Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Adar I 5763 - February 19, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Finance Ministry Finally Pays January-February Yeshiva Budget
by Eliezer Rauchberger and Betzalel Kahn

Early last week the Treasury Ministry deposited the yeshiva allocations for January and February--a total of NIS 152 million ($31 million)--following strong pressure by MKs Rabbi Moshe Gafni and Rabbi Yaakov Litzman.

Finance Ministry Budget Commissioner Uri Yogev promised UTJ MKs he would transfer the budget funds over three weeks ago, but failed to carry out his pledge until last Sunday.

The amount transferred to yeshivas and other Torah institutions reflected a 3 percent cut, following previous cuts totaling 8.5 percent, causing strong resentment among institution managers and United Torah Jewry MKs. The Treasury Ministry initiated the move with no advance notice and in violation of previous agreements between the Finance Minister and UTJ MKs. Rabbi Gafni spoke out against Yogev on Sunday, saying UTJ would not exercise further restraint in the matter of yeshiva budget cuts.

Rabbi Gafni claims that since August 2002 the state has been applying a new policy of cutting allocations earmarked for Torah institutions. "The budget is given according to the number of talmidim, including salaries for the rabbonim, teachers, workers and others, and the budget cut was made in contrast to wage payments in all [other] government ministries, in which no decision was made to cut wages," Rabbi Gafni wrote to Yogev. "The difficult economic state in Israel and the lack of donations from abroad has delivered a major blow to the budgets of Torah institutions and their upkeep, and your new policy of cutting allocations poses a threat to their financial viability.

"I demand an end to this distorted policy," Rabbi Gafni continued. "As long as there has been no decision to cut wages for workers, teachers, lecturers, etc., the amount allocated to Torah institutions cannot be cut."

He also claims the 7 percent reduction at the beginning of the 2003 budget year, in addition to an unjustified one-time cut in December, cannot be ignored in light of the 3 percent cut in the January-February budget. "This cut is intolerable and has turned into a policy of making the Torah world the first to be affected, ahead of all other sectors. As you can imagine, we will not show further restraint."

The 2003 yeshiva budget was reduced by another NIS 80 ($17 million) without consulting with or even notifying the Ministry of Religious Affairs in advance. The cut was executed by the Treasury Ministry based on mistaken estimates that 10,000 talmidim had left the country. In a letter sent to Yogev, Religious Affairs Ministry Director-General Attorney Moshe Shimoni claims that according to an agreement made with Finance Minister Silvan Shalom, it was decided to check the number of talmidim from abroad during the month of January, pledging budget funds would be provided for every talmid from abroad who signed a written declaration.

"An up-to-date examination of the figures in the computer system indicates our ministry should pay for at least 19,970 talmidim, and to this figure must be added the fact that several hundred declarations are still in the mail, and many talmidim from abroad have been `transferred' from reporting according to passport number to reporting according to national ID number."

Shimoni also maintains the reduction was essentially a clerical mistake. "Immediate action should be taken to transfer NIS 80 million to the yeshiva budget, since all of the talmidim are in the system." He says delaying the funds affected the monthly finances for January and led to resentment among yeshiva managers.

The Finance Ministry has yet to respond to these latest grievances.


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