Not a Passing Hobby

Hobby Lobby’s challenge cites owners’ “sincere religious beliefs.” (DangApricot via Wikimedia Commons)

Hobby Lobby’s challenge cites owners’ “sincere religious beliefs.” (DangApricot via Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments March 25 on two prominent cases that could have far-reaching effects on Jewish-owned businesses and their employees. Both challenge the legality of an Affordable Care Act mandate requiring firms with more than 50 employees to provide contraception coverage as part of their insurance policies.

Jewish organizations have staked out positions on either side of the issue, filing amicus briefs in what has become the Hobby Lobby case and a similar suit invoking religious freedom protections on the one hand and reproductive rights on the other.

A national chain of arts-and-crafts stores operating as a closely held corporation by the Green family, Hobby Lobby was founded by the family’s patriarch, David Green, a devout Christian, in the 1970s. He and his children, who claim to run it in adherence tobiblical principles, are challenging the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and its secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, for what they see as the new health law’s undue burden on religious businesses. The case mirrors elements of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, which deals with a Mennonite-owned wood cabinet manufacturer in Pennsylvania. The court linked the cases; attorneys will argue both simultaneously on Tuesday.

Hobby Lobby’s owners’ “sincere religious beliefs prohibit them from covering four out of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives in their self-funded health plan,” the retailers’ attorneys wrote in their brief to the court.

The Affordable Care Act, however, prescribes financial penalties for violators of the law, which Hobby Lobby maintains is a violation of its owners’ rights under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. That law forbids the government to establish laws that “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless a compelling government interest is served and the law represents the “least restrictive means” of doing so.

So far, HHS has granted exceptions to the contraception mandate to nonprofit organizations such as religious charities, which Hobby Lobby and its supporters are quick to invoke as proof that alternatives exist to achieving the goal of universal contraceptive coverage for religion.

In response, HHS — backed by friend-of-the-court briefs by the Jewish Social Policy Action Network and the American Jewish Committee — claims that a for-profit corporation such as Hobby Lobby, whose business of selling arts and crafts is not a religious undertaking, should not be granted an exception, as the values are not necessarily those of its approximately 13,000 employees.

“I actually think that this is a situation where religious free exercise rights are better protected by not allowing Hobby Lobby and Conestoga to do what they want,” said attorney Hope Freiwald, partner at Dechert LLP and author of the brief on behalf of JSPAN, a Philadelphia-based organization that calls itself the “progressive voice” of the Jewish community. “In this context, the corporations have positioned themselves as holding the mantle of religious free exercise, but I would argue that if you think about the importance of protecting the rights of religious minorities, if you think about the importance of protecting the interest of peoples whose practice of their faith may not conform to what is accepted at major institutions in this country, you’re much better off with the government’s view.”

Freiwald drew a comparison to recent actions in Arizona, where companies were invoking a state law similar to the federal Religious Freedom Res-toration Act to claim that “they could refuse to do business with homosexuals if it offended their religious free exercise.” Corporations already are forbidden to discriminate in hiring and promoting based on gender and religious beliefs, he pointed out, so they’re already used to certain governmental restrictions.

“The Jewish community knows about discrimination; it knows about the challenges of being a minority religious voice,” said Freiwald. “The best way to protect free exercise is to make sure that you’re protecting individual rights rather than corporate rights.”

In its filing, the AJC asserted that there was no feasible alternative to ensuring that women receive access to contraceptive coverage if companies decide not to provide it through employer-sponsored health plans.

“The hard question is, as it should be, whether the government has a compelling need to override your religion,” said AJC counsel Marc Stern. “We think [that] in the equality of women and protecting their ability to make choices, there isn’t any other way to make sure that most women have access to whatever form of contraception they either need or choose to use other than this.”

The perspective of many in the Orthodox Jewish community in these cases is reflected in a brief filed by the Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs by famed Orthodox attorney Nathan Lewin of Lewin & Lewin LLP. His brief is joined by seven Orthodox organizations: Agudas Harabbanim, Agudath Israel of America, the National Council of Young Israel, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, Rabbinical Council of America, Torah Umesorah and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

In an interview, Lewin called the brief original in its intent to bring a strictly Orthodox perspective on the issue as opposed to interpreting precedent.

“Basically, I’m challenging the government’s theory that there should be a distinction between whether you run a business individually and whether you run it as a corporation,” said Lewin. “I want the Supreme Court to appreciate that there are religious observances, like Orthodox Jewish religious observances, that make no difference in terms of the burden on the person who is engaged … whether it’s through a corporation or not through a corporation.”

An example Lewin pointed to is Judaism’s prohibition on working on the Sabbath. That prohibition extends to non-Jewish workers in the employ of a Jew; Judaism makes no distinction, Lewin argued, between a Jewish employer and a Jewish-owned business. Through that lens, the government distinction between for-profit and nonprofit corporations would fall apart.

“There have been very, very, few briefs in the Supreme Court that have cited Jewish halachic authorities,” said Lewin.

Both sides said the case will be a close decision. As in similar controversial issues, they believe that when the court hands down its decision at the end of the term in June, the outcome will likely be 5 to 4.

Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and editor of the Cato Supreme Court Review, said that the law should not hold corporations and individuals to different standards.

“The basic idea is that individuals don’t lose their rights when they engage in social activity, when they associate in groups or when they incorporate their business,” explained Shapiro, who also filed an amicus brief in the cases. “So in the case of Hobby Lobby, where religious business owners try to conduct their business in accordance with their faith, they shouldn’t be forced by the government to pay for certain procedures or medicines with which they have a religious disagreement.”

dshapiro@washingtonjewishweek.com
JNS.org contributed to this story.

Cash for Candy

Dr. Einbinder offered children money in exchange for their Purim candy. (David Stuck)

Dr. Einbinder offered children money in exchange for their Purim candy. (David Stuck)

Elliott Einbinder wants your candy. He’ll even pay you for it.

That’s the proposition Einbinder, a local dentist, had for Baltimore’s youngest Jews, although, with no takers by Tuesday afternoon, it appeared the kids preferred the candy to the cash.

After hearing about a trend involving dentists trading money for Halloween candy, Einbinder decided to apply the same concept to Purim.

“I thought it would make a nice parallel at Purim time,” he said.

A post on the Facebook page of Einbinder’s Wellwood Family Dentistry Facebook page reads:

“The meal is over/All the wine has been drunk/Time to figure out/What to do with all the junk … Wellwood Family Dentistry/Can handle your stash/In exchange for something useful/Like cold hard CASH.”

Beginning the day after Purim and running through March 20, he opened his office to the candy trade.

Children under 13 years old were encouraged to bring their sweets to his Greenspring Shopping Center office to collect $1 for every pound of candy or trade for a $3 donation to the Ahavas Yisrael charity fund. Drinks and baked goods were not part of the collection, and there was a 5-pound limit per family.

Einbinder hopes the initiative pays off in more ways than one.

Along with donating to the local charity, he hopes to help protect children’s teeth.

Sugary candies harm teeth at any age, he said. The bacteria present in mouths consume sugar, producing acid that can wear away teeth.

While adults may be careful to avoid consuming sugary, acidic foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner, children, said Einbinder, “have almost no free will when it comes to candy.”

Though he knows his battle is uphill, he said the response has been positive, although it hasn’t translated into many trades. His Facebook announcement garnered dozens of likes, and one patient even donated money to the cause ahead of the holiday.

Not letting the lack of participants discourage him, Einbinder said he hopes this will be the start of a tradition he carries on for years.

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

Eyes on Ukraine

(©istockphoto.com/Beeldbewerking)

(©istockphoto.com/Beeldbewerking)

The increasing political and economic unrest in Ukraine has prompted The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore to launch the Ukraine Assistance Fund in order to provide urgent funds needed for the care and security for more than 300,000 Jews in Ukraine.

According to The Associated, Ukraine is home to some of the world’s poorest Jews, particularly the elderly. Odessa, Baltimore’s sister city, as well as communities all over the country will receive 100 percent of funds raised to ensure deliveries of food, medicine, heating and cooking fuel as well as provide live-saving care and security personnel.

Marina Moldavanskaya, The Associated’s Baltimore-Odessa Partnership coordinator, explained via email that the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, both supported by The Associated, ensure that the most vulnerable elderly receive services at home so they do not risk their lives to get basic necessities. JDC and JAFI have deployed emergency mobile units to deliver food, medicine and other critical supplies. They have
increased security as needed and provided uninterrupted daily home care services for the frailest of the elderly, with some home-care workers spending nights with the elderly in their apartments.

“The [JDC and JAFI] action strategy changes all the time … depending on the situation and needs of the Jewish community,” wrote Moldavanskaya.

Michael Hoffman, vice president of Community Planning and Allocations at The Associated, said that the current situation in Ukraine epitomizes why the sister city relationship with Odessa is so important, because it enables organizations to raise money in support of these relief campaigns. Hoffman said The Associated has been receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in requests from JDC, JCCs, synagogues and orphanages since November 2013. The need for assistance, he pointed out, has not increased solely from the most recent events in Crimea.

“We are also recognizing this is a very fluid situation,” said Hoffman. “[We are] in contact with partners on a daily basis. Every day you turn on the news, you see a new development. … We’re trying to be as proactive as possible and at the same time we’re responding to the facts on the ground.”

Many who fled Ukraine in past decades have created a large community in Baltimore. Yelena Gelfen, 50, of Reisterstown, left Kiev in 1989, and her husband Alexander left in 1979. They met in the United States. Gelfen’s aunt, Brony Factorovech, 68, still lives in Kiev. Gelfen is in close contact with her aunt and regularly sends money to help her out.

“During the problems in Kiev, we sent her money more often because the banks were closed,” said Gelfen. “She [was] afraid to go out. … People started to buy nonperishable items, and they panicked.”

Vladimir Volinsky, 44, also came to the U.S. from Ukraine. He still has relatives in Kiev, and his mother communicates with them regularly. Volinksy has been associated with a Jewish assistance organization in his hometown of Belaya Tzerkov, just south of Kiev, a town where the Jewish population has dwindled to about 1,500.

“We’re trying to [help out the Ukranians],” said Volinsky, “been trying since before the revolution started.”

In absence of a crisis, about $1 million per year supports a variety of needs and services in Odessa, said Hoffman. So far, about $100,000 has been sent in relief funds, combined from The Associated’s allocations as well as from donations to its Ukraine Assistance Fund, which were sent in partnership with Jewish Federations of North America and distributed to partners on the ground in Ukraine.

“There is the hope that things get quiet and we can focus on core business,” said Hoffman, “but I’m always amazed by the strength of our community.”

To donate to the Ukraine Assistance Fund go to associated.org/helpukraine, or send a check to:

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore
101 W. Mount Royal Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21201
Attn: “Ukraine Relief”

For more information or questions, call The Associated Donor Center at 410-369-9300.

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com
mgerr@jewishtimes.com

Costuming a City

Daniel Shriki (left), a former Diller Teen Fellows participant, Einav Koren (center), overseas volunteer coordinator for the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership, and Gail Pinsky, a former Diller participant, display some of the costumes distributed in Ashkelon. (Provided)

Daniel Shriki (left), a former Diller Teen Fellows participant, Einav Koren (center), overseas volunteer coordinator for the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership, and Gail Pinsky, a former Diller participant, display some of the costumes distributed in Ashkelon. (Provided)

Thanks to one young Baltimore man, Purim was a little brighter for needy kids in Ashkelon this year.

Mazlow Cohen, 20, organized a costume drive earlier this year that sent used and unwanted costumes to Baltimore’s sister city last month. The college student, who splits time between Towson University and the Community College of Baltimore County, said he fell in love with the city when he visited on a trip sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore in January.

“I stayed there with an extension through The Associated for four days, and then I stayed an extra six days on my own in Ashkelon and did some volunteering, and I just felt a really strong connection to the city,” said Cohen. “I just loved it there.”

While in Ashkelon, he learned about a Purim drive hosted by a community center in the city’s Shimshon neighborhood. This year, the volunteer-run center worked with the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership and an alumni branch of the Diller Teen Fellows to provide costumes to underprivileged children.

“When I got back [home] I really missed it. I wanted to go back, but I couldn’t,” he said. “I wanted to keep some connection so I thought this would be a good way.”

Unsure of how he would get the costumes to Israel in time for the holiday, Cohen worried he wouldn’t be able to follow through with his plan. Then he learned about a group of Baltimoreans traveling to Israel.

With just over a week to pull everything together, he approached people he knew about donating. He was able to fill a large duffle bag of costumes and get it on the plane with the group. From there it was delivered to Cohen’s connection in Ashkelon for distribution to local families.

“For the kids, dressing up is the fun part they look forward to,” said Cohen. “They get all excited.”

With the donations from Baltimore, the community center was able to provide more than 100 costumes to those in need.

Cohen said he hopes to visit Ashkelon again over the summer. In the meantime, he will stay active in participating in and organizing other drives.

“Hopefully we can make this an annual thing,” he said.

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

Victory at Sea

An Israel Defense Forces captain serving on the vessel that intercepted an Iranian ship two weeks ago told a rapt audience at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville how the missiles, grenades and ammunition destined for Gaza were captured.

“This time, the intelligence was very, very accurate. We knew months before,” said the captain, who asked that his name not be used for security reasons. His speech was sponsored by the Washington and Baltimore chapters of the Friends of the IDF.

The Israeli navy found 40 missiles, each 16 feet long, deeply hidden in the Klos-C ship that was traveling under a Panamanian flag in international waters, said the young soldier, who turned 24 about two weeks after the capture.

The missiles, hidden beneath boxes in crates and covered with rice and sand, took more than an hour to find once members of the IDF boarded the ship. The crew and its Turkish captain were cooperative and completely unaware of the weapons they were transporting.

If those missiles, which have a range of about 125 miles, had not been intercepted, they would have been taken by land from Sudan to Egypt and then through tunnels into Gaza to be used against Israel, the captain explained. Also found on board were grenades and 400,000 bullets.

While it was crucial to keep these weapons away from terrorists, the captain told the audience of about 150 that it was also “diplomatically important, because now we can say Iran really is attached” to spreading terrorism throughout the region.

“Iran. Hezbollah. Hamas. They were acting like they were one organization,” the captain said, adding the rockets came from Syria to Iran.

Normally, his navy ship carries “60 to 70 people, tops, but on this operation, we were 92 people. People were sleeping everywhere,” he said. While not being specific, it was clear that the extra riders were IDF members who knew how to defuse bombs and others who would know what to do if the Klos-C ship’s crew had resisted.

It was the job of the navy ship’s crew, of which this captain was second in command, to track the vessel and follow it closely enough to learn if there were terrorists on board.

After several days observing, the captain’s ship as well as another vessel got “very close to them. We tried to scare them.” They next called to the ship from their radio.

“The minute they saw us they said, ‘OK, you can come aboard,’’’ recalled the captain, adding that their crew dropped a ladder for the Israelis.

While the Israelis searched the ship, its crew was kept together in one room. Once the weapons were found, the vessel was taken to Eilat, where the weapons were unloaded and studied, he said.

The return to Israel was dangerous, because the crew was concerned that terrorists might be hiding along the shoreline, ready to attack, he said.

When they made it back safely, the crew members were greeted by “thousands of people waiting for us, cheering, clapping their hands.”

Those in attendance at the JCC did likewise. “He is a true, true war hero,” said Philip Berry of Potomac, regional executive director for the Midatlantic Region of the Friends of the IDF. That chapter helps to support the well being of the men and women in the Israeli navy, donating $1.5 million over a three-year period.

Shelly Lohmannn, director of dev-elopment in the Baltimore office of the Midatlantic FIDF, called it “a gift” to be able to hear the captain’s story in person.

Eugene Meyer of Pikesville said the story made him very proud and propelled him back to the days, many years ago, when he was a member of the Israeli Air Force. He felt the captain was at times too modest, making it sound like all he did was drive a boat. “They weren’t there to take a cruise,” said Meyer.

Lawrence Kravitz of Rockville, whose grandson serves in the Israeli army, called the speech “excellent.”

“He said what he could,” noted Kravitz. “He didn’t say what he shouldn’t.”

After listening to the captain, Peter Huessy said it was even more evident just how isolated Israel is in the world. Thanks to a peace treaty with Egypt, Israel was able to sail through the Suez Canal on this mission, but that could change at any time with the current situation in Egypt, said Huessy, president of GeoStrategic Analysis.

spollak@washingtonjewishweek.com

Jewish man attacked in Paris

Two unidentified men wielding a stun gun assaulted a Jewish man near a Paris synagogue.

K. Sassoun, a 52-year-old Israeli, was identified as the victim of Monday night’s attack at a building next to a synagogue on Pavee Street in central Paris, according to JSSnews.com. Sassoun was not seriously hurt but required medical treatment after being knocked down from the stun gun.

“The perpetrators assaulted the victim for no other reason than his clothing and appearance, which identified him as being Jewish and the fact that he was near a Jewish place of worship,” the National Bureau for Vig-ilance Against Anti-Semitism said in a statement.

Sassoun filed a complaint for racial hate crime and assault with Paris police.

The site of the attack once was the center of Jewish life in Paris and is considered its historic Jewish quarter.

Egyptian Jewish leader buried

Nadia Haroun, the deputy head of Egypt’s Jewish community, was buried Tuesday. She died last Thursday from a heart attack at the age of 59. The funeral ceremony was led by Haroun’s sister, Magda, who is now the leader of the country’s small remaining Jewish community.

The burial was held in Cairo’s downtown Gates of Heaven Synagogue. During her life, Haroun was a lawyer and an architect. She was also the daughter of Egyptian politician Chehata Haroun, who was known for expressing anti-Zionist views and defending Egyptian Jews against accusations that they were more loyal to Israel than to Egypt.

Haroun is survived by a son and a daughter. Less than 40 Jews remain in Egypt, the Associated Press reported.

Anti-Semitic incidents on the rise in the Netherlands

A Dutch Jewish watchdog group reported a 23 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents last year in the Netherlands.

The Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) recorded 147 anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands in 2013, compared with 114 in the previous year. CIDI’s annual report was released Tuesday.

Verbal assaults on Jews that involved a direct exchange rose to 21 from 14. Three incidents involved direct physical violence, and one case featured threats of violence.

“CIDI finds the increase all the more disconcerting because it is partly caused by frequent confrontations between victims and perpetrators,” the organization said in statement.

Jewish Russian aboard missing plane

One of the passengers aboard the Malaysian Airlines plane that vanished is a Jewish Russian national.

Nikolai Brodskii, 43, of the Siberian city of Irkutsk, appears on the missing plane’s passenger manifest. He is a husband and father of sons aged 17 and 11.

Rabbi Aharon Wagner, a Chabad rabbi for the region, contacted Brodskii’s family after learning that he was on the plane, the Times of Israel reported.

Brodskii, a scuba diving instructor, had traveled to Bali, Indonesia, for a diving vacation. He was returning to Russia on Flight MH370, according to Vitaly Markov, first secretary of the Russian embassy in Malaysia.

The flight, with 239 passengers on board, disappeared Saturday while flying over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam.

Boosting STEM

Zvi Peleg (left), director general of the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network, is pictured with students of the network's program in collaboration with the Israeli Air Force in Kfar Saba, Israel. (Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network)

Zvi Peleg (left), director general of the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network, is pictured with students of the network’s program in collaboration with the Israeli Air Force in Kfar Saba, Israel. (Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network)

In Israel, high school education is mandated by law, and the government grants each student an equal financial allocation for education. But a town such as Afula, with fewer residents than Tel Aviv, gets less government funding overall. This is also true for small villages of concentrated minorities.

With the backdrop of that challenge of getting enough outside funding for smaller communities, Zvi Peleg — director general of the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network, the largest independent network of science and technology educational institutions in Israel — wants to grant the same quality of education to every citizen in Israel.

“We are serving the secular [Jews], the religious, the Orthodox religious, the ultra-Orthodox religious, the Arabs, the Druze, all the populations in Israel,” explained Peleg.

On Feb. 25, Friends of Israel Sci-Tech Schools, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization supporting the Israeli schools network, held a gala to honor five prominent supporters of the program at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.

“Our American Friends group plays a very important role in the success of our programs throughout Israel. There has never been a greater need to prepare our young people with state-of-the-art science and technology education to serve the growing need of industry in Israel,” Peleg said of the dinner, which honored Thomas E. McCorry of Lockheed Martin, Dr. Charlotte Frank, Dr. Lynne B. Harrison, Mark Levenfus and corporate sponsor Marks Paneth LLP.

The Sci-Tech network was first established in Israel in 1949 and today includes 206 junior and senior high schools, industrial schools, educational centers and technical, engineering and academic colleges throughout the Jewish state. The network’s schools focus on science and technology education and reach the peripheral regions of the country, including Israeli municipalities beyond the Green Line such as Maale Adumim and Ariel.

“We are not political at all,” said Peleg, himself a graduate of an Israel Sci-Tech school. “We are dealing only in education.”

A core goal of the school network is to motivate more students to focus on science and technology education. In the Sci-Tech schools, 60 percent of students choose this focus, compared with Israel’s national average of 30 percent.

This focus pays off in a country that has built itself an international reputation of being the “startup nation,” according to Shai Lewinsohn, director of resource development and external affairs for the program, who said the network’s 37 two-year colleges prepare students to be practical engineers.

The Israeli high-tech industry is built on three layers of workers. At the top is the research and development sector, mostly comprised of people with Ph.Ds. Below them are engineers, and below the engineers are practical engineers, the largest layer.

Practical engineers “are very needed in the high-tech industry,” said Lewinsohn, and about 40 percent of those in Israel are graduates of schools in the Sci-Tech program.

Furthermore, the Israel Defense Forces depends on Sci-Tech schools because the army is moving toward high-tech equipment that needs the attention of many technologically trained people.

“Forty percent of the practical engineers who are serving today in the IDF are graduates of our colleges,” said Lewinsohn. “Currently in the IDF, we have three graduates who are major generals. … One of them is the chief of intelligence, Aviv Kochavi.”

In addition, Elisha Yanai, the last of president of Motorola Israel, is a graduate of the Singalowski Technical School in Tel Aviv, a Sci-Tech school and one of the oldest and largest high schools in Israel.

Another two graduates of the school network are heading to the Pitango Venture Capital fund.

“Pitango is one of the largest funds that invests in the high-tech industry in Israel. [Managing general partner and co-founder of Pitango] Chemi Peres is the son of [Israeli] President Shimon Peres. The other [managing general partner] is Aaron Mankovski,” who has headed the HighTech Industries Association, an organization representing the high-tech industry in Israel, said Lewinsohn.

Today, Israel Sci-Tech Schools is the largest education network in Israel, working with 100,000 students from all over the country. Some of the schools have been founded by the program, while in other cases, small municipalities or developing towns that have a lower overall education budget choose to affiliate their existing schools with the Sci-Tech program.

Often, “because the brand has become so well-known in Israel and the level and quality of education is so strong, Israel Sci-Tech schools are really sought after,” said Stan Steinreich, a spokesman for the school network.

The program “will help any kind of community in Israel that asks for help,” said Steinreich. Since Israel’s minority populations tend to concentrate in particular areas, Israel Sci-Tech schools in those areas tend to include predominently students from those communities simply for geographic and demographic reasons.

“In an Arab community the school will be an Arab school, or in a Druze village the school will be a Druze school,” he said.

An exception exists when it comes to the haredi Jewish community, which comprises an estimated 10 percent of Jewish Israelis. Due to that the community’s heavy focus on religious study and religous life, few in the community are able to work full time, and the salaries of those who do are significantly lower. About 60 percent of haredi families, which usually include many children, live in poverty. By 2050, haredim are expected to make up more than a quarter of the Israeli population.

“In order to get those kids to participate, there are sensitivities, and [we are] working with local rabbis to make that happen,” said Steinreich, explaining that Sci-Tech needs to set up special schools geared to the haredi community’s needs in order to work with that community.

At the same time, there is a “warming for the concept” of education in secular subjects in the haredi community, especially science and technology, which represents the core of what the Sci-Tech network does.

“It may not be as quick [as growth in other communities], but it’s certainly changing,” said Steinreich.