Secular bosses wary of employing haredim

President Reuven Rivlin: “Everyone can keep their traditions, but must learn to live together with others.”

President Reuven Rivlin with representatives of Movilot (photo credit: MARC NEYMAN/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin with representatives of Movilot
(photo credit: MARC NEYMAN/GPO)
People who practice incitement against haredim (ultra-Orthodox) accuse them of being non-working parasites who don’t pay taxes, yet live off the fat of the land.
There may be a few such rotten apples in the barrel, but overall, this is a false description. Many more haredim want to work than are able to find the work for which they are qualified.
The erroneous impression of haredim came to light on Sunday at a meeting between President Reuven Rivlin and representatives of Movilot, an organization founded in 2013 that trains and mentors haredi women for integration into the Israeli workforce. It also helps them to progress in their careers through a year-long occupational leadership program, with follow-up and professional networking.
Some 30 women who are in middle-management positions and are highly qualified and highly motivated enter the program each year. But there are many more haredi women in the work force.
Contrary to popular belief that haredim are lacking in secular education, all the women present at the meeting have at least one university or college degree.
Also present was the president’s chief of staff, Rivka Ravitz, who is haredi, one of 10 siblings, and expecting her 12th child any minute.
Ravitz, who launched her career as a political administrator by assisting her late father-in-law MK Avraham Ravitz, subsequently started working with Rivlin, serving as his right hand woman for the past 20 years. Ravitz has management and computer science degrees, and is completing a PhD in public policy. She is greatly encouraged by her husband, who is one of 12 siblings and is engaged in leadership positions in municipal politics.
Rivlin acknowledged that not all haredi women can aspire to be the president’s chief of staff, but many have the ability to rise to other high positions.
ACCOMPANYING THE Movilot representatives were Rabbi Motti Feldstein, CEO of the Kemach Foundation, which engages in affirmative action for the haredi community, and Ilan Gael Or, CEO of Gesher (Bridge), which for decades has been working to forge contacts between all sectors of Israeli society in the belief that when people get to know each other and understand each other, there is more mutual respect and cooperation at all levels.
Kemach takes it name from the Talmudic quote Im ein kemach, ein Torah (If there is no flour, there is no study), the premise being that work provides the flour from which to make the food, which in turn provides the mental and physical stamina to study Torah.
Gael-Or told Rivlin that Gesher feels strengthened by the president’s Israel Hope project, which has very similar aims to those of Gesher.
Michal Lev, who runs the Movilot project, is a graduate of Machon Lev (now known as The Jerusalem College of Technology), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and of Bar Ilan University. Machon Lev qualifies as a haredi academic institution that combines Torah and technological studies, and has separate campuses for male and female students.
In explaining the workings of Movilot to Rivlin, Lev noted that the workplace is the best place in which to meet people from other communities and lifestyles. Rivlin remarked that haredim can no longer be considered a minority, because not only are they integrating into the mainstream workforce, but 25% of Israel’s school children are from haredi families.
Commenting on separation in haredi circles, Rivlin said that there should be no difference between hassidim (spiritual revivalists) and mitnagdim (stern opponents to the hassidism). There were both in his own family, he said, referring to his parents who were cousins. His mother came from hasidic stock and was descended from the Baal Shem Tov, whereas his father came from the mitnaged side of the family.
One of the representatives who works in insurance said that she was very pleased to be able to realize her potential. Both she and her husband work, though she has to do a balancing act between being a wife and mother and taking care of household chores. Her husband is supportive, and she has been able to earn promotions in her job.
Another woman said that she was happy to have raised a fine family, to work and prove herself at the same time, and has discovered a whole new world without compromising her own values. However finding work was not always easy, because many employers are wary of taking on haredi women.
“There is a lot of ignorance and lack of understanding about haredi women and their lifestyles,” she said, adding that more has to be done to make people aware that haredi women are good at adapting to new circumstances.
Gael Or endorsed that statement, declaring that despite successful integration by the women present, as well as many others, there are still employers who are reluctant to give work to haredim.
Rivlin said that everyone must learn to respect the other. “We are one family, one society, one state,” he said. “A family comprises close and distant relatives – but we all have to live together. We have to struggle together against divisive forces.”
Rivlin clarified that living together does not mean giving up ideologies. “Everyone can keep their traditions, but must learn to live together with others,” he said.