Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is not part of the study curriculum in the ultra-Orthodox education system. But the famous psychologist’s theory is still a reality—in the weathered alleyways of old Jerusalem neighborhoods or the bustling city streets of Bnei Brak—as the basic need for food and shelter hinges on economic security.
As the world revolves and evolves, a seismic shift in the number of post-yeshiva and post-seminary students interested in higher education has prompted a rapid growth in the establishment of academic institutions that cater exclusively to the ultra-Orthodox sector. More time and resources than ever are being invested in advanced studies for both men and women to enable graduates to enter the job market as dignified breadwinners for their families and valuable contributors to Israel’s development and economy.
While Torah study remains an exalted value, a transitory hiatus from the Beit Midrash is necessary for attaining financial independence. Campus Strauss—a pioneering academic institution in the heart of Jerusalem’s Geula neighborhood—embraced the challenge and established a college that enables students to qualify for highly sought-after professions but still remain steadfast in their Torah values.
The college is situated a convenient, two-minute walk from Kikar HaShabbat, a prime position in the unofficial center of the ultra-Orthodox world with easy access to public transportation. Campus Strauss affords parents complete peace of mind by offering a safe and appropriate place in a familiar and modest environment, for their children to pursue academic success.
“Campus Strauss has a long history,” says CEO Rabbi Yaakov Yaroslavsky. “Twenty-seven years ago, we established the Lomda Institute for Vocational Training, the first of its kind in the ultra-Orthodox sector. Men and women studied computers, accounting, graphics, multimedia, and other occupations.” In the wake of an unprecedented decision by the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Supreme Religious Council to make higher education available to ultra-Orthodox students, a campus, that enjoyed wide rabbincial support, was established. The campus intended to provide separate men’s and women’s departments.
KOSHER VS. MEHADRIN
Many other institutions began integrating a religious track into an existing college framework with separate lectures for men and women, and started advertising campaigns that were sensitive to the ultra-Orthodox market. But despite offering programs that, in theory, were customized and appropriate—the platform, infrastructure, atmosphere and even educational content were often alien and insensitive to orthodox needs. Campus Strauss offered a more unique alternative and laid the foundations for an Ivy League of ultra-Orthodox colleges, operating with complete autonomy. Managed by ultra-Orthodox educators and staff, with a resolute religious orientation and women-only staff on its women’s campus, Campus Strauss offers its students superlative study opportunities—and even part-time parnasah—without apologizing for what it stands for.
Campus Strauss students are awarded Hadassah College degrees, Hadassah, a renowned and prestigious institute of academic excellence is held in high regard by employers throughout Israel. These degrees are recognized by the Israeli Council for Higher Education (CHE) and are subsidized by the State, enabling students to obtain significant scholarships and tuition bursaries. Campus Strauss also assists students in applying for grants through various government bodies and foundations, and runs a Career Guidance and Placement Department. “This department is always buzzing, and some of the students already have part-time student jobs, which gives them a foot in the door to future advantageous employment opportunities.”
THE INSEPARABLE BEING OF KODESH AND CHOL
While applicants vie for places, only those whose top priority is maintaining their spiritual level while pursuing a profession, are eligible for the program. The women’s student body is comprised of graduates from the best Beis Yaakov schools, who undergo screening and are required to adhere to a standard of modesty in dress and speech. There are educational counselors for spiritual guidance, and women students enjoy a holistic study program including: Limudei Kodesh, Chugim, social activities and Hashkafa courses, all of which are mandatory. Subjects such as the Jewish Home, Dating, Halacha, and Parashat HaShavua are part of Kodesh studies.
Similarly, the men’s program is structured around Torah study, with academic courses taking place during afternoon and evening hours so that study time in the Beit Midrash can still play a key role in their daily lives.
Women’s degree programs include Optometry, Biotechnology, Computer Science, Business Management and Speech Therapy. A designated supervisor monitors study curricula and educational materials for problematic content. Simultaneously, study courses are constantly restructured and revised according to changing trends and dynamics in the labor market, so that students remain at the forefront of technology and developments in both global and Israeli economies.
Men’s options include Computer Science, Human Resources Management and most recently, Social Work. This new track, available to men and women, is particularly attractive since it enables students to obtain a degree toward a stand-alone career; the internship is integrated into the academic program. Graduates go on to excel in any social work role—in terms of patient demographics (such as age or family status), and any field of practice (such as city municipalities, welfare departments, boarding schools, nursing homes, hospitals, the Ministry of Defense, the National Insurance Institute, the Prisons Services, and more).
Furthermore those who choose to combine their social work studies with a degree in psychotherapy, can successfully open their own practice. Rabbi Yaroslavsky explains: “Our greatest pride are the Torah scholars and devoted women whose lives revolves around Torah and Yirat Shamayim. Academic studies are secondary but necessary for a respectable livelihood. While the academic world might consider a law degree a more elite career, our goal is to make an honest living in today’s job market, and a degree in computer science is a wiser and lucrative pursuit.”
Alongside professionalism and high standards of academic and Torah studies, the atmosphere on campus is welcoming and warm. Students are all part of a family and everyone can relate because they come from the same socio-environmental milieu. “Students immediately feel at home because our staff comes from the same place they are coming from, and are aware of the difficulties and sensitivities.”
FROM ZERO TO 100
Initially, the establishment of such a unique program seemed ambitious, and both Hadassah College and the founders of Campus Strauss had some serious concerns. But within one school year, Campus Strauss students bridged a four-year gap and acquired a diploma (equivalent to high school matriculation) through a Mechina Program, which is fully funded by the Ministry of Education.
“Our students might initially lag behind their contemporaries, but their determination, perseverance and drive to succeed are extraordinary,” says Rabbi Yaroslavsky proudly. “Students who have never learned science basics but really want to be biotechnologists cover ground rapidly and some have exceeded the academic achievements of graduates from similar institutions. Students who have never opened a math textbook but want to attain a Computer Science degree start at the beginning and work their way up to paradigms and algorithms. From then on, the sky is the limit!”
The founders of Campus Strauss aren’t surprised to see students excel in the academic arena and go on to fill key positions in top Israeli enterprises. Campus Strauss produced the first graduates from the ultra-Orthodox sector in Biotechnology, Management and Communications; as a restult the ultra-Orthodox sector has earned an honorable reputation as an incubator for brilliant academics and technology experts. Dr. Baruch Leshem, Politics and Communications lecturer at Campus Strauss, said: “The BA Communications graduates whom I had the privilege to teach at Campus Strauss, obtained the highest results ever achieved during my tenure as a lecturer at Hadassah College and Hebrew University.”
EAT, SLEEP AND LIVE TORAH
One of the globally recognized by-products of Torah and Talmud study is its ability to develop excellent study skills. The combination of intellectual rigor, discipline and concentration required is unsurpassed. The Korean Ambassador to Israel, Young Sam Ma, once said, “Jews have a high percentage of Nobel Prize laureates in all fields: literature, science and economics. What is their secret? How do they more than other nation manage to reach such impressive achievements? Studying Talmud from an early age helps develop great abilities.”
“Our lifeblood is Torah study,” Rabbi Yaroslavsky concludes. “We’re not trying to lure people out of the Beit Midrash. Our approach isn’t to market academic studies to the masses or persuade students to leave yeshiva. But we recognize our communities need for financial independence, we believe passionately in our students’ exceptional skills and intellectual abilities. Their unique contribution can have an important and far-reaching impact on society, and their integration into the workforce has the potential for a great Kiddush HaShem. Our role at Campus Strauss is simply to put them on the economic map and give them the tools to thrive.”
To find out more about Campus Strauss call: 02-622-2202, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website: www.strausscampus.co.il.