Making a Living, Making a Life


3 Tishre 5769
Tzom Gedalia
October 2, 2008

Dear friends and family,

Often a letter (remember those?) or more contemporarily, a blog will begin with "Sorry, I haven't written in a while, but…."

Well, if you read my missives, then you know I've not written since July –and some have emailed in complaints, which I took as a compliment, you can be sure. But that doesn't mean that I have not been writing. I have been writing for m-o-n-e-y! Yes, publications have actually been paying me a pittance for the words I string into ideas that hopefully make their readers smile, cry, think or (hopefully not) skim and skip.

It's certainly not enough to support my husband in learning—yet. But that is among the many things I prayed for yesterday. And now it has been decided.

In the aftermath of all that davening, in the fog of this fast of Gedalia, I have been thinking: since our income is predetermined for the year, why do we even bother to work at all?

This question came up in a recent discussion I had with some visiting seminary students who are in the midst of deciding what they will study next year. With their teachers, they are exploring this idea of why we must find a parnassa. They learned that when Hashem told Adam that his livelihood would come "by the sweat of your brow," He was saying: our relationship has changed. I will no longer openly provide for all your needs. Now you must go to work. Only after Adam made the effort, would Hashem provide the food and shelter they needed.

Work is the vessel into which Hashem's material blessings flow.

Our need for food, clothing and shelter are a constant distraction from the real meaning of our lives. Sometimes we forget what our purpose is. Then comes Rosh Hashanah to remind us that we are only here to be emissaries of the King, and He will give us everything necessary to support us in that mission. And we are supposed to feel secure. But we do not.

Earning a living is hard. Effort is not always commensurate with reward. In the economic debacle we witnessed this Elul, we found out that financial security is often an illusion.

Nowhere is this more clear than in trying to support a family in Israel. The most common question I heard on my recent trip to America was, "Is it really possible to make a living there?" The answer is "Of course it is."

Then of course, David and I haven't completely figured that out yet. While we, like many, came with a job, a high percentage of those first oleh jobs do not hold for the long term. We count among that group. But a new, exciting position was not long in coming and Hashem once again proved to be the holder of the keys to success. While opportunity abounded last spring, Rabbi Berel Wein's organization, which depends on fundraising efforts in America for the bulk of its projects, is now suffering along with its benefactors. Hishtadlus, effort, is still necessary, but in the light of the economy, success is clearly and undeniably dependent upon His will.

Living here allows us to be defined by how we serve Hashem. We take our kochos, G-d given strengths and talents, and use them to do mitzvos-which includes providing for our families. Our job or career is not an expression of who we are, but rather, a utensil, if you will. It is the container for the physical means that helps us rise to the challenge of becoming a mighty soul.

You might say this idea is not really so different than the way it goes in America. It's true. But the difference is that in chutz l'aretz, hishtadlus and success are more relational. Effort seems to have a more direct effect on achievement. Here, you really need a deeper sense of bitachon. More often than not, we do not see a reciprocal cause and effect between the direction of our effort and the source of our reward. Help usually comes from an unexpected place-- often one that defies logic.

But there is also something else. It's how we live. It's a simpler life. And therefore, there is less pressure on the budget. Clothing, food, utilities may be more costly, but our closets, desires and homes are smaller so it takes much less to fill their demands.

Sometimes income can be measured in what we do not spend. If a family has a car, they usually have just one. And they walk to the makolet, bank, gan whenever they can. The children take the bus to school and run outside every afternoon to play. Their tuition, our doctors and prescriptions are miniscule in comparison to what we paid in the US. Entertainment comes in taking a walk on holy soil, bumping into neighbors, going out for a Fro-Yo, lingering over a "café auh-fuh" (upside down coffee), sitting on a bench and watching the children play, tourists walk by, the cloud formations, the stars.

It's not an American life, it's a simple life and it's a Jewish life.

And that, my friends, is what it is like to live in Israel …. A land that HaShem your G-d cares for constantly…(His) eye is on it from the beginning of the year and until the end of the year"

Our parnassa was decided yesterday. Now, our job is to creatively and energetically address the opportunities that Hashem sends our way, and the result we entrust to Him.

May you be blessed with "parnassa kalla v'nikiya" (an easy and clean- so you don't have to sweat too much- livelihood) in the new year. In any effort you expend, may you merit to see Hashem's hand in the reward. And of course, may you all come home soon.

Renee and David

9 Recommendations for Making a Living in Israel

1-Get a Degree

In Israel they like degrees-if you are a college graduate, in almost any area-jobs are here. If you are young enough, you can attend university for free.

The younger you are, the easier it is to snag those jobs. Over 40, it's more difficult. However, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well here, and expertise is valued, especially in new companies.


English teachers are in high demand

Teachers in the school system are required to get an Israeli teaching certificate. To get a certificate requires a 1-2 year program of courses and apprenticeship.


Accountants can provide local financial services or international financial services. To provide local services they must get local certification.

Lawyers who wish to practice Israeli law in Israel must also receive local certification. You must have a reasonable level of Hebrew proficiency and perform an apprentice program with a local lawyer and pass the Israeli bar. Many Israeli companies require the services of American and European lawyers for doing business internationally. They do not need Israeli certification.

Medical professionals must receive Israeli certification. The certification process requires validation of credentials, a reasonable level of Hebrew proficiency and passing Israeli licensing exams (in Hebrew). Nefesh b'Nefesh has an incentive package for doctors that you should check out.

4-Sell Abroad

-To sell anything to Israelis requires an excellent understanding of Israeli culture. Don't plan on making a living in sales here.
-However, Israeli entrepreneurs are in need of experienced people to sell their products abroad. If you have expertise and contacts in any area, especially hi tech and medical, there are companies that need your services.

5-Construction, Renovation

Construction in Israel is booming. The workers get paid poorly and are usually either foreigners or Arabs and the business end requires many inside contacts to tread through tricky bureaucracy. Therefore, it's important to have an Israeli partner with protexia.

There is a need for those who can do "shiputzim," small to medium renovation work at American standards, even better if using only Jewish labor. This is a good starter business; plus with your truck, and a few strong men, you could be a mover (always needed) on the side.


Programmers, web specialists, electrical engineers are in demand. Experienced applicants can receive salaries in the top 15% of the country. Even applicants right out of college can receive in the top 40% of the country. Weekly newsletter with computer jobs:

7-A new career

Consider re-training, it's subsidized for olim.


the OU is having a Job Fair in November: click here

Join yahoo groups in the areas you are considering living. You'll see job postings regularly. I can give you those links if you want.

9-Good to know:
-Learn Hebrew as soon as you get here.
-Do research in your field before you come, but don't expect to find a job while you are still in America. When employers are hiring, they usually needed you yesterday.
(We did neither.)

-Salaries are considerably less, which can be shocking at first. We discovered that a top, top salary is $50,000-$60,0000. Unless you are supporting kids in America, (traveling there a lot or maintaining an American lifestyle here) you can really make it just fine on less than that.

-Now that there is tax relief for 10 years on income earned in America, and in the light of the projected long term downturn there, the economic barriers to aliya are diminishing.

We have seen time and again that the only way to make it-- is through honest, well planned hishtadlus plus a heavy dose of bitachon, trust that the Almighty, who created the world and can do anything He wants-will be the source of our help.

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