Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

27 Kislev 5766 - December 28, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Justice Ministry Continues to Prevent Transfer of Funding to Torah Institutions

by Betzalel Kahn

The Justice Ministry continues to create obstacles to prevent the transfer of funding to Torah and chinuch institutions, citing various legal rationales, some of which are not grounded in reality but are apparently just intended to delay, disrupt and prevent the chareidi public from receiving their rightful funding.

A long letter Attorney Amnon De Hartoch, head of the Justice Ministry's support funding department, sent to Attorney General Mani Mazuz in reaction to a harsh letter MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni sent the Attorney General three weeks ago attests to this prolonged trend.

In his letter Rabbi Gafni complained that funding earmarked for the chareidi public, including funding pledged in the coalition agreement between UTJ and the Likud, has been delayed for months. The letter, sent at the beginning of Kislev, states that NIS 150 million made a part of the basic budget and approved by the Knesset in the 2005 budget has been held up by the Justice Ministry.

The Justice Ministry claims it has to check whether the requirements have been met, although it made no effort to withhold the transfer of the NIS 700 million pledged to Shinui or the NIS 600 million pledged to Labor by such checking. "New issues are constantly arising in various areas (the vast majority of which affect religious matters and the chareidi public) and you have not managed to complete this although we have already arrived at the end of the budget year," wrote Rabbi Gafni.

A few days ago Rabbi Gafni received a laconic reply from the Attorney General, saying he was enclosing the remarks sent by De Hartoch, who the Justice Ministry apparently placed in charge of creating the delays. In response to De Hartoch's remarks, Rabbi Gafni sent another letter to the Attorney General in which he refutes De Hartoch's claims one by one.

Regarding the transfer of funds to talmudei Torah, De Hartoch claims that NIS 28 million has not been transferred because the Finance Ministry raised doubts regarding the legality of the transfer. "The addition of NIS 28 million for talmudei Torah would mean increasing the state's participation in the cost of the studies from 55 percent to 60 percent, the original level recommended by the Shoshani Commission . . . and the Education Minister decided to decrease the level of participation to 55 percent based on budget considerations."

De Hartoch notes that one of the Shoshani Commission's recommendations calls for the state to pay 65-85 percent of the maintenance costs at recognized but unofficial schools depending on the degree to which the school adheres to Ministry regulations. Yet the Education Minister decided to set a uniform level of support at 75 percent, which constitutes a departure from two of the Shoshani Commission's basic principles, and rather than maintaining a substantial disparity of 41 percent between the assistance the state provides recognized schools versus exempt schools (85 percent compared to 60 percent) the disparity was reduced to 36 percent, a gap of 20 percent (75 percent compared to 55 percent).

However, De Hartoch claims, transferring the funding in question to the talmudei Torah would mean government assistance for exempt institutions would rise to 60 percent while recognized but unofficial schools would still receive 75 percent; in this case the gap between the different types of institutions would be just 20 percent as opposed to the original recommendation of 41 percent.

He also claims Rabbi Gafni's demands are based on politics whereas the Shoshani Commission recommendations were based on a professional assessment. "An educational institution that does not teach the Core Curriculum Program and also applies a student filtering system is supposed to receive only 35 percent of coverage for instruction, while other private institutions that do teach the Core Curriculum Program are eligible for 65 percent of coverage for instruction, a different of 85 percent."

In response Rabbi Gafni wrote that De Hartoch's arguments were absolutely without foundation. "Numerous programs are funded in other sectors, such as mainstreaming handicapped students, special education, etc., but are not provided at the talmudei Torah. [Counting this funding, the percentages that are funded in the chareidi sector are much lower.] But worst of all is his claim there is no legal basis to raise their funding to 60 percent since the talmudei Torah do not have the obligations placed upon other sectors. This is not true. According to his principle, the amount of funding corresponds to the amount of commitment and even now the talmudei Torah have an obligation of 55 percent which, by the way, is an empty statement since the formal funding is 55 percent, but in practice it is far less due to the reasons I listed as well as other areas in which the talmudei Torah are not funded. Furthermore relying on the Dovrat Report that was never implemented in any part of the system shows his true intent of reaching foreordained conclusions by bringing supporting arguments out of nowhere."

In his letter Rabbi Gafni goes on to refute De Hartoch's claims regarding seminaries, bussing to Chinuch Atzmai schools and Jewish culture; he also attacks the Justice Ministry for instructing the Education Ministry to cut funding at schools that do not adhere to 100 percent of the Core Program and for delaying the signing of a recovery agreement for Agudas Yisroel kindergartens.

Rabbi Gafni notes that chareidi girls' seminars get only 1.2 points of funding, while the non-chareidi teacher training seminars enjoy 1.95-2.05 points of funding.

The Agudas Yisroel kindergartens have done their part and prepared the proper plans and taken the necessary steps towards implementing a recovery plan. All this has been in place for a long time, yet the Ministry of Justice has inexplicably not yet signed a formal recovery agreement. The lack of such an agreement means that funding that should be forthcoming is withheld.

Attorney de Hartoch complains that he is personally overworked. Rabbi Gafni notes that when the Ministry of Justice "displays such intimate involvement in all matters pertaining to the chareidi community, and only one man is delegated to deal with everything, and therefore no matter is resolved, and despite this new requirements are instituted which have insufficient manpower to deal with them, I will not say what I — and many others — think about this."


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