Haredi students struggle to integrate in academia

Report reveals more haredim interested in higher level education, but few succeed in completing studies.

David Rosenberg ,

Haredi student
Haredi student
Nati Shohat/FLASH90

More haredim are pursuing academic degrees than ever before, but few ever manage to finish their studies.

As haredi education and employment has become a hot-button political issue in recent years, numerous higher education programs catering to the haredi public have been opened.

Providing accommodations for their religious lifestyle and geared towards graduates of the haredi educational system, these programs often include preparatory courses for students who need improvement in core studies before beginning college-level classes.

Such programs have divided the haredi world, pitting those who see the new phenomenon as a threat to traditional religious norms against supporters who believe academic degrees will help relieve the high levels of poverty found in the haredi community.

With rising housing costs and cuts to welfare spending, many within the haredi community have looked towards the new religious academic programs to help them integrate into the modern economy.

Speaking at a Bar Ilan conference on haredi integration into education and the workforce, Ravid Omasi, who manages an umbrella organization representing haredi academic programs, revealed that enrollment has skyrocketed in recent years.

Since 2011, the number of haredi academic students doubled, from 6,000 to 12,000 in 2015, 100% increase in just four years.

But Omasi also noted that the number of dropouts from these programs was enormous. Including participants of preparatory programs, roughly 75% of haredi students drop out before graduation.

During the conference, MK Manuel Trajtenberg (Zionist Union) also raised the issue of anti-haredi discrimination.

“Let’s be honest about it: there is discrimination against haredi workers in employment, and it’s something we have to fight against.”

In March the Knesset passed a law adding haredim to the list of underrepresented groups vis-à-vis affirmative action laws.