(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
This upcoming year will make or break the growing phenomenon of haredim joining
the labor force, depending on whether those leading the trend find suitable
jobs, a leading force in haredi placement said on Thursday.
Speaking at a
conference on “integrating the haredi sector – a national objective” taking
place at the Jerusalem College of Technology, Chaim Guggenheim – manager of
Manpower Bereshit, a subsidiary of the international placement company that
specializes in the haredi market – spoke of the need for more businesses to hire
qualified, haredi employees and the ensuing challenges.
“In Israel, only
some 50 companies have hired a significant number of haredim – at least 30,” he
But in a country like Israel, where half of the population is
composed of sectors like Arabs, olim from different origins, haredim and more,
“if a company doesn’t sell a product to a certain sector, it is losing much
potential buying force. And a company that doesn’t hire haredim today will in
another ten years find itself without any workers.”
the need to create the appropriate working environment for haredim workers, but
noted that the same principal applies to other groups of employees, such as
students and young people.
“If in the upcoming year we will not reach
significant placement of haredim, there will be a serious boomerang effect,
since haredim will say, ‘We tried our best, but employers did not want us,’” he
Guggenheim later expanded on why the upcoming year is such a
crucial time, explaining that it has been a few years since the major influx in
the numbers of haredim who began studies or vocational training that would
enable them to pursue more prestigious careers. Now is when they are entering
the labor market, and it is critical – for them and other haredim considering a
career – that they find suitable jobs.
The government and the Joint
Distribution Committee, as well as many privately funded organizations, have
been taking great efforts to ease haredim into the work force whether by
affording training and education, or even government incentives to firms that
Private companies have also realized the potential of the
stable, trainable work force, and began creating working environments suitable
to the haredi lifestyle.
While many of the conference’s speakers
addressing the issue noted the need of the employers to make the adaptation to
the haredim, at least one person felt that potential employees could be doing
more to join the work force.
“I get furious every time I hear haredi
go-getters explain that haredim are not working because nobody will employ them.
That’s a lie,” said a man who for years has been involved in haredi labor
implementation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“There is great
willingness on behalf of employers to absorb haredim. I referred haredim to some
of the biggest companies in the economy: Bank Hapoalim, ISCAR, Electra, Teva,
Bezeq. There was no problem; they were took haredim to work. There are other
problems that can prevent haredim from working in certain capacities, such as
insufficient training or knowledge, but I don’t think there is a problem of
employers not agreeing to take haredim.”
“Some haredim are picky when it
comes to taking a job – if a person from Bnei Brak gets a job offer in Netanya,
I’d expect them to take it. Some won’t if a job entails traveling. This is an
indulgent attitude I don’t expect from a person seeking employment,” he
The man was not sure why people who so desperately needed work, to
the degree that they would diminish their social standings by leaving the ideal
of dedicating their life to Torah study, would not take a job that was
available, even if inconvenient. But it is the difficulty of that transition
that could explain why some haredim might get cold feet in entering the
employment cycle, the man mused.
One person determined to find a good job
in his field was Ariel Willinger, a 29- year-old haredi father of two who will
next year be completing his course of study in industrial management at the
Jerusalem College of Technology. Willinger reiterated Guggenheim’s
“If we – the first groups of graduates of engineering
professions from the haredi sector – will not succeed getting jobs in the
anticipated income level, it will backfire on the public, and the phenomenon of
haredim entering the cycle of higher education, vocational training and
employment will die off,” he said.
“What nourishes this wave is
Before I started my studies, people looked at me as if I was
crazy. Nowadays, there is rarely a day that passes without someone calling me to
consult about academic studies or finding a job,” he said.