Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Cheshvan 5761 - Noveber 2, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Areshet: A New Religious Social Services Organization
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Israeli law gives formidable power to social workers and far- reaching jurisdiction to welfare authorities. Social workers are authorized to deal with families and youth in distress particularly in the area of interfamily relations but also a child's education, relations between a couple and between a woman and her family.

Welfare authorities are authorized to switch students from one educational institution to another, to eject people from their homes, to separate family members, to remove children from their homes and place them in dormitory institutions or foster homes, and even to give children up for adoption and separate them from their family forever.

It is alarming that such fateful decisions are made unilaterally by them, and they are given full backing by the courts and police.

The vast majority of officials employed in these sensitive positions do not come from traditional Jewish backgrounds and all the less so from a religious one. Their knowledge of the religious public's way of life is fallacious (if it exists at all) and the concept of da'as Torah is totally foreign to them. Because of this, and because the general atmosphere in the State is of discriminating against religious families because of their religious background, many social workers believe that all means are acceptable to achieving their end, including false, prejudiced reports to the court.

An example of this clear anti-religious bias can seen in the social report on family S. which recommends that the children be removed from their religious mother's care and transferred to their secular father: " . . . It's important to mention that for the duration of this year, significant attention should be paid to the emotional containment of the children due to the extreme passage (from the home of a religious mother to the home of a secular father...) to make it as easy as possible for them, and to enable a gradual lifestyle change so the children will be ready to accept it . . . "

The secular approach in social work threatens the religious individual and causes damage, sometimes irreversible, to the life spirit of the religious public -- its children.

Under the present system, many religious families are too intimidated to turn to municipal welfare offices. They continue to sink in the morass of their problems.

Why aren't there religious social workers in the system?

The religious community has capable professionals, but the authorities prevent them from being active in the municipal framework. Discrimination exists against the religious community in employing social workers and psychologists from this sector as well as developing special projects for it and providing it with resources. In a city like Bnei Brak where the entire government is in religious hands, it is not such a problem, but in Yerushalayim it is.

Funds and Resources

In Jerusalem, for its 500,000 residents, the municipality employees 500 social workers. The religious community comprises 160,000 souls (30% of the population), but only 15 social workers (3% of the total number) serve this sector. In contrast, the Arab population has close to 100 social workers with full autonomy, and its annual municipal funding is 80 million shekels, a quarter of the municipal welfare budget. Social workers and special projects for the religious population only receive funding comprising a mere few percent of the total budget!

Additionally, three secular associations operate in Jerusalem that were established by the municipality, which altogether supply the city with 400 social workers. These social workers dispense welfare services to the population without a tender and enjoy budgets amounting to tens of millions of shekels.

Why Was Areshet Founded?

The many cases where a religious individual suffered discrimination because he and his needs weren't understood led to the founding of AReSHeT Organization -- Irgun Revacha Shomrei Torah (Torah Observant Welfare Organization). Areshet was founded by Rav Shimon Tajouri and its president is Harav Benayahu Shmueli. The organization has received the support and encouragement of HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, rosh yeshivas Yeshivas Maalos HaTorah, and the recommendation of the Eida HaChareidis beis din.

The organization is an address for a religious man who is suffering distress and feels trampled and misunderstood by the existing welfare system.

The organization also provides an alternative for religious families who are reluctant to approach the municipal welfare services.

An additional goal of the organization is to organize the religious social workers under one roof to work and prepare suitable programs and projects for the religious community which are respectful of its life style.

What does the Organization Give?

Areshet seeks to provide an alternative from two points-of- view: A. From the point-of-view of religious families who are suspicious of secular social workers and feel an aversion for them. B. From the point-of-view of the government authorities, who must realize that social services for the religious must be given by professional religious social workers.

* Areshet offers legal representation and the professional team of a welfare official and psychologist for each case. Diagnoses and court reports are prepared as necessary.

* Areshet is active in training religious social workers.

* The organization holds seminars for preschool to post high-school teachers, and rabbonim. The seminars teach how to diagnose problems in time so that a person in need can receive help before the welfare services are called in.

* We have set up an information center to supply data concerning charity organizations in various fields and professional welfare workers.

In Conclusion

Areshet was founded because of the anti-religious and discriminatory attitude of the welfare services against needy religious families. Besides the benefits it provides to the families themselves, Areshet offers support and assistance to religious social workers when standing before the courts and Decision Boards. The assistance is provided by lawyers guided by da'as Torah who are supportive of the families' life style.

Areshet needs your support and is here to support your needs. Areshet may be contacted at: POB 28352, Jerusalem, 91283. Telephone: 02 524 0114; 051 289435.


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