A haredi MA student explains the hard reality of being stuck in an Ultra Orthodox world with no options, no training, and no way out of the poverty/donation cycle. Instead of blaming the government for funding Yeshiva stipends, he blames the Yeshiva heads for creating bad programs.
Avraham Bitkin is a student in social work. He is also a father of four. He is also Haredi, or Ultra Orthodox. There are currently about 5,000 like him studying in institutions of higher education. The problem, he says, is not that others don’t want to learn. It’s rather that they’re stuck and have no skills and no way to attain an education.
“Those who yell that the haredi public must go out and work are rightfully doing so. Earning a profession and working is possible, and should be encouraged. We must give the haredim tools to take care of themselves, and not be a burden on society.”
Bitkin blamed a group of people who usually aren’t seen as the culprit. Not the government and not the Yeshiva students – those who sit and get stipends and don’t work – themselves. Rather, Bitkin blames the heads of the government-funded Yeshivot.
“The study program at the yeshivot is not directed at anything. You enter a yeshiva and have no idea what you’ll come out with,” he said.
“I did the whole haredi course of studies, and after I finished I realized that if I don’t learn a profession, the poverty in Bnei Brak can reach me too,” he added.
Bitkin described the sad reality in a Haredi yeshiva as students doing nothing, “hanging around” with a cup of coffee and passing time. Yet, they still receive stipends, something he described as “destructive.”
“You can spot a lot of guys who are just hanging around all day with a cup of coffee or tea, and just passing the time. Giving these people stipends is destructive, and will only widen the gaps,” he said.
Matti Feldmen, also a haredi and father of five in an MA program, explained how the situation is forced on so many young Ultra Orthodox men and does blame the government partly for not offering enough incentives for Haredim to work. “Take into account,” he says, “that some of these people didn’t have much choice in life. They reached the age of 18 and were married off before attending yeshiva.”
“Even if they wanted to do something differently – what could they do? They don’t have an education or a matriculation certificate. They’re stuck – it’s a nightmare. People give them a hard time, but they don’t understand how sad it can be; they are very restricted.”
The solution, he said, is secular studies from elementary school on, and scholarships for Haredim with large families to learn a profession.
“When a father of 10 wants to change his life and study an academic profession, what is he supposed to do? Haredi students must be encouraged by being given more opportunities and scholarships,” he said.