As I returned from the hospital after visiting a young child, I reflected on the Chesed transpiring there.
A group of single woman had organized themselves to take night shifts at the girl’s bedside so that her exhausted parents could get much needed rest and give their other children some attention.
The women have called themselves “sleepers”.
I sat down and penned a note to the “sleepers” organization to express my feelings of gratefulness on behalf of myself and the entire Kehilla.
I wrote the short letter, placed a stamp on the envelope and dropped it in the mailbox.
The letter was ‘out of sight-out of mind’ until Miriam Stalenger (name changed) called me.
Miriam- who is part of the “sleepers” group- informed me that she had read my letter and wanted to discuss it further.
I was curious as to what exactly in my letter had caused Miriam to call me.
I would not have long to wait.
Miriam arrived and we chit-chatted before she reached the purpose of her visit.
I learned that Miriam was an Occupational Therapist.
She had over 15 years of experience, had earned a doctorate in occupational therapy (OTD) and was the owner and manager of a private clinic which engaged 13 different employees including five physical therapists, three occupational therapists, two receptionists, two nurses, and one fulltime billing-person.
In short, Miriam was a go getter and a no-nonsense successful professional woman.
I continued to wonder, ‘why was she here’?
Miriam thanked me for the letter (‘whew’, a sense of relief washed over me); however, after the ‘thank you’, she began her story.
“Rabbi, I thank you very much for the letter; it was really considerate of you to write it.
I -and the other women who are able to be part of the “sleepers”- are more than happy to help out.
That being said, it’s not a ‘bowl of cherries’ to be part of the ‘over-thirty-and-still-single’ crowd.
You know that most of the women will never speak up; however, I passed that stage long ago and since you wrote the letter, you are the rabbi who is ‘privileged’ to hear my ‘story’.
First of all let me first state, “To be ‘single-female-and-Orthodox’ is essentially oxymoronic.
When I come to work in the morning, I give instructions to my staff and guarantee the physical well-being of all my patients.
Men, women and their children are entrusted in my care and I have to make sure that everyone is taken care of in a professional and efficient manner.
I have earned the respect and admiration of my employees.
However, when I come home after a long day at the clinic I receive a phone call from a girl fifteen years younger than me, who has just returned from seminary a year ago, and because she is married and has a child she has the right to call me and say, “Hi Miriam, this is Mrs. Married-Young, since you are ‘free’ in the evening (read: “You have no husband or children”) could you please take the midnight to seven shift at the hospital tonight?”
Rabbi, I am more than happy to help out and appreciate that my being single allows me to perform certain Chassadim that others cannot do; however, the condescending tone which is so pervasive among so many of ‘our people’ is outright cruel.
When I was in OT school, I taught part-time in the local Bais Yakov; when they could not meet payroll, I was always the only one asked to hold off on my payment; this was in addition to being paid less than other ‘girls’ who were younger and less experienced than me- however, they were married!
The list goes on….
Rabbi, can you please utilize your pulpit and your column to get the message out that we ‘older-singles’ have feelings too? We all know we are single; however, we still have lives and we still are human beings!”
Miriam Stalenger, this column is for you.