Networking group puts friendly Jewish face on job search

Hal Kalish is an Internet marketing and Web development executive with years of experience. He’s also unemployed.

Instead of despairing, Kalish devotes his energy to finding a job. And not just for himself. He is also helping to coordinate a new career-networking opportunity for others seeking work. What makes this network different from all other networks? It’s all Jewish.

The Regional Career Network Havura will hold a free kickoff event Dec. 6 at Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City.

The latest stats put California’s unemployment rate at 11.9 percent. Many jobless pool their resources in the search for work, but the chavurah or friendship aspect looms large for organizers of the upcoming event. They want their network to feel haimish and warm.

Raya Zion

“A chavurah to me means a group of friends,” says network creator Raya Zion. “Friends sharing things, supporting each other, and making a safe place to talk to each other. There are a lot of cultural resources in the Jewish community. Why not pass it around?”

The Dec. 6 event will include presentations from Joan Tabb-Waisbein, a Silicon Valley corporate management executive and founder of Great in 8 Coaching. Jeanine Cowan of Jewish Vocational Service will give job-seeking tips for people older than 40.

And there will be plenty of time to shmooze.

“Applying chavurah to the name is so people get the sense that this can be more than your everyday network,” Kalish says, “where you not only get together for events, but you make friends and stay in touch.”

“You can’t network alone,” adds Zion, who has 10 years of experience in workforce development with San Mateo and Alameda counties. “You need a lot of people to network.”

Zion says local congregations including Peninsula Sinai (Foster City), Beth Jacob (Redwood City), Peninsula Temple Beth El (San Mateo) and Peninsula Temple Sholom (Burlingame) are getting out the word to members about the chavurah.

Hal Kalish

Kalish is responsible for building up the chavurah’s Web and social media presence. The work comes easily to him, after a long career with tech companies including Logitech, Internap and Akimai.

He lost his job with Akimai about a year ago, so he fully understands the struggle of unemployment.

“What helps me is having friends in similar situations,” he says. “Job search is a full-time job.”

That’s why he set aside time every week to meet with other unemployed people, “so we could talk about what we’re going through, and focus on activities related to job search. That was helpful to me.”

With an all-Jewish network, “You have that sense of friendship, of similar values and like minds coming together,” Kalish says. “For me Judaism is about helpfulness, what can I do to help the next person, even if I’m having trouble helping myself?”

Now he and Zion want to replicate that experience for other Jews with the Regional Career Network Havura. They see strength in numbers.

“The thought is to work collectively,” Kalish adds. “There is greater power there than with individual effort, increased contacts, increased knowledge of available resources. This encourages people to be involved and help others in the community.”

For now, it’s about putting a friendly Jewish face on a tough societal problem. “It needs to be done,” Zion says. “People are long-term unemployed.”

Following the kickoff event, organizers hope to widen the circle, meet often and simultaneously develop the chavurah’s Web presence.

Even in a booming economy, Kalish thinks the chavurah would have value. “My vision is this is an ongoing resource,” he says. “You can be a job seeker today, a job holder tomorrow and a mentor in the future.”

The Regional Career Network Havura kickoff event takes place 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 6 at Peninsula Sinai Congregation, 499 Boothbay Ave., Foster City. (650) 288-5145 or

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at