Chareidi Women Making Great Strides In High-Tech Sector

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Chareidi, women, and high-tech: three words you never expected to exist harmoniously in the same sentence. And yet, in the Jewish state, these three are a match made in the Garden of Eden. In Israel, the hottest social debate continues over the economic effect of Israel’s religious population and what should be done to ameliorate the resulting economic pressure on Chareidi families and on the state. These discussions and subsequent laws have encouraged many Chareidim to seek work where many were previously opposed, as work takes time away from men’s commandment of Torah study and women’s duty to take care of the family and home. However, as the Chareidi lifestyle with plenty of kids and a minimal earned salary becomes less viable, Chareidi rabbis have granted approval for many men and women to enter the workforce, leading to a rapid increase of employment among the Chareidi sector. Women, in particular, are leading this revolution within the community, as they are often required to be the family breadwinners so their husbands can continue to fulfill the commandment of Jewish learning.

With a majority of Chareidim living below the poverty line, the number of employed Chareidim is steadily increasing. This increase is a welcomed change in Israeli society, as unemployed Chareidim are costly for the state, which continues to financially support unemployed Chareidim as well as their many dependents. More than 50 percent of Chareidi men are now participating in Israel’s labor force, up from 33 percent in 2005, Israeli media reported in February. Although this represents a huge increase in employment, the figures continue to lag behind the 90 percent of non-Chareidi men who are employed. According to Stuart Hershkowitz, deputy CEO of The Jerusalem College of Technology’s Lev Academic Center, the low employment rate costs the Israeli economy some $2.18 billion each year: “Due to unemployment, they do not pay taxes, and, therefore, become a strain on society.” More promising are the 71 percent of Chareidi women employed in Israel, an impressive percentage of employment when compared to the 80 percent of their employed non-Chareidi counterparts.

Not only are Chareidi women breaking norms by working outside the home, but also by working in fields traditionally assigned to men. Out of 4,500 Chareidim employed in high tech, over 80 percent are women. This trend is likely to grow, as roughly 600 Chareidi women graduate from technical engineering programs each year. According to Hershkowitz, this is a game changer in Israeli society that “changes the dialogue within the Orthodox community in particular as well as society in general.”

The number of employed Chareidi men and women in the high-tech industry doubled between 2009 and 2011, according to the Ministry of Economy.

One driving force behind this trend are educational institutions, such as The Jerusalem College of Technology, an Orthodox Jewish college that offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in various fields of study, combined with intensive Jewish studies. These institutions allow students to maintain their Jewish practices while developing the skills and education needed to enter the high-tech workforce. They have separate campuses for men and women, both with degrees in electro-optics, electronic engineering, and applied physics, to name a few.

According to Chaim Sukenik, CEO of Lev College, these major trends in Chareidi employment represent the “biggest social revolution in Israel in many decades. It is happening, as far as social revolutions go, very quickly. Social revolutions of this magnitude normally take decades. This is happening here much quicker than I would have anticipated.”

As for the future of Chareidi men and women in the workforce? As Sukenik says, “It’s really up to the government now to be the catalyst to help them by making education and employment easily accessible.”


{ Israel}


  1. What are you, Yesh Atid? Shinui? Mapai? You received incorrect information for this article, and didn’t do your research. Additionally, the language and tone are biased. Literally straight out of Lapid’s Twitter or Facebook account. 1-There is no need for any Rabbis to “grant approval” for anyone to go out to work. B’zayas apecha isn’t a mitzvah, just a statement of fact: sometimes you gotta go to work. Just like people have been doing for thousands of years. 2-Using the unfortunate quote: “…unemployed Chareidim are costly for the state” stinks of racism. Chareidim are not costly for the state. The amount of money per person that the government allots is far, far less than they do for our secular counterparts, in a vast number of areas. Take education: government schools are free, while chareidi schools get a mere 35-45% funding, plus the schools have to cover many aspects that government schools don’t have to, such as maintaining the structures, janitorial services, and such like. Another example is culture. Since funding is allocated for specific activities, most of which are not suitable for the likes of your readership, the money by and large is simply returned to government coffers, unused. Admittedly, in recent years this situation has improved but it’s not what the secular get. 3-No one “supports” unemployed chareidim, any more than anyone else who is unemployed. If someone is learning, he’s getting his 900 shekels a month from the government (less than $250USD), while the rest the rosh kollel has to cover, and no, BibiTours doesn’t pay his plane tickets or help his wife out with the kids in his absence. In case you were wondering. 4- Scholarships or subsidies are given for students in their early twenties and that’s it. The older head of a family also has a hard time scraping together tuition, coupled with the loss of his/her income during the period of studies. Subsidies and easy-term loans should be available for older people too. 5- All is not glorious in the higher education field. Bachelor’s degrees are widely available in several fields, in several vocational centers over the country. However, many fields require a Master’s, which they are n o t providing. Their not-so-hidden agenda, as documented several times, is to have the advanced students educated in regular, immodest campuses, with the specific purpose of making them not frum. Yes, I was also shocked, but this has come to pubic attention a few times. I am not making this up, I just can’t remember where I saw it, one of the frum Hebrew-language websites or papers.

  2. Moishe – you can quit a job (or sue) if your boss gets too “friendly.” You can’t quit sherut le’umi. Also, sherut le’umi is for young unmarried girls who are more vulnerable.


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