Commentary Magazine

Should Jews Change Their Occupations?
A Rational Approach To The Maldistribution ProblemM/em>

Prophetic voices are again warning American Jews that their economic position spells trouble for them—especially if there is a major depression. Well-meaning neighbors (and some not so well-meaning) urge the need to “normalize” Jewish occupational “maldistribution”—and not infrequently Jews themselves are heard singing the same ominous tune.

Typically, J. F. Brown, a social psychologist, calls upon Jewish leadership to dissuade fellow-Jews from entering those businesses and professions which they have already too conspicuously “overpopulated.” Zionists call for a return to manual labor and the soil. Others tell us that Jewry’s only hope of survival—elsewhere as well as in America—is to retire from all positions of economic concentration, prominence, or control; to retreat from all points at which they conspicuously come in contact with Gentile customers; to abandon all handling of goods that adds nothing to the value of such goods; and to seek their sustenance exclusively as farmers, mechanics, and factory hands.

A dispatch from Hungary reports a meeting of Jewish leaders called to protest a proposed land reform law that would make it impossible for Jews either to obtain new land or to repossess confiscated land holdings. Chief Rabbi Ferenc Hevesi’s plea was all too familiar—Jewish landlessness has driven Jews into “undesirable occupations,” which help to breed anti-Semitism.

In other European countries, where Jewish communities are struggling back to life, Jewish leaders point to the pre-war clustering of Jews in commercial and professional callings as the chief reason for their misfortune. They beg their fellow-Jews not to repeat what they regard as tragic errors and to seek ways of earning a living that would shield them from the barbs of anti-Semitism.



It is well understood that the Jewish economic pattern did not arise from choice. Historically, it developed from the fact that, although Jews have at some time been found in almost every kind of occupation, they were gradually forced out of many, and concentrated in a few. Against great odds, they often achieved some measure of success in the occupations left open to them. But where they distributed goods they were declared parasites; where they made the goods, the guilds were closed to them because they were said to excel their non-Jewish fellow workers (in Baden, the government declared that Jews “are too skillful and the Christian artisans will be unable to come up to their standards”). And even within the fields of work left open to them, they were often restricted to petty trades and money-lending by papal edicts and royal decrees. Where they healed the sick they were called controllers—and necromancers—of the healing arts. Where they contributed to letters, to the arts, to music, to science and scholarship, to human welfare—what was that but proof of their distaste for hard “productive” labor?

When walled off in ghettoes, as in Poland, Jews were execrated as an alien, clannish enclave in the life of the nation. But if, as in Germany, they adopted the culture of the dominant group, they were hated as a poison in the country’s bloodstream.

It is not commonly known that throughout the first fifteen centuries of their life in the Diaspora most Jews were farmers and craftsmen. In Sicily, they were the iron-mongers, the shipwrights, and the road-builders. Their work was so necessary to the economic life of the country that their Christian neighbors pleaded for their exemption from the Spanish expulsion order of 1492. Across the straits in Italy, according to the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, they were “workers.”

In Poland, even at the dawn of the 19th century, there were still about three times as many Jewish craftsmen as Jewish merchants. Indeed, nearly all the tailors, hatters, tanners, carpenters, and blacksmiths of Poland were Jews.

But in France, England, and Germany, the economic policies of rulers early drove Jews into commercial pursuits, in some cases into finance alone. By the end of the 18th century, agriculture was virtually closed to Jews in most countries, largely because they were forbidden to own land. The craft guilds had long since shut their doors in the faces of Jews. In the 19th century, however, in the wake of the French Revolution, Jews found the doors of universities open, and through them entrance into the professions and sometimes larger mercantile establishments.

In Eastern Europe, emancipation never proceeded far enough to remove the legal barriers restraining Jewish occupational choice. And by the end of the 19th century, the existing occupational distribution, giving support to the myth of “Jewish control,” became a pillar of reactionary politics, used from Czarist Russia to Nazi Germany. Poland complained bitterly at the sixth session of the League of Nations about the abnormal occupational structure of Polish Jews, while at the same time she imposed within her borders the severest restrictions against Jewish artisans and craftsmen.

Later, in Nazi Germany, Jews were kicked out of factories and workshops long before they were put out of business, presumably to make it easier for Goebbels to prove that the Jews were parasites. Teen-age refugees who were stuck in Berlin when the air offensive began against Germany told this writer how German factory workers were shocked to learn that Jewish women forced to work alongside them in munitions plants were as good or better workers than “Aryans.” According to my informants, this image of the Jew as a producer so bothered the Nazis that, even though they desperately needed the output of the Jewish women, they pulled them out of the factories (and sent many of them to the gas chambers and crematories).

So the contours of Jewish occupational distribution in Europe were set by a mold of restrictive covenants, church canons, and royal rulings. If you could not own land, if you could not join a craft guild, and if you could not obtain employment with the government—then your only choice was to go into some form of trade or to prepare for a profession.

Remarkable is the diversity of occupations in which Jews worked in the face of all manner of restrictions. Jacob Lestchinsky in 1930 estimated that, among the world Jewish population, workers (by his definition) were more numerous than merchants (and even petty trade, he suggested, is far from easy work). According to Lestchinsky’s computations, almost eight million Jews worked for wages and professionally as against about six and a half in business.



In The light of this historical background, let us now look at the occupational pattern of American Jews.

All we know about the occupational stratification of Jews in the United States is to be found in a handful of limited “one-shot” studies, since the decennial United States census has no breakdown of workers by religion. Because these studies have not been made periodically, we have no scientific way of telling whether the occupational pattern of the Jew in America is changing, how fast, or in what direction. As limited studies, they permit no comparisons between Jewish and non-Jewish workers in the same locality. Further, you can seldom compare the figures of different studies, because different investigators have used different occupational and industrial groupings. Finally, they are based on small or inadequate samples of the Jewish population. The number of Jews included in the best—and most nearly comparable-studies runs to about 110,000 out of an estimated 4,500,000 Jews in the country. This would be ample, numerically, if these were representative or typical samples. But, unfortunately, we haven’t the slightest assurance that they are.

However, admitting all the shortcomings of these studies, we can perhaps make these generalizations:

Foreign-born Jews, who constitute roughly one-third of the Jewish population in the cities that have been studied, have a work pattern that differs from native-born Jews. These differences are due to their greater age, their language limitations, educational training, cultural differences, and the like. You find a smaller proportion of native-born Jews in manufacturing and mechanical industries, in trade (especially retail), and in domestic and personal service, and a larger proportion of native-born Jews in the professions and clerical occupations.

If we lump together the six cities of Dallas, Detroit, New London, Norwich, Passaic, and Trenton, for which studies are available, Jews are distributed occupationally something like this1: Trade ranks first by far, absorbing from 43 to 55 per cent of gainfully employed Jews. Manufacturing and mechanical occupations come next with n to 23 per cent. Another 5 to 20 per cent earn their living at clerical work. The much-discussed category of professional service includes 9 to 14 per cent of Jews. Domestic and personal service—a kind of catch-all classification which includes waiters, beauticians, barbers, cooks, etc.—accounts for 2 to 10 per cent. The remaining work groupings are: transportation and communication, 1 to 3 per cent; public service about 1 per cent; and “unclassified,” up to 2 per cent.

Keeping in mind the serious weaknesses of these investigations, it seems true that a large proportion of Jews are in trade, manufacturing and mechanical pursuits, and professional service (the same is true for Canada, where we have government statistics), and that the smallest proportion of Jewish workers is in transportation and communication, and public service.

This gives us only occupational breakdowns and tells nothing about the socioeconomic status of Jews, i.e., whether Jews are employers or employees, skilled or unskilled workers. Facts on socio-economic status—also not very reliable—are available on a comparative basis for at least three communities: Buffalo, Detroit, and San Francisco. According to these studies, the bulk of Jewish workers—36 to 40 per cent—can be classed as clerks and sales-persons. Proprietors, managers, and officials constitute 26 to 31 per cent of the Jewish labor force. Skilled workers account for 6 to 16 per cent. Professionals constitute 8 to 14 per cent. The semi-skilled make up only 3 to 15 per cent, while the unskilled account for only 2 to 3 per cent of the total. (In Canada, there is a somewhat greater proportion of semi-skilled and unskilled Jewish workers. But it must be noted that the general population of Canada also has a greater proportion of such workers than the United States, and that more Canadian Jews—50 per cent of the total—are foreign-born.)

There is no point in this discussion in going into charges of industrial control by Jews. Suffice it to say that the Fortune survey in 1935 clearly established that there are very few industries in which Jews have controlling positions.



The meaning of these figures would become clearer if we could compare them with figures for the general population in the same localities. But there are no comparable figures, for in none of these studies was the general population also surveyed. The only yardstick available—and this is offered with greatest temerity—is the figures for the country as a whole. Alba M. Edwards (in Population: Comparative Occupation Statistics for the United States, 1870—1940, U. S. Bureau of Census), using the 1940 census, divided the working population of the country into the following occupational groups (figures to nearest per cent): manufacturing and mechanical, 26 per cent; agriculture, 18 per cent; trade, 14 per cent; domestic and personal service, 10 per cent; transportation and communication, 9 per cent; clerical service, 12 per cent; professional service, 7 per cent; public service, 4 per cent; minerals, 2 per cent; forestry and fishing, less than 1 per cent.

Comparing these estimates with the results yielded by our “one-shot” studies, we find that the most outstanding difference is, as we expected, in trade: about 50 per cent of Jews gainfully occupied were in trade, against 14 per cent in the population as a whole. While we found 9 to 14 per cent of Jews in the towns studied engaged in the professions, in the general American population only 7 per cent were professionals. The percentages of Jews employed in the manufacturing and mechanical, transportation and communication, public service, and domestic and personal service categories were lower than those for the general population. The percentage of Jews in clerical occupations was lower than the national percentage in some cities, and more in others.

As for socio-economic comparisons between Jews and the general population, we are again able to make only primitive comparisons, using the 1940 census as a yardstick.

According to these figures, of the entire American labor force, 7 per cent were professional people (Jews: 9 to 14 per cent); 18 per cent were proprietors, managers, and officials (Jews: 26 to 31 per cent); 17 per cent were clerks, sales persons, and kindred workers (Jews: 36 to 40 per cent); 12 per cent were skilled workers and foremen (Jews: 6 to 16 per cent); 21 per cent were semi-skilled workers (Jews: 3 to 15 per cent); and 26 per cent were unskilled workers (Jews: 2 to 3 per cent). The contrasts are striking, but expected: compared with the percentages for the whole country, many more Jews are clerks and salespersons, considerably more are proprietors, managers, and officials, a few more are professionals; far fewer Jews are semi-skilled workers, and hardly any are unskilled workers.



Before we draw implications from these rough comparisons, what about the relation of Jews to general occupational trends in the country? For the country as a whole, in the past few decades, the greatest proportional increase in jobs has occurred among white-collar workers on all levels: clerks, middlemen, salesmen, proprietors, and officials, personal and professional service. Trade, transportation, and clerical occupations—all concerned with the distribution of goods—have also experienced a great increase. The greatest decline, again proportionately, has occurred in the “productive” industries. This decline is the other side of the coin of increased productivity per worker: in 1939 we produced as much as we had produced in 1929—but with eight to twelve million pairs of idle hands. Employment in agriculture leveled off around 1900, and since 1910 has been declining. So, too, with mining. The proportion of physicians and surgeons has remained fairly constant since 1910, primarily because of the reduction in the number of medical schools and the limitation of students in those that remain. Dentistry has had an upswing. (Better medical and dental care is still desperately needed by wide areas of the population.)

The outstanding fact is that the trend has been away from the “productive” occupations toward distributive and service occupations. This means wider opportunities for work with people: catering to their wants, coordinating their efforts, persuading and instructing them—in short, helping people in one way or another.

These occupational shifts aren’t optional; in an economic and industrial sense they are compulsory. Take the occupational shifts which are occurring in industry. A survey of more than 2,000 different factory jobs in eighteen industries showed that more than half of the jobs required only one week’s training on the job to become expert—not expert, however, at doing an all-around job, but expert at tending one machine that a technician sets up. About half of these semi-skilled jobs require only the ability to read, write, and speak simple English. It is clear that the shift from skilled to semiskilled jobs in industry is not optional with the individual worker.

In the 1937—1938 recession these trends stood out in sharp relief. From May 1937 to June 1938, when a three-year low in employment was reached, unemployment in blue-collar occupations—manual and machine workers—rose far more rapidly than in the professions and distributive occupations. United States Employment Service analysts declared that the “secondary effects of the decline in industrial production on workers in white collar and service occupations were much less severe than the primary effects on manufacturing” (Survey of Employment Service Information, May 1939, U.S.E.S.).

Turning back to American Jews, we see that they are concentrated in precisely those occupational groupings that have been on the increase. It seems to be the case, moreover, that distributive occupations permit of many more small enterprise units than the productive, where larger capital outlay is necessary. (The Business Structure Unit of the U. S. Department of Commerce continues to marvel at the surprising vitality of small business.) And the professions, too, with the exception of law—there are always too many lawyers—are more favorably situated than occupations in the primary producing sector.

Should Jews, then, forsake the professions and the distributive and service occupations? They seem to be on the main job-highway of the country. Should they turn off into a side road? Specifically, should Jewish youth be guided into non-commercial careers, as the Jewish Vocational Guidance Bureau of Berlin tried to do in 1929?



An Individual’s motives for choosing a given occupation make a strange concoction. Think for a moment of why you chose—or found your way into—your present occupation, instead of any one of 30,000 possible others.

Maybe you wanted to earn a lot of money; or obtain job security; or social prestige; or a higher standard of living. Maybe you didn’t know much about other kinds of work. Maybe some friends of yours were preparing for the same career. Maybe there was a depression and this was the only kind of work you could get into. Perhaps your parents urged you into one of the professions, or your father had built up a profitable business and you thought that you might as well go into it. Perhaps discrimination in professional schools and colleges, or job bias in some form, helped you make up your mind. Not to mention the countless psychological determinants—conscious and unconscious—such as ability, aptitude, personality, and so on.

But behind most of these as prime motivation is the great American—not Jewish—tradition of vertical mobility, of wanting to get ahead for yourself in a system of free opportunity so that you too might enjoy and give your family all the opportunities and advantages that spell out the American way of life.

Someone has aptly said that the class struggle in America is not a struggle of one class against another, but a struggle to climb out of one class into a higher one. Competition and the struggle for worldly goods is the American norm. Calvin Coolidge once said that “the business of America is business.” And business America is an urban America. From a country of pioneer and rural life, America has become a land of big cities —more than half our population is urban.

The culture of America—not only of Jews —is urban and “pushing.” With the possible exception of the Pennsylvania Dutch, the cultural patterns of old world immigrants have crumbled against the buttresses of the American industrialization and its culture; they have become what America made them.

Is the occupational pattern of the Jews in this country their own, or did they, too, develop it in America’s image? Most of the Jews who came here seeking a better way of life for themselves and their children came from an urban commercial background. They had been workers, tradesmen, and small shopkeepers in the urban centers of Eastern Europe. They settled in American cities not unlike the European towns and cities they had lived in; and they took whatever work they could get. If over the years the occupational distribution of Jews seems to have been changing, as Nathan Goldberg points out in the Jewish Review (Oct.-Dec. 1945), the changes “have, generally speaking, resembled those which have occurred in the economic structure of the country as a whole, although not of the same magnitude.”



You can often hear it said by Jews and Gentiles that Jews have unusually lofty aspirations, especially for their children. Every Jewish boy, they say, is a budding doctor or lawyer.

But is this really a Jewish trait or is it again a part of the general picture of American culture?

According to a Fortune survey of American high-school youth (November and December 1942), “the great majority of our high-school students look forward to better things in adulthood than most of them will get. More expect to go on with their education [about 29 per cent] after high-school than can possibly be accommodated…. And, most serious of all, more than a third of our youth plan to enter the professions that, with crowding, now include less than 5 per cent of our adults, while only 11.8 per cent of them plan to go into farming or factory work or mechanical work and other skilled trades. [An additional 21 per cent plan to enter business, clerical, and secretarial occupations]. . . . This seems to mean that our youth has set its sights tragically high, much as it may be in the American tradition“ (my italics).

A. J. Walker, who studied the vocational choices of Negro college students at Morgan College (Journal of Negro Education , Spring 1946), reports that of 173 freshmen questioned, 93 per cent had made choices of professional careers, whereas only 7 per cent of their parents were engaged in the professions and only 7 per cent in white-collar occupations. Studying the occupational trends of Italians in New York City, D’Alesandre in 1931 found that the “choice of Italian [high school] boys was concentrated in about ten leading occupations. There was a marked preponderance of a choice for the professions.”

Getting ahead, moving out of the rut of low income and poor plumbing, is part of the American dream. To seek professional opportunities is not the tendency of Jews, Italians, or Negroes alone; but for members of sub-dominant groups in our culture, high occupational aspirations may have enriched meanings: a professional status can open many doors in our culture.

I am not speaking here against efforts to broaden the job vistas of all young people. Certainly it is undesirable that the young people of any ethnic or subcultural group should limit their occupational choices to only a handful of the most popular careers, for which many have neither aptitude nor talent. For most youngsters, the idea of choosing from among some 30,000 different occupations has very little meaning. We listed earlier some of the reasons why people get into certain occupations, and certainly lack of occupational information, not in any way a Jewish malady, must be added to them. Clearly here is an area of operation for our schools in which they have until now been singularly uninterested.

But why single out Jews as being especially inclined to ignore available knowledge in choosing their occupations? Jews, like other ethnic groups, are only moving into the occupations which by American standards seem most suitable.



The argument for Jewish occupational redistribution, however, is not punctured by explaining how Jews got into their occupations, or by demonstrating their innocence of special unworthy or un-American motives. The proponents of redistribution assert that, however blameless Jews may be, their occupational pattern makes them so vulnerable economically and politically that drastic preventive measures must be taken. We have already cited the evidence for our belief that, given present trends, concentration in the distributive and service trades is economically sound rather than the opposite. But how about political vulnerability? Doesn’t the concentration of Jews in the functions of middle-men between producer and consumer make them particularly susceptible to political attacks as profiteers, black marketeers, exploiters of the people?

The experience of the Jews of Germany —who, like Jews in America, were concentrated in business and the professions—gives force to this argument. To explain the German debacle—and by implication point out the American danger—students have resorted to the Marxist conception of the middle class as grist ground between the millstones of the working class and the upper class of industrialists, financiers, and aristocrats. In times of economic crisis, Gentiles suffering in the decline of the middle class found in Jewish members of the middle class a suitable scapegoat.

Jews are warned by those who view economic developments in the United States through class-conscious eyes to discard their middle-class status for their own protection. Non-managerial “productive” jobs, we are told, are “safer” than managerial, commercial, and self-employed occupations.

But arguments on the other side are readily at hand. Myrdal, in The American Dilemma, sees the Marxian concept of class struggle as “a superficial and erroneous notion,” at least when applied to all Western countries. Social class consciousness is only dimly felt in America, according to Myrdal. Occupation and income rather than birth constitute indices of status. And vertical mobility from class to class, at least in terms of occupation, while slowing up, is still not uncommon. Even movement within a class is far more fluid today than in pre-Hitler Europe. It is in our tradition—with exceptions, of course—for a worker to tell his boss or foreman to go to hell and stalk off his job. And it is in that same tradition for the boss—again with exceptions—to fire a worker on the spot and pay him off. In Germany, by contrast, job and class status were so deeply ingrained that, even for some time after Hitler came to power, non-Aryans were given long periods of notice and separation pay when they were discharged. German employees changed jobs far less frequently than is usual in this country, and this fact was a significant symptom of the state of German economy and class stratification.

Before Hitler, the growth of cartels and trusts had produced what the Institute of Social Research called “ a new bureaucracy descended from the lower middle class.” The development of this new bureaucracy, coupled with the increasing incidence of bankruptcy among small business enterprises, weakened the economic and social position of German Jews. Cut-throat competition in marginal economic fields, concentration of economic power, inflation, increased productivity per worker through labor-saving devices—all these further depressed the already sinking middle-class. The Jews qualified as scapegoat par excellence on two counts: (1) they were themselves members of the engulfed middle-class, and subject to the pressures applied to that class by other classes; and (2) they were the most vulnerable target for the frustrated Gentile middle class. If the middle class of Germany could have been considered the nation’s circulatory system, then it could be said that the Jews as the red corpuscles in that blood stream were attacked from two sources: hardening of the arteries of their host, and attack from the white blood corpuscles.



But in the United States, although ominous signs can be seen, there is still no real basis for likening the position of the middle class to that of the pre-Hitler German middle class. For instance, although independent small business in manufacturing has fallen off about 36 per cent since 1910, small business in wholesale and retail trade has increased about 58 per cent. The operation of anti-trust laws (the recent A & P decision, the decision against block-booking of motion pictures, etc.) and the nature of our form of distribution have kept small business amazingly buoyant. To cite only one example: there are in the United States today more than 50,000 independent drug stores as against 3,752 chain-affiliated establishments.

The important fact is that in the United States today tertiary industries (named thus by Colin Clark) characterize our economic stage of development. In the tertiary stage, a country finds that with a rising standard of living and more highly developed technology the demand for a greater and wider distribution of services and goods grows. This leads in turn to a rise in the number of small business enterprises, a rise in the proportion of technical and managerial employees, a decrease in the proportion of skilled and semi-skilled labor; a rise in the proportion of white-collar, sales, and clerical workers—Lewis Corey’s new middle class.2 This new middle class represents a considerable slice—about one-fourth—of our total working population.

In short, a good case can be made out against viewing the American social-economic picture along Marxist class struggle lines. If this view is correct, the middle-class position of the Jews in America merely places them in the center of the forward-moving main stream—and not in the vortex of a whirlpool formed by two cross currents.



We have spoken so far of the arguments for occupational redistribution, rather than the program for achieving it. Let us assume for the moment that some advantage could be found in distributing Jews evenly throughout the American economy. How could practical proposals be formulated for doing so?

To begin with, how would you compute the just share of Jews in the American work picture? Although they make up only about 4 per cent of the total population, Jews constitute perhaps 11 per cent of the population in the cities they live in. Would one fix work quotas of 4 or 11 per cent? The next problem is that of setting up critical percentages for each occupation; and there are about 30,000 different occupations in the United States. Would you also establish a numerus clausus—for that is what it would be—for each socio-economic category—so many owners of small businesses, so many employees, and so on? Would you applaud the schools and colleges that now exclude Jews or would you merely help develop different quotas? What kind? Or, would you have Jews move in large numbers out of occupations that are on the upswing in our economy into occupations that are declining in importance?

But let us assume that you succeed in overcoming the problems of arriving at “equitable” quotas in selected occupations. The next problem is the enforcement of such quotas. Suppose that all concerned parties agreed on the ratios calculated. How would they be enforced? Through an American Jewish Conference, a Synagogue Council, rabbinical bodies? Or perhaps one would enlist the aid of Jewish Vocational Services and the Jewish Occupational Council, so that they might push all their efforts—as did the Jewish Vocational Guidance Bureau of Berlin—to get Jewish youth to prepare for “suitable” occupations instead of those they have set their hearts on and have the ability to succeed in?

What chances are there that one could obtain any agreement among Jews or Jewish groups with regard to the whole notion of self-imposed occupational limitations, let alone agreement on enforcing these restrictions? This leaves, then, the invoking of government aid. (I say invoking government aid because were any government to launch such a program except on request, its action would obviously sound the death-knell of freedom for all its citizens, Jews included.) Can you picture Jewish leaders calling at the White House to enlist the help of the President to bring American Jews to new school and work balances? Who better than the President of the United States exemplifies the possibilities of vertical mobility?



To seek the elimination or reduction of anti-Semitism through such palliatives as occupational redistribution is, as Otto Kline-berg has said, to confuse cause and effect. Has anti-Semitism ever needed rational excuses? Must the Jews, seeking some logic, some “why” to their persecution, always fasten upon some aspect of their own life as a probable cause of their persecution? Of what avail have been nose-bobbing, name and faith-changing, intermarriage, alienation from the Jewish community? If these desperate measures have been so ineffective, what expectation of success is there now in some form of occupational redistribution and deurbanization?

The lot of the Jew in America is inextricably woven into the fabric of democracy in America. If our form of political democracy should falter, nothing the Jew can do—now or in the future—can save him. On the other hand, as a citizen in a democracy, the Jew has a great stake in its development. He has —and must exercise—the same duties and obligations, but also the same rights and privileges as any other citizen. For him to waive his rightful opportunities is as injurious to him and as disloyal to the democratic faith and to his country as would be the neglect of his duties and obligations.

What does all this mean, job-wise, for the Jew in America? He must maintain his right to choose the life calling for which he has the ability, opportunities, and desire. This in turn means freedom to choose, to the highest possible degree, untrammeled by parents, tradition, school and college officials, self-imposed or government-supported restrictions. This does not imply a game of blind man’s buff; our schools and government must continuously provide the most up-to-date information on occupations and job trends. In the schools the task of preparing for a job must be considered as integral a part of our formal education as learning to read and write. The widened occupational horizons made possible by such learning materials—which implies some form of curriculum revision—must be vigorously supplemented by adequate counseling facilities for young people and their parents.

Too early specialization of training must be assiduously avoided, chiefly because of the complexity of our occupational structure and the uncertainties of our economic system. Preparation for broad job “families” (related occupations) rather than for highly specific vocations is much to be preferred; this gives a youngster more than one string to his bow.

Finally, a stable economy is far and away the best insurance against the menace of assaults by one group against another’s economic position. Full employment; adequate provisions for social security; a stable price structure; adequate housing; a government elected by all of the people and responsive to their wishes—these are the necessities. For it is only under such a system of life that the selection of a career, of a school, the finding and holding of a job, will depend only on an individual’s ability, and not on his ancestry. It is to the achievement of this kind of society that we should bend our efforts.

The acid test in selecting any occupation must be: Is the work personally satisfying land socially desirable? And not: Is it good or bad for the Jews? What is good for other Americans is good for the Jews.




1 This picture might be somewhat changed if comparable information were available for New York City. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The few existing investigations of the New York City area use categories and concepts so different as to make it impossible to arrive at comparable quantitative estimates.

2 Lewis Corey, “The Middle Class.” Antioch Review, Spring 1945.


About the Author

Pin It on Pinterest

Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
for full access to
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
Don't have a log in?
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.