Sunday, August 17, 2014

Discrimination against Chareidim in the workplace

Here is a short summary of   an   article from The Marker '   dealing with Discrimination against Chareidim in the workplace' and then my response.

 My initial reaction to the title of the article describing the difficulty a graduate of the sought after elite Hi- Tec 8200 unit of the Intelligence Corps  to find work because of his Hasidic dress and appearance, was that a man with a chasidishe style dress, uncut beard, pe'yos etc would be at a big disadvantage as people normally don't like to be with people different to the themselves. But the people who complained about discriminationin the article  - just because they are chareidim -  were modern chareidi, no beard or suit, and who had went to the army – and this surprised me. Chareidi women have another obstacle in their path. They are asked when they intend to fall pregnant again. Although the % employment rate for women in Israel is 66.3% and for Chareidi women a close 61.2% we must keep in mind that often they are the sole breadwinners. Other obstacles in the path of Chareidim is the lack of training and qualifications, English and Maths, the degrees or non-academic diplomas  from the Chareidi colleges are not so competitive, and in the case of men they expect higher salaries because they enter the market at an older age and with a big family to support. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has a program to help absorb more Chareidim in the work force by opening employment centers, providing professional development and training, and offering incentives to employers to take on Chareidi workers. The spokeswoman said that employees were afraid of employing Chareidim because of their perceptions of demands for separation between the sexes and kosher food. She was hopeful in the long run as Chareidim become more open to working in a secular environment and employees reap the benefits of serious and dedicated Chareidi workers.

  I think the problem is bigger in the smaller private sector, but in bigger concerns like the banks, chareidi employees who have proved themselves open up doors to other chareidim. I have a friend who works for a bank in the computer section and the bank employs many chareidi women as they have an excellent work ethic and are good. There are employment opportunities for women in an only women environment, but employers exploit women by paying them very low wages. In many professions, the work place is flooded and the only way you can get a job is if you know somebody, do peer networking and since there are only a few chareidim in the workplace, there is little opportunity for peer networking.

The problem imho is the message conveyed by the politicians – both chareidi and secular. The chareidim would prefer not to work but remain in learning and live on hand outs and not integrate into Israeli life by going to the army etc. . . . So a private employer would ask himself – why support a community that discourages its men to go out to work or make a contribution to the country by going to the army. I think it was before the last elections that a friend of mine - studying in a Kollel and doing hours of she'rut le'umi with the intention of studying dentistry asked a  ' Gimmel ' - Agudah politician the following question. Why they did not join others defending the existing rights that 'she'rut leumi' offered to those who wish to study and enter the workforce.  The politician gave various excuses but when pushed, he said that Agudah cannot be seen to be encouraging young men to leave Kollel and go out into the workplace. The same negative attitude is to employment and parnassa is also expressed in the context of education. A kollel for young men who wanted to work and learn seriously in a Kollel framework was forced to close down.  A school offering kids to graduate in one year and do other courses afterward together with a learning program was severely criticized in the name of ' pure haskafos'.  It seems that issues of poverty have no place in ' hashkofos'.It seems that nothing has changed in the 60 years since Rav Dessler passed away? Rav Dessler had the view and belief ...... that  Yeshivah students should be encouraged to pursue full time learning and be denied the chance to get an academic qualification. Only in this way, could Yeshivas produce a large student body,  needed to  produce  Talmidei Chachamim and Ge'dolei  Yisrael. The negative impact on the lives of those not suitable for full time learning was a worthwhile sacrifice for this goal.The issue now is whether the system would not be better served by altering the single focus to one that allows a multiple tier educational system.

 IMHO a solution to the discrimination problem  would also  lie in positive affirmative action at least in the public sector and maybe some legislation against discrimination. A . chareidi bill advocating positive affirmative action  was defeated citing the chareidi attitude to work and integration into the community.

 The fight against poverty – providing housing, education, health care and stable employment opportunities will need the goodwill of the rest of country. It will also need a commitment by the chareidi parties to go beyond just supporting the chinuch path – yeshiva kollel, Beis Ya'akov and SEM to include supporting a chareidi working community.

As parents we must give children an accurate picture of the economic reality and their limited ability to help financially, that honoring parents means you don't have to le'mashkein o'tam, to pledge and mortgage them, and as a Rosh Yeshivah asked his  talmid – who signed the Ketuvah – you or your wife, that the Ketuvah is not a joke.

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