TORONTO — The Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), one of Israel’s main institutions of higher learning geared towards the Orthodox community, will bestow an honorary degree on Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird on Nov. 25.
A gala dinner at Toronto’s Ritz-Carlton hotel will recognize Baird’s “unwavering support for Israel and his role in making Canada an example of international responsibility and morality,” according to the Canadian Friends of the JCT.
Speaking to The CJN in advance of the event, Shimon Vinger, executive director of the college’s Canadian fundraising chapter, said the institution plays a vital role in Israel in helping haredi and Orthodox students obtain skills to join the workforce.
Established in 1969, the college produces graduates with marketable skills in the engineering, high-tech and business management fields while providing instruction in Torah. It has recently begun focusing on helping solve some of Israel’s societal issues surrounding the productivity of haredi populations.
Haredi students now comprise a full one-third of the college’s 4,000-plus student body.
“Our niche is the combo of tech, applied sciences and the study of Jewish heritage,” Vinger said. “We feel it’s good for the [haredi] students and their families if they qualify for our programs.
“Our [college] answers a societal need in Israel, and we’re positioned well to provide haredim a door to contribute more to Israeli society. Israel has this need to help the growing haredi community enter the workforce and institutions on every level.”
Vinger said JCT is often compared in programming to the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, with the added bonus of Torah study.
In 2011, the college honoured Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney with a similar award at a dinner. That event raised more than $900,000 for JCT.
Vinger said his organization hopes to surpass that total this year.
Asked whether JCT had any joint initiatives or exchange programs with Canadian universities or institutions, Vinger said the college would like to “do partnership programs with Canadian hospitals or high-tech institutions” but nothing has been formalized so far.
Baird told The CJN it will be an honour to receive recognition from the college.
“Israel is one of the most innovative countries in the world, and every time I visit, I marvel at the ingenuity of its people,” Baird said.
“This award should not signify my commitment to the state of Israel, but instead, should highlight the commitment of the Canadian people to a free, peaceful and prosperous Israel.”
For more information, visit www.cfjct.org.