Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Sivan 5764 - June 2, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Severe Government Pressure on Religious Education -- Principals Call on Education Ministry to Cancel Budget Decrees
By Betzalel Kahn

Several hundred principals from around the country, United Torah Jewry and Shas MKs, mayors of chareidi cities and public figures participated in a gathering organized by the Forum of the Heads of Organizations and Exempt Institutions and the Forum of Heads of Chareidi Local Authorities on Sunday to protest against the Education Ministry's budget decrees against chareidi educational institutions.

The participants at the gathering, held at Beis Yisroel Halls in Jerusalem, spoke out against Education Ministry cuts directed toward children at chareidi educational institutions, including the budget cut for kindergartens in preferred areas, confrontation-line towns and underprivileged towns--a cut liable to cause the collapse of hundreds of kindergartens already facing considerable financial strain-- and an 11 percent budget cut for talmudei Torah beyond the 6 percent cut for all types of schools.

The Education Ministry is also requiring a kindergarten licensee to employ the staff, a decree intended to do away with a decades-old arrangement according to which organizations and talmud Torah unions serve as owners of the kindergartens; now the organizations and unions will be forced to transfer the kindergartens to NGO ownership.

Furthermore the Education Ministry has announced starting next year that rehabilitation students will not be eligible to attend private kindergartens located away from their area of residence, children at kindergartens away from their place of residence will not be funded and the minimum number of students needed to open an educational institution will increase from 11 to 22.

Participants at the gathering claimed most of these decrees were not initiated due to budget shortfalls but are part of efforts to send a deathblow to chareidi educational institutions.

The gathering was opened and facilitated by Rabbi Yitzchok Goldknopf, director of the Union of Talmudei Torah, who related several Education Ministry decrees. Rabbi Dovid Breuer, chairman of the Union of Talmudei Torah of Bnei Brak, also addressed the new decrees and expanded at length on the dangers inherent in the Core Curriculum Program. Maran HaRav Shach, zt"l, was opposed to receiving large budgets, he explained, in order to prevent all outside intervention by the Education Ministry in curricular matters, and for over 30 years the chareidi education system operated without interference. "We are not joining the Core Program under any circumstances, for gedolei Yisroel shlita have instructed us not to. We will preserve the coals of the talmudei Torah," proclaimed Rabbi Breuer.

MK Rabbi Meir Porush attacked the new Education Ministry decrees saying that the directive not to permit classes to open with fewer than 22 children is tantamount to announcing the closure of talmudei Torah in the State of Israel. MK Eli Yishai said, "The government wants to get rid of the chareidim. In their eyes we are a threat to the existence of the State. This is a communist regime clothed as democratic. The Shinui Party wants to eliminate the Jewish people."

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni attacked Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Limor Livnat, accusing them of leading the harsh budget decrees against the entire chareidi public and the chareidi educational system. "In recent years international surveys have arrived, determining the educational system in Israel is bankrupt, on the bottom rung. They want to cut the budget for chareidi institutions to prevent secular parents from sending their children to our institutions."

MK Meshulam Nehari said the Education Minister told him she was cutting funding for chareidi education because she is obligated to government education first and foremost. He said Livnat went beyond the limits in her cuts against chareidi education.

Beitar Illit Mayor Rabbi Yitzchok Pindrus called for the use of all means of pressure to resist the budget decrees, saying the independence of chareidi education depends on it. "We must focus on our existence, whether we will be able to continue to uphold chareidi education in an independent, autonomous manner. The goal of the Education Ministry is to do away with private institutions. If we fight together, with combined, professional forces, there is no way we won't be able to open new classrooms next year and they will have no chance of implementing these decrees.

Rabbi Alon Elbaz, director of Maayan HaChinuch HaTorani, said the Education Ministry cuts budgets not for reasons of economics, but in order to harm chareidi education. "This is a war over religion and the Torah," he said.

Modi'in Illit Local Council Head Yaakov Guterman detailed the various Education Ministry decrees and said not only is the chareidi public harmed by these cuts, but the Arab sector and many local authorities as well. "We must make them a part of a joint campaign, for our campaign is of the utmost importance," he said.

Rabbi Avrohom Maklev, director of Eitz Hadaas, said we cannot allow the education system to collapse. "Even when salaries are not paid in the education system we will continue to give our children an education," he said. "They will not succeed in harming us. There will not be a single educator in the chareidi education system who goes hungry."

Other speakers included MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, MK Rabbi Yisroel Eichler, Rabbi Avrohom Yosef Lazerson, one of the heads of Chinuch Atzmai, and Rabbi Shmuel Halpert.

At the end of the gathering Rabbi Goldknopf read the decisions, including a demand for the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and the Education Minister to retract the cuts placed on the chareidi education system. MKs were also called on to give the issue of education top priority in order to protect tinokos shel beis rabbon, the jug of pure oil. The Education Ministry was called on not to interfere with curriculum at chareidi institutions and principals everywhere were called on to cry out in every city as the situation becomes dire with hundreds of education workers with dismissal notices in hand.

* * *

Several weeks ago a forum for independent kindergarten operators of "recognized but unofficial" institutions was set up. Today the forum numbers nearly 40 privately-owned organizations that have been involved for many weeks in an attempt to thwart the Education Ministry's harsh decrees, both on the issue of budget cuts and demands to alter the structure of kindergarten operations.

The forum was set up after the Education Ministry decided, without prior warning, to cut 10 percent of its funding assistance for tuition at kindergartens for 3-4-year-olds in confrontation-line towns, preferred areas and underprivileged towns. As a result Rabbi Yitzchok Pindrus, mayor of Beitar Illit, deputy chairman of the Center for Local Government and chairman of the Forum for Chareidi Local Councils, held an urgent gathering of top jurists and public figures.

Following this meeting the Center for Local Government filed a High Court appeal, claiming the 2004 education budget cuts were made without consulting it and are wholly unacceptable since they were executed in the middle of the school year and applied retroactively from the beginning of 2004. Furthermore the appeal says the cut represents a flagrant violation of Paragraph 7 of the Mandatory Education Law, which requires the Education Ministry to consult with the interior minister and the Knesset Education Committee regarding the level of funding from the state and from the local education authority for official educational institutions. The appeal also claims the local authorities cannot afford to absorb the expenses, particularly since the cuts were made after the annual budget was approved and due to obligations toward third parties. The hearing for this appeal is scheduled to take place 13 Sivan.

A second High Court appeal is being prepared by Attorney David Glass for the recognized but unofficial institutions and public kindergartens against the Education Ministry, which not only announced a one-sided cut, but at the beginning of the coming school year will implement another cut of 15 percent for kindergartens at recognized but unofficial institutions and public kindergartens, while government institutions will not have a single shekel cut.

At last week's meeting some said drastic measures should be taken in order to win the fight against the Education Ministry, which is seeking to destroy the chareidi education system. Spokesmen noted that when the Education Minister threatened to have the school day end at 11:00 am due to ministry budget cuts, the funding was restored immediately, whereas now the Education Minister wants to have chareidi kindergartens shut their gates at 11:00 am and nobody at the Education Ministry is bothered in the least.

One participant at the meeting said the world should know "that in the State of Israel there are two kinds of citizens: students who receive funding of 100 percent and the results are a mere 40 percent, and then there are chareidi students who barely receive 50 percent of the funding [they are entitled to] and the results are 100 percent. The Education Ministry cannot bear the success of chareidi education. We will not give in to this and will fight with all our might."

* * *

Chinuch Atzmai also held an emergency meeting in Jerusalem, which was attended by HaRav Yosef Efrati, United Torah Jewry MKs Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz, Rabbi Moshe Gafni and Rabbi Meir Porush, Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah Secretary HaRav Avrohom Rubinstein and Chinuch Atzmai Director Rabbi Meir Luria and one of the heads of Chinuch Atzmai, Rabbi Tzvi Boimel.

All UTJ MKs were summoned to the meeting following an announcement from the Education Ministry that Chinuch Atzmai would not receive any of the information needed to plan and prepare for the 5765 school year until the Ministry received a commitment and a detailed explanation of the extent of their compliance with the demands of the Core Curriculum Program at all Chinuch Atzmai schools.

The announcement came after the Chinuch Atzmai administration notified Ministry officials that all aspects of the Core Program are under the exclusive authority of maranan verabonon gedolei Yisroel.

At the meeting it was explained that the Education Ministry's move places Chinuch Atzmai in a quagmire since by law May 31st was the final date for notifying teachers of changes in their employment, therefore information on the amount of funding that will be made available to Chinuch Atzmai in the coming school year is essential.

As representatives of gedolei Yisroel the participants were briefed in full on the heavy responsibility and the many repercussions Chinuch Atzmai faces as a result of this predicament. The present situation could result in a major reduction in the number of teaching positions to the point of having to dismiss the entire Chinuch Atzmai teaching staff, which would mean the total collapse of the system, chas vesholom.

Various proposals were raised during the meeting and possible courses of action were considered before being presented to maranan verabonon shlita. As a first step it was decided to request a meeting with the Education Minister to make her aware of the seriousness of the matter and the grave consequences for the chareidi education system and the thousands of teachers it employs.

<8 Sivan, p. 4>

Bnei Brak Kindergartens Sent Closure Notices

By A. Cohen

The City of Bnei Brak sent letters to teachers at 157 municipal kindergartens to notify them of its closure and their dismissal unless the Education Ministry reverses a decision to cut 15 percent of its funding for recognized but unofficial kindergartens.

Similar notices were sent to instructors at a ranking not funded by the Education Ministry.

City Secretary and Spokesman Avrohom Tannenbaum says the Education Ministry unexpectedly sent notices about the 15 percent cut to the organizations that administer kindergartens in the chareidi sector and for an unknown reason included the City of Bnei Brak among these organizations.

Maintaining these kindergartens currently causes the City an annual deficit of over NIS 20 million ($4.4 million), primarily due to the system of funding for the recognized but unofficial kindergartens, which is based on national teacher salary profile rather than the local one.

Mayor Rabbi Issochor Frankentahl wrote a letter to Education Minister Limor Livnat explaining that based on historical reasons today the City of Bnei Brak is the only authority acting as an extension of the Education Ministry and under its supervision as an operator of the kindergartens while salary terms are dictated by the Ministry.

The letter also states NIS 15 million ($3.3 million) of the budget deficit at the kindergartens results from the Ministry's wage-scale system under which the kindergarten teachers are employed. This system is based on funding according to standard salary costs rather than actual salary costs, which are considerably higher due to the education, tenure and benefits of Bnei Brak teachers, when in typical local authorities kindergarten teachers are employed by the state.

Mayor Rabbi Frankentahl is calling on the Education Minister to rescind this unanticipated cut and rectify the distortion in the kindergarten budgeting system since these deficits are liable to cause the collapse of the municipal education system.

In his letter to kindergarten teachers the Mayor expresses deep regret over their termination, saying he was left no alternative since the law requires notifying teachers of their dismissal at least three months before the beginning of the school year, saying this time will allow the City to conduct negotiations over reducing operating expenses at the kindergartens. If the placement figures make it possible to continue employing the teachers, he adds, a notice will be sent to workers.

These cuts are part of various other streamlining and cost- cutting measures now taking place in all sections and departments of the City of Bnei Brak.


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