Rumors

When looking at stories on social media, one can see how damaging fake news can be to those the stories are about,  The   only purpose of a rumor is to do another damage or harm.  It is a non physical form of violence.  Once out there, it can not be taken back.  I wondered what the laws of Judaism said about rumors and false information.  I did some research into the subject and found some interesting information.

One of the 613 Mitzvot or laws in the Torah states not to carry tales, Lev 19:16.  It has been said that disparaging speech kills three; the person who speaks it, the person who hears it, and the person about whom it is told, as found on the website Judaism 101.  This includes gossip and slander.  Judaism forbids causing any deception or embarrassment through speech.  It is forbidden even if  the statement is true.  In order to understand this law from the Torah I wondered what the defiinition of speech is and if non-verbal forms of communication are considered speech.  According to the website businessdictionary.com, the definition of non-verbal communication is:  1. Behavior and elements of speech aside from the words themselves that transmit meaning. Non-verbal communication includes pitch, speed, tone and volume of voice, gestures and facial expressions, body posture, stance, and proximity to the listener, eye movements and contact, and dress and appearance.  Just because one is communicating in a non verbal way does not mean it is not speech.

If we are to put this definition into context with what is going on in the world around us today, it would imply that using appearance, gestures, facial expressions, body posture stance and proximity to the listener, if used to demean or cause a person personal or financial harm,  is forbidden in Judaism, even if the statement is true.  That would make cyberbullying, fake stories on social media, using ones clothing or appearance to demean another are serious sins.

There are circumstances however when tale-bearing is allowed.  It is not commiting a sin if one is using speech to tell a story of another when it is a form of testimony.  This can be interpreted as meaning if one is telling a story to defend oneself or another regarding legal matters or other instances when such speech is necessary.

Today almost everyone has access of some sort to the internet.  Many people have social media accounts.  Unfortunately some use these sights as a means of harming some in their community by spreading false rumors and tales.  Our society has become dog eat dog, or in other words I need to be ahead of everyone else.  This has become so consuming to the young generation that they are willing to through people sunder the bus so to speak in order to get ahead.

If this trend continues our society will be in serious trouble.  Rumors affect the stock market, can ruin relationships, cause people to lose or not be able to obtain jobs.  Rumors have a negative rippling effect and can cause an increase in poverty, homelessness and an unstable society and economy.

Before you follow the trend and post a rumor on Facebook or where clothing intented to annoy or embarass another, think about what that says about the kind of person you are, how you are affecting others and the look at the big picture about how that is affecting our society at large.

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My Time at Amazon

After seeing a job posting for Amazon on Indeed, I applied for a job in one of their warehouses.  At the time I had no idea what I was getting myself into as I had never worked for an organization that big.  I learned a lot, both good and bad.  In the end, Amazon will not have me as a customer, let alone an employee.

After filling out several online forms, I was ready for my job at a warehouse in Bellevue, Washington.  I was to work at the first Amazon Fresh, the Amazon food delivery.  For the first two weeks of work they had me in the “chill” department.  It was a section of the warehouse kept at 38 degrees farenheit.  Amazon provided large jackets and gloves to wear while working in this section.  They also provided packaged hand warmers for extra warmth.  I started there in November in Seattle, where the weather outside pretty much matched the temperature inside.  Our schedule was for 10 hours a day.  We worked 4 days on, 3 off.  We spent the entire time walking on cement floors, which make your feet begin to ache after about 5 or 6 hours.  I was living in my van at the time and it never seemed like I could get warm.

Working and sleeping in the cold eventually made me sick.  I asked to be moved to the warmer department and was allowed to work their sometimes, but often I would be called back to chill.  Several of my coworkers found themselves sick as well.  Amazon does have a nice system where one can take a generous amount of time off if needed.  Soon after I began working we had mandatory overtime as the holiday season was upon us.  The job was so physically demanding all I could do on my days off was sleep.  I asked my younger coworkers what they did on their days off and every single one of them said, “sleep.”  My feet constantly hurt, even on my days off.  I began to swim at the gym to loosen my muscles up, which helped a little.

As the holidays drew near, it began to snow outside.  Towards the end of our shift we had to load the trucks with the totes of food which meant working in very cold conditions.  One night I worked in chill, had to load totes while it snowed outside and then sleep in my van which did not have any heat.  The wages that are paid the warehouse workers are just slightly above minimum wage, making housing a hard thing to come by.  When I could I stayed in a modest motel to be warm and safe.

At the warehouse I worked in it was very difficult to get a hold of human resources if you had a problem, as our representative was not there during our shift.  Amazon did however have a medical office for minor injuries or safety hazards.  Having served on the safety committee at my union, I decided to join the safety committee at Amazon.  The employees seem dedicated to making the workplace safe.  There are numerous hazards working in a warehouse.

Things at Amazon are always in constant change as the company is always looking for ways to improve processes.  As the weather began to warm up, temporary workers were hired to load the trucks with the totes and the regular workers no longer had to do so, eliminating having to work in the evening cold.

I made a lot of good friends at Amazon and for the most part everyone got along.  Matt was one of my supervisors and let me pick the jobs I wanted to do for the day.  He had a great sense of humor and made the job fun not only for me but for everyone around him.  His younger brother worked in the warehouse as well and they were very close.  One day my friend Camron said he wanted to walk back with me to my department.  He seemed to insist.  I agreed, but thought it was strange.  As we walked past a bulletin board I saw a notice about Matt.  He had committed suicide and there was a card to sign for the family.  I was crushed.  Having lost a lot of friends already, I dealt with it fine, but was sad.  Amazon did provide counseling for those that wanted to take advantage of that service, which I did.

During my first months at Amazon I noticed that a coworker seemed to always be on my bus.  I never took the bus at the same time each day.  Sometimes I arrived right before shift and sometimes I arrived a couple of hours early so I could eat a meal and relax before our long shift.  One day I decided to test him and I arrived 3 hours early.  He was on my bus.  I decided to complain to security.  They did not seem to take it seriously and said there was nothing they could do about things that happened away from work.  Having had a female friend murdered, I take being stalked seriously.  One morning he showed up where I was having breakfast.  At that point I went to Human Resources, but no one ever did anything.  At the time I did not contact police because the man who was stalking me was homeless and I did not want to be responsible for someone losing their job.  Had I a chance to do it over, I would call the police.  He would also taunt me during the work shift.  His harassment and stalking continued while I worked there.  I felt Amazon did not care about the safety of female employees.

Amazon announced that the warehouse would be moving and the current warehouse would close in June.  They offered a transfer to another warehouse or one could move to the new one.  I wanted to attend school in southern California, so I asked for a transfer.  I requested Los Angeles, but was offered a job in San Bernardino.  I researched the distance to LA and found that the light rail went to downtown.  I agreed to move and was promised $3,000 in relocation money.  I researched the cost of housing in the San Bernardino area and found that it was plenty to make the move.

Upon arriving in San Bernardino I checked into a motel for a few days.  I spent my time researching apartments and made a few appointments for dates that were after my first paycheck.  I could take the bus to a distance about a half a mile away from the warehouse.  It was summer in San Bernardino and some days were 110 degrees.  By the time I reached the warehouse I was ready to pass out.  I worked a few days and on the day my pay check was to go into my account, nothing was there.  I went to Human Resources and they said it would come by check to the warehouse, even though I requested it to go into my account.  My paycheck finally arrived but my relocation money was not included, as promised.  After several phone calls I was told it could take several days. I told them it was not acceptable as I had moved from out of state and was told it would be on my first paycheck.  They finally posted the money to my account, but when I checked I had only received $1600, when I had been promised $3,000.  I was told I was given half that day and would receive the rest the next day.  I was anxious to get a place to live as motels are expensive.  The next day the money did not arrive.  I called to find out what happened and they told me $1600 was all i was getting as the rest was taken out in taxes.  This left me unable to rent an apartment.  I was able to stay in the motel I started out in.  I realized money was going to be tight and the bus was expensive, so I used some of the money to buy a bicycle to make sure I could make it to work every day.

My coworkers began to harass me about not living in an apartment. I was ganged up upon on a daily basis.  The managers did as well.  I spent the first 3 weeks of employment at that warehouse in Human Resources trying to stand up for myself for all of the things that were going wrong.  Even though I had documented proof, I was always told nothing could be done.

My co workers continued to harass me on a daily basis in many shapes and forms.  I was the only Jew in the warehouse that I knew of.  I was also older than most of my coworkers, which had not been the case in Seattle. I felt like I was a walking target.  I complained to managers, but nothing was done.  I began going to HR, but nothing was done.  I began to miss work as I could not take the harassment any longer.  Then I was fired for missing too much work.  I appealed the termination.  At the meeting with the warehouse manager, he provided me a sheet of my attendance for the entire time I worked for the company.  He stated that my attendance had been great until around the  second week of August.  I told him that is when the harassment began to get really bad.  I told him I had made complaints to management and HR.  I lost my appeal.  I had one more recourse.  That was to go to the ethics committee.

The ethics committee is an outside agency that Amazon hire.  I told them my story in detail and it was determined that Amazon had wrongly terminated me.  An HR manager was to help me find a job near Venice, where I eventually moved.  I applied to openings but quickly was denied.  I kept in contact with the HR manager and he kept telling me he would see what he could do.  Losing my job had made me homeless and after a few months I realized Amazon was not going to do anything to help me and I gave up.  So Amazon has left me homeless.

Nothing about working at Amazon, not the pay, not the location, not the perks made working there worth while.  The company is so big that pursuing any legal action is pointless, leaving workers with no recourse.  My advise to those left at the warehouse would be to unionize.  As a union the employees have means to fight against things like that which was done to me in both Seattle and San Bernardino.  Without a union, Amazon will continue to pay low wages and rob their employees of their rights.

Me Too

I am one of the many women who have experienced harassment only to have my complaints thrown to the wayside.  The man who harassed me was a member of my synagogue.  He and his wife invited me to stay with them for a while as they knew I did not have a place to stay.  I was excited that members of my synagogue would be so kind.  I was in the process of conversion and I was hoping to learn how a Jewish household was run, how to prepare Jewish food and celebrate holidays.  I thought I might be able to help them out as well as their house and yard were big.

The first few weeks I was there they were away on a cruise and I watched their dog.  Upon their return they became different people than the ones I had met at synagogue.  They had always been friendly and kind.  Now that I was living with them they suddenly changed.  They began taunting me with things they found out about me.  Nothing bad, but these were things that only my landlord who had sent me into homelessness would know.  I realized they must somehow know her, probably through the senior services office she had worked at.  A friend invited me out for a drink on my birthday and I was treated as though I was a minor, even though I was 54 at the time.  I was told I wore children’s clothing, they insinuated that my ex’s family only pretended to like me, and on and on and on.  It got worse instead of better.  I knew through experience not to over react and leave, as I had no where to go.  They knew this, and it was winter in Seattle.  I bit my tongue at all of their verbal abuse and weathered out the winter.

The abuse was not only at home.  He was active in the same political groups that I was and tried to sway their opinion of me for the worse rather than the better.  This had an impact on my employment as the people involved in the political groups were also my employers.  At Torah study they mocked me and carried on theatrics to make me look bad.  I had no idea why they were doing these things to me and I was very hurt by it.

I moved out of their house and their abuse continued at political functions and at synagogue.  I decided I could no longer be a door mat.  I went to a demonstration at a Macy’s store by employees.  I decided to join them as I had once worked their and agreed with their objections.  While I was in the picket line he showed up and eventually walked up to me.  I told him in a calm tone of voice, “I am going to ask you nicely to leave me alone.”  He tried to say something and I repeated my words.  He walked off and I hoped he would respect my wishes.

Instead of respecting my wishes, his abuse became worse.  The theatrics at synagogue continued, and he and his wife constantly insinuated that I needed to be made homeless.  The only reason I could think of that they acted this way was my former landlord. A convention was held in Seattle over a weekend.  He tried to approach me, and I reminded him I had asked him to leave me alone.  At one of the sessions he sat across the room from me, which I found acceptable.  He them moved to a seat next to the woman I was sitting with.  I reported this to the convention staff, yet he continued to harass me. At a meeting of the King County Labor Council he signed that he was going to take my seat away from me, which he was successful at doing.  He took away my career at the union.

I take my time spent worshipping and studying Torah at synagogue very seriously.  Having someone like him constantly harassing me was devastating, especially after what happened with the union.  I complained to the synagogue staff about his behavior.  nothing was done and the behavior continued.  He sometimes acted like a small boy pestering a playmate and he often had a grin on his face.  The continued harassment began to take a toll and was causing depression.  Instead of being a victim I decided to take action.  I tried to serve him with a restraining order.  The police said they were unable to find his house.  I went to court anyway and the judge did not do anything.

I finally moved away from Seattle, for many reasons, that being one of them.  I am still dismayed at all he was able to  do to try and destroy me.  I spoke up and complained about what he was doing to me, something I would not have done in the past.  No one would help me, they continued to support him and treated me like I was a pain in the ass.  Members of my synagogue signed that they were going to make me homeless.  Retaliation for speaking out.

I have not in my past accused a man of harassment.  It took a lot of courage to speak up and to try and do something about someone who was not only harassing me, but trying to destroy my character and good name and was successful at it.  I spoke the truth and was treated as a nuisance.

I am glad the women of Hollywood have been more successful than I at calling out bad behavior and that action is being taken.  Nothing makes one feel so small as to have the courage to speak up and then to be ignored.  It is time that we stop ignoring those who speak up.  I was not sexually abused, but harassment is harassment.  I think in horror about those who are sexually abused and ignored.  It is an ill our society needs to fix as it leaves permanent scars.

What is Causing Widespread Homelessness?

In this day and age to have to rent instead of being a home owner puts you at risk for becoming homeless.  In the city of Seattle some crooked landlords are creating and adding to the problem of homelessness.  Being able to charge higher rents may be the cause.

My story begins in 2009 when I rented the basement apartment from a woman named Hla Yin Yin Waing (aka Wang Helmstetter).  I made the mistake of not insisting on a rental contract, which I will never do again.  Our verbal agreement began with an agreed upon amount for rent and the stipulation that I would pick her children up from school and watch them until she arrived home around 6PM.  That would give me the day to work on my photography business, which I was trying to start after attending fine art photography school.

 

Wang Wang

Unfortunately Wang began asking for more and more favors until I was waking the family up at 8AM, helping get the children ready for school, driving Wang downtown to her job at the senior services center and driving the children to 2 different schools.  I then had to pick them up and take them to their after school activities, come home, cook them dinner and wait for Wang to get home around 9 or 10.  It was a full day and did not leave me time to work.  All of this was done for free and she demanded rent.  At first I could pay with my unemployment money, but when that ran out I had nothing.  She demanded more and more and I felt I had to do it to keep a roof over my head.  I had never  been homeless.

I reopened my unemployment claim and began paying her rent again.  I told her I could no longer be a nanny to her children as I needed to look for work.  That is when she really got ugly.  She intentionally flooded my apartment, which began to smell from the water damage.  She told me when it happened that she was not going to help me.  it was an attempt to get me to move.  She began putting pressure on me about what I was going to do when my unemployment ran out.  She began with holding my mail, coming into my apartment when I was and was not there.  if I had a date or plans she would call me and say she was coming home late.

I finally moved to Denver to get away from her controlling behavior.  My nightmare with her did not end there.  She started a campaign of hate against me stating to people that I owed her money, that I was crazy and convinced people that I need to be held back so that others more worthy than I can fill job positions.

I have mostly been homeless since that time.  I moved back to Seattle in 2013 where I was harassed by Asians on a daily basis.  I was hit on the back of the head on the bus by an Asian man, I was ran off the road, harassed on public transportation and a bus driver refused to pick me up until I started standing in the road so he would have to stop or run me over.  My complaints to police went unnoticed.  Public transportation finally put up signs against harassment.

An elderly couple from my synagogue let me stay with them for a while.  At first I thought it was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I soon learned otherwise.  They began emulating my landlord whom I believe they met through senior services where she taught classes on how to do to others what she did to me.  They knew things only she could have told them.  They tried simulating the flooding of the basement, which ended up almost getting me killed as I was going to plug in a hair dryer but at the last minute change my mind.  Had I done so I would not be here now.  I do not believe it was intentional, but the flooding was.

Hla Yin Yin Waing is now the Executive Director of a non-profit organization called the Center for Ethical Leadership.  I believe this organization conducts classes on how to do to others in Seattle what she did to me.  I know this from a Facebook post where she and her organization were recommended for just that sort of thing.

if people are being manipulated into leaving or eviction, that is causing the number of homeless to rise.  She is emulating Ang Sung Suu Kyi the leader of Myanmar who uses the same techniques to control the muslim minority there called the Rohingya, where a genocide of these people is now occurring.

If we want to end homelessness we need to stop supporting organizations that are creating homelessness.  Before you donate money to an organization be sure you know what they are actually doing.  In looking at the Center for Ethical Leadership’s website the explanation of what they do is vague.  Be sure an organization can provide concrete figures and results of what they provide.

Let us make 2018 the year we begin to end homelessness.

Amazon Has Left Me Stranded for the Holidays (as an employer)

Last fall I began working for Amazon.com in one of their warehouses in Bellevue, Washington.  It was an Amazon Fresh warehouse and the food delivery had really begun to take off, so much so the warehouse needed to move to a larger space.  At the time of the move the company gave us the opportunity to move with them or to transfer to another area.

I chose to transfer to California where I have applied to enter a college program.  In June of last year I was transferred to San Bernardino.  The move to San Bernardino got off to a bad start right from the beginning.  I was promised by Amazon to receive $3,000 in relocation money, enough money to move into an apartment.  I was to receive the money with my first pay upon arriving.  The money did not show up on my first paycheck and when I finally got them to pay me I only received half.  The company told me this was due to my relocation pay being taxed as a bonus.  This detail was never explained to me before I moved and should have been made clear.  As a result of only receiving half of the relocation pay I was promised I could not afford an apartment.

Instead of moving into an apartment which would have cost first and last month’s rent plus a deposit, I had to try and make ends meet in an economy motel.  I was not always able to afford to stay at the motel and sometimes had to sleep outside.  The people I worked for gave me a hard time about my living arrangement, which was caused by the company.  My co workers began to harass me for the entire 10 hour work day.  Prior to the harassment my attendance was considered very good.  Once the harassment began my attendance record began to suffer.  I made several complaints to management and HR about the harassment.  Amazon has a strict policy against harassment, according to them.  I had a manager witness the harassment and began to give them specific names and details about the coworkers who were bothering me.  I am Jewish and was the only Jew i knew of working at that particular warehouse.  I let management know this as well.  When my attendance continued to suffer I was fired.

I appealed the termination and had a meeting with the man in charge of the entire warehouse.  He brought my attendance record with him into the meeting.  He showed me how good my attendance was until a certain point.  I told him that is when the harassment began.  He made the decision based on all of the information that my termination should remain in place.

My last option was to go to the ethics committee.  I told them my story and they told me they would give the information to someone at the warehouse.  I told them the story of the man in charge of the warhouse and requested that the case be brought to HR outside of this particular warehouse.  A man from regional HR called me and said he would look into my allegations.  I eventually won my rehire eligibility back and was told that they would try to find me a job in the area in which I now live.  That was months ago.

I have now been homeless since the company fired me in mid September.  Human Resources knows that I am homeless and living in the cold this winter.  I am left wondering why we allow companies to treat their employees this way.  Amazon has to many class action lawsuits filed against them from former employees that going to an attorney will get one no where.  All I did was follow company rules and the company let me down.  I am now looked down upon in the community in which I live because Amazon is dragging its heels.  These people probably bought most of their gifts from Amazon, the same company that does not care if it makes its employees homeless.  So while Amazon will be bringing great joy to thousands of Americans this holiday season,  I am living outdoors in the cold.

Unwanted Harassment

When it comes to harassment women have a hard time in getting the harassment to stop.  The legal system does not have a system set up that would allow women peace of mind by legally forcing a harasser to stop.  When we have a president who has committed offenses himself there is little hope.

For about 2 years I experienced unwanted harassment from a man and no one would do anything about it.  I asked him nicely to leave me alone to his face at first.  He agreed he would leave me alone and walked away.  However the harassment did not end there.  I ended up going to the police, my rabbis and members of the political organizations to which we both belonged.  I was unable to get help from anyone.  I ended up being treated like I was the one doing something wrong.

What is harassment?

According to Merriam-Webster the definition of harassment is:  to annoy persistently,
 to create an unpleasant or hostile situation for especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct.

Being Harassed at Synagogue

In my case my harasser would come to my synagogue and harass me during our Torah study and services.  This happened at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle, WA.  I complained to a rabbi and office staff that this was taking place.  They listened to me and did absolutely nothing, even though his harassment was witnessed by others and recorded on video.  Instead I was treated as though I was a pain in the neck, I was unreasonable.  Meanwhile the harassment continued.

The rabbis at Temple de Hirsch went along with the harassment and participated in some of it themselves. I wondered where in the Torah does it say that a congregant who only wants to go to synagogue to pray and attend services should be harassed.  I wondered why religious leaders would teach others, especially young men, that it is ok to harass women if you do not like them because nothing will happen to you and all that will happen is that the victim will be humiliated and embarrassed in public.  I felt I was being punished for standing up for myself.

The problem comes down to money.  My harasser had a lot more money than I do, so he could do more to support the synagogue.  His bad behavior would be overlooked because he donated a generous amount every year and apparently I do not matter at all.  I feel I should have been able to attend synagogue without being harassed.

Using Legal Means to Stop Harassment

I tried using legal means to stop his harassment.  I filed a restraining order.  According to the court the police were unable to serve my harasser.  I went to the appointed court date anyway.  The judge was a man and has no sympathy for me.  He laughed and said nothing would be done.

The Emotional Toll of Harassment

Constantly being harassed by someone you repeatedly ask to stop takes a huge toll on a person emotionally.  First of all for someone not to heed your repeated requests for the harassment to stop has mental issues that need to be addressed.  It makes a person feel unsafe to know that anywhere they go that person may show up.  I felt like I was being stalked.  Knowing no one would help me make him stop made me feel helpless and I began experiencing depression.

In the end it was one of the reasons I moved to California from Washington state.  I think I have made the right choice as the women of Hollywood are fighting back.  They are setting examples and being role models for other women who are experiencing unwanted harassment.  The worst thing a woman can do is to be silent about abuse or harassment.  No one should experience abuse or harassment and the culture is shifting to protect those who have become victims.