Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Adar I 5760 - February 23 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Our Corruption is in the Eye of the Beholders

One of our feature articles this week discusses the reality behind the sensational charge by a leading Israeli daily newspaper that an "average" kollel family gets NIS 17,000 per month in public support. This was one of a series of articles that entered the public consciousness and the figure that appeared in its headline is constantly cited to illustrate the way the chareidi community is parasitically living off the public purse. It adds up to about $50,000 a year!

This figure is not an honest one. More than 40% of the total comes from taxes that are "charged" to the chareidi but are not paid because there is no tax liability. These phantom taxes are not an out-of-pocket expense for the state, nor does the avreich have any benefit from them.

Of the total, only NIS 650, or less than 4%, is money that is granted to chareidim alone since it is given to kollelim. The rest of the 96% comes from programs that are available to everyone. If chareidim receive more than their share of these programs, it is because of the social characteristics and not because of their religious status.

Moreover, no perspective was given. No comparison was made of the figures for other sectors of the population. No statistics were given for how many chareidi families actually fit the profile of the family that was described in the article nor was any effort made to find out how many non- chareidi families fit the profile. No chareidi spokesmen were given a chance to comment on the material.

In short, it was a shoddy piece of journalism, but a most effective case of chareidi bashing.

Articles like these -- and there are many others -- should give pause to those who say that the chareidi community brings criticism upon itself. This includes both those within and outside of the chareidi community.

Undoubtedly we could do better at presenting our case to the world and we should do better. Undoubtedly the colorful characters who all-too-frequently provide the secular press with headlines with their indiscreet and unnecessarily combative statements harm our cause. Yet articles such as the one discussed cannot be attributed to anything any of us has done.

Moreover, some of the least flattering things we do in public are actually forced upon us unjustly. MK Rabbi Ravitz recently pointed out that the only members of Knesset who must haggle over classrooms are the chareidi MKs. All other Jewish children in the State of Israel receive their due from the regular budgetary procedure. Chareidi children, even after the dedicated efforts of the chareidi MKs, receive far less, and even though it is at the cost of annual public humiliation in the form of charges of chareidi blackmail. This is because no government has ever consented to include funding for chareidi education in the regular budget. It remains under special sections that must be renewed annually rather than as a regular item that is automatically included.

It is our duty to continually improve ourselves in all areas of our interpersonal relations, including our relations with nonreligious Jews. We must also pray for a spirit poured down from Above to erase biases in the way we are perceived.

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