Editors note After receiving an overwhelming amount of responses to the Op-Ed “The Forgotten Girls ” we’ve chosen to run the following Op-Ed in response.
With personal interest, I read the latest Op-Ed on CrownHeights.info. I myself worked for shluchim in an out-of-the-way city in the USA for two years. On many, if not all, points, I have a hard time identifying with the author of this article. Instead of relating directly to the authors complaints, let’s discuss the general issue.
Why do girls go out to work for shluchim, out of all things?
Hopefully, the answer is to join in the Rebbe’s shlichus. If it’s anything else- to pass the time till they get married, to make some money, to do something fulfilling with their time, to get out of Crown Heights, ‘cuz it’s the ‘in’ thing to do…..
Well, all I can say is that they’ve probably chosen the wrong business. Though some of the above reasons are real, they are not going to be the foundation of a happy, successful year with minimum stress.
If there’s one thing I learned from my years of working for shluchim, it’s that this perspective is what counts most. When I went out to work, it was with all the admonishing and warnings of friends and relatives that “Shluchim take advantage” and “Watch out for yourself”.
What I discovered was that, yes, if I looked at my job as a typical office job or as a 9-5 “don’t disturb me after hours” type of thing, life was going to get miserable really fast. Having being born into, and grown up, on shlichus, I knew that I was getting myself into something larger. After many open and frank conversations with the shluchim I worked for, with friends and others working for shluchim, and hearing from other shluchim, the following picture emerged:
Shluchim bring out girls to help them in their SHLICHUS, which means to be shluchos themselves in the community, with all that that entails. Yes, they are employers, and need to treat their girls as any employer would their employees. But they see your (the girl’s) role as so much more than just what they listed on the contract. Just like the shliach’s ‘contract’ can’t possibly outline every possibility that may come his way.
The girls usually go out to work for shluchim with a similar goal. To help the shluchim in their shlichus. But the word HELP is the key. No, this isn’t their community, they won’t have the joys of seeing the peiros of their hard work. They also won’t be the ones to deal with the aftermath of any unfortunate incident. The mesirus nefesh for something which is not theirs cannot be demanded.
Another point, slightly unrelated, is the fact that for most of these young woman, this is the first real JOB, outside of summer camp, that they have ever held. So they will naturally look at it as something of a JOB, with all that they imagine or have been told goes with that.
The root of many issues is the above divergence of intentions. The shliach is bringing out a SHLIACH, the girl is going to a UNIQUE JOB. And all it takes is that one time for the shliach, or the girl, to create an issue based on these two different veiws and you have the vicious cycle that so many shluchim and their girls complain about.
Have I witnessed shluchim taking unfair advantage of the girls working for them? You bet!
Have I heard girls give unrealistic demands, and shirk the basic responsibilities which they were brought out for? Yup!
The way to deal with this is two-fold.
Shluchim: Remember, your girls are young, impressionable, and committed. They also might be a bit overwhelmed at the beginning. Don’t dump it all on them at once. They are human beings with human feeling. Compliment them on a job well done. True, no one is doing that for you, but that doesn’t make it less important. And, remember, they are, after all is said, EMPLOYEES. Not there forever, not committed for life, and don’t have the same investment. One can’t expect mesirus nefesh from them.
Give them reason to love the place, the people, the shlichus, not hate it.
Girls: You aren’t going for a free ride. This is not camp. This is that job you said you wanted. But it’s also much, much, more. The shluchim have committed their lives to this. They need you to commit yourself to this too. (and, for the record, there is not a job in the world where every time you smile the right way someone is going to pat you on the back). And, remember, this Shlichus isn’t for everyone. If you’re not ready for it- DON’T.
After reading through many of the comments, another point was brought up continuously- is this even what girls should be doing at this stage in their lives? Fingers were pointed at a particular seminary principal for discouraging it.
R’ Y.Y. Chitrik wrote an article in the Kfar Chabad about 4 years ago against it. His points are real. The most important line he wrote was towards the end- before you go work for someone verify what their ruchniyus achrayus is. Both with regard to his home and his shlichus. As long as a girl stays within the framework of our educational system, whether as a teacher, student, dorm counselor, secretary, she’s guaranteeing a certain degree of spiritual structure for herself. Yomim Tovim don’t just ‘happen’. Yoma D’pagra don’t pass by without some kind of acknowledgement. There’s a need to maintain a level of conduct “for the children”.
The shluchim themselves have that spiritual struggle when they move out to their place of shlichus, and that’s presumably after they’ve somewhat stabilized their spiritual standing, usually after they already have to do things “for the children”. To send a girl who has yet to congeal her outlook and views out to a shliach takes serious achrayus. Not every girl is ready for that, and not every shliach conducts his home and his life to the highest of standards.
So, should girls go out?
No blanket answer. Every girl has to do the right, honest, investigation- into herself, her motivations, her ruchniyus, and into the prospective place of shlichus.
And remember- there are two sides to every horror story, and for every situation that doesn’t work out, there is at least one that does
Hatzlocho Rabba to all of you in fulfilling the Rebbe’s shlichus.
Post-script: I now run my own Chabad House. The skills I learned while out in the boondocks have made a tremendous contribution. Whether it was running an office, giving shiurim, emails, Friday night dinners, or talking to those who come by, I owe much to the shluchim who showed me how. Thank you Berel and Devorah Leah.
This Op-Ed reflects the views of its author. It does not necessarily reflect the views of CrownHeights.info nor of its Editors.
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