The Jerusalem Kivun Center held an employment fair on Wednesday for 200 men and women from the haredi sector, bringing together employers looking for new talent and job-seekers from the haredi community looking for a step up in their professional careers.
Kivun is a project of the Economy Ministry that launched in March this year and acts as an employment and training center for haredi job-seekers. Last week, the center announced its 500th job placement since beginning operations.
Although female haredi employment is now comparable and even above the national average, standing at 79.5 percent in the second quarter of 2014, male haredi employment is extremely low, just 44.7%, compared to the national average of 85.5%.
One of the goals of the Kivun project is to raise male haredi employment to 63% over the next five years.
The employment fair on Wednesday brought eight hi-tech companies to the center with almost 200 job placements available, and some 200 haredi men and women who attended and spoke with representatives of the various companies.
The organization tailors applicants to employers, and the companies at the fair were looking for candidates with professional qualifications and at least one year’s experience to place them in mid-level positions with salaries commensurate with their level of expertise.
“Haredi men and women in the workforce must know that they can achieve whatever they want and go as high as they wish in their careers, not just remain at the entry level positions,” said Yehiel Amoyal, director of Kivun’s Jerusalem center.
Some 500 people applied to Kivun for acceptance to the fair, although only 200 were accepted, 140 women and 60 men, and gender-separate entry times were arranged.
Menachem Godick, 31, studied at the renowned Mir Yeshiva for many years, while he also completed a three-and-a-halfyear professional course in program engineering.
The course included remedial studies in general subjects such as maths and English, since the elementary and high schools Godick attended, like most haredi schools, included only a bare minimum of nonreligious studies.
He also earned a BA in education and worked with at-risk youth, but applied to the Kivun job fair in order to embark on a career in hi-tech.
“It’s important for me to have financial independence and be able to support myself, as well as obtaining a broader knowledge outside of religious studies,” said Godick. Although he is no longer a full-time yeshiva student, he continues with his religious studies and says that it is important only to begin professional studies “at the right age” and after an appropriate amount of time at yeshiva.
Menachem Erlanger, 28, and the father of six, was another attendee at the job fair.
Having also studied in yeshiva, Erlanger began an academic degree in the hi-tech field but found the level of study problematic due to his lack of a general education at the elementary and high school level.
He left the degree course but obtained a professional qualification in software development and has been working for two years in the field.
Erlanger, who is from the Rachmastrivka hassidic community, spoke with six potential employers at the fair and is looking for a step up in his career development and a higher salary.
“In the hassidic community, leaving yeshiva and going to work is not a problem, it’s very acceptable and common,” he said, estimating that some 60% of his peers work in some capacity, although generally low-paying jobs not requiring a level of education.
Erlanger himself approached the rebbe of his hassidic community when he was considering embarking on a professional career, who he says encouraged him to go out to work and gain an income for his family.
He said that career advancement to a senior position would require further study on his part but said that combining a job with further academic study along with the demands of a large family would be very challenging, if not impossible.
As to his intentions for his children, Erlanger says that although he will send his one son to haredi schools, he will nevertheless ensure that he receives an education in general studies outside of the haredi school system. His five daughters will gain a general education in the haredi schools they attend, since girls – unlike boys – do study core curriculum subjects.
On whether a general education should be included for boys in the haredi school network, he is more circumspect.
“These are very ideological issues and I would rather rely on our rabbis to determine the answer to this kind of question,” he says.
Liel Peretz is Kivun’s employer’s relations coordinator, and helps match companies and businesses with the right type of job-seekers.
Kivun staff spent three days calling all 500 applicants for the job fair in order to identify those who were appropriate for the employers at the fair.
Peretz says that one of the main tasks for the organization is to expose companies to talented and qualified professionals from the haredi world to familiarize them with idea that there is a resource pool of capable and effective manpower within the haredi world.
At the same time, haredi job-seekers can, through Kivun, gain ready access to the job market and, especially through initiatives such as job fairs, gain experience interacting with employers and, in this case, the confidence to advance their careers beyond the entry level.
Gidon Siterman, the chairman of the Israel branch of the AXIOMSL company, which provides regulatory reporting and risk-management software, said he was very impressed with the quality and quantity of the candidates at the job fair.
The company, which has branches around the world and whose customers include Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, has at least 15 openings for its Jerusalem office, and will conduct a second round of filtering and interviews with the job-seekers who spoke with company representatives on Wednesday.