Go Get ‘Em is A Series of Conversations with Inspiring Entrepreneurial Jewish Women. And while Rivka Ravitz isn’t a business owner, she’s a highly accomplished woman with an incredible amount of energy who has managed to balance a political career with raising a large family.
Q: First, can you tell us a little bit about your “work life” and your “home life.”
I am the chief of staff of the President of the State of Israel. That means I oversee the entire office and I decide what is going to be the schedule for the president’s day. I also oversee the president’s staff of the advisors and make sure all the schedules coordinate.
I’m a mother of 11 children, bli ayin hara. My two oldest daughters are married and I also have a grandson. He’s growing up as a part of our family and he’s by me a lot. It’s a great enjoyment. I love hosting a lot of guests on Shabbos and I usually have between 20-30 people. The house is not big, it’s a typical Israeli house. We have 5 bedrooms, a living room, dining room, a medium kitchen, and a small backyard.
The life of the house and the life of work does get a little mashed up together. When I’m at work, especially during late afternoon hours, I’m sometimes in touch with my kids, and when I’m home, I’m definitely still attached to the work.
Q: What’s your typical day like?
It starts early, between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. I prepare the kids uniforms and finish last minute preparations for lunch, for my husband, myself, and the children. I do most of the work for the main [lunch] meal the night before. I’ll also straighten up the kitchen and rooms. And when I have time, I pray Shacharis. I lock myself in my room for a half hour or pray a short version. Then I dress the little children, fix them up and do their hair, and make sure they’re organized. Between 7:40 a.m. and 7:50 a.m., everyone is on their way. And then chick-chock quickly I get myself ready because I need to be at my office at 8:30 a.m.
I have a short commute but there can be terrible traffic. Once I’m in the office, I first catch up on all the news. Then I answer about 200 emails and 20-30 letters that are waiting for me. At 9 a.m., the team gets together and the meetings and events for the President begin at 10 a.m. I have to be next to the President at every meeting and event and prepare him for each one. There is no chance to breathe or look at my watch until between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. when I eat lunch at my desk while I answer emails and take care of anything else that came up in the morning meetings.
Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., we have another team meeting, a longer one. Then right after that the schedule for afternoon events begins and they’ll run until anywhere from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at night. During those hours, I’ll answer the telephone for my children, as they usually need help with homework, to diffuse fights, or they’ll have questions and need advice. Usually around 7 p.m., I run home as fast as I can, to be home and sit with my kids for dinner and then bathe the little ones. So that I can get out of the office faster, I usually take a list of phone calls that still need to be made that I can make on the way home.
After the little ones eat and shower, I stay with them in their beds until they fall asleep. During the rest of the evening, I fix up the house, prepare lunch for the next day, and when I have strength, go for an hour walk around town, usually three times a week. If it’s too cold, I go to an indoor gym.
Q: How did you come to your current career?
I went to a Bais Yaakov seminary and thought I would be a teacher. I had actually started teaching in the seminary where I had learned. Then my father-in-law was elected to be a member of the parliament and he asked that I should be his ozeret [parliament assistant]. I was 19 at the time and it was interesting to me and I learned a lot in that position. After two years, I moved over to work with Rivlin. He was in the Likud party and became the Minister of Communications. Then he was elected twice to be the Knesset Speaker of the House and I was his Chief of Staff. Each time, I ran his campaigns and primaries and he always got to high places.
The campaign for President was difficult. The odds were not high and it was a difficult journey and a tight run. When he became President, he said, “You can choose whichever job you want.” And of course, I chose chief of staff.
Q: Do you have a tip for other women – whether it pertains to finding success in your industry, success in building a career in general, or success in balancing work and home?
Everything is siyata dishmaya and you have to daven and ask Hakadosh Baruch Hu that He should put me in a place of work that’s good for me and that I should be able to fulfill His will in that place. Be dovek b’emunah and don’t give up on your principles. You’ll never miss out on work because you stuck to your principles. Even more so, people learn to appreciate and look up to you because you did.
Today, the work takes up so much, and not only that, but we take home the work with us and it’s pressurizing and difficult. That’s why you have to set aside time, each day, that’s just for the children. Even if it’s only 2-3 hours, they should know that this is the time that they have their mother to themselves.
Q: Do you have a grocery/errands/shopping and/or cooking strategy to save time and get it all done?
I put a lot of reminders and alarms in my phones. I have three lists in my phone. One for the grocery, one for the pharmacy, and one for the tambor [houseware] store. Every time something is missing, I put it on list. When I pass the store or someone is passing a store, I take out the list, and this way, I don’t ever forget anything. I also put reminders on calendar and phone for every doctor appointment, every test the children take, or event they are having, and I remember to ask them how it was.
Regarding cooking, during the week, I prepare lunches [the main meal in Israel] that take under 30 minutes, like a huge tray of chicken with potatoes underneath, or meatballs with pasta, or chicken rings with rice, and similar things like that. Everyday, I have a huge soup pot full of vegetables and beans available, so there’s always something available to eat without too much effort. For Shabbos, I make things a little more special and also make dessert.
We have a system for laundry in the house. There’s 5 hampers in the laundry room and the children know how to separate and where to put their laundry. I also have 11 baskets for clean laundry, so as soon as things come out of the dryer, they go into the right basket, and each person can put their own laundry back in their closets.
Q: Do you have hobbies or interests that you devote time to outside of your work life or mommy life?
I really like things connected to fixing, building, painting, and decorating a house. I hung up the wallpaper in my dining room. I also painted the rooms, some with very unique colors and art. I even like doing electrical work. I have a toolbox and all the children know it’s only mothers and no one should touch it. I also like to sew when there’s time and collect stamps and I put a lot of effort into my collection.