"A virtuous wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
"
(Proverbs 31: 10-12 NASB)

Half of the salaried staff of Return to Zion (Shavei Tzion) Messianic Congregation are women. They are anointed and willing to serve, but they are also mothers of small children. Their challenge is to combine work and motherhood. Not everyone has grandparents who live nearby and are able to look after their grandchildren according to Russian Jewish tradition. So these mothers have chosen to bring their young children to the office and our congregation is blessed to enable them to work and yet still be with their children.

Monday is the busiest day in the Shavei Tzion office. It is a day of consultations, reporting, task allocations and going over the upcoming schedule. There is a great deal of practical work that is involved in running a spiritual organization such as a congregation.

When taking care of an infant or a toddler in the workplace, it is important to combine the responsibilities of work while making sure the children have enough food and meaningful activities, and that they do not get into mischief.

Interview with Nina - Mother of Six

Why don't you just leave the kids at home when you come to work in the congregation?

Unfortunately, I don't have anyone to take care of them. Their grandmother, who selflessly assisted with our older children, recently passed away. I cannot leave the younger ones alone at home after school because the older ones don't get home until late.

Nina
How would you describe your work?

I am responsible for two projects: I manage the congregation's humanitarian aid food distribution through our soup kitchen, as well as the children's music school. In the soup kitchen I check the profiles of all applicants and decide whether we can help them. The work consists of routine control, placing orders, coordination, quality control and so on. Administering the music school consists of meeting with the children and their parents, and hiring suitable teachers. Occasionally the children have exams and concerts.

Couldn't this work be shelved for a few years until your children grow older?

In this ministry it is not feasible to stop in the middle. And unfortunately, it isn't that simple to pass the work on to someone else. Music school pupils want to continue their studies. At the same time, my young children want to stay with me. They are not bothered by the long day in the office, and they enjoy seeing a lot of people.

How many hours do you spend in the office?

I work seven to eight hours on Mondays, which is not always easy. I try to be in the office at least twice a week, because the work piles up. From home I work by telephone and computer. In the office I have meetings with people and try to find solutions to their challenges. We are also still developing my role in decision making as the pastor's wife.

How do you cope with your younger children at your workplace (ages 1, 7 and 10)? How do you keep them occupied?

The youngest one sleeps in her buggy, sits on my lap, or plays with the older children.

The older kids do their homework. They also learn to play the violin or go to the gym. After 5 p.m. the congregation is "flooded" by children, many of whom attend the music school. The kids "play school" in the lobby and do homework. Our children are the same ages as Olga's children (a fellow worker).

How do your children feel about spending time at your workplace?

They ask to be able to stay with me at the office. To them it seems interesting. They like to say that they're going to help their mom at work.

Do you wish things would be different?

Sometimes I wish we could have volunteers who would spend time with the small children - perhaps someone who could help in English, for example. That would allow us working moms a tiny bit of additional freedom. But I'm not complaining; everything will be fine!

Interview with Olga - Mother of Five

Why don't you leave your small children at home when you go to work?

I don't have a relative or anyone else who would be able to stay with them, and to hire a baby sitter would be very expensive. In addition, my youngest is still breastfeeding.

Olga with her oldest daughter
How would you describe your job in the congregation?

I am the coordinator of Haifa Theological Institute (HTI). I communicate with the students and teachers, plan schedules, maintain our website, and manage further development. I also help with Hebrew communication and documentation.

Have you ever considered taking a prolonged maternity leave? Some believe that mothers should be at home with the kids until they grow up.

I agree that children do better in their mother's care, but not necessarily at home all the time. Motherhood should not be expressed only by staying at home with the children.

How many hours do you spend in the office?

Generally three days a week, five to six hours per day. The remaining hours I work from home.

How do you cope with your younger children at work (ages 1, 4, 6 and 10)? How do you manage to keep them occupied?

I buy things like stickers, markers and paper they can bring with them. They also watch cartoons on my tablet and play with toys and games. I bring fruits, yogurt and cookies that they love. The older children look after the younger ones.

How do your children feel about spending time at your workplace? Would they rather stay at home?

They were born into this reality and are used to being with me at the office, even if they might prefer me to be at home all the time.

Alina - Mother of Three

Alina
My children are 3.5 years, 2 years and 1 month old. The oldest goes to kindergarten before lunch, and the two youngest ones are at home with me.

I volunteer in the congregation's humanitarian aid warehouse, prepare Erev Shabbat dinners for new immigrants on some Friday nights, and help my husband with organizing projects.

Sometimes I leave the children to play in the congregation's nursery room, but they don't always want to stay there alone. Evgeni (my husband) works as the congregation's youth leader, and helps with the children during my warehouse hours.

By Shavei Tzion
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Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Daniel Juster: Dangerous Road Ahead!
Asher Intrater: Who is the King of the Jews?
Eitan Shishkoff: Recipe for Revival
Tents of Mercy: Teen Desert Process
Tents of Mercy: Tribal Passover Celebration
Asher Intrater: Double Meaning of Salvation
Asher Intrater: Prayer and Blessing of Job
David Rudolph: The W.H.I.M. of God