Hasidic Women Feel Pressure for Children, But Fathers Fret About Providing

No Easy Way for Observant Dads To Limit Family Size

A Father’s Burden: The ultra-Orthodox population in Brooklyn has skyrocketed in recent years because of large families.
Getty Images
A Father’s Burden: The ultra-Orthodox population in Brooklyn has skyrocketed in recent years because of large families.

By Shulem Deen

Published March 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

As a man, I will never know what it is like to be a mother. I will certainly never know what it’s like to be a Hasidic woman expected to bear children year after year and withstand the challenges and pressures of motherhood — like the ones Judy Brown described so poignantly in her two most recent articles.

But I do know what it is like to be a young Hasidic father overwhelmed by the lack of choice of a different kind.

Judy’s articles sparked heated discussion about motherhood and women’s roles in the Haredi world, with other bloggers and commenters adding passionate views of their own. This is an important and necessary discussion.

But as I was reading it all, I couldn’t help thinking of the flip side of it, a side we rarely hear about: That of the unprepared Hasidic young man. Barely in his 20s, already with one or two kids and perhaps another on the way, he realizes with a jolt that it’s his responsibility to figure out how to feed, clothe, house, pay tuition and wedding expenses for a dozen or so offspring. With zero marketable skills, limited command of English, and Section 8 slots in limited supply, his is not a burden easily carried.

And birth control isn’t an option for him any more than it is for his wife.

I remember what it was like for me. I was 21, married for two-and-a-half years, and a student at the kolel — yeshiva for married men — in our Hasidic village in Rockland County, N.Y. Our second child had just arrived, 16 months after our first. Rent was overdue. We’d maxed out our credit at the supermarket, the fish market and the butcher. A seemingly endless list of expenses was weighing us down.

It all seemed so sudden, and no one had told me that $430 a month — the amount of my monthly kolel stipend — would not suffice for a growing family.

I remember the panic, anxiety and depression that followed for a long time after, as another and yet another bundle of joy arrived. Each child was a blessing, of course. But how was I going to provide for so many blessings?

My wife sympathized, but it wasn’t her job to figure out the finances. She made the babies and cared for them. Paying for it was my job — except I had no idea how it was done.


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!
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • 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.