his service, which boasts a testimonials page of happily matched employees and employers.

Brown’s story is telling both about the need to match potential candidates with Jewish jobs, and about the rising number of Internet job sites that serve niche markets

Employers appreciate receiving 70 strong candidates instead of 7,000 who may not be appropriate for the job, said Brown, who left Brandeis in 2001 and received his master’s degree earlier this year.

JewishJobs.com is by no means the only Web site looking to play matchmaker between job seekers and Jewish employers.

Web sites and services like J2J Network, Hatzlacha.com and JewishJobFinder.com, among others, have sprouted up over the past few years, and the Orthodox Union recently announced it will launch an online job bank.

It’s an economic thing, say those involved in the field.

J2J, a self-described network for Jewish professionals, has hosted networking events, run educational programs and provided a career listserv of employment opportunities since 2000, with the goal of strengthening the Jewish community through commerce.

"If I get a random e-mail, I may or may not respond," said David Borowich, chairman of J2J, whose users tend to be 25-45. "An e-mail from the Jewish community, I am more likely to respond."

Unlike JewishJobs.com, J2J does not focus on specifically Jewish jobs. Weekly e-mails advertise jobs in public relations companies and law firms, as well as in banking and consulting groups.

With tight networks in mind, UJC launched its own initiative in 2001 that helps technology professionals find a job.

Blue Knot: The Jewish Tech Initiative (www.blueknot.com) emphasizes networking for its mostly young and transient members, who attend professional gatherings and community service events. The idea is to bring together technology professionals in the Jewish community from across the country who are interested in networking and in getting involved in the Jewish community.

Baggage Claim


I used to want things. One day, I realized the seven pairs
of Puma sneakers and the Pottery Barn rug and the 8-pound “Columbia
Encyclopedia,” those were just things to pack, and I didn’t
want them anymore.

Actually, that day was just about two weeks ago, when I got
a job in New York and had to pack up my worldly belongings in a matter of days
to ship off to Manhattan. I got here just in time for the first snowstorm,
which is happening today, as I stare out my hotel window. Maybe I should have
held onto those wool gloves, but in a fit of Buddhist nonattachment, I erred on
the side of frozen.

I donated most of my clothes to my girlfriend, a social
worker who divvied them up among the teenage girls under her charge. I divided
my books into piles: the Mitzi pile, the Bianca pile, the Tim pile. I parceled
them out stuffed in the multitude of tote bags I amassed during my five years
in Los Angeles. I packed up sacks of makeup for my 14-year-old cousin. She also
got a jewelry box filled with stuff I hadn’t worn since I was her age.

My silky green Indian print curtains went to a friend of a
friend, with the cream-colored panels thrown in for good measure. I left behind
a coffee maker and microwave for my home’s new inhabitants.

With days left before I was scheduled to leave, my blue
Taurus plagued me. It was worth so much to me, a way to get safely from place
to place, but worth almost nothing to Mr. Kelley Blue Book. When my dad called
saying one of his jalopies broke down, I said “Dad, you’re in luck. The Taurus is
yours and it will be parked in my garage with a full tank of gas and the keys
under the doormat. Godspeed.”

I can honestly tell you that the most I ever got from my
things was in the giving away of them.

“What do you want for Chanukah?” my mom asked before I left.

“Nothing,” I responded, with perhaps a little too much snap
in my newly nonattached voice. “I don’t want things. If you must, send a bottle
of Scotch, that way it will be gone in a day.”

I can’t tell you how many expensive candles I owned that
were too good to use. There were the tubes of body lotion that were too special
to open, the gifts that I put on a shelf, the fancy champagne I was waiting for
the right occasion to pop, the scarf that was too pretty to wear. If you don’t
think burning that grapefruit-currant candle you’ve been hoarding is a
spiritual act, think again. Having isn’t living, it’s waiting to live. 

I think we single people do a lot of that waiting; as in,
when I have a date, I’ll try getting my legs waxed; when I have a boyfriend,
I’ll try that new Italian restaurant; when I get married, I’ll try buying a
house. 

Okay, I sound mighty philosophical for a girl who breaks out
in tears at least once a day, trudging through black ice and wet snow and
wondering, which way is uptown? Will my new co-workers like me? Am I doing a
good job? Have I made a huge mistake and ruined my life?

If only you could pack up your emotional baggage in a couple
Hefty sacks and drop them off at the Goodwill. 

Maybe I’ve taken the first step, the easy one, in giving
away the material things I don’t need. And every night, in a ritualistic fit of
beauty product blasphemy, I purposefully massage my fancy face cream into my
hands and elbows like so much drugstore Lubriderm. I’m using what I have and I’ve
disposed of what I don’t need, and maybe I’m hoping something so silly and
small will have a profound effect on the storage unit that I call my brain.

In the meantime, I’m traveling as light as I can. The phone
numbers in my cell phone are the most important things I have, and I use them
nightly to report on how homesick I am. 

And when you rip off the packing tape and shake out all the
Styrofoam peanuts and unroll the bubble wrap, it’s right there, small and
obvious as a regifted picture frame — I’m scared. 

I’ve collected anxieties and stowed away a mother lode of
smothering perfectionism and now I wish I knew how to give them away. I had
them in Los Angeles, and here in New York, away from my friends and my routine,
they’ve multiplied. I’ve learned only this: giving stuff away is only possible
when you understand how deeply you don’t need it. 

I have to believe that will happen with the things that
truly weigh me down. Until then, I would like those gloves back.   


Teresa Strasser writes from Manhattan, where she is a
feature reporter for Fox’s “Good Day New York.” She’s on the Web at www.teresastrasser.com
.

Turn the Tide


One of the best things about being the editor of a Jewish paper is I get to meet a lot of Jews.

Looking back over the past year, I see it’s a fascinating perk of the job.

Just in the past two weeks, for instance, I danced (poorly) at the Chabad Telethon when the tote board hit $3.4 million, met with two powerful state legislators, hobnobbed with celebrities and entertainment industry machers, lunched with Israeli diplomats and Jewish professionals and educators, cocktailed with Israeli diplomats and Persian businessmen — you get the idea.

Old, young, secular, black hat, poor, rich, gay, straight, engaged, apathetic, famous and, in one case, infamous: When I say I meet a lot of Jews, I mean a lot of different kinds of Jews. It is a pleasure too few of us enjoy. As Jewish life in Los Angeles has grown and diversified, it has also become increasingly particularized.

Part of this phenomenon is reflected in the recently released National Jewish Population Survey, which shows that a majority of Jewish institutions serve a minority of Jews: synagogues, Jewish Community Centers and federations draw about 40 percent of the Jewish population, and the number of truly active participants is probably far less. That means there is a minority of Jews engaged in what we call, with increasing optimism and inaccuracy, "the Jewish community." Yet most Jews remain outside.

Even among Jews who do, as the jargon goes, "affiliate," the distance among them is great. Of this there is no measurement in the NJPS, but I can tell you anecdotally it is a common phenomenon, and a sad one.

There are 600,000 Jews in Los Angeles, and most of us get to know only one kind among them. Because we are not just Jews, but human, our knee-jerk reaction to these other Jews is to regard them as the Other. The natural result of joining one group is to look askance at all the ones you opted out of. When I told some people I spent last Sunday evening with Chabad, they regarded me as either a dupe or a traitor. I’ve told others about the preschool at Kol Ami, a gay and lesbian synagogue, where children (many adopted from the four corners of the world) discover Judaism as a faith of warmth and inclusiveness — and you’d think I was speaking of the Amalekites. The Jewish communities of greater Los Angeles rarely touch, and even more rarely interact. Many of us don’t approve of the Other, as if we are viciously competitive teams in a regional league, and our common sport is Jewish.

So there are two problems here. On the one hand, we have divided ourselves into Jews on the inside of Jewish life and Jews on the outside, the affiliated and the unaffiliated. On the other hand, within the affiliated groups, we have divided ourselves from one another.

"Do not separate yourself from the community," said the sage Hillel, "and do not be sure of yourself until you are dead." Every day I see any number of examples of us doing just the opposite.

What we don’t seem to understand is that while Judaism may offer immutable rituals and beliefs (itself a notion open to challenge), humans by nature approach faith and ritual as part of their journey through life. The extent to which we become partners in shaping and encouraging someone’s journey to be a Jewish one depends on how open we are to understanding and participating in the Other’s journey. If you want to pull your friend out of the mud, said a great rabbi, first you have to step into the mud yourself.

The nature of religious experience in our postmodern world is personal, mutable and somewhat mysterious. As our choices and freedoms expand, our varieties of Jewish experience will become even more varied. We will have to fight against our instinct to disparage the new and different. Few among us adhere to a form of Judaism that some other Jews, at some point in history, didn’t regard as treif.

Without stretching beyond our immediate Jewish community — whether that community is a mega-shul, a mini-shtiebel, a social action group or a choir — we are unwittingly participating in the diminishment of Jewish life. "If you stop dialogue and debate, you start talking to yourself," said Rabbi Harold Schulweis, "and that is the first sign of insanity." It is also a ticket to self-righteousness and extremism, something we’ve seen enough of in 5763.

Meeting Jews is easy — this town is full of them. Meeting and getting to know and appreciate different kinds of Jews is a challenge, but a crucial one.

Try it once this year.

Shanah Tovah.

Carlyle Discusses Dangers of ‘Hitler’


Robert Carlyle, of "The Full Monty" and "Angela’s Ashes" fame, gives a striking performance in the title role of the CBS miniseries "Hitler: The Rise of Evil." The film, which airs Sunday and Tuesday (May 18 and 20) at 9 p.m., focuses on Hitler’s life from Munich beer hall orator in 1920, through his political machinations within the Nazi party and against the Weimar Republic, ending in 1934 with the consolidation of all state power in his hands. Speaking with a pronounced Scottish burr (which he suppresses in the film) from his home in his native Glasgow, the 42-year-old actor discussed the challenges and rewards of his role with The Jewish Journal.

Jewish Journal: What were your thoughts when you decided to take the role of Hitler?

Robert Carlyle: At first I was frightened because I realized the potential dangers and pitfalls. But I decided I wouldn’t do a carbon copy of Hitler. I would do my own interpretation, that I could explore him like any other character. Then a window opened up and I wasn’t frightened any more.

JJ: One of your fellow cast members, Peter Stormare, said, "I can’t imagine being Bobby [Carlyle] and having to look at himself as Hitler every day because of all the images that flash before your eyes, all the time." What were your feelings?

RC: Once shooting began, in my quiet moments, I tried to empty myself of the character on a daily basis, rather than store it up for four months. Also, as Hitler, I didn’t look at all like myself. I had the mustache, a false nose, cheek pieces and more weight as Hitler got older.

JJ: What was your working day like when you were shooting the film in and around Prague?

RC: It took around one-and-a-half hours for the makeup and I worked 14-15 hours on an average day. As we went further along, the days got even longer.

JJ: I understand that you were offered the role of Hitler three times before you took this one.

RC:Yes, the first time was about three years ago but it didn’t come to anything. Another time was for the film "Max" [in which Hitler was played by Noah Taylor]. Five months before I started the CBS job, I worked for three months on a BBC television production which started with Hitler in the bunker and we flashed back to his earlier life. So I had already learned a good deal about the character.

JJ: I believe the BBC project was canceled, partly due to strong Jewish protests.

RC: I’m not sure. I heard that there were funding problems because the American studio partner backed out. I don’t know about Jewish protests, but if there were any I would understand that.

JJ: One of the concerns raised when CBS announced the project was that any good actor would try to find the human elements in Hitler and therefore make him more sympathetic.

RC: It wasn’t a question of searching for the human traits. I didn’t have to find that to get close to the character. I thought Hitler was very cunning and had a belief of you’re-either-for-me-or-against-me. I tried to focus on these things.

JJ: Were you aware of the objections raised by some Jewish spokesmen and organizations in the early stages of the CBS project?

RC: Not at all. I didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes. But I knew from the beginning that if I gave as honest a portrayal as I could, it would be all right. I didn’t want to upset anyone.

JJ: After you finished shooting, did you go through a decompression stage?

RC: Yes, I took off and spent a month in the country. A few weeks ago, I went back to London for some final dubbing and suddenly saw "my" Hitler on the monitor. And I said to myself, "Jesus, what a pompous little prick" and then, "You’ve done your job."

Angelenos Aid Argentines


Mariano Fainstein hasn’t seen his wife in almost three months, and he may have to miss his daughter’s wedding. Because of the recent economic crisis in Argentina, the 52-year-old electronics engineer temporarily left his home in Buenos Aires in hopes of landing a new job in Los Angeles to support his family. He’s staying with friends in Sherman Oaks while in talks with a company that has expressed interest in him.

If he gets the job, he won’t be able to go home in time to walk his daughter down the aisle. To make matters worse, he isn’t sure his wife is willing to join him here.

"Last time [I worked in the United States] she was missing her mother so much that she decided to return to Argentina. After she was gone for three months, I decided to move back, too." In the meantime, Fainstein reaches out to other Argentine Jews who understand his situation.

Rosa (not her real name), a retiree from Sherman Oaks, left Buenos Aires when she was 25. At 62, she is still in close contact with her family there. Her niece and nephew, both 20-somethings, are forced to live with their parents because they can’t find work, despite the fact that they are both professionals.

"I try to send them [money] every month," Rosa says, "It’s very hard for the young people because there are no jobs. It’s really bad."

According to Fainstein, flexibility is the key to finding a job in Argentina. "You have to have a broad range of knowledge because you can’t specialize in one field," he explains. "It’s as if you are a physician, and sometimes you have to work as a cardiologist, and other times you have to work as a pediatrician and so on. The market is very small."

Cantor Marcelo Gindlin, 33, moved to the United States two years ago when he was offered a position at the Malibu Jewish Center. After experiencing culture shock, Gindlin made friends and found fulfillment in his job, which he loves. Still, he is sad when he thinks about the state of affairs back home.

"[Argentines] are so well-educated, but the situation is so bad now," says Gindlin. "The last thing they want to do is lose their faith, so they stay there."

Some L.A. Argentines are trying to persuade family members to move to the United States, like Silvia Kremer, who works in the apparel business. "I’ve been in touch with my cousins a lot, and I suggest that they come and visit to maybe see a future for their children, but it’s such a major decision," explains the 54-year-old Sherman Oaks resident. "None of them has decided to move, yet."

Fainstein believes that the situation in Argentina will get worse before it gets better. "I think this government is going to be in power for a long time," he sighs. "I think it will eventually be replaced by a combination of military and civil power. The ideal is democracy. I don’t like military governments, of course, but sometime you have to accept them as transition."

Kremer agrees that it will be a while before things change. Although she doesn’t see a bright future, she is proud of the way some of the citizens are expressing their feelings about the economy. "Even though [Argentines are] going through such a hard time, they never show violence with guns or anything like that. The noise they make is with pots and pans and wooden spoons. They’ll go where the government is or in front of a bank and make noise."

She believes that the nonviolent protests, indicative of the country’s educational level, makes the economic situation even more frustrating. "Everyone goes to college, and you see accountants and lawyers driving taxis because there are no jobs."

Kremer points out that because of the crises in Israel and Afghanistan, the situation in Argentina isn’t getting as much press as it did a few months back. "I don’t think America will be able to help Argentina get the money they need," she says, "I think they’re looking for $15 billion, but now nobody really says anything about it. It’s like it died in the news."

While the world may be preoccupied with other troubles, L.A. Argentines continue to focus on the problems in South America. Gindlin, who has a degree in music therapy, is trying to organize a concert fundraiser. He worked as a cantor in eight different communities in Argentina, and his goal is to raise money for all of them. He is hoping to recruit other cantors in Southern California to join in his efforts.

Gindlin feels very connected to his roots: "The tradition of Judaism and the education that I received in Argentina, the values from my family and the values of my teachers is all inside of me."

Before the economic crisis, Rosa’s brother was part of the Buenos Aires middle class. Although he is now poor, Rosa says he’s managed to stay in good spirits. "He has hope," she says.

Santa in the City


Enjoyable, unique experience, totally different type of job, mostly outdoors, great fun, good pay. Santas needed. Holiday spirit a must.

I called the number listed at the bottom of the ad, and a few weeks later, I got a call. The boss (I’ll call him Mr. Green) had only one question: "Are you fat?"

"No," I replied.

Despite my lack of girth, I got the job that I had coveted for years. After an unorthodox path, I was finally Santa.

As a Jewish kid growing up in a cramped New York City apartment, I never experienced a true Christmas. You know, like the ones they show in those Budweiser commercials. In fact, Christmas was usually a melancholy time for me. In grade school, the role of Rudolph was unjustly taken away after I was accused of disruptive behavior unbecoming of a reindeer.

My family tried, but never quite could pull off the Christmas thing. Instead of a tree, we had a cactus, albeit one draped in lights. (From lighting the menorah, my folks were quite adept with lights.) They even put wrapped presents underneath that cactus. But whatever they did, however hard they tried, that damn thing was still a cactus. When other kids came over, they would bring sand instead of presents and usually ended up throwing it on one another.

The final Christmas crisis came one Christmas Eve. I was attempting to trim the cactus when I caught a thorn and had to be rushed to the emergency room. That marked the end of Christmas in the humble Hart home.

But two Adam Sandler songs later, I still wanted to be St. Nick. I applied at Macy’s, but they were only hiring elves. The Internet only featured material on child-molesting Santas. My last resort was the classifieds.

Before I could start, Mr. Green said I needed to buy a Santa suit, so I headed to a costume store in Corona, Queens, to get one. My $80 ensemble was composed of a red suit, a white wig and beard and boots. Well, they were not truly boots, they were actually vinyl pullovers.

When I arrived at the tree lot, which took up an entire block in Soho, Mr. Green was unimpressed. Mr. Green said that clearly I was a bulimic Santa. Mr. Green emphasized his disgust by threatening to sic Roscoe, his off-duty cop employee, on me. "Do you want to deal with Roscoe?" he yelled maniacally.

To make matters worse, Mr. Green’s aides, the aforementioned off-duty cop and a fanatical tree-cutter, repeatedly shouted, "You’re the worst Santa I’ve ever seen!" Before Mr. Green or one of his goons could order me to climb down a chimney or a sewer, a cable television crew requested an interview. Mr. Green primped himself for the camera. But the television people wanted the man in red, Mr. Chanukah Cactus. Mr. Green ordered me to fetch a pillow from an unkempt bed in the back of the trailer. With the soiled pillow stuffed under my red, fluffy shirt, I headed for the camera.

"What would you like to see in the New Year?" asked the reporter, holding the microphone in front of my scraggly artificial beard. "I’d like to see Bert Reynolds get a new hair weave." Mr. Green told me he wants to bury Santa.

Back on the street, well-dressed strangers pass by Mr. Green’s virtual forest in Soho, and I approach them, attempting to act jolly. "Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!" I belt out.

"From your gut!" interrupts Mr. Green. "From your gut!" Not that he has any Santa experience. Regardless, I take his advice. Babies turn away. Some even cry. The Tree-Cutter gives me dirty looks as he trims with his conspicuous sharp knife. The Cop looks like he wants to cuff me on the spot. Worse, my pillow keeps falling out of my shirt.

"Have you written out your wish list?" I ask a kid in my best soft Santa voice.

"I don’t believe in Santa," she replies, walking away.

Several men walk by and ask if I’m pregnant. "Yeah," I respond. "And you’re the father." Christmas in New York City.

When night falls, I head to the corner and spot a shiny red Corvette slowly coming toward me. It comes to a halt. The window rolls down. Perhaps I have generated a tree sale. "How do you get to Broome Street?" With my morale hurting, my feet frozen, I decide to pack it in. Dejected, I slump through Soho as shoppers gawk at me. I bump into a former roommate and, thankfully, he does not recognize me.

I consider quitting when a friend offers to cast me in his movie. Well, it wasn’t exactly "Miracle On 34th Street" — more like "Maiming in the East Village." I’m glad to land the role of a stalking Santa.

As I attempt to harass the protagonist (a television star), people walk by in disbelief. "You are not a good Santa!" one man yells in a Hispanic accent. A homeless man embraces me. When the cameras roll, I grab my groin and yell, "Eat me!" to the protagonist. The natives smile. East Villagers appreciate this kind of Santa.

The next day, back at the tree stand, however, is not so terrific. It’s sunny, but the streets are empty. And I’ve lost one of my vinyl pullovers. As I try to greet the few customers, I attempt to hide one foot behind a tree. When I head to the trailer to stay warm, Mr. Green continues to taunt me about Roscoe. I go to the back and remove my Santa suit.

"Let me ask you one question," says the Cop.

"Shoot," I respond. Considering the circumstances, I guess that was a poor choice of words. "Go ahead."

"Are you Jewish?"

Next year, I’ll be a Chanukah bush.

Help Wanted, Will Train


Looking for a job where you can impart knowledge, be a positive role model and get all the Jewish holidays off? One field offering those opportunities desperately needs qualified people: Jewish education. Nationwide, day schools, supplementary schools and after-school Hebrew programs are suffering from a lack of qualified educators.

While education agencies and schools are recruiting through local Hillels, ads in Jewish newspapers and college publications, filling those positions is only becoming more difficult.”We’re experiencing some real staffing problems,” says Yonaton Shultz, director of school personnel services for the Bureau of Jewish Education in Los Angeles. The bureau services more than 165 different programs and schools, incorporating 2,500 educators from nursery through 12th grade, according to Shultz.

Similarly, the greater Boston area needs teachers in a variety of settings, including new positions that combine duties, explains Nathan Kruman, professional development consultant for the Bureau of Jewish Education in Boston.

“Boston has many very exciting positions and many new hybrid positions that combine teaching in the classic sense with other activities, sometimes administrative, sometimes youth, sometimes family,” says Kruman. “There’s generally something available because we’ve built up institutions and added more full-time and part-time jobs over the last 25 years.”

The needs are just as great in Chicago, where there are three organizations that staff Jewish programs: the Bureau of Jewish Education, the Community Foundation for Jewish Education and the Associated Talmud Torah.

Yaffa Berman, director of recruitment and placement for the Community Foundation for Jewish Education, says there are 150 to 225 positions open in the Chicago metropolitan area every year for teachers in early childhood, supplementary, high school and adult education. “Despite major recruitment efforts at major university placement offices, Hillels, the Israeli Consulate, newspaper ads, congregational and day school bulletins and more, the problem still exists,” she says.

Because these positions need to be filled, schools are forced to hire people who don’t meet the standard of excellence preferred. “About 70 percent of the respondents to our call for teachers meet our expectations, leaving us with no option but to lower standards for the remaining 30 percent,” says Berman, “thus compromising the quality of the education that our students are receiving.”

On the other hand, Rabbi Harvey Well, superintendent of the Associated Talmud Torah in Chicago, who fills slots in more than 25 programs throughout the Midwest, doesn’t have the trouble finding people that he once did.

“There used to be a time when we really needed to search high and low for teachers, but now with so many post-rabbinic institutes, it has become much easier and teachers are much more available,” says Well. “There are probably 10 to 20 teachers yearly where… people leave the city, people retire, people decide they want to go into different areas. But it really isn’t the crisis that it once was; it’s much more easily managed.”

Challenges of the times

The challenges are greater for supplementary religious and after-school programs. According to Shultz, when both parents work, a mother isn’t able to do all the necessary carpooling to take her children to the program. Schools that once went Sundays through Thursdays now have to cut their programs back to three and sometimes even two days per week. So even with more teachers than before, scheduling difficulties compound the situation.

“That’s a very hard thing to deal with,” says Shultz. “If one teacher is going to teach at one school Sunday and Tuesday and another school was offering her a job on Sunday and Wednesday and another school was offering her a job on Sunday and Thursday, she can’t take any of those other jobs because they’re all attached to a Sunday, and she’s already committed for a Sunday. So the teachers are teaching less hours. It’s not that they’re less available, it’s just that the schedules are worse. And this is a challenge that our schools are going to have to deal with.”

Qualified teachers, it seems, almost need to be masters of illusion to appear at multiple institutions to give students the education they need to receive. This can be resolved in one of two ways: “One teacher can teach in two schools as long as the schools agree to change their scheduling,” says Shultz.

Another challenge is finding qualified candidates.

“The State of Illinois tells us when it comes to private education, parochial education, that a teacher has to show competence in the area that they’re teaching,” says Well. “[That’s] our main criteria, that the individuals hired should show competence in the areas that they’re teaching. Usually [while] the general studies teachers have [Illinois teaching certificates], the Judaic teachers do not. We offer a full range of educational courses to train teachers and at the end of three years we ourselves give the teachers certificates to show that they have completed the course.”

Many programs offer some kind of training. People who have a pedagogic background or a degree in education can be trained in Judaic content, according to Berman. “And those who have the Judaism knowledge without the pedagogic skills can be trained to use those. We are very flexible,” she added.

Unique solutions

The Bureau of Jewish Education in Los Angeles has started one attempt at a solution: training synagogue congregants to be religious school teachers.

“We believe that there is a whole slew of people out there who belong to the congregation and rather than serving on the ritual committee and rather than being in the sisterhood, they probably would enjoy teaching in the religious school,” Shultz says.

The program, a year and a half long, includes courses on Sundays, being a teaching assistant, and being a student teacher. Participants will be mentored by other teachers on the staff and by the principals.

“We have a triple-pronged program, actually: training of the teachers, the training of the mentors and the training of the principals to supervise the whole thing. We’re excited about both of the programs” Shultz adds.

Boston has a new program that provides both professional development and financial support. Open to 100 educators, the program provides an advisor who works with the educator to identify the educator’s needs, and the educator can fill those needs at schools such as Hebrew College or Brandeis University, or through other local Jewish continuing education programs. The community helps pay for those courses.

“They’ll be able to take courses to the equivalent of up to about to a half of a master’s degree in Jewish education. Then the community will continue to support them, not 100 percent, but certainly a very significant amount. I don’t think it’s happening anywhere else,” Kruman says of the program supported in part by grants from the Cummings Foundation and from the Covenant Foundation.

“In other words, we find jobs for people and we then match them… with a personal advisor who creates with them an individual professional development plan. And that plan will identify their strengths and where they have room to grow.”

Boston also has a New Educators Institute that provides an overview of some of the areas that a new teacher needs to master over the course of approximately six months. Graduates finish those skills while working as teachers and then are eligible to begin the program to work towards their master’s degrees.

Passionless need not apply

The professionals responsible for recruiting teachers emphasize that interested candidates shouldn’t worry about qualifications, since training is often provided.

“[We’re looking for] somebody who wants the job and is serious about it and is ready to really jump on and … take on an active role in shaping the lives of the children who are
a part of our community,” says Kruman. “[Jewish education] is about improving the quality of our life and passing it on.”

Ideal candidates, according to Kruman, should be committed to education, have some experience, know the field, and most of all, enjoy kids.

Well adds, “If you don’t like getting kids excited to learn, then no matter what training you’ve received, in the end it will basically be very sterile or ineffectual. If I’m looking for a teacher, I look for a spark that they have, a link that they want to establish with the kids that they’re going to teach, because it’s been proven that’s been the best kind of teacher.”

Developing teachers has to be a communal responsibility, says Berman. “High quality Jewish education is dependent upon the community taking this challenge seriously and doing something about it.” she says. “We must …hire and retain dynamic teachers who have a passion for educating the future generation of Jewish leaders.”

Shultz adds, “We’re all Jews by choice – those of us who were born into Jewish families and those of us who came in to it. Our children are going to be choosing if they want to stay Jewish or not. We’ve got to have the best people available to convince them that this is something worthy of their time, effort, energy and identification.

“If we don’t bring the best people in, if we don’t have well-trained, knowledgeable Jewish educators, we can close up shop now, because all we’ll end up having is a sham, and kids see through that right away. That’s the challenge that faces our community.”

This article appears courtesy of Zipple.com

Allegations at CSUN


Jacquelyn Barnette received the news during a recent meeting with Cal State Northridge officials: A CSUN administrative review had concluded that she was not fired from her student health center job because of anti-Semitism or retaliation.

Earlier this year, the medical records supervisor, who is African-American and Jewish, had charged that she was let go after confronting the center’s assistant director for administration, Jan Loritz, for allegedly making anti-Semitic remarks. Aaron Levinson, director of the Valley office of the Anti-Defamation League, subsequently spoke to half a dozen present and past center employees who asserted they had overheard Loritz making such remarks.

However, after interviewing more than 40 present and past center employees, a CSUN administrator found that none alleged witnessing anti-Semitic actions on the part of Loritz. There had been not even a single report of an anti-Semitic action by Loritz during her 16 years at the center, the report concluded. Nor was there any distinguishable difference in Loritz’s written performance evaluations of employees who were Jewish and non-Jewish. Loritz, moreover, did not participate in the decision to terminate Barnette; other supervisors made that decision, the administrator concluded.

Barnette’s final performance evaluation alleges that she incurred excessive tardies and absences, a charge Barnette denies.

The university offered the medical records supervisor two months of retroactive pay, which would roughly cover the period of the administrative review, per university practice, as well as another job on campus, “though that has nothing to do with the allegations she made or the university’s response to them,” says CSUN spokesperson John Chandler. Rather, CSUN is offering Barnette another job because of “the conclusion that there were procedural irregularities with the personnel process by which she was let go,” Chandler said. &’009;

Barnette, for her part, told the Daily News that administrative review was a “whitewash” of Loritz. In an interview with the Journal, she said she has retained an attorney and intends to sue the university for breach of contract. She has also rejected the job transfer.

While Levinson says he is pleased with the thoroughness of CSUN’s review, he is “still concerned there may be a problem at the center, because we have corroborated stories of anti-Semitism.”

In a written statement, CSUN Interim President Dr. Louanne Kennedy indicated that the university “is still reviewing the allegation that anti-Semitic comments were made.” She has also appointed a four-person committee to review broader operational and administrative issues at the center.

“We have an extremely diverse student body, including a sizable Jewish population, so whenever there are subjects raised that could be a threat to our environment we take them very seriously,” Chandler said.

Singles


I’m reading amagazine. Apparently, there’s a woman who won’t stop having plasticsurgery until she looks exactly like a cat. I’m pondering theimplications of this when someone walks by my cubicle. Fortunately,I’ve positioned myself and the magazine so that passers-by mightassume my concerned look has to do with work.

You see, I’m not paid to read magazines. I’m beingpaid to name weight-loss products for use in foreign markets. It’s anodd job, a temporary job, just another gig in the life of afree-lancer. Definition of free-lancer? No medical benefits, no jobsecurity, no 401K, and you’re lucky if you get a parkingvalidation.

But you do have your freedom.

This is one of the more bizarre corporatefree-lance jobs I’ve had, though the company is not unusual in thesense that, like many others, it has done away withbenefits-expecting “perm” employees and replaced them with disposable”temps” from staffing agencies. Oh, sure, we may read a few backissues of Allure, but we’re paid by the hour and can be hired andfired like you order office supplies, on an as-need basis. We’re solow-maintenance, it isn’t even necessary to learn our names.

For me, this was supposed to be a two-weekassignment. Six months later, I’m still reporting to my cubicle forabout 20 hours a week, like one of those relationships you know isdoomed on the first date but continues, inexplicably,nonetheless.

Perhaps I have a special knack for naming fat-freesnack bars and diet gum that makes me valuable, despite my proclivityfor magazine reading. Still, after seeing most of my temp friends getthe ax, I wonder when my time will come.

I know I am marked. On my way to the water cooler,I can practically hear Human Resources yell, “Dead man walking.” Suchis the life of a temp, however. You can’t get emotionally attached.You’re a handshake away from no job.

And that’s the way I like it, really. I can’treally complain about “The Man” trying to squelch my spirit or theomnipresence of the cruel capitalist machine, because I have chosenthis life. I have opted to be a nameless cog. For all theinsecurities of this lifestyle, I don’t owe the company anything. Ican come and go as I please, stockpiling office supplies and perhapsmaking a long-distance call or two along the way. My time isflexible, and when I lose this job, there will always beanother.

My goal has long been to work as little aspossible in order to earn enough to live and have ample time topursue my as-yet-non-lucrative creative endeavors.

Oddly enough, I see my less-is-more work ethic asthe legacy of my Jewish immigrant grandparents. Did they come toAmerica and slave, sewing seams and painting houses, so that I couldaspire to a weekly timecard with as few billable hours as possible?Maybe. They weren’t working manual labor for the love of it, or forthe honor, but for the necessity.

They earned enough to send my mother to college,after which she got a cushy government job and raised me to believethat a sunny day is reason enough to call in sick. If it was warmerthan 72 degrees, I knew she’d come flouncing in from the beach, flushfrom the sun and donning her favorite “I just told my boss I have theflu” peach sundress. She never looked happier than she did on thosedays.

My inheritance is the luxury of owning my time, ormost of it, anyway. It’s no trust fund, but it is it’s own freedom.I’ll admit that it’s no day at the beach, living without vocationalsecurity, not to mention the neck strain involved with my on-the-jobmagazine-reading technique.

To me, though, it’s a small price to pay. While Imight be a lowly temp to companies who choose to hire me, I am theCEO of my own life.

If I were a corporation, I would be a terriblestock risk. Investors would run for cover. But I would have abeautiful logo — a snapshot of my mother’s sunburned smile.

So, when the hatchet falls on my latestincarnation as the Walt Whitman of weight management, I’ll be sad,sure. And broke. But only temporarily.

Teresa Strasser is a twentysomethingcontributing writer for The Jewish Journal.


Other VoicesThe Dating Game


By Teresa Strasser

A

brief synopsis of my recent dating history.

Bring Kleenex.

The Comedian

This man had obvious benefits: I laughed, I laughed till I cried, and I laughed until a spaghetti noodle came out of my nose. Really. With all his impressions, it was like dating 20 men. The fun died when The Comedian’s car was towed from outside my apartment. It seems Mr. Funny was too busy yukking it up to “bother with a bunch of stupid parking tickets.” Or insurance. Or registration. Thinking that was one of those “relationship red flags” people talk about, I put the pedal to the metal and high-tailed it out of there.

The Stockbroker

Did you know that stockbrokers could be poor? I didn’t — until I met one. This guy was more like a broke stalker. The poverty didn’t bother me nearly as much as his persistence; he “showed up” everywhere I happened to be, making me understand why restraining orders were invented. At first, the attention was flattering, but The Stockbroker had a bad habit of launching into hour-long monologues about the importance of IRAs. I was so bored that I was reduced to compiling mental grocery lists while he blathered on about the Dow Jones.

The Editor

Now this was promising. The editor was smart, considerate and working on the cutting edge of Internet journalism. Too bad I scared him off by mentioning my ex-boyfriend (for whom I’ve been pathetically pining) about as often as Robert De Niro squints. “We’re breathing air. (Sigh) Tom and I used to breathe air….” Oops.

The Unemployed Surfer/Musician Guy from Toronto

Cute, cute, cute. It didn’t work out. Refer to above headline.

The Waste Management Guy

This nice young man was very concerned with the environment and working to help others recycle. Unfortunately, he had a conniption fit when I littered one little candy-bar wrapper. Ease up, tree-hugger. Stop crying for every blade of grass and worry more about personal hygiene. Deodorant is one of the few products that actually works. When I uttered the phrase “Ozone, shmo-zone,” it was over.

The Consultant

On our second date, The Consultant got down to business; he administered the Myers-Briggs personality test, a four-page questionnaire developed to determine basic personality type and often used in business. Each of 16 personality types comes with a descriptive little catch phrase.

It seems I am one who “gives life an extra squeeze.” According to the test, I am an optimist who has trouble finishing things. So I guess I’m supposed to feel really good about the trail of unfinished projects I supposedly leave in my wake.

“And what are you?” I snidely asked The Consultant.

“Me? Why, I’m ‘one of life’s natural leaders,'” he said.

Our only similarity is that both of us are Jewish, single, in our mid-20s — and have never seriously dated other Jews. In short, we represent the demographic that Jewish community groups are so worried about. We are the young premarital Jews who have a good chance of falling into that “50-percent intermarriage” abyss.

I honestly don’t know why I haven’t dated more Jews. Maybe it was that bad experience with Zack Pearlman in Hebrew school. Maybe it’s a proclivity toward blue eyes and a WASPy face — a desire to look into the face of The Other. But as I chug lethargically toward “mating age,” I’ve begun to have visions of children with crucifixes around their necks, clutching Easter baskets and yelling, “Mommy, Mommy, why did the Jews kill Jesus?” It’s a scary vision.

I have to say, it was nice dating a man who could toss off the occasional Yiddish phrase or casually mention Maimonides. At only 3 percent of the population, however, single Jewish men are hard to find. Unless you know where to look. I thought hard about this, for you, my single readers who might be looking. So, a question: Who truly sees the perhaps hidden virtues of a man who might be too shy or too busy to cross your path?

Answer: A Mother.

So to all mothers of single Jewish men: Tell us about your son in 50 words or less. Send a description and photo for my next column to: The Jewish Journal, 3660 Wilshire Blvd., Suite ‘204, Los Angeles, CA 90010–Attn: Singles Column.

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