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Nov 24, 2010

The kvetch of the kollel wife

This is just too funny. it made me laugh, so I will share it with you.

This was a letter posted in the Yated's public board page, in yesterday's free edition of the Yated.

My translation:
"Work or Slavery?"
I want to thank you for your amazing newspaper.. yada yada yada..
I wanted to raise an issue regarding one of the things that are the cause, in my opinion, of a change in the style of the haredi community, and in its desires and goals, without anybody paying attention to it and standing strong for the multiplying of Torah and not chas v'shalom the opposite.

What am I talking about?

I see the possibilities and the tests of the wives of avreichim, that from one aspect places of employment have been established with the help of the government, but from the other aspect most, if not all, demand 8 to 9 hours of work each day.

A woman who works like this told me in pain, about her day. "that instead of fulfilling the words of chaza"l about the women waiting for their husbands to return from learning, by me it is the opposite. my husband gets home and has to be the babysitter in the afternoon for the little kids, and because of that he cannot rest and gather his strength for the afternoon learning. And when I do get home, I also cannot rest, but have to gather the remaining reserves of strength to take care of the kids, to feed them, to take care of them with patience and calmness until my husband returns from kollel and helps me put them to bed to sleep. Over the course of the night, if the baby cries, my husband volunteers to get up, otherwise I wont be able to work and produce properly the next day".

This lady asked me if we are working for houses of Torah, or maybe we are in the decree of Pharoah to burden the women with work so they cannot learn Torah?

So I wonder why we agree with the desires of the businessmen to save costs and to employ women and mothers, as if they have no house and family to raise? Why are there only two options: either no parnassa, or work until you are "finished"?

Why dont we demand of the work places that accept government funding and assistance that in addition to their profits from their "chinese" workers, they should provide jobs that are 4 or 5 hours a day and work in two shifts?

The profits will be doubled like this:
1. the number of jobs will be doubled, and more families will have a source of support
2. Every woman will be able to live respectably, and there is no respect besides for Torah., to raise a house of Torah and generations of blessed children...
S.K from Modiin Ilit

I wonder if she realizes that by working less, she will be paid less. They already, rightfully so, claim they are taken advantage of and are paid too little just because they insist on working in a very specific type of environment and are not willing to join the general workforce. That low salary will be halved.

Besides for that, it is true, and I have heard and seen it before - the woman is out to work, so the husband has to take care of the kids and cant rest before afternoon kollel (big deal), but also maybe the babysitter doesnt show up, or comes late, and then he is late for kollel, maybe he is flustered from taking care of a sick kid, or any of a million things that can distract him. Then it turns out she is working hard so that he can NOT learn in kollel.

Is the answer to demand the employers give them more time off? Sure, if the employers are willing and the employees are happy with their pay cut. I dont care. They have to realize though that they are in the real world, and things dont always go your way. Employers want the work done, and are less interested in all the drama added to the picture that she is drawing. Her letter makes it seem that she thinks everybody owes her the chessed, and she does not seem to understand that the workforce does not revolve around her..

I dont have the answer. It is not easy for a "kollel wife" to go get a job when she has little kids at home, if she wants her husband to really learn.


  1. The writer describes her husband as coming home after his morning seder to babysit, then he doesn't have strength to learn in the afternoon. Sounds to me like he already is set up to do what so many of us have done - learn part time with focus, and work. As for getting up at night to tend to the baby - I dunno. Seems many of us did that and more just because it was the right thing to do. Ya know, take care of MY child, give my wife a break, share the responsibilities for the children I helped bring into this world.

    In short, the guy should be helping his wife (which he is), he should get a job, and he should be learning. Nothing new here.

  2. Unfortunately they can't consider themselves taken advantage of if that's what the market is paying and all of her fellow workers are accepting. Many times after a few years in the sheltered workforce the better performers get "real" jobs and real paychecks.

    Her letter makes it seem that she thinks everybody owes her the chessed...

    That ends up being the problem. It's a hard life but since it isn't a choice anymore, and since they occasionally claim to have the intention of supporting the world, they are prone to expecting the world to pick up some of the pieces when they can't manage.

    It's tough.

  3. Yup, welcome to the world sweetheart. It ain't easy being a working mum. But in the real world our husbands work all year, and only get about 12 days paid vacation. Somehow our men put up the succah and buy their 4 minim without having a week off work to do it. How many days 'bein hazmanim' vacation do kollel men get during the year??
    I agree that something is unfair in the setup, but suspect that what needs to change is not the employer, but perhaps the hubbie's lifestyle??

  4. When the husband works, and the wife stays home caring for the children all day, she is also exhausted and doesn't get a break. The husband comes home from a long day at work and helps getting the kids to bed, helps in the middle of the night, and takes care of the kids early in the morning.

    This has nothing to do with kollel other than the mid afternoon break.

    This is just the reality of having a bunch of little kids, unless they send the kids to daycare all day (for more hours than she works, if she works.)

  5. Huh, I can't figure it out...where does the GOVERNMENT get their money from to pay for all these things?

    Hmmm, it's just one of those wonders of the world. And clearly the government, who just acquires money to use for others by magic, has plenty extra to do whatever it wants.

    It's just it has the wrong priorities I guess.

    Almost, but not quite, despair for the future. Jews used to be smart and wily, what happened?

  6. Part time work also carries an extra overhead to the employer as he has to deal with the paperwork, welfare, child sickness, maternity leave and tantrums of twice as many people. He also has to split tasks between more people and manage his projects with more people doing smaller tasks or taking longer to perform what they would have done in less time had they been working full time.

  7. I posted about this as well, Fascinating letters in yesterday's Yated. The bottom line is that the letter writer has no idea how the economy works and that companies are in business to make money.

  8. This woman is typical of many in the frum community: the world OWES me! Sweetheart, get a life! Now she's working full-time and therefore gets childcare at a highly subsidised rate - if she chooses to use it. If she works p/t she won't work enough hours to qualify. Neither will she have as much vacation, as much pay, as much sickness, blah blah blah. I have worked since 17 years old. I supported my husband for 16 years before he started working - and I continued! Life is tough; it's also about choices. If you don't like it - you have three choices - sit on your butt and schnorrer off the chesed orgs, have your husband get a job so you can work p/t (or not at all), or smile and get on with it.

  9. SL - through med school or kollel?

  10. She'd probably make more money, staying home and taking care of three neighbors' kids.
    Or send her husband to work...
    Both working 3/4 jobs would make them more money. Yes, of course they'd have to find the jobs. If they really want, they will.

  11. So her complaint is that she married a looser who isn't interested in paying the bills and now she is upset because she has too and its HARD.

    Pardon me while I don't have much sympathy.

  12. Many of the comments are unfair and not dealing with the reality of the "working mom" who is supporting a husband (in learning, finishing med school, unable to work, etc.).
    Salaries for Charedi Women in Israel are lower than for any other group of people. In most cases, they are devoted, dedicated and bright workers who do not slack off during working hours, and produce a hefty profit for their employers. They are taken advantage of in many ways. Some understanding rather then shooting poisoned arrows is necessary.

  13. cv - I agree, and I wrote in the post that they are taken advantage of, d their salaries are usually well below market value.
    The reason for that, you must recognize, is due to their insistence to work in only a certain and very specific environment, and that then meets up with supply and demand. If they are only willing to work very close to home, with certain flexibility in hours, in a haredi environment, there are very limited numbers of places they can work.Then, if there are lets say 500 women applying for jobs at a company that only has 75 or 100 to offer, the employer can set a low salary. supply and demand, along with the fact that everyone involved knows these women will not be willing to go elsewhere to make a bit more.

    doesnt make it right, as far as them being taken advantage of, but that is the job they signed up for, and it is the job they prefer..

    I have known some women who worked in these places, and a few were successful and talented and after a couple of years were fed up enough to look for jobs elsewhere. The vast majority of women do not. They are stuck in these jobs and that is sad, but it is of their own doing.

  14. they should provide jobs that are 4 or 5 hours a day and work in two shifts

    That's not going to solve the problem. Let's say there's 100 full-time workers who have a problem in the afternoon (i.e., their husbands have to take care of the kids in the afternoon while they work; I'm not going to pass judgement on it, but IMHO, that's the problem she puts forth). The mornings don't seem to be a problem, since the kids are at gan, school, whatever.

    The proposal is to hire 200 people; each will work a half day. So you'll have 100 morning workers, who won't have a problem in the afternoon, and 100 afternoon workers who'll have the same problems that this arrangement is supposed to solve!

    Assuming that this arragement is instituted, the afternoon workers will have their mornings free. As per the current setup, their husbands are in Kollel and kids are in gan, school, whatever, so they have free time on their hands in the morning. They could decide to work an additional shift in the morning, since nothing else is demanding their attention just then. This would make them full-time workers again.

  15. "The reason for that, you must recognize, is due to their insistence to work in only a certain and very specific environment, and that then meets up with supply and demand."

    Rafi you should add another reason: the salaries are kept intentionally low because the charedi hashkafa frowns on women who earn too much becasue they will not respect their husbands, will look for ways to spend the money they earn and might be too dedicated to their jobs at the expense of family.


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