Haredi women make $8b. real-estate deal a reality

"More companies are realizing that the risk they thought hiring haredim involved isn't such a risk."

haredi women biz 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
haredi women biz 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Within the last few months some 960 haredim, of which 71 percent are women, have undergone work-preparedness training as a step towards securing gainful employment, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry reported this week. The training, conducted by the Development Center for the Employment of Haredim, a branch of the ministry, and the Joint-Israel, is a result of an increased effort by the Israeli government to help secure a more stable financial reality for the country's haredi citizens, many of whom never before held down a steady job. Following their training, the workers will be more prepared to search for employment in one of the dozens of outsourcing centers of both Israeli and International companies that have sprouted across the country in recent years and cater specifically towards hiring haredi women, where most of them work predominantly as back-office managers. One such company, Citybook Services, Ltd., set up more than four years ago in Modi'in Illit by New Jersey businessman Joe Rosenbaum, has grown from its initial team of eight people into a company that now employs approximately 200 haredi employees, the vast majority of whom are English-speaking women, in Modi'in Illit, Beitar Illit and Jerusalem. Citybook, originally established mainly for philanthropic purposes to strengthen the poor economic situation in Modi'in Illit as a company that handled the back-office work of Rosenbaum's Madison Commercial Real Estate Services in the States, has now grown into a successful and internationally recognized company that performs numerous high-end outsourcing services for a number of US-based businesses. "We were the first company in Israel to center operations in a haredi city for the purpose of employing haredim," Rosenbaum told The Jerusalem Post. "Because of our success, there are eight other Israeli companies that have established offices in Modi'in Illit with staffs that entirely consist of the local population." Following the arrival of the company in Modi'in Illit in 2003 word quickly spread that a new employment opportunity had arrived. "We were getting inquiries from all the over the place - everyone was interested in working for us," said Rosenbaum. "We didn't even have to advertise, but news of our arrival spread through word of mouth, from friends, people in the community and from people in the US who had heard about the Kiryat Sefer [Modi'in Illit] idea," explained Rosenbaum. According to Rosenbaum, the sheer number of haredi women interested in working for Citybook has provided the company with the luxury of being free to choose from a talented pool of applicants. "We are now employing hundreds of haredi women and they have all proved to be bright, serious minded and posses strong analytical skills," Rosenbaum said. After being hired by Citybook, the employees undergo a rigorous four-month paralegal training program, after which they are equipped to either handle the back-office work for Rosenbaum's lease abstraction branch, LeaseProbe LLC, or its title insurance office, Madison Title Agency, LLC. Recently, Madison Title Agency and its team of more than 40 Citybook paralegals prepared title policies for one of the largest non-casino hotel deals in US history, an $8 billion real estate transaction involving the Extended Stay hotel chain. The transaction, involving some 700 properties in 44 states, presented numerous challenges in terms of the number of properties involved, the geographic scope, the tight deadlines as well as the need to maintain the company's other businesses. "A main reason that we were given the contract for the hotel chain is because of our Israel office," said Rosenbaum. "When we presented our bid we explained that essentially we would be available around the clock for 6.5 days of the week. We put all of our Kiryat Sefer staff on the job - they were working 12-14 hour days to get it done on time - and we finished it before the deadline with everything done perfectly." In addition to lease abstraction and title insurance, Citybook executes back-office operations for a US-based non-bank, on-line foreign currency exchange company that services an international base of customers. Citybook employees process account applications as well as execute the maintenance of client accounts such as processing deposits, withdrawals, transfers and margin changes. The company also employs 20 agents to provide a wide range of services for a US-based equipment leasing brokerage, with plans to expand to 40 people by the end of the year. "We have built a model for others to follow and in the process we have created a revolution in the economy of Kiryat Sefer- and more than being financially gratifying, it is ideologically gratifying as well," explained Citybook CEO Eli Kazhdan.