Interview with Rosalind Elbaum, Director of Development, Jerusalem College of Technology
What is the Jerusalem College of Technology?
Founded in 1969, the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), or Lev Academic Center, is today one of Israel’s major academic institutions, home to over 4,500 students on three campuses. We are fully accredited by Israel’s Council of Higher Education. What is unique about JCT is that we specialize in a religious study program combined with academic degrees in high-tech engineering, industrial management, and life and health sciences. Over 90% of our students find employment in the field in which they studied.
How do your campuses differ from each other?– Lev Campus (Machon Lev) has been JCT’s flagship institution for higher learning since 1969, serving men pre- and/or post- IDF service. The Naveh program, with programs specifically designed for Haredi (ultra-orthodox) men, is located here.
– Tal Campus (Machon Tal) is JCT’s women’s Institute for Nursing, Technology and Management. It includes the Da’at and Tvuna programs for Haredi women.
– Lustig Campus (Machon Lustig) is the Women’s Institute for Technology and Management in Ramat Gan for Haredi women.
What contribution has JCT made to Israel as a whole?
JCT plays an important role in developing the overall Israeli economic infrastructure, especially in Jerusalem. Through its faculty assistance and graduates, we’ve helped establish over 100 high-tech companies and participated in leading R&D national defense projects.
Of no less importance is that the unique combination of Torah U’Madda (religious and scientific studies) has produced thousands of graduates with profound and enduring religious and interpersonal values.
What degrees do you offer?
- Accounting and Information Systems (BA)
- Bioinformatics (BSc)
- Business Administration (BA & MBA)
- Computer Sciences (BSc)
- Electro-Optics Engineering (BSc)
- Electronics Engineering (BSc)
- Industrial Engineering and Management (BSc),Nursing (BSN)
- Software Engineering (BSc)
- Telecommunication Systems Engineering (MSc)
Who are your students?
They hail from all segments of society and across the religious spectrum. We have special programs for Ethiopian students, for immigrants (especially French-, English- and Spanish-speaking), and for Hasidic women.
Tell us about your English-speaking program.
The International Program in English for men spans 1.5 days of business courses per week, on Tuesday afternoons and Fridays. The rest of the week, students can learn at any yeshiva of their choice. At the end of three years, students graduate with a full degree. Our hope is that by combining academic and Torah studies, we can assist in molding the kind of young man who will be able to embark on his career path while maintaining an abiding fidelity to the Torah and Israel. Indeed, we view our mission as nothing less than shaping the future of Jewish communities anywhere and everywhere.
What benefits and advantages does the program have to offer people from English-speaking countries?
It provides young men not yet fluent in Hebrew with the opportunity to stay in Israel whilst studying for an academic degree. It may well assist them in deciding to make Aliya. Additionally, the religious studies component is crucial. Some students come to us seeking spiritual and religious growth that academic studies in a university “mechina” program can’t provide. Others are those who might wish to remain in their yeshivas in Israel, but are hesitant to continue with a full program of Jewish learning and risk falling behind in professional advancement and higher education. It’s not uncommon for young men to forgo the opportunity to remain in, and benefit from, a yeshiva program due to this fear – unfortunately, the pressure to become educated and earn degrees at an early age prevents many from doing as much learning as they could. JCT’s International Program allows such students to enjoy the best of both worlds, offering Torah lessons with their favorite Rebbeim alongside studies towards a prestigious academic degree in business.
Once they’ve graduated, our college’s solid nationwide reputation helps these young men improve their chances of being hired and being able to stay in Israel, from a financial perspective. Furthermore, many of our graduates over the past forty years have opened their own companies and, knowing of the skill sets acquired at JCT, are open to giving younger graduates a chance at entry level positions.
In addition, as a government-recognized institute of higher education, our programming is under constant supervision by the Council of Higher Education. JCT has over forty years’ experience in practical academic programming. The cost of the program is set by the Council of Higher Education comes to less than $4,000 per year. While this figure is higher than that of the Hebrew speakers’ program, due to the smaller class enrolment and the extra tuition and special programming provided for these students, it is still much lower than equivalent studies in the United States.
How has your institution impacted Israel’s high-tech industry?
Graduates are employed in leading high-tech companies and R&D units in the IDF. Graduates have set up major high-tech companies such as NDS (which was bought by Cisco), and successful start-ups such as Zuta Labs, inventors of the mobile pocket printer and Glide live video messaging.
What option is there for religious studies while at JCT?
Most programs have compulsory religious studies – in the Bet Midrash at Lev, or the Midrasha at Tal – under the auspices of Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon, recently appointed rabbinic head of JCT. Students who join us after several years of full-time yeshiva study may receive an exemption and only come in for academic studies in the afternoon.
What are the most popular career tracks today’s students are choosing?
All the ones we teach – accounting, nursing, computer programming, engineering, and high-tech. Our degree programs are developed and designed to meet the needs of industry. We have leading professionals on our academic advisory committees to ensure this.
Tell us about your program for Ethiopian students.
JCT was one of the first of Israel’s leading institutions of higher education to take up the challenge of integrating members of the Ethiopian community into academia and the workforce, establishing the Education for Ethiopians (EFE) program eighteen years ago. 54% of our graduates have engineering degrees and 36% of those are officers in the IDF utilizing their engineering education in helping to defend the country. There are currently 125 students (66 men and 59 women) studying at JCT for degrees in engineering, accounting, management and nursing.
How does the multicultural makeup of your student body enhance the classroom experience?
JCT is one of the most “pluralistic” institutions within the Orthodox community. Haredi, national-religious and Ethiopian students all study together in an environment of mutual respect. At JCT we break down the barriers, enabling each sector to meet and learn both from and with each other. Haredim see that you can be yirei shamayim, study Torah and serve in the IDF without compromising your religious commitment; while they, for their part, bring their high level of Torah commitment and convey the message that compromising or straying from tradition in not required order to advance in education and employment.
How is JCT an ideal option for the Haredi community?
The academic education of the Haredi community and their entrance into the workforce is one of the central issues for contemporary Israeli society. For over 45 years, JCT’s religious environment and its focus on professional career development has attracted Orthodox youth interested in studying for an academic degree. Now the ultra-Orthodox too are attending JCT. Here they’re provided with the necessary tools for success and to become contributing members of society as scientists and engineers, in high-tech and in business.
JCT’s gender separate campuses provide the Haredi population with the environment suited to their needs. There are currently some 2,000 Haredi students enrolled (550 men and 1,450 women). Many of the Haredi men are older and with large families; all Haredi men arrive with little or no exposure to secular education. The vast majority of our Haredi students – over 700 participants annually – start their academic studies in a pre-academic ‘mechina’ program, designed to fill in the gaps in their scholastic background and prepare them to succeed in college.
Lack of secular education coupled with tremendous financial pressures are the key challenges facing this group, who suffer from a relatively higher early dropout rate. Those that do complete the program and receive their degree often have a difficult time getting their career started on the right track. Lack of exposure to work culture and insufficient English language skills make finding the right job extremely challenging for the new graduates.
Our Center for the Advancement of Haredim at the Lev Campus helps alleviate these challenges by providing Haredi students with a one-stop center for all the tools and assistance they need to complete their studies and find employment in their chosen professions. As a leader in the effort to successfully integrate this population into the Israeli workforce, JCT recognizes that the center’s activities are essential to the successful education and integration of Haredim. They are enabled to support themselves properly, thereby improving the overall economic situation of the Haredi community in Israel and reducing their dependence on government and social support.
What do you offer over other colleges and universities in Israel?
JCT just came top (including a 100% success rate at Lustig) in the national accountancy boards, and our nursing graduates continue to attain the highest scores in their national exams. So there is no doubt that our academic programs are top of the league. In addition, we offer generous stipends and a holistic approach to helping our students succeed, providing those in need with academic reinforcement, help with job placement etc. All this is besides the special unique religious hashkafa and environment that JCT provides, unique amongst all colleges in Israel.
What is the mission of JCT?
This is how the founder Prof. Ze’ev Lev z’l described the mission of JCT:
“The institute I envision will educate students to synthesize their profession with a Jewish way of life… not only to provide manpower for Israel’s developing high-tech industries, but to produce leaders who are strongly committed to Torah, to our Nation and to our People.”