Betzedek has filed a High Court petition challenging the
legality of the strict new regulations for pubic institutions
submitting requests for state funding, as well as another
petition against monetary sanctions imposed against
institutions where administrative defects were found, asking
for their cancellation and an interim order to block their
Betzedek is an American-Israeli human rights and social
justice organization founded with the aid of Agudas Yisroel
of America at the initiative of Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, executive
vice president of Agudas Yisroel of America, to handle legal,
public and social issues affecting the chareidi public.
The petition submitted by the organization's director,
Attorney Mordechai Green, claims that the new regulations for
funding requests substantially harm the fundamental right to
equality since they apply only to certain types of
institutions that receive state funding.
The petition further states the new regulations' monetary
sanctions discriminate against the institution and the
students' right to equity since they are imposed arbitrarily
and superficially and illogically against institutions where
administrative defects are discovered. Since they lack legal
backing and are extremely unreasonable they should be
annulled, the petition argues.
As an example of the sanctions imposed the petition cites an
institution where over 15 percent of students were absent
during an inspection, a reasonable absentee rate during the
flu season and not necessarily an indication of "fraud by the
institution or submission of a deceptive report," as the
Finance Ministry officials claim. The monetary sanctions
imposed are extreme since they deprive the institution of
support funding for 6-7 months until the next inspection.
Another example: A student found absent in two consecutive
inspections loses the support funding he received throughout
the year without the opportunity to explain the reasons for
his absences. A learning institution that unintentionally
failed to report the withdrawal of a student in the middle of
the year is accused by the Finance officials of "duplicity
with intention to obtain funding through fraud."
The petition notes that the appeal committee at the
department of the Accountant-General is only authorized to
investigate the accuracy of the findings in the inspection
reports, but is not authorized to hear explanations for the
student's absence. Furthermore, it notes, the appeal
committee does not have a single chareidi member.
The petition claims the sanctions are so harsh that in some
cases the loss of funding for a year or two can lead to an
institution's closure. In the case of kollelim, an
avreich can be deprived of the only source of income
for his family. The petition claims the instructions given to
Finance officials have effectively become a means of criminal
punishment, though the law does not authorize a minister to
levy fines or sanctions against institutions where
administrative irregularities alone have been found.