Religion & Beliefs

Get a job!

Before I worked for Hillel (the organization for Jewish campus life), I didn't really feel like I "belonged" in the Jewish world.  I knew I was Jewish, but I didn't know if other people accepted me as such.  Or how … Read More

By / November 22, 2006
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Before I worked for Hillel (the organization for Jewish campus life), I didn't really feel like I "belonged" in the Jewish world.  I knew I was Jewish, but I didn't know if other people accepted me as such.  Or how I fit into "the community."  I was an outsider.

And while my job with Hillel was not without its problems, and I eventually left, those years changed my role in the Jewish community for good… for the better.    My "official" role made up for the insecurities I felt over my lack of knowledge, conviction, shared politics, shared aesthetics,  a Jewish mother, etc.  All the things that made me feel like I wasn't a "real" Jew… which is a silly reflex, but one that I know a lot of people share (not everyone, of course, but more than you might imagine).

So why did my being a "professional Jew" make a difference? Think about it like this…

When you're invited to a party where you don't quite feel at home (maybe it's a group of new friends or co-workers, or maybe everyone has more money than you… or it's a new town) you change your clothes 18 times beforehand, worry about what to say, wonder if you should bring the host flowers, etc. 

But if that same host says to you when you get to the party, "I was wondering if you'd help man the grill… those steaks we had at your house were so good!" and sticks a spatula in your hand… your role is clearly defined, and you belong there.  In no time at all, you're laughing, tossing back a few beers, entertaining compliments on the chicken being "just right."

Because there is something about knowing what your role is… something about having a job to do… that changes the way we feel.  And as a "Jewish professional/ professional Jew" a person gets to feel that even if there's a lot they don't know… they're working hard, earning their keep, and learning all the time.  They get to have that amazing communal experience of bitching with co-workers, resenting the boss, going out for drinks after work.

Which makes those same people who might have judged us (or who we thought might have judged us) into our peers. Despite any other differences.  (If you've ever waited tables, you know what I mean– the 16 year old busboy and the med student waitress may not have anything else in common, but they can laugh about the shitty manager together when the day is done).

So my "practical advice" for the day?  GET A JOB!  Consider taking on a more official role within the larger Jewish world.  There are all kinds of amazing Jewish jobs, something for everyoneart enthusiasts, grant writers, social workers, party planners, and people who like to hike.  There are huge support systems to help you find this kind of work, and the benefits are generally really great!

Plus, you'll get to learn a lot as you go, and you might find you have more shared aesthetics, convinctions, politics than you thought. You might discover you've made some wrong assumptions.  You might learn more about yourself, and more about Judaism, in ways you'll like.

Added perk– you get off work for all kinds of holidays you didn't even know existed!