Monday, February 6, 2012

Thoughts on the latest Klal edition dealing with working mothers
There are some very interesting articles, and the issues raised should be considered by every frum family.  I notice a difference of opinion among the authors as to whether the kollel culture should be changed to allow more mothers to stay home.  Rebbetzin Twerski, wife of Rabbi Michel Twerski from Milwakee, comes out strongly in favor of altering the current culture, so th at more husbands work and more wives can stay home and properly take care of their families (p.32).  Rabbi Aisenstark rejects this view and argues that if we would just be less focused on gashmiyus, we would find that there is no need for families to have a second income (p.74).  Apparently Rabbi Aisenstark thinks that families can survive with the husband learning in kollel and the wife staying at home with the kids, if only we were less focused on gashmiyus.  Based on my knowledge of typical kollel stipends, such a family would not have enough money to afford the rent of even a one-bedroom apartment, nor to feed a family.  Is this what Rabbi Aisenstark means by not focusing on gashmiyus?  Of course, there are many young couples who survive like that because their parents support them.  But if Rabbi Aisenstark thinks that parental support will solve the financial problem, he's living in a dream world.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, beholden to his Five Towns shul and community, could not possibly make the brazen statements that Rabbi Aisenstark makes.  But he is not willing to support Rebbetzin Twerski view either.  Instead, he does an interesting dance where he basically side-steps the issue altogether.  He recognizes there is a problem but is unwilling to suggest the obvious solution.  Of course, in his affluent shul, the option of the husband learning in kollel and the wife staying at home is quite viable for most of his congregants.  But he knows better than to openly support such a view to the general frum public.  Instead, he suggests women focus more on ruchniyus while maintaining their jobs, and by trying to strengthen their homes as well. 
I do applaud Rabbi Weinberger for taking up two very delicate issues.  1) He addresses the problem of couples having too many kids for them to handle.  While he does not advocate reducing family size, he does suggest meeting with a Rav to discuss whether limiting family size is a good option.  2) He takes a direct stab at the members of his community's tendency (without mentioning his own community) to spoil their kids, which prompts women to want to work in order to maintain their lifestyle.  Kudos to you, Rabbi Weinberger. 
Zlata Press has interesting perspective.  The principal of the most moderate Bais Yakov in Brooklyn, she seems to acknowledge that encouraging more young men to work might solve the problem.  But she dismisses that proposal, saying that it would be absurd for yeshivas to try to produce solid baalei batim (!?!?) (p.83).  I must give my RWMO yeshiva in EY credit for one thing.  They produced excellent baalei batim.  Why?  Because the yeshiva was geared for serious bnei Torah who they knew would be getting jobs.  And lo and behold, it works!
Dr. Pelcovitz's article is excellent, as his articles usually are.  A very important read for parents trying to decide how much time they should spend away from their kids. 

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