One of our feature articles this week discusses the reality
behind the sensational charge by a leading Israeli daily
newspaper that an "average" kollel family gets NIS
17,000 per month in public support. This was one of a series
of articles that entered the public consciousness and the
figure that appeared in its headline is constantly cited to
illustrate the way the chareidi community is parasitically
living off the public purse. It adds up to about $50,000 a
This figure is not an honest one. More than 40% of the total
comes from taxes that are "charged" to the chareidi but are
not paid because there is no tax liability. These phantom
taxes are not an out-of-pocket expense for the state, nor
does the avreich have any benefit from them.
Of the total, only NIS 650, or less than 4%, is money that is
granted to chareidim alone since it is given to
kollelim. The rest of the 96% comes from programs that
are available to everyone. If chareidim receive more than
their share of these programs, it is because of the social
characteristics and not because of their religious status.
Moreover, no perspective was given. No comparison was made of
the figures for other sectors of the population. No
statistics were given for how many chareidi families actually
fit the profile of the family that was described in the
article nor was any effort made to find out how many non-
chareidi families fit the profile. No chareidi spokesmen were
given a chance to comment on the material.
In short, it was a shoddy piece of journalism, but a most
effective case of chareidi bashing.
Articles like these -- and there are many others -- should
give pause to those who say that the chareidi community
brings criticism upon itself. This includes both those within
and outside of the chareidi community.
Undoubtedly we could do better at presenting our case to the
world and we should do better. Undoubtedly the colorful
characters who all-too-frequently provide the secular press
with headlines with their indiscreet and unnecessarily
combative statements harm our cause. Yet articles such as the
one discussed cannot be attributed to anything any of us has
Moreover, some of the least flattering things we do in public
are actually forced upon us unjustly. MK Rabbi Ravitz
recently pointed out that the only members of Knesset who
must haggle over classrooms are the chareidi MKs. All other
Jewish children in the State of Israel receive their due from
the regular budgetary procedure. Chareidi children, even
after the dedicated efforts of the chareidi MKs, receive far
less, and even though it is at the cost of annual public
humiliation in the form of charges of chareidi blackmail.
This is because no government has ever consented to include
funding for chareidi education in the regular budget. It
remains under special sections that must be renewed annually
rather than as a regular item that is automatically
It is our duty to continually improve ourselves in all areas
of our interpersonal relations, including our relations with
nonreligious Jews. We must also pray for a spirit poured down
from Above to erase biases in the way we are perceived.