Fixing The Damaging Messages We Are Teaching Women And Girls

You may also like...

52 Responses

  1. SA says:

    Some thoughts, which I’m sure others will debate:

    1) One barrier for frum women aiming for a fulfilling career is the education required to access that career. We want our girls to marry relatively young and have families, and yet those are the same years in which to access these fields they will need to acquire undergraduate and graduate degrees in academic settings that are far less flexible and forgiving than many workplaces.

    Yes, we can all point to women who have “done it all” (career + family) in a manner the Torah community would deem acceptable. They remain rare.

    2) Few frum woman “do it all” does so without extremely supportive parents (financially and otherwise, often long-term) and/or uniquely supportive husbands. These family factors are not always present.

    3) When it comes to the workplaces themselves, it isn’t clear how the policies or benefits of even the most family-friendly corporations will necessarily help religious women. What frum woman would want to leave their child in a non-Jewish daycare setting?

    By the way, “flextime” and working at home is not always a “lechatchila” solution. Over the past 15 years I have been doing much (now it’s all) of my work at home. Yes, there are some advantages, but setting limits and barriers between work and family is very, very difficult. What’s more, over the past 20 years technology has led many employers to expect their employees to be available — even just to answer questions — at all times, even when one is officially on vacation.

    Children in their own home don’t like to be told, “I *can’t* now, don’t you see I’m working?” They just don’t. Trust me from my vantage point of age 54 after raising six kids. I’ve been there.

    On the other hand, the long commute needed to access many office-based “careers” adds additional time to a woman’s workday that is difficult to cover, even when the children are in school. And what about overtime? On many career tracks you can’t advance unless you yourself available for overtime when needed. Many. many women have found that these factors break them in the end. And if they are liable to break in the end, why spend tens of thousands of dollars and many years on a “career”-oriented education?

    4) Personally I would define the ideal employment for a woman is a job that can be left at work, and rarely, if ever, invade a woman’s time at home with her children. It doesn’t matter whether it’s full-time or part-time employment, or how many degrees one needs to obtain it, or what your title is.

    I realize that teaching — long considered the ideal profession for a frum woman — does not meet this criterion, even if it has some scheduling advantages, which is why I’m sure many people would disagree.

  2. Joe Hill says:

    Without doubt girls should be encouraged to be a stay-at-home housewife. There certainly is no better option than being home for the kids and taking care of the family needs. Is this always financially possible? No. But to the closest extent possible it should be one’s goal. And to the extent it isn’t possible in one’s personal situation, the closest arrangement to it should be sought. That might entail part-time rather than full-time work and working as close to or in the home.

  3. joel rich says:

    Where to start? A full response would deal with the following:

    1. why is this addressed to females only? Perhaps in a certain community, if only the females work, it makes sense. In the rest of the world, not so much. And would the message then be more of not seeking a profession that doesn’t allow much family/torah time (this is a double edged sword)

    2.Is the workplace more family friendly? sure-but the job/profession differentiation is one that employers who have never seen a frum Jew still make. will this employee view the employer’s needs as high priority and sacrifice for them is a broader societal question. Faking it in the interview just delays judgment day.

    3.does replacing one set of platitudes with another set of soon to be platitudes make a difference? Over the years I’ve suggested high schools and colleges (or in other areas yeshivas/seminaries) bring in real people (and not just the hedge fund manager/super genius Lakewood lawyer who earn and learn with ease)who can give a realistic span of experiences about what real world experiences are like-apparently this is too scary?
    KT

  4. Dr. E says:

    Kudos to the author for this very important article. The obvious people to take to task on this are the teachers, Principals, and Seminary Directors who disseminate party-line messages. (I often think that those who are in financial administrative positions in those same schools cringe at that rhetoric. After all, it ultimately makes their jobs of collecting tuitions and fundraising within the community quite challenging. But, I digress.) Sometimes those messages will be at odds with the Hashkafa of parents, who are ultimately on-the-hook for the outcomes. Other times, the messages are mixed and thereby internally inconsistent with one another. And in many cases, the messages are not in sync with reality.
    The likely reason for this is the need to adhere to what is perceived to be a Bais Yaakov “brand” in chinuch for females in our community. Some well-known Rabbinic figures will espouse a “Ward and June Cleaver” ideal (without putting it in those terms, of course), that predated the wants and needs of being frum in our generation, even factoring out Kollel with its single-income premise. Despite the fact that those perpetuating that perspective are relatively disconnected to what it takes for real families to live financially responsible lives, many Mechanchim seek out and get their validation from those individuals. In order to maintain credibility, they feel compelled to carry on the message.

    One point which Dr. Klein did not explicitly state is that much of the “hock” here is predicated on the “shortcut” mentality. This worldview has become part and parcel of much of the Yeshivish community’s attitude towards the outside world especially when it comes to higher education. For our young women, the manifestation is that of trying to cram in credits, seminary, degrees, dating, marriage and “a job” into a compressed window of time, which in the real world (of careers OR jobs with decent income) takes double or triple the time frame. The ads for such programs are ubiquitous in Yeshivish publications. Consumers are lured by the expedited time frame as well as marketing claims of being “accredited”, and somehow an implied guarantee that the programs are equivalent to conventional degrees when employers see them on a resume. (There is a certain sense of arrogance and naiveté relative to the rest of the world, for which perceived moral superiority will somehow compensate for traditional degrees, skills, and experience.) As Dr. Klein points out, employers really don’t care about accreditation (by some dubious entity which parents being led to believe to as being universally recognized) as much as they care about potential value added and the attitude of a given candidate. If that attitude is infused with insularity and entitlement, there will be other more compelling candidates who will no doubt come without that baggage. The end result is underachievement, wasted potential, and settling for menial jobs in organizations within the frum community. They will comfortably come without the challenges of the general workforce, but also come without the compensation and benefits required to support a family. So, many of the short-term gains of getting “a job” will ultimately fade when the real financial responsibilities arrive.

    Dr. Klein also makes an important plea for young women to explore a broader range of fields. At present, there might very well be a supply surplus of teachers, OT’s, and PT’s which makes finding jobs (within and beyond the frum community) and even graduate school acceptances in those fields more difficult. But, there might very well be intellectual potential for other occupations (e.g., science, technology), which is encouraged, cultivated, and nurtured–and can be realized, through conventional educational tracks. Currently, those tracks are more or less unavailable because they are too out-of-the-box (and/or take too long) to be consistent with the paths being presented as normative and ideal. (This whole discussion is definitely confounded with the “Shudduch Crisis”, but adding that to the mix will take this comment in a whole other direction.)

    This is not to minimize the differences between a frum Hashkafa, faithfulness to Halacha, etc. and the general workforce. But, there is a track record of successfully navigating those spaces and sometimes even making a Kiddush Hashem. It’s just a matter of identifying those mentors, and taking advantage of what they have to offer, as opposed to marginalizing them as “career women” who sacrificed their families in exchange for professional success. (And those who have observed the negative outcomes of financial challenges on Shalom Bayis/divorce and nurturing children to stay on-the-derech will certainly have some important communal case studies to offer, leading to a conclusion which is contrary to the aforementioned messages.)

    Ultimately, it will have to be the parents who will need to take those who make such statements and set forth the “acceptable tracks”, to task. Those statements must be backed up with actual data and success stories that are not merely notable exceptions, but the general rule. For parents and communal lay leaders in the know, that might be an insurmountable task.

  5. Yaakov Menken says:

    I do not see why this is characterized by the author as a women’s/feminist issue. From Shammai’s declaration in Avos, “עשה תורתך קבע” [make your Torah your permanent occupation] to the Mesilas Yesharim’s “צריך שישים האדם את עצמו עראי בעולם וקבוע בעבודה” [A person must place himself temporary in worldly matters and established in Divine Service] (among a host of examples), this message is given with equal consistency to men and boys (and to whatever extent it’s not, it should be). Family, Chinuch, Torah should all come ahead of having a career; our jobs and careers exist in order to pay the bills for our family, education, and Torah.

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    Being devoted to one’s avocation as a career as opposed to a job is a nice slogan , but IMO ignores major sociological issues that we must address as individuals and a community.The issue that any man or woman who works in the secular work world is balanca and leaving the values and atmosphere of the job at the office. I think that the idea of inspiring the secular world with Kedusha requires serious reevalvuation and new strategies -with a very secular world where Nivul Peh is considered normal and being an adherent of any religious POV is viewed at best a differing POV to be tolerated, but not respected.

  7. g says:

    Dr. E’s comments regarding the shortcut mentality reminds me of a conversation I had with a colleague who directs the resource room services in a Jewish day school. When she interviews candidates for teaching positions, she typically asks what had inspired them to choose the field of special education. Increasingly, in recent years, young ladies have answered, “Well, it was the quickest degree.”
    These women would certainly seem to be selling themselves short in terms of career satisfaction. More importantly, though, they and their peers who are choosing degree programs in the helping professions based on convenience are selling our children short.

  8. mycroft says:

    “.does replacing one set of platitudes with another set of soon to be platitudes make a difference? Over the years I’ve suggested high schools and colleges (or in other areas yeshivas/seminaries) bring in real people (and not just the hedge fund manager/super genius Lakewood lawyer who earn and learn with ease)who can give a realistic span of experiences about what real world experiences are like-apparently this is too scary?”

    Agree totally-side benefit if the mechanchim listen to what median people are earning and the hours that they put in at work it might be useful for them to learn what the real world actually does and earns as opposed to the machers that they deal with in boards etc. Nobody is interested in knowing what most people actually earn and do.

    “Despite the fact that those perpetuating that perspective are relatively disconnected to what it takes for real families to live financially responsible lives, many Mechanchim seek out and get their validation from those individuals. In order to maintain credibility, they feel compelled to carry on the message.”

    Agreed and frankly one of the reasons why some kids may go OTD-most realize where they stand in school and correctly perceive if they don’t have family money in general terms what they will be able to afford and most can’t afford a MO lifestyle-the Chareidi world is not for them so the sad choice is there.

    “This worldview has become part and parcel of much of the Yeshivish community’s attitude towards the outside world especially when it comes to higher education. For our young women, the manifestation is that of trying to cram in credits, seminary, degrees, dating, marriage and “a job” into a compressed window of time, which in the real world (of careers OR jobs with decent income) takes double or triple the time frame. The ads for such programs are ubiquitous in Yeshivish publications. Consumers are lured by the expedited time frame as well as marketing claims of being “accredited”, and somehow an implied guarantee that the programs are equivalent to conventional degrees when employers see them on a resume. (There is a certain sense of arrogance and naiveté relative to the rest of the world, for which perceived moral superiority will somehow compensate for traditional degrees, skills, and experience.)”

    Agreed and they must be careful not to show a superior moral attitude even if they believe it. In addition they must be scrupulous in their work habits which some are but sadly many aren’t.

  9. L. Oberstein says:

    First of all, i want to welcome Dr. Leslie Ginsparg Klein to Baltimore . Last year I had the honor of teaching at Maalot and found the girls very level headed and realistic about career choices. They are all gems and a credit to the familis and schools they come from. Baltimore is a different community than some others and I am surprised to hear that the notion of a job but not a career is prevelant. i ant to recount what my daughter Estie Fertig told the menaheles of Seminar Yerushalayim many long years ago. Asked aout her plans , she said that she would be attending the University of Maryland School of Nursing. The Menaheles remarked that at that time girls in New York were not going to college but Baltimore girls were going and not going off the derech. Estie answered that this is because our Principal in Bais Yaako Rabbi Binyomn Steinberg,z”l has taught us that when we study science we are seeing “niflaos haBoreh” the wonders of the Creator. We don’t view it as off the derech to go to college. Chaval al d’avdin, woe for he who is gone.but I hope and pray that there are others like Rabbi Steinberg who instill such values in their students. I know that Maalot Baltimore does.

  10. Shades of Gray says:

    “Don’t have aspirations. Settle for less than you are worth. Don’t try to find a job that you might actually enjoy…They should choose a career path that they love and in which they find fulfillment. They should understand that by working in a field they enjoy, they may find themselves with more patience and energy for their children when they arrive home”

    It’s a gift to be able to enjoy what one does for a living as in the ancient quote, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” However, even if one’s work only serves economic purposes, that and other aspects(eg, helping others) can make it meaningful.

    This post touches on two issues discussed in Klal Perspectives:

    1) Winter 2012- “..how do we balance the advantages of mothers being at home against the community’s need for the higher tuition the family would be able to pay if the mother were working?”

    2) Summer 2014- “The current system places significant value on a relatively narrow range of personal talents and interests. Only those teenagers who happen to enjoy these particular strengths are viewed as belonging to an upper echelon among their peers, or are ever afforded the opportunity to discover within themselves the individual blessings they enjoy.Would it be appropriate to expand the array of talents that the community values, and to provide affirmative encouragement of the development of a broader range of strengths? If yes, how would that be accomplished? And, would such an introduction pose a threat to the Torah-study value system that has so successfully permeated our community?”

  11. Shades of Gray says:

    “Estie answered that this is because our Principal in Bais Yaako Rabbi Binyomn Steinberg,z”l has taught us that when we study science we are seeing “niflaos haBoreh” the wonders of the Creator.”

    I also thought of R. Steinberg z’l as I was reading this post. Hanoch Teller discusses R. Steinberg’s views about career in “A Matter of Principal”, pgs. 97-99(online on Google Books).

  12. Leah says:

    As a mother of two and a doctoral student, I am glad that Dr. Klein is drawing attention to important issues facing frum working women, but disagree with her premise.

    The rhetoric of “job not career” is simply about focus, a focus on family and meaning, rather than defining yourself by your occupation. This message is important for our society; we place a higher value on torah, mitzvos, and chessed than on external measures of prestige. If this message has succeeded in penetrating our girls, then I believe we are well equipped to enter to workforce. In other words, I think this message is the protective factor to keep us focused on what we know is truly important.

    Believe me, anyone who works in any kind of environment knows that 1) you need to enjoy what you’re doing enough so as not to be frustrated, and 2) one needs to do some extra to demonstrate commitment and interest in the field. Those are the realities of any job/career. However, I find myself constantly evaluating either of these two considerations against my priorities (my family, a torah lifestyle, chessed etc.), which can be encapsulated in one statement of my priorities: it’s only a job. And lest anyone think this is easy, I literally apply this metric to every new situation. I enjoy what I do. I know that it will be beneficial for my “career” to take on an additional research project. However, I have a family. I have other priorities. Sometimes I may decide one way, and sometimes another, but I find the “job not career” mantra meaningful, relevant, and helpful.

    As an aside, for those commenters who look askance at quick frum degrees – I have taught in one such program as well as in university undergraduate classes and can only applaud young women who choose their career path and follow it with discipline and rigor instead of spending four years of “finding themselves.” In fact, today many adults returning to school make use of such focused programs (I won’t call it shortcut). If our girls are at that level of maturity, that’s great! Full disclosure, I also attended one such program for my undergraduate degree and have found no barriers (either in perception or in level of preparedness) at the Tier I research university I now attend.

  13. DF says:

    I thoroughly and completely disagree with this post.

    Speaking in terms of a “career” is a message, akin to using two last names – as the author, quite pointedly, also does. Both convey the unmistakable message that one has drank deeply of the current American feminist ethos, in which the differences between the sexes have been blurred. Feminism is inextricably bound up with the destruction of the family unit. It was recently announced that, for the time in American history, there are more single adults than married. And its only getting worse. The timeline in the rise of the U.S. divorce rate directly parallels the passing of Title VII and its expansion via the judiciary. [These are the laws the author ironically, but unwittingly, calls “family-friendly”.] By speaking enthusiastically of “career women”, the author sends the unmistakable message that she identifies more with these values than traditional Jewish ones.

    Additionally, the author is naïve if she believes the mere existence of laws enable women to be “career” women and yet somehow be perfect wives and mothers. Perhaps in her world of academia and Maalot it can be done, but not in corporate America. Nobody advances in their career by putting in simple 8 hour days. That’s a recipe for remaining in career entry-level positions. The competition is too fierce. There are plenty of other people prepared to work far harder.

    Moreover, as the Gemara often says, הגע עצמך. Think for a second. I’m not aware of any men with busy careers who have the time to spend in the basic functions of running a household, such as – how embarrassing these must be for the author – cooking, cleaning, and raising children. So now our author wants the women to be career women too – how is all this going to get done? By a cleaning lady? [Her career, I suppose.] Who’s paying for this? Not to mention other little things, like, oh, תורתו מתי נעשית?

    On one thing the author is surely right, and many have long been waiting for the chickens to come home to roost here – it’s not fair to ask the women to be devoted mothers and wives, and yet still work to support their families. The women didn’t sign the kesuba, the man did. It’s HIS responsibility. [Contrary the author’s claim, families can and are maintained very nicely on one breadwinner, though naturally not everyone.] This is a problem the yeshivah/kollel world is responsible for creating, and indeed, I’ve never understood how they reconciled the obvious contradiction. But it’s not for for those outside that world, who have been brought up in traditional values. We’ve already seen what feminism has done to the American family. Why would we ever want to repeat those mistakes in our own?

  14. Leslie Ginsparg Klein says:

    Can frum women “do it all,” have a family and a career? Are women who have successfully balanced both indeed rare? If by career, you mean a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, then certainly yes (the same would be true for frum men). But career is much broader than that. A teacher can view her work as punch in and punch out. Or a teacher can view her work as a career. She can attend professional development workshops, think about innovative curriculum design, and take on responsibilities that will look good on her resume. I have heard teachers discuss whether a certain change is a good career move. And this is in the profession long considered the best for working mothers. These women are not rare. Neither are women running businesses, working as lawyers, working in management or human resources. They are mothers and they are in positions that have potential for growth. They may need to slow down at certain points, when kids are very young. But they are in fields they enjoy and they are in a position that when the time comes when they can devote more time to their careers, they can move forward professionally.

    Also, it is important to remember that women aren’t always young mothers. Some are single, others have kids in school, and still others have kids all grown up. There is no reason for them to be limiting their professional efforts, if they have the desire and the aptitude.

    For those who still say women can’t do it all, doing some is still better than the current ethos of settling for dead end positions that pay $10/hour. These women are stuck, with no potential for growth, either in terms of remuneration or in terms of the interestingness of their work.

    And yes, going for a career-type position might mean taking longer to finish your education.

    I think the key, that a number of commenters mentioned, is proper mentorship. Women (and men) need professional mentors. Other frum professionals that can help them navigate their field and the work/family balance in line with Torah hashkafos.

  15. A. Gordimer says:

    I found this article quite confusing, even after reading it a few times. Does the author view a Jewish woman’s primary role as raising her family with care and Torah-based values – and hence all else must yield to and further that goal and ultimately be secondary, no matter how much all else is pursued with seriousness, vigor and focus – or should a woman’s career take the driver’s seat and to a degree be given primacy? The author professes the former, but her emphasis seems to clash with it. One cannot have it both ways, and I feel that that article does not appreciate this paradox or evades it.

  16. Reder says:

    Firstly I’d like to thank Dr.Ginsparg for the enlightening article first daughter is in seminary now. A very bais Yaakov seminary with high academics.It is our plan that she attend a frum college after seminary. Although we don’t live in NYC we are thinking about Touro Bklyn. In your estimation do employers perceive Touro as a “real” college. Meaning is it substantially better than the accredited programs alluded to on zone of the comments. I feel that have a rigorous curriculum which focuses on the students major is the way to go for girls. Let the college’s do what they can to enable girls to finish quickly, but with full qualifications in their field of choice. I speak from experience when I say that even in certain frum college’s there doesn’t seem to be the flexibility or curriculum choices many of our girls need.

  17. Reder says:

    Just a short reply to L Oberstein. I too knew Rabbi Steinberg obm. Prarily as my sister’s principal. just tell you that their take on his handicaps are totally different than yours. He directed them down the classic bais Yaakov path and today both are married to very chashuve Beni torah in no small part due to rabbi steinbergs influence.

  18. Alexandra Fleksher says:

    I believe the reasons for the limited socially-acceptable field choices for girls go beyond the value of prioritizing family. There are two other factors to consider: 1. The importance of environment. This is an essential aspect of the Bais Yaakov educational creed, so many of the common fields are those in which a girl can typically retain her sensitivities, in addition to enabling her to “prioritize her family” due to the nature of the work, the scheduling, etc. Keep in mind that many of these jobs pay decently and are good choices for girls who want to support their husbands in full-time learning, and present themselves as good shidduch candidates. Which leads to… 2. Shidduchim. How many girls are going to go out on a limb and sacrifice their prospects? It takes a very unique young man to support (in all senses of the term) the “unconventional” career choice of his young wife. Yes, I do think we should widen the range of “career” options for our girls, considering other fields that may be off-the-beaten path, but are still likely to enable a girl to be true to her values. I am also concerned about the girls who are going into fields for which they are ill-suited since it is the socially-acceptable thing to do, and I applaud Dr. Klein and Maalot Baltimore for providing so many viable options for their students.

  19. Shlomo Radomska says:

    I found Dr Klein’s article confusing. She seems to be advocating the need for a real career path for young women in our community yet she is the “academic dean” of Maalot-Baltimore a short-cut, make believe degree operation. Am I missing something here? As a human resources professional I have tried over the years to work with these young ladies in securing professional career positions. In most cases they lack maturity, real credentials, work experience, and the proper attitudes to succeed in the general job market. They just cannot compete with their secular peers in gaining access to selecting managers. They often cannot get past the “gatekeepers” to even obtain an interview with a selecting manager. Unfortunately, we have succeeded in creating fearful and insecure young ladies.
    It is time we change our path and advocate for our talented, bright, and capable young ladies “be all that you can be.”

  20. Shoshanna says:

    “We should certainly keep transmitting the message that women should prioritize their family over their work, but Orthodox women can keep their families as their top priority and still have a successful career. That is the message that, B’ezras Hashem, will help build a stronger, healthier, and more financially secure Jewish community.”

    Dare I suggest that we transmit the meeage that men too should prioritize their family over their work, that Orthodox men can keep their families as their top priority and still have a successful career?That is the message that, B’ezras Hashem, will help build a stronger, healthier, and more financially secure Jewish community.

  21. L. Oberstein says:

    The shiduch crisis is real. A girl and her parents feel a ticking time bomb as soon as she comes home from Seminary. The quick degree is because the system demands that she support her learning husband and the question of how much earning potential the girl has is one that is asked. To be fair, if a girl gets married at 18,19,20 to someone only a few years older, she has to help him finish his education, either Kollel or Professional school. Then, child bearing is not postponed so the window is short. This is the real situation and parents are terrified that their precious daughter will miss out on a shiduch if she doesn’t have the right degree and the right earning potential. I think that many people think this is an out of wack system and needs to be changed, but how. If you have a girl in the parsha, it is like having this fear of being left out when the boys’ mothers decide whom their precious son will even meet. The resume has to say that money is there and will continue to flow. Fulminating about the absurdity of this system that turns nshei chayil into indentured servants doesn’t help. In fact, openly complaining can label the parents too modern and harm their child’s chances of being a nachas machine for her family instead of a producer of income for her baal. Chazal did not envision the current system that is prevelant both here and in the Holy Land, but we are helpless victims of the system.

  22. tzippi says:

    As Rabbi Menken already said what I was thinking, perhaps this is superfluous. But I think it’s a point worth pursuing, if not here, elsewhere.
    When I was in seminary a prominent dayan, whose early education was in a European gymnasium, asked me what my father did. I responded that he worked in his father’s store. The rav repeated his question, several times, and then told me what my answer should have been. My father is a talmid chacham, and at the time had already written several sefarim on halacha. This, said the rav, is what my father “does”; he worked for his father for a living.
    Now I agree that life is pleasant when one enjoys his or her job, feels a calling to it, etc. But this is good food for thought for everyone.

  23. SA says:

    Dr. Klein writes of women who are “running businesses, working as lawyers, working in management or human resources” that “they are mothers and they are in positions that have potential for growth. They may need to slow down at certain points, when kids are very young. But they are in fields they enjoy and they are in a position that when the time comes when they can devote more time to their careers, they can move forward professionally.”

    Is that so? Here is an excerpt by an article written a year ago by Barnard President Deborah Spar. It’s worth reading the whole article (find it on Google). And just remember that her context is non-Jewish altogether.

    “In theory, keeping mothers in the workforce demands little more than flexibility; a certain willingness, as Schwartz initially suggested, to give career-and-family women “the freedom to take time off — a couple of hours, a day, a week— or to do some work at home and some at the office.” In theory, talented women on a mommy track could telecommute or job-share; they could work twenty (or thirty-five) efficient hours every week, staying current and valuable in the workplace without necessarily devoting every ounce of their being to its demands. In theory, the mommy track should work, both for women and their employers.
    In practice, however, few organizations have found ways to carve their most important positions into anything other than full-time chunks. […]

    “Many women who have left the full- time workforce, of course, predict that their hiatuses will be brief. Most women, in fact, and particularly high-earning, high-achieving women, presume that they will leave their jobs for just brief periods of time, returning in full force once their maternity leaves expire, or their children set off for preschool, or their husbands return from that overseas assignment. Yet, as Sylvia Ann Hewlett found in a 2005 study, most women who pull blithely into a career “off-ramp” find the road back far more treacherous than they had anticipated. Positions disappear; salaries plummet; professional relationships grow stale. And at the end of the day, only 40 percent of women who try to return to full-time professional jobs actually manage to do so. The rest settle into early retirement, or slower paced, lower-ranked jobs.”

    The article goes on to describe how those with the financial wherewithal simply “opt out,” preferring family, motherhood and being a wife to careerism. It also describes the raging debate over this phenomenon, noting that women who are not well-off usually don’t have the option of opting out.

    The article continues: “Yet there’s something very real about the opting-out portrayal; something that transcends class distinctions and tiffs about lifestyle choices. And that’s the fact that women — given the choice about their lives and careers — are making these choices differently than men. In the aggregate, and given a certain measure of financial security, they are making the choice between work and family in favor of the latter.”

    So there you have it: If the circumstances allow it, women are going to make the visceral, ingrained choice of family over career. And that’s discounting the hashkafa and shidduch issues we’ve been debating that play no part in the world being described.

    So how should we be educating our daughters? Perhaps more importantly, how should we be educating our sons? Perhaps most important of all, why don’t those who feel that certain aspects of “the system” don’t work for them, simply ignore “the system” and quietly go their own way? Does anyone really believe that ALL frum girls (and their parents) or ALL frum boys (and their parents) want the same thing?

  24. Raymond says:

    I so much disagree with this article. In fact, I see this article as little more than a re-statement of standard feminist doctrine. There is simply no job on Earth more important for our world than the raising of one’s children. I suspect that the overwhelming majority of the world’s problems we face today, can ultimately be traced to bad parenting. There is just so much time and energy that anyone has. The more one focuses that energy on one’s career, the less dedicated that a woman can be to raising good children.

    I will go one step further than this. I think that not just women, but men as well, should think of their jobs not as a fulfillment of their dreams, but as a way to make a living. Money is, after all, why any of us work in the first place. Very few of us would stay at our present jobs if it were purely voluntary. True, that it makes the workday go by faster if the job better suits our personalities, but in the end, we are or at least should be far more than our careers. For women, raising good children should be their main focus. Perhaps for men, Torah learning should be, and if that does not suit them, then finding some other way to contribute to the Jewish community, such as participating in organizations such as Hatzallah or Tomchei Shabbat, might be the way to go.

    I do not know how many times I have heard this, but this cliche is worth repeating here, namely that at any given eulogy that summarizes a person’s life, rarely is one’s career success mentioned. What is emphasized over and over again, is how much of a giver to the community that that person was in his or her life. And there is no better, more important giver than a mother raising her children. Maybe if women were praised more for their heroic motherhood, they would not feel the need to emphasize less important aspects of their daily lives.

  25. Dr. E says:

    A few specific responses to Commenters on this thread:

    Thank you “g” for bolstering my point. This is an unfortunate state of affairs as it demonstrates the dearth of professional teachers. Given the private school status of many of our institutions, there is little credentialing and quality control over who is teaching the next generation (who will eventually be the next in line to confront the challenges under discussion). The idea that a Bais Yaakov graduate can get a “teaching certificate” from a one year seminary in Israel and is then brought immediately into a classroom, while preposterous, has become somewhat normative. Some who are attracted to teaching positions come from other fields because the tuition breaks they get for their own kids make it more financially worthwhile than working in the general workforce.

    Leah seems to dismiss any value to spending 4 years “finding themselves”. This is totally developmentally normal! While there is much nonsense and problematic behavior that takes place on a college campus (and residence therein is not what I am suggesting), the trial-and-error phase during that time of refining what one is good at and from which one gets sipuk hanefesh does have value. Plus there are some extra-curricular activities (either in the community or as part of the higher education endeavor itself) which inform and reinforce one’s essence. There is a significant subset of young women who graduate HS, go to seminary, come back, get a quickie degree, and are still at a loss of what they are to do with the rest of their lives (or until they get married). The result is a glut of young women with meaningless degrees who end up working in menial jobs within the frum community.

    Alexandra Fleksher makes an excellent point when she states that “It takes a very unique young man to support (in all senses of the term) the ‘unconventional’ career choice of his young wife”. In that respect, the education and nurturing for boys in the community is sorely lacking. In the Yeshivish shidduch system, males (who appear to be on the straight and narrow) are placed on a pedestal, with few expectations of personal responsibility. In a sense, they are just as objectified as the female “Size 0’s”, with money and yichus. So, if these gues are such great “catches”, why not add this uniqueness to their portfolio of characteristics? We need to produce more males who are not coddled to have others fulfill their own needs and expect that their wives will dote on them, cook for them, and support them financially. In some cases, that means raising the bar on their personal and financial responsibility early on, and not merely being satisfied with externals. And if they are going to be “in learning”, then they need to grow up and understand that allowing their shidduch prospects/wives to do what they need to do is their cost for the privilege of learning.

    To Rabbi Oberstein, of course, the Shidduch crisis is confounded with this discussion. But, it is not clear whether you are merely expressing helplessness and going along with the situation or suggesting a more effective alternative model. Furthermore, how some of the solutions to the aforementioned crisis (i.e., for males and females to marry earlier, having 21 year old guys marry 23 year old young women) will jive with what needs to be done in this area, is still going to be difficult to reconcile.

    More generally, while some are critical of the notion of “having it all” or a “career”, we are really playing semantics. If one is intellectually honest, as I mentioned earlier, the idea of trying to satisfy all of the expectations from the mixed messages and take care of those things within a compressed window of time, is practically far more challenging than what is inferred within the statement of “having it all”. In addition, while the focus of analysis here has been the (higher) education of females, equal if not more scrutiny needs to be leveled against the male Yeshiva system, which has become increasingly skewed towards who is perceived as elite. How and when are they getting trained in ways in which they will be able to contribute to their household budgets?

    Finally, no one has come up with a systemic solution to the financial realities involved. That was one of Dr. Klein’s initial premises. So, I chuckle when I see those who stand firm to ideological rhetoric about the woman’s role being in the home and (at the same time) the guy’s imperative to learn. How do they reconcile the high costs of frum living (both needs and “wants”) with a single income—whether that single income is contributed by the wife OR the husband alone? In other words, who is expected to pay the bills?

  26. Akeres Habayis says:

    Honestly, I view raising my family and taking care of my home as the most fulfilling career out there. I believe that as a mother and wife I function as a psychologist, teacher, chef, nurse and a host of other professions. I have always made the time to stimulate my brain through reading, going to shiurim and listening to Torah tapes. I have read a countless number of books while nursing my children, and successfully utilized other pockets of spare time to read when they were little. I believe that many women may not put their heart and soul into their jobs is because their jobs are much less fulfilling than their rich home life. These women view their jobs as necessities, but not their primary tafkid. These women view their central tafkid as being the creators and builders of the next generation.

    Not even the best babysitter can provide the same warmth and stimulation that a sensitive and nurturing mother can provide. There have been thousands studies which confirm that by the time a child is a year old their attachment type, whether they secure, insecure, or ambivalent is established. This attachment style remains ingrained in the child for the rest of their life, unless serious internal work is done to change that. Just because a child can’t talk or walk doesn’t mean that the child is not impressionable. Feel free to check up on these studies. There are literally thousands of studies on this topic confirming this fact.

    The CEO of Pepsi even admitted that her kids thought she was a terrible mother. She also ripped apart the myth that women can do it all which surprised many. Women should definitely set time for personal fulfillment aside from their family, but realize that these outside pursuits pale in comparison to the nachas and satisfaction one can have from raising a Torah family. What bigger accomplishment is out there?

    Yes, women have to work to put food on the table and pay tuition, but it should not be glorified. We need our mothers at home as much as possible to continue in raising our precious children and fortify them in Torah hashkafos so they can in turn build their own homes.

  27. Bob Miller says:

    Any “one size fits all” type of career/job message is inappropriate for both men and women. Yes, there are priorities and such, but each individual or couple or family and each situation is different. The shortcuts we use are often for the benefit of people other than the parties most directly involved! Advisors, and that includes rabbonim, really need to know the people they advise. We were put here on earth with unique talents, missions, and challenges. Life is not a super-checklist.

  28. sara says:

    It is sad to read among these comments that there are those who still believe that all women do, and should be able to, find full satisfaction in homemaking and childrearing. For those women who truly do, how wonderful. But there are many women, second x-chromosome notwithstanding, who derive sipuk from intellectual pursuits and who find passion in subjects and fields other than “cooking, cleaning, and raising children”. For those many of us who were lucky enough to take a path that allows for a challenging and satisfying career (no thanks to the active discouragement of the BY system) while ensuring that it does not overshadow our other roles of wives and mothers, we find that our husbands and children actually gain and are better off in having a wife/mother who is happy, fulfilled all domains, and hopefully better able to mitigate financial stresses that plague our communities. There are, unfortunately, many women who did fall prey to the “job not career” platitudes of our education and find themselves stunted, bored, and frustrated, and these feelings are not beneficial in the home environment. Furthermore the recipients of those jobs will suffer; no should be taught by teachers who resent being in the classroom, served by therapists who keep checking their watches, treated by clinicians who just want the paycheck, or provided services by those who have no interest in what they do.
    And if you are going to insist that women function only in their historical role of homemakers, then you need to be consistent and absolve them of any involvement in finances altogether and instead hold the men responsible to uphold their historical role of breadwinner. You cannot absolve frum men of the need to fully provide for their families, encourage the women to be equal- if not primary – breadwinners, but then deny them the right to do so in a manner that is satisfying and meaningful.
    Thank you Dr. Klein for bringing up this important topic.

  29. DF says:

    The author twice mentions women lawyers, in her post and follow up comment, so let me inject a little reality. I say this as someone who started in a boutique law firm, went to an AmLaw 100 mega-firm, and several years ago transitioned to in-house counsel for a Fortune 200 corporation. And in each environment I worked in, I saw very, very few full time female lawyers that have more than two children, if even that much. This is in contrast to the men, quite a few of whom had good sized, catholic or OJ-style families of 4 or more kids. Likewise, women in administrative roles often had larger families. Perhaps my experience is atypical but somehow I doubt it. Is that, then, what the author is envisioning for our girls? Minimal-sized families?

    And as for success, it’s an open secret that, with exceptions duly noted, most women are only being promoted to partner in the big firms because of affirmative action, with all the resentment that breeds. They are simply not bringing in clients the same way the men do. Being a rainmaker requires far more time than “just” the billable requirements, already a daunting task for anybody orthodox. But that’s part of the legal career, at least if one wishes to advance in it. Full-time is much more than 8 hours a day. So is that what the author is envisioning – becoming a lawyer, only to go nowhere? [And in many firms, you can’t just stay an associate forever. They either make you “of counsel” (glorified associate) or you have to leave.)

    Bottom line is, hard wiring. Who is better equipped by God – nature – to raise children? If one buys into the feminist viewpoint, we’re all the same, and so of course there is no reason why the husband should be having a career while the woman raises a family. Let him make dinner and put the kids to sleep while she works late. She can also go the Beis Medrash with her chavrusah, if she has time, when she gets home later. But in the Genesis I read last week it has things a little differently. The author doesn’t want to acknowledge that. Maybe its because she has been taught by feminists that its somehow “second best”, God Forbid such a foolish notion, to actually want to be a wife and a mother. If so, that, and only that, is what we need to be addressing in the schools.

  30. shaya says:

    R’ Menken: “Family, Chinuch, Torah should all come ahead of having a career; our jobs and careers exist in order to pay the bills for our family, education, and Torah.”

    Yes, but it is not necessarily only to pay the bills. Do you think the Rambam and Ramban were only physicians to pay the bills? Of course not — healing people is a most praiseworthy thing. Are therapists doing their work only to pay the bills? A single person is like a world — and so saving a person from death or despair is an extraordinary act of chesed. If one’s job involves gemilus chasadim then it too is Torah and mitzvos. The foundation — one’s family’s observance and education — must be attended to, and must be first priority, but that doesn’t mean one’s job cannot itself be infused with Torah and mitzvos, and be instrumental in improving the world.

    I agree, though, that the issues are common to women and men. I think the most fundamental issue is that of working hours. Mothers and fathers alike need time off from work to take care of sick children, be there when the bus comes home, etc. It should be possible to choose the career toward which one’s heart, mind and soul gravitates — whether it is being a scientist or a politician or a plumber — even while working part-time for some or all of one’s career. In the Netherlands there is actually a right to part-time work (employers have to grant employee’s request for fewer hours, and give them the same benefit, unless compelling business reasons prevent them from doing so.) We should advocate for such policies, as some US organizations (those attuned to the needs of working mothers) already do.

  31. Leslie Ginsparg Klein says:

    Certainly the shidduch process plays a big role in the pressure women feel to quickly find some standard, accepted way of earning a parnassah. I remember a conversation with a student who wanted to go to law school, but was afraid that if she did, she wouldn’t get married. So she was contemplating education instead. I remember talking to another student who was in despair because she didn’t want to be an occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech therapist, but she couldn’t see any alternative.

    A number of you suggest that women will not get shidduchim if they enter fields off the beaten path. I am not suggesting students become Hollywood actors or flight attendants, or any other field that is obviously unsuitable for a frum woman with a family. I am suggesting that there are fields that don’t have therapy in their name that are great options and probably wouldn’t raise eyebrows. It is mikubal for women to go into computer programming. Why not IT or cyber-security? Those are fields with tremendous growth potential. Why aren’t more frum women going into optometry or health care management?

    Yes, some of these fields might require extra time in graduate school, but the long-term benefits greatly outweigh the downside (both financially and because some of these fields lend themselves to flexible hours). This indeed might require a shift in attitude because too many students are looking for the shortest degree. They want to be finished with their graduate education/professional training by age 20 or 21. (And to a great extent this is probably pushed by the parents who are nervous about Shidduch prospects.) They are not thinking that if they invest the time in professional training, the whole rest of their working lives will be so much easier and more family-friendly.

    In any case, the current system is going to have trouble sustaining itself in the coming years. Graduate programs want applicants with work and life experience. They don’t generally want 19 and 20 year olds. Some have even imposed age requirements for application. And with the recent rise in applicants to graduate programs, students below the age of 21 are at a distinct disadvantage. More and more students rushing to go to graduate school simply are not going to get in on their first try—especially in fields that are oversaturated.

  32. Reder says:

    Two questions. to Dr.Ginsparg. Does your article represent the hashkafa of maalot. To l.oberstein. don’t you think ‘indentured servants’ is just a bit over the top. Nothing personal but your own “path” to financial stability wasn’t exactly a result of your years of education and degree.

  33. Leslie Ginsparg Klein says:

    Let me add a few words about Maalot Baltimore. Maalot Baltimore is a rigorous undergraduate program. Like standard undergraduate programs, Maalot’s courses meet, in person, for 39 hours, and Maalot requires 120 credits to earn a B.A. The academic level of the coursework is at least on par with standard undergraduate coursework. Students can generally graduate in two years in addition to a year in seminary. If a student finishes in one year in addition to seminary, and many do, it is because she worked very hard and took a double course load (and took college courses during high school and during the summer). Maalot will help students finish at the pace they want to finish, but we certainly do not push students to finish faster. Maalot courses teach not only content but professionalism. There is a required course that teaches skills that will help students be prepared for and successful in the workplace.

    Unfortunately, the same is not true of many of the “college” programs advertising in frum publications. Many of those expedited programs, which market themselves on how fast they can be completed, prepare students for nothing. Some are all exams for credit – students never benefit from the enriching classroom experience. These programs do not teach marketable skills and they do not provide the prerequisites for graduate and professional programs. Their graduates are likely limited in their professional options. Perhaps this is the type of problematic program Mr. Radomska was referring to. But this is certainly not Maalot Baltimore.

  34. Leslie Ginsparg Klein says:

    I am in no way arguing that women SHOULD work outside the home. If a woman is able to be a stay-at-home mother, that’s wonderful. But the reality today is that most women are working. And for those women, they should be choosing the professional path that best suits their aptitude and their desired level of working.

  35. Dr Chava says:

    Reading this article and the responses to the article make me realise that I am very lucky to be Chozer betshuva (at age 13) and NOT to come from a religious family. I am a medical practitioner with 2 specialty degrees. I have four wonderful well balanced children/young adults and a happy marriage. I have job satisfaction, job flexibility and financial rewards that I would not have from any other job. I am so grateful that none of the barriers that are mentioned mentioned her were put in my way at any time. My message to everyone , male and female is “You are going to be working for 50 years of your life. Chose something that you you are passionate about , and then you will be good at it, and your children will have a happy parent” It was mentioned that a woman’s job should never spill over to her home life. I will contend that that is also not true , when your kids see that you are that you are helping people , they learn about chesed and learn to be independent. I have absolutely no regrets and would encourage all women to consider medicine as a wonderful career path. By the way, in my city there are 3 Rabbis who I know who are supported by their female doctor spouses, and each one of these women is a terrific/way above average doctor- the community benefits from them… so much , in so many ways

  36. Reb Dr. R. says:

    As Shlomo points out in his comment, I likewise find it ironic that the Dean of Maalot Baltimore is the one posting this article. Indeed, I find it doubly ironic that the same institutions (pick your favorite Bais Yaakov or yeshiva) that discourage the above mentioned “careers”, “professions”, “achievements” (pick your poison) are also the #1 drivers of women into the workforce. Both the astronomic tuition rates of these schools and the brainwashing that goes on to make girls believe they should marry men who learn in kollel are putting more women in the workforce than the lure of feminism, materialism, capitalism…virtually every ‘ism’ COMBINED! Talk about sending a mixed message…I suppose we shall have to goad R’ Adlerstein into writing an article about that one!

    Nevertheless, we must thank the author for taking the initiative in addressing something she sees as a trend and for her many valid points. I only have a few comments to add to the already raging debate. No one is going to win the Mommy Wars and I don’t think that is the point of the article. H’ in His great wisdom made everyone different (or else He would have made everyone just like me!). Each of us must find fulfillment in what we do, whether it is something we have chosen out of free will or life circumstance. The truly wealthy and happy person is someone who is able to find joy in their lot in life whatever it may be. The mishnah is telling us it’s all about mindset.

    On that note, aren’t we splitting hairs about semantics? People who take pride in what they do, strive to put their heart and soul into their endeavors, utilize all the creativity and resources in their environment to do so and take advantage of network or professional development opportunities to continue to grow as a professional, ARE professionals, whether they work in a school or a shul or a law firm in any capacity. The difference between career and job/living is all about mindset, as the author rightly points out. I agree 100% that our society in general discourages the professional mindset which is shortsighted and ends up reaping just what it sows: mediocrity.

    Once you realize this, however, parents can take charge to undo the negative messages and learn how to actively engage and encourage intellectual curiosity and a passion for inquiry, instill serious regard for excellence and rigor in all things and the expectation of high achievement. By that I mean excellence (not just or necessarily high grades, EXCELLENCE) in all things: Torah AND Derech Eretz! Who cares about society’s messages? I challenge you to be a wo/man: defy the odds to create this environment and standard in your own home. You have no one to blame but yourself if you laze out of this obligation and holy aspect of parenting. And if you succeed, with G-d’s help, the manifold layers of nachas that you get in return more than compensates for the blood, sweat and whispered, tearful prayers that such a mindset engenders.

    Finally, to Akeres Habayis who quotes Ms. Nooyi’s (Pepsi CEO) assertions from her interview last July that she was a bad mother, who is to say she wouldn’t be a “bad mother” even if she wasn’t the CEO of Pepsi? In my experience, and unlike many of the commenters to this post, I have personally been on both sides of the fence/negotiating table/OR for many years, being a high level professional does not doom one to “bad” motherhood (whatever does that even mean??) and being a stay at home mother or morah or part time speech therapist does not predispose one or even make it more likely that one is a “good mother.” If you have ever met anyone that is neurotic, a bully, emotionally expensive, overly self absorbed, selfish, evil, mean, critical, unthinking or plain old vicious, there is an equal chance of their mother being an Akeres Habayis type as being an Indra Nooyi CEO type. It is more a factor of siyata dishmaya than whether or not one has a job versus has a career or stays home during the childrearing years!

  37. joel rich says:

    Dear Dr. Chava,

    You are obviously a very blessed woman and your route seems to have worked for you. May I suggest that an important element of the discussion here is about what overall message will be in the best interest of the covenental destiny of the Jewish people as a whole.

    Two important items:
    1. We are judged as both individuals and as members of a community (tzibbur) [per Rabbi JB Soloveitchik] Decisions we make should reflect both those elements as well.(what’s best for me personally may not be best for the community of which I am part)
    2. When thinking about community messaging it’s important to remember the fallacy of composition which arises when one implies that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole (e.g. one individual working very hard may get an available position, if everyone works that hard at getting a position, they all won’t get it)

    KT

  38. Leslie Ginsparg Klein says:

    Reder, I wrote this article as an expression of my personal views, not as a representative of Maalot Baltimore or its views. That said, Maalot Baltimore believes that if a woman is going to go to work, she should do so in the field that best suits her interests and aptitudes, and in a manner consonant with Torah hashkafos and her future role (IY”H) as an akeres habayis.

  39. Dr. E says:

    To Yaakov Menken: Your translation of the adage of Shammai is somewhat creative, by reading in the work “occupation”. What he is essentially saying is that one should make the Torah the center of his life. Given the imperative to work (far predating Shammai), we have to use the Torah as our moral and Halachic conscience in those pursuits—in addition to of course being koveah itim. I don’t think that your quote from Mesilas Yesharim is relevant to this discussion on a practical level. Furthermore, your conclusion of the goal of jobs as merely being instrumental does not follow from either citation. As Dr. Klein points out, few employers will see much value when women bring that attitude towards their organizations. So, there will be no job to even talk about.

    To DF: Your anecdotal evidence is consistent with the negative messages being espoused by schools and Seminaries, not only against fields like law. Similar “can’t do that” messages are leveled at other occupations as well. Unfortunately, that rhetorical “can’t” sentiment is also being expressed in other areas of Yahadus. Secondly, there are women (and men) who use their law degrees in other contexts besides fast-paced law firms. The Government, corporate, and nonprofit arenas are options which for some, will offer quality of life benefits. Some people start out at firms and then make the switch for work-family balance.

    Furthermore, throwing in the attribution to feminism and its purported equality is a slippery one. Based on your formulation of how men and women are hard-wired, you are taking a swipe at what has been the inertia within the Yeshivish community over the past 30 years. That is where the role of the husband as the sole breadwinner has been abrogated in favor of being supported by others.

    Rebbitzen Dr. E correctly calls out Akeres Habayis for the conclusion that women must stay at home and by definition, that model will lead to Shalom Bayis and functional, frum children. Simply not true. Staying at home does not always translate into parenting skills. It is quite possible in some cases, that financial strains emanating from the lack of a second income creates significant stresses in intra-home relationships. Furthermore, within the economic formula of our frum communities, working women are not only supporting their own household financial statements, but they realize that they are subsidizing the women who choose to hold firm to an idyllic single-income model. And what happens when the children all move out of the house? Some women then regret not having ever finished their degree years ago. That degree will not only now give them something to do, but also help when she needs to support married children and grandchildren. As Dr. Klein reiterated, she is not saying that ALL women need to work, just that in the majority of cases where they do, that they get something out of it beyond just a paycheck. It is quite possible that women who receive sipuk hanefesh from their work will be in a better place, and ultimately will make better wives and mothers.

    To Dr. Klein: I take issue with your prediction of “the current system is going to have trouble sustaining itself in the coming years”. That is consistent with similar prognostications of the system imploding in the future. However, those on the ground know that the future has already happened! The impact of underfunded families and communities has come home to roost and has been showing negative outcomes in recent years. We have been seeing this with increased divorce and kids who want “out” of unsustainable financial situation. And they might be resenting the system which they determine as having contributed to it. And as ‘g’ pointed out, underfunded schools have been forced to consider and hire unqualified 20 year old teachers who are making up their faculty ranks.

  40. Yaakov Menken says:

    Dr. E, at risk of wandering down a tangent, I deny being “creative.” Torah should not be merely “the center of his life,” i.e. a guidepost, but the center of his day. As the Rambam explains: “make learning Torah the root and center, and all your other business should be drawn after it; should it happen upon you, it happens, and if not, not.” R’ Ovadiah MiBartenura: “that your main involvement day and night should be in Torah, and when you are tired from learning, do your work.”

    Furthermore, I don’t understand your claim that the words of the Mesilas Yesharim are not “relevant” on a practical as well as theoretical level. He is explicit and consistent, saying the following later on: “… as they said (Beitzah 16a): ‘all the sustenance of a person is set from Rosh HaShanah until Yom Kippur’… and a person could sit idle and the decree would be fulfilled, if not for the penalty imposed upon man, ‘by the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread’ (Gen. 3:19), that therefore a person is obligated to make necessary efforts for the sake of his income, for so decreed the High King. It’s like a tax that all mankind must pay, which is inescapable… but not that the effort is what helps, but it is obligatory, and since he made an effort he’s fulfilled his obligation, and provided a place upon which the blessings of Heaven can rest.”

    None of this says that when working, a person should not be diligent and conscientious, which is what employers look for. But as others have said as well, our central focus in life is not our job or career. When the sailors asked Yonah what his job was, he ignored the question — because saying that he was a Jew who served the Creator was all that was necessary; what they did for a living was part of how the sailors defined themselves, but not so for a Jew. This is true for men and women equally, which is why I objected to the writer’s implication that these “messages” are given to women and girls alone. Au contraire.

  41. yisroel m. says:

    The Jewish home is supposed to be the safe haven for the nurturing of our peopple and our future nation.

    The Jewish Home is where the Shechina comes to rest-if we don’t chase Him away.

    Our young people need to be taught to love their roles as mothers and fathers.

    Our young people need to love their Yiddishkeit.It’s a matter of their survival.

    Our young people need to learn that the outside world is screaming perversions of the worst kind and it is all an empty sham.

    Our people need to be taught that the gods of education and materialism are actually not able to give us financial security.(Ikvasa D’mishicha R’E. Wasserman)

    Our people need to learn that hishtadlus fo parnassah does NOT mean that it is permissible to expose yourself to the liberal propaganda in school and university curriculums.

    Our people need to be taught that our jobs, changing our children’s diapers and driving carpools are necessary for the end goal of building ourמקדש מעט. Enjoying the process is entirely up to each individual.

    Our people need to remember that if we push Hashem out of our homes, hearts,ideas,and schools, He hides from us.

    Our people need to remember that when we wonder about the silent Holocaust of our people sweeping across America was foretold in the Torah.

    Our children need mentors who guide them to appreciate their roles in eternity.They don’t need any more Jewishizing of the liberal agendas to further confuse them.

    Our people need to realize that instead of living the illusory American dream of pursuing happiness,we must live the only life that has inner peace.

    We all must realize that the National Education Association (NEA)is behind the education laws in the U.S.A.Their liberal agenda is based on the Humanist Manifesto. The books in our children’s education is full of their premeditated atheistic approach. It includes feminism,משכב זכר,satanism, crime, being self centered,and the disregard of proper family values. We are not sheltering our children, we are polluting their neshamos with kefira/liberal attitudes.
    It is an incredibly naive assumption that after 12+ years of studying liberal rhetoric together with some Torah studies that our children have the clarity of values and Yiraas Shomayim to emerge unscathed from the well known cesspool of depravity, often referred to as the college scene.
    Yes, we definitely need to fix the damaging messages we are giving ourselves and our children.

  42. mycroft says:

    The real problem is not career/job it is that many people believe that one can’t be an Orthodox Jew without a lot of money. The following illustrates that belief to an extreme even apparently making income a barrier to admission to Yahadus.

    “That can be a dangerous proposition, however, Romm says, because the beit din wants to be confident that the convert will be able to afford the higher costs associated with an
    Orthodox lifestyle: kosher food, Jewish education, housing in an Orthodox neighborhood.
    “One of the considerations we make is, can the person hack it financially?” Romm said.
    “If a person says I have no money whatsoever, I can’t afford the $400 fee paid out over
    time, the question you have to ask is, how are you going to make it as an Orthodox Jew?”

  43. DF says:

    “Based on your formulation of how men and women are hard-wired, you are taking a swipe at what has been the inertia within the Yeshivish community over the past 30 years. That is where the role of the husband as the sole breadwinner has been abrogated in favor of being supported by others.”

    I completely agree, and said as much explicitly in my first comment.

  44. mycroft says:

    The real problem is not career/job it is that many people believe that one can’t be an Orthodox Jew without a lot of money. The following illustrates that belief to an extreme even apparently making income a barrier to admission to Yahadus.

    “That can be a dangerous proposition, however, Romm says, because the beit din wants to be confident that the convert will be able to afford the higher costs associated with an
    Orthodox lifestyle: kosher food, Jewish education, housing in an Orthodox neighborhood.
    “One of the considerations we make is, can the person hack it financially?” Romm said.
    “If a person says I have no money whatsoever, I can’t afford the $400 fee paid out over
    time, the question you have to ask is, how are you going to make it as an Orthodox Jew?”

  45. Bob Miller says:

    Mycroft: Do you expect Geirei Tzedek in big cities or their suburbs to live on less than what the other Orthodox Jews need? How does this work?

  46. Reb Dr. R. says:

    Yisroel m, your writing shows much heart and soul. I want to use one of the points you make to give a suggestion for those young people (and their parents) who have an interest in pursuing a university education or professional training while minimizing risk to their precious neshama. “Our people need to learn that hishtadlus fo parnassah does NOT mean that it is permissible to expose yourself to the liberal propaganda in school and university curriculums.”

    You want to avoid liberal propaganda? DON’T MAJOR IN LIBERAL ARTS.Ironically, psychology is probably the #1 choice of concentration among frum girls. Why? Because:

    1. they are scared of working hard. Let’s face it, majoring in biochemistry or physics might be just a tad more time consuming and challenging than psychology for most people.

    2. they don’t have the hard skills and sufficient education in the quantitative & technical subjects like maths, sciences and coding languages, or STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). A typical Bais Yaakov math curriculum goes up to Algebra II. While that is commendable for a psychology major, it doesn’t really make the grade considering a STEM major is expected to be proficient in calculus as a freshman!

    3. they have no role models for what it is to be a frum woman (or man) in the STEM field and have no idea what one would do with such a degree. I get a call about this almost every week.

    4. lack of interest and/or abilities (though you would be surprised how brains can change with training and even someone with ‘moderate’ or ‘weak’ quantitative and analytical skills can often improve enough to pursue a career in a STEM field).

    Whatever the reason, I can guarantee you, not just from my own experience but from the hundreds of students, graduate students, postdocs and other professionals I have mentored, when you major in engineering, biochemistry, laboratory medicine and the like, there is no time for liberal agendas. You won’t be learning about sexuality in psych 101, you will be learning about the signal transduction pathway inherent in the human sexual response in Endocrinology 301; you won’t be learning about recreational drugs on the street, you will be learning about the effect of THC on the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens by T1 weighted MRI (and if that doesn’t put you off cannabis forever, I don’t know what will!). Your professors simply won’t have the time to feed you liberal mush because they will be shoveling more differential equations, synthetic pathways and thermodynamic principles at you faster than you can type this comment (without spelling errors). In addition, professors who are living lives immersed in these esoteric areas are often oblivious to anything outside their area of fascination. Join me at some of my scientific conferences. Social hour takes on a different meaning when you put a bunch of MD/PhDs together in a room with plastic cups and soda bottles. You might love them for their keen minds and deep knowledge, but no one would take them seriously any spouted rhetoric outside their field of expertise (Einstein’s Opinions aren’t exactly best sellers on Amazon).

    Does the university as a whole have a liberal propaganda? Sure. But there are ways of benefiting from an otherwise superb curriculum while minimizing exposure to said propaganda, as I point to above.

    As for the environment itself and being surrounded by often (but not always) immoral people behaving in what is often (but not always)depraved ways, so far this same concern has not stopped anyone from going to the mall to shop for shoes, to Miami for vacation, or to the WIC/social services office to pick up their food stamps. You are exposed to the same types (or even worse) voluntarily -and not because of a need to make a parnassa – at each of these venues! Moreover, you can go to a seminary or Maalot, never stepping into a depraved environment at all, and STILL end up being exposed to such day in and out. How about reporting to a homosexual supervisor, overhearing inappropriate stories/jokes or nivul peh in the workplace? Think that can’t happen to a nurse, OT or speech therapist?? I guess that is OK if one is working to support a husband learning.

    STEM programs are not for everyone, as enumerated above. It is well recognized that we need more tools and methods to engage girls in particular, in STEM. The efforts (if any) at our Bais Yaakovs’s are woefully underwhelming. It must also be recognized that even students entering such quantitative areas in university should be prepared with the right hashkafa. University is for studying and mastering their field, not socializing, not drinking parties or worse. There is at least 19 years to prepare a child and groom their character by the time they go to university. What should we be doing all this time if not imbuing them with a yiddishe hashkafa, sense of self and place in history of the Jewish people, and strength of character to withstand peer pressure and social mores?? That is the holy responsibility of every person that H’ has graced as a caretaker for the neshama of a child. A weak character thrown into a cesspit of depravity without anything substantial to occupy their mind and time could very easily be corrupted. Fortunately, we have plenty of Jewish seminary/colleges for those psychology majors. But I hope I have at least presented one viable option to the 20-33% of young people with analytical and computational abilities/interests for benefiting from a university curriculum while minimizing the effects of that notorious liberal agenda.

  47. Shlomo Radomska says:

    Dr Klein: The issue of Maalot-Bslytimore and similar entities in Israel and across America is not the issue of academic credits being accepted or recognized. Rather, it is whether or not the graduates of such “schools” can successfully compete with their secular university trained peers for the few professional openings in our very tight labor market. Having a “degree” from an unknown “credit processing program” (for a substantial fee of course) in General Studies is almost worthless in today’s economy. It has been my professional experience that most of these graduates cannot compete for these positions. Some do gain admission to real graduate programs, but most are limited to on-line programs from obscure “colleges” in distant states (again, for a substantial fee). I have been told by a number of graduates that sought professional positions in vain that “we and our parents were duped.”
    We can only hope that Dr Klein’s new position in Maalot-Baltimore will result in a raising of the academic standards and a greater path towards “real credentials from real universities,” coupled in a formal internship program.

  48. mycroft says:

    ” Bob Miller
    October 30, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Mycroft: Do you expect Geirei Tzedek in big cities or their suburbs to live on less than what the other Orthodox Jews need? How does this work”

    Bob Miller:
    What income do you believe Orthodox Jews MUST have as a necessity of acceptance of ol malchut shamayim? I am not a talmid chacham so maybe I’ve missed the section where it says that in addition to kabbalat hamitzvot, milah, tvillah, and in times of beis hamikdash karbon there is a financial test to become a Jew. What is the essential need for an Orthodox Jew-he needs a pair of tfillin-I’ve used my one pair for over half a century-mzezus in the living quarters. The biggest necessary financial cost is observing Shabbos. Food-buy standard products in general supermarkets under kosher supervision are not more than general food products.
    To the extent that Orthodoxy appears to have a means test for entrance or remaining Orthodox I believe requires at a minimum a big cheshbon hanefesh as to what is essential and what is nice but is it worth the “cost” of driving those who can’t afford it away from a life of Torah observance.

  49. mycroft says:

    ” Bob Miller
    October 30, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Mycroft: Do you expect Geirei Tzedek in big cities or their suburbs to live on less than what the other Orthodox Jews need? How does this work”

    Bob Miller:
    What income do you believe Orthodox Jews MUST have as a necessity of acceptance of ol malchut shamayim? I am not a talmid chacham so maybe I’ve missed the section where it says that in addition to kabbalat hamitzvot, milah, tvillah, and in times of beis hamikdash karbon there is a financial test to become a Jew. What is the essential need for an Orthodox Jew-he needs a pair of tfillin-I’ve used my one pair for over half a century-mzezus in the living quarters. The biggest necessary financial cost is observing Shabbos. Food-buy standard products in general supermarkets under kosher supervision are not more than general food products.
    To the extent that Orthodoxy appears to have a means test for entrance or remaining Orthodox I believe requires at a minimum a big cheshbon hanefesh as to what is essential and what is nice but is it worth the “cost” of driving those who can’t afford it away from a life of Torah observance

    Read more: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2014/10/26/fixing-the-damaging-messages-we-are-teaching-women-and-girls/#ixzz3Hh7Q5rUg
    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

  50. Dr. E says:

    In response to Reb. Dr. E, I would comment that Psychology as an academic discipline is often found within the college division of Social Sciences and not Liberal Arts. (although that distinction might be a matter of semantics). Furthermore, if the undergraduate degree is used as a stepping stone towards a graduate track (M.S. or Ph.D.) in a legitimate recognized program, that intellectual path might be just as rigorous as something in STEM.

    Secondly, much of Reb. Dr. E’s discussion centers on attitude of students and graduates. In a sense, this poses a more significant challenge than the specific academic discipline being considered. Unfortunately, the BY’s and Seminaries (as do the Yeshivos and the frum community) preaches moral and intellectual superiority over fellow students and future co-workers, as well as entitlement for various accommodations under the banner of religious need. This misinformation is based on bubba-meises and hearsay being perpetuated without being challenged. That combined with proscribed insularity and the purely instrumental view of work mentioned by Rabbi Menken (i.e., working only to pay the bills) has resulted in employment challenges which are empirical. The outcomes often are some variation of being underemployed, working for some frum organization.

    While the public college campus is often a haven for Liberalism, most of the young women who are the focus of this discussion would potentially be commuter students. This has the benefit of providing a superior academic environment, with better equipment and resources, but not the after-hours campus activities which might not be consistent with our worldview. Plus, the professors are typically more deeply involved in that area. With the advent of “BY-oriented” programs, there has been a movement away from a model which before 20 years ago, was quite normative for men and women in the Yeshivish community. The Liberalism of the college campus was relatively the same then, as it is now. So, taking the ‘ochel‘ and leaving the ‘p’soles’, while inherently a challenge, is quite do-able.

    As for STEM, Reb. Dr. E makes some cogent points. Part of that takes a shift in mindset within the BY’s, which tend to keep the same curriculum from 50 years ago. As such, beyond an annual “Science Fair” they might have, there is little sophistication and nurturing in STEM areas. As I mentioned above, because of underfunding, most of the faculty are not professional teachers who are current with the fields and just teach from the textbook. (Plus, most BY’s would not employer male Secular Studies teachers, which also decreases the pool of qualified STEM instructors.) Those who follow STEM know that limited exposure to these areas in younger grades is a strong predictor of interest and career trajectory towards them later on. Furthermore, the Israel Seminary experience often reinforces the notion of “you can’t do THAT and stay frum”, thereby reducing the numbers even more. (Obviously, the teachers and Directors are disconnected with all of the high-tech going on in Israel.)

    Hopefully, this thread will result in parents now expecting a greater amount of intellectual honesty and accountability from those who shape the curricula. Furthermore, they should expect a heighted level of accountability on the part of those who have been communicating certain messages which are 10+ years old , ill-informed, or based on agenda-driven bubba-meises.

  51. Bob Miller says:

    Mycroft,

    I guess that the gentrification of Orthodoxy has improved our image in some sense, but many seem to be priced out of complete participation in the community or thought of as second class for needing subsidized tuition, etc. Among our “needs” seem to be some that have been recently invented to enrich providers of goods and services. If we had kehillot with clout, those could make a dent in the problem. As it is, though, I can imagine that some prospective converts could be turned off by an accurate, detailed description of typical community member spending. Is that description to be withheld from them? No one has a duty to convert or to push conversion. If someone halachically qualified to convert who has been presented with the financial picture still elects to convert, more power to him/her, and the conversion should proceed.

  52. Reb Dr. R. says:

    My croft: No one has the right to withhold information to those who are becoming baalei teshuva or seeking to convert but does anyone really divulge the high cost of Jewish living? While there are many invented expenses (whether to enrich the providers of these goods & services as Mr. Miller posits, or otherwise), tuition is not one of them. A Torah education is not optional. You want to find the minimum $ value required to participate in Orthodox life? Let’s do the math: Let S=[(T1*X1)+(T2*X2)+(T3*X3)…] where T=the tuition of the desired BY/yeshiva/day school 1, 2, etc, X=the number of children you would be sending to your school, then the minimum $ per annum needed is S+(S*0.Y) where Y=your tax rate (turn % into a decimal). In other words, add up all the tuitions of all the schools for each and every child and account for the fact that every dollar must come from post-tax income. Forget the extra cost of kosher food (one can live without meat, cheese and wine, after all, and certainly without cholov yisroel if you get your calcium elsewhere), and the additional cost of purchasing and maintaining a larger home to house a larger family (10 children can crowd into one king size bed in a 10X10 room, after all, just like they did in Poland or Morocco not that long ago), or even the quantities inherent in funding the needs of a larger family (some people have even figured out how to re-use toilet paper or get along without it altogether-see the Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn if you are not convinced). The high cost of an Orthodox Jewish life is without a doubt driven by the cost of tuition.

    Even a wealthy gentile isn’t usually buying a new Lexus or Maserati every year. But that is what frum parents are being asked to do. Year after Year after Year. In some communities, the local BY/yeshivos are so proud of themselves that they are only asking for “Mustangs” instead of “BMWs”! I wonder how many baalei teshuva or converts would be joining our flock if we told them they are only welcome to the fold if they can shell out what would easily amount to a new luxury car every year? But we don’t say that, oh no. We tell them that the schools don’t turn anyone down for lack of being able to pay. Shall we start a new comment section for stories that will blow that myth out of the water?

    Our generation inherited this problem. While every generation has to sacrifice in its own way for a Torah education, costs have never been more astronomical and with no end in sight. It is our generation’s duty to solve the problem and not just pass it along to our children, who will not thank us for saddling them with an unsustainable system. The fact that there is little leadership in this area only attests to the difficulty of the challenge.

Pin It on Pinterest