Workers’ challenges — past and present

Jessica Ravitz speaks for the “voice of Jewish communal workers past” by explaining why half of us leave jobs within the first five years. But what of the others— those who’ve stayed for upwards of 10 years?

Sadly, we’ve experienced similar challenges to those described in her Oct. 1 column, including:

• Low salaries (some of us stayed home during the High Holy Days because we

couldn’t afford tickets at synagogues where we work, and many can’t afford to send children to Jewish schools because most don’t offer discounts for Jewish communal professionals, a regular practice elsewhere).

• Disrespect (although we’re experts in our fields, few have ever been asked to serve on the boards of directors of Jewish agencies).

• Scant professional development opportunities (although the community has provided financial resources for lay leaders to continue participating in the Wexner Heritage program, those same resources haven’t been provided for professionals).

• Lack of boundaries (one colleague was constantly told by her boss she should hurry up and fulfill the commandment to be fruitful and multiply — and many of us have attended shul on Shabbat only to be accosted by someone who says, “I know it’s Shabbat but…” and then proceeds to talk shop).

Name withheld, upon request, by j. | San Francisco

Same experience

Well said, Jessica, in your Oct. 1 column, “Why we left the jobs we couldn’t wait to have.” I only wish the people who should get the message would understand it. 

I’ve never been a professional Jew but I’ve done a lot of volunteer work for the Jewish community in my time. My experience has been the same — one has to field complaints a lot more often than enjoy appreciative comments. 

I spent nine years on the executive board of a synagogue, and learned for the most part that the motivation has to be personal and not at all dependent on positive feedback.

I presently volunteer as a karate instructor for Jewish teens in Palo Alto, and get much pleasure from helping them decide to change their lives to reflect who they can be if they want to. 

There should probably be a support group for all the burned-out former employees of Jewish organizations, but that would likely be viewed as a shanda, too. 

Des Tuck | Palo Alto

An echo

Congratulations to Jessica Ravitz on her Jewish communal column Oct. 1 (“Why we left the jobs we couldn’t wait to have”). She speaks for me as well. The shanda is that from the forefront of the labor movement we have come to this.

Evelyn Adler | San Francisco

A human face

I read and admired Jessica Ravitz’s Oct. 1 column, “Why we left the jobs we couldn’t wait to have.” It is an excellent piece and puts a human face on the case we attempted to build in the study for the institute to which she made reference.

One of our motives for doing the study was to give voice to the problem by focusing on the shameful dearth of adequate professional development programs and opportunities.  

In fact, other readers of the study should also share their stories — as you have done in j. — and encourage others to do so to try and awaken the organized Jewish community. Soon, none of the best and brightest will want to do this communal work anymore. 

Stephen Dobbs | San Francisco

No surprise

Jessica Ravitz’s Oct. 1 column (“Why we left the jobs we couldn’t wait to have”) hit a nerve, as it should. The stories and comments relayed by Ravitz and confirmed by Gary Tobin’s recent study do not surprise me.

The good news is that the Bureau of Jewish Education created a fellowship that has demonstrated considerable success in supporting retention of young Jewish professionals through high quality professional development, mentoring and coaching. Funded by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the ti-ke-a fellowship worked intensively with young Jewish professionals working with Jewish teens across a wide range of institutions. Of the 28 fellows served, 27 continue to serve the Jewish community.

The BJE is seeking to secure funds to create a fellowship for young Jewish professionals working with any age group in a wide range of institutions. Our community has invested significantly to support the development of our lay leaders. We look forward to working to support the development of professional leadership, with whom lay leaders will partner, to ensure the continuity of our vibrant Jewish community.

Toby Rubin | San Francisco
director, ti-ke-a
Bureau of Jewish Education

It resonates

Everything Jessica Ravitz said in her Oct. 1 column resonates with me — she put the truth out there, bluntly and to the point but not in a way that could not be heard because of shrillness.

She crafted an attention-getting piece. I’ve no idea how many others have written, either in praise or condemnation, but I say she did a perfect job of explaining why people feel taken advantage of, as she rightly expresses.

I wish there were an answer, because the personality types she described are the ones with the power to change their attitudes but aren’t likely to do so.

Yet Ravitz should not despair if there aren’t instant results — thinking, conscience-bearing people will take it to heart. Results will come, to one degree or another.

Thank you, Jessica Ravitz, for a powerful, well-written statement that needed to be made to the Jewish community at large.

David Efron | Oakland

‘Not buying distortions’

Shel Haas of New Jersey, in an Oct. 8 letter, wrote that “Sen. Kerry has denounced the overthrow of Saddam Hussein” and urged “Jews to vote for Bush.”

I don’t know what they tell people in New Jersey, but here in California we know Kerry has never denounced the overthrow of Saddam. We have become accustomed to distortions originated by the Bush administration.

Kerry’s voting record also demonstrates he is a long-time friend of Israel. So we aren’t buying the administration’s distortions.

Stewart Weinberg | Berkeley

‘Provocative, insightful’

I enjoyed reading the provocative and insightful Oct. 8 j. cover story about mixed-race Jewish kids, “All in the family.” It really hit home. Our daughter Hannah, who is of Ashkenaz and Japanese heritage, currently is a very enthusiastic and content attendee of the ECE preschool program at the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael.

I did have one question, though; the story repeatedly referred to kids “of color.” Do we all not have some color — white, black, yellow, red, pink, etc?

Michael Levenson | San Anselmo

A positive experience

We read with interest your Oct. 8 cover story, “All in the family,” concerning interracial adoption in the Jewish community. We felt it disproportionately focused on problems and difficulties.

Having a child from a different culture and/or race presents challenges, but raising any child is a daunting task. Contrary to the picture your article presented, our experience with our Guatemalan daughter has been wonderfully positive.

On the Shabbat before we traveled to bring our daughter home, we were given our congregation’s blessings and best wishes. Our experiences — at our synagogue Temple Beth Jacob, at Congregation Kol Emeth where we attend family programs, at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, at Star of David programs — have been uniformly inclusive and welcoming. The Jewish communities even in our non-diverse hometowns are also extremely positive.

Adopting a child, just as having a biological child, necessitates great planning and thoughtfulness. There are excellent books and articles to help anyone considering interracial adoption. We hope your readers will explore them.

Patricia Miler and Jerry Brodkey | Los Altos

‘A logical fallacy’

Your Oct. 8 editorial (“The Presbyterian Church blows it”) castigates the Presbyterians for having bought into the lie that Israel harbors permanent colonial designs on the territories, and laments that the rest of the world seems to think so, too. You cite as proof that the majority of Israelis favor evacuating settlements.

Conflating the majority of Israelis and Israel, which is short for the government of Israel, is a logical fallacy.

Ariel Sharon, before becoming prime minister in 2001, consistently said publicly that he was in favor of a Palestinian state on 40 percent of the West Bank and Gaza. His closest advisor, Dov Weisglas, stated last week that the Gaza disengagement is intended as the end of the peace process.

One third of Israel’s cabinet is on record as favoring annexation of all the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli settlements now sit on about 40 percent of the West Bank.

There has never been the slightest indication of willingness on the part of the Sharon government to evacuate settlements in the West Bank — ergo, 40 percent for Israel. Sharon may have altered his percentages but not his intentions. J. needs to learn up.

Marcia Freedman | Berkeley
president, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom

letters policy

j. the Jewish news weekly welcomes letters to the editor, preferably typewritten. Letters must not exceed 200 words and must be dated and signed with current address and daytime telephone number. j. also reserves the right to edit letters. The deadline is noon Monday for any given week’s publication. Letters should be sent by e-mail to [email protected] or by mail to j., 225 Bush St., Suite 1480, San Francisco, CA 94104.