Israeli software firms meet needs by training, hiring yeshiva pupils

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

JERUSALEM — If Finance Minister Ya'acov Ne'eman is right about yeshiva students wanting to get out of the classroom and into the workforce, the high-tech industry may have reason to rejoice.

According to George Morgenstern, chairman of Decision Systems Israel, yeshiva students make excellent programmers and, to prove his point, he has offered to hire and train 25 of them.

"In programming you need patience, a willingness to go into detail and the concentration to make sure you dotted your I's and crossed your T's and to go over it again and again," he said. "It's the same thing with Talmud [study]."

Morgenstern, whose U.S.-based company, International Data Operations, has hired about 200 yeshiva students, said it takes six months to train them to become proficient software programmers, compared to one to two years for high school graduates.

The matching of yeshiva students with jobs in the industry would be ideal, Morgenstern said.

"It's Ne'eman's position that yeshiva boys want to go out to work [and] the single largest personnel shortage is in programming," he added.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade previously said that the high-tech sector will face a shortage of 7,000 workers by 2000.

Last week, Ne'eman suggested a plan to recruit haredim for one month of mandatory army service, after which they would be free to enter the workforce. Under the current system, any haredi man who chooses to work rather than study is drafted for regular army service.

The Treasury and Morgenstern will meet again to discuss funding for the program, providing that the haredim accept their proposals.

While Morgenstern's current proposal pertains to males, he said programming also offers a lot of opportunities for haredi women, since they also are highly skilled and most of the work can be done at home.

Based in Givat Shmuel, DSI produces a variety of software and data communication services. The company has about 230 employees and an annual turnover of more than $12 million.