Al­ways be true to your­self

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - Cover Story - — YONI

Ihad the hon­our re­cently of par­tic­i­pat­ing in Yeshi­vat Or Chaim’s an­nual ca­reer day, where for­mer stu­dents of the Toronto Ortho­dox high school speak about what they do and of­fer tips to soon-to-be grad­u­ates.

When it came time for ques­tions, one of the boys (Or Chaim is an all­boys school) raised his hand and asked my co-pan­elists and me about our kip­pot. Do we take them off at work? And what about ob­serv­ing Shab­bat and the Jewish hol­i­days – would that hin­der his abil­ity to land a good job? Can you suc­ceed in your cho­sen pro­fes­sion while also out­wardly dis­play­ing your re­li­gious ob­ser­vance?

My an­swer to that last ques­tion was an em­phatic yes. I have worn my kip­pah in news­rooms across Canada and be­yond for my en­tire ca­reer. As far as I know, it has never caused any prob­lems or kept me from be­ing hired. And my em­ploy­ers never balked at the fact that I had to leave early on Fri­days (at least in the win­ter) to get home for Shab­bat, or that I needed time off for Jewish hol­i­days no mat­ter how busy things were. I was al­ways up front about my re­li­gious re­quire­ments, and my em­ploy­ers were al­ways ac­com­mo­dat­ing. (Of course, now that I work at The Cana­dian Jewish News, none of those is­sues ap­ply.)

The key, I told the stu­dents, is to make it clear that you’re not look­ing for spe­cial treat­ment – that you are more than will­ing to make up any time and work you miss. In my case, that of­ten meant work­ing ex­tra hours in the evening, go­ing to the of­fice on Sun­days and fill­ing in for my non-jewish col­leagues dur­ing their hol­i­days.

(I might have added that if Ortho­dox high school­ers are look­ing for more proof that re­li­gion need not im­pede their ca­reer tra­jec­to­ries, they might look no fur­ther than Jared Kush­ner, se­nior ad­viser to his fa­ther-in-law, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. While Kush­ner does not wear a kip­pah, he has been very pub­lic about be­ing a prac­tis­ing mod­ern Ortho­dox Jew, and that he does not work on Shab­bat. You may or may not agree with his politics, but Kush­ner is prov­ing that Ortho­dox Jews can reach the high­est lev­els with­out hav­ing to sac­ri­fice their ob­ser­vance.)

But there was one oc­ca­sion when I did take off my kip­pah, I told them. It was back when I was a univer­sity stu­dent and moon­light­ing as a writer for a tele­com com­pany. I was set to con­duct in­ter­views at a well-known com­pany owned and op­er­ated by Ger­mans, and as I pulled into the park­ing lot, I in­wardly wor­ried what they might think or do if they saw my kip­pah. So I took it off and stowed it in the glove com­part­ment be­fore head­ing in.

I have al­ways re­gret­ted that de­ci­sion, not only be­cause my fears were com­pletely un­founded and the peo­ple I was in­ter­view­ing couldn’t have been nicer, but be­cause I felt like I had be­trayed who I am.

And that is per­haps the best les­son I could have of­fered the Or Chaim stu­dents. Above all else, be true to your­self. If you’re will­ing to do that, ev­ery­thing else will likely work it­self out.

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