Hebrew U offers academic prep course for haredim

Project created to increase ultra-Orthodox society’s access to higher education.

Hebrew University, Jerusalem_311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Hebrew University, Jerusalem_311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The Hebrew University launched a special pre-academic preparatory program this week aimed at members of the haredi community wishing to enroll in institutions of higher education.
A project of the university’s Magid Institute for Continuing Education, the initiative was created in response to the national challenge issued by the Council for Higher Education in Israel to increase ultra-Orthodox society’s access to higher education.
Twenty haredi men began their studies on Wednesday in a newly renovated building near the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus, and a contingent of women are expected to join the program later this year.
The program, similar to many others across the country, is designed to prepare for higher education students who lack the requisite qualifications.
Most male haredi high schools do not teach any non-religious studies to their pupils, and they are subsequently at a significant disadvantage if they wish to gain academic or even vocational qualifications and enter the workforce.
The curriculum of the haredi preparatory program will mirror the Hebrew University’s regular pre-academic preparatory program, with adjustments in respect to the haredi lifestyle of the students.
Alongside the regular curriculum, students will have classes to improve English-language skills and also have access to an active religious studies program.
The Magid Institute will also offer vocational training programs for the ultra-Orthodox, including communication studies, computer programming and investment counseling.
Professor Hanoch Gutfreund, chair of the Magid Institute, said that the new course would help provide a gateway for the haredi community to higher education and labor market integration Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, a rabbi and rabbinical judge in Jerusalem who is heading up the program, also lauded the initiative and said that it would provide an more enhanced level of academic instruction than has been available until now for the haredi community.
“Until now, various pre-academic frameworks proposed to the ultra- Orthodox did not usually enable them to reach an academic level equal to that of regular students,” Pfeffer said. “The new program will work to change this situation and give students the opportunity to realize their potential.”
Pfeffer also addressed concerns within haredi society about the consequences of academic studies on students’ commitment to religion, and vowed that their academic studies would not compromise “the Torah values they grew up with.”
In a recent study, the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies found that the failure of haredi schools to teach core curriculum subjects was one of the main factors in low male haredi employment.
According to the Bank of Israel, the rate of employment for haredi men in 2011 was 45.6 percent, as compared to a national average of 77.7%.
The rate of employment for haredi women stands at 61%, compared to the national average of 66.3%.