| Counterpoint |

They Don’t Teach Corporate in Yeshivah: The conversation continues

Chaim Shapiro’s piece on transitioning from a yeshivah environment to the corporate world [Issue 916] continues to draw feedback

Illustrations by Esti Saposh

All the Bases › L.M.S., Oak Park, MI

I want to commend Mishpacha on the excellent, excellent, excellent article, “They Don’t Teach Corporate in Yeshivah” by Chaim Shapiro.

It seems to me that it’s imperative that our young, sheltered students are properly prepared before they step through the looking glass into a quite foreign, gentile corporate culture. Mr. Shapiro has touched all the bases, and you’ve performed a terrific service by printing his article. Thank you.

Also True for Women › Dr. Robin (Rivky) Akselrud, LIU-Brooklyn

I really enjoyed reading the article “They Don’t Teach Corporate in Yeshivah.” Through my experiences as a professor and now as the program director in the master’s level occupational therapy program at LIU-Brooklyn, I believe the points that were made in this article are also true for women entering the field.

Frum women entering the workplace also tend to be lacking certain professional skills and etiquette that can be mastered with some mentoring and coaching. However, as someone who has taught students of many different cultures and backgrounds, I feel confident in sharing that these skills are often lacking in many new employees (regardless of culture), and are only present in a small group of new graduates entering the field.

Virtual classes and internships due to the pandemic have also made learning these skills more difficult, as there has been less of an opportunity for in-person learning experiences, which previously allowed for these skills to further develop before entering the field.

I believe that frum women entering the health care field or the corporate work environment can truly benefit from having a mentor in addition to a rav. With the support of these individuals, the students can succeed in their goals and aspirations.

My Boundary Saved Me › Name Withheld

As a religious woman who worked in corporate settings for many years, I found that attending networking events was a must. Even after I segued into the “frum corporate” world, networking events have remained a staple.

I am friendly and pretty good at working a room, and I worried about boundaries. Nearly a decade ago I set a geder for myself: I would not drink anything other than soda or water at these events, and I would not eat anything other than fruit.

I cannot tell you how much this geder has saved me. It is an inner reminder of who I am and where I stand.

May we all remember who we are in whatever work environment we are in.

Absolutely Forbidden › Mrs. Esty Weldler, Hineini Teacher, Oros BY Lakewood

Thank you for an eye-opening article about the “culture shock” of leaving yeshivah to enter the secular corporate world. It definitely gave awareness as to the importance of seeking hashkafic and halachic hadrachah.

I just wanted to point out a common misconception that, unfortunately, was implied in the section “Internet Etiquette.” The writer mentioned that some security firewalls, etc., will not work with kosher filters, and one should seek guidance from a rav. One solution he suggested is that the employer could review all visited sites.

I want to raise the awareness that a “shomer” (i.e., someone watching or reviewing one’s Internet usage) is not a replacement for a filter. Technology today is a sensitive topic, and, understandably, many people feel that with technology standards, everyone can grow and refine their sensitivities at their own pace. That is true for many areas (though the importance of seeking the guidance of daas Torah cannot be overstated). However, there is one point that is definitely classified as assur according to all poskim, and that is unfiltered Internet.

This applies to smartphones, tablets, computers, cars, and any other Internet-connected devices, and this psak applies even if you are positively confident that you are doing only “kosher” or work activities, and even with a “shomer.”

As a letter in 2016 from Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlita states: “Gedolei Yisrael have the power to make takanos for their generation to keep Yidden protected from cheit. As is well known, the gedolei Yisrael from all the kehillos in Klal Yisrael have stated unequivocally that it is forbidden to access the Internet without a proper filter being employed. It is therefore clear that accessing the Internet without a filter is an actual issur and that there is no room for leniency in this matter.”

The previous generations were faced with the nisayon of giving up their jobs for shemiras Shabbos — and our grandparents who remained frum were the ones who passed the test. Strengthening our resolve to follow daas Torah and to only use filtered Internet is of the same importance as being careful with issurim of chillul Shabbos. And this incredible gevurah of withstanding the nisayon will carry the same weight today in keeping our children frum.

Unexpected Language Barrier › Zisi Naimark

Chaim Shapiro’s feature on corporate etiquette was excellent! At Testing and Training International, where I teach some of the interior design classes and assist in job placement, all trade school classes include lessons in professional practice. Many of the same points are covered in these classes.

I particularly enjoyed Mr. Shapiro’s anecdote about yeshivish language barriers and his misunderstanding about “mass cancellation.” When I was completing my thesis project at the New York School of Interior Design, I casually mentioned something that happened the year I was in seminary. Turning to me with very large eyes, my classmate asked, “Zisi… you were going to become a nun?!”

A Frum Office Isn’t an Automatic Solution › A Women Who has Seen the Scene

Last week, a letter writer enjoined readers to avoid the challenges of the corporate environment by pursuing careers in the frum sector rather than in corporate America. I would like to add a caveat, followed by a plea.

Not all frum workplaces are equal. Before choosing a workplace in the frum community, it is imperative to find out about the tzniyus guidelines, written or not, that the company has in place. When working in corporate America, tzniyus can be an issue and must be navigated together with one’s rav, according to halachah — but there is a natural divide in that kind of environment, and it is to our benefit. We know we operate on a higher plain, and boundaries are more natural and easier to put into place.

When working in a frum office, however, the lines get fuzzy.

One of the first questions to ask is if it is an all-men’s office or not. If it is mixed, how are the genders separated? Are men and women in the same room with cubicles side by side, or on separate floors? Using the title Mr./Mrs./Miss/Rebbetzin is wonderful, but is it the only boundary employed?

Many frum offices boast a daf yomi shiur, learning programs and Thursday night kugel — yet the pitfalls for men are many. The interwork relationships can get personal, the general schmoozing becomes too technical, and sometimes fiery office debates (unrelated to work I should add) can spark closeness. Before you know it, you are in murky water, and unsure how you got there and how to get out.

In addition to this, many frum girls and women come to work dressed for the Oscars. Knees covered? Check. Tzniyus by the book? Yep. Attractive? Definitely. If you are part of a team or even just working in the same department, you will need to interact with these women daily, sometimes in meetings, and other times in each other’s cubicles.

And now for my plea. I turn to frum business owners, office managers, and HR supervisors, and ask, Ayeka? Where are you when your employees are easily sharing camaraderie with the opposite gender (because you have not thought to divide the workspace appropriately)? Where are you when women dressed to the nines are working so closely with men?

And to all men and women working in mixed environments: consider your actions and the effect they have on others.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 918)

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