By Yerach Toker
Contrary to many people’s perception, students in an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva don’t recite Psalms or mumble prayers all day long. A yeshiva student dedicates most of his hours to delving into complex issues of the Babylonian Talmud, which sometimes seems as though it was not written thousands of years ago but these days: The Talmud studied in yeshivot includes issues dealing with cartels, market concentration, the right way to handle competitiveness, business organizations and the entire economic industry – as well as with the rest of the areas of our life, with issues between man and man and between man and his Creator.
Throughout their years in the yeshiva, the yeshiva students work on all those complex issues, write innovations, find answers to questions, solve contradictions and receive lessons from a variety of opinions and halachic rulings which discussed the same issues throughout the generations. There is no better way to sharpen one’s mind. Thus, yeshiva graduates who go out to the labor market are among the most talented people available.
The chareidi girls also study thoroughly and are examined in all areas, and most of them integrates into the employment market in important and fundamental professions: Developing applications and high-tech, as tax consultants, as accountants and in all the advanced fields which exist today, alongside teaching and education as they have over the years.
The yeshiva I studied in produced rabbis, religious judges, great Torah scholars and yeshiva heads. But also lawyers, accountants, grocery store owners, educators, drivers and, yes, even doctors. At least two of them from my class.
My grocery store owner, my butcher, the singer whose songs are playing in my car, the record company which released his album, and even the mechanic who repaired my car, are all chareidi. And I didn’t come to them because they are chareidi, but because they are simply there. The reality is that there are thousands of chareidim in the labor market today.
Many chareidim look for a job and can’t find one because of the prejudice against them, because of barriers and foolish bureaucracy. Since every minor government bid requires a bachelor’s degree, all the chareidim are automatically banned from working in governmental places, because the years they studied in the yeshiva are not recognized as school years. As far as the State is concerned, those brilliant guys who come out of the yeshiva after six years of delving into issues and studying are seen as though they just lazed around and didn’t study a thing.
So instead of babbling, threatening, making statements about chareidi employment and the danger to the economy, get to know the chareidi street, the ways for possible solutions to the situation, which include legislation amendments and removing barriers so that those who want to work will be able to work. Don’t try to remove those who want to study from the yeshivot, because you’ll simply fail. There are enough chareidi men and women seeking a job. Seeking high and low. So instead of burning down their house, light these candles for them.
This editorial first appeared in Yediot Achronot.