JWFN Collaborative Grant in Israel: Addressing Abusive Employment through a Gender Lens Periodical Update

 Rivki, a kindergarten assistant, approached Itach-Ma'aki Women Lawyers for Social Justice, after her employer (Sha’arei Zion ultra-Orthodox kindergartens) demanded that she should agree to have 50 shekels deducted from her salary each month for “rabbinical jurisdiction". Rivki, who is fired every summer and rehired at the start of the new school year, is forced to settle any dispute with her employer through a “religious arbitrator” who is the local community’s rabbi.

Rivki is employed by the hour, at a rate lower than minimum wage, receives no pension, vacation time or sick days as required by law. She is afraid to act against her employer since he is also responsible for her children’s education, and they could pay a communal price if Rivki were to seek legal remedy outside of the community.

Rivki’s story is commonplace among thousands of women working in the Recognized Un-Official (RO) stream of education.

Here are some facts and statistics about the Recognized Un-Official stream of education:

· Recognized Un-Official educational frameworks currently comprise 28% of all educational institutions in Israel.

· It is most prevalent in the Haredi community; 88% of all educational frameworks in this community are affiliated with it;

·  30,000 women: teachers, per-school teachers and aides are employed in RO educational framework;

·  While according to the law, these women are entitled to same conditions and rights of teaching staff in the public and public-religious streams, in reality, the institutions that employ them disregard the law and use internal pressures and arbitration mechanisms to deter employees from filing formal complaints and exercising their rights.

Our grantees are working to change this through:

1.     Individual empowerment and case by case enforcement: informing workers of their rights, individual counselling and legal aid vis-à-vis employers and taking individual cases to court.

2.     Policy advocacy: initiating special discussions in the Knesset Education and Status of Women Committees, advocating vis-à-vis the Ministry of Education and local authorities to urge them to abide by Supervision Regulations that stipulate their responsibility to monitor and correct violations of labor rights in educational framework operating under their jurisdiction.

Itach-Ma'aki is working with the evaluation specialist, Dr. Ayala Keissar-Sugerman to develop a logic-model, theory of change and clear benchmarks to monitor and assess progress.