Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Adar 5766 - March 1, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Rabbi Ravitz Promises Increased Funding for Residents During Visit to Beit Shemesh

by Betzalel Kahn

MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz was hosted by Beit Shemesh Mayor Daniel Vaknin on Monday when the Deputy Welfare Minister arrived for a working visit, accompanied by top-ranking ministry officials and joined by municipal officials and local activists.

The visit began with a large meeting held at the Mayor's Office. Mayor Vaknin described the unique demographic composition of the city, whose population has increased by 500 percent in the past 12 years and over 50 percent of the population is now age 21 or under. "We have immigrants from around the world, not just Russia and Ethiopia, but from Western countries as well, such as a large community from the US and numerous immigrants from France, all of whom find their place here and live together in peace," said Mayor Vaknin, adding that the municipality invests heavily in welfare programs for city residents, 17 percent of whom are registered at the municipal welfare bureau.

Degel HaTorah City Councilmen Rabbi Moshe Montag and Rabbi Eliezer Greenbaum told the participants about the special needs of the chareidi sector in the city, stressing the importance of allocating special funding. They also raised the painful issue of youths unsuited for regular study programs and who need professional care to prevent them from harming themselves and others. They asked the Welfare Ministry and the municipality to participate in funding a mentoring project operated by Yad Eliezer, which is helping dozens of youths in the city's chareidi neighborhoods. Other chareidi representatives stressed the importance of assigning social workers from the chareidi community to foster trust between social workers and the families being assisted.

Rabbi Ravitz said he has been working with Beit Shemesh for decades, recounting how he came there to work on youth projects when it was still a maabarah. As Deputy Housing Minister 15 years ago, he noted, he initiated the construction of the first chareidi neighborhood in the city and later, in the Education Ministry, the Knesset Finance Committee and now in the Welfare Ministry he has worked extensively to promote Beit Shemesh.

Toward the end of the meeting he pledged to increase funding for the elderly day center, youth programs and communication centers for parents and children. Rabbi Ravitz said that in light of the mayor's requests he would hold a special meeting with ranking Welfare Ministry staff members to advance the various welfare issues that need to be addressed in Beit Shemesh. He also said that although the municipal welfare bureau works for the sake of all residents, emphasis should be placed on the needs of the rapidly growing chareidi community, kein yirbu. He said programs for problem youth are at the top of his priorities and the ministry would prepare plans to handle the matter.

Upon leaving the Mayor's Office, Mayor Vaknin presented Rabbi Ravitz with a special gift.

The two then set out to visit the NIS 3-million elderly day center built with Welfare Ministry funding. Both the welfare minister and the mayor spoke to the dozens of elderly people on hand, most of whom immigrated from Oriental countries in the 50s and were among Beit Shemesh's first residents when it was still a maabarah. They also spoke to a group of elderly immigrants from Ethiopia. The elderly listeners told Rabbi Ravitz about the exceptional work done by the municipal welfare bureau and the mayor made a request for additional funding for the day center in order to accommodate more elderly residents.

Rabbi Ravitz completed his tour of the city with a long visit at Ezrat Achim, a chessed organization on Rechov Sfat Emet set up and directed by Rabbi Avrohom Kapp, one of the city's central figures in chessed activity. During the course of the tour of the organization's offices, Rabbi Kapp showed his guests the variety of medications and medical equipment available for loan, and sifrei kodesh and other equipment for houses of mourning, lo oleinu. He also presented the extensive activity by the volunteer staff, which assists patients and their family members travel to hospitals in Jerusalem and distributes hot meals for mothers following birth, needy families, etc.

So far, the organization boasts 14 branches throughout Beit Shemesh. "The Welfare Bureau refers to us needy people whom it is unable to help and we provide answers for all of their needs," said Rabbi Kapp.

The deputy minister and the mayor were moved by the volunteer work performed by Ezrat Achim and promised to assist the organization to develop.


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