Cleaning Lady Alert

32

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[by Bentzion Elisha] Crown Heights, Brooklyn – Random items appeared to be missing from our apartment. Could it be our sweet hardworking cleaning lady who came highly recommended by neighbors who had her for the last 7 years? After discussing the matter with our parents , my wife and I concluded it just couldn’t be her…. My father-in-law dismissed the idea saying everyone blames the cleaning lady first and it never is, its too obvious. My mother related to us what happened with her one time. My fathers passport was missing. Immediately panic set in. Passports sometimes are sold for much money on the black market. He had my mother fire their cleaning lady only to find the passport on a shelf a few months later. Oops. Nevertheless, things were missing, including the ring with my grandmothers diamond I gave my wife for our wedding. Rationalizing that the items were just lost and were going to be found in the near future eased our minds. However, last week, Divine Providence taught us a lesson in trusting sweet strangers.

My mother got our newly pierced-eared girls gold earrings to avoid infection. Designating them as a gift for Shabbos, my wife put them in a cup on a shelf in the kitchen. The girls would look at the cup on the shelf excited for Shabbos to come and also when they will wear their grandmothers earrings for the 1st time. But on Erev Shabbos we realized that the earrings were missing. After asking everyone in the family, we learned that the earrings weren’t moved by anyone of us. Funny, the cleaning lady came the day before and all of the sudden the earrings were missing. Self doubt set in as we could have unintentionally misplaced them somewhere in the kitchen. After a lengthy search our suspicions were solidified. We then realized that the items weren’t missing, but were rather stolen, and the cleaning lady had to have done it.

What should we do? A confrontation was necessary. Since the cleaning lady hardly spoke English, a Spanish speaking friend came to the rescue. My wife’s friend told our cleaning lady that we knew she took things from our home, and that my wife feels very sad about losing the engagement ring and the other items. My wife was willing to give her one chance to return them or else. The cleaning lady did not confess immediately, but rather exclaimed that she knew where they were and offered to look for the items. Our Spanish speaking friend suggested we have Miriam Shultz call her as well. Miriam runs Miriam’s Cleaning Service where she screens the ladies thoroughly, and of course, she speaks Spanish.

I don’t know what Miriam said, but I know that she did scare our cleaning lady. Instead of coming the next day to clean our apartment and show my wife where she put things, the cleaning lady came with her daughter that very evening with a bag full of our jewelry, including the engagement ring! Her daughter explained that her mother found these around the house when she was cleaning and put them in her pocket. She intended to return them, but she forgot. More shocked by the miraculous return of many of our precious items that had been stolen, we were shocked that she really did do it!

How could this quiet, sweet, hardworking lady to whom we opened our home, betray us? How could we have sometimes left her in the house by herself? On occasion, how could we have left her with our babies alone, while getting her money from the bank? Are we going to get back the other items that were missing, that have been taken as well, such as some more jewelry, silverware, the Ipod, some kids shoes and other items we don’t even know about?

Meanwhile, we informed our previous neighbor, the one who recommended us her trustworthy good cleaning lady to us of our most current events. Wowed and scared at the same time, she was dumb struck by the news. She had this cleaning lady for 7 years! Furthermore she was alarmed at how she routinely left the house with the cleaning lady alone as well as left her children with her. Every once in a while when things went missing she wouldn’t pay much attention to it, thinking the kids misplaced it. She made a quick list of recent losses: Her daughters China dolls, $100 bill from a guests luggage, a $20 bill from her sons room, an Ipod and the list goes on.

Another tough call from Miriam to our sweet, good and trustworthy cleaning lady had her calling us again. She offered to give us money for the other items. Sifting through various belongings, seemingly from other people, she could no longer find our other possessions. We were just the tip of the iceberg. Cleaning provided her with a paid pass into peoples homes like ours, whose trust was gained after years of good service. She scouted out the house for valuables to take that paled in comparison to the few dollars an hour she received in monetary value.

We called a Rov not knowing exactly how much to charge. We didn’t want to steal from our thief… He told us we can charge her whatever we felt covered the amount since she wasn’t telling us exactly what else she took. He also took the opportunity to reprimand us for leaving the cleaning lady in our apartment by herself. In addition to putting ourselves in danger he said it could be a serious problem of Kashrus.

Regarding theft, a common practice among cleaning ladies,  I heard about after telling this story to numerous people, is that the cleaning ladies put items they take in the garbage which they take out. Later either they or someone from their family comes around and takes it from the garbage…

The Rebbe teaches us to share what we learned with others. My family learned a big lesson from our sweet, good and trustworthy cleaning lady. Now we are sharing the lesson we learned with you. A person easily trusts an individual they see often, like the nice and good cleaning lady. A person might say Our cleaning lady is a good one…, but ask yourself, are these cleaners morals just like yours? Please protect yourself. A friend from Williamsburg shared with me two cleaning lady/nanny horror stories that unfortunately occurred there, G-d forbid.

The first one involved a family who had a woman come to clean and baby-sit their newly born baby so the mother could go back to work. As time passed they noticed that their baby wasn’t behaving normally, something wasn’t right. One time the nanny couldn’t come, so the mother stayed with her children. At one point the baby cried bitterly and wouldn’t be appeased regardless of what the mother did. Her seven year old then came to the mother and  asked her why doesn’t she do what the nanny/cleaning lady did with the baby to stop the crying. “What did she do?” The mother asked. The child took the mother to the kitchen and told her the lady put the baby by the oven and turned the gas on without turning on the fire until the baby fell asleep, aided by the gas fumes!

The 2nd story involved  a family who had a lady clean and cook for them for many years. They loved her as she was part of their family. As years passed and the lady wanted to retire, she bought a house in her native Poland. The family drove their beloved house keeper to the airport. By the last checkpoint where the family couldn’t follow her any further she stopped and said “Well now that I’m leaving you are surely going to miss my cooking!” “Oh yes, we definitely will.” the family said warmly. Smiling she said to them “You know, whenever I cooked for you I always  added a special ingredient with a special flavor, pork, that’s why you liked my cooking so much!” Their close ‘family friend’ turned around and walked to the plane leaving the family completely and utterly stunned.

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

(Bentzion Elisha – YWN)


32 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for you lovely essay.
    This is not news.
    This has been going on for at least 20 years.
    It is known that the Spanish clean very well, especially what you don’t ask them to!
    I’m sure more stories will be added to yours, unfortunately.
    The Spanish were grabbed because they came in charging less per hour and now are charging the same as most ethnicities who do clean better.
    As far as babysitting, all i could say is shame on anyone who leaves their children with someone not of our belief.
    We later wonder why things happen to children, as children at risk. Some parents should think back of who watched them the first years before schooling. Think of Shmiras Aynayim, think of the times your child may have attended Sunday services that was not in a shul, think of the times your child may have eaten in a non-kosher eatery when at the same time you could have had your child cared for a frum babysitter for perhaps total of $10 per week.
    My personal story is of a lovely Italian neighbor who took my son off the bus because she thought i was not home. It was a cold day and she told me she offered him soup. Our son suffers from a condition which was determined when he was 18. We blame ourself for the incident that happened years ago.
    People shouldn’t come with money and cheaper because they like to talk about how much money they may spend on items as clothing, sheitel and jewelry.
    Be careful!
    To the young mothers especially, do your homework well on where you send your child or with whom you leave them.
    My neighbor runs a babysitting service. Yes, she is frum and nice yet she leaves for hours and the children are left with someone the parents don’t know or would not want their children to be with.
    The above essay also applies to the aides that take care of the elderly!

  2. The halachah is clear in Yoreh Dei’ah, that keilim left with an eino Yehudi – whether in ones own house or not – must be set aside for 24 hours before they can be used. It is assumed the eino Yehudi used them! No matter how long someone has worked for, no matter how much “they love” your children, no matter how many assurances they give you, and no matter how much they seem to know about kashrus, the Torah did not give them ne’emanus.

    A Rav/Posek wponce commented: we are so makpid that only Yidden should be involved with a mais – disconnecting, moving, shmirah, etc. – why then are we so negligent about leaving our children in their care? Certainly something to think about.

  3. I dont understand one thing Lia- how did your neighbors feeding your son soup 18 years ago poison him- and if he indeed was poisoned as you assert, why was it discovered only 2 decades later?
    guess what? my frum nanny stole from me! caught it on nannycam two days before we fired her for negligence. my non jewish nanny, who we have had for four years, has never stolen a single thing. she doesnt go near the kitchen unless it is to cut up some veggies (I know, because it is monitored carefully, on camera)

  4. Health aides do the same. They may come from a “Jewish”agency to help a disabled or hospitalized person just back home,and mix up the meat and milchig just when you show them what to do and not to do. They do a superb job “cleaning “the bedroom.so good that even bedikas chometz cannot find some valuable jewel or coins.

  5. One of the issues is that they is no repercussions for their actions. This cleaning lady who did this ..I’m sure will be working in someone elses house now for pesach cleaning.

    There should be a website with pictures of all the cleaning ladies. I know we had a cleaning lady, called “Maria” someone from another block visited us and asked us how do we like ” Claudia”. Anyhow, it turns out after ” Claudia” got caught, she just changed blocks and started working under another alias.

  6. Don’t give the cleaning ladies temptation to steal, remember that they come from very poor towns and they are not used to seeing so much abundance.
    Also if you must leave children with them better put them a movie and have the cleaning lady just keep an eye on them, but even that is if its an emergency and you have no other choice.

  7. Maybe I’m just ignorant (I’ve never had a cleaning lady), but why don’t you turn this lady and her bag of stolen goods in to the police?

  8. I heard a story this week that a dog swallowed a 3-carat diamond. Another dog, owned by a Jew, ate $400 in cash. It just goes to show that you can’t trust dogs. Or maybe, it shows that one should be careful where they keep valuables. If one would take care of their prized possessions, putting them in a place safe from servants, children and animals (as well as the careless close relative or mis-aimed vacuum cleaners), one would avoid suspecting others of intentional sins.

  9. cleaning ladies thieves is nothing new
    but How about Jewish people that don’t pay the butcher,the grocer, the green grocer, the cheder, the eshiva, bais yaacov, builder, plumber, electricians THIS ARE NOT THIEVES????

  10. I’m really sorry, but I don’t think anyone NEEDS a cleaning lady?! I don’t have one. Why would you ever think of leaving your kids with someone like this? I don’t care how long they’ve worked for you, you don’t know them at all! Is it such shameful thing for a woman to clean her own home and … heaven forbid … have the children help too??? (yes, I work outside of the home too..)

  11. This is not new. We’ve had many nightmare stories about cleaning help. One was discovered to be a missionary – she kept reading christian books to the kids. We told her to leave one night and that night we overheard her ‘agency’ boss on the on the phone telling her – don’t worry, we’ll find you a different jewish family to convert…

  12. #11- “Maybe Im just ignorant (Ive never had a cleaning lady), but
    why dont you turn this lady and her bag of stolen goods in to the police?”

    Because most of them are illegal which means u can get in trouble for hiring them.

    #14- relax, just because YOU don’t see the need for them doesn’t mean other people can’t have them!

  13. there are many heimishe people without jobs. It is time we hire frum people instead of polish and mexicana people.

    I also would like to send my condolences to all the jewish people who live in Poland since they have no cleaning help. All the polish woman are in the 5 boroughs right now. (Flatbush, Boro Park, Williamsburgh, Lakewood, Monsey

  14. #16 if these cleaning ladies are illegal, that means that the people hiring them are indirectly stealing money from the government by not paying taxes. those same people are also stealing jobs from people who are american citizens who need work in order to feed their families.
    of course, this doesn’t excuse theft. however, these cleaning ladies and the agencies they represent are not the only guilty parties here.

  15. #17 you must be mistaken about all the poles being in the 5 boroughs,because we in this part of the world thought that all the poles have left Poland to work by the jewish people in London and Antwerp.and all the same horror stories happen around here also.
    But then with which nationality this doesn’t happen.
    Why does it say in our holy Thora “thou shalt not steal”?If G”d would have known that the jewish people are a people that from nature they don’t steal ,this would not have been written in the Bible.
    There are loads of horrorstories out there of sadly enhough of jewish people being the culprits,
    starting small from schoolchildren stealing nosh from each others schoolbags,going further over jeshiva boys and seminarygirls going through each others coatpockets and searching and taking whatever money can be found.going further to big busines ………………..

  16. Lock away all your valuables money jewellry ipods etc etc and all the rest you just must be careful.or you try to be home when she has to leave abd when you engage her the first time you tell her that you insist to look in her bag each timze.and the still she can hide things on her body.

    My mother was a businesswoman and she said”a geshäft miz kennen truggen dem kleinen gannef”
    a shop must be able to take a small thief

  17. Please note these cleaning people are not , most likely Spanish, but Hispanic, which is a total different thing.

    Most Spaniards are honest hard working people.

    I think, that if we underpay, most times these cleaning people, are paid minum wage or below,and we don’t take care of our valuables, we are putting temptation in front of their eyes.

    And yes, never let them cook or have anything to do with your food nor your kids, your most precious valuables, to take care of children place them in jewish day care, dati baby sitters and have the cleaning lady come when you are home to help you while you clean as well.

  18. Incidents like the ones described are exactly why I use a bonded and insured cleaning service around twice a month. Two women come, they speak English, AND best of all they bring their own cleaning supplies.(including vacuum cleaner, usually an Oreck) If I want them to use something special, I give it to them. They do anything that’s needed including laundry, ironing, linen changing, windows. They don’t handle anything in our breakfront though, because of delicate things, but are completely reliable, here legally, and worth the money, in my opinion.

  19. just one more thing. would you leave your kids alone with the plumber or the electrician to run out to the bank? so why would you ever leave your kid(s) alone with the cleaning woman? she’s an employee employed to clean your house, not babysit your kids.

  20. Re #17’s suggestion to hire heimishe cleaning ladies: are there any? it doesn’t seem like a popular career choice for yidden. We wanted to go that route but the closest we could find were ladies willing “to babysit and do ‘light housekeeping'” or ladies willing to clean but asking for a full time job at severely higher wages. we would have been really happy with a high school girl trying to make some money after school but they too do not want to do this particular kind of work (except perhaps for their own mothers). So we gave up and are trying to train our kids to be neat.

  21. To the letter writer, thank you for reminding us of this, it is always good to be reminded so that we don’t get too comfortable or trusting. After reading this I will be even more vigilant with my HISPANIC help, although I NEVER left her alone.
    My opinion is that people’s motivation for using cleaning help and babysitters is very personal, and not really anyone else’s business.
    Some might not use cleaning help because they cannot afford it. Others might nobly feel it is their Tachlis to clean for Pesach (and throughout the year) on their own, and they have the personality not to resent it, plus the time to accomplish it.
    Some of us are SAHM by choice and/or financial ability and others can’t be stay at home mothers, or don’t want to be and wouldn’t be good as a mother working only in her home.
    Since I would assume that most of us are reasonably intelligent and also want to do the best thing for our children, I assume we are only leaving our children with babysitters if we need to either for financial reasons or on rare occasions for our sanity. And when we leave our children with our baby sitters we OBVIOUSLY find the best care-giver that we can afford. In some communities it is possible to find a frum woman, in others it isn’t. But even a frum woman is NOT a mother! Don’t kid yourself. It’s far better than a Goy or not frum babysitter. But it doesn’t replace a Mommy! The other day, I was running out and asked my FRUM babysitter to wash my daughter Negel Vaser. As I watched her she poured water 3 times over her right hand and then 3 times over her left hand. It’s definitely not the way I would have done it. And I will be making sure that I wash her Negel Vaser from now on, so that it’s done the way I would.
    We have to do the best that we can do. I assume most of us are. Of course we must be vigilant! Especially with our children.

  22. aLSO, YiddisheMama please share the name of the agency, I’d love to try them. But you should also be aware that there was recently an expose done on these agencies, they are not always as great as they seem, so be vigilant there too.

  23. #23&24,

    I live out of town in Metro Detroit. I don’t know if there’s anything like this in the N.Y. area.
    They charge 30.00 an hour, but remember there are two of them and they get everything I need done in 2 1/2 hours and I have a 4 bedroom ranch house.
    I don’t have them do much in the bedrooms anyway, my children are older and take care of their own rooms. The bathrooms, kitchen, etc. are done really nicely. Their name is cute: Broom Hilda, but I don’t know if there’s a point to give phone# unless you live around here.
    Also, here are times (NOT around Pesach), that I only have them once a month but for a little longer a time.

  24. “Please note these cleaning people are not , most likely Spanish, but Hispanic, which is a total different thing.
    Most Spaniards are honest hard working people.”

    His·pan·ic adj. 1. Of or relating to Spain or Spanish-speaking Latin America. 2. Of or relating to a Spanish-speaking people or culture. n. 1. A Spanish-speaking person. 2. A U.S. citizen or resident of Latin-American or Spanish descent.

    [This term] was coined in the early 1970s by the United States government to classify diverse people with a relationship to the Spanish language or culture. The term is used to describe people who were born in any Spanish-speaking country of the Americans, or those who can trace their lineage to Spain or Spanish territories. This includes a vast number of people of diverse countries and ethnic groups. Many Hispanics would rather view themselves according to their distinct identity, in contrast to the broader label of Hispanic.

    wow. that’s a lot of thieves–almost all of south and central america. i’d also be very interested in seeing the statistics on how many spaniards are hardworking and honest people in comparison to the hispanics mentioned previously.

  25. as a doctor, just want to discount the ‘babysitter gassed my baby’ thing. whether or not this guy’s cleaning lady is a thief, I cant say. why he (or anyone else) would leave their child home with a house-cleaner, is beyond me. cleaning ladies and nannies are two different things.
    but the gas thing is on snopes, people!
    http://www.snopes.com/horrors/parental/gassed.asp
    this guy probably also believes that 9/11 never happened, and it is a conspiracy to bring down the government!

  26. I do not know about this particular story about the gas.

    I do know that not everything on snopes is accurate either, just because it is there.