Nov 26, 2007
The Matrix revolution
Matrix has revolutionized the haredi workforce.
They have set up centers in various Haredi cities in order to allow the Haredim, the wives that is, to enter the workforce. They have created unique conditions in order to allow for the special needs of the Haredi women. They have unusual hours, such as the workday concluding at 2 pm so the women can get home in time for their kids arrival from school (among other things). They take women who have absolutely no experience or higher education and train them from a to z and give them a profession.
In exchange for this, the pay is considered very low.
Yet, despite the low pay, they employ hundreds of such women in each of various centers in Haredi cities, such as Beitar and Modiin Ilit/Kiryat Sefer. The reason is because these women would not go out to the general workforce to look for jobs. They are concerned about working in an appropriate environment. They do not want to work with secular people, they do not want to work in a place where their tzniyut might be compromised, they do not want to work in a place where their needs are not understood and they might have a hard time leaving early to get the kids or taking off when sometimes necessary. Matrix has filled a void for these women and provided them with everything they need to go out to work and provide for their husbands learning in Kollel, along with training them.
Some people complain about the low pay. As far as I am concerned, they have unusual conditions, they are trained (they forget that if not for Matrix, if they wanted a job they would have to go pay tens of thousands of shekels to go learn how to program or whatever else they do) and there is of course the issue of supply and demand. If they felt they deserve more, they should ask for it and if they are willing to either look for other jobs at higher pay or not work at all for such low pay, maybe Matrix would feel pressed to increase the salaries. As it is, because of all their special needs being provided and accounted for, I do not consider them underpaid, even if the actual salary is below market level (which it is).
That is the background.
Now for the juicy story.
There are occasionally rumors of uncomfortable situations, such as "flirting" between the managers and some of the women, other tzniyus problems. Recently, a woman in one of these Haredi work centers (the one in Kiryat Sefer), left her family and religion. She is rumored to have had an affair with one of the managers/lecturers.
There are calls for Matrix to change their system. People are blaming Matrix for creating and being responsible for a situation in which families are destroyed.
It is not Matrix's fault. True, maybe there is room for improvement. Maybe certain improvements can be implemented (maybe hire more female managers and instrcutors where possible, maybe more religious managers and instructors where possible, etc.) to minimize the risk of coming into contact with the outside world even more, and whatever can be done, should be done. Every family destroyed is a disaster. If a family can be saved from a tragedy like this, it should be.
However, Matrix should not be blamed or faulted and punished for this, even if there is room for improvement.
People, even Haredi women, are human. There will always be a certain percentage that will buck the system as soon as they are exposed to the outside world. That is the risk of keeping people locked up their whole lives - as soon as you open the door and let them out, even just a bit, they get overwhelmed and change everything.
If someone feels it is not for them and that they would not be able to withstand the risk, they should not take such a job. If they are so concerned about the finances of the home, but reluctant to send a specific prone wife into the risk, then they should either continue to live in poverty or maybe the husband should consider going to work in that case, so as to protect the family spiritually.
Matrix is a company that is doing what it can to provide for the needs of a specific community. Of course, it is financially worthwhile for them to do so otherwise they would not do it. The problem is a human problem. There will always, everywhere, be women (I only say women because that is the specific case under discussion, but it applies to men as well) that will succumb to external pressures and temptations. The fact that it has hardly happened and this case is the exception actually speaks well for the system Matrix has put into place. There is only so much protection they can put in place. Once you are in the outside world, there are temptations. You have to be strong enough to withstand them, or find other solutions.