Torah and preparation: Hebrew U. opens special pre-academic preparatory program for Haredi population

Nati Shohat/Flash 90November 28, 2012: The Hebrew University’s Magid Institute for Continuing Education has launched a special pre-academic preparatory program (mechina) for the ultra-Orthodox (haredi) population. The University launched the initiative in response to the national challenge issued by the Council for Higher Education in Israel to increase haredi society’s access to higher education.

Twenty haredi men began their studies at the end of November in a newly-renovated building near the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus. Haredi women are expected to join the program later this year. The curriculum mirrors the Hebrew University’s regular pre-academic preparatory program, with adjustments in respect to the haredi lifestyle and the students’ backgrounds. Thus alongside the regular curriculum, the students will have classes to improve their English language skills and an active Beit Midrash (house of religious study). The Magid Institute will also offer vocational training programs for the ultra-Orthodox, including communication studies, computer programming and investment counseling.

According to Magid Institute Chair Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, "Our vision has always been to serve as a bridge between academia and the public, and we are delighted with this opportunity to open for a new population the gateway to higher education and labor market integration."

The preparatory program is being headed by Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, a rabbi and dayan in Jerusalem. “The program will strive to combine academic excellence with a commitment to Torah," said Rabbi Pfeffer. "Until now, various pre-academic frameworks proposed to the ultra-Orthodox did not usually enable them to reach an academic level equal to that of regular students. The new program will work to change this situation and to give students the opportunity to realize their potential."

Rabbi Pfeffer addressed concerns within Haredi society about the consequences of academic studies on students' commitment to religion. "While academic studies will form the core of the program, we will see to it that no student will feel their studies come at the expense of the Torah values they grew up with. Only by preserving and nurturing their roots, together with promoting their general education, will we pave the way to success."

Founded by the Hebrew University, the Magid Institute for Continuing Education develops curricula and offers courses in a variety of fields throughout Israel. Its aim is to serve as a bridge between the academic world and the general public, and to enable students to enrich their professional lives, acquire skills, broaden their horizons, gain an in-depth understanding of a wide range of subjects, and earn a diploma. Its faculty includes leaders in their respective fields and the finest and most engaging lecturers, hailing from the Hebrew University and beyond

Source: Dept. Media Relations, Hebrew University.