01 June 2006

"Charity Begins at Home"

As with many other areas in the non-profit arena, Jewish educators suffer from lack of funding. Everything seems to be rejected on one simple word: "budget". All year, I have heard this word bantered about, especially when the topic of promoting me has come up.

Our Jewish Federation is well-funded, yet seem to have their priorities skewed. They talk a great deal about their Federation missions to their "sister city" in Russia and all the money that has been raised to help the citizens there. As an employee of a Federation agency, I seem to be hit up awfully early to "give back."

We have the money to build a fancy new building for our school, but not the funding to adequately staff it to teach the students. Use of materials is curtailed and I need to justify every invoice sent in for my cooking projects. At the same time, I am encouraged to "continue" utilizing all our resources in this building (the computer lab, the kitchen, etc).

Two weeks before school ended, I heard directly from my boss that she was told by our "menachelet" to let one of the teachers go, due to cuts in the upcoming year. Originally, she was going to tell this teacher right after graduation since our regulations require informing a teacher that his/her "contract will not be renewed" (aka "being fired") by the end of May (the end of the school year). However, once my boss thought about it a little bit, she decided that it was more fitting for the menachelet to do the dirty deed. After all, the menachelet hired her in the first place. Instead of being all professional and calling her over to the main building for a meeting to tell her in person, she sends her an e-mail telling her that her services will not be needed in the coming year.

This person's "contract non-renewal" surprised me because if it was merely a "budget cut" then it would reason to release the most recent hire. It seems that there was more to it than that. She was not someone who rocked the boat or even questioned authority. She did her job of teaching the kids Hebrew. However, she was not the most patient with the students and many of the kids complained about her to their parents. I have also learned that those values our parents taught us about jobs can sometimes hurt us. If I have an issue with the curriculum or a procedure, I approach the menachelet directly and tell her. She does sit down with me and we discuss the situation. I have been instrumental in several book changes they have implemented since I started on the faculty seven years ago. I am also willing to try new things with teaching the children, none of which involves standing in the front of the class, lecturing them.

Okay, now let me get back to the original point of my post today. Our well-funded Federation has the money to help all these people abroad, but it doesn't seem to phase them when yidden are forced to sleep in their car or need help finding well-paying jobs to support their family. They have the money to build large buildings out in the suburbs, drawing even more Jews away from the heart of the city. There is no motivation to save inner-ring suburbs (such as the one I live in) when all the services are 20 minutes away. However, when we need to keep qualified staff in these buildings (my boss has the title of principal but only gets paid contact hours as well as coordinates events in the building, on her own time) and encourage parents to send their children to our school on the strength of its teachers, suddenly, they are broke.

To all my Jewish readers, have a chag semeach! Lactaid-users...don't forget to take it before indulging in the blintzes and cheesecake.

29 May 2006

Rabbanim Don't Have All the Answers

An update on bibnis...he has been following up on the job leads he has been given, but unfortunately, still nowhere to sleep at night. Cool yiddish papa and bibnis were on the phone with more local rabbanim who frankly told them that they had "no idea" what to do about the situation.

Aside from a strong job lead (person who can get him a job with his company, no questions asked, but manager won't be back in until Tuesday), no one has suggestions for where to turn for help except the same Federation funded social services agency that kept from being accepted into the local shelter home (by claiming that he turned down all other "options"). [The story behind that I will not get into here and now since I do not have bibnis' permission.]

It seems that this is a recurring theme. Someone in the community is desparate for some stability (a decent job, safe place to live) and so many turn their backs on the whole thing because it is not their problem. Where is the idea, "kol yisrael arevim zeh ba-zeh"? I guess the way that it works is that "we" only care about you as long as you are rich enough to give us piles of money for tzedakah causes. If you are in actual need of said tzedakah (and you are not a kollel guy), then we have no answers for you.

I am finding it hard to remind myself why I chose to become frum. I had been entranced by the ideals of our religion, not the reality. Cool yiddish papa and I (as his m'kravim) have been taking inordinate amounts of time from our schedules to help bibnis and are only asking that these same rabbanim (who sat on his conversion beit din) take responsibility and help one of their own. Upon converting, he agreed to never violate Shabbat, keep kosher at all times, and daaven three times a day. He has kept his end of the bargain, despite almost starving and being forced to sleep in a car most nights. It seems that some people will have a heart when it comes to Shabbat and they let him stay "for one night." By motza'ei Shabbat, it's back to the car.
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