Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Cheshvan 5762 - October 24, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Finance Subcommittee to Discuss the Crisis Facing Chareidi Organizations
by Eliezer Rauchberger

There was a sharp confrontation last week in the Knesset Finance Committee between the chareidi representatives and deputy Attorney General Amnon de Hertoch regarding the major cutbacks in the Education Ministry's support of chareidi cultural institutions.

At the beginning of the meeting MK Litzman said that it was totally unacceptable that towards the end of the financial year the Ministry of Education had paid Torah cultural organizations only 20 percent of what they were entitled to. "I do not know who is responsible for this, but it is obvious that this problem has to be solved as quickly as possible, because these organizations are carrying out thousands of important activities," Litzman said.

Director-General of the Education Ministry Ronit Tirosh agreed that these organizations were undergoing a serious crisis, and said that a compromise should be found.

Deputy Education Minister Meshulam Nahari (Shas), who is also responsible for Torah culture, presented the Committee with a survey of the history of governmental support of chareidi cultural organizations. He explained that the source of the problem was a change in the number of "points" granted to each activity of a chareidi cultural organization, it having been recently (and suddenly) determined that Torah shiurim would be at the bottom of the scale and only receive one point, as compared to 150 points received by an activity in the field of secular culture. "I fail to understand why Torah shiurim, of all things, are granted the lowest number of points," Nahari commented.

In discussions with the Justice Ministry about the points system he had insisted that no changes should take place in the middle of the year since organizations do not change their activities in the middle of the year. When the Education Ministry Committee met to distribute the funds, the extent of the crisis became clear. NPOs which had been financed for ten years, collapsed. There has been a reduction of 50 percent and more in funds for Torah shiurim, and some established NPOs such as Arachim have suffered a 90% decrease in funding. Instead of NIS 4.5 million a year the organization is due to receive only NIS 260,000 according to the new criteria.

Nahari said that he assumes that the Justice Ministry, which drew up the new criteria, also did not intend to bring about the collapse of the cultural organizations, but only to effect a change in the budgetary allocation. He therefore proposed the formulation of uniform regulations covering all cultural activities, whether religious or secular. According to his proposal the whole budget would be transferred from the Education Ministry to the Ministry of Culture, and the Education Ministry would only retain control over sections which were identical for all sectors, and the sum awarded per hour and per activity would also be the same.

Deputy Attorney General Amnon de Hertoch said that the Education Ministry had been given plenty of time to draw up the new criteria, which were designed to create equality between the financing of Torah shiurim and the financing of secular culture. He even claimed that since the change took place in the middle of the year the chareidi organizations were given a 45 percent increase compared to non- religious organizations, and that next year there would be equality with all organizations receiving the same sum per hour of study.

In the ensuing discussion MKs disputed de Hertoch's claim that the Education Ministry was given two years to prepare changes in the criteria. They claimed that throughout the years the funding of Torah cultural activities was much less than the funding of secular cultural activities.

MK Paritzky (Shinui) claimed that all Torah cultural activities were just activities to make people observant, and were thus not cultural but political in nature. MK Halpert denied this and argued that they were dealing with the dissemination of Torah and other genuine Torah activities, in which about 5 million people a year took part. "You will never manage to deny our right to learn Torah, to give Torah shiurim and to receive funding for it. We are fully entitled to this and this is our culture against which you conspire on a daily basis," said Halpert.

MK Gafni asked Adv. de Hertoch whether the criteria used by the Science Ministry for the support of scientific, sport, and other organizations were legal and whether those funds were also frozen. He said that in 1999 the Education Ministry budget for Torah education amounted to NIS 83 million as opposed to 71 million this year. In addition, the Income Tax authorities had also asked for their 23 percent share from each allocation. Gafni pointed out that Torah shiurim were the only cultural activities engaged in by the chareidi public, and he demanded that an immediate solution be found for the critical situation of organizations with debts of millions of NIS who had not paid any wages for the past ten months. "Why does the Habima theater receive support unlinked to any criteria and the Justice Ministry does not freeze these funds, whereas Torah cultural organization are left to collapse?" Gafni asked.

The comptroller of the Education Ministry, Nissan Raz, said that all the applications for support received by the Ministry were checked and since the Committee had already signed the budgetary report there was no possibility of changing the budgetary allocation.


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