Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Av 5765 - August 10, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Budget Cuts Could Lead to Tuition Increases at Talmudei Torah

By Betzalel Kahn

Hundreds of talmud Torah (cheder) principals from around the country joined chareidi MKs and public figures for an emergency meeting at the Talmudei Torah Union Center in light of the continued cuts in talmud Torah budgets. An astounding figure was revealed during the nationwide gathering: approximately 40 percent of Jerusalem parents are unable to pay the tuition due to financial strain.

The central presentation was a report by accountant Oved Ben- David & Associates, which pointed to serious erosion of the talmud Torah budgets on top of the across-the-board cuts at all educational institutions.

The meeting was opened by Rav Yitzchok Goldknopf, the director of the Union of Talmudei Torah, who warned that if steps are not taken soon to restore these funds critical to the survival of the talmudei Torah, principals would have to seek alternative means, such as increasing the burden of tuition on parents. He also said that lately talmudei Torah have not been receiving equipment and funding for renovation work from the local authorities unlike in previous years when every student at least had a desk and chair. "We are supposed to receive 55 percent of what a child receives in government schools, but in practice we receive less than this because of the unequal cuts.

"We did a survey in Jerusalem and found that 41 percent of parents do not pay tuition. Only about 60 percent pay. This is unprecedented. Until now 10 percent or 15 percent did not pay. This situation in which primary education institutions operate without tuition cannot continue. I turn to our representatives and say, `Equality among school age children must not fall off the agenda.'"

MK Rabbi Meir Porush said that in contrast to the malicious reports it should be clear to all, that none of us has any intention of introducing the Core Curriculum Program at chareidi educational institutions. He said funding had been promised during the coalition negotiations, including funding for kindergartens, and now, at the end of July, this money has yet to arrive. "The issue is cloaked in fog. Of course we must protest and make renewed efforts to see to it that this money eventually reaches the institutions as promised.

"What is happening in Jerusalem is that the city's legal advisor issued a directive preventing talmudei Torah from receiving equipment and furniture, which used to be done through the Allocations Committee. Until now in order to operate the institutions and the talmudei Torah, the Department for Chareidi Education would provide equipment and renovations for the talmudei Torah. Now along comes this new directive, and it is a nefarious directive and I don't know if we'll be able to restrain ourselves when one day the talmudei Torah will be unable to obtain desks and chairs.

"We cannot choose to rest and not take action, for in the past when they began with directives like this there was a committee the government set up and there was a directive and recommendation that in all matters tied to educational institutions there is no need for support committees. But to be in the situation Jerusalem is in—where if I'm not mistaken the chareidi sector has more [students] than the government and government-religious [schools] combined, and certainly in first through sixth grades—how can such a directive exist? I am certain the Mayor and his deputies and the councilmen will dedicate themselves to this issue and if we can be of help of course we will stand by your side and work with you."

HaRav Moshe Shlesinger, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Maaneh Simchoh, said tinokos shel beis rabbon are the glory of Tzion. "The generation of Tzion are the talmidim shel beis rabbon and the moment the tinokos shel beis rabbon are in Golus this is a Golus of the Shechinoh. We are gathered together to raise a cry against the difficult state the talmudei Torah are in and to formulate strategies for how to extract the talmudei Torah from a crisis that could literally bring the institutions to the point of collapse.

"The talmudei Torah are exempt institutions set up in the light of the guidance of maranan verabonon ztvk"l ylct"a as exempt institutions and they always ensured we received funding as exempt institutions. It is no secret that if we wanted to change to "official but unrecognized" or any other category, the funding would be considerable. We are faithful to gedolei Yisroel by remaining exempt institutions but because we cleave to the ideological conception of exempt institutions must we be in a situation in which we do not receive even the small amount we are entitled to? Don't the exempt institutions deserve to receive the funding they are entitled to?

"I turn to the MKs. Yeshar koach for the efforts you invest. But we have the impression the matter of talmudei Torah has been pushed off to the side. It has been several years since the talmudei Torah are not at the top of the priority list. If there are no tinokos shel beis rabbon, if the tinokos shel beis rabbon are not [educated] based on taharas hakodesh—`im ein gedi'im ein tayoshim.' The talmudei Torah will collapse and then it will be too late.

"If we do not succeed in securing the funding we will have no choice other than to impose the burden on the parents. We have no other choice. We will not close talmudei Torah but the burden will fall on somebody and that will be the parents. How will we be able to look the parents in the face every day when we ask for twice the tuition, when parents are already breaking down under the load placed on them? We have no other way. Nevertheless we have an obligation to thank the MKs for the efforts they have made—`ein mezarzim elo lemezurozim'—to apply all of their power to the matter of funding the talmudei Torah in order that we not have to see talmudei Torah simply go bankrupt, and this has already happened to two talmudei Torah."

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni began by saying that the talmudei Torah cannot surrender to any government interference in education. He went on to say that a situation has been created in which officials offer their own personal opinions. "According to these officials, exempt institutions deserve nothing. The battle over Chinuch Atzmai and Maayan Hachinuch HaTorani, which must be funded by law—over this battles must be waged. Over exempt institutions the battle is tougher. We are susceptible to harder blows we might suffer in the future. The municipality and Mayor Rabbi Uri Lupoliansky will go into this issue and I am certain the Mayor will see to a change in this assessment. Jerusalem's chareidi citizens pay taxes and this money cannot be allowed to go to a minority in Jerusalem and not to chareidi education."

Rabbi Gafni also spoke on the issue of the numerous difficulties the MKs have faced in recent years, especially the government decisions intended to prevent the yeshivas from receiving a single shekel. "The talmudei Torah took the same blow as the seminaries and the kindergartens. Rabbi Yaakov Litzman and I held budget negotiations with Sharon because we knew he wanted to throw Shinui out of the government. The underlying principle in the negotiations was that where the chareidi sector was affected more than other sectors the funds would be restored. At the end of the negotiations we signed an NIS 290-million-shekel agreement with NIS 140 million going primarily to kollelim and yeshivas and this money has already been transferred, and NIS 150 million going to a series of issues that had been struck hard: NIS 40 million for talmudei Torah, NIS 40 million for kindergartens, NIS 40 million for dormitories after the Welfare Ministry tried to expunge this during the Orlev period. There was NIS 18 million for Chinuch Atzmai bussing . . . We came to a total of NIS 180 million and it was clear we would have to cut certain areas when we came to the execution stage." Rabbi Gafni concluded by saying the MKs would carry out any decision reached, in order to help extract the talmudei Torah from the budget travails they are suffering.

Deputy Minister MK Rabbi Shmuel Halpert said, "The rate of natural increase in the chareidi sector is a source of envy [in the secular camp] and they are afraid of this . . . It was not incidental that they cut the yeshivas, the talmudei Torah, the Children's Allowances and the kollelim. This was a directed campaign planned against the chareidi public . . . and today they say this openly in the Knesset. They are unaware that through this they are endangering Eretz Yisroel. We are now in the days of Bein Hametzorim and as the novi Yirmiyohu says, "Al moh ovdoh ho'oretz . . . Vayomer Hashem al ozvom es Torosi . . . " (9:11-12). The cut in the yeshiva and talmud Torah budgets endangers our existence here in Eretz Yisroel and unfortunately they don't want to understand this."

Rav Yaakov Berger, speaking in the name of the talmudei Torah principals, announced that if the NIS 40-million budget the government agreed upon is not transferred within the next few days they would have no choice other than to raise tuition for next year. He asked the MKs on hand to reach agreements on the matter of the talmudei Torah funding as soon as possible in light of the differences of opinions regarding the level of funding.

Other speakers included Rabbi Eliezer Simchayoun, deputy Jerusalem mayor in charge of finance, Rabbi Yehoshua Pollak, deputy mayor of Jerusalem and treasurer of Beitar Illit, and Rabbi Uri Maklev, deputy Jerusalem mayor in charge of chareidi education.


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