Sisterhood Blog

When Social Workers Strike

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share

One out of every four Israelis had their lives put on hold this week — those impacted by the strike of the government-employed social workers. The strike is a desperate, last-ditch effort to bring some measure of human dignity to the dedicated workers who are saving people’s lives on a daily basis. And significantly, both the striking workers and those whose lives are most deeply impacted by them are overwhelmingly women.

The professional lives of social workers are among the most taxing in society. They deal with the most harrowing cases of violence, abuse, poverty, drugs, crime and more. Their job is to help people function under the direst of circumstances, to believe in people’s abilities to change, to grow, to rehabilitate, and to build a better life, and to keep fighting to help people even when the rest of society has written them off. They go directly into the pit where most of us would not dare.

“This strike goes against our professional DNA of saying yes, helping, caring,” Chana Amsalem, one of the striking social workers, told reporters this week. Among the people waiting for the strike to be over are women who need a social worker referral to get into a battered women’s shelter; women who need a social worker’s approval in order to have an abortion; babies born to surrogate mothers waiting to be delivered to their parents; and children waiting for therapy following sexual abuse.

Amsalem is one of a handful of social workers answering calls on an emergency hotline for extreme cases. Only a fraction of those who call receive services.

But the social workers are at the ends of their ropes. A starting out social worker working full time makes a gross salary of NIS 4,183 ($1,160) a month, and a social worker with 15 years seniority and a master’s degree earns NIS 5,279 ($1,466) a month. They do not make overtime no matter what the emergency, they are often on call during odd hours and, to add salt to their wounds, they are often given contracts for 80% of a position, to save on budgets. But rarely does an 80% social worker actually stop working when the clock hits that last hour. It’s just not that kind of job, and so the 80% term often becomes a tool for exploitation.

The social workers are demanding a 30% pay hike, and overtime when they are on standby after regular work hours.

Tellingly, many of those deeply affected by the strike have also come out in support of the social workers. Avi, an IDF veteran whose daughter needs dialysis, described to the news site NRG the lengths to which his social worker went to during the Second Lebanon War, under threat of rocket fire, in order to ensure that his daughter received all the treatments that she needed. “She helped us in every way that she possibly could,” he said.

The idea that the social workers caring for everyone else need to be cared for themselves was tragically hammered home last week when a social worker in the north whose specialty was helping battered women was murdered by her ex-husband. In addition to the horror of her death, her colleagues said they were stunned by the realization that she was in a situation not unlike the women she was helping. As her supervisor said, “If it can happen to her, it can happen to anyone.”

Social workers need our support, especially the support of women. They are living out a model of care that perhaps once characterized communities of women. The least we can do is show them that care in return.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Strike, Social Worker, Israel

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.