In many Haredi households across Israel, mothers are the sole breadwinners since their husbands study full-time. This creates immense pressure on them to not only raise their children, but also financially support their families. Compounding this pressure are the limited employment opportunities for ultra-Orthodox women, most of whom are underqualified for gainful positions in Israel’s job market.
Enter Chen, a Tevet program designed to open doors to a brighter future for ultra-Orthodox women.
Traditionally, religious girls’ seminaries in Israel train students as teachers for religious schools. However, as Israel’s ultra-Orthodox population expands, the number of women vying for these positions vastly outnumbers the number of teachers needed. Those who do find work in education find their salaries too low to support large families.
Tevet has joined with the Bais Yaakov school system for ultra-Orthodox girls to provide a range of career alternatives to teaching. Girls can choose to study accounting, financial planning, architecture, graphic design, computer science and more while continuing their religious seminary studies.
Chen participants also receive career counseling, help with job placement after high school graduation, personal advice about how to navigate the workplace, and support from previous program graduates.
Chen staff also conduct extensive employer outreach to create local employment networks in ultra-Orthodox towns and neighborhoods, helping high school graduates find jobs with flexible hours in keeping with the norms of the ultra-Orthodox home and community.
What’s Special about this Program
Chen opens doors that were closed to ultra-Orthodox women in the past and provides them with choices they never had to acquire a profession other than teaching. It enhances their prospects of quality placement while allowing them to maintain their religious lifestyle. The training preserves the unique characteristics of the Bais Yaakov system, which is recognized by the Ministry of Education.
The program enjoys the support of rabbis from a wide range of ultra-Orthodox communities – Hasidic, Sephardi, Lithuanian.
It has a high rate of job placement for its graduates (approximately 73%), and graduates’ average salaries exceed that of their peers who go into teaching.
Shira, a 20-year-old resident of the predominantly religious town of Bnei Brak, grew up in a typical ultra-Orthodox home. Her father was a yeshiva student, her mother a homemaker. Shira studied practical software engineering at a Bais Yaakov seminary and in 2013 took part in an application development competition sponsored by Microsoft. Chen program staff counseled and advised her throughout her preparation for the competition. She entered the finals and took first place.
The competition result provided her with new options. She went on a job interview and was hired by a startup company. Shira says the Chen program was invaluable in her education and career path. Today she is married, the mother of small children and on a constant advancement track at work.
The program aims to increase the number of ultra-Orthodox women in gainful, quality employment by creating employment-targeted study tracks at the ultra-Orthodox seminaries.
It consists of individual and group employment counseling in 12th grade, vocational training in practical engineering and other technological professions, support workshops after job placement.
The Program in Numbers
- The program is available in 40 seminaries around the country;
- So far, it has trained 70 guidance counselors and group mentors;
- Some 6,000 women have participated in the program.