RochelLeah's RealLife

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Fighting Poverty in the Jewish - Daily Life: The Activism of Abraham: " Home Page History & Community Daily Life History & Community Lifecycle Texts Ideas & Beliefs Ideas & Beliefs"

Monday, June 27, 2005

I'm a (not quite) starving student.... but just how poor am I?

In the past month, I have been forced to deal once again with my relative poverty. With schools out of session and barely any teaching available, I'm barely scraping by. My numerous job applications have barely been acknowledged, and I've managed to acquire occasional work that is simply not sufficient to sustain my needs. I'm literally counting every penny, trying to make my July 1st bills.
I'm left with a burning question: What is poverty?
The official statistics for the United States, calculated through the US Census Bureau, are here. For the Census' definitions and measurement of poverty, see here.
In 2003, the poverty threshold for a single adult, below the age of 65, was $9573.

An alternate source of poverty statistics in the US is the Department of Health and Human Services. Their 2005 definition of poverty is nearly identical to that of the Census Bureau.
Alameda County's statistics, including those for poverty, can be found on the US Census Bureau site.

However, living in the SF Bay Area, these numbers don't mean a heck of a lot. The cost-of-living here, and the salaries needed to support families in this climate, is outrageous. In my neighborhood (that is, zip code), the percent of individuals below the poverty threshold is 17.2%, almost 5 points higher than the national average. I've tried to get a realistic cost-of-living estimate: how much basic food and shelter would cost... in vain. Well, I did learn that the Cost of Living Index for Berkeley is 144.1 compared to 102.76 nation-wide. Whatever that means. But I was able to discover that there are numerous locations in the country where I could live for nearly 1/10 the money. Clearly, the dollar doesn't go as far here.

Even within the Bay Area, there's a huge variation. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce offers comparisons of salaries, etc., in the various Bay Area counties. The comparison of mean salaries is pretty scary, and the gap is widening. Meanwhile, the median salary is over ten thousand dollars under the mean salary, indicating that mean (average) salaries are pumped up by the very rich.

Regardless, I still consider myself a fabulously fortunate person, rich in resources and opportunities. I may be cash-poor, but I have health insurance, a roof over my head (even if just barely), and a wardrobe that could clothe a small village. And I'm definitely not starving.

For a little perspective, it is worthwhile to check out the statistics section on the United Nations' website, where they list the percentages of national populations who make an average of less than one US dollar per day. (In other words, the $420 I made last week would make a big difference in these people's lives.) UNICEF offers their statistics for the world's children here.

Finally, I am left with a sense that my financial woes are not too extreme. It sounds cheesy, but I really am one of the richest people in the world... if you measure wealth the way the Sages do:
"Who is rich? The one who is satisfied with his [sic] portion" (Pirkei Avot).
I am blessed with students eager for the Torah I teach, a loving (if neurotic) family, and the most beautiful friendships anyone could wish for. And I'm certainly satisfied with that.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Paltiel with Great-Uncle  Posted by Hello

Abba and little Paltiel Posted by Hello

Three generations of ladies and a new little boy Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

New Nephew, Abandoned-Found-and-Left-Behind Knitting Project, and Back to Berkeley

Ahhhh... Berkeley. How I have missed her. During my absence of two weeks, she has changed little (as one would expect). I arrived just in time for Shavuot to start and managed to be conscious for about half the holiday. Somewhat better rested, I can share a bit about my trip.

The biggest news is that I have a new nephew, Paltiel. (Yes, that is his name. It's pronounced Pahl-tee-el. It comes from I Samuel. Look it up. And you can refrain from the naming-as-child-abuse comments.) He is super-cute, but rather large--he was born at 9 lbs, 10 ozs. My sister finally had the baby on day 9 of the neverending labor (which lasted from Friday to the following Saturday). Baby and Ima are well. Abba is sleepy from assisting with night feedings, and big brother seems very pleased with his baby.

I did not see much of LA while I was down there, but did have some fun with friends and numerous trips with my not-quite-three-year-old nephew to the park, Petco (where we enjoy looking at the animals), and the library. My sweetheart, Joshua, came down from Berkeley for the last weekend of my trip, when he managed to meet a bunch of family members and friends.
I am happy to say that both Joshua and I survived his first encounter with my family, including both my twin sister and mother. Thankfully, I do not have the type of family that insists that I be glued to them for the duration of a visit, so Joshua and I escaped to have Shabbat dinner with some of my college friends, go to services at the Shtibl Minyan, enjoy a drink with more friends at the Cat and the Fiddle (in Hollywood), and enjoy a beach visit under the stars.

Upon leaving, I nearly instantaneously started remembering various items I left at my sister's place. Chief among these items is a knitting project that I had recently taken up again: a blanket for baby based on the traditional log-cabin quilt pattern. It's really simple and interesting despite the fact that it only uses a very simple garter stitch.
This pattern is pretty close to the one I've been using: Instead of using Homespun, I'm using a sport-weight cotton in white, lime green, lavender, and canary yellow. Luckily, I have a friend who is coming up from LA next week who will hopefully be able to deliver the knitting bag, nalgene water-bottle, clothes, flax-oil capsules, and whatever else I haven't discovered missing yet.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Absence from Berkeley and the Land of No Wi-Fi

After hastily departing for LA at the first word that my sister was going to give birth to her second baby, I am now simply hanging around with my frustrated sister, tired brother-in-law, and adorable nephew (who just happens to be going through the terrible twos, including kicking, hitting, and screaming tantrums when he's tired and refusing to sleep).

Oh, and they have no internet access.

(You may ask, how is Rochel Leah composing this entry? Currently, I am at my friends', Beth and Joe's, apartment.)

Now, I am not someone without the occasional need for a computer vacation (I may be disowned by my boyfriend for that comment, but I assure him that I would never require such sacrifice of him). And the lack of television doesn't bother me much, since I don't have a set, either. However, I am more likely to indulge in such retro peace-and-quiet when not trying to find summer employment and trying make my blog somewhat more interesting.

I had thought that my spiffy new wireless card would enable proper access with my laptop. Yet, LA seems to be somewhat deprived of Wi-Fi spots, and there are none in our neighborhood save the T-mobile hot spot at Starbucks (which brings me into conflict with my usual Starbucks dislike and unwillingness to pay for wireless access).

I love my sister and her family. When the baby arrives, I will love him or her, too. And I'm getting to see my LA buddies. But I want to be back in Berkeley. It's not that I'm selfish (I hope). It's just that I miss my bed, my self-chosen sleep- and wake-up times, sweetheart, roommate and dog, and DSL... (not necessarily in that order). And I have to admit that I also miss nurturing my addiction to Katamari Damacy (


My sister gave me the evening off. So, now, I am enjoying an evening of computer, South Park, and this rather bizarre show "Requiem for a Reality Show" on Drawn Together.

Junk food for the soul. And a little bit of actual searching for a job.