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Culinary distraction: My coping mechanism for Teva’s woes

I am one of 1,750 employees who'll be directly affected by the pharmaceutical giant's layoffs
Illustrative: Baking tea cakes with lemon, olive oil and lavender. (Andrea Brownstein/Photoli Photography)
Illustrative: Baking tea cakes with lemon, olive oil and lavender. (Andrea Brownstein/Photoli Photography)

I have been a devoted, loyal employee of Teva Pharmaceuticals for 13 years. Teva, and specifically Global R&D has been my second home and has given me opportunity after opportunity to grow both as a scientist and a manager in a complex, global matrix organization. I have always had immense pleasure and pride in working for a company that strives to bring medicines to patients, and to help in my own little way to try and bring a therapy to sufferers of multiple sclerosis (MS).

However, Teva is not what it used to be. I do not need to expand on the reasons as to why Teva finds itself in its current position, as many have done so over the past few weeks in different media outlets. What I can express is the feelings of hopelessness, distress and anxiety towards the unknown. My colleagues and friends are all waiting to hear of their fate, as am I. Will we still have our jobs? If so, what projects will we be working on? If not, where will we go? Is there enough of a biotech industry in Israel to sustain hundreds of job-seekers? Could this actually be a good thing? Could this be the spark that ignites a boom for biotech? There are talented, experienced people from multiple disciplines that can and should support a thriving biotech hub, given the opportunity and funding.

There are 1,750 employees and their families in Israel that will be directly affected by the layoffs. None of them is to blame, and none was involved in the decisions that led to Teva’s woes. Will the involvement of the Histadrut (National Union) and strikes help soften the blow? All I know is that Teva needs to be saved. All I know is that coming to work every day is unpleasant and depressing.

This coming Shabbat we will read Parashat Vayigash which tells the story of Joseph’s revelation to his brothers that he is alive, well and the ruler of Egypt. Two years ago, Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks wrote that Vayigash is all about reframing.

Whatever situation we are in, by reframing it we can change our entire response, giving us the strength to survive, the courage to persist, and the resilience to emerge, on the far side of darkness, into the light of a new and better day.

Instead of quiet chatter, rumor-mongering, and general anxiety I chose to reframe our situation at work via culinary distraction. I bought a toaster oven, and each morning, we bake a cake bringing a pleasant aroma to the corridors. Our daily baking project has become a tool for people to reframe their anxiety-filled environment. From the moment the group’s WhatsApp announces the day’s recipe, we all wait for those glorious ingredients to rise into a perfect cake. So too, we wait to hear whether we will be part of the ingredients that make Teva so great.

About the Author
Joel Kaye is the Director, Pharmacology Project Leader, Discovery & Product Development at Teva Pharmaceuticals. After earning his PhD at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Neuroimmunology he went on to do a fellowship at Harvard Medical School in the field of B-cell tolerance in Xenotransplantation. Joel joined the Pharmacology Department at Teva in 2004, and is currently responsible for non-clinical pharmacology activities related to the MS pipeline. In his spare time, Joel loves to cook and bake.
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