Menu JTA Search

Adjusting Our Lives

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

The prolonged depression has intensified the sufferings of the Jewish workers and small business men whose trade and occupations have been affected by the social and economic changes of our times. The dislocation of industry and trade is an outcome of new mechanical inventions, new methods of merchandising such as chain stores, new standards of living and other changes in the industrial and commercial structure of the nation. Jews whose trades and vocations become obsolete through the recent social and economic trends have to be readjusted to the new conditions, if their present plight is not to result in chronic unemployment and misery.

Thus a new set of social service problems has been created on behalf of thousands of families within the formerly self-supporting Jewish groups. They are the real victims of the dislocation of industry, when for instance, cheap garments replace the more expensive raiments, rayon takes the place of silk, and refrigerators send the ice-man into the limbo.

Work along lines of industrial adjustment of the Jew will become more complex, if time is lost. Delay and negligence will make the problem increasingly more difficult of solution.

NEED FOR CENTRALIZED EFFORT

In preparation for this task there is, first of all, a need for the centralization of information about the status of the Jew in trade, commerce, professions, agriculture and industry. Secondly, investigations should be made into the changes taking place in the trades and industries in which Jews are concentrated. Centralized information of the industrial situation would help the Jews, throughout the country, to be transferred into new branches of industry.

Again, expert advice should be provided by our various Family Welfare Associations and other social service agencies as to the best methods of ascertaining the vocational aptitudes of their new clients, and as to the prospects for their vocational re-education and re-employment along fresh lines. Public school authorities have to be urged to enlarge the educational and vocational retraining opportunities for adult groups in areas of dense Jewish settlement.

Furthermore, in order to provide employment, plans are being taken under consideration as to a Jewish employment exchange service, or at least as to timely measures for applying the best skill available, that is to say, experts in vocational guidance, toward fitting Jews to fresh jobs.

OVERCROWDED OCCUPATIONS

Vocational guidance for the Jew, who as a rule tends to concentrate in a few chosen occupations, is particularly called for a time like ours when so many professions and other vocational careers are overcrowded.

To take the case of medicine. How many medical students are really fit, or, in two words, have the right “personal equation” to prove successful and socially useful in their future calling? Why, then, not be guided in the choosing of a career by the sound principle of putting the right man in the right place, which in a nutshell is the essence of the science and practice of vocational guidance?

Secondly, economic satisfaction in the medical profession is tied up with, and conditioned on, the further spread of Jews over the vast territory of the country. Behold what the recently published Final Report of the Commission on Medical Education has to say: “Although there is an over-supply of physicians in the country as a whole, there is a relative shortage in certain areas because physicians are concentrated in larger communities…. The development and support of better central facilities for medical practice in the smaller communities is the most important single factor in correcting the uneven distribution of physicians.”

Here is another telling illustration. The high earning power of Jewish foreign-born women clerical workers is a fact proved by statistical study. More than that, when consideration was given to training and experience, our Jewish women were found to have an earning power in clerical work inferior only to the native white women and to the English-speaking immigrant women from Great Britain, Canada, etc., and superior to women of the “old” immigrant stocks, Germans, Scandinavians, etc.

On the other hand, Jewish women, having a disposition to avoid by all means factory work and domestic service, provide, as a recent investigation in Buffalo has shown, a more miscellaneous and therefore less uniformly high grade of office worker as compared with some other foreign stocks.

Now, why not direct the least fit among Jewish women aspirants for office jobs to a more promising occupation for them? Are there not among the thousands of occupations this or that opportunity for a trained woman worker besides office jobs, factory jobs, and domestic service?

A PROBLEM FOR JEWISH YOUTH

Unfortunately young Jews of both sexes are less and less welcome in the occupations that exert upon them the greatest power of attraction, such as white collar jobs and the professions.

The new situation of job scarcity and acute competition for employment makes it more necessary than ever before to develop a Jewish program of vocational guidance. By this is meant an educational and sociological activity that helps the adolescent traits and holds out high promise for economic reward. Very little effort has yet been made to adapt this practice to a solution of some of our pressing educational problems.

With proper attention to this question, for instance, thousands of young Jews could be directed to agriculture and other fields of basic industry and productive occupation. Not more than 130,000 Jews are found in American agriculture. But in quality Jewish agriculture surpasses by far its small quantitative weight. The second generation of Jewish farmers has proved particularly successful in intensive agriculture of many descriptions, such as poultry, dairy, tobacco, pigeons, wheat, etc., towering high above the average farmer of many generations.

This offers a hint as to some of the possibilities of vocational readjustment of the young Jew in the United States.

The first mention of Jews in the town of Aach, Baden, Germany, is founded in a document of the year 1518.

NEXT STORY