A Wall In Its Midst (Beliba Choma)

We are working on two of the most important issues in the Israeli society, first, to build strong bridges between the Secular and the Haredi people. second to help the Haredi people integrate into workforce. join us to reach this two goals!
Location: Jerusalem
Year founded: 2012

Description

Project “BeLiba Choma” (A Wall in its Midst) was established 3 years ago by young social activists from Jerusalem, following a public struggle led by students, between the non-religious and ultra-orthodox sectors of Israeli society. The founders of the project believed that public struggles were not the key to promoting and developing the state of Israel, but rather finding the issues that the two sectors – the non-religious and the ultra-orthodox – have in common. By doing this, they will be able to build a cooperation between the two sectors and create a connection of mutual responsibility. The project goal two is twofold: first, to support the dramatic process that has begun in the Israeli society over the past few years, where young ultra-orthodox - boys and girls - are joining the high education system in order to get a degree and later on join the Israeli workforce. We see this process as being one of the most important and essential moves in building Israel’s financial and social strength. And second, to create a bridge between the two sectors of Israeli society, by giving them the opportunity to meet each other directly and allowing the young members of both sectors to build an unmediated, strong connection. Recent researches regarding this issue have shown that due to lack of elementary subjects such as English, math etc. – the ultra-orthodox students experience many difficulties in their academic studies and as a result, about 50% of them drop out. Therefore, it was decided that this project will address this problem, which is threatening their integration in higher education. The manner in which the students meet is that one non-religious student and one ultra-orthodox student meet one-on-one, for 3 hours. Two hours are meant for help in academic studies and one hour is dedicated for “Havruta” studies, in order to enhance the issues that the students have in common and create a personal connection and dedication towards one another, on the base of the large common denominator of their Jewish identity. A pilot was launched in 2012 in Jerusalem and since then we have been working on developing and expanding the project in order to help additional ultra-orthodox students around the country. In 2013, the project expanded greatly when 50 pairs of students signed up and 2,000 mutual study hours were completed. In addition, an evaluation survey we took at the end of last year showed that we have assisted over 90% ultra-orthodox students in improving their academic achievements. Therefore, our main goal in 2014 was to enhance the project and expand its activity to additional areas in Israel. This year over 60 pairs of students signed up for the project and there was an increase of 20% in the volume of general activity. In addition, we have established new connections with academic institutions and organizations, hired an alumnus of the project to accompany the ultra-orthodox students during their degree and after receiving it. Finally, the project’s activity was expanded in the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area in order to recruit more students for the project. Moreover, we have recently established our third center of activity in the Israeli Neggev, where our students from Ben-Gurion University help young and inspiring ultra-orthodox soldiers in the IDF Air Force complete their Final exams. Throughout the years, we have witnessed the formation of strong friendship ties between the students, some of them so intense that it even surprised us. For example, during the last summer, two secular alumni of the program chose their ultra-orthodox Havruta to serve as their witnesses at their weddings. It is a living proof that the change is possible and tangible. Nevertheless, we still have many aspirations for the upcoming years. We intend to expand the project’s activity this year already, and reach 100 pairs of students. In addition, we aspire to continue the expansion of the project and to complete a countrywide spread, as well as to offer our business model to additional institutions, and also provide the project’s graduates with the right tools to join the Israeli workforce and find a respectable job.
Beliba Choma

About

The program was initiated by student leaders following the great fracture they witnessed during the social struggle between students and Haredim in 2010. Quickly growing in popularity and demand, Beliba Choma expanded to Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, Be’er Sheva and Haifa. Over 1,000 students have now participated in the program, with participation significantly rising each year.


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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

Beliba Choma (A Wall in its Midst) was founded in 2011 with a mission to assist young Haredi students to successfully integrate into Israel’s higher education system on their way to attaining a respectable living, while simultaneously creating a social change in the relations between the various cultural sectors in Israel.


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Program Description

The program accomplishes its ambitious mission with four distinct program elements:

1) Qualified secular students are selected and paired with struggling Haredi colleagues to provide personal and customized academic support and tutoring. Haredi students receive 120 hours of one-on-one academic support per year in the areas of English, science, mathematics, computer science and software engineering, and other fields of study.

2) Haredi students provide their secular counterparts with mutually-respectful study of classical Jewish texts from Torah, Talmud, philosophy and law while engaging in meaningful discussion and analysis.

3) Participants in the paired study program are provided with communal educational and dialogue events such as tours of Haredi neighborhoods and Yeshivas, and introductions to Haredi music, culture and Jewish holiday observance.

4) A newly-built alumni network provides program participants with follow-up resources, professional

networking opportunities, sustained motivation and cultural dialogue, and facilitation of jobs placement.

The target population includes Haredi and non-Haredi (secular, Masorti, Modern-Orthodox) university students, ages 22-35 in Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, Haifa and Be’er Sheva. In time, students within this age range will be recruited from new centers in Ashdod and Safed. Around 70% of non-Haredi students are secular or traditional. Both male and female students are targeted.

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Demonstrated Need

The proposed program, ‘Beliba Choma’, is designed to directly address a two-pronged problem facing Israel’s future: the economic and social positions of the Haredi community are becoming unsustainable for both its participants and for Israeli society.

The challenges this community faces are clear in its economic future, relationship with the larger Jewish world, and other sectors within Israel. Attempted solutions imposed from the outside have only served to force the community to defend its values and double-down on the most unsustainable elements of its religious, economic, and social structure. The end result is a loss of dignity to those that are ostensibly representing Jewish traditions in their purest form: growing poverty (to the point of humanitarian crisis), political radicalization, and a deeper divide from the rest of Israeli society.

The first major problem is economic. Due to religious and ideological positions, the Haredi population widely does not serve in the Israel Defense Forces, receiving deferments for intensive religious training instead. Young members of the community who do wish to enter the workforce often lack the natural networks and connections built through military service and the basic cultural and educational skills to do so. The community therefore becomes more reliant on social safety nets while generating less tax revenue, an unsustainable model for a quickly growing demographic.

This is not a new problem and the Haredi community itself is already evolving. There is growing momentum from within this community, its institutions, and rabbinic leadership to create a more balanced, homegrown economic future that still adheres to its most important values. There are an array of institutions from government agencies, high-tech companies, venture capital, education and vocational training, and non-profit organizations that have the potential, if nurtured, to alter the landscape, to create a mixture of serious scholarship, religious adherence, rabbinic participation, and long-lasting economic growth from within.

Given these efforts, Haredi participation in higher education and vocational training programs are increasing (from 5,000 students in 2011 to more than 11,000 in 2016), and individuals in the community are already enjoying the fruits of those initiatives: 78% of Haredi university graduates are employed versus 39% of those without a degree. The average employed Haredi with an MA earns 11,666 NIS per month; with a BA earns 8,710 NIS per month; and without a degree, just 5,166 NIS per month.

Despite the positive trend of increasing participation in higher education, dropout rates remain high (ranging from 50-80% depending on the academic and scheduling demands of the program) due to the lack of basic English, Science, and Mathematics skills and subtle cultural obstacles. Assisting the increasing number of Haredi students to remain in school through completion of their degree or certificate is therefore essential.

Beliba Choma is specifically designed to address this challenge by providing hundreds of Haredi students with personal academic support, increased motivation, and the many resources available via a large network of program participants.

The second major problem is the social and cultural divide that both Haredi and secular communities experience. Many non-Haredi Israelis view military service as a melting pot of Israel’s array of sectors, and come to resent Haredim for their lack of service and alleged burden on tax-funded public services. This, together with political and legislative battles over the role of Jewish Law in public life, have served to increase resentment and polarization between the Haredi and non-Haredi sectors. Recent surveys have shown that 70% of both secular and Haredi people do not wish to know each other personally, and an astonishing 52% of secular Israelis fear to cross through Haredi neighborhoods.

Beliba Choma, again, is specifically designed to address this challenge as well by creating a framework in which Haredi students engage in paired study and discussion of classical Jewish texts with the same secular students who have provided them, in turn, with academic support; and by creating shared educational and cross-cultural events and dialogue for all program participants.

(All statistics cited above are according to research led by Dr. Gilad Malach, lecturer at Bar Ilan University and a leading expert on the Haredi sector at the Israel Democracy Institute, where he is a Senior Research Fellow.)

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Program Accomplishments

According to annual evaluations of program results, Beliba Choma has demonstrated an ability to achieve its stated goals. Surveys have shown high motivation among students to continue the program for consecutive years, a high percentage of Haredi students who report an improvement in their academic achievements, a substantial decrease in the percentage of Haredi students who consider dropping out of their academic program, and a high percentage of students who state that as a result of the project they are now able to better understand the other sector. Steadily growing demand and a lack of recruitment challenges are yet additional indicators that the program effectively addresses a relevant need.

Another area of success has been the leadership’s ability to build sufficient organizational infrastructure. Beliba Choma has succeeded in forming partnerships with an array of governmental and private institutions, universities, and partner organizations. Its fundraising efforts have succeeded in generating sufficient revenue to maintain a rapidly growing program whose budget requires monthly student stipends and staff salaries.

Additional accomplishments:

From Zion Torah shall go forth – after starting in Jerusalem, the program expanded also to Tel Aviv metropolitan area, Haifa and Beer Sheva.

Reaching 1,000 program alumni over five years.

Decrease in Haredi academic dropout percentage from 70% to 5% among our participants.

Average improvement of grades from 71 to 86 (2016).

94% of Haredi students witnessed and improvement in their grades following the program (2016).

87% of students stated they are very likely to recommend the program to their friends (2016).

78% of overall participants witnessed a significant improvement in their ability to understand the other sector (2016).

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How do you measure the success of your program?

After each program year an evaluation process is conducted to examine effectiveness in relation to the academic and social goals of the program. The process is created and administered by a professional in the field, and programs are evaluated to determine whether Haredi participants have measurably improved in their studies and reduced their dropout percentage, as well as for social outcomes of the pairs’ study relationship and dialogue. On top of that, from a pluralistic point of view, it is important to establish that neither of the parties experienced any form of religious or theological coercion.

The more than 700 graduates of the program surveyed through 2012-2015 demonstrate that Beliba Choma is meeting its goals. The 2015 evaluation data for example shows high motivation among students to continue with our program consecutive years (91%), a high percentage of Haredi students who indicate an improvement in their academic achievements (78%), substantial decrease in the percentage of Haredi students who consider dropping out of the academy (71% decrease), and a high percentage of students who indicate that as a result of the project they are now able to better understand the other sector (91%). In addition, 95% of the students said that the program didn't change their religious way of life.

At times, survey data compels a change in strategy. For example, the 2014 survey indicated strong demand to develop more tools and workforce opportunities for Haredi students. Beliba Choma responded by recruiting a workforce development coordinator. Student feedback also spurred an extension of academic study sessions from 1.5 to two hours each. The evaluation process is a central tool in improving the program from year to year, as effective management must be based on self-monitoring and real data.

Back to Top

Beliba Choma

About

The program was initiated by student leaders following the great
fracture they witnessed during the social struggle between students and Haredim
in 2010. Quickly growing in popularity and demand, Beliba Choma expanded to
Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, Be’er Sheva and
Haifa. Over 1,000 students have now participated in the program, with
participation significantly rising each year.

Back to Top

What is the mission and purpose of this program?

Beliba Choma (A Wall in its Midst) was founded in 2011 with a mission to
assist young Haredi students to successfully integrate into Israel’s higher
education system on their way to attaining a respectable living, while
simultaneously creating a social change in the relations between the various
cultural sectors in Israel.

Back to Top

Program Description

The program accomplishes its ambitious mission with four distinct program elements:

1) Qualified secular students are selected and paired with struggling Haredi colleagues to provide personal and customized academic support and tutoring. Haredi students receive 120 hours of one-on-one academic support per year in the areas of English, science, mathematics, computer science and software engineering, and other fields of study.

2) Haredi students provide their secular counterparts with mutually-respectful study of classical Jewish texts from Torah, Talmud, philosophy and law while engaging in meaningful discussion and analysis.

3) Participants in the paired study program are provided with communal educational and dialogue events such as tours of Haredi neighborhoods and Yeshivas, and introductions to Haredi music, culture and Jewish holiday observance.

4) A newly-built alumni network provides program participants with follow-up resources, professional

networking opportunities, sustained motivation and cultural dialogue, and facilitation of jobs placement.

The target population includes Haredi and non-Haredi (secular, Masorti, Modern-Orthodox) university students, ages 22-35 in Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, Haifa and Be’er Sheva. In time, students within this age range will be recruited from new centers in Ashdod and Safed. Around 70% of non-Haredi students are secular or traditional. Both male and female students are targeted.

Back to Top

Demonstrated Need

The proposed program, ‘Beliba Choma’, is designed to directly address a two-pronged problem facing Israel’s future: the economic and social positions of the Haredi community are becoming unsustainable for both its participants and for Israeli society.

The challenges this community faces are clear in its economic future, relationship with the larger Jewish world, and other sectors within Israel. Attempted solutions imposed from the outside have only served to force the community to defend its values and double-down on the most unsustainable elements of its religious, economic, and social structure. The end result is a loss of dignity to those that are ostensibly representing Jewish traditions in their purest form: growing poverty (to the point of humanitarian crisis), political radicalization, and a deeper divide from the rest of Israeli society.

The first major problem is economic. Due to religious and ideological positions, the Haredi population widely does not serve in the Israel Defense Forces, receiving deferments for intensive religious training instead. Young members of the community who do wish to enter the workforce often lack the natural networks and connections built through military service and the basic cultural and educational skills to do so. The community therefore becomes more reliant on social safety nets while generating less tax revenue, an unsustainable model for a quickly growing demographic.

This is not a new problem and the Haredi community itself is already evolving. There is growing momentum from within this community, its institutions, and rabbinic leadership to create a more balanced, homegrown economic future that still adheres to its most important values. There are an array of institutions from government agencies, high-tech companies, venture capital, education and vocational training, and non-profit organizations that have the potential, if nurtured, to alter the landscape, to create a mixture of serious scholarship, religious adherence, rabbinic participation, and long-lasting economic growth from within.

Given these efforts, Haredi participation in higher education and vocational training programs are increasing (from 5,000 students in 2011 to more than 11,000 in 2016), and individuals in the community are already enjoying the fruits of those initiatives: 78% of Haredi university graduates are employed versus 39% of those without a degree. The average employed Haredi with an MA earns 11,666 NIS per month; with a BA earns 8,710 NIS per month; and without a degree, just 5,166 NIS per month.

Despite the positive trend of increasing participation in higher education, dropout rates remain high (ranging from 50-80% depending on the academic and scheduling demands of the program) due to the lack of basic English, Science, and Mathematics skills and subtle cultural obstacles. Assisting the increasing number of Haredi students to remain in school through completion of their degree or certificate is therefore essential.

Beliba Choma is specifically designed to address this challenge by providing hundreds of Haredi students with personal academic support, increased motivation, and the many resources available via a large network of program participants.

The second major problem is the social and cultural divide that both Haredi and secular communities experience. Many non-Haredi Israelis view military service as a melting pot of Israel’s array of sectors, and come to resent Haredim for their lack of service and alleged burden on tax-funded public services. This, together with political and legislative battles over the role of Jewish Law in public life, have served to increase resentment and polarization between the Haredi and non-Haredi sectors. Recent surveys have shown that 70% of both secular and Haredi people do not wish to know each other personally, and an astonishing 52% of secular Israelis fear to cross through Haredi neighborhoods.

Beliba Choma, again, is specifically designed to address this challenge as well by creating a framework in which Haredi students engage in paired study and discussion of classical Jewish texts with the same secular students who have provided them, in turn, with academic support; and by creating shared educational and cross-cultural events and dialogue for all program participants.

(All statistics cited above are according to research led by Dr. Gilad Malach, lecturer at Bar Ilan University and a leading expert on the Haredi sector at the Israel Democracy Institute, where he is a Senior Research Fellow.)

Back to Top

Program Accomplishments

According to annual evaluations of program results, Beliba Choma has demonstrated an ability to achieve its stated goals. Surveys have shown high motivation among students to continue the program for consecutive years, a high percentage of Haredi students who report an improvement in their academic achievements, a substantial decrease in the percentage of Haredi students who consider dropping out of their academic program, and a high percentage of students who state that as a result of the project they are now able to better understand the other sector. Steadily growing demand and a lack of recruitment challenges are yet additional indicators that the program effectively addresses a relevant need.

Another area of success has been the leadership’s ability to build sufficient organizational infrastructure. Beliba Choma has succeeded in forming partnerships with an array of governmental and private institutions, universities, and partner organizations. Its fundraising efforts have succeeded in generating sufficient revenue to maintain a rapidly growing program whose budget requires monthly student stipends and staff salaries.


Additional accomplishments:

From Zion Torah shall go forth – after starting in Jerusalem, the program expanded also to Tel Aviv metropolitan area, Haifa and Beer Sheva.

Reaching 1,000 program alumni over five years.

Decrease in Haredi academic dropout percentage from 70% to 5% among our participants.

Average improvement of grades from 71 to 86 (2016).

94% of Haredi students witnessed and improvement in their grades following the program (2016).

87% of students stated they are very likely to recommend the program to their friends (2016).

78% of overall participants witnessed a significant improvement in their ability to understand the other sector (2016).

Back to Top

How do you measure the success of your program?

After each program year an evaluation process is conducted to examine effectiveness in relation to the academic and social goals of the program. The process is created and administered by a professional in the field, and programs are evaluated to determine whether Haredi participants have measurably improved in their studies and reduced their dropout percentage, as well as for social outcomes of the pairs’ study relationship and dialogue. On top of that, from a pluralistic point of view, it is important to establish that neither of the parties experienced any form of religious or theological coercion.

The more than 700 graduates of the program surveyed through 2012-2015 demonstrate that Beliba Choma is meeting its goals. The 2015 evaluation data for example shows high motivation among students to continue with our program consecutive years (91%), a high percentage of Haredi students who indicate an improvement in their academic achievements (78%), substantial decrease in the percentage of Haredi students who consider dropping out of the academy (71% decrease), and a high percentage of students who indicate that as a result of the project they are now able to better understand the other sector (91%). In addition, 95% of the students said that the program didn't change their religious way of life.

At times, survey data compels a change in strategy. For example, the 2014 survey indicated strong demand to develop more tools and workforce opportunities for Haredi students. Beliba Choma responded by recruiting a workforce development coordinator. Student feedback also spurred an extension of academic study sessions from 1.5 to two hours each. The evaluation process is a central tool in improving the program from year to year, as effective management must be based on self-monitoring and real data.

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