The Days of Awe

Michael Bernick
California Labor Department Director from 1999-2004; Counsel with the international law firm of Duane Morris and a Milken Institute Fellow.

We are currently in the Days of Awe, the 10 day period between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is a time of repentance, prayer, and charity. It directs us to a form of charity or good deeds relevant to our employment world today.

daysofaweIn repentance, prayer and charity, we are to take an active role. In repentance (“teshuvah”) , we are to ask forgiveness for our sins not only from God but from those we have wronged.  Yom Kippur atones for sins between man and God. For sins against others, we must seek them out and seek reconciliation with them directly. In prayer (“tefilah”) , we are to engage in introspection of our actions: how much of what we are doing has meaning and how much is driven by vanity and self-importance. Most of all, in charity (“tzedakah”), we are to  take actions that benefit others directly, not engaging in  abstraction or ideology.

Which brings us to a gathering to occur soon after Yom Kippur this month: the biennial gathering  on greater employment for California’s neurodiverse workforce—adults with autism, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, learning disabilities. The gathering is hosted by AASCEND (the Autism Asperger Syndrome Coalition for Education Networking and Development) and the Autism Spectrum Studies program at San Francisco State University. It is a one day event at San Francisco State (link here).

AASCEND has links to government efforts. But for the most part it operates outside of government, on mutual support and good deeds. AASCEND started as a support group for the adult autism community. But it has developed over the years into far more.

It is a network in which members act to help and protect each other. We get involved to help out if one of our members is taken advantage of, or facing homelessness, or in need of assistance with legal issues. For example, in recent months , our AASCEND co-chair Camilla Bixler heard that one of our members was losing the room he had rented for years in a house. She got on the phone for days to locate a new room.  When another of our members was swindled out of $1200 in a deal to purchase a used car, she accompanied him and his father to small claims court to get the deal nullified.

Regarding employment, we try to use our personal networks to get job leads. We often are not successful—no form of good deeds is as challenging as job placement. But we quietly get up and start the contact process  each morning.

Only a few of us in AASCEND are Jewish, the majority are not. Yet, no group I know more represents the spirit of  “tzedakah”—direct service to others with humility.

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