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April 09, 1993 - Image 59

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-04-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

13ackgroun

Let The Buyer Beware

T

An ad for non-Jewish
au pairs stirs up a fuss
in Brooklyn's Orthodox
communities.

DAVID ARGAMAN AND
' YORI YANOVER

SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

he week before Pass-
over, the streets of
Brooklyn's ultra-Ortho-
dox neighborhoods were
plastered with posters, at-
tacking a classified ad in the
Yiddish language weekly Der
Yid, which is affiliated with
the Satmar Chasidic sect.
The ad, placed by the "Ze-
hava Agency," read: "We have
new, young shikses [gentile
women] for work at home, in-
duding sleeping over." In Yid-
dish, as most things do, it
sounded even better.
Under the stirring headline,
"A Concubine on the Hill," the
authors of the posters protest-
ed, "Now they're publishing an
ad which offers the public
young shikses, not only for
work but also for sleep. In all
our history we haven't had
anybody try to corrupt his fel-
low Jews with young shik-
ses...Who knows how many of
us have already fallen prey...
Heaven protect us from the
mere thoughts which such
words bring to mind..."
In recent years, as part of
their integration into the
American life style, Orthodox
families have been employing
non-Jewish Polish, Russian
and Ukrainian cleaning
maids, who often stay in this
country without a work per-
mit. As a result they can be
employed for relatively low
wages.
Some Orthodox families
have also hired au pairs, who
clean the house and baby-sit,
in return for a wage and room
and board. Zehava, of the "Ze-
hava Agency," answers the
phone bilingually — in Eng-
lish, in case you're a customer,
in Russian, in case you're an
employee. Posing as cus-
tomers, we asked her what it
would cost to employ such an
au pair.
"How many children?" was
her first response, explaining
that "if it's a household with
many children they (the
maids) get scared."
"Let's say two children," we
answered. "That's good," she
said.

Davis Argaman and Yori Yanover
are Israeli journalists living in
New York.

Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

Artwork by D. B. Johnson. Copyright* 1993. D. 8. Johnson

"For how many days?"
"Let's say five days."
"Then it'll be $200, plus
room and board."
During our first conversa-
tion, Zehava — she preferred
not to reveal her last name —

The authors of the
posters bemoaned
not just the ad, but
the entire
phenomenon.

said she gets $100 from the
employer upon sealing the
deal, and continues to receive
a percentage of the young
woman's wage for as long as
she's working.
During a second call, in
which it was made clear that
we were journalists, she de-
nied any financial gain or re-

sponsibility for the legal sta-
tus of the women.
The authors of the protest
posters were not bemoaning
only the printing of what some
considered to be a suggestive
classified ad, but also the en-
tire phenomenon. In running
the ad, they argued, the Der
Yid sanctioned the social trend
it represented.
We asked Yechezkel Rata,
a rabbi of the Satmar sect,
whether Jewish law permits
a religious man to let a gentile
cleaning woman into his
house. "What do you need a
maid for?" asked Rabbi Rata.
"Don't you have a wife?" We
explained that the wife could
use some help.
"Then you must be careful
about being alone with her in
the same room," cautioned
Rabbi Rata. "But if your wife
is around, there shouldn't be
a problem." Then it is permis-
sible to hire a gentile au pair?

"In general it is being done,"
says Rabbi Rata, "but you
must be cautious."
Chaim Brook, father of 10
and a resident of Boro Park,
said he decided to fire his Pol-
ish maid. "The children were
becoming too attached to her,"
he explained. "As soon as I re-
alized this was happening, I
let her go. Do I want my chil-
dren to have emotional prob-
lems?"
And how did the children re-
spond to the separation?
"In the beginning they
cried," said Mr. Brook. "But
they calmed down after a few
days. The fact that they cried
only served to prove how right
I had been to send her away."
These days the Brooks are
employing a young Israeli
woman, for as few hours as
possible. "As soon as I see that
the children become too at-
tached, I'll replace her as well,"
he promised.



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