We are living in trying times. More than 40 million people have lost their jobs since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The jobless rate is at the highest level since the Great Depression. For most people, a job is necessary to pay bills and put food on the table. The other side of unemployment is the emotional and spiritual toll it can take on someone without a job.

“In theory, all of our religions teach that a person and their being gives purpose as opposed to their doing,” Rabbi David Wolpe says. “You have to try and remind people of that. And yet, it’s almost impossible for any of us to separate how we feel about ourselves from the role we play in society.”

Rabbi Wolpe is the senior rabbi at the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Newsweek magazine has called him the most influential rabbi in America and the Jerusalem Post has called him one of the 50 most influential Jews in America.

In this episode of Work in Progress, Rabbi Wolpe and I discuss the connection between employment and the feeling of purpose in one’s life. He says that some of his congregants have expressed feelings of worthlessness after they’ve lost their jobs.

Rabbi Wolpe says society needs to explore the “nature of employment and what it means to someone spiritually and psychologically, and how we think of it from the outside. I think that that’s essential right now when we’re facing the greatest unemployment crisis in American history.”

“Part of what I think we need to start doing is to understand that, while work is integrally tied to one’s sense of self-worth—the shock we’re about to endure, that we have to take care of as a society—we’re going to have a psychological and spiritual fall that’s going to be even greater than the fall in employment numbers.”

In the podcast, Rabbi Wolpe and I discuss what religious leaders can and should be doing to address the emotional and spiritual crisis that is accompanying this unemployment crisis. We also explore how society’s notion of what is and is not an essential job has shifted in light of COVID-19.

You can listen to to the full podcast here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Episode 136: Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles
Host: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch, Melissa Panzer, and Ramona Schindelheim
Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0.

You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts

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