One of the most important achievements of the last Keneset in Israel is that it provided mechanisms for the Charedi world to enter the workforce and thereby better provide for their families and contribute to the overall economy.

Some of these mechanisms are controversial by Israeli Charedi standards. Such as requiring Yeshiva elementary and high schools to offer a core curriculum in order to be supported by the state. But there are other incentives which have been established outside the state that are less controversial. Like programs in Machon Lev, and Kiryat Ono, and Adina Bar Shalom’s Charedi College. Additionally there are a variety of smaller programs designed to help Charedim. Like Kemach.

The requirement of all Israeli citizens for army service before going to work is being satisfied by programs like Nachal Charedi. Perhaps the biggest incentive of all is the exemption of Charedim from army service if they reach a certain age before 2017… when the new draft laws are in place. That has freed up thousands of Charedim to materially improve their lives and those of their families.

There is a lot of work still to be done in this area. Not to mention the fact a there will be a new Keneset in place that will surely include the Charedi parties. And they may very well try and roll back some of this progress. In the meantime, though,  it appears that more Charedim than ever are entering the workplace.

But there’s a fly in the ointment. One that is very disturbing and can wreck the entire thing. FromArutz Sheva:

Haredi men and women who do complete a form of National Service or university studies are stunned to find that employers shun them, Walla! News reports Tuesday, as the workforce is increasingly entering the catch-22 of requiring a broad range of experiences for entry-level jobs.

 

According to a March 2014 survey, commissioned by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there is significant discrimination against haredi workers. 30% of respondents expressed reluctance to work with a haredi man and over a third of employers (37%) expressed a reluctance to employ haredi men.

I was disheartened to read some of the comments by Charedim that have been mistreated along those lines. Here is just one of them:

“When I get an interview, they always look me over from head to toe, like I’m a strange bird,” Shmuel, a 33 year-old from Ashdod, stated to the news agency. Shmuel served in the IDF and studied electrical engineering, despite some resistance from family and friends.

 

“Even my previous employer, who made me responsible for production workers, made sure I would feel uncomfortable and signaled me to leave,” he lamented. “The feeling is hard: you want to fit in, but no one wants you.”

 

Shmuel feels helpless… he does not understand the complaints against him and the haredi community for not going to work – because he himself can barely eke out a living despite his choice.  “I feel like I’ve wasted my time…”

If there is anti Charedi discrimination in the workforce, something ought to be done about it. Their civil rights should be no less protected than any other minority class. Whether that discrimination is based on race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. These are all protected minorities that have experienced wholesale prejudice. Charedim deserve no less protection in my view. I can think of little that upsets me more than a class of people trying to do the right thing and being rebuffed by pre-existing prejudices.

That said, we ought to examine that bias and see if it has any merit. In some cases reluctance to hire a Charedi individual may be because of legitimate concerns. I recall one entrepreneur in Lakewood who was sympathetic to the poverty so prevalent in that world. He went out of his way to hire former Lakewood Avreichim.

But he found their attitude to be counter to the work ethic he expected of them as an employer. For example when interviewing an individual who has just left Kollel for a job, the job applicant demanded that he be allowed to leave early every Friday so that he could properly prepare for Shabbos. What this employer saw was a feeling of entitlement to a schedule they were used to as former Avrechim. Which does not fit with the demands of the job. So that even though he wanted to give these job opportunities to Avrechim, he found it hard to do so and run his business properly.

If employers feel that they will be getting some kind of religious prima-donna for a worker they may very well be reluctant to hire them… and with good reason.

I don’t know how much of this reluctance by employers to hire Charedim have to do with legitimate concerns and how much is due to plain old fashioned prejudice. But one thing is for sure, it ought to stop. Every applicant that qualifies for a job ought to be given a fair shot without prejudice. And they should be allowed to prove themselves at work without being watched with a jaundiced eye.

At the same time, Charedi workers must learn that their obligations to the job requires them to forgo their previous perks as Avreichim. Like leaving work early on Friday. They need to know that they are no different than their fellow non Charedi workers and not to expect special treatment. I think a little understanding and cooperation from both sides will go a long way toward solving this kind of prejudice in the workplace. In the meantime, anti discrimination legislation should be passed so that it will enable them to the Charedi world to achieve the financial success promised them by entering the workforce.