Who better to work towards future solutions for Israel’s charedim than a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem and mayor of Beitar Illit?
All of this comes in the form of one person and one organization.
Rabbi Yitzhak Pindrus, the former deputy mayor and current mayor, is the Haredi Institute for Public Affairs’ first CEO after serving as an elected official with experience in civic policy management and bringing together people from many different walks of life in collaborative efforts.
The Institute, which has been in existence since 2014, advocates for charedi society through professional research and adaptation of policy tools that are uniquely adapted to that society.
“In order to formulate a practical policy that will promote real solutions to the various problems in society and the charedi community within it, there is a need for professional discourse among top-tier officials along with field experts and people who are actively engaged,” said Pindrus on the Institute’s website video stream. “Most of the conflicts entailed in policy planning stem from lack of knowledge which ultimately leads to poor planning. The Haredi Institute is unique in its bringing together of officials and field experts along with policy makers. This betters the chances of finding solutions that will advance society and the Israeli economy and ultimately the charedi community as well.”
The Institute reports that 11 percent of Israeli society is charedi, up from 4 percent in 1980 with predictions of charedim making up a full 25 percent of Israeli society by 2065.
The Institute has looked at the unique features of the charedi community including its desire to stay insulated and its need for education, housing and employment training. The Institute brings together professionals from the charedi community with researchers from both the secular world and the charedi world to collaborate on strategic planning.
The goals are to improve the economy of the charedi community as doing so will not only improve this particular part of Israeli society, but the entirety of Israeli society.
“Our basic philosophy is that with 90 percent of the issues we face, if we sit down and figure out the interests of both the government and the various Israeli communities, most of the time we can come up with solutions,” Pindrus told The Jewish Link. “Most of the time, the problems we have are with language or communication, but with the right planning we will see improvements. ”
Ninety percent of the issues between the charedi community and the other communities occur because there is a lack of faith in each other and a lack of planning.
“We have to figure out what are the common interests of the government and the charedi community and if they would work together in the modern world, what could work,” Pindrus continued.
That challenge, he said, will be solved by better understanding among the communities. For example, he said, how poor charedi families with many children will house themselves in major cities and towns is a challenge that needs to be studied and solved.
The same can be said for education and training. According to Pindrus, 25 percent of all children currently enrolled in Israel’s elementary schools are charedi. Training those children when they become young adults for the job market, especially the young women, is part of that strategic plan. In other words, the secular employment world would be better served in Israel’s future if there were more room for charedi employees.
On the other hand, the charedi world is realizing that it needs to improve its economic standing and take part in the secular employment world with appropriate training education. Pindrus said that the Institute is preparing over 2,000 young women for jobs in the tech and healthcare industries as well as about 500 men.
The Institute understands fully that charedi households differ from the norms of Israeli society. For starters, poverty is a choice when the norm is to continue learning instead of earning a wage. Pindrus said that in the charedi world, the wife is often fulfilling the role of “being the main breadwinner.”
With that in mind, the solutions are to improve the prospects of a better paying job. Better training leads to better opportunities and better paying jobs. The monies that could be earned in the future broaden the funds going back into Israeli society. Moreover, this perhaps leads to fewer members of the charedi community depending on government assistance.
“You have to design a real strategic plan so that a community that has unique values can still be trained for decent jobs,” Pindrus said. “So on one hand, we are training people to improve their incomes and those same people are in fact teaching the non-charedi world about this community. If we come together and we all work together, the government and the education system and the rabbinic system and the employment world, we could get to a different level that benefits all of Israeli society, charedi and non-charedi.
“We know that the high tech industry needs another 15,000 workers right now. We could supply them with 1,000 (young women) workers a year,” he continued. “High tech is also for men. We need to better understand what skills the tech industry needs of men who leave yeshiva.”
Pindrus said that the area of housing is also a key to this process. Many residential areas, he said, are not prepared or do not have the infrastructure to facilitate larger charedi families. The idea, then, would be for communities to prepare for larger families who need comfortable housing.
“Israeli society just can’t go on ignoring this need,” he said. And he indicated that much of the stress between the two societies is the conditions and characteristics of housing stock and the very neighborhoods themselves.
In the first phase of its 2016 housing study, the Institute reported on desired distribution and number of units and options of housing for the charedi community while finding a “proper balance” between the charedi desire to remain separate and the process of societal integration.
“Every year we’re 100 percent better than last year (when it comes to the secular world and charedim understanding each other’s needs in Israeli society,)” concluded Pindrus.
The Haredi Institute for Public Affairs website is located at machon.org.il/en/
By Phil Jacobs