Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) make up roughly 12% of Israel’s population. The value placed on Torah study and living a modest lifestyle means that many of the Haredi population do not work, and those that do are often employed in part-time and lower-paid jobs. As a result, almost half (43%) of ultra-Orthodox families live below the poverty line. The vast majority of Haredim finish school with neither a matriculation certificate nor the skills needed to enter the workforce.
Kemach helps Haredi men and women to obtain the qualifications they need to find employment without compromising their beliefs or lifestyles.
Endorsed by the Rabbonim in Haredi communities, Kemach is one of the key organisations for Haredim who want to pull themselves out of poverty by joining the workforce. Kemach’s range of services include scholarships to study, a job placement centre, professional guidance and mentorship services and a co-working space.
Since 2013, UJIA has been supporting Haredi students in the Galil to attend university through our life-changing scholarships.
During this past year, UJIA enabled 86 young Haredi adults acquire a higher education path towards financial self-sufficiency. These students attended 26 different institutions and studied subjects ranging from accountancy and engineering to social work and computer science.
Social work student Hodaya is 26 years old. The third eldest in a family of nine children, Hodaya grew up in Migdal HaEmek. Her hard-working parents – her father is a butcher in a meat factory and her mother is a housewife – raised her with love and, despite challenges, Hodaya received a full matriculation certificate and enrolled as a social work student at the University of Haifa. She studies hard in the hope of being able to offer high-quality professional support to her community upon graduating.
“The UJIA Kemach scholarship gives me peace of mind and the ability to study comfortably”, says Hodaya. “I live on loans and couldn’t afford to go to university. Unfortunately, my parents cannot help, they do not have enough for themselves. Without the UJIA Kemach scholarship, I would not have been to study today.”
Natan is a Psychology student at Zafed Academic College. The eldest of seven children, Natan grew up in the Breslav community, in Zafed’s Maor Haim neighbourhood. His father works in a bookstore and teaches in a yeshiva and his mother is a housewife.
Natan previously studied in yeshiva and did not learn secular subjects. Undaunted by his lack of a high school matriculation certificate, after he married, Natan resolved to enter higher education in order to be able to provide for his family. Motivated by a traumatic experience while in school, he chose to study psychology: “I want to help Haredi students who have gone through difficult experiences like me.”
Before COVID-19 hit Israel, Natan worked part-time in a greengrocer’s, contributing to the family income whilst studying. “Unfortunately, during the COVID crisis, I was furloughed”, he says. “The UJIA Kemach scholarship saved me.”
Being able to continue studying in such challenging times is not something Natan takes for granted. By completing higher education, Natan is determined to repay the investment in him by making a professional contribution to his community.