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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘job’

The Journey

Friday, November 9th, 2012

They say the flight went down, because it was too cold,
The weather had been changing, but i was never told,
Now I’m alone and I’m freezing, at the bottom of the sea,
There only was one parachute, and it wasn’t for me,
You always kept it, hidden in your heart,
A secret escape, you held since the start,
And i remember the start, the plane took off so strong,
Using skill and determination, to overcome when things went wrong,
But later you stopped driving, and the job was left to me,
With no co-captain at the helm, the plane fell to the sea,
Now I’m freezing, at the bottom of the ocean floor,
My heart begins to slow, and i am almost sure,
That a part of me is dying, a part nourished and grown,
Sitting here in silence, just getting used to being alone….

The Mourning After Obama’s Re-Election

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Wednesday morning political quarterbacks are like the Monday sports variety, only you hear from the former two days later. Similar to literary critics, the “I told you so” crowd usually stays above the fray and then comes down only to shoot the wounded.  With such caveats in mind, we assess the Romney loss and the prospects of an Obama second term.

To begin, a few words might be said about precedent or history. In our lifetime, Bill Clinton was elected twice and now Mrs. Clinton is in the cat bird’s seat for 2016. Such omens say as much about the character of the American electorate as they do about the vector of modern American political history.

But history and political memes did not beat Mitt Romney. The challenger and the Republican Party establishment lost this election. There were many mistakes, few of which could be acknowledged before and many of which will probably be rationalized now.  Nonetheless, there seem to have been four flaws in the campaign to unseat a mediocre man who should, by any measure of performance, have been beaten easily. Those flaws include, but, are not limited to; a shallow primary pool, defensive campaigning, race, and apathy.

Romney may not have been a good choice to begin with, but, he did win a primary fight if not hearts. Alas, a significant constituency on the Right still had reservations. Prior to the primaries, Mitt Romney was known as a successful father, husband, businessman, and governor. He was also pegged as a moderate.

And it was moderation, the need to be seen as a nice guy that may explain a defensive campaign where the incumbent managed to define the challenger. Obama made the menace of Romney the grand issue of 2012 – and it worked.

Obama successfully defined Romney as a selfish, avaricious Capitalist. True or not, the mud stuck. The Romney response to insult was defense and the answer on issues, especially foreign policy, was often “me too.” Unless you play like Notre Dame has this year, defense does not win the big games.

Take the economic malaise as an example. Barack cast Mitt as a job eliminator at home and a job exporter abroad. Romney was, in short, the Grinch who would throw American workers to the wolves; in contrast, Obama ran as the hero who saved 200,000 American jobs. The Republican response was lame and incoherent blather about the Chinese, “fairness,” or playing by the rules. A fact attack would have been more helpful.

The GM chairman has been touting China since the automotive bailout; bragging about what Detroit has done for China, the Chinese worker, and Chinese jobs. Indeed, since the bailout, GM has created five to ten times more jobs in China than may have been saved in the US.  None of this factual ammunition was used by Romney, nor were the available video clips of Dan Akerson celebrating the move of GM operations, including advanced research, from America to China.

At the eleventh hour Mister Romney’s domestic message was undone also by weather and, again, passivity. Katrina was famously politicized by Democrats and Media allies and used to beat George Bush to a pulp. Now comes hurricane Sandy and an erstwhile “ally,” Republican Governor Christy, embraces, literally hugs Obama as looters roam neighborhoods still without power or heat on a frosty  voting day. Mr. Christy’s timing and rapture were more than unfortunate. With friends such as those in New Jersey, Romney didn’t need many enemies. Politics is a game of flinches.

Race has always been the invisible elephant of Obama politics. Starting with his first campaign for president, Barack has played the race card like a violin. In front of white audiences, he’s the proud grandson of a white WWII veteran. Yet his demeanor with blacks is something else.

For twenty years or more, he sat in church and listened to the demagoguery of Jeremiah Wright, colleague to Louis Farrakhan, a virulent black racist. If Wright was right for so long, why is he persona non grata at the White house?

Obama has chosen to define himself as a black man, yet has done little to address, no less bridge, the racial divide that he personifies. Black voting statistics reinforce the hold that race has on the black community and other minorities. For Romney, race was an opportunity missed; an opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of American racial attitudes and exhibit courage on a sensitive issue. If Obama chose to define himself as white, given his record to date, he would be “one and done” today.

The reticence of politicians to be candid, about sensitive issues like race, speaks to the most powerful force in American politics; apathy. The challenger’s moderation may be a subtle variant of apathy. In private moments, Romney often exhibits moral courage. His commentary on growing American dependency is an example. Truth, as Harry Truman insisted, is often the best public argument too.

When politicians walk back a fact, however; voters get queasy. “Business as usual” is a message that Romney reinforced by not separating himself clearly from statist folly and the entitlements movement.

In sum, Mitt Romney may not be mean enough for the big leagues. American politics is a contact sport. In many ways, Obama and Romney are similar; each look the part, congenial family men; yet, both are in over their heads. One has a job beyond his abilities and the other is unable to get the job he wants.

There’s not much left to say except congratulations to Barack Obama for pulling another rabbit out of one of his many hats. Alas, the American political horizon is still obscured by smoke. The burn rather than turn crowd gets another four years; and America, like Europe, will continue to dance between inertia and fiscal Armageddon.

And good luck to Mister Romney in his next endeavor. He may want amend that Roman adage: “Moderation in all things.” Mitt might now say; moderation in all things – especially moderation.

Originally published at the American Thinker.

The Secret of Making a Living after Making Aliya

Monday, November 5th, 2012

A lot of people say they can’t come on aliyah because they don’t know how they will make a living. The issue of aliyah and livelihood is a legitimate concern. For instance, here’s an email I received from a potential oleh seeking advice:

“I am a professional film producer based in NY who is looking to make aliyah.  My only reservation in moving to Israel is the lack of a job.  How can someone like myself, who was very successful in the business, and never compromised his Yiddishkeit, make a living in Israel?  I am not looking to make millions, just a living wage to support a family of six.  Do you have any suggestions?”

This is what I answered:

I’m not up to date on the film business in Israel, so I can only share some general thoughts. The Zohar teaches that our forefather, Avraham, searched for the place in the world where he could get as close to God as possible. This burning desire of Avraham was the catalyst that brought God to command him, “Get thee forth to the Land that I will show you.” To truly get close to God, the Jewish People have to be in Israel, serving God as a Nation, and not as mere scattered individuals and communities in foreign gentile lands.

Rashi explains that the double language of the verse, “Lech lecha,” literally meaning, “Go, go for yourself,” was to reassure Avraham that the move was for his ultimate good, and that it would bring him and his descendants great spiritual and material blessing. After all, it is no small challenge and test of faith to give up your country of birth, social standing, and livelihood to move to another land. And indeed, at first, things did not go easily for Avraham. When he arrived in Israel, there was a famine in the land! But, eventually, Avraham became a very rich and famous man.

This uncertainty, challenge, and difficulty, is common to all olim. The word “Canaan,” as in the land of Canaan, also has the meaning of humbleness and poverty. The lowering of one’s status is part of the immigration process, helping to break impure traits of pride and ego which prevent a person from forming a deep connection to God. Aliyah means to go up, and therefore, the first and foremost goal of each new immigrant to Israel should be spiritual – to get closer to God. When a person holds fast to this goal, clinging to it at all times, even through periods of difficulty and change, God’s bountiful blessings flow in its wake.

In practical terms, when you first make aliyah, you indeed may not be able to make a living as a film producer. You may have to get to know the right people first, learn the language, etc. You may have to make videos of bar mitzvahs and weddings to have some income coming in before you make the bigger, professional films that you are accustomed to producing in NY. Personally, I’ve made some money making videos in Israel for organizations and the Department of Education, and I’ve taught screenwriting at a film school in Jerusalem. I have several friends from the U.S. who work in the film business here on a regular basis, and they seem to be supporting their families. Even so, it may turn out that you won’t be able to find a niche in the film industry in Israel, and you may have to change your profession.

But always remember, “Is God’s hand too short that He cannot provide for you and your family?” Just like He provided for us in the Wilderness, He provides for us still today, each person according to what is best for his needs. Keep saying to yourself, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” These reassuring words of King David should be your mantra during your planning stages and time of transition in Israel.

The main thing about your coming to Israel is not to make finding a job your Number One concern. Let me give two examples. A short time after I had made aliyah, I met an acquaintance from New York who had also recently moved to Israel, but who told me that he was going back to the States. When I asked him why, he explained that before he had moved to Israel, the Israel Aircraft Industries had promised him a more advanced job than his position in America. But when he arrived in the country, they could only give him the same level job he had in the past because of budget cuts. “Why should I stay here when I can get paid almost double in the States for doing the same job?” he told me.

The very next day, I met another friend from New York, who also informed me that he was returning to live in America. It turned out that his boss had been caught in an embezzlement scam and all the people he had hired were fired, including my friend. Even though my friend had been offered a very good job at another firm, he decided to pack his belongings and call it quits.

At the time, before I started studying in yeshiva, I was lodging in Jerusalem at the home of a saintly, 85 year old woman who was one of the secret Tzaddikim of the Holy City. I hadn’t come on aliyah with any savings, having blown my screenplay money on the vices of Hollywood, and this kind woman was happy to take me in as a non-paying boarder. When I asked her why God hadn’t worked things out for my two friends in a more successful fashion, especially since they had made the very idealistic move of immigrating to Israel, she answered: “They placed their careers over their love of the Land. A Jew has to set Jerusalem above his greatest joy. The Jewish People have been shedding their blood for the Land of Israel since the beginning of our history. The Land tests us when we come here. She makes things difficult at first to see if we really love her. Your two friends think that they are rejecting Israel, but Israel is really rejecting them.”

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, of blessed memory, explained this with a parable. He said it was like a girl who was set up on a shidduch with a guy whom she knew wasn’t for her. But she didn’t want to embarrass him. So she dressed up in dirty, smelly garments so that he would feel turned off. While he thought that he was rejecting her, in truth, she was rejecting him. So too, God, in His kindness, lets Jews who decide to leave Israel believe that they are rejected the Land, but it is really the Land that is rejecting them.

Surely, aliyah is the most difficult and challenging mitzvah – the true test of a Jew’s faith in God. But hundreds of thousands of new olim have made it, and so can you.

Hopefully, other readers will have even better words of advice.

May you remain strong in your holy decision, and may Hashem bless you and your family with success in the great adventure ahead.

Score! Susie Fishbein Strikes Again

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Your mother may have taught you how to separate an egg and how to dice a mango, but I am willing to bet your mother never taught you to spatchcock a chicken.

No, that is not a typographical error.

And no, your mother, like mine, was not being negligent in neglecting to teach you how to cut out the backbone of a chicken and press it flat in order to produce a crispy, delicious chicken in a record time amount of cooking time.

Chances are that spatchcocking was just one cooking technique that your mother, and mine, never learned from their own mothers.

But with the introduction of her eighth cookbook, Kosher By Design Cooking Coach, kitchen diva Susie Fishbein is about to change all that, with a stunning new volume designed to turn readers into culinary stars, by teaching techniques as basic as dicing salad ingredients and as unfamiliar as spatchcocking a chicken.

While Cooking Coach continues the now ten year old Kosher By Design brand with a mouth watering selection of 120 recipes that look so good that I am practically drooling as I write this article (Chocolate Peanut Butter Molten Cakes anyone?), what sets this cookbook apart from so many others is that it contains page after page of kitchen techniques, giving readers the opportunity to learn all the tricks of the trade. In fact, Fishbein herself has had no professional culinary training and she is hoping that this new book will give readers an understanding of cooking techniques and ingredients so that they can spread their own culinary wings and really fly on their own.

“If you can read, you can cook. Anyone can do this,” explained Fishbein. “My real job as a teacher is to free people from cookbooks, both mine and others, and inspire them with new ideas. By learning the proper cooking techniques, it frees you to use them how you want, with the foods and ingredients that you like.”

The idea for KBD Cooking Coach came to Fishbein while she was teaching new recipes in her cooking classes – what her students really wanted was to learn the basics.

“People loved the recipes that I demoed but it was the tips and techniques that went along with those recipes that they were really interested in,” recalled Fishbein. “I started thinking that maybe a ten year milestone was the right time to share this knowledge with the public.”

Dicing, mincing, making a chiffonade – Fishbein gives clear step by step illustrated instructions, as well as an overview of kitchen knives. No need to spend large sums on an endless array of knives when, according to Fishbein, just three well chosen knives – a chef’s knife, a serrated knife and a paring knife – will suffice. The book includes an illustrated guide to three different techniques for knife sharpening. Fishbein also offers practical guidance on buying pots, pans, baking equipment and kitchen appliances including food processors, blenders, mixers and immersion blenders.

Each chapter is preceded by a “Game Plan,” an informative prelude detailing fundamental cooking techniques, advice and other tidbits, designed to help the reader better understand their ingredients and hopefully hone their own cooking instincts. The chapter on meat contains not only a full guide to the different cuts of meat and the best cooking techniques for each cut, but also explains how to tell when meat is done, how to properly slice it and how to create grill marks on steaks and hamburgers. The fish section teaches readers how to tell if a fish is fresh, the advantages of fresh versus frozen and how to pin bone and skin a fish. The side dish chapter gives a quick primer on storing fresh produce as well as an introduction to chili peppers.

All of the above adds up to not only better kitchen skills, but some serious savings of both time and money on several different levels. Learn how to dice an onion properly (Fishbein admits to wearing goggles while performing this task in order to prevent tearing up) and you may be surprised how much easier and faster the job will go. Learn how to sweat vegetables for a soup and you will maximize their flavor, getting the most bang for your buck. Learn how to zest a lemon with a microplane and you will never overpay for dried (and less flavorful) lemon zest ever again. Learn the best place to store nuts (in the freezer) and your days of dealing with rancid (and extremely unappetizing, trust me on that one) nuts will finally be over.

Can Romney Win? A Tale of Three Maps

Monday, November 5th, 2012

I’m addicted to the website Real Clear Politics, like most political junkies, and these past few weeks I’ve increased my dose several times over. The last time I was this engaged in a presidential campaign was back in 2004, when, a couple of days before V-day the swing states, as if magically, lined up for Democratic candidate John Kerry. So I went with a Kerry prediction, which made me look like a total goat – in fact, a few loving readers, God bless their hearts, emailed me goat images for my personal amusement (and theirs).

I’m not doing that again. But I’ve been staring at the RCP maps for a whole lot of time and it looks like Obama has not been able to shake off the Romney hold, has not managed to break away from the tie. Today, 11/05/2012, Obama has 47.9% of the national vote, compared with Romney’s 47.4%. Yesterday – exactly the same numbers. Saturday, 11/03/2012, Obama 47.4%, Romney 47.2%. Romney’s numbers are tenacious, they’re not going to change come election day, in terms of the national vote. So, it comes down to the swing states’ vote.

Here’s the way the vote looks today in the states:

Clearly, neither candidate has been able to get even close to the needed 270 electoral votes. They’ve been stuck with these numbers since the debates, and the numbers show that the country, both on a national and on a state-by-state level, thinks both candidates are equally qualified for the job. That, by itself, is a big advantage for Romney. But it doesn’t seem to be enough to get him through the finish line. In fact, judging by the 2004 election, the close vote goes to the incumbent.

This is the map of the Tuesday, 11/6/2012 vote, if every swing state where Obama is leading goes to him, and every Romney-leaning state goes to Romney.

Obama wins handily. It’ll be far from a landslide, but a win is a win is win, and President Barack Obama will have received a mandate from the nation to carry out his agenda for four more years.

What options are open to Romney?

There’s one blue state in which the Obama lead is around half a percentage point, which means he has no lead at all. That’s Colorado. On the unhappy map above it shows blue, but, in reality, it could just as well be showing red. Romney can take Colorado, it’s a realistic expectation.

Colorado delivers 9 electoral votes. If Romney wins, his tally goes up to 257, Obama’s goes down to 281. That’s not enough, obviously.

Which brings us back to the ancient truism about Republican candidates after WW2 having to win Ohio. Take a look at the map – Ohio brings 18 seats. With all other states staying as they are, a red Ohio takes Romney/Ryan to the White House.

What are Romeny’s chances of winning Ohio? Surprisingly good. The RCP average gives Ohio to Obama right now at 2.9% advantage over Romney (49.4% – 46.5%). That’s just outside the margin of error, which means, with a lot of help from the weather, a get-out-the-vote infrastructure, the governor (Republican) and the secretary of state (Republican), and many local events – Ohio could just as easily go red as it could go blue.

Come back to the Jewish Press website election night, we’re planning to open a live chat forum for pundits and readers, yapping about the one thing about which we can no longer do anything…

By the way, the Redskins have lost their most recent game, which is one of the signs that the incumbent in Washington loses. See? We’re very scientific over here, at the Jewish Press online.

Why Some US Jews Don’t Get Israel

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Part of my job — not my paying job, the one I do for the sake of shamayim — is to talk to my Jewish friends and try to explain why the existence of a Jewish state is essential for all Jews, wherever they live, why a good relationship with the US is essential for Israel, and why the support of American Jews is in turn essential for such a relationship.

I meet a lot of resistance, which is unsurprising when you consider that if you leave aside Arabs and other Muslims, the worldwide movement to end the Jewish state is disproportionately led by people of Jewish descent. Here are some of the reasons it can be tough to be a Zionist in America:

The politicization of Israel

My job recently got a lot harder because of the introduction of Israel as an issue in Republican-Democratic politics. President Obama (for multiple reasons that I won’t go into here but have written about at length) is no friend of Israel. His administration and informal advisers also lean toward anti-Zionism, some of them pretty sharply.

The Republicans have noticed this, and have made a pitch for Jewish votes. So now, any discussion about Israel becomes a discussion about Obama vs. Romney.

That is very unfortunate, because Jews are still overwhelmingly liberals, and criticism of Obama’s attitude and policy toward Israel is understood as “Republican propaganda.” Many liberal Jews seem to think that ‘Republican’ means ‘right-wing’ means ‘fascist’ means ‘Nazi’. Even if they don’t go that far, some of the social and economic positions of today’s Republican party are anathema to liberals.

The universities

The difficulty is even greater with academics or those who would call themselves ‘progressives’, to distinguish themselves from mere liberals. In their case I need to overcome the post-colonialist worldview, in which Israel is treated as a Western colonial power, oppressing the third-world Palestinians. This makes Israel the bad guy from the beginning, and excuses almost any degree of Arab violence as “resistance to oppression.”

Many Jews have university degrees, which means that they have been exposed to this ideology during their intellectually formative years. Since the 1960′s, the concept of academic freedom has come to mean permissiveness toward political activism, even radical activism, in the classroom.

Media bias

Liberal media, like the New York Times, MSNBC, NPR, the Huffington Post, etc. almost invariably slant their reporting in an anti-Israel direction. Progressive media, like Pacifica Radio, simply present the Arab or Iranian line, repeating accusations of Israeli wrongdoing as fact and ignoring or whitewashing violence against Israelis. If you watch or listen to this stuff all day, it sinks in.

The effect of the media is amplified by the ‘information bubble’ phenomenon: because it simply feels good to have one’s opinions confirmed, people seek out media that confirm their opinions. So liberals listen to NPR and conservatives to Fox News. They choose friends with like ideas for political conversations. Living in an ideological information bubble reinforces their views. It’s a positive feedback loop.

The human brain

Jonathan Haidt, in his excellent book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, explains some of the reasons why it is so hard to change a person’s mind about ideological issues. One is that political opinions stem from moral intuitions that are primarily emotion-based, not the result of rational argument. These emotion-based moral intuitions happen immediately upon perception; only later does a person come up with arguments to justify his belief. Reasoned arguments work against other arguments, but don’t touch the underlying intuitions.

Haidt uses an analogy of a rational rider on an emotional elephant. The rider can try to influence the elephant, but mostly he comes up with reasons to explain the direction the elephant chooses to go.

Checkpoints American Style

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Here are U.S. soldiers and Afghan policemen conducting Operation Clean Sweep in Kandahar City in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, Oct. 3, 2012.

It’s the only surefire method against a relentless army of terrorists who come in looking a whole lot like innocent civilians and end up blowing up people and things.

You have to stop every car, including this magnificent three-wheeler masquerading as some kind of exotic shrine. You have to question, you have to search, you have to examine papers. It’s a nasty chore, which victimizes the majority of the folks who do not make it a habit to blow up people and things.

There’s no other certain way to stop terrorists. It’s always civilian inconvenience on one side, versus civilian death and mayhem on the other side.

IDF soldiers have been doing it for decades, with increasing efficiency. The Arab civilians they search are rightfully angry. It’s no fun to be checked thoroughly by soldiers on the way to and from work, the supermarket, a soccer game, a night out with friends. But there’s no way to make it easier. Making it easier means someone will be killed on the other side. Not as a possibility, but as a certainty.

The U.S. soldiers are doing as good a job in Afghanistan, checking the irate civilians, as do the IDF soldiers. But there’s a huge difference on one count: come 2014, the Americans will go home, leaving the Afghanis to do the job.

It was amazing to watch Vice President Joe Biden actually saying that our soldiers will be ably replaced by the Afghani soldiers they trained. He said it without cracking one of those huge, toothy smiles he’d been flashing all night. He said it like it was a truth.

It’s not, of course. Some Afghani soldiers will probably try to keep it up for a few months, but soon enough the balance of political power will shift and they’ll sell their uniform to the nearest used military supply store, along with their government issue weapon and go home. And bombs will start blowing up people and things as they have done before, as they do everywhere else in the Muslim world, where madness is being celebrated as a form of religious devotion.

Over in Israel, IDF men and women will just keep perfecting the job they’re doing searching for mad Arabs with blood lust in their hearts. Because, unlike those fine U.S. soldiers, our IDF checkpoint attendants have nowhere else to go.

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