Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Best Job in the World

Reprinted from The AACI Jerusalem Voice

My very good friend Yehuda likes to tell me every so often that in order to "make it" in Israel, one needs to be extremely flexible when it comes to employment. Meaning, you can expect a couple of curves thrown at you after you make aliyah, and if you want to succeed, you better be ready to do something for a living that might not have been in your original plans.

I am fifty years old. Throughout my life I have been blessed with many great teachers, starting with my own father. In my teenage years I took it for granted that one day I too would be a teacher, just like my father. And so it was, but not as a school teacher.

My first gig as a teacher was volunteering one hour per week to teach basic Judaism to a group of elementary age children who attended public school. It was the only religious instruction they received. It was then that I learned that a good teacher gains more from his students than the students from him. Another fringe benefit of the job was that my boss introduced me to his sister-in-law, my wife to be.

Before our first year of marriage was up, we had settled down in Teaneck, New Jersey with our first child, where we would spend the next 21 years. I was hired by Chabad to serve as their Director of Educational Activities. With no building to call our own, I started giving Adult Education classes out our small two bedroom apartment along with the other community programs I organized. Eventually my boss would make aliyah and I would replace him as the Executive Director, building Teaneck's first Chabad House and opening up many more Chabad Centers around Bergen County, New Jersey. All during this time, my wife was busy at my side, raising our children, serving as the Rebbetzin and as a pre-school assistant at the local Jewish Day School. It was a great, great run.

Our oldest child made aliyah with her newlywed husband in the summer of 2000. In July of 2003 we all followed suit. The initial plan was for me to sort of continue what I was already doing and what I was pretty good at; fundraising. After two years, the dynamics at work changed and it was time for me to move on. But what to do?

It was then that I saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a Tour guide course which was to be given in English. When I had taken my brother around the country he had said that I would make a great guide. And so with my father-in-law's encouragement, and financial help, I took the plunge. The up-side was that the two years of the course was one of the best times in my life; New friends, outstanding teachers. The down-side was pretty much being unemployed for two years. Ouch!

But I did it. I also took the course for the special drivers license you need to transport tourists. And so now I have the best job in the world. I am teaching again, and the Land of Israel is my textbook. I'm teaching, but I'm constantly learning. I spend my time with some of the nicest people you could ever meet. People from back home in the States, from foreign countries, College students, young kids, seniors, Jews, Gentiles, all different types of professionals. You name it.

Each morning when I leave my house, the classroom will be different. Every day is another trip. And I am thoroughly enjoying the journey.