Ultra-Orthodox Code Writers Help Israel Ease Tech Labor ShortageMay. 9, 2016
Itzik Friedland, an ultra-Orthodox father of three from Tel Aviv, had an audacious request for the rabbis he respected. Would it be OK if he learned computer coding and started work as a software developer?
It was an unusual ask because devout Israeli Jews like Friedland are expected to eschew the modern, secular world for the study of ancient Talmudic texts. In this case, however, Friedland was proposing to join an experimental vocational program that offers men like him high-tech skills and jobs, while allowing them to continue their religious studies. The rabbis assented and Friedland, 28, is about to graduate.
The program is run by a software shop called Ravtech. Though still small, the concept could take hold elsewhere and eventually play a critical role in helping Israel plug a 10,000-person shortage of software developers and nudge the isolated ultra-Orthodox community into the economic mainstream. Friedland, who has always loved computers and dabbled as a graphic artist at home, sought and won his family’s approval.
“There are those from my community who view such projects with a jaundiced eye,” he says. “I was pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback I received.”
The program is the brainchild of French-born David Charles Leybel, a rabbi-businessman who set up Ravtech expressly to provide training and work experience for ultra-Orthodox men, also known as haredim.