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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Get These Hoodlums a Job

Rabbi Horowitz is circulating a petition to sign regarding the violence in Beit Shemesh. I wish him and the peaceful citizens of Beit Shemesh hatzlacha. But what is really needed is to get these "men" some jobs. If these men were at work, they simply would not have time to spray bleach, set shops ablaze, or beat people up. 'Nuff said.

15 comments:

Ariella said...

Your suggestion is based on common sense, which is why it will probably not be implemented. But Chazal themselves observed that batala [idleness} can lead to trouble.

Ora said...

While Israelis love to say that hareidi men should "just get a job," the truth is that for most of them (talking ramat beit shemesh "beit" men now, not all hareidim) that's simply not possible. They lack even high school diplomas (bagrut exams) and so aren't qualified for most jobs. They didn't go to the army, so they aren't allowed to work until a certain age (late twenties, I think). Even when they can work, most jobs in stores and restaurants specifically ask for someone who did army service. That leaves manual labor--and roughly 98% of the jobs in manual labor have been given to PA arabs or asian workers, who are paid much less than Jewish laborers (they can get by with less, as goods in the west bank/gaza and east asia are much, much cheaper than they are here). I know one hareidi man who succeeded in getting a construction job (he was the one Jew hired, along with 20-something PA arabs). He made a ridiculously low income that wasn't enough to support his wife and one baby, even with cutting every cost imaginable.

The only option I've seen succeed is for hareidi men without bagrut tests or army service to open their own businesses. It can work, but it just isn't an option for most people.

Zach Kessin said...

Part of the problem is that these men were put in this position by design. The Rabbis decided that men should not have any vocational training or do anything else which might make them employable, so they are not.

Various suggestions have been made which the Haradi community has rejected. (Like say the Tal Law)

At this point I have very little sympathy.

SephardiLady said...

Market rate is market rate. So if you want to possibly work your way up, you have to start at the bottom like everyone else.

If is a huge disservice that these men don't have the prereqs to work in Israel. So expect we will see more restlessness and more violence because it is the logical outcome. Chazal has already informed us of such as per Ariella.

ora said...

sephardilady--

Work your way up? From what??? These men cannot get ANY jobs--not as caretakers, not as cashiers, not as waiters, not even as cheap labor on farms or construction sites. The case I mentioned was the exception to the rule, and the rule is that even low-paying jobs in construction tend to be unavailable to Jewish men.

It's easy to say "oh well, that's market rate," but when market rate is so low that a single person can barely support himself, let alone a family, there's a serious problem. Normally we trust market rates to be based on the ease of finding laborers in the country in question, but in this case laborers are brought in from all over the world and "market rate" is based on the global, not the Israeli, economy.

We can only put so much blame on hareidi society--if Israelis, particularly the rich ones, were willing to pay decent wages to construction workers, cleaners, and home care providers (jobs that in other countries, such as America, do provide a decent living), there would be jobs available for hareidim. As it is, a large number of the physical labor jobs made available to Jews are taken by hareidim who are happy to have them, at least in Jerusalem.

ora said...

Zach--
I realize that hareidi boys and men are left without a secular education by design. Why does that leave you with "very little sympathy"? What choice does a 10-year-old boy have in the school he's going to attend? What understanding does he have of the reprecussions of his current education? Why should we blame him if, due to circumstances beyond his control, he's left without the basic education necessary for pretty much every type of job? There are teens and men who decide to leave the hareidi community, and it takes them years and a lot of money to get to the point of earning a high school diploma. It's not at all an easy thing to do or something that the kids in the system can change for themselves.

Again, to a large extent I blame (non-hareidi) Israelis. Yes, hareidi leaders reject efforts to bring in secular education and army/national service. Fine. We do not have to actively support them in their decision to reject Israeli society and impose a lack of secular education on their communities, but we do. Israel funds their schools and funds their kollels while knowing full well that the kids aren't learning math, writing, etc, and aren't serving in the army. It's our choice to allow a not-insignificant part of Israeli society to be left with no job options, and IMO that means we lose a lot of the right to complain when much of that part of society later lives off of welfare or similar programs.

Zach Kessin said...

True there is not much a 10 year old can do. But that is why you have parents. Parents are supposed to look out for their kids futures, thats part of the job. I'm no expert but Torah law says that a man is required to teach his son a trade.

The parents and rabbis have been derelict in their responsibilities to the next generation of their community.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Ora, I must respectfully but adamantly disagree with you. No honest work should be beneath a Jew to support his family and his dignity. If an Arab or another foreign worker is willing to work for that wage so as to scrape by, that means it can be done. Miserably, maybe; but it can be done.

As to your reference to America - don't forget that many of our immigrant grandparents came to an America where they worked at the most menial, low-paying, sweatshop-and-worse jobs imaginable. There were no minimum wage laws, and no protections. They made sure that their children got skills and education; and within ONE GENERATION completely changed the their economic situation. But they were willing to work and compete. Everything was set against them; haven't you heard of Jews who had to get a new job every week because they got fired on Friday when they said they wouldn't work on Shabbat?

We had a frum neighbour, an immigrant from Germany just before WWII. All their children are Torah and secular educated and making real contributions in both realms. He was a successful businessman in Germany, making a nice living. In America, he could only find work cleaning a baker's equipment because he wouldn't work on Shabbat. Nothing stopped him, and his rewards in this world (his successful family) and the world to come are great.

Some of our hachamim, like Rabi Yohanan haSandlar (the shoemaker!) or Rabi Yehoshua (made charcoal)or Rabi Akiva (a shepherd)set the example. It is about time that people stopped avoiding honest work and got around to contributing to the spiritual and physical development of Jewish society in the Land of Israel. When did that stop being a mitzvah...?

Chaim B. said...

L'shitasam the ideal is for the men to be busy in kollel - who has time to take from learning to burn shops or throw bleach on people?

ora said...

"Ora, I must respectfully but adamantly disagree with you. No honest work should be beneath a Jew to support his family and his dignity."

Mordechai, apparently I didn't explain myself very well. This isn't an issue of "dignity," it's an issue of getting a job in the first place. The kind of people who hire Arabs from the PA or east Asians prefer foreign workers, who can be more easily bossed around and who can usually be paid less than minimum wage. Many of the workers are illegal, and the bosses who hire them would not want to hire legal Israeli workers for a variety of reasons.

"If an Arab or another foreign worker is willing to work for that wage so as to scrape by, that means it can be done. Miserably, maybe; but it can be done."

Not necessarily. The cost of living in Jenin, for example, is to the best of my knowledge about 25-35% of the cost of living in the Jerusalem area (not in Jerusalem itself--that's no longer possible for the poor). Ditto for the cost of living in the philipines or thailand, where a few shekels go a long way. The same salary that allows a worker from Bethlehem to support his entire family would allow a hareidi man to support, maybe, himself and one additional person.

I'm not denying that there is some work available to hareidim who lack a secular education (those who have a secular education tend to do well financially speaking), and that anyone who is desperate for money should take what they can get. A lot of hareidim DO put in the kind of effort you describe, btw. According to recent studies, those hareidim who work (both men and women) tend to make a lot less money than the average Israeli, often less than minimum wage, but tend to express more gratitude for having a job.

I don't know if changing labor laws in Israel would help or not. Maybe if men had the option of supporting their families, or at least making a significant financial contribution, with tough physical labor a lot more hareidi men facing financial struggles would go to work for a while. Maybe not. I do know there's a reason for laws on mandatory education and minimum wage, and I think Israel would be better off enforcing said laws. And I can imagine that it would be difficult to go to work knowing that if by some miracle you manage to get hired, you'll still need to beg to meet your basic needs at the end of each month full of back-breaking labor.

One more thing--you should realize that many of the Jewish grandparents and greatgrandparents you so proudly mention managed to "make it" by ditching yiddishkeit, working on Shabbat, and assimilating. For each success story who managed to stay religious and send his kids on to be rich doctor/rabbis, there are many who have few or no Jewish grandchildren because they had to join non-Jewish society in order to make it into school or work.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Ora,
I'll start from the end. I'm well aware there were many (most?) who left their tefillin at Ellis Island. The point remains that there were many, many who did not and provided a model of 'can-do' that much of today's haredi population chooses not to follow.

I would like to know that someone even applied for a manual labour job before I'll be willing to believe that they were turned down in favour of an Arab "who can more easily be bossed around". I have seen Jews doing these jobs, as well as skilled and semi-skilled trades, but not many. What's more, I think (no statistics here) that I saw more haredi Jews doing those jobs 30 years ago than now. As far as the grey and black wages go, I can't dispute that.

As far as cost of living goes, this is a non-issue. Poor haredim are already living in squalor. Doing manual labour isn't going to make that worse. What's more, since a fair amount of business I see being done in the haredi sector is grey or black (avoiding VAT or other taxes, etc.), these guys could be paid the same way IF they wanted to do the work. I am not approving a grey or black under-the-table economy; I am simply observing it is already in place.

'Avodah Ivrit' or literal 'Torah im Derech Eretz' is a concept that has faded more and more in the haredi population in the last few decades. I don't know why; but that really appears to be the case. I remember 30 years ago older haredi men without secular education working trades, skilled and semi-skilled labour, and running non-specialized businesses like hardware stores or transportation. There seems to be less inclination to do that. It doesn't bring honour to Torah, nor honour to the people involved. I think alot of the 'explanations' offered are really rationalizations.

The 'Admor HaHalutz' (brother of the Piezecner/Aish Kodesh) wrote "I would transport manure, if need be, to be able to maintain my hold in the Holy Land." (my translation) That attitude is sorely missing!

Ahavah B. said...

"The only option I've seen succeed is for hareidi men without bagrut tests or army service to open their own businesses. It can work, but it just isn't an option for most people."

People so lacking in basic skills that they can't pass the high school graduation exam aren't going to be able to run a business.

"It's easy to say "oh well, that's market rate," but when market rate is so low that a single person can barely support himself, let alone a family, there's a serious problem. Normally we trust market rates to be based on the ease of finding laborers in the country in question, but in this case laborers are brought in from all over the world and "market rate" is based on the global, not the Israeli, economy."

You haven't seen anything yet. This problem is only going to get worse.

"Israel funds their schools and funds their kollels while knowing full well that the kids aren't learning math, writing, etc, and aren't serving in the army. It's our choice to allow a not-insignificant part of Israeli society to be left with no job options, and IMO that means we lose a lot of the right to complain when much of that part of society later lives off of welfare or similar programs."

Agreed. Every child in these schools should be required to take an educational assessment exam every year or two, proctored by non-cheredi independent observers. Each school that doesn't meet a reasonable standard of passing students should have their funds cut off, period. It is not in society's best interest to fund schools that turn out people that can't be productive members of the society at large.

"There were no minimum wage laws, and no protections. They made sure that their children got skills and education; and within ONE GENERATION completely changed the their economic situation. But they were willing to work and compete. Everything was set against them; haven't you heard of Jews who had to get a new job every week because they got fired on Friday when they said they wouldn't work on Shabbat?"

Amein. And there are evening courses for passing the high school exams, too. Anyone who really wants to get ahead can certainly do so if they're willing - but these men are not willing.

"I remember 30 years ago older haredi men without secular education working trades, skilled and semi-skilled labour, and running non-specialized businesses like hardware stores or transportation. There seems to be less inclination to do that. It doesn't bring honour to Torah, nor honour to the people involved. I think alot of the 'explanations' offered are really rationalizations."

The young men today have been taught they they are far to superior to engage in manual labor - it's society's job to support them, they are told. They are doing the "highest service possible" to Israel and Judaism by sitting around on their bums doing nothing economically useful - that's what they're taught. I agree with the statement above that kids can't help being taught by people whose grasp of reality is not all that great, but at some point in their late teen years they should be able to see the consequences of their actions and adjust their trajectory accordingly. That's what secular kids do - but these boys are told by Rabbis that they'll go to hell if they dare disobey what they have been taught. They're told they're just not davening hard enough if their budget isn't being met.

It's child abuse, frankly.

ora said...

Mordechai--
"I'll start from the end. I'm well aware there were many (most?) who left their tefillin at Ellis Island. The point remains that there were many, many who did not and provided a model of 'can-do' that much of today's haredi population chooses not to follow."

My point was, not all/not many people had the inner strength to provide that "can-do" model. I don't think it's realistic to expect an entire community to have that kind of strength. In theory everyone could do it, in reality many won't be able to.

"I would like to know that someone even applied for a manual labour job before I'll be willing to believe that they were turned down in favour of an Arab "who can more easily be bossed around"."

It's not about Jew vs. Arab, it's about Israeli vs. non-Israeli. An Israeli employee can file a complaint, a non-Israeli employee is risking deportation if they do the same.

Personal experience here: When I worked cleaning houses, I was hired only by religious families, b/c they were the ones who wanted davka a Jew. Nobody would hire me as a caretaker (my job in the states) because philipina women are willing to sign on for 2 years, 24 hours a day six days a week, at an average salary that's well below minimum wage, and I wasn't.

I've seen that jobs in home health care (not overnight) are filled by either philipina women, russian women, or hareidi women. My friend's grandmother recently decided she wanted a Jewish caretaker, and all of the applicants have been hareidi. It's a difficult, low-paying job that hareidim are clearly happy to do when given a chance. I know that's just anecdotal evidence, but that's all I've got for now. I don't know as much about traditionally male fields. This discussion has made me curious though, so I'm going to have to grill my husband's hareidi friends for answers.

"'Avodah Ivrit' or literal 'Torah im Derech Eretz' is a concept that has faded more and more in the haredi population in the last few decades."

'Avodah Ivrit' is a concept that has faded more and more in almost every segment of the Jewish population. How many kibbutzim still have Jewish labor in their greenhouses? Who is paving our roads and building our apartments these days?

I think we're looking at this issue from opposite ends. You're asking what the individual, in this case a hareidi man with no income living in poverty, can do to improve his lot. I'm asking what we (Israel) as a country can do to change the situation. Realisitically, what I think as a dati leumi woman does not matter one whit to those in Ramat Beit Shemesh Beit (as opposed to the almost exclusively sane aleph and the non-hareidi givat beit shemesh), so I can't affect things from the individual's perspective. However, as a country we could create policies that would lead to increased hareidi participation in the workforce. The policies we need are, IMO: 1) mandatory secular education and 2) whatever is necessary to make work more tempting than no work.

Getting secular subjects into boys' schools would be extremely difficult, but may be possible in exchange for a LOT of funding for yeshivot (coalition politics, what can you do...). The other issue is, it's currently possible to either scrape by with welfare/tzedaka or to scrape by with a minimum-wage-or-lower job. Basically, the situation for a hareidi man working on the black market is hardly different from that of a hareidi man learning in kollel. If we could change the balance to make work more tempting, I think more people would choose work. If we just tell them to suck it up and get working at NIS 3,500/month or less, the situation is unlikely to change.

ora said...

Ahuvah--
"People so lacking in basic skills that they can't pass the high school graduation exam aren't going to be able to run a business."

Not necessarily. In Israel the exam includes English, science, and history--three important subjects that your average clothing store or falafel stand owner can get by without. My former boss, a hareidi man who owned his own store, didn't speak any English, but he was a great businessman and his shop has been quite successful.

"at some point in their late teen years they should be able to see the consequences of their actions and adjust their trajectory accordingly. That's what secular kids do"

How do secular kids do this?

I think another issue, in Israel at least, could be that hareidi men are not allowed to work if they don't do the army. Since going to the army means being completely cut off in many communities, the men will be unemployed until age 27 or so. IMO it's hard for someone to have the right attitude towards work after that much time spend unemployed (even if the time was spend doing something productive, ie learning Torah). IMO the longer one spends living off of money they didn't earn, the easier it is to just get used to the situation and come to see it as natural.

ora said...

There was an article in Maan recently (hardly an unbiased source, but still) saying that three Israeli factories just fired dozens of Palestinian Authority workers after the workers asked for the same rights enjoyed by Israeli workers. This is the kind of thing I was talking about, this is why people prefer to hire non-Israelis. It is corrupt + wrong + bad for all involved, and I hope the government does something to improve the situation soon.