Hi-Tech Offering Israel’s Orthodox Jews A Job Path [Haredi Hi-Tech Forum]

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JERUSALEM — In a chic auditorium typically reserved for late-night concerts,  Israel’s next generation of high-tech entrepreneurs are gathered. Though their vocation is modern, their appearance and lifestyle are distinctly traditional and they are seated separately — men to the left, woman to the right.

It’s a first for Israel, a high-tech conference designed specifically for haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Haredi men at the high-tech conference in Jerusalem, Jan. 15, 2013.            Photo by Emil Salman

They are a community long stigmatized for enjoying sweeping draft exemptions and raising large families on taxpayer-funded handouts. They are under ever-growing pressure to break out of their cloistered world of scripture study and get jobs.

In recent years they have indeed begun joining the work force, and some have found an unlikely home in the country’s booming high-tech industry.

That changing reality was illustrated by last week’s gathering of bearded men in black suits and women in head coverings and long dresses who came to network at a leading Jerusalem venture capital firm.

Yitzik Crombie, who initiated the Haredi Hi-Tech Forum, says about 10,000 haredim work in high-tech, 75 percent of them women.

Although they may lack basic math and science skills, advocates say their intense, methodical study of ancient religious texts provides tools that are oddly applicable to computer programing.

Someone who finished yeshiva and studied Talmud and Gemara, his brain is built for high-tech,” said Crombie, a 30-year-old haredi and chief executive of  iSale, which offers mobile guided selling solutions to businesses. “With a little faith, we can make a major breakthrough and become leaders in the field.

To continue reading this article, click here.  Photo by Emil Salman, Haaretz

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