Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Turning Tides: Taken to Account

Leah Gebber

Every job — whether as a street cleaner or a banker or a farmer — can be done in a way that builds society or destroys it

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

 Mishpacha image

 

I f I look like a bank teller, there’s a good reason for that. A bobbed sheitel, a cream silk blouse tucked into a black or beige pencil skirt. In the winter, I add a cashmere sweater or jacket. There are no fringes. No frills. No embroidery. Plain, straight lines. Simple. Classic.

This reflects the person I am and the reason behind my journey from a sleek hairstyle to a bobbed sheitel. I did not turn to a Torah lifestyle because I’m a particularly spiritual person. My head is not in the clouds, it’s firmly on my shoulders. I don’t look at other people and see souls, whether lost or found. I see people, navigating through the minutiae of life’s demands.

In short, I am a bank teller.

In my job, though, I do more than simply disburse money and track account movements. I also deal with simple mortgages and loans. In doing so, I become exposed to the chareidi community.

This is what I see: A couple comes in, they could be in their early forties or late fifties. He wears a hat and black jacket, often a long one down to his knees. She wears a wig: sometimes short, sometimes a little longer.

“What do you do?” I ask them.

I’m never surprised by their answers. He’s a teacher or a rabbi or maybe he just learns. Within the teacher category, there are a whole set of answers I needed to learn, for it’s important to understand another’s culture. He might say, “I’m a ram.” Or maybe he’s a meishiv or mashgiach katan or rosh chaburah.

 

Over time, I learned the distinction between these terms. And this is important, I believe. After all, a teacher of high school math wouldn’t like to be confused with a helper in a preschool, and an educational advisor wouldn’t want to be considered a remedial reading teacher. It’s part of the respect I’ve always shown the religious community. My colleagues may dismiss these titles as annoying terms, but I view them as the vocabulary I must learn in order to understand my clientele.

Back to our couple. They’ll ask me about remortgaging their home, or perhaps they’ll be taking out a large loan or a second mortgage. Usually, this is because they’re marrying off a child. Occasionally, it’s because of medical expenses.

Before this can be approved, I must go through their accounts, and make sure everything is in order. I must check that their monthly account balances and that they’ll have the means to pay off the loan. There’s nothing I hate more than to hear my colleagues phone customers and dangle loans in front of them. “Have you checked that they have the means to pay it back?” I ask them.

They shrug. Obviously, they haven’t thought about this, or they don’t care. Which infuriates me, because I believe that every job — whether as a street cleaner or a banker or a farmer — can be done in a way that builds society or that destroys it.

Again and again, when researching chareidi couples’ bank accounts, I find the following: The monthly income is low. But everything balances. There are no impulse buys. Most of their monthly income, I see, goes to simple things: grocery bills, electricity, gas, water. Occasionally, they buy a large appliance or piece of furniture, and this is often paid off in monthly installments. Their clothing expenses are not large. Entertainment is nonexistent. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 570)

Related Stories

Dr. Mom

Barbara Bensoussan

They’re frum mothers, dealing with children, Shabbos guests, and community obligations. They’re doct...

The Heat Is On

Libi Astaire

Along the way, people figured out how to keep their homes at least somewhat warm, employing simple m...

Starting Over Again

Esther Ilana Rabi

Here are some practical ways to overcome those despairing “I’ll never achieve my goal” moments and o...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
Do You Know Where You’re Going?
Rabbi Moshe Grylak If Mrs. Esterhazy hadn’t gotten sick
Birthright Drops Reform
Yonoson Rosenblum The numbers tell the sad story
With Fresh Eyes
Eytan Kobre Members of an ever-tying people
Gift-Giving Guide
Yisroel Besser There’s a skill to giving a teacher a gift
Time for a Career Change
Jacob L. Freedman “How can a bochur even afford to smoke?”
Today I Am a (Learned? Committed?) Jewish Man
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Are bar mitzvah celebrations good for the Jews?
Major in Mothering
Faigy Peritzman “How do you picture marriage? Discussing quantum theory?...
When Parents Disagree
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Connecting heart-to-heart when you don’t see eye-to-eye
En Route: Food for Thought
Mrs. Shani Mendlowitz The bread we eat today also comes from heaven
The Twins: Part II
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer “Bead,” she says again, with a little smirk
Dear Acquaintance
Your Possible Friend at the Clinic Why do you make it harder for me — and for you?