Arye Nizevich: In New York I saw a Jew in traditional dress selling pizza, and a foreman with side-locks and a hardhat “praising” a lazy worker in Yiddish.
There is a popular stereotype that Jews who observe the commandments of the Torah are so burdened by them that they do not have time to realize themselves in the secular environment.
Another common delusion is that the very concept of “religion” and “spirituality” are so alien to “worldly” processes that people who identify themselves as religious cannot enter the abyss of sin that is the world for moral reasons. If all of this were indisputable truth, it would be unclear how the Jewish people have existed for millennia of exile, surviving crises and wars, rises and falls, empires and regimes.
Perhaps we should start with the fact that the main idea of the Torah is that the Jewish people receive physical tools from the Creator to combine two concepts that are contradictory by their essence – the spiritual and the material. We are charged with the duty of taking the divine to a place where it is not evident. In our holy Torah there are two words which can be translated as work – the word “avoda” and the word “esek”. “Avoda”, according to scholars, means a prayer, a regular spiritual burden in the name of the Creator, while “esek” means a trade, a business process, an action that brings material gain.
I am a practicing Jew, and in my opinion we should occupy an active position in life, and have or acquire new worldly occupations in order to create a worthy material vessel for the blessing of the Almighty. Everyone chooses their own level of effort in creating this vessel. Of course, it is important not to forget that working for the Creator is the primary task, and that in the end He is the only employer and source of income.
It would be unjust and incorrect to say that a practicing Jew has more difficulty in finding work in Ukraine than a Jew who has not yet taken the path of observing the Torah and the commandments, or than a member of any other ethnic group. It all depends on the specific person, the level of their education, their skills and abilities.
Then you must correctly formulate your personal goal. What is most important? Do we work to the detriment of our level of observance, or for good? Both paths are realistic.
Just like looking for work, in realizing this goal the main thing is motivation. I have personal experience of over 15 years of working in commercial structures of Ukraine, and I already led a religious way of life. This did not at all conflict with my efficiency.
It was stimulating for me to visit one of the Orthodox districts of New York, Williamsburg, where around 130,000 Jews live. There I saw a Jew in traditional costume selling pizzas to another Jew, and you can also see them in offices, and one foreman in fore-locks and a hardhat “praises” a lazy worker in Yiddish. And I’m sure that each one of them finds the time for all of their religious obligations. This is a clear illustration that you can find a place for yourself in different spheres, if you so desire.
Today on the labor market of Ukraine, traditional religious professions can be realized. Such as a soifer, a calligrapher and scribe of canonical texts, a mashgiach, a specialist on techniques of preparing kosher food, and teachers and tutors of the Torah and Hasidut. Today, thanks to our resource Jewspace.org, I can see that our compatriots are also finding jobs in the secular sphere.
There are successful cases of finding jobs as bank clerks, designers, translators, sales managers and so on. Some organize their own business or manufacture. Among our partner companies and employers are PrivatBank, a chain of pharmacies, gymnasiums, law firms and many others. Everyone finds it interesting to work with us, and according to the conditions of the resource, they all give workers the right to observe Shabbat and Jewish calendar holidays.
I always say that a Jewish worker is a person who, as well as having the classical set of qualities such as a sharp wit, business sense, excellent communication skills, the skill of quickly finding their bearings in unusual situations and being an excellent crisis micro-manager, also has certain moral standards. Each person has their own norm. For a Jew, the norm is to be a good family person, to be scrupulous and thorough in everything that concerns their affairs, to be economical and sympathetic. They also require this from others.
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