Technion Providing High-Tech Education, Opportunities to Ultra-Orthodox Population

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology - already known as the educator of the engineers who drive Israel's high-tech economy - is launching a program that will further aid the nation by integrating members of the previously unreached ultra-Orthodox population into the technology-driven work force.

Seen as an important pilot for other potential programs, the "Technological Education Program at the Technion for the ultra-Orthodox Sector" will engage ultra-Orthodox Jews, who receive little to no education in mathematics and the sciences.

 Street in Bnei Brak

The ultra-Orthodox population places a strong focus on Torah studies, and employment plays only a minor role.  More than 25 percent of Israel's first year school children are ultra-Orthodox, and the education they receive does not include the core studies necessary for developing technological and scientific skills.

The Technion will run the program at the Haredi College in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Bnei Brak (near Tel Aviv), making it attractive to potential ultra-Orthodox students, who tend to be married with children, and reluctant or unable to leave their communities in central Israel to move to the Technion campus in Haifa.

Developed at the Technion Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the new program is based on a unique partnership with the Israeli Mapping Center (a government institution in charge of the mapping of Israel).  Graduates will earn a bachelor's degree in Mapping and Geoinformation, and be granted an accredited surveyor license. The Israeli Mapping Center will guarantee jobs to program graduates.  The program is accredited by Israel's Council on Higher Education.

Students will begin the program with 15 months of pre-academic studies, followed by a three-year academic program.  Some classes will be taught via remote learning, but students will be required to spend one day each week at the Technion, mostly to learn in a laboratory setting.  Pre-academic studies will begin this September, and academic studies in January 2013.

"This program takes into account cultural and political constraints, and provides these young people with the tools needed for entering the job market, including core studies to which they were not exposed in school," said Civil and Environmental Engineering Dean Prof. Arnon Bentur.  "By following these core studies with education for a profession, we will boost Israel's technological sector."

Program organizers also say that once they enter the workforce, graduates will serve as role models demonstrating that there need not be a contradiction between participation in the workforce and the ultra-Orthodox way of life.

"As an institution that has been contributing to the state in every field of life since its establishment almost one hundred years ago, the Technion is proud to contribute its part to this national mission - providing a wage-earning profession to the ultra-Orthodox public," said Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie.

Programs for ultra-Orthodox not new for Technion

The program is the next step in the Technion's ongoing efforts including established 18-month pre-academic studies Mechina program designed for ultra-Orthodox students, to make education available to the ultra-Orthodox community.

An example is Eliezer Morganstern, a second year mechanical engineering student whose studies focus on robotics.  Born and raised in a Chabad community, he attended yeshiva until he was 18 years old.

Many meeting Morganstern for the first time are surprised that he learned solely at yeshiva growing up, and didn't learn anything beyond basic math until he was an adult. But he laughs that off. "I love it.  It's very hard and challenging and it keeps me on my toes, which is good."

Morganstern lives with his wife Michal (whom he met while they were both in officers' training in the Israeli Air Force) and their three children in the Technion's graduate student village.  The couple hosts Shabbat dinners frequently with large groups of students and celebrate holidays with the community there. "The building where we live is like a kibbutz in the middle of the city, with a nice mix of Orthodox and non-Orthodox people."

In addition to his studies, Morganstern is the regional director of the Lone Soldier Center (a program for soldiers without a support base in Israel) in Haifa and the North, and an active member of Engineers Without Borders at the Technion. He helps run the Chabad on campus and is also studying to be a rabbi.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is consistently ranked among the world's leading science and technology universities.  Home to the country's first winners of the Nobel Prize in science, the Technion commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, energy, water-resource management, medicine, drug development, and aerospace.  Headquartered in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) promotes scientific and technological research and education at the Technion.


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