Oh the Fickle Requirements of Working at Jewish Institutions

by Loolwa Khazzoom • March 23, 2015 • Jewish Multicultural Corner

When I was somewhere around 27 years old, I applied for the second-in-command position – I think the title was “director” – at a swanky Jewish Community Center, one of the nicest I had ever seen. I was competing against a group of highly-credentialed folk – rabbis and PhDs – in other words, people who had gone through and received the blessings of the system.

Having been a woman of my own making since the word go, not only creating my own job as a Jewish multicultural educator, but creating the field itself, it was quite the honor that I beat out all my competitors except one rabbi, who also made it to the final stage – namely, an interview with the executive director.

To give context for what I am about to share, I was by then well-known for my ground-breaking work in Jewish multiculturalism. I had spoken frequently at synagogues, camps, schools, community organizations, and conferences, and my work had been in the Jewish and mainstream press, on the local, national, and/or international levels. That’s back story for what’s about to come:

I was sitting across from the executive director and sailing through all the interview questions. I was nailing it, I knew, and the job was well within my grasp. That’s when the executive director sat back in his chair, looked me dead in the eye, paused, and asked in measured words, “Will you teach about Ashkenazi heritage as passionately as you teach about Sephardic heritage?”

“The reason that my work has focused on Jewish heritage from non-European countries,” I replied, “is because Jewish education teaches exclusively about Jews from Central and Eastern Europe, and I am balancing it out. People already know about Ashkenazi heritage. I am teaching what they do not know. My vision for the Jewish community, however, is Jewish heritage from around the world being taught, honored, and celebrated equally.”

Pause.

“Will you teach about Ashkenazi heritage as passionately as you teach about Sephardic heritage?” he repeated. Our eyes were locked. “Yes,” I said.

I knew I was lying; he knew I was lying; everyone knew I was lying. Needless to say, I did not get the job. Instead, the young Ashkenazi rabbi did.

At no time during that rabbi’s interview, I am willing to bet a whole heap of money, did the executive director lean back in his chair, look the young Ashkenazi rabbi dead in the eye, and ask, “Will you teach about Sephardic heritage as passionately as you teach about Ashkenazi heritage?” I am 100% certain he did not even ask, “Will you teach Sephardic heritage at all?”




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About Loolwa

Loolwa KhazzoomLoolwa Khazzoom has worked with leading media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, Rolling Stone, and ABC News. In addition, she has published two books and has lectured at prestigious venues including Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Harvard University. Loolwa is passionate about health, music, dance, multiculturalism, and Judaism.

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Loolwa Khazzoom is a a public relations manager specializing in holistic media, holistic marketing, holistic public relations, and holistic promotions. Her services include branding and messaging development, image and communications management, website content development and optimization, social media management, traditional media campaign management, book development, and in-house writing and editing.

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