Sunday morning the classrooms at Chinuch Atzmai schools again
filled with the sounds of Torah and tefilloh as
thousands of tinokos shel beis rabbon arrived at
hundreds of boys' and girls' schools around the country,
joining the thousands of talmud Torah students who
were already back in class two weeks ago.
Following a tour of various schools Sunday morning, Rabbi
Avrohom Yosef Lazerson, one of the heads of Chinuch Atzmai,
said he found it encouraging to see pure Torah education in
full swing following months of preparation and battling
various government moves to stifle it.
The most severe crisis was in the area of transportation.
Tens of thousands of students would be unable to attend
Chinuch Atzmai without the extensive busing system that
transports children from small, out-of-the-way communities.
But government funding was delayed for an entire year. The
crisis reached its peak eight months ago when bus companies
said they could no longer sustain losses and stopped
providing service to hundreds of schools.
Every day 20,000 students make their way to Chinuch Atzmai
schools on these bus routes. Although chareidi parents would
do whatever it takes to ensure their children receive proper
schooling, many parents taking their first steps in
Yiddishkeit might opt to send their children to other
school systems if bus services are lacking.
"If a child drops out of the Chinuch Atzmai system and
transfers to a government or government-religious school this
is a tragedy for generations to come," says Rabbi Tzvi
Baumel, one of the heads of Chinuch Atzmai. "All of a sudden
the child's future comes to a halt. We see these children who
studied at chareidi schools starting Torah-true homes and
doros yeshorim. The establishment ideology on this
issue is to stop the busing, thereby inducing parents to
transfer their children to an education system in
The "Unnatural" Growth Rate of Torah-Based Schools
A study conducted by the Taub Center for the Study of Social
Policy in Israel reported that 10,000 students transfer from
one school system to another every year, but failed to
account for 7,000 of them.
Every year 1,700 students transfer from government-religious
schools to government schools, while 1,300 students transfer
in the opposite direction they found. Yet the authors of the
study not only overlook the other 7,000 students who transfer
to a different school system, but go so far as to write, "The
number of students who transfer from the government and
government-religious education systems to the chareidi
education system is negligible."
Lev L'Achim Director Rabbi Eliezer Sorotzkin has a very
different explanation. He says thousands of students leave
government and government-religious schools every year and
enroll at chareidi schools. "Take the city of Hadera, for
instance," he says. On Sunday, "165 children entered first-
grade classes at Torah-based institutions. These are students
who do not come from Hadera's chareidi families, but children
who — if not for the Lev L'Achim enrollment drives
— would attend secular schools, with a minority going
to government- religious schools."
Now that the enrollment drives are reaching more and more
families, says Rabbi Sorotzkin, most enrollment is for
kindergarten and first grade.
They prefer to say the migration to the chareidi education
system is insignificant, says Rabbi Sorotzkin, commenting on
the study. "Rather than researching the numbers they should
be investigating why the Israeli public does not want
government schooling. We arrive at the homes of secular and
traditionalist parents to enroll their children for Torah-
based education without any special benefits like meals,
busing or anything else. This is a public that cannot be
bought. Nor do why have the means to do so. Nevertheless
these parents choose Torah-based schools for their children.
We talk with parents and they do it of their own free will.
Sometimes when enrollment workers come to the students'
parents they say, `We've been waiting for you,' or, `Why
didn't you come a year or two ago?'"