The Ultra-Orthodox Women’s Revolution
The most pressing danger facing Israel may come not from without but from within the Jewish state, according to yesterday’s panel on haredi (ultra-Orthodox) women at the JFNA General Assembly. Israel’s ultra-Orthodox sector numbers 650,000 to 800,000 people, forming about ten percent of the general population. Because the majority of haredi men are chronically non-employed—that is, they choose to engage in Torah study rather than enter the workforce—one in five Israelis currently lives below the poverty line. Given how fast the ultra-Orthodox population is growing, something needs to change, and fast.
And something is changing. While haredi men immerse themselves in state-subsidized Torah study, their wives are going out to work and becoming family breadwinners. These women are the focus of a new documentary by iconic Jewish sex therapist Dr. Ruth, who told the GA audience that initiatives like the JDC’s Tevet program—which trains women in high-tech, computer science, financial analysis, and other fields—are sparking a ‘revolution’ in Israel. Careful to respect its participants’ religious sensibilities, Tevet boasts an impressive placement record: 90 percent of graduates go on to find work with mainstream Israeli companies.