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Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Public Schools or Jewish?

When I tell people that I am working towards my Masters Degree in School Counseling, one of the first questions I usually get is - "Do you want to work in Jewish schools?" My answer, typically, is no. But I'm starting to rethink that decision.

I have set my sights on working in public schools for various reasons - the pay is better, the benefits are great, I wouldn't have to deal with the same politics that I would in a Jewish school. Additionally, I've always feared that my not quite "toeing the line" attitude wouldn't be looked upon so favorably in Jewish schools, and that I would have more freedom to practice and guide students in a public school. I also have felt that I am working so hard for my degree, that I would prefer to practice in an environment that requires it, which many Jewish schools don't.

But recently, several people have made points that are quite astute and gave me pause. First of all, I know the frum community, and while I don't necessarily agree with everything that goes on there, I do have an understanding of how it works, and the pressures specific to the lifestyle. In this way, I could offer an understanding of Jewish students that a counselor without such a background can't.

Conversely, the fact that I didn't grow up in an Orthodox environment means that I experienced the world and understand the pressures and desires and enticements of the non-Orthodox world. I can relate to those students who either wonder what they are missing, or maybe are already experiencing it. I wouldn't judge those who are curious, or maybe succumbing to their temptations, but hopefully I would be able to give them a bit of strength and support in order to live the life they truly wish to, whatever that is.

It's an interesting thought, working within the Orthodox community. I'm starting to consider it more and more. I wouldn't want to work within whichever community I end up living, because I feel that the dual relationships (for example, counseling a student in school and running into their parents in synagoge) become too complicated and the pressure to disclose confidential information and otherwise compromise ethical standards is too great, but I am starting to become open to the idea of working in a school not in my own community. It might even make my dad happy - he works in the Jewish communal services field and has always encouraged me to do so as well (though I wouldn't be following directly in his footsteps).

For those who do work within Jewish communities, what do you think are the positives and/or negatives of doing so?

Thanks to Semgirl, amongst others, for putting these considerations in my head.


  • you know, the problems that plague the "frum velt" are often - unfortunately - the same that plague the secular one. the main thing you need when working in social services is love and compassion. as long as you have those, you're gold - no matter what environment you choose.

    By Blogger Maven, at 8/30/06, 7:43 PM  

  • Ditto to maven. Everyone has problems and needs help with them. I know you will to do a great job no matter what you choose.

    I have a good friend who is a social worker and worked for 5 years in a psych ward of a hospital (no frum patients) and has been working for the past 2 years for the Jewish Board in Long Island. She is now switching to a Jewish school in Brooklyn. I also have another friend who is a school psychologist in Yeshiva of Flatbush. If you want to get in touch with either of them, let me know.

    By Anonymous Sara K, at 8/31/06, 11:33 AM  

  • I vote public school and agree with your initial thinking. In fact, the only benefit that I can see to working in a Jewish school is that you automatically have all the yomim tovim off.

    By Anonymous debbie, at 8/31/06, 12:36 PM  

  • Maven -
    You are unfortunately very right. But there are different challenges that pertain to different environments.

    Sara -
    I'll let you know, thanks.

    debbie -
    It isn't all about the money, that's certainly not why I chose this field, and a lot of the reason to do the public school route would be for that.

    By Blogger Shoshana, at 8/31/06, 7:25 PM  

  • Don't discount the money angle. It's important, especially in the long run. Public schools have terrific retirement benefits; Jewish schools probably don't have any.

    By Anonymous debbie, at 9/1/06, 10:33 AM  

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