Haredi girls compete to be entrepreneurs

Jerusalem High School challenge showcases innovation; Barkat attends competition final, speaks to students.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
A clothes hanger that irons your clothes, a car that prevents you from drunk-driving and a bank that stops you from going into the red.
These ideas, along with numerous others, were the fruit of a competition between groups of ultra- Orthodox high-school girls to develop a winning business initiative, the final of which was staged in the Jerusalem Municipality on Sunday night.
Around 140 high-school students aged 15 to 18, from 10 different haredi girls schools and academies in Jerusalem, took part in the year long course and competition, designed to impart tools and skills to the participants to help them integrate into the labor market, particularly in entrepreneurship and business development.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat attended the competition final and spoke to the students on a discussion he had with the late Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, a former Chief Rabbi, when asking for his advice on how to help Jerusalemites “stand on their own two feet.”
“The rabbi stopped me as I was speaking and showed me the words of the Rambam [Rabbi Moses Maimonides] where he spoke about the different levels of charity. And he pointed out that the highest level is to help people in such a way that they won’t need charity any longer by enabling them to provide for their own livelihood,” Barkat said.
“It’s clear that the Turning Points program has helped sharpen your potential, and will, I hope, help you actualize the great promise you all have, and ensure that you will build a better future for yourselves and your community,” Barkat added.
The Mayor added some personal advice as an entrepreneur himself, telling the students that “entrepreneurship requires dedication, hard work, self-belief and team work.
The program, called Turning Points, began at the beginning of the academic year. Sponsored by the First International Bank, Matan and Ashalim-JDC, the course is designed to provide general life skills for the working environment and help participants enter the job market or start businesses.
The group crowned as champions proposed a clothes hanger that serves as a clothes pressing device, and also developed a sustainable business model to market the product.
The device consists of a hanger with two inflatable balloons containing heating elements. The desired garment is hung on the hanger and then either one or both of the balloons (depending on the item of apparel in question) are inflated with the flick of a switch. The balloons then heat up against the item of clothing, smoothing out wrinkles and creases with no effort whatsoever.
Yehudit Neventzal, a religious studies teacher at Tichon Bat Tzion highschool, taught the course inspiring such innovation.
Neventzal said the program is aimed at schools with less academically-inclined students, and was important to bolster their ability to develop the self-belief and skills necessary to enter the job market and business world.
Yaakov Sa-ness, director of the International Bank’s southern region, also attended the event and said that the goal of the Turning Points program was to promote business acumen, ethical behavior in the work place, personal empowerment, and provide career guidance, aiding the students in their adult life.
“It is extremely pleasing that as well as the life skills and knowledge you have gained from this course, you are also now more aware of the options and range of possible professions open to you,” he said. “These goals are important for our social and economic future.”