Thursday, September 29, 2005

Israel urges ultra-Orthodox Jews to work

Steven Silber:

Dudi Zilbershlag is an ultra-Orthodox Jew who wears the beard, black coat and skullcap of a community steeped in centuries of tradition.

A key difference between him and most of the hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews -- or haredim -- in Israel is that Zilbershlag, a consultant and newspaper publisher, works.

More than 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox adults in the country do not work, says the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and 55 percent of the community of up to 800,000 lives below the poverty line.

Government subsidies, especially for child care, and a fear army service will erode their way of life have kept many haredim studying Judaism's holy books full time, even though their cousins outside the Jewish state work.

Their absence from the army can isolate them and prevent them from integrating fully into the workforce.

"When we didn't have our own country almost all the haredim had to have an occupation. The rabbis in the Talmud were shoemakers and farmers and blacksmiths, because they needed to have a livelihood," said Shlomo Maital, academic director of the Technion School of Management in Tel Aviv.

"Now that we have our own country and a welfare state, the welfare state is regarded by them as something that should support all haredim rather than just a tiny select few."

Maital said if groups such as the haredim, handicapped people and students worked, Israel could add another $12 billion to its 2004 gross domestic product of $122 billion.

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At 3:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such a notion.


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