Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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29 Kislev 5760 - December 8, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Rabbi Gafni Warns Against Cuts in Torah and Religious Services Budgets

by Eliezer Rauchberger

In Knesset Finance Committee deliberations held on 22 Kislev about the budget of the Religious Affairs Ministry, Rabbi Moshe Gafni raised the serious problem of budgetary discrimination against Torah institutions and religious services.

Rabbi Gafni stressed that according to the Blumenberg-Gavish Committee appointed to study funding of Jewish services, NIS 300 million should have been added to the forthcoming year's budgets for Torah institutions. In fact, they suffered a cut of NIS 25 million.

He said that the budget of secular institutions of higher learning for the year 2000 has grown by half a billion shekels, and that their development budgets have nearly tripled since 1998. In the same period, Torah institutions have received absolutely no development budgets.

"I think that improvements are needed in the administration of both the Religious Affairs Ministry and the religious councils and that the system should be revamped," Rabbi Gafni stressed. "We are opposed to double funding and in favor of the consolidation of services under one roof. Last year, the culture budget was consolidated in the Education Ministry, according to the guidelines of the Attorney General. However he stipulated that the budget should not be cut. Nonetheless, the Torah culture budget was cut by 50%. All this casts aspersions upon the sincerity of those who argue for improving administration efficiency, and seems to imply that their purpose is really to undermine the funding."

Rabbi Gafni then pointed to the injustice done by granting religious services by entire sectors of the state. As an example, he cited new cities and neighborhoods which have been provided with schools, kindergartens and community centers, but not with synagogues and mikvehs. He told the committee members about his tour to the Ramat Aviv Gimmel neighborhood, arranged by the neighborhood committee. During his visit, he said, residents approached him with tear-filled eyes. They informed him of the sorry situation in which a neighborhood with 20,000 residents lacks a synagogue, while their entire region, with 60,000 residents has no mikveh.

Rabbi Gafni called upon members of the Finance Committee not to approve the budget of the Religious Affairs Ministry in its current format but rather, to adjust it as dictated by the actual situation in the field and by comparative sections of the state budget.

At the end of the deliberations, the committee decided to postpone the response of the Finance Minister and the vote on the Religious Affairs Ministry budget to a later date.

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