There is an old saying, “two Jews, three views.” We Jews are a contentious bunch. We can even find someone to argue with in an empty room.
Thus, the old gag about the Jew who was discovered after years of living alone on a desert island. His rescuers asked him why he had built two separate huts aside from the one in which he lived and he responded one in which to pray and the other into which he would never set foot, he explained.
This skill has enabled so many of us, over the years, to turn to law as a way of making a living. Arguing, dissecting information and problem solving is something that comes naturally.
This is why it’s not surprising that until recently, Israel had the highest number of lawyers per capita in the world one in every 114 people.
Me, I went in the other direction after arriving here as a lawyer. Despite the endless studying, numerous exams and huge expenses, my legal career was cut dead.
Like so many new olim, I couldn’t continue along the career path which I’d chosen all those years ago. I needed to find a new career.
According to the Rashi Foundation, “unfamiliarity with the local job market, lack of social-professional networking, cultural gaps and the language barrier,” are the main reasons why almost a third of new, highly-qualified immigrants leave the country within three years.
Sadly, Israel suffers when things don’t work out, career-wise, for these new immigrants as their precious brain gain is lost.
Nefesh B’Nefesh is an organization that helps and guides people through their aliyah journey. Not only do they advise new immigrants on their rights and benefits, they also help them to find the right community and most importantly, the right job.
Their help was invaluable for Joseph Zitt, a video editor and technical writer in the United States. He began his new life here answering the phone in a hotel for several months, “until a job in my field found me, via Nefesh B’Nefesh,” he said.
Joseph was one of the lucky ones, as he was able to continue working in his chosen field.
More often, the fresh start that inevitably comes with making aliyah, includes a new career.
A new country, a new career
Chaiya Rivka Channah Monas is one such person. Having made aliyah three years ago from Canada, where she worked as an administrative assistant, she was forced to change her career when she moved here.
The language barrier, a problem for so many of us, restricted her options significantly. After an initial period in which she found herself, “flailing along without any experience or skills,” she took the plunge and began teaching English to both adults and children on a one-on-one basis.
To her surprise, she found that it was something she was, actually very good at doing. She now takes great satisfaction from the blessing of her new work.
Jeremy Lerman, a former magazine and newspaper photographer in the UK has always been open-minded, especially when it comes to his career. He lives by the mantra, “we never stop learning new things as long as we can adapt to this constantly changing country.”
When Jeremy first made aliyah, in 1983, he started out teaching youth leaders how to understand the mass media and its anti-Israel propaganda production machine. Thereafter, he embarked on a successful career in technical writing, while nurturing his love of photography on the side by photographing boutique weddings and events whenever possible.
Many others have also survived by adapting.
Beverley Marks Booker, a mobile hairdresser for 30 years in Britain, came here with limited Hebrew and a love of cooking. Consequently, she’s been working as a hotel cook for the past 11 years.
As I mentioned, my own circumstances forced me to reevaluate my career as a new immigrant. Having given up law, I scratched around for a couple of years, looking for something to fill my time – and my pocket.
Quite out of the blue, my daughter’s friend’s mum, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, asked me to look over some of her articles and lectures written in English. I readily agreed. Soon enough, all her colleagues were asking me to do the same for them. I set up a little business editing academic papers from my lounge table.
Then I dabbled in writing. Facebook posts at first, which seemed to go down well. Having got a taste for it, I started writing more. To my astonishment, I found that I really enjoyed it.
As time went on, I started to take it more seriously, writing regular blogs and articles for various publications. I was pushy. No doubt that helped. I had no choice really if I wanted to get anywhere and, quite frankly, I had nothing to lose. I now have two weekly columns, this being one.
Making aliyah brought with it a fresh start, which included a career change. But this is what many of us here have come to expect.
As Mo Jo neatly put it, that’s just Israeli life: five times as many things as we did elsewhere, earning half as much, paying twice as much in taxes, waiting three times as long in the post office, living in space at least half as small as where we used to and five times as happy.
The writer is a former lawyer from Manchester, England. She now lives in Netanya, where she spends most of her time writing and enjoying her new life in Israel.