22 of the Twelfth Month 5770
You have probably all heard the joke about the first, Jewish President of the United States...
The first Jewish Presient of the United States invites his mother over to the White House for Thanksgiving. He meets with a lot of resistance, but eventually convinces his mother to come.
After the plans have been formalized, his mother receives a call from a friend who asks her what she is doing for Thanksgiving. The President's mother says that she will be going to her son's house. Her friend asks, “Oh! You're going to your son, the doctor's house?”
The President's mother replies, “No, I'm going to the other one.”
Here is another joke you also may have heard....
An elderly, Jewish lady who is frought with anxiety over a dilemma she is in, meets with her friend in the park to discuss it. You see, she is very upset after being informed that her grandson is gay.
Her friend asks her, “So, nu? What's the dilemma?”
The grandmother replies, “Well, he IS dating a doctor.”
Enjoy the funny jokes during this month of Adar. The truth is, though, that these are anything but jokes, depicting the true prestige of being a doctor in the American, Ashkenazy world, where if you are not a doctor or a lawyer or a broker, then you are a loser.
There is, of course, a symbolic drop of leaway here. Many such families will tolerate one “creative type” (actor, musician, or other artist), one academic, one scientist, and even one “rabbi,” but only one, and not even one of each. Women may become therapists, but men who choose such a profession are always referred to as “the son who didn't become a 'real' doctor.”
Cousins who have absolutely nothing in common with each other are often thrown together into the same box in conversation, their parents vying for the title of who had to raise the more difficult, “problem child” or the blackest sheep.
I am writing of men primarily, but women feel the pressure, too, either to become, or to marry, one of the above.
I have a friend who has always been down on himself for not having gone to college. “But what about the eight years you spent in yeshivah?” I would ask him. “Is that not worth anything? Did you not learn and grow and become a better person from that experience?” But, this friend would just continue to sulk.
Another friend recently told me about how not having a college degree is affecting his search for a shidduch (match), even in Israel. “What about all those years you spent in Hesder Yeshivah?” I asked. “Doesn't that count for something? Who cares if you have some piece of paper?”
His response was one word: “Women.”
And, he is right,...unfortunately. In most every Religious Zionist or Modern Orthodox, shidduch ad I have seen in Israel, women are looking for a man who is “academi” (has a college degree).
But, where did this mentality come from? Jews in America often talk about their respect for education and their support for educational institutions. And, they think this is it. Afterall, this is how Jews not only survived in Galuth (exile), but excelled. Jews were not only able to compete with the goyim, but often beat them. Now that we no longer have to compete with the goyim, let us get our priorities straight.
Yes, we need doctors and lawyers and even brokers. But we also need plumbers, electricians, and garbage men.
“Oh, don't worry, in the U. S. we have the goyim for that; in Israel that's what the Arabs are for!”
Sorry, but that attitude is just not going to cut it, depending on others for what we need to learn to do for ourselves.
Just like in the U. S., these guys do pretty well financially in Israel. Yet, my friend the garbage man (Yes, such creatures as Jewish garbage men do exist), who has always made more money than I have as a teacher (and isn't that one of the American, Ashkenazy ideals? Money, money, money...), is now a supervisor of garbage men, and making even more money than I am. Still, I see it in his eyes. Pride in providing for his family, their security, and his children's Jewish education is not enough. Unfortunately, neither is pride in keeping our Holy, Jewish Homeland clean, nor doing more to protect its environment than most other professions. Society still looks down upon him because of what he does, and because of what he doesn't do.
The fact that he is intelligent, friendly, and working in his free time on projects to help his community garners nothing more than a forced smile, from the “cultural elite” to acknowledge how quaint he is. But, the reality is that the elite does not even see him as being quaint. Rather, there is something wrong with him.
By now you are probably all saying, “That's easy for you to say, Ya'aqov. You HAVE a college degree,...two of them!”
I, myself, currently work with my hands (Oy! Geeeeeeeeevaaaaaaaaaaaaald!), and get treated as “less than” by those patronizing my work. Some still even think that I am a volunteer. After all, no self-respecting [American, Ashkenazy] Jew would ever do such a thing for parnassah!
You can only imagine what parents would say about Jewish farmers. (Yes, such creatures also exist in present day.)
“David went to experience the outdoors for a while. Don't worry. His therapist
says that he'll grow out of it.”
“Michael is just going through a phase. He'll be going to Harvard next year,...whether he wants to or not!”
“What's with my daughter Rachel? Oh, you know. She's just 'finding herself.' When she comes home to visit this summer, I have three young eligible bachelors in the wings to whisk her off her feet. Then she'll gladly turn in her shovel and rake for diamonds and choice of china patterns.”
Even worse, this mentality, this virus, has long since infiltrated Israeli society. Sephardim and Teimanim now feel they have to get that piece of paper, or else they are “less than.”
And, what of those with learning styles which do not cut it in the Western classroom? Well, let's just say that the world needs ditch diggers, too!
The non-religious, Ashkenazim started it, looking down on the Sephardim and Teimanim for not sharing their culture, language, nor dress, and for having that “holy” college degree. What was a Hacham (scholar) with 20 years in yeshivah worth to them? Absolutely nothing. It was a battle between East and West. The East didn't have a chance, now that the Ashkenazim were in charge, pushing their culture and agenda on everyone else, who they considered to be inferior.
The Iraqim who came were given tent cities for their dwelling places, and told that the must give up their traditional (Read: too authentically Jewish) garb for the preferred, Western clothing of assimilation amongst the nations.
Teimanim were told that they did not need their simanim (side locks) anymore; they were in Eretz Yisra'el now.
Shomrei Torah HaS'phardim [Sha”S] the Sephardi, Haredi, political party and movement was a great idea at its inception, yet went horribly wrong. Raising up Sephardi pride, creating a community no longer willing to take it from the Ashkenazim anymore was a noble goal. Now look what has happened. With the exception of celebrating with different foods and music, including eating qitniyoth (various legumes and seeds) during Pesah, and pronouncing Hebrew differently, Sha”S has turned into a group of Sephardim which tries to out-Ashkenazy the Ashkenazim.
There is even a verb in Hebrew for the process of turning Ashkenazy: le'hishtaknez. I kid you not.
Racism you say? I'll let you be the judge.
There is one “ism,” though which simply cannot be swept under the carpet.
The attitude and practice in communities where differential respect is accorded not to professions, but to people themselves, based only on their professions, is nothing less than classism.