Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Nissan 5763 - April 9, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Torah Institutions Support to be Slashed by 87 Percent
by Betzalel Kahn

Following a comprehensive examination of the booklet outlining the Finance Ministry's proposed economic decrees, MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni revealed last week that the proposed budget cut for the Religious Affairs Ministry would leave only NIS 134 million ($29 million) for Torah institutions.

The position paper Rabbi Gafni produced said the budget for Torah institutions in 2002 stood at NIS 1.027 billion ($220 million). In the current 2003 budget, base funding was reduced to NIS 846 million ($181 million), along with NIS 40 million ($9 million) in reserve funding.

The Finance Ministry's economic plan is designed to cut hundreds of millions of shekels from the Torah institutions budget starting from this already reduced level.

First, the across-the-board reductions as applied to Religious Affairs Ministry budget allocations, which will come completely out of funding for yeshivas and not other religious services, would slice away NIS 123 million ($26 million) leaving only NIS 763 million. Another paragraph in the Finance Ministry plan defines the yeshiva budget as financial support (and not part of the regular budget), which would result in a further reduction of 10 percent or NIS 76 million ($16 million), leaving NIS 686,700.

Based on another paragraph, NIS 103 million ($22 million) representing funding for yeshiva students from abroad will be cut, bringing it down to NIS 587,700. Discontinuing payments for the top age category (16-18) and the middle grades (14- 16) due to "double allocations" from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Religions (which was held to be illegal for yeshivas though not for others) would eliminate another NIS 170 million ($36 million), leaving NIS 413,700 for next year.

In another arbitrary and outrageous decision, the Finance Ministry has determined that the 30,465 kollel talmidim over the age of 27 will receive none of the NIS 5,400 per year they currently receive, which would cut another NIS 165 million ($35 million) from the Ministry budget. Likewise the decision to cut funding for 18,566 talmidim ages 22-27, who until now received NIS 5400 and now will receive only NIS 2,700 per year per talmid, will trim away another NIS 50 million ($11 million). At the point the total Torah budget is down to NIS 199,189 million, but that is not yet the end of it.

Yet another paragraph discontinues funding for institutions with fewer than 100 talmidim, a definition that applies to 25 percent of all institutions. This curtailment would reduce the budget by NIS 50 million ($11 million). Rabbi Gafni notes that tightening various eligibility criteria would result in a further reduction of 10 percent or NIS 15 million ($3 million). Following this long list of reductions only NIS 134 million or 13 percent of the original Ministry budget would remain.

Rabbi Gafni notes that most of the government support goes for faculty and staff salaries but is nonetheless defined as support for students which amplifies the cuts. Also he notes that support for yeshiva students from abroad is being eliminated but support for university students from abroad is being continued.

"A reduction of 50 percent in the 22-27 age category and the total elimination of allocations for talmidim over the age of 27 represents an ideological attempt at coercion, demanding a change in the way of life of bnei Torah through an economic blow," writes Rabbi Gafni in his position paper. He also notes that the budgets for Torah institutions have long been disbursed under the strictest supervision of any allocation by the Israeli government, with no justification.

On the issue of children's allowances Rabbi Gafni points out that a typical family with eight children stands to see its monthly payments reduced from NIS 4,803 in December 2001 to NIS 1,152 in January 2006. This 76 percent cut in support adds up to NIS 43,812 ($9,400) a year.


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