Dery Equates Yeshiva Graduates With Academic Degrees for Public Jobs

According to interior minister’s reform, rabbinic ordination from the Chief Rabbinate will also meet the standard for local authority positions.

Students at Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Gil Cohen Magen

Ultra-Orthodox men without academic degrees will now be able to compete for skilled jobs in local authorities as long as they have graduated from a kolel or have been ordained as rabbis by the Chief Rabbinate.

New reforms instituted by Interior Minister Arye Dery this week equate Torah education with academic degrees for the purposes of job tenders in local authorities. As defined in a circular distributed by the ministry’s director general on Tuesday, local authority jobs are now open to all those who received rabbinic ordination from the Chief Rabbinate or have a certificate that they studied for six years after the age of 18 in a major yeshiva or kolel and passed three Chief Rabbinate tests.

The change, which was made in coordination with the Civil Service Commission, allows local authorities across the country to include the new alternatives to academic degrees to tenders they issue from now on.

“I’m happy to introduce the revolution I declared, acknowledging Torah education as an academic degree,” said Dery. “It doesn’t make sense that a youth finishing a humanities degree can compete and be selected over a yeshiva student who learned Jewish studies.”

Dery vowed to push his new policy through all government ministries. “I am sure it will open the door to many in the Haredi community with a Torah education to transition into key positions in local government and the civil service,” he said.

The Israel Democracy Institute called the decision “problematic to say the least.” Dr. Gilad Malach, head of the institute’s program for Haredim in Israel, said: “Rabbinic ordination or six years of kolel studies does not include writing academic papers, knowledge of English or studying statistics. If there are specific positions in the local authorities that don’t require such skills, there is no need to demand an academic degree. But a general opening of jobs and equating academic studies with Torah education is cheapening the skills required in the civil service, an opening for lowering the level of services to the citizen in the local authorities and maybe even enabling political and unprofessional appointments.”

Malach added that 20,000 Haredim with academic degrees should constitute a potential pool for competing in job tenders, and “an effort should be made to integrate these graduates into civil service in general and local authorities in particular, as was recently done in the government decision regarding integrating Haredim into the civil service.”