As an ultra-Orthodox young girl, Bareqet Hadad never dreamed of studying at the Technion. But life is full of surprises. In July 2022, the mother of three – who already holds her second job in industry – became a graduate of the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management.
Hadad married at the age of 18, and after giving birth to her first child, the next step seemed clear: she’d study at a religious college to become an English teacher. She grew up in the ultra-Orthodox community of Elad, graduated high school, and discovered that she was good in English. One evening, on her way to visit friends in Haifa, her husband showed her an advertisement for graduates of her girls’ high school to study at the Technion.
“It was a possibility that I couldn’t have imagined,” she said. “I came from an Haredi education and never thought that studying at the Technion was an option for me.” She called and confirmed there was an opening in the pre-academic course for ultra-Orthodox women at the Technion.
Growing up in Elad, education was important — Torah for boys and general studies for girls. But with conditions. “When I decided to take five units of English, I needed special approval. I also wanted five units in mathematics, but I had to be satisfied with three. So, the preparatory program opened an unexpected opportunity for me.”
At the start of the pre-academic course at the Technion, Hadad felt that she was back in her natural setting — studying with other women. “Not that it was easy,” she said. The studies were high-level, but the lecturers did everything they could to help the women succeed. “Their door was always open,” she said. “And from the beginning, I felt a guiding hand from above.”
Then came a second pregnancy. “I struggled,” she recalled. “It was challenging, and I studied day and night. Fortunately, the director of the Technion Center for Pre-Academic Education, Mooly Dotan, provided extensive mentoring. “Without his help, I wouldn’t have been able to finish.” Hadad passed the pre-academic program and gave birth to her second son a few days later. Strengthened by her success, she was ready to become a full-time Technion student.
Technion Studies: “A roller coaster”
Hadad chose the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management — and dove right in. “Sitting in a mixed classroom, men and women, was a very new experience for a woman from an ultra-Orthodox background. But I learned that to succeed you need partners, and the task is to study and nothing else.”
Hadad’s father worked in sales in manufacturing companies. “This field interested me most, because it was present in my life growing up,” she explained. “Add to that my love for communicating with people, identifying problems, situation analysis, and creating solutions, and you get the Manufacturing and Service Systems Program.” She chose courses related to manufacturing, focusing on topics such as productivity and maintenance quality, industrial engineering incidents, and production systems.
“On the personal level, studying at the Technion was a roller coaster,” she said. “At first everything went smoothly. It was all fresh in my mind from the preparatory course. But as the weeks went by the intensity grew and so did the workload. At some point I knew I wasn’t keeping up.” She started to hand in work late but continued sitting for exams. “Then suddenly fail, fail, and another fail,” she said. “Just before registering for the second semester, I broke down. My husband and I thought that maybe it wasn’t for me.” One morning after dropping the children at school, they sat on a bench, “shattered,” she recalled, trying to come to a decision. Complicating matters, they lived in the Technion dormitories, and ending her studies meant leaving the dorms and paying for an apartment. “How would we get by?”
Top of the world
Hadad put her studies on hold for a semester. Then she returned. “Life had toughened me up and I came back ready for the winter semester — my second at the Technion.” Here, Galit Eisig came into the picture. A counselor at the Technion’s Student Counseling Center, Eisig accompanied Hadad throughout the semester, and Hadad passed all her exams the first time around. “I felt on top of the world. It gave me the strength to continue.”
Her final project took place at Strauss Group Ltd., under the guidance of the Dotan Rodensky, a faculty lecturer and CEO of consulting firm IE&P Group. Rodensky worked with the Technion Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center, so the project had one team from the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management, and another of students from the Henry and Marilyn Taub Faculty of Computer Science. “Dotan’s guidance helped me submit an excellent project and we presented an end-product that will help Strauss’ excellence team,” she said.
Hadad completed her degree with a third child, holding children through Zoom meetings during the pandemic. “This required me to improve my time management and planning.” Keeping Shabbat also helped her become more efficient. “Shabbat enabled me to survive the rest of the week. I learned how to manage myself on a daily basis, to ask for help, even to ask a hundred times until I was sure I understand, to submit work on time, and think two steps ahead.”
Her belief in a guiding hand helped. “It’s a belief that gives enormous power to overcome small and big obstacles.” She also credits her success to her husband, a Yeshiva student and Torah Scribe, who took upon himself most of the care for their children. “During that time, he was also studying for accreditation exams of the Chief Rabbinate, which he passed.
“Bareqet has shown remarkable determination, dedication to achieve her goals, and coping abilities,” said the Pre-Academic Center’s Dotan. “Throughout her studies, she experienced several crises but managed to rise above, to complete all her assignments and finish her studies admirably as a woman with a family and mother of three. She is a Technion graduate and as such she deserves all the accolades.”
“An exceptional university in terms of support”
Hadad is confident in her future plans. “I have no doubt that I will be integrated in a senior position in the operational excellence division of an enterprise like Strauss. I will have a black belt in training for excellence and will be involved in projects that reach the CEO level,” she said.
The Technion is “an exceptional university in terms of support,” she added. No matter how much and what we are given, in the end we, the students and graduates, have to meet the challenges by ourselves. No one will be tested in my place, and no one will be interviewed in my place. And yet – the help was and still is essential.”
Accommodation in the dormitories was critical, she said, both economically and in terms of proximity to the faculty. The scholarships she received as well as support from the Office of the Dean of Students, were a great help. The lecturers and tutors dedicated their time far beyond what was required. And finally, Hadad credits Iris Moshkovitz, an expert in business communication and career success, for helping graduates build their CV, prepare for interviews, find a job, and help with everything associated with entering the work world.
“There’s no doubt that the effort was worth it. I see that what they say about Technion graduates, is true: we stand out, and we are equipped with an array of relevant skills for industry,” she said. “I am already in my second position in the industry, I can quickly enter any role, and work on the most complex production floors with the most advanced production lines.” That’s a result, she said, of the skills learned at the Technion — thinking, analysis, systemic approach.”
Today, there are 100 ultra-Orthodox men and 20 ultra-Orthodox women at the Technion. Some are studying engineering and others are in medicine. Hadad is one of the pioneers. She hopes to influence young women in the ultra-Orthodox community by demonstrating, firsthand, that they can study and succeed in engineering, sciences, and medicine.
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