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!
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • 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.