The Hebrew University launched a special pre-academic preparatory program this
week aimed at members of the haredi community wishing to enroll in institutions
of higher education.
A project of the university’s Magid Institute for
Continuing Education, the initiative was created in response to the national
challenge issued by the Council for Higher Education in Israel to increase
ultra-Orthodox society’s access to higher education.
Twenty haredi men
began their studies on Wednesday in a newly renovated building near the Hebrew
University’s Mount Scopus campus, and a contingent of women are expected to join
the program later this year.
The program, similar to many others across
the country, is designed to prepare for higher education students who lack the
Most male haredi high schools do not teach any
non-religious studies to their pupils, and they are subsequently at a
significant disadvantage if they wish to gain academic or even vocational
qualifications and enter the workforce.
The curriculum of the haredi
preparatory program will mirror the Hebrew University’s regular pre-academic
preparatory program, with adjustments in respect to the haredi lifestyle of the
Alongside the regular curriculum, students will have classes to
improve English-language skills and also have access to an active religious
The Magid Institute will also offer vocational training
programs for the ultra-Orthodox, including communication studies, computer
programming and investment counseling.
Professor Hanoch Gutfreund, chair
of the Magid Institute, said that the new course would help provide a gateway
for the haredi community to higher education and labor market integration Rabbi
Yehoshua Pfeffer, a rabbi and rabbinical judge in Jerusalem who is heading up
the program, also lauded the initiative and said that it would provide an more
enhanced level of academic instruction than has been available until now for the
“Until now, various pre-academic frameworks proposed to
the ultra- Orthodox did not usually enable them to reach an academic level equal
to that of regular students,” Pfeffer said. “The new program will work to change
this situation and give students the opportunity to realize their
Pfeffer also addressed concerns within haredi society about
the consequences of academic studies on students’ commitment to religion, and
vowed that their academic studies would not compromise “the Torah values they
grew up with.”
In a recent study, the Taub Center for Social Policy
Studies found that the failure of haredi schools to teach core curriculum
subjects was one of the main factors in low male haredi
According to the Bank of Israel, the rate of employment for
haredi men in 2011 was 45.6 percent, as compared to a national average of
The rate of employment for haredi women stands at 61%, compared to
the national average of 66.3%.