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September 14, 2006

When Haredim Leave

The Jerusalem Post reports:

In a ceremony held in Ramat Aviv on Wednesday night 54 former haredi men and women received academic scholarships from the Hillel organization that will help them catch up academically with their fellow Israelis.

Hillel, founded in 1994, is an entirely voluntary organization, that gives guidance and assistance to young men and women from ultra-Orthodox families who choose to leave their communities.

The young ex-haredim discover that their education has not prepared them for the secular workplace, according to Irit Panepe, the organization's volunteer spokeswoman. "Usually we are talking about extremely intelligent people who came to a real conclusion, that "the ultra-Orthodox world" is not their place," she told The Jerusalem Post before the start of Wednesday's ceremony.

"Even those who come from the best yeshivas, such as Ponevezh, stopped their [secular] education at somewhere around the fourth grade level, she said." They learn nothing about history, civics, literature, and geography - not even Bible as we now it. The organization emphatically affirms that its agenda is apolitical.

"We have no political identity," Panepe insisted. "We are a social organization; we help people who need help."

And that help is impressive in scope. Hillel operates apartments in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in which 'yotz'im beshe'ela', those who left the haredi world behind for secular Israel, can live for a few weeks or even months.

During this time the organization's 300 volunteers help them with writing resumes and finding work.

The young former haredim also receive academic tutoring and psychological help in addition to what volunteers call "basic help," such as assistance in choosing and purchasing colorful clothes.

In addition, Hillel takes groups on weekend trips all over Israel.

Many of the young people taking part on the trip have never seen Israel's outdoors.…

And the haredi reaction to all this? Nothing surprising here:

Hillel's work has encountered much resistance in the haredi world which views leaving the ultra-Orthodox community for a secular lifestyle as a danger to the community's cohesion and ideals. The organization's offices have experienced several break-ins during which identifying information about the organization's participants was stolen. In addition, Hillel representatives claim that haredi leaders have set up a similarly named organization meant to receive phone calls from confused haredi youth seeking Hillel.

The biggest threat to haredim may very well be this:

While Hillel doesn't have any political affiliations, it does openly call for establishing and enforcing a standardized educational curriculum throughout Israel.

"If the state doesn't mandate a minimal curriculum," said one representative of the organization, "then we believe the Education Ministry should take responsibility for these people who know nothing, and help them to catch up." Until such a policy is in place, vowed the representative, "we're doing it."

This is what the recent fight over funding of haredi education has been based on. Haredim produce students ill-equipped to function in society. They cannot hold jobs other than the most unskilled. And they cannot feed their families without welfare. Haredim are a tremendous financial drain on the state, but continue to deny the problems generated by their sub-par school systems on the one hand and refuse to do anything to further prepare the masses of haredim for work on the other.

In America, a former Lubavitcher, Malkie Schwartz started a smaller version of Hillel. Footsteps does what Hillel does, but on a much smaller scale due not to a smaller need, but because of limited financial resources. (You can help by donating here.) This is probably because in America, welfare is paid by a truly secular state, and is divorced from specific Jewish community politics. If it were closer to home, rampant haredi welfare fraud and abuse would be a huge issue for the American Jewish community, just as that same abuse and fraud is a major issue in Israel.

Comments

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Interesting.

Just another one of your bullshit allegations.
Haredim hold many quite intelligible post both in the holy land and in the diaspora. The Nobel prize winner from Israel just recently was haredi. Look at all of the affluent haredim living everywhere. I can make the very same allegation regarding the israeli secular community, in fact, 99% of the homeless that we have in israel are secular, not religious at all. Probably just as the rest of secular society they are even apathetic to religion
Keep up your ignorant accusations... goes to show your level of intelligence. By the way, Hillel was religious... unlike these fonies, though I commend education of any sort, so kuddos to the organiztion, as long as they aren't persuading people to leave haredism.
Note that many haredi yeshivas do teach general studies. Also, when they select not, there's quite good reason for it. No need to discuss it all here.

Shmarya,
I think you have gone overboard.A long time ago , in the early stages of your blog you had an ax to grind, mainly with the Lubab.On certain points I agreed with you.Since then you are getting worse and worse:Your personal antipathy against the Rubashkin family has you blaming them for almost every evil under the sun,then you started up with almost every Orthodox group, now you are championing a group that actually works to get people to be non religous!!!Wow! (don't give any rubbish that Hilel does not actively work to get people to leave orthodoxy:Ask Shai Horowitz who is from a Orthodox backround, father a rosh yeshiva who joined the group and then left to come back.This is a vile group of almost missionaries)
Please:For the sake of honesty, do not claim to be Orthodox anymore

Do you think Shmarya is the only one to say this??
Rav Meir Kahane had a social program where every youth would be taught a trade,(a secular education) furthermore economic parasites would not be tolerated and one would be forced to work for bread. Of course, this all got lost in the general hystria at the time.

Footsteps receives more "limited financial resources" not because there isn't a need, but because there are forces within the Federation quite resistant to funding "anti-Orthodox" organizations, no matter how great the need.

Shmarya-

Most haredim are happy with their lifestyle, unfortunately its the few who leave the movement who get the attention. If only haredim could make their own blogs highlighting everything that is wrong with the secular world... they would run out of bandwidth.

Shmarya claims to have personal expertise with shechita and chasidus, but the blog appears to attacking both institutions without any mercy.

jake: phony is not spelled with a 'f' of course its not your fault you dont know how to spell after all you did go to yeshiva...

with all the effort that goes into "kiruv rechokim" whats the big fuss about a little reciprocal "richuk kerovim?"

Tragically, they will never be anything but a permanent liability to either America or Israel's society or economy, and a true chillul Hashem.

Why can't everyone get along? Seriously, when did Jews become so hostile to each other. Isn't it based in some weird insecurities on both sides of the argument. Be happy, be secure, and if the Jews come back to the Haredi life, great....if they don't, what can you do? But being angry and hostile only gives those that have a problem with the ultra Orthodox more fuel for their fire....more credibility to their arguments against it. I think both sides need to act with grace and respect. I'm not sure how anyone can argue this is a bad way to be...especially against fellow Jews.

Great Article , thanks for posting. It would be best for the state of israel, to take the haredi off welfare and spend the money on re educating these "lost" people. They shouldn't be dodging IDF service or having more children than they can care for. Let the secular be more religious, and let the religious be less. Why everything has to be extreme in israel?

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