Adjusting Our Lives

The Jew in America seems to have an unwritten Children’s Charter of his own, the preamble of which asserts the inalienable right of his sons and daughters to rise over the father’s station.

Wherever free municipal colleges do not exist, great sacrifices are incurred by the parents, poor as they may be, to obtain for their children the highest educational advantages available. If already one out of every twelve youths in the country receives a college education, for the Jew the percentage is at least twice as great—one of every six.

TENDENCIES TOWARD GROUP

Now, the Jew’s intellectual curiosity is a rather old phenomenon, while his leaning toward a professional career is proverbial. A deplorable factor is, however, the attitude of the majority group toward the preferences and predispositions of the Jewish minority.

In the natural tendency toward an occupational distribution according to capacity, interest, and opportunity, specific racial difficulties have appeared. In free professions, such as medicines and nursing, difficulties confront the Jew even before the threshold of the career, for he is less and less welcome in the professional schools.

Once his training is completed, he faces new and greater handicaps. Advertisements of employment offered to “Christians only” are found in many of the best professional journals, some of them published by organized professional groups themselves. As is well known, there is a growing discrimination against Jews as clerical workers.

Industrial work, too, is not entirely free from the virus of discrimination. Still more important, there is a general decrease in the industrial army through technological improvements. On the other hand, the white collar occupations of control, engineering, accounting, and professional research continue to grow. And just in those fields the Jew finds the heaviest encumbrances.

Several Jewish sociologists look, therefore, upon agriculture as a possible outlet for the trained energies of the young Jew. In advanced agriculture, they claim, there are opportunities for people who have brains, energy, talent, and tact.

PROBLEM OF INTELLECTUAL PROLETARIAT

In these circumstances American Jewry is likely to develop a growing class of intellectual proletarians. They may drift unhappily from one temporary occupation to another, most of them maladjusted and prone to direct their unused mental abilities to bitter criticism of society at large.

Already students and graduates, and not only Jews, begin to show “a hightened consciousness of social entanglements and economic values,” as a college writer has put it. He pictures the gloomy occupational outlook and finds the last vital hope in a complete social change.

Now, of late the educated non-Jewish groups also tend to form a sort of intellectual proletariat. Common problems, in the teeth of the menacing unemployment upon graduation, bind them to the laboring classes.

Who knows? The adversity, the scarcity of jobs, the plight of the high school and college graduate, Jew or non-Jew, may ultimately create a tie of solidarity and mutual understanding between the Jewish and Gentile group!

OPPORTUNITIES IN A MACHINE AGE

Even before the prolonged economic depression, Jewish boys and girls were occasionally thrown out of employment by corporations, particularly if their policy was to give jobs to Jews in times of great prosperity only. In the competition for jobs in a time of chronic unemployment, as in our day, the Jew surely will be now and then discriminated against as the struggle grows keener.

Thus the Jew is threatened by the scourge of unemployment on a double score: as a citizen of the greater industrial society and as a member of his ethic group.

Now, employment, grave as it is, forms only one of the burning problems created by the constant shifting of occupations. One cannot too strongly, therefore, recommend to our youth to learn to classify occupations in a general way by the traits they demand from the young person, and not to bind oneself rigidly to a single occupational choice. With this new principle of vocational guidance in mind, one will be able to transfer to any field which might use one’s abilities.

It has been said that 50 per cent of the people in America could make an average success in fifty of the occupations. This is an encouraging viewpoint in an age of unsettlement and change, with occupations disappearing overnight and new ones arising in their stead. The person who has least to fear from this changing world is the one who learns as early as possible to be adjustable and to overcome sloth.

Dr. Frank’s column appears in this space Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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