Where do you work? Where is your work from home location?
I am Finn Partners' managing partner and Israel country manager in Bet Shemesh, a Jerusalem suburb.
What are Israel's lockdown rules?
Quite similar to the U.S. The major difference is Israel was well ahead of the curve in terms of instituting its rules. Our leadership put what seemed at the time like painful restrictions in place, including, for a couple of weeks, requirements where we had to remain within 100 yards of home, unless we were buying food.
I understand you have eight children?
That's true. Our house is not boring, and we had two months when all eight children were home with us. It was wonderful in most ways, but there were challenges. My 23-year-old, for example, has been out of the house for army service and continuing Torah/Talmud education for five years. For him, it was tough to be shackled. My 21-year-old is a soldier who was considered "essential," which meant he had to go to work every day while his brothers and sisters were "living the good life" at home. But overall, it's been a happy, memorable experience.
One activity that kept us busy for weeks was a mural we painted on one of our walls. It's called "Ode to Mr. Plumbean," a reference to a book my wife loved. In the early days of COVID-19, when we were all at home and the schools hadn't figured out how to restart learning, our kids had a lot of time on their hands.
What are the living arrangements like?
A single-family house with a nice, modest yard. That meant, especially during those two months of severe restriction, lots of areas within our home and property for solitude.
Can you share details about your family?
Ezra: 23-year-old son, soldier
Tzvi: 21-year-old son, soldier
Tehilla: 19-year-old daughter, completing second year of national service
Temima: 17-year-old daughter, high school
Nili: 16-year-old daughter, high school
Yitzchak: 14-year-old son, completing eighth grade
Hodaya: 12-year-old daughter, completing sixth grade
Yaffa: 10-year old daughter, completing fourth grade
Does your wife work? How do you manage parental chores?
Gilla is a full-time mom and has also managed to build a strong business as a yoga instructor. She has about 50 students. We converted a patio into a yoga studio.
In terms of parental chores, I try to help, but Gilla does most of it. I generally do the food shopping, the lunch-making for the kids and whatever else Gilla asks me to do. She's in charge of the laundry -- the washer and dryer run six days a week -- the cooking and everything else.
Which kids are the most challenging?
The adage "little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems" is true. At the same time, I have conversations with my older kids sometimes that show me just how much wisdom they have.
Gilla and I understand each deserves to have rules specific to them. We don't believe in measuring equal amounts of everything for each child. A piece of candy may motivate my 10-year-old and mean nothing to my 19-year-old. So why play the game of making sure everyone gets the same thing? Our version of equal treatment is understanding what will help each of them the most and provide accordingly.
A couple are the most challenging now, but two weeks ago it was two others, and next week it will be someone else
Like in the U.S., all schools moved online. But what do you do when five children are expected to be in Zoom classes simultaneously? I don't have five laptops. We handled things with top-notch scheduling on the one hand, and throwing up our hands and saying, "Hey, we can only do so much!" on the other.
We've also been challenged by the logistics of having all kids at home. There were days when I would go food shopping in the morning, and the fridge and pantry would be empty by the evening.
Do their needs conflict?
Not really. Our kids understand each other. Some are closer and more social; others are more into books. One of the wonderful aspects of being Orthodox Jewish is we sit down for dinner together every Friday evening and lunch every Saturday. Those meals may occasionally include yelling and fighting, but they also keep us close.
On a practical level, those who need privacy -- the teenage daughters, specifically -- each have their own bedroom. But it's never a shock when we go to wake up the kids in the morning and see certain bedrooms empty and others with three or four kids sleeping on the bed and floor.
How does this fit in with work?
Working from home never sat well with me. When I'm home, I want to be with the family, and when I'm at work, I am at work. But the lockdown forced me to reevaluate that and learn how to make the most of working from home. I've done a pretty good job, setting up a small work area in my bedroom, and the family has done an amazing job of respecting my need to focus.
Do your kids understand what you do for a living?
My 21-year-old interned in our office, so he certainly understands, to a degree. I've also shown the kids some of what we've produced at the office, when we do something particularly incredible. But it's certainly not as simple as their friends whose parents are physicians or lawyers or plumbers.
What will you do when lockdowns are lifted?
Gosh, this is such a tough question, because there's what I want to do and then what I will likely do. I would love to fly somewhere with Gilla, and maybe even with some of the kids. But that's not cheap, and who knows when that will be allowed, so I doubt that's in the cards. Synagogues have opened on a limited basis, but require masks. So I have continued to pray alone. What I really miss is seeing a friend, giving him a hug and sitting down to chat over a cup of coffee.