Charedim, lets admit that we made a mistake
At the age of 30, unemployed and divorced, I understand that an injustice was done to me. I could have been a doctor or a lawyer but you prevented me [from doing this]. We need to break this cycle.
I am a born and bred Charedi from birth. I attended a Talmud Torah that focused primarily on Torah subjects. "Secular subjects" - that is what they are called in the Charedi world - were only there as "helpers for torah subjects". I will explain in simple terms. To learn Gemara you need some minimal knowledge of math or for example, in order to write Torah novella there is a need to know some elementary syntax and grammar.
Because of this, we spent very little time on secular subjects. Multiplication tables represented the apex of our mathematical learning, we could only dream of anything further. We didn't learn any English whatsoever, after all, in the Gemara there are no English words. If anything, it is more relevant to learn Aramaic. History? What does that contribute? The only history that we learned was the history of the Jewish people that is found in Tanach. And with this, the years passed by slowly. I then studied in an advanced Yeshiva where all we studied was Gemara.
And then at age 20, I got married and to no ones surprise, glad that you guessed, I continued learning in Kollel where there also we studied Gemara exclusively. I received a stipend of 2000 shekel a month. My wife worked as a secretary and somehow we managed. After a year we had our first child and then we started to feel the financial difficulties. After our second child was born, the difficulties become too much to bear. The financial pressure caused tension and fights and in the end to my great sorrow, at the age of 26 I found myself divorced and penniless.
Now that I was obligated to pay child support, I had to go out and look for a job. Luckily, I found work at a Charedi bank that agreed to hire me after a series of tests. Even though I didn't have a HS diploma or a degree, I am quite intelligent. Since this was a Charedi bank, they understood the simple fact that Yeshiva students are lacking knowledge with respect to the secular population but are very smart. In my innocence I believed that I had managed to penetrate into the Israeli economic scene without a HS diploma. I invested myself fully into work. I finished courses with excellence and I surpassed all of my colleagues with degrees. I thought that I was living proof that it is possible to prosper without a HS diploma or college degree, however, it didn't last very long. The economic situation is not great and less then a month ago I was laid off because of labor force reductions.
Again I found myself at a starting point. I am now 30, divorced and paying child support, and I now understand that I was done an injustice. If I would have gotten a HS diploma at an early age and a college degree after that I would have been able to do whatever I wanted, doctor, lawyer, economist, psychologist. However, now at age 30 I found myself deliberating between working at a call centre for minimum wage and becoming a bus driver at a slightly higher salary. Is this what is appropriate for me? Definitely not! However, I need to support myself and the injustice screams out to the heavens. I am a talented guy, in fact very talented. I have 1 simple question - why? Why am I supposed to work in a job that is not suitable for me only because they prevented me from getting an education? It is a moral injustice to push whole generations into the cycle of poverty. It is not possible to support a family without a college degree, certainly not without a HS diploma.
When you meet a Charedi doctor or architect the first question that you ask him is when did you become a Baal Teshuva? If it wasn't so sad it would be funny. Imagine a scenario where the Charedi population would combine learning for a degree alongside Gemara. Suddenly we would see senior Charedi doctors, and also architects who are alumni of yeshivas. In general, the Charedi population would become a contributing and important piece of Israeli society. This is not impossible. It may be too late for me but it is not too late for all those Charedim who are following the same path.
I turn to the Charedi leadership: For the future generations, combine torah learning with secular studies. We will continue to learn Gemara but at the same time we will get a HS diploma and degree so that the next generation won't get stuck in the cycle of poverty. Someone has to stop this cycle. It is time to admit the simple truth, we made a mistake.
Yisrael, an Alumnus of Yeshivas Ponovezh