From Unemployable to Employer
May 13, 2019
Fifteen years ago, Shlomo Goldberg had no job, no resume, and no professional education. But as a member of Israel’s Haredi community, that wasn’t unusual.
At the time, nearly three in four Haredim lived below the poverty line, and fewer than half of all Haredi men had any sort of employment.
“In the Haredi community, most of the time we only study Torah, and we don’t study general subjects,” Goldberg said. “When we want to join the workforce, we have a gap that needs to be bridged.”
In a community with widespread unemployment among men and underemployment among women, poverty is a systemic problem. Tackling it requires more than just welfare — it means empowering Haredim to develop the skills they need to both secure employment and to thrive in a 21st-century workplace.
Shlomo was an early participant in Parnasa Be’Kavod (Employment with Dignity), one of JDC’s first Haredi employment programs designed to offer professional training to Haredi men in a safe, inviting environment. JDC operates programs like Parnasa Be’Kavod with the full support of Haredi community leaders and rabbis; the goal is not to draw yeshiva students away from their learning, but instead to provide options for those whose future lies outside the yeshiva world or who wish to incorporate work into yeshiva life.
In the years since, JDC has continued to refine and expand its Haredi employment initiative. In 2006, it piloted the first Mafteach training center — a facility, run entirely by members of the Haredi community, where JDC could fully implement its holistic approach to preparing Haredim for the workforce. The pilot was a success: Today, there are 12 Mafteach centers with the combined capacity to serve 10,000 Haredi Israelis every year.
The success and growth of the Mafteach centers is emblematic of JDC’s unique partnership with the Government of Israel. In 2016, JDC handed off the operation of the centers to the government, which has the resources to maintain and grow the program. In this way, JDC provides social R&D, creating innovative approaches to serve Israelis in need, the best of which then become government services on a national scale.
Over the past 10 years, JDC has increased Haredi employment among men by 10 percent and among women by almost 20 percent. Thanks in part to JDC’s transformative work, more than half of the men in Israel’s Haredi community now have jobs.
Goldberg is one of the men whose life was transformed by JDC’s employment programs. He graduated Parnasa Be’Kavod a skilled programmer and was able to find a job putting those skills into practice. At the same time, he began writing a blog titled Ha’Rav DotNet. The first kosher Hebrew blog for programmers, Ha’Rav DotNet quickly became popular, launching Goldberg to stardom within the Haredi community as a public speaker. By sharing his story, he now inspires others to reimagine their lives and take proactive steps to become self-sufficient.
Four years ago, Goldberg took the next step in his tech career: He opened his own software and web development company, named after his blog. Today, Ha’Rav DotNet is an in-demand developer that’s created systems for companies like Microsoft and Amdocs, as well as the Israeli government. Goldberg has 20 employees, almost all of them Haredi men.
In his transformation from unemployable to employer, Goldberg epitomizes the powerful ripple effect JDC’s employment work has had —and continues to have — on the Haredi population. He is not just a successful entrepreneur; he is empowering the next generation of Haredi men, giving them the same “employment with dignity” JDC helped him achieve all those years ago.
“We’re proud of our work to advance employment opportunities for Haredi men, one of the many chronically underemployed groups we focus on,” said Sigal Shelach, Director General of JDC Israel. “We know that when we lift the lives of Israel’s most vulnerable populations, we strengthen the whole country and ensure a bright future for all Israelis. and for Jews all over the world.”
WHEN WE LIFT THE LIVES OF ISRAEL’S MOST VULNERABLE POPULATIONS, WE STRENGTHEN THE WHOLE COUNTRY.