Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

25 Iyar 5760 - May 31, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shocking Discrimination in Ashdod Budget

by Binyomin Rabinowitz

Chareidi representatives from all over the country bemoan the injustice of unfair distribution of monetary and other resources on the part of municipalities and local councils towards the chareidi sector, especially in all that pertains to Torah institutions. Sometimes an outcry is heard from one particular town or settlement, but in general, life goes on.

In the city of Ashdod, which boasts the country's third largest chareidi community, directors of Torah and chinuch institutions have experienced appalling deprivation at the hands of the municipality for many years. This time, however, they have decided to join together to seriously confront the issue.

An interesting development in the struggle was recorded Last week when Ashdod mayor Tzvi Tzilker wrote a reply to the representative of the Institution Directors, Attorney Avrohom Weinroth. The letter speaks for itself. However, before disclosing its contents, let us describe the chain of events which led to this development.

Emergency Meeting

A number of months ago, directors of the Torah institutions of Ashdod founded the Forum of Ashdod Chareidi Institutions, uniting representatives from all circles of local chareidi Jewry. At an emergency meeting of the Forum, it was decided to launch a frontal battle against the Ashdod Municipality due to the appalling deprivation of the chareidi sector of the city. At the meeting it was noted that the intensification of the struggle is a result of long term efforts by directors of city chareidi institutions to end discrimination against the chareidi sector, efforts which until now had been fruitless.

More than a year ago when the city budget for 1998 was presented, directors of Torah institutions lodged a protest. Their claims were rejected however, and the mayor denied that there was any discrimination in the city.

Directors of the Torah institutions then decided to conduct a professional investigation of the issue to prove their point. Accountant Rabbi Moshe Bibleh undertook this mission on a voluntary basis with great dedication, his sole purpose being to aid Ashdod's Torah and chinuch institutions.

The results of this comprehensive investigation, analyzing the Municipal budget for 1999, were published in a pamphlet entitled, "A Comparative Report: Education, Cultural Subsidizes in the Ashdod Municipality By Sectors." The jam- packed pamphlet relates to support for education and culture which the Municipality grants to the general population, analyzing and comparing funds directed to the mamlachti (general) and mamlachti dati (national religious) schools in the city, as well as to the chareidi sector.

Exact Numbers

In a lengthy chapter dealing with Municipal education subsidies, the amount of classrooms in the three sectors are displayed with graphs showing the number of children in kindergartens and elementary schools. Another graph reflects the situation of the students and classrooms throughout the entire city.

The report enumerates the precise incomes and expenses of the Municipality for education. From all this we see that each student in mamlachti and mamlachti dati schools receives 1238 NIS a month from the city, while a student in the chareidi network receives only NIS 121, a proportion of more than 10:1.

This appalling discrimination is also evident in the cultural budgets. The culture budget for the overall population is NIS 117 per capita, while that for the chareidi sector is NIS 24 per capita. The discrepancy is even greater when we study the cultural allotments for students. A student in the general sector receives NIS 972 a year, while a chareidi student receives only NIS 77, a proportion of more than 12:1.

A Terrible Injustice

An additional graph discloses the following information: In the overall educational system, 58 percent of city students study in mamlachti schools; 18 percent in mamlachti dati and 24 percent in the chareidi schools. Mamlachti and mamlachti dati schools receive 97 percent of the budget; chareidi schools have to survive with only the remaining 3 percent.

The Culture Clause of the budget states that the general (read: secular) population constitutes 82 percent of the population, while the chareidi sector constitutes 18 percent. However, the general sector receives 98 percent of the cultural funds, while the chareidi sector receives only 2 percent.

The pamphlet was presented to Mayor Tzvi Tzilker and top ranking officials in the Municipality in order to prove that the claims of the Forum of Chareidi Institutions and UTJ City Council representatives are, indeed, justified.

At the meeting with the mayor attended by the representatives of the Forum, Tzilker was at first shocked by the report. No one attempted to deny the shocking statistics. The mayor even asked the chareidim how they can possibly function under such conditions. At the end of the meeting, Tzilker said that he would examine the claims and try to find ways to correct the terrible injustices perpetrated against the city's chareidi sector.

However, in a letter of response that he later sent, he was unrepentant and even defiant. "The ways of the chinuch chareidi, at both the municipal and the national levels, are mysterious," he wrote. "There was never any complaints about discrimination among the institutions we run. . . . I have no doubt that if the chareidi educational system were run in the manner to which we are accustomed, there would be big savings." He said that the city is not obligated to fund the special programs that chareidi schools run.

The chareidi educators responded that this was just distracting demagoguery. They were not asking for funding for the extra hours of learning and so on, but just for a fair share of the budget for basic education that they provide.

The Forum has hired an attorney and they vow to pursue the issue until justice is done. They note that the mayor's letter said nothing about the budget for culture that is as lopsided as the education budget.

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