From the CEO: JDC's New Employment Opportunities for Israel's Ultra-Orthodox

Alan H. Gill

– Chief Executive Officer

These first, action-packed weeks in my new position have enabled me to view JDC's global work through a new lens. As our colleagues report in on breaking developments or ongoing critical issues, I am more impressed than ever by the complexity and sensitivity of our worldwide operations. I'll be sharing this panoramic view with you, as well as updates on changing political and economic events that may impact our work, through a regular "From the CEO" series here on our Field Blog.

To lead off our new series, I will focus on Israel and the cutting-edge manner in which JDC is helping the country confront one of its key socioeconomic challenges—the need to engage all of its working-age citizens in the labor market. It is no coincidence that social issues predominated in the campaign leading up to last month's general elections in Israel, and that the vulnerable Israelis with whom JDC is concerned made their voices heard more clearly than ever before. This reinforces our commitment to equip Israelis of all ages and backgrounds with the tools they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.

Michael Novick, one of JDC’s senior professionals, recently visited the Central Bottling Company (CBC) facility in Sorek, southeast of Tel Aviv. A subsidiary of Coca Cola, CBC has become a key corporate partner of Mafteach, the one-stop employment centers for Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men and women who are motivated to enter the workforce. Mafteach is an excellent example of a successful partnership between JDC and the Government of Israel, and Michael's report reflects the success we've achieved through these centers, as attested to by management officers at one of our global economy's most powerful brands! Michael's account follows:

I’ve been to a few Mafteach program sites prior to visiting the CBC plant in Sorek, but none that focused upon the importance and effectiveness of large corporate job placement. It was really inspiring to hear top Coca Cola management talk about their sense of corporate social responsibility for the future of Israeli society. They explained that today, there is a big demand for workers with skills for jobs that are difficult to fill and require specialized training.

Mafteach fulfills those requirements, they said, and the Haredi employees whom they have hired are truly exceptional. Notwithstanding the extra costs incurred to accommodate their special requirements, the plant managers mentioned the important values that Haredi employees bring to the work place—loyalty, honesty, integrity, and dedication—and emphasized the fact that they are hard working, productive, quick learners, and have a low turnover rate.

We went into the Coca Cola warehouse and had the opportunity to meet five of the 37 Haredi employees hired so far. They were talkative, engaging, and confident.

Phillip—a 24-year-old Czech-born Israeli—is from the Haredi farming community of Kommimiyut, unique for its dedication to the Haredi way of life in a rural setting. Since his wife works only seasonally, his job is critical to the family’s well being. “When you add up the costs of paying for a mortgage, heder for the children, even just food to get by on, it’s impossible without going to work,” he says.

When asked if it is really considered acceptable to go out to work at Coca-Cola, Phillip proudly declares: “Everybody does it where I live—Shabbos is Shabbos and the other days of the week we work,” adding that he still learns every night in his community.

The Haredi employees were incredibly appreciative of the opportunities provided by both JDC and Coca Cola, and they smiled virtually non-stop the entire time. It was particularly moving to see their warm interaction with their boss, which demonstrated the highest level of mutual respect. I walked out of there humming, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke!”

Mafteach employment centers reach out to corporate partners throughout Israel who are looking for skilled workers in order to meet the needs of a rapidly growing, high-tech economy. Over 26,000 Haredi adults have walked through the doors of the eight centers established to date, and almost 2/3 of them have jobs today. Clearly, an achievement to be proud of—and one ripe for expansion as we continue to invest in Israel's human capital.



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