Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Kislev 5766 - December 14, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Politica: Welfare Ministry Waits for Forms

by E. Rauchberger

On Monday the Welfare Ministry completed the transfer of over NIS 30 million to Torah institutions with dormitory facilities. Based on directives from Rabbi Ravitz these monies were transferred to the yeshivas for the 5765 budget year.

Rabbi Ravitz praised the staff of the Department of Public Institutions and expressed his satisfaction with the transfer of the funds to their intending destinations and the implementation of the decision to ease the process of submitting requests.

When the Likud-Shinui-NRP government was set up, one of Zevulun Orlev's first acts as head of the Welfare Ministry was to slash funding for schools with dormitories and to set new distribution criteria.

Before Orlev took office the dormitory budget was NIS 64 million and by the time he resigned it was down to NIS 22 million. Although some of this drop in funding can be attributed to the various economic plans and general cutbacks, the majority was a result of the Welfare Minister's policy.

The dormitory budget is intended to help institutions with students up to age 18. Orlev held that the existing criteria favored chareidi yeshivas and institutions (mainly yeshiva ketanos) and he would not stand for that. The changes he introduced dealt a major blow to many chareidi yeshivas, some of which lost all of their dorm funding.

When Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz took over the Welfare Ministry, it was clear that his first task would be to restore the dorm funding, especially since the only reason the money had been taken away was because Zevulun Orlev did not like the color of the yarmulkes on the students' heads. Rabbi Ravitz spent months working hard to restore the original budget, more or less.

In exchange for UTJ's support for the 2005 budget the Likud and the government promised to transfer NIS 290 million for various purposes determined by the UTJ. One of UTJ's demands was NIS 30 million for the Welfare Ministry in order to increase the dorm budget from NIS 22 million to NIS 52 million. When the money eventually arrived, Rabbi Ravitz and a team of ministry officials set to work reformulating the criteria. They removed the preferences given to institutions where the students take matriculation exams and instead of requiring families of eligible students to have at least four children living at home, now three is sufficient.

Amnon de Hartoch, the official at the Justice Ministry whose job is, in effect, to create obstacles in any criteria for funding that chareidi organizations or institutions could benefit from, tried to heap obstacles on the criteria Rabbi Ravitz formulated, but Rabbi Ravitz prevailed.

The Welfare Ministry's legal advisor, Batya Hartman who took part in drawing up the new criteria and expressed her support for them, met with de Hartoch and managed to convince him that they are more just than the former set of criteria and that it makes no sense to block their approval.

Rabbi Ravitz has nothing but praise for his ministry's legal advisor. "She has definitely done good work in dealing with de Hartoch and she helped advance the criteria and get them approved, allowing us to begin the task of righting the wrong and the discrimination the ministry caused before I arrived," he said.

The Welfare Ministry has already channeled some of the budget supplements to the yeshivas and dormitories and now the time has come for the yeshivas to fill out the forms. "The money is sitting at the Ministry and is waiting to reach its destination," says the Deputy Welfare Minister. "All we need is for the institutions to submit their requests in an orderly fashion."

For some reason the requests have been slow in coming. The legal deadline has already passed and since only a small number of requests were received Rabbi Ravitz granted a 21- day extension to 20 Kislev (21 Dec.), which is also about to end.

"I simply don't understand why the forms have not been submitted," says Rabbi Ravitz. "There are 270 institutions around the country that can benefit from the dormitory budget and only a few dozen forms have been submitted. This doesn't make sense. I'm embarrassed before the Ministry. For months we have been working intensively to formulate new criteria and I have been prodding the Ministry staff and urging them to do the job quickly because the institutions have been waiting for the money, eager and penniless. And now, when the time comes, the forms are not flowing in—as if the dormitory institutions do not need this support. We are talking about thousands of shekels for each dormitory and it would be a shame for this money not to be used and to return to the treasury."

Rabbi Ravitz is aware that the Welfare Ministry, upon orders from the Finance Ministry, may have sent one or two more forms to fill out than in the past, "but this certainly does not justify or explain why they are not submitting the forms so that they can receive the money from the Ministry," said Rabbi Ravitz.

The 2006 budget book, based on orders from Rabbi Ravitz, includes NIS 64 million earmarked for dormitories, exactly the amount before Orlev took office. But the deadline for this year's budget is about to end. Either principals will rush to submit the forms or else apparently they do not need the money?

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