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Changing the World – and Getting Paid for it

January 19, 2012 – 4:52 pm5 Comments

Although they left flailing academic careers to start a small business, it doesn't get more alternative or more in the spirit of tikkun olam than ghost busting

By Keren Tuch

A new year, a new set of first round university offers, and hard decisions to make.  Which university course to do – law, commerce or medicine? Embarking on an alternative career is almost seen as sacrilegious.  Yet people do, and for good reason.

The not-for-profit sector accounts for 9.6% of Australia’s economy, and although Jews do not account for an overwhelming majority of this sector, it is not surprising to find a sprinkling of Jews that work across the field.

Ilana Jaffe, 30, is one such person who decided to choose a career which she was passionate about – tackling homelessness in Melbourne.  Ms. Jaffe is the Health and Human Services Unit Manager at Youth Projects, The Living Room Primary Health Service . Her role is to oversee the drop-in and primary health unit for homeless people with complex healthcare needs.

Ms Jaffe explains that she was motivated to work in this field due to a growing sense of social injustice at how society was structured and fragmented. Growing up in the Jewish Community she could see how fortunate she was to be part of such a vibrant community. When it was time to choose a career path, the  array of choices was overwhelming, but she realised that advocating for social change was important and thus  chose to work in the community sector.

Ms Jaffe loves that her job is closely aligned with her value system and she can practice with integrity.  It may mean she receives less pay than peers of the same age and responsibilities, but she is happy to work in an area she is passionate about, as  personal job satisfaction outweighs the bank account.

Simon Lipschitz, 27, is a rare breed being a Jewish male community worker.  Mr. Lipschitz works in the community sector for a youth and family service team in the Western suburbs of Melbourne.  His motivation? “Knowing that I am making society a better place.”   After studying an undergraduate degree in psychology, he realised his passion was youth and helping those less fortunate.

Mr. Lipschitz grew up in the small Jewish Community of Adelaide where he became a member of the youth group Habonim Dror.  A lot of habonim activities were focused on social justice themes, which partly influenced Lipschitz’s values.  He was also taught the necessary leadership skills at Habonim to work with youth in his work environment.  His friends are all in the corporate sector, but that doesn’t bother him.  His friends can’t relate to the work that he does, but they react favorably to his career choice.

Jordi Kraus, 23, is also working in the community sector for the homeless.  Kraus is excited to work in this industry as there are current governmental reforms to help create a paradigm shift from ’servicing’ homelessness to actually breaking the cycle of homelessness. It was a natural progression after a meaningful volunteer experience with Sudanese refugees at Jewish Aid Australia, and an internship at Global Poverty Project.  Although she is at the beginning of her career, she plans to continue to work in this sector and hopes to move into international development down the track.

However, Ms. Kraus also acknowledges a societal change in how people can contribute. “We are undergoing a huge shift in terms of cross-sector collaboration to achieve social innovation and social justice. Social justice is no longer the domain of an isolated ‘charity’ sector.”

Jewish welfare workers are there for the job satisfaction of tangibly making the world a better place.  They face difficulties ranging from lack of resources to a mountain of bureaucracy, but find their careers worthwhile and rewarding.

These people are not your mainstream Jewish accountants, doctors or lawyers, but they are also highly skilled and passionate about what they do.  And arguably living a real Jewish life through their job.

If anyone is interested in volunteering at the Living Room Primary Health Service www.youthprojects.org.au, please contact Ms. Jaffe via email:

Ilanaj AT youthprojects.org.au

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