Life & Culture

Jo Sugarman's aliyah stories: My new job

Jo Sugarman's aliyah plan didn't include employment. But her husband had other ideas...


I’ve got a job, in Israel, which is where I live now. A country where I don’t speak the language or understand anything that is going on around me. It’s come as a bit of a shock.

Employment was never part of my so-called aliyah plan. I thought I’d be working on my tan, playing Candy Crush and searching for the Israeli Primark. But my husband had a different plan. And as he threatened to cancel Netflix unless I found a job, I had no choice. I can’t lose Netflix.

I found a job on Facebook and went for an interview. It was in Hebrew but I managed to hand-signal that I was a highly qualified fund-raising consultant, who had run my own business for the past 20 years. Amazingly they agreed to give me a go.

After some more complicated gesturing about what the boss expected in return for giving me money, I understood the basics. The computer was there for me to do some work. It was not to be used for improving my (rather impressive) Candy Crush score. Time to learn about fundraising.

As the office is situated in the religious area of Bnei Brak, I’m now invited to attend a simchah every week. This also means I’m expected to contribute money to a wedding/engagement/birth of new baby gift, every other day, say “mazeltov” and “baruch Hashem” a lot and look happy about it.

I don’t have to cover my hair but I am expected to gush frequently about my coworkers’ “Cheryl Cole style” sheitels. I need a comprehensive spreadsheet to remember their names, their fathers’ names, how many children they had (that day), how old each child was, and when each one was due to be barmitzvah / married/graduate from yeshivah.

I’ve acclimatised to the fact that raising your voice is the normal way of communicating in the office and that just because two people are screaming and gesticulating wildly at each other did not necessarily mean they are having a disagreement. They may just have been discussing where to go for lunch.

I quickly realized that my boss would ignore me every morning, and doesn’t look me in the eye, until I shout “boker tov” directly in his face. I have courageously avoided the many temptations of the numerous delicious falafel/schnitzel/ hummus restaurants directly beneath my office and keep the window closed so the smells doesn’t waft up to tantalise my tastebuds and increase my waistline.

I had to teach my colleagues to make a cup of proper English tea if I didn’t want to drink tepid water with some pitiful mint leaves floating on the top. So, my Hebrew skills have improved considerably. I can now say “When are you due?”, “I like your sheitel” and “Can you learn to communicate with each other without blowing out my eardrums, please?” as well as “Proper English tea does not usually include mint leaves.”

It’s early days, but I feel I’m fitting in nicely so far. Baruch Hashem.





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