Sunday, September 28, 2008

Observant and a scientist: A career conflict?

Recently read online:

"Rosh Hashanah doesn't mean anything to me. It's not as if I could take off from school--that's a recipe for getting kicked out. In science, taking two days off equals failing your courses. Science builds--if you miss anything, you don't get what comes afterward.

No one hires Orthos because they keep taking off too many days. It's not discrimination, it's the real world. If a multi-billion-dollar project that needs your support is ongoing, you can't suddenly vanish for two days in the middle. That can be the difference between getting more funding and "you went over deadline--no more funding for you." Besides, some sciences are collaborative--all of you have to be working at the same time. If one person goes, the whole project can stall, waiting for that person to come back."

Comments in general would be appreciated, but comments from Torah-observant scientists would be particularly so.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

where you stand depends on where you sit. Its no coincidence that once I stopped being a lawyer and started being a law professor, I started to become more observant!

Sun Sep 28, 10:43:00 AM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

Ehh? Depends on workplace. I never had a problem.

The more awkward problem is when you're the only observant Jew in a department that is full of non-observant Jews, or Israelis (who don't have to observe the 2nd day of chag). But then again I don't really have an issue with that. I don't go on vacation *at all* so chag is my vacation time.

I have heard similar things from friends at other institutions.

Mon Sep 29, 03:10:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Years ago, I got fired from a temp. job when I told the boss that I would have to start leaving earlier on Friday afternoons. But
I'm not sure whether the workplace is always the problem. I think that observant Jews might also have a tough time in jobs that have hard and fast deadlines and/or that require collaborative work.

I agree that it can sometimes be even more challenging to get secular Jews to understand what's so important about Jewish holidays that one has to refrain from business on them. I've run into that problem.

Fri Oct 03, 12:16:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Utter and complete bunk.

The issue here is that the author sees Judaism as second (or less) to his pursuit of a science career. Only he can assess his own priorities, but he should be completely honest about it. He isn't coerced in making his choices.

So, tell me, how did the prestigious members of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists get there?

Here in our teeny little community we have an aerospace engineer (PhD), a biologist (MSc), a few physicians, including one at the national labs (to the author quoted they may not count as scientists). One of our best friends is a world-renowned physicist and theoretical mathematician. He does not compromise on matters of halacha, and makes time to learn Torah every day!

So, yes becoming a scientist is a greater challenge for an observant Jew. No doubt at all. But it all depends on where one's real commitments lie. It can be done, and it IS done, by quite a few people.

BTW, just thought I'd drop by to say Shanah Tovah!

Sun Oct 05, 12:45:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The guy's first quoted sentence reveals all: "Rosh Hashanah doesn't mean anything to me."

Stop there. Forget the excusing or rationalizing. Be honest about where you are coming from. If you're not comfortable with it, don't shunt the blame off on 'Judaism doesn't fit into the modern world of science, it can't be done.' It can and is done; but only by those for whom it is important enough to make the efforts and pay the prices.

Sun Oct 05, 02:01:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can make it through undergrad, science won't be a problem. There are definitely some inconveniences in the student arena... school tends to start right before Tishrei, so it's a risk of falling behind... but the Frum guys at school managed... don't get me wrong, they spent PLENTY of time during the Chagim with a text book... and Sukkot probably wasn't the week of fun that it was for them in Yeshiva, but don't pretend that you can't take two days off...

Guess what, some years, the Chagim are Sat/Sun, which has no impact, other than going crazy which we all suffer through, and when they fall out mid-week, for undergrads, it means missing one day of their M/W classes, and one day of their T/R classes... Sukkot's painful for being two weeks in a row, but hardly devastating.

Once you are past undergrad, come on... graduate level science, nothing goes THAT intense... plenty of friends getting (or finished) PhDs are really top notch schools, and they spend most of their time screwing around.

In the biological sciences it's a bit of a challenge if you have lab work that needs constant monitoring, but you can absolutely schedule around the holidays... if you really need measurements, you're telling me you can't find a non-Jew to take measurements for you?

If you're saying "each day builds" and "can't miss two days," it sounds like you're in high school in an area without Jews... areas with Jews tend to get the first day of Rosh Hashanah off, so that cuts back the problem.,

If Orthodox financial traders could take off for Rosh Hashana in a market melt down, you can skip two days of science class.

Wed Oct 08, 02:54:00 PM 2008  

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