Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Anti Charedi Bias in the Job Market

Charedi nurses (TOI)
Blaming the victim is never good idea.  Even if there is some truth to that blame. Victim blaming is victim shaming. It’s humiliating and wrong. 

When someone gets attacked, whether verbally or physically and the attacker explains why they did it – that does not in any way justify it. The attacker is fully at fault and entirely responsible for his actions. It’s akin to a rapist claiming that the sexually suggestive way his victim dressed is what caused him to do it. That he just couldn’t help himself.  How many times have I heard that kind of victim shaming by some Orthodox rabbis critical of society’s loose morals?  

These were my thoughts about an incident reported by B’Chadrei Charedim and later at VIN. Only the victim was a young Charedi woman from Bnei Brak that applied for a job as a nurse at Icholov, a hospital in Tel Aviv. She was not raped. But as reported on VIN she was humiliated during an interview because of the way she looked when applying for the job: 

A young nurse from Bnei Brak arrived Monday morning at the Ichilov hospital for an interview at the operating room. As she entered the room she sensed the hostility towards her over her chareidi appearance. “Where are you from?” asked the interviewer. When she said that she is from Bnei Brak, the interviewer retorted that “that will not be suitable for us, you’ll want to have more children.” 

The woman was shocked. She had never experienced such a humiliating racist attack against her. The interviewer had illegally referred to her family situation, a personal issue, and had even said that “you won’t be satisfied with the number of children you have” in an attempt to claim that she wouldn’t be suitable for the work hours at the operating room. The interviewee responded by saying “are there no other women with children at the operating room?” and was told that “it’s not the same thing.” 

The interviewer continued to treat her with contempt… 

There might even be some real concern that her family obligations would hinder her job performance. But that kind of concern was long ago considered discriminatory against women in the US. Rightly so. Women were often passed over for jobs or job promotions because of reasons like that. Especially if they were married and wanted to have a family. 

Employers did not want to hire women that every few years would be out for extended periods of time due to pregnancies, births and convalescing. A reasonable concern but discriminatory nonetheless. Just like a rape victim is blamed and shamed for dressing promiscuously, so too was the young Charedi nursing applicant blamed and shamed for looking Charedi.  

As legitimate a concern as that might be, it is no excuse for not hiring someone for a job for which they are otherwise fully qualified. Time can be made up. Missing work for personal reasons is not strictly the domain of  Charedi women. There are a lot of reasons that can happen unrelated to gender.

My initial thoughts when first seeing this story in B’Chadrei was that the interviewer was just a bad apple – unrepresentative of the hiring practices of Israeli employers. I even recall reading that Charedi woman are actually sought after by employers because of their superior work ethic and dedication to their jobs. In fact the hospital in defending itself responded along those lines: 

 “in the operating theatre as in all departments in our medical center, the staff is comprised of all elements of Israeli society including religious and chareidi members. 

But as VIN noted: 

…other chareidi nurses described similar humiliating experiences when trying to find employment. 

I was really sorry to read that. This kind of behavior is strictly prejudicial –  biased against Charedim.  That there are Charedi women that are willing to be trained for good jobs seeking to help support their very large families ought to be encouraged. Especially now when in the Charedi world  - women have replaced men in suffering God’s curse of  ‘by the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread.’(Bereishis 3:19). Adding to their own curse of pain at childbirth. (That women suffer both curses is also an injustice but beyond the scope of this post.)

My hope is that this event will be a catalyst for change. That there will be less acrimony and more Achdus - unity among the Jewish people – whether religious or not. And that this type of discrimination will disappear forever. All it should take is a little bit of understanding and good will.