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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It's the small stuff that reminds me why we're here

Just before my office closed for the Passover break (yes, the entire company closed for the whole holiday!), our departmental secretary came into my office and handed me a memo. 

Now my Hebrew is pretty passable at this point, but we still follow a ritual where my eyes glaze over when confronted with any document containing densely printed Hebrew... and after asking her how important it is that I read every word, she dictates the Cliff Notes© version of whatever's printed on the page.

Obviously this arrangement requires that I have a tremendous amount of trust in this woman or else I'd end up in a 'Colonel Blake - Radar O'Reilly' situation with no idea what I was signing or agreeing to. 

But so far she has been quite helpful and more than willing to screen my memos.   And of course, since her English is almost non-existent there exists a nice symbiosis whereby I get to check her outgoing correspondence to our English-speaking clients.   

I suppose that in the back of her mind is the knowledge that if she ever pulls a fast one on me with a Hebrew memo, the next English document she faxes out may not be um, exactly what she expected. 

I think they called this concept Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) during the cold war.  :-)

Anyway, getting back to the memo...

It turns out that it was an invitation for our daughter Ariella (and of course her parents) to attend a Bar/Bat Mitzvah reception at the company's headquarters next month.  My secretary explained that the company keeps track of when employee's children pass important milestones such as Bar/Bat Mitzvah, graduation, army induction, etc., and arranges parties and gifts to mark these events. 

My head is still spinning from the very idea of it.

Not only do I not have to use up every last vacation day in order to celebrate the Jewish Holidays (something that made taking 'real' family vacations nearly impossible while we lived/worked in the US), but my company actually keeps track of when my children become Bar/Bat Mitzvah and throws receptions in their honor!

My secretary explained that it will be a very nice evening with yummy refreshments, and all the kids will receive gifts in honor of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  The crazy part is that she seemed genuinely non-plussed that I found this at all unusual.

Y'know, no matter how many stock options or other real/imaginary perks were thrown at me while I worked in the US... I never once felt that my employers really understood who I was (or cared, for that matter).  Yet here I am, earning a fraction of what I used to make in the states... and I feel like my name is printed in bold letters at the top of the company's annual report.

It really is the small stuff that reminds me why we're here.

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Posted by David Bogner on April 26, 2006 | Permalink

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amazing. guess that's one of the benefits of living in Eretz Yisrael.
I've discovered recently that workplaces here just don't understand stuff like that and it's just plain difficult.

Posted by: Sarah | Apr 26, 2006 11:52:44 AM

Now that's cool. :)

Posted by: Ezzie | Apr 26, 2006 12:03:30 PM

Just how big is this company of yours?!

That's very cool, though.

Posted by: val | Apr 26, 2006 1:23:14 PM

And it's posts like this [when there are plenty of other distractions which could otherwise prevent me from taking the time to "stop-and-smell-the-roses"] which remind me [NOT that I need reminding, mind you] how very much I LOVE you and how glad I am I married you!

Posted by: zahava | Apr 26, 2006 1:35:41 PM

Yes, how large is this company? I'm happy with the day I get to bring my daughter to her first day of school in the fall...

on a side not, Colonel Potter was pretty on top of things, it was Blake who pretty much let Radar run the show... ;-)

Posted by: nrg | Apr 26, 2006 1:41:40 PM

oops, side NOTE... where is that spell check when I need it!?

Posted by: nrg | Apr 26, 2006 1:42:22 PM

And here I was feeling good that I am no longer at the job where they would ask "WHAT holiday? Well, if you went to services in the morning ... couldn't you come to the office in the afternoon, then?"

That's such a great story and really strikes a chord. Thank you very much for sharing.

Posted by: Drew | Apr 26, 2006 2:06:19 PM

Sarah... No, that's one of the benefits of living in MEDINAT Yisrael. ;-) I know that sounds nitpicky, but some people use 'Eretz Yisrael' as a subtle means of sidestepping a formal acknowledgement of the existence of the modern State of Israel. This is especially prevalent among the Haredi (yeshivish) world. I'm not saying that this was your intention... not at all! But I still have a knee jerk reaction when I hear or read the expression. To illustrate my point, if you worked for a company in Eilat you would likely enjoy similar treatment... but you would not technically be in 'Eretz Yisrael'. And if you worked for a company in Tyre Lebanon or Amman Jordan, you would almost certainly not receive all the Jewish perks I've mentioned... but would have the honor of living in 'Eretz Yisrael'. :-) See my point?

Ezzie... I have to pinch myself (in a completely platonic way) sometimes to make sure I'm not dreaming. :-)

Val... Without mentioning the name of my company, it is one of the biggest companies in Israel.

Zahava... Thank you sweetie... I thought you'd enjoy this one.

nrg... See my response to Val. Oh, and thanks... of course you're right about my meaning Col. Blake and not Col. Potter. I've taken the liberty of changing the post so it makes more sense. All I need is a bunch of rabid M.A.S.H. fans (all using the screen name 'Tuttle') telling me what an idiot I am! :-)

Drew... Should I really make you jealous and tell you that there is a completely kosher dining-room (where a free hot lunch is served daily) and a fully functioning synagogue on the premises? :-P

Posted by: treppenwitz | Apr 26, 2006 2:16:46 PM

For me, the part about using vacation time for holiday observance hits so close to home... I'm sure it does for many of us. You make me want to call Nefesh b'Nefesh...

Posted by: Oceanguy | Apr 26, 2006 2:47:26 PM

I guess I have been lucky to work for companies that were more enlightened here; and now I work for a Jewish organization so I don't have the vacation day issue. but your post reminds me of why I loved living in Israel for the 2 years that I did. I never ONCE heard "Merry Xmas" or the thinly veiled "Happy Holidays" when handed a recipt at a store. "Chag Same'ach" was a beautiful thing to hear when I went shopping! The one thing that bothered me was all the tinsel that people decorated their sukkah with - i could never bring myself to do that!!

Sounds like you have a wonderful company - you are a lucky guy (hot lunches? AWESOME!)

Posted by: Ezer Knegdo | Apr 26, 2006 2:57:06 PM

Never heard of a religious perquisite...then again, one of the wonders of the Holy Land. It's interesting you mentioned the MAD approach, tonight like many other days and nights an object orbiting the earth will strengthen the MAD doctrine and keep you safe from "Nuclear aggression" :)

Posted by: pk | Apr 26, 2006 3:03:15 PM

I'm envious! I asked for to have Thursday off for Passover. My boss said some things that he shouldn't have but later apologized.

Posted by: seawitch | Apr 26, 2006 3:39:09 PM

you're an idiot...!

just kidding, but great idea Mr B. wow i miss that show...

anyway, isn't usually the little things...?

Posted by: Captain Tuttle | Apr 26, 2006 4:11:06 PM

Tuttle was such a hotie... :-)and such amazing credentials...

Posted by: nrg | Apr 26, 2006 4:27:02 PM

That's so awesome, in so many ways. (I've been at my job for almost three years, and most people still pronounce my name wrong.)

p.s. You know, Zahava. You're allowed to use the kleenex warning icons too. ;o)

Posted by: Tanya | Apr 26, 2006 4:53:36 PM

Interesting that her precis in Hebrew enables you to understand the memos enough not to need an English translation. I'm trying to think of how well I'd be able to explain something like a dense business memo in English to a still-learning second language English speaker well enough to ensure they made the right decisions. She must be a really skilled woman, and you're lucky to have her as a colleague.

Posted by: Judy | Apr 26, 2006 5:07:47 PM

Okay, so aside from the fact that this is a very nice post...I love what your wife said to you (What can I say, I'm a romantic)

Posted by: Randi(cruisin-mom) | Apr 26, 2006 5:31:53 PM

That is pretty cool.

Posted by: Jack | Apr 26, 2006 5:36:24 PM

...And this is one of the many reasons we are moving, to Israel (Erez, Medinat, whatever). Any chance you could post more pics of Efrat, my wife wants an idea of what it looks like before we go.

Posted by: Max Power | Apr 26, 2006 6:13:21 PM

Max - it's beautiful and pictures don't do it justice!

Posted by: val | Apr 26, 2006 8:04:15 PM

When I make Aliyah, it will be to Eretz Yisrael. There is no mitzvah to live in medinat Yisrael. Perks like these do not come close to the rewards for living in Eretz yisrael.

Posted by: Michael Kopinsky | Apr 26, 2006 9:08:46 PM

Aww! This is the FIRST time I've ever I thought of a company as "cute"! : )

Posted by: Irina | Apr 26, 2006 9:12:00 PM

Wow! That is one good employer!

Posted by: lisoosh | Apr 26, 2006 10:49:08 PM

Ah, Trep - your comment about Eretz vs. Medinat Yisrael is precisely why you are a good guy (of course, perhaps, Medinat Yisrael is important BECAUSE it is in Eretz Yisrael, but still...). I am often tempted to correct people who write "Eretz Yisrael" and not "Medinat Yisrael" - if u want to avoid such things, at least right Israel, but Medinat Yisrael (religiously) is kadosh (holy). But, sadly, it surprises me how few WESTERN OLIM are Zionist (but that's a whole other rant!)

And, yeah, nice post. But I'm sure you still would want a larger salary (my other rant - why we won't get significant Western aliya barring a crisis (chas v'shalom) or Israeli economic liberalization)

Posted by: amechad | Apr 27, 2006 12:05:08 AM

Wow, I apologize for the atrocious grammer in the above post. But my point still stands. You and I (well, some may disagree about you, but not I) live in Medinat Yisrael and you work in Medinat Yisrael and I want to work for (oh wait, so do you) Medinat Yisrael.

Posted by: amechad | Apr 27, 2006 12:08:14 AM

lovely post 9AS USUAL).
When our second boy made aliya about 2 years ago, he rang on his first day at work (very well known solicitors office) to tell me about Mincha being 'dovened' in the firm and a choice of 3 main courses in the kosher dinning room. Yes he doese 'mention' from time to time the fact that he earns a asirit (10th) of his salary in England. Surely there is some law of Maaser.....

Posted by: savta yaffa | Apr 27, 2006 1:17:18 AM

The photos of the countryside around your home look so much like the hillcountry of central Texas, even down to the lupines -- which are so similar to our Texas Bluebonnets (http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/wildseed/39/39.5.html).

I'd say you'd feel right home around Austin or San Antonio, but then ... it wouldn't be at all like home, would it?

Posted by: Bob | Apr 27, 2006 1:17:47 AM

i understand your point! will remember that difference next time. thanks :)

Posted by: Sarah | Apr 27, 2006 2:34:07 AM

Oceanguy... You have no idea what a relief it is to be able to use vacation days for... VACATION. What a concept!

Ezer Knegdo... The tinsel bothered me too at first. But since none of the Israelis had any other context for it it stopped rubbing me the wrong way. And yes, I know how lucky I am.

PK... And it is wonderful to know it s up there, let me tell you.

Seawitch... You have to remember that may people down where you live have never knowingly met a Jew. Expecting them to understand another culture outside of Christianity is probably an unfair burden to place on them. :-)

Capt. Tuttle... Thanks. I knew if I dangled that out there someone would bite. :-)

nrg... OK, two someones. :-)

Tanya... There is much more of a sense of people being parents, siblings and children in the Israeli workplace than in the US. When there is a celebration or (G-d forbid) a tragedy in someone's family, it is understood that you won't be around at work. People would look at you like a cretin if you put work over family. I'm told this is changing in the hi-tech sector, which wants so much to emulate the worst of US culture... but that is the exception.

Judy... She is indeed a very bright and complex woman. Her story merits its own post... maybe next week.

Randi... You'd like her in person as well. Maybe you'll get the chance when you come to Israel next.

Jack... Yup... free gravy. :-)

Max Power... As another commenter has pointed out, pictures really don't do the town justice. Here is the Efrat Wiki site that has lots of relevant information and links. Enjoy.

Val... You said it!

Michael Kopinsky... Enjoy your new home in Amman. I'm sure the neighbors will be very nice. :-)

Irina... 'Cute' might be pushing it.

Lisoosh... The best I have ever had (tfu, tfu, tfu).

Amechad... I don't really object to the expression so much except that it is intended as a way to consciously delineate a division in the Jewish people. IT would be so easy to just say 'Israel' and let the listener hear the connotation that his/her inner moral/religious lexicon pulls up... but no, they need to make sure we understand that the 'medina' is a traif... even 'assur' entity. It's a good thing the Temple isn't standing today because it would be town down again from such baseless hatred.

Savta Yaffa... So long as everyone is underpaid (even the lawyers), nobody feels particularly singled out. :-)

Bob... That's where the similarity ends. :-) Although I must say that all but one visit I made to the lone-star state was marked be warm hospitality.

Sarah... Just so you know I wasn't taking you to task. Just a pet peeve of mine. Thanks.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Apr 27, 2006 5:31:33 PM

Wow...now where is that phone # for the shaliach?

Posted by: Essie | Apr 28, 2006 4:39:44 AM

This stands in stark contrast to my first couple of years in my office, when I and the one other Jewish lawyer in our Italian-Catholic dominated office had to keep explaining that 'yes, we really DID need to have Yom Kippur off.'

Posted by: aliyah06 | Apr 29, 2006 2:12:30 AM

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