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February 18, 1994 - Image 107

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-02-18

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From The Sweatshop
To The Boardroom

upon America,
Jews have
climbed the
Now times
may be



hen Ruth Bad-
er Ginsberg
was attending
law school, she
and the few
other women
students in her
class were invited to the dean's
house for dinner.
The meal was not a reward.
Instead, it was a rebuke by the
dean for taking spots he
thought should be filled by men.
Judge Ginsberg, the newest
appointment to the U.S.
Supreme Court and the second
woman ever to sit on the high-
est court in the nation, still is
taking a spot traditionally filled
by a man.
Her rise to the top of her pro-
fession is fodder for pride and
inspiration among feminists.
Yet her quick ascent is typical
of American Jews, according to
recent studies by social scien-
More than almost any other
group of immigrants, Central
and Eastern European Jews

have taken advantage of the op-
portunities presented in Amer-
ica for upward mobility reports
Barry Cheswick, an economics
professor at the University of
Illinois-Chicago whose study
was presented last summer in
Jerusalem at the 11th World
Congress ofJewish Studies.
Because of the early Jewish
immigrants' efforts, their de-
scendants have climbed up the
corporate ladders to positions
of power in greater numbers,
percentage-wise, than their gen-
tile counterparts.
"This is a group which, over
the course of less than a cen-
tury, went from sweatshop
workers to small businesses to
professionals, an achievement
apparently unsurpassed by any
other group," Professor
Cheswick said.
In 1990, he found, nearly half
of all Jewish males were em-
ployed in professional or tech-
nical fields, almost three times
the percentage of gentiles.
That's the good news. But

there's bad news, too.
Much of what was at-
tained over the past four
or five generations has
been severely eroded dur-
ing the current recession
which, unlike earlier eco-
nomic downturns, has
significantly affected
white-collar and man-
agerial employees.
The demand for job-
hunting assistance from
Jewish vocational service agen-
cies throughout the nation has
doubled since 1990, according
to Ephraim Royfe, executive di-
rector of the Jewish Employ-
ment and Vocational Service in
"What is particularly chal-
lenging is that a surprising
number of these clients for-
merly earned between $50,000
and $150,000 per year," Mr.
Royfe said. "This population
was, by and large, absent from
JVS caseloads before 1990."
The jobs most impacted by
the recent slump are many in

which Jews traditionally have
excelled, including attorneys,
accountants, financial, admin-
istrative and construction man-
agers and marketing.
For instance, the legal in-
dustry increased at an annual
rate of 6.5 percent during the
1980s but fell 1 percent from
1990 to 1991. The financial ser-
vice sector, after growing at a 5
percent annual rate during the
1980s, dropped by 4 percent
from 1990 to 1991.
While specific employment
informaiton for the Detroit area

is not available, Barbara
Nurenberg, the executive di-
rector ofJewish Vocational Ser-
vice, said this is the first
economic down-turn in the area
that has primarily affected
white collar professionals and
managerial employees.
A recent study into the con-
ditions of the Jewish commu-
nity in the greater New York
City region revealed that one of
every four jobs lost there be-
tween December 1988 and De-
cember 1992 were held by Jews.
"It seems very likely that
Jews, concentrated as they are
in professional and manageri-
al jobs, were substantially and
disproportionately represented
in this growing sector of unem-
ployment," stated the report by
Herbert Bienstock, director of
the Queens College-City Uni-
versity of New York Center for
Labor and Urban Programs.
Though Jews have been in
America since the 17th centu-
ry, not until the 1880s did the
massive waves of immigrants,
many from Czarist Russia,
transform American Jewry and
ultimately, America. Jewish im-
migrants were mainly involved
in managerial, sales, craft and
laborer jobs, according to Pro-
fessor Cheswick.
Because the Jewish immi-
grants invested heavily in their
children's educa-
tion, young Jews
als are feel-
were achieving
ing the
crunch, says higher levels of
schooling than
their gentile coun-
terparts by the sec-
of JVS.
ond decade of the
20th century.
That trend has continued.
Today, more than 70 percent of
all Jewish males have acquired
a bachelor's degree, compared
to 25 percent of the general pop-
With the schooling came in-
creased earning power
and positions of
authority. Based on census and
other data available, Professor
Cheswick has recorded the
steady increase in the percent-
age of Jewish males in profes-
sional/technical occupations.
In 1900, 2.3 percent of Jew-
ish males had careers in pro-
fessional fields (versus 4.1


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