Being observant in a pressure job
JARED KUSHNER’S absence from the White House on Shabbat may be contributing to chaos in the Oval Office, but combining a high-pressure role with religious observance is a challenge many Jews will understand.
Stephen Rosenthal, the former head of social me d i a fo r Go o g l e U K , said: “Spending a decade in reactive PR and media, it was often frustrating and anxietyinducing having to suddenly cut off communications for 24 hours.
“Bu t , th a t said, once you realise the sun will come up tomorrow and there’s nothing you can do, you quickly get over it. Actually i t really helps me turn off and enjoy a relaxing day with my family and friends.”
He said colleagues and employers had always found his religious observance fascinating and, at times, been jealous of it.
“One thing my wife and I have always done is invite my teams for Shabbat dinner so they can see we don’t just go to the pub on Friday afternoon.
“The idea that you can remove phones, TV and work from your world for a day, replacing it with family, friends and food is absolutely tantalising to them.”
It took rabbis several centuries to justify how saving life could take precedence over Sabbath observance. But luckily for Charlotte Benjamin, by the time she graduated as a doctor she was able to attend training on keeping halachah.
The 44-year-old GP from Hendon said: “My course covered everything from how you get there if you need to work on a Saturday to what you can do in hospital.
“When I was working in Luton Hospital as a junior doctor, I lived too far away to walk on a Saturday so I would book my travel in advance that week.
“I’d have to think about what doors to go through, because some of them were electric and so on.
“It might be slightly trickier to navigate but I think I gained a lot from keeping Shabbat. There will be things I’ve missed out on but holistically I don’t think it makes a difference.”
Baroness Altmann of Tottenham said that when a minister for financial consumer protection and financial education, she proved it was possible for an Orthodox Jewish woman to take a leadership role.
But the mother of three, and Finchley United Synagogue member, said there had been times when keeping Shabbat had meant missing out on work, which she found “frustrating”.
“I have always managed to arrange my career around Shabbat and Yomtov.
“Now and then it has been a little frustrating when something major has blown up and I haven’t been able to react to it.
“And sometimes I may have missed opportunities because I couldn’t call back straight away. But life is full of other opportunities so I don’t dwell on such things.”
Barnoss Altmann said she compensated by working later on Thursdays and coming in early on Fridays to get her work done.
“I also find that although, especially at senior levels, we like to think we are totally indispensable, it is not really true.
“Mostly, if a team knows in advance that you won’t be there, it’s easy to organise cover.”
The 60-yearold admitted that it had not always been easy to explain her religious pr ac t i c e s t o employers.
“I’ v e ha d s ome hi la r i - ou s co n v e r - sations with employers or new colleagues who simply can’t grasp the idea that someone is totally out of contact,” she said.
There will be things I’ve missed out on but holistically I don’t think it makes a difference ’ We invite my teams for dinner so they can see we don’t go the pub on Friday afternoon ’