Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Shevat 5764 - February 4, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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State Comptroller: "The Delay in Religious Services, the Yeshiva Budget and Guaranteed Income Cries to the Heavens"
by Eliezer Rauchberger

"The government promised the religious services it provides citizens would not be affected [by dismantling the Religious Affairs Ministry]. In practice a large segment of the population is in need of religious services, but there is a total collapse in the provision of these services," said MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni on Monday at a special meeting of the State Control Committee held at his initiative to address the faulty handling of the dismantling of the Religious Affairs Ministry and the transfer of powers to other ministries, as well as the status of former Religious Affairs Ministry workers and workers from the religious councils.

Rabbi Gafni said he was giving voice to the cry of Religious Affairs Ministry employees whose status has been left hanging. "By failing to pay the religious council workers their wages, the government is cynically taking advantage of people hungry for bread," he added. On the matter of the yeshiva budgets, which have been transferred to the Education Minister but have not yet been transferred to the yeshivas, he said, "A large cut has been made in support funding for Torah institutions, but they should at least pay the reduced funding."

State Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg said the secret of success in the move to dismantle the Religious Affairs Ministry and the transfer of its powers to other ministries, is in maintaining continuity in the activities the [newly charged] ministries are responsible for. He said the entire move might not be carried out and could get entangle. Therefore the continuous provision of services the ministry is required to provide to citizens should be ensured. "The delay of religious services, yeshiva funding and guaranteed income cries to the heavens."

Committee Chairman MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) said the government failed to dismantle the Religious Affairs Committee properly, resulting in total chaos.

MK Rabbi Yisroel Eichler said the government has been failing to transfer guaranteed income payments to the bank accounts of people who don't have enough food to eat, and the government's cost-saving measures are falling on the backs of people struggling to subsist.

Deputy Education Minister Tzvi Handel (HaIchud HaLeumi) said the problem of transferring employees to jobs at the Education Ministry -- which has taken over the tasks of handling the yeshiva budget for talmidim over the age of 18 and guaranteed income for avreichim -- has not yet been fully solved and is being taken care of by the Civil Service Commission. He said guaranteed income payments would be transferred to the bank accounts of eligible recipients on Tuesday. Regarding the delay in funding payments to the yeshivas he said there was a small hold-up and concerted efforts would be made in the future to prevent additional delays.

MK Yitzhak Levy (Mafdal), deputy minister for religious affairs, said the Justice Ministry is responsible for the delays in payment transfers to the yeshivas because it was late in issuing instructions to Torah institutions on filling out support requests. Levy estimated the move would be complete within about one month and then the system would go into operation.

On the question of the religious councils, he said their numbers would decrease from 140 to 67 by combining different councils and moving others. Regarding the deficit and the debts the religious councils face, he said the Finance Ministry is currently analyzing the source of the debts in order to cover them accordingly, and will work to eliminate the tremendous crisis resulting from unpaid salaries which led to the total collapse of the religious councils and of religious services.

Motti Aharoni, director of the senior division of the Civil Service Commission, said 90 percent of former Religious Affairs Ministry workers already know where they will be working and what their status is. Meanwhile Histadrut representatives are brokering negotiations to reach agreements with the remaining workers.


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