It’s the Internet, Stupid: Jewish Jobs Sites Play Matchmaker

Benjamin Brown found out a master’s degree in Jewish history didn’t help him much in finding a job.

So a few years ago, Brown, 29, launched an employment Web site for the Jewish community, which he named JewishJobs.com.

The initiative seems to have been a success: Brown not only secured a job at the now-defunct United Jewish Communities’ Trust for Jewish Philanthropy, he has attracted more than 6,000 job seekers to his service, which boasts a “Testimonials” page of happily matched employees and employers.

Brown’s story is telling both about the need to match potential candidates with Jewish jobs, and about the rising number of Internet job sites that serve niche markets

Employers appreciate receiving 70 strong candidates instead of 7,000 who may not be appropriate for the job, says Brown, who left Brandeis in 2001 and received his master’s degree earlier this year.

“With other resources, you can’t easily type in the word Jewish and find jobs,” says JewishJobs.com user Celia Baczkowski. “On JewishJobs.com, people are looking for employees within that community so it consolidates everything for someone like me,” says the newly hired executive assistant at the Union of Reform Judaism.

JewishJobs.com is by no means the only Web site looking to play matchmaker between job seekers and Jewish employers.

Web sites and services like J2J Network, Hatzlacha.com and JewishJobFinder.com, among others, have sprouted up over the past few years, and the Orthodox Union recently announced they will launch an online job bank.

It’s an economic thing, say those involved in the field.

“The bad economy has created this incredible, client-driven market. As a result, there are fewer clients and many candidates,” says Alan Cutter, director of the online career center at J2J Network, on the Web at J2JNetwork.com. “With fewer opportunities, candidates have to be all the more well-prepared and networked.”

J2J, a self-described network for Jewish professionals, has hosted networking events, run educational programs and provided a career listserv of employment opportunities since 2000, with the goal of strengthening the Jewish community through commerce.

J2J’s success hinges on the idea that networking is crucial.

“If you are an alum of a B-school, you are more likely to respond to another alum. It’s the same in the Jewish community. If I get a random e-mail, I may or may not respond. An e-mail from the Jewish community, I am more likely to respond,” says David Borowich, chairman of J2J.

J2J’s users tend to be ages 25-45, and many are in the earlier parts of their careers, says Borowich. Unlike JewishJobs.com, J2J does not focus on specifically Jewish jobs. Weekly e-mails advertise jobs in public relations companies and law firms, as well as in banking and consulting groups.

The premise is to link job seekers with employers using a “direct connection” based on their Jewishness, says Borowich, who “introduced” Sharon Tolpin to the CEO of a firm called Business Layers, where she is now the senior director of communications.

Tolpin, who had been laid off in January 2001 by a previous employer, had been in the midst of what she describes as an “awful” six-month search for a senior-level position when she met her now-employer at a J2J event.

“They had not posted that position. If I had not run into him, they might not even have hired someone,” Tolpin says.

Human resources professionals like Sari Farrell confirmed that networking plays an integral part in the hiring process.

United Jewish Communities, where Farrell is director of human resources, uses various search engines and other recruiting devices including Jewish job sites to attract a diverse staff that understands the organization’s mission and supports it.

“But I find employee referrals an outstanding source. People refer who they are confident about, so networking is key here,” says Farrell.

With tight networks in mind, UJC launched its own initiative in 2001 that helps technology professionals find a job.

Blue Knot: The Jewish Tech Initiative emphasizes networking for its mostly young and transient members, who attend professional gatherings and community service events.

The idea is to bring together technology professionals in the Jewish community from across the country who are interested in networking and in getting involved in the Jewish community, says Wendy Berger Shapiro, a Blue Knot committee member.

“Primarily, we are bringing together professionals for networking, but one of the ways we bring people together is through their connection to the Jewish community,” she says. Blue Knot maintains about 1,000 involved members, mostly in strong entrepreneurial centers like Boston, Chicago, San Jose, Calif., Pittsburgh, Toronto and Washington. Blue Knot — www.blueknot.org — also launched an online job posting site in September 2003.

“In our field, we like to lead by using our technology that allows us to be virtually anywhere. We like to practice what we preach,” she says.

No job-searching method is foolproof, but the Jewish job networks have had some success.

Congregation Beth Sholom in Frederick, Md., had been had been having a difficult time replacing its former spiritual leader, says the congregation’s president, Garry Cohen. The unaffiliated congregation had been searching for an assistant rabbi for three-and-a-half years before Cohen learned of JewishJobs.com.

After finding the job search engine, Cohen hoped for five to 10 applicants and was amazed when 28 candidates responded almost immediately.

“We spent thousands of dollars with little response in Jewish publications, in cities around the country,” Cohen says. “We hired someone” through a contact made through JewishJobs.com.

Asked if he would use the site again, Cohen responded enthusiastically.

“Absolutely,” he replied. “We have used it again. Now we are looking for an executive director.”

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