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October 05, 1984 - Image 44

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-10-05

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Friday October 5, 1984



Displaced homemakers newly
widowed or divorced women in need of
income — are turning to the Jewish
Vocational Service to discover their work
skills and find a job.

Special to The Jewish News

Three years ago when Ellen Re-
znik became a widow at age 51, not
only did she lose her husband — she
lost her job. For thirty years, Reznik's
only employer had been her family.
And now, with the kids grown up and
no one but herself to take care of, Re-
znik's only skill, homemaking, was no
longer rewarding.
This soft-spoken Southfield
woman with red hair and brown eyes
was unable to enter the working world
for lack of skills and confidence.
"I've always worked, but I've
never received a paycheck," says Re-
znik, referring to her homemaking re-
sponsibilities and volunteer jobs. She
was vice president of the sisterhood at
Cong. Beth Abraham Hillel Moses,
and active in P.T.O. and Brownies at
-the local public school for several
years. But organizing Kiddush and a
Girl Scout cookie sale won't grant her
a job interview.
Reznick is not alone in finding the
transition from homemaker to wage
earner difficult. She is one of about 5.5
million women who are displaced
homemakers — women forced out of
the kitchen through widowhood, di-
vorce or other crisis and thrust into the
working world.
A national conference in 1978 on
displaced homemakers led to the for-
mation of The Displaced Homemakers
Network Inc. in Washington D.C. This
national, non-profit organization
serves as an information clearing
house that monitors legislation to
encourage and expand programs for
displaced homemakers.
According to Jill Miller, executive
director of The Displaced Homemak-
ers Network, it is difficult to estimate
the exact number of displaced
homemakers in the United States.
"There have been a couple of efforts to
f atimate the number and conserva-
ively we consider it to be four million

— probably seven million It's some-
where between there," says Miller.
Miller notes that one out of every
two people getting married today will
be displaced at some point, through
divorce or widowhood. She mentions
that not all women are choosing
homemaking as a career but some are.
So, for every Mary Cunningham

Rita Morse helps former homemakers
obtain jobs.

climbing the corporate ladder, there's
Ellen Reznik working in the kitchen.
More than 400 programs in the
United States help displaced
homemakers. In Michigan, there are
10 programs funded by the Michigan
Department of Labor, Office of Women
in Work. One such program, which
began in October 1981, is run through
the Jewish Vocational Service (JVS)
and Community Workshop.
This non-sectarian program
serves over 100 women per year. Sixty
percent of the women completing the
program are placed in employment
with another 10-15 percent in training

Job specialist Rita Morse, center, discusses "job club" with Ellen Reznik, Edwina Davis,
Nancy Paulus and Diana Solari. -

and educational workshops. In order to
qualify for the program, women must
meet the guidelines for being a dis-
placed homemaker. Guidelines in-
clude being a homemaker for a
minimum of ten years, losing financial
support through separation, divorce,
widowhood or disability of a spouse,
and lacking sufficient skills to obtain
employment _ .
Sherri Lumberg, program coor-
dinator of the Displaced Homemakers
Program at the JVS, and Rita Morse,
job placement specialist, have helped
women ages 34-71 gain self-esteem
and find a job.
They have a chance to talk to one
another and start to find out that
they're not alone in their feelings of
being scared, confused and angry.
They start to see that other people
show the same kinds of feelings and
and share similar stories and circum-
stances. So, there's some kind of sup-
port that starts right from the begin-
ning in meeting each other," says
This six-ten week program has
three phases: orientation, workshop
and job club. When the women first
enter the program, they get ac-
quainted with the group and meet in-
dividually with the coordinators. They
then take a series of tests for 11/2 days,
which determines their aptitude and
In the eight-day workshop, the
women talk about their strengths,
interests and values and how they re-

late to employment. The coordinators
interpret the tests, and the women do
career exploration. They are intro-
duced to the JVS library and taught
how to use books and directories on
Most of the workshop concen-
trates on job-selling skills — filling out
applications, writing resumes and
conducting telephone and personal in-
terviews. The women practice inter-
views on audio-visual equipment. We
really polish job seeking skills," says
In job club, which meets every
Wednesday and Friday, the women
meet in a large room with a conference
table, several telephones and a bulle-
tin board listing employment. They
are encouraged to call employers and
set up interviews.
Ellen Reznick went to the JVS
Oak Park office (25900 Greenfield Rd.)
in May to "find direction." Reznik
learned about the program through an
article in The Jewish News.
She and nine other women are
busy working on their resume this
summer morning. Reznik is secure
listing her volunteer activities and
newly-acquired word processing cer-
tificate. "These skills transfer to the
office," says Reznik. She uses key
words like competent, dependable and
adaptable from a list of notes in her
folder. The program has been great. It
has given me more confidence in my
skills that have been hidden as a

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