Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Kislev 5764 - November 26, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Yeshiva World Fears Next Round of Budget Cuts for Torah Institutions
by Betzalel Kahn

Government ministries continue to plot against the Torah world. Last week the Education Ministry imposed further economic decrees against the yeshivos ketanos.

In tandem with government talks about closing the Religious Affairs Ministry, to avoid overlapping support payments Attorney General Eliakim Rubinstein instructed the ministry to channel all future funding via the Education Ministry. He then directed government ministries to ensure that the transfer of the budgeted NIS 200 million ($45 million) from the Religious Affairs Ministry to the Education Ministry does not affect the per student funding the yeshivas receive. "Unifying the regulations is in no way intended to affect the general support budget or the supported organizations but to ensure that the support payments are given for genuine needs and to avoid overlapping," wrote Rubinstein.

Yet the Education Ministry appears not to have taken note of the directive and within a few weeks it cut drastically the monthly sum transferred to yeshivos ketanos. One year ago the Religious Affairs Ministry paid about NIS 300 ($66) per talmid every month, whereas since the funding was rerouted, the Education Ministry has elected to reduce this amount significantly, redirecting the some of the money to government schools and leaving no more than NIS 100 ($22) per talmid under the age of 18.

After this extreme budget slashing now the Torah world is concerned that the yeshivos gedolos and the kollelim are next. Several elements of the allocations for yeshivas and kollelim are slated to be transferred to the Education Ministry, which is unprepared to handle the matter since no special department has been set up to administer payments and no suitable criteria have been formulated. As a result the money could get absorbed into the other ministry budgets. According to the Education Ministry's current budget proposal for next year, approximately 20 percent of funding for yeshivos gedolos will be cut. United Torah Jewry MKs are working to maintain the budget allocation at least at last year's level.

They are also making a concerted demand to transfer the yeshivas' budget to the Prime Minister's Office since their activities are really not tied at all to the Education Ministry. However Shinui ministers are applying massive pressure to have the budget transferred to the Education Ministry where the yeshiva funding can be totally eradicated.

Several months ago the NIS 62 million ($14 million) dormitory budget was also cut extensively and many are concerned it will be completely expunged from next year's budget. When Zevulun Orlev assumed the post of Welfare Minister he decided to discontinue the dormitory budgets at the end of the last school year, claiming it was unreasonable for 90 percent of dormitory allocations to go to chareidi institutions. This is really an illusion since chareidi dormitories have just been budgeted separately from other institutions for over 20 years, ever since the original department chose not to handle chareidi institutions. Other dormitory institutions get plenty of money.

Following Orlev's decision, new criteria were formulated and they have undergone seven changes in recent months. Orlev continued to search for ways to trample the yeshivas underfoot, announcing he was unwilling to provide funding for a talmid to stay in a dormitory if he lives in the same city.

According to his policy a talmid living in a certain city in the center of the country and studying at a yeshiva in the adjacent city would be eligible for dormitory funding whereas a talmid living in Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood and studying in Bayit Vegan, for example, would be ineligible, even though the distance in time and space from his home is much greater.

Spokesmen for the Union of Yeshiva Managers claim Orlev was trying to wipe out the dormitory budget. Later it was decided that this condition would not apply to a talmid with four siblings under the age of 18 none of whom is allocated dormitory funds. It was also determined that funding would only be given to dormitory institutions with at least 60 students enrolled.

In addition, instead of the 3 percent across-the-board cut at the Education Ministry, Orlev decided to cut the budget by 30 percent starting this year, allotting just NIS 40 million for dormitory expenses during the 2004 budget year. Instead of NIS 450 ($100) per month per talmid, yeshivas with dormitories will receive NIS 300 ($67) per month.


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