By : Harley Stark
"I am familiar with the mitzvah to study Torah, but I know of no mitzvah commanding Haredi Families to live in abject poverty". Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Finance, Israel, July 2011l.
"I am a man on a mission", says Avraham (Avemy) Greenburg. "I do not want people in my community, the Haredi Community, to miss out on the possibility for a better life." The Haredi Employment program established by Avremy is supported by: the Tevet Program of the Joint Distribution Committee, the Partnership 2 Gether- Beit Shemesh, Mateh Yehudah, South Africa, Washington DC through the Jewish Agency for Israel, Rabbi Yeshayahu Ehrenreich, Chair of the Haredi Employment Unit of the Municipality of Beit Shemesh and Bank PAGI has entered its second year. "With G-d's help we had a very successful year", continues Avremy, "we have opened new and exciting avenues of success for families in the Haredi sector in Beit Shemesh. We started with a conference of prospective employers, we mapped their needs and we initiated an employment fair and we began to make "shidduchs" laughs Avremy.
"You have to understand, there is a revolution going on in the Haredi Sector in Israel. The traditional employment opportunities - teacher, shochet etc., are full. By changing the attitudes of employers and by offering re-training courses for prospective employees we are bring people to work. In the Haredi community there is also a demand for a higher standard of living within the bounds of our lifestyle. My job is to assist those men and women who want to work to find work and at the same time to approach prospective employers to show them the benefits of employing Haredi men and women and to show them that working with Haredi people is not such a difficult thing," explains Avremy.
"We have to start from the beginning for most Haredi men and women. What does it mean to have a job, what is the difference between a job and a career; the responsibility of arriving and leaving on time, National Insurance payments, income taxes, vacation and holidays, how to act in an interview, how to write a CV. I already have 500 CVs on my database from men alone.
"Once we pass this stage, then we can offer to Haredi men and women courses in many different professions. From stocking shelves in a supermarket to computer programming, construction, project management, and CNC (computerized lathes). Beit Shemesh is blessed with employers from a wide variety of sectors who are crying out for workers. Many of them see the potential in the Haredi sector, and understand that the requirements of a Haredi man or woman in the workplace are not so onerous," emphasizes Avremy.
"We have found that Haredi men are able to sit and learn everything from turning on a computer to programming a computerized lathe as well as anyone else. In fact, they are used to long hours of study from the Yeshiva, so a long learning day is nothing for them. In addition they have a "tabula rasa" and their mind is not cluttered with formulas and information which secular people learn in school and never use. The courses we offer suit everyone, from those who want to work outside to those who want to sit in front of a computer screen. These courses are offered by many different organizations and we are the link between the prospective employee who does not read a newspaper, watch TV or listen to a radio and the group offering the course. Our most important course is Basic English. Even operating a sophisticated lathe you have to understand what appears on the screen, thankfully, knowledge of Yiddish helps with English."
"The IDF has also turned to us to recruit young Haredi men to join the army and learn programming. This 4 year program includes basic training, computer studies, work experience and the student can sign up to the standing army. I have been able to refer a number of young men to this project which is vital to the country on a national level, explains Avremy.
"In our second year of operation we are reaching out to Haredi women who have different requirements. Many women already have knowledge of English and computers and only need someone to make the match between their skills as, say office managers and bookkeepers, and the employers. Last week we held a meeting for 250 women who gave us their contact details and now want to work," said Avremy.
"There is a certain amount of opposition to our program by certain fanatic, extremist groups in the Haredi sector," explains Avremy. "At the women's meeting they demonstrated against people going out to work, we had to call the police. Thank G-d there was no violence, but suddenly the electricity went off but instead of leaving and going home, women went outside to complete the registration process and effectively stood up to the bullies. I have no idea where this opposition is coming from, they are not supported by any Rabbi, and I will not be intimidated by them," emphasized Avremy.
"My goal for next year is to bring a call center to Beit Shemesh which will employ Haredi men and women. Our employment center is already too small for all the people who come in and I already foresee having to move to larger premises. My dream is to persuade a Community College which awards academic degrees and which is set up for the Haredi community but also open to all residents to come to Beit Shemesh. With G-d's help we will do this also," smiles Avremy.