Over 4,000 ultra-Orthodox flock to J'lem employment fair

Event organizer: "We had no idea so many people would show up for this."

Haredi Job Fair 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Haredi Job Fair 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
“Well, to find a job, like everyone else here,” was Ya’akov’s smiling answer to the question of what brought him to Sunday’s haredi employment fair in Jerusalem.
The 31-year-old Jerusalem resident was one of an estimated 4,000 ultra-Orthodox men and women who flocked to Binyanei Ha’uma to be exposed to a variety of frameworks offered to haredim seeking to enter the employment force. Booths representing a plethora of employers ranging from Bezeq to Beit Shemesh Engines and the Jerusalem Municipality were stationed alongside a few military and national service representatives, who provided information about the unique programs they offered haredi men, with the colleges and vocational training institutions scattered throughout.
A father of three who has reduced the time he spends studying in favor of work, Ya’akov was looking for a serious job, but said he was not planning on higher education to that end. “I don’t have the time or energy to study now,” he said.
“We had no idea so many people would show up for this,” said Eti Meller, who in her capacity at the JDC’s Tevet was one of the event’s organizers. Other partners behind the day were the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministry of Labor, Trade and Industry. Meller estimated that over 2,000 women arrived for the first part of the day – which was divided between men and women – vying for some 600 positions offered by employers.
“If we knew there would be such an outcome, we would have brought more businesses,” she said. “This is an opportunity for employers to find high quality manpower, who really want to work.”
A recurring theme among those involved in helping haredim into the labor market is the fact that “you can no longer say that haredim don’t want to work. That’s simply false. The challenge now lies with the employers and the state, who need to help them into jobs,” said Daniel Weil, who works for the Machshava Tova (good thought) NGO, which seeks to diminish social gaps through technology – training primarily Arabs and haredim on basic computer skills. Weil spent the day helping the men and women compile CVs at the fair.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat would seem to agree with the essence of Weil’s remarks.
“There are not enough businesses to take the people, we are working on creating more spots, and making progress, but there is still more demand on the behalf of potential workers than supply of jobs,” said Barkat in a conversation with representatives of the Kemach Foundation, which is one of the leading private bodies providing professional and academic training to haredi adults.
“We need to be market makers,” the mayor stressed, “and not give up even one square meter that has been allocated as a work zone in Jerusalem.”
Barkat noted the plan to create 13 high-rise office buildings at the entrance to the capital, as well as expand the Atarot industrial zone to the end of creating more employment possibilities.
At the Teva booth, Frenchborn Arnaud Smadja politely inquired whether there were openings for computer programmers.
Smadja, a 34-yearold Jerusalem resident, has completed his third year of computer sciences, and the fourth – after which he will be a software engineer – will be less intensive, and allow him some time to work. The decision to dedicate four years to a demanding course of study came after when he first started to look around for work, Smadja and his wife realized that “without a degree, you can’t really go very far,” and to support a family of four children, he would need a job with a decent income.
Teva was not looking for part-time employees, but the HR woman took a copy of Smadja’s CV in case there are openings in the future. “I worked very had on this degree, and I’m sure I’ll find something good,” he said with a smile. “The market is lively, there is a demand for workers.”
“The true social revolution is taking place here in Jerusalem, in the haredi sector,” said Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon, who visited the fair. “Bringing haredim into the workforce is a condition for the country’s economic growth in the next years.”
Simhon added that in the next months his ministry will amalgamate all the bodies involved in absorbing haredim into the labor market.