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May 24 2012

Why We Desperately Need On-Site Day Care

By at 3:38 pm

on-site daycare

Tara Filowitz Arrey just shared her day care nightmares, even before her baby is born. Now let’s hear from Renee, who proposes the perfect solution for working moms.

I just saw Debbie Kolben’s December article in the Forward. (Sorry, Debbie, I have a lot to read!) Debbie, Kveller’s editor-in-chief, described her search for a good, Jewish day care center for her young child. Her very important point was that the real way, the very best way, to ensure Jewish continuity (the big topic in Jewish think-tank discussions these days–and for many, many previous days) is to create Jewish day care facilities, to create environments in which the very youngest Jews can learn, and live, Judaism.

Well, I’m with Debbie. But I’ll go one step further. I’ve been disheartened by the lack of on-site day care facilities, specifically at Jewish non-profits, for several years. I cannot believe that 40 years after the modern feminist movement started this conversation, we are not much better off than when the topic was first broached. A while ago, when I heard about a friend’s plan to open a “co-op” office for small Jewish non-profits which would share space and support staff to lower costs, I called to talk to him about setting up daycare on site to make his concept not just innovative but revolutionary. His very knowledgeable director told me that it would be her dream, too, to create such a facility but that she had researched it and the government requirements and costs made it prohibitive.

Well, that just makes me crazy. On-site day care creates a win-win situation for families and businesses. It’s convenient. It allows you to nurse and visit your small child during your workday (no more pumping–hallelujah!), drop off and pick up are not logistical nightmares, work hours on different days are easily accommodated. The alleviation of stress associated with child care arrangements would increase productivity. Workers would take less time off. The list of advantages to society of keeping skilled women comfortable in the workplace goes on and on.

So, leaders of Jewish organization, what’s the matter with you? Are there too few (younger) women heading these organizations? Are you empathically-challenged? Maybe you’re older and past the small-child stage and think that since you figured it out 30 years ago, women today should, too? Maybe it’s just not important to you?

Well, I think it’s important. And I bet you Kveller readers think it is, too.

Further, to Debbie’s point, if the mantra among Jewish leaders is Jewish continuity and living Jewish values, shouldn’t the Jewish community be prioritizing the Jewish family and making sure that the family functions at its optimal level? Doesn’t that include parents’ access to children as much as possible? When I worked at two prominent JCC’s, they had very expensive, prestigious preschools but–no surprise–no daycare for the children of employees, nor even paid maternity leave!!! Hello, major funder of these places–UJA!!! You want Jewish values and Jewish continuity, put some of those zillions of dollars where your mouth is!

I am paraphrasing a great quote I read: Forget the mommy wars and go to war for mommies–and daddies and children! This is your generation’s social justice issue! Mobilize to pass laws and create realistic policy to assure that every work day, kids can be near their parents. Pressure the Jewish establishment to create daycare centers, especially within Jewish organizations! Create those on-site daycare facilities before yet another generation has to fumble and finagle solutions to child care. And make it a Jewish community priority! Make those Jewish organizations walk the walk, not just talk the talk!

Jewish leaders have successfully championed important causes throughout the last century. Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, and Andrea Dworkin championed the feminist movement, Rabbi Heschel marched with Dr. King, and Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman died for civil rights for African Americans. Daniel Ellsberg, Allard Lowenstein, Jerry Rubin, and Abby Hoffman led the protests against the Vietnam war. Larry Kramer founded the GMHC and was the first to artistically articulate the AIDS epidemic in his play The Normal Heart. Harvey Milk was a martyr in the battle for gay rights.

Where are today’s American Jewish leaders ready and willing to fight for the future health of the Jewish family? Where is one Jewish feminist philanthropist willing to spearhead the effort of creating on-site daycare centers, especially in our Jewish agencies?

I briefly served as director of a program for Modern Orthodox women scholars. My vision included on-site day care. My publicity brochure’s cover was to feature women poring over Talmuds… as they held nursing babies to their breasts.

To quote the ancient sage in Pirkei Avot, if not now, when?

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on Kveller are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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Week 25: Freaking Out About Day Care Before My Baby is Born
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