Haredi university program marks 5 year anniversary

We need you in the workforce, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer tells participants of conference in Jerusalem.

stanley fischer 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
stanley fischer 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Higher education as the surest cure for poverty was reiterated at a conference marking five years of an Open University program aimed at haredi students on Sunday, the same day the Central Bureau of Statistics released data on poverty rates.
“The state must take initiatives like this and make them into a national program, to accommodate the allowances for kollel students to enable them to learn a trade, which is the most efficient way to counter poverty,” Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) told the participants at the capital’s Bible Lands Museum.
“This is the key to our commitment to the OECD to raise the rates of participation in our workforce.
“It is the Jewish scholarship that engendered the Jewish genius, the talmudic back-and-forth arguments that laid the foundations for the ability to grasp complex issues swiftly. But what is now lacking is the ability to cope with the challenges the modern world poses,” the minister said. “This will bring huge benefit to the Israeli economy, and raise families from states of poverty.”
About 400 students are currently enrolled in the Open University program, which provides higher studies in a variety of fields, such as business and management, computer sciences and psychology.
It is supported privately, primarily by the Toronto-based Friedberg Foundation, whose head, Dr. Albert D. Friedberg, arrived for the event and received an honorary degree from the university.
As president of the Open University Prof.
Chagit Meser-Yaron said, their institution’s unique characteristics provides advantageous settings for haredim – one needn’t have a matriculation certificate to be accepted, and the course of study can be done at the student’s convenience, as most of it is done independently, through the special booklets the university prepares.
Most haredi students take part in the preparatory courses offered in English and mathematics, where they tend to have insufficient background.
Bank of Israel Governor Prof. Stanley Fischer noted the importance of participating in the workforce, and cited the rising numbers of haredim in higher education institutions as an encouraging factor, indicative of the growing trend of their participation in the economy.
“But this is just a beginning. The numbers are still small,” he said. “I know of the problems in integrating haredim into the workforce, but they can be solved. I hope the haredi community itself will realize [the importance of joining the workforce], and support all measures to encourage that.”
Prof. Manuel Trachtenberg, chairman of the Council of Higher Education’s Committee for Planning and Budgeting, moved the participants, primarily haredi students receiving awards for outstanding achievement, to loudly applaud mid-speech when he spoke of the importance of preserving the haredi lifestyle.
“My grandfather lived a haredi lifestyle in a shtetl in Ukraine, and was murdered by Cossacks. I never had the privilege of a haredi lifestyle, but want it to be preserved for all of us,” he said.
Trachtenberg also spoke of the societal importance of higher education among the haredi sector.
“Higher education not only provides the means for higher income, it also is a common ground for different sectors in the public,” he said.