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December 6, 2016 / 6 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘job’

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.

Vic Rosenthal

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.

Yori Yanover

Young New York Jews Gear Up for Aliyah Conference

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

In an effort to nudge New York Jewish students and young professionals considering aliyah to take the plunge, Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency for Israel will be hosting a special conference at the UJA-Federation of new York in Manhattan on October 21.

The event will feature workshops on getting jobs and higher education in Israel, serving in the army, and other topics, and will include an Israel Fair where job hunters and potential job employers from Israel can meet.  A special workshop will also be included for medical doctors.

A special webinar emphasizing Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Go North program will also highlight the benefits of living in Israel’s Galil and Golan regions.

Two free tickts to Israel will be raffled off, and a Tweetup on Twitter can be followed at #thinkIsrael.

Malkah Fleisher

Davening with Baby

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Some 21 years ago I had the honor of being the stay-at-home father, while Nancy was the one with the grownup job that required leaving the house every morning and going to a remote work area that involved other people. With nothing to do but my weekly columns and phone interviews, I was the obvious parenting choice.

So I developed many different activities a father can do with a small child. I learned that a small child can be used as a dumbbell, both for leg and arm lifts. In fact, the older the child becomes, the better shape the father should get into, until she is too heavy for leg lifts (and starts attending school regularly).

I also acquired many skills which never again served me in life, most notably the skill of holding the baby in one arm, opening the fridge, grabbing a bottle, twisting it off with your teeth, holding the bottle between your chin and your neck while filling it up with milk.

I’ve seen some mothers perform these tricks giving the impression they possessed four and five arms. I could do three, max.

Here’s a guy at the Kotel, davening with his little baby on Sukkot. You can tell it’s Sukkot from the guy with the lulav in the back. You can tell the proud father is a Lubavitcher from his siddur (prayer book).

On Sukkot we are mesmerized by the fragrance of the etrog and the haddassim. But I’ll bet you this father is too preoccupied taking in the fresh baby smell… I know I would be.

The picture was taken during the priestly blessing, which is another thing fathers get to do with their children.

Our daughter is in America these days, and so I give her the priestly blessing over Skype. You do what you can.

Chag Same’ach.

Yori Yanover

U.S. Graduates Seek Work in Israel

Monday, September 24th, 2012

When Joanna Lieberman was preparing for graduation from Cornell University five years ago, her career options were unsettling. Dreaming of a job in the hospitality industry but lacking a degree in the field, she realized she needed hands-on work experience before pursuing a full-time position. Lieberman, along with thousands of other American college graduates, turned to Israel’s growing employment market for an answer.

“People are realizing the opportunities in Israel to get hands-on career experience in industries that are doing cutting-edge work,” she said. “Israel is known for its booming tourism industry and it seemed like the perfect place for me to test out working in the field.”

Lieberman’s hands-on work experience came from working with Career Israel, Masa Israel Journey’s five-month professional internship program that allows college graduates to explore their fields of interest. In addition to a life spent embracing her Jewish heritage, she points to her involvement with Israel-on-campus activities as a driving factor behind moving to Israel after she graduated. Participating in her Hillel’s Israel activities, she said, kept her feeling connected to the country.

Lieberman’s story is far from uncommon; since 2008, more than 2,600 graduates have taken internship positions in Israel with Masa Israel’s rapidly growing program. It’s no surprise that students are looking to Israel for career opportunities, in light of the ongoing weak domestic job market in the US. A recent Associated Press report found that more than half of America’s recent college graduates are unemployed or working in jobs that do not use their skills.

“As students and recent graduates continue to face a difficult job market, they are looking for ways to continue developing their career and also to stand out,” Masa Israel Director of Communications Miranda Bogen said. “Coming to Israel on internship and even volunteer programs offers them international professional experiences that are usually much more substantial than entry-level positions in the US.”

Between the underwhelming number of job opportunities at home and a love for Israel, the decision to work in Israel has been easy for some recent college graduates, including University of Florida graduate Robert Yanks.

Yanks was bitten by the Israel bug after he went on a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip organized by his school’s Hillel. Being surrounded by his classmates in Israel not only solidified his love for the country, but also landed him a job offer in Israel. A friend Yanks met on Birthright put him in contact with internet-startup company Moolta, and soon after he was hired as its regional marketing director.

“I wanted to choose a job in Israel to experience a different way of living and to travel before life became too hectic,” he said. “I think it’s amazing what the country has accomplished; it’s almost a miracle in the middle of a desert. Just being able to support the country by living here may have made my decision to come a little easier.”

Yanks is three months deep into his Israel stay and will return to the U.S. in November to launch domestic marketing initiatives for the company. He says his work in Israel has broadened his professional knowledge while simultaneously allowing him a living experience unlike any other.

“There’s a different feeling here unlike any other country I’ve been to and that’s what makes Israel so appealing to the American student,” Yanks said. “I think the main reason why students take jobs in Israel after college is because it’s so easy to fall in love with the country and its people. Life moves at a different pace here. People of Israel know how to truly appreciate everything around them, and they all realize that nothing is simply given.”

Unlike Yanks, who realized his interest in Israel toward the end of college, Illinois State University graduate Tess Sevelow-Lee made her Israel decision early on during her extensive Israel-on-campus involvement.

An active StandWithUs campus leader, Sevelow-Lee spent her college career creating and distributing an ‘Israel 101’ presentation which teachers and faculty used to introduce Israel to Jewish and non-Jewish students.

“My involvement in college was the catalyst for my move,” she said. “I realized that while I was in the States, just talking about my love for this country wasn’t enough, I needed to be here.”

Jamie Sloane, Israel Campus Beat

Parshat Nitzavim

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Colin Powell, despite reaching the pinnacle of power, has never forgotten his simple roots in the Bronx. This proud connection to his past manifests itself in many ways, ranging from his work ethic to his love of hotdogs. It also manifests itself in his appreciation of what the “regular guy” brings to the table in every organization. All too often people focus on the leaders and big players who are on everybody’s radar. But in a certain sense, it is the people in the trenches—the ones nobody knows—who are the real heroes; the people who really drive society forward.

One of the responsibilities of a leader is to articulate a vision and sense of purpose for the organization. This includes ensuring that every member of the organization understands the vision, buys into the vision, and appreciates his personal role in actualizing the vision. To illustrate this point Powell relates an interesting anecdote in his new book, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership (2012). He was once watching a documentary about the Empire State Building. Most of the documentary focused on the building’s history, architecture and construction. But towards the end the camera showed a large room filled with hundreds of filled and tied black garbage bags. Deep beneath the powerful offices, majestic lobbies and observation deck was the trash room. Although it was obvious what the room’s function was and what the jobs of the men working there were the narrator nonetheless asked one of the workers, “What’s your job?” The man looked back, smiled and said, “Our job is to make sure that tomorrow morning when people from all over the world come to this wonderful building, it shines, it is clean, and it looks great” (p.24). Powell explains that this man got it. He was not merely a custodian. He was a key cast member of the Empire State Building.

I always wonder when I read stories like this if the writer truly believes what he’s writing or is just writing what he thinks sounds good. However, in this particular case Divine providence provided me an answer. The week before I read this book I had visited a private school in Manhattan to discuss curriculum issues. Amid our discussion the headmaster related that his daughter worked for the State Department; she had been initially hired by Colin Powell who was then secretary of state. Though she was a Democrat and Powell a republican there were a number of things that convinced her to take the job; what clinched it however, was this: at the conclusion of the interview, Powell showed her around the Department of State. Entering a hallway, they encountered one of the custodians cleaning the floor. Powell stopped, and addressing him by name asked how he was doing and how his wife’s doctor’s visit had gone. The man responded in kind. She saw how Powell genuinely cared about this person and viewed him as a valued player in the State Department. The headmaster told me that his daughter decided right there that Powell was the kind of person she wanted to work with.

The necessity for leaders to articulate a clear vision, explain it to the masses and inspire them to believe that they all have a role in its realization is underscored by the Torah at the beginning of this week’s Parsha. The Torah describes (29:9-11) how all of Bnei Yisrael were assembled in front of G-d to make a covenant with Him. The assemblage included the chieftains, constables, children, women, and converts – the full strata of Israelite society, from its leadership to its physical laborers. Nobody was excluded. The commentators discuss the Torah’s careful delineation of all the different categories of people present that day.

The Alshich comments that the Torah wanted to emphasize that in truth it is impossible to determine who is more important than whom. While it may seem evident to our earthly senses that person A is more distinguished and honorable than person B, the Heavenly perspective might be very different. The person who seems honorable to us might in fact have played a less significant role in the progress of history than the person who seems simpler. When Moshe assembled all of Bnei Yisrael that day as one group, people realized that they would each be accorded equal respect and attention.

Rabbi David Hertzberg

Learning As I Teach

Friday, August 31st, 2012

This was my first teaching job. I was standing in front of a classroom of eighteen delightful third graders. I had tutored and taught small groups of children over the years but this was my very own class. I could barely believe it. I was all of nineteen years old and I was so nervous. My stomach hurt and I hardly slept the night before the start of the school year. Eighteen pairs of sweet, adorable eyes followed my every move, every day.

I had spent the past two weeks decorating my classroom. Creating a bulletin board that would be exciting and interesting, yet clear and informative. It was bright and colorful but defined and organized. I wanted my students to understand my routines, yet be curious to find out more of what I had in store for them.

I prepared and worked hard on my lessons. I taught with enthusiasm and energy. I brought in visual aids and props galore. I acted out stories in an intense and dramatic way that surprised even me. I captured my students’ attention and piqued their interest in learning. I honed in on their skills and challenged them in new ways. I built their confidence and motivated them to want to learn more.

But like every new teacher, no matter how much I prepared I still had loads to learn. And my students taught me. I remember the first time I announced, “Everyone, please hand in your homework from yesterday,” and eighteen worksheet papers went flying in my direction. Many of them falling slowly to the floor and bedlam ensued. The next day, I instituted the “Homework Collection” system which worked wonders.

Well, there I was, deep into a Chumash lesson, sing-songing the pesukim and translating word for word, adding my creative hand motions that connected to each word and hanging up sentence strips on the bulletin board; when I learned yet another valuable lesson from my students.

Tami G. was a tall third grader. She was only nine years old but she reached my shoulders and maybe a bit higher. She was almost double the height of some of the children in my class. Tami was the type of girl who had an easygoing smile and was happy to go along with whatever the class was doing. Her notebooks, loose-leaf binder, papers, and pencil case were always shoved into her desk and something, inevitably, was always poking out in a haphazard way. She was still able to find whatever she needed and as long as she was okay with it, I didn’t mind either. Naturally, as the tallest in the class, Tami sat in the back of the room. She had an extra tall chair and desk. Her legs were almost always restlessly moving trying to find a comfortable spot. She was involved in the class lessons and always had great comments to share.

As I said, there I was, in the midst of my captivating and well cultivated lesson when Tami moved her feet a bit in the wrong direction bumping her desk. Her whole desk knocked over and fell forward toward her. She caught the desk before it crashed to the floor but everything inside of it came tumbling out. Everything. And of course, her pencil case wasn’t zipped – so there was a nice mess on the floor and whole lot of noise. All eyes turned toward Tami. The room was silent.

There went my lesson.

Tami with her half-smile, hand raised, called out, “Clean Up in Aisle 4!”

And I burst out laughing.

Tami’s smile stretched further and happily joined mine, laughing. My class was pleasantly surprised to see their teacher laughing and started giggling, then laughing along with me.

That’s when I learned my favorite lesson of all. I realized that it is wonderful to find little moments of good, healthy, wholesome laughter. It puts a whole different spin in the classroom atmosphere and sprinkles the air with such a special happiness. It is a marvelous way to show that we enjoy learning and life.

Over the past number of years teaching, I learned so many lessons from my students but this one I treasure most. And I have found incredible, exciting opportunities to smile and laugh together with my students and it brightens the whole classroom.

Dina Bacharach

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/back-to-school/learning-as-i-teach/2012/08/31/

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