What is the “Haredi Education Law?”

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As one person pointed out in comments this afternoon, the two Degel haTorah representatives are negotiating to join Olmert’s failing government. Their intended goal is to ensure passage of something called the “Haredi Education Law,” under which, according to Yediot, “local authorities will fund state schools and non-state schools equally.”

It is interesting. The commenter accurately pointed out that jumping aboard Olmert’s sinking ship “incites secular society to look at the Torah observer as self-absorbed, small minded and bribe-able.” The interesting thing is that this is exactly how the secular Israelis look at the Torah parties when they negotiate funding for their schools on an annual basis. So this becomes a matter of long-term vs. short-term interests. By passing the Haredi Education Law, this very perception will be avoided each and every year down the road, for students’ education will be (correctly) regarded as a right, not a bargaining chip and an excuse to decry charedi “extortion” for the privilege of educating children. And as for Olmert’s government, I suppose the Degel representatives believe that it can do little more harm than it has already done.

It was my understanding, however, that “equal” funding meant equal funding per student. Yossi Beilin, however, writes for Ynet that “the funding of special schools should be based on the exact same criteria accepted at regular schools. That is, if the assistance is based on the number of students, this will be the case at the special school as well. In fact, the Orthodox are demanding for themselves, or their schools, in the name of the demand for equality, much greater funding than the rest.” [emphasis added]

I know that his claims of much smaller class size and two teachers per classroom in the charedi schools are bogus — but, if the funding were per-student, this would also be irrelevant. Is the Haredi Education Law designed to ensure equal, per-capita funding, meaning Beilin is making this up as he goes along — or is there something inequitable about the law?

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23 Responses

  1. Moshe says:

    Just wanted to let you know that the law passed the 2nd and 3rd votes, and has passed. It is now on the books. Let’s see what happens.

    It is not as broad as it appears, but it will add millions of shekels to the budgets of Haredi and private schools each year, and will greatly help their funding.

  2. Ori Pomerantz says:

    cvmay, I personally believe that the ends do not justify the means here. I was merely answering your question about why they are doing it now, rather than waiting a few weeks. They have a good bargaining position precisely because Olmert’s position is at risk and he knows that.

  3. sima ir kodesh says:

    Mizrachi youth disappearing – FOR SURE, in America!!!
    They are the largest group of olim sponsored by Nefesh Venefesh and other organizations. The yeshivot outside of Yerushayalim are packed, Karnei Shmrons Yeshivot have over 1000 students (hardal, mizrachi, charedi lite, American yeshivish)is only one example. Tzirim, Noam, Tzivia, Chorev yeshivot have waiting room only.

  4. cvmay says:

    Ori, Do the ends justify the means? If the chilul hashem that it causes by lowering kavod shem shamayim is increased, is then the bargaining power decision the correct one?
    I do not have the ability to answer this question, and particularly when a few days ago this same issue passed its first reading in the Knesset introduced by a Shas MK, why not be satisfied for a week or two?
    “short term” – most of our decisions as an avad hashem have to take into consideration long and short term effects.

  5. bag says:

    Regarding this:

    “Israel is not the USA, Canada, Britian or any other country. As a Jewish state it has the right to fund Jewish schools and not religious Islamic schools.”

    I would agree, but legally it may not work that way, and it’s not “fear mongering” to be concerned that the courts will rule that if one funds chadorim one must also fund Hamas.

  6. bag says:

    YM,

    “I take exception to the comment by bag. Israel is not the USA, Canada, Britian or any other country. As a Jewish state it has the right to fund Jewish schools and not religious Islamic schools.”

    I didn’t say it doesn’t have the right. I wrote that it’s not a “right” such that if they don’t fund haredi schools, one can speak of victimization and discrimination and denial of equal treatment. No other secular state funds private religious education.

    “The Haredi world believes that only Torah will save the state of Israel and the belief in that part of the Haredi world that participates in Israeli politics is that funding Jewish education contributes more the long term survival and success of the State than the danger and loss that a pullout from Gaza creates or the perpetuation of the Olmert government creates.”

    I believe the same. The secular don’t believe it, and they don’t not believe it because they discriminate against haredim, any more than the US government fails to fund yeshivas because they discriminate against haredim.

    Loberstein, you appear not to have read the comment properly.

    “The government provides schools, even mamlachti dati schools, and if they don’t satisfy haredi demands, the haredim are free to open their own private schools”
    This is not the first time I have heard this argument, but it is flawed . The curriculum offered in the average public religious school is not comparible to that offered in a more religious school. Even knowledgeable religious zionists don’t send their children to this minimal religious education. At a time when the chareidim are growing and the Mizrachi has disappeared , such condescension is very out of date.”

    The argument you heard bears no relation to the argument I made. I didn’t suggest that the haredim ought to be satisfied by the government schools, any more than I think US haredim should be satisfied by the American public schools. I just don’t see any “Right” to have the government fund private schooling. Tax rebates, maybe, to those who don’t make use of the public school system – but an obligation for the government to fund private school systems? That doesn’t exist in any secular country.

  7. Ori Pomerantz says:

    cvmay, Degel haTorah’s negotiating position is a lot stronger now, when the calls are out for Olmert’s head, than it would be in a few weeks. They can probably achieve more, at least in the short term, this way.

  8. easterner says:

    Mizrachi has disappeared? i dunno, i have 2 nephews in hesder, and their siblings in RZ schools in the middle of the country. their shul is filleed with 100’s of like-minded. the haredim may want to wipe this derech off the map [see this week’s Mishpacha] but they havent all converted yet…

  9. cvmay says:

    Chareidi Education Law
    It is ethically and morally correct for the Jewish State(?)to fund education for the Chareidi public. Should there be strings attached? re: Curriculum, hours of instruction, attitudes towards the state, etc.
    Maybe…
    (For commenter #6, if this law will give a green light for “alternative” religious schools to be established, that do not require political affiliation that would be heaven sent.)
    My disappointment with the present negotiations bt the UTJ party and PM Olmert is TIMING!!! It is less than a week after the massive rally of 250,000 people angrily demonstrating against a government of corruption, irresponsibility, inexperience, & which displayed callousness towards human life. The raw wound of so many is festering, why begin negotiations to join a “corrupt govt” at this exact TIME? TIMING IS EVERYTHING! This post began with a prior article regarding
    secular and religious polarization & relations. The Question submitted was; How to improve these relationships? At this precious TIME, the religious community is acting self-absorbed, small and insular minded. Let the Winograd report settle in, see what actions or reactions will occur and then start talking bucks $$$$.
    cvmay

  10. Loberstein says:

    “The government provides schools, even mamlachti dati schools, and if they don’t satisfy haredi demands, the haredim are free to open their own private schools”
    This is not the first time I have heard this argument, but it is flawed . The curriculum offered in the average public religious school is not comparible to that offered in a more religious school. Even knowledgeable religious zionists don’t send their children to this minimal religious education. At a time when the chareidim are growing and the Mizrachi has disappeared , such condescension is very out of date.
    That being said, I pray that a peaceful way will be found to offer chareidi children a fair chance to earn a living by radically changing their curriculum to include basic secular knowledge and skills. What we teach our children in the American yeshivos ketanos is considered forbidden in Israeli chareidi circles. It is very sad that preparing for an honest days work , something commanded by our sages, is verboten in Eretz Yisroel. It is a major tragedy.

  11. Bitzy P says:

    Rabbi, every charedi pays taxes? What about their stores in mea shearim (for example) I can personaly attest to at least three stores in mea shearim where tax “isn’t neccessary”. We can’t reward charedim for their distruction of the israeli economy. You cannot have a functioning economy where part of the population finds its “assur” to work.

  12. c says:

    I think that the Chareidim feel that there is no different between this government and the last or the next government. True, Olmert is lousy, but wasnt Sharon? Wasnt Bibi? Wasnt Barak? Wouldnt Peres or Peretz be awful also?

    So whats the difference who is in charge of the government?

    And another point, are there any offcial (or unofficial numbers) of how many chareidim dont work? I know plenty who work.

  13. Shmiel Paltiel Shmeltzenberg says:

    Ah, Rabbi Menken, I wish to correct your post above. As a resident of the Toronto, Canada, I can tell you that the Province of Ontario does not fund any other religious schools except for the Roman Catholic system, based on a now outdated Constitutional arrangement around at the time of Canada’s Confederation. Many here are working to change that and the previous provincial regime did provide tax breaks to parents of pupils in religious schools, but the current regime, as soon as it got into power, reversed that legislative decision retroactively. Otherwise, the rest of provinces of Canada do fund religious parochial schools.

  14. Yaakov Menken says:

    YM may not know this, but in Canada Jewish schools receive equitable funding on a per-capita basis. Unlike the melting pot philosophy of the United States, Canada considers itself a “mosaic” and imposes less upon individual choice.

    His general point, however, is sound. Bitzy’s is not, because charedim do pay taxes. Army service is irrelevant to receipt of government services, while the “parasite” canard ignores the fact that charedim are now ensuring the Jewish state remains Jewish, both spiritually and even physically.

  15. YM says:

    Its sort of funny, but really many of the arguments against Degel HaTorah’s possibly joining the Olmert goverment are arguments against democracy. Its fine to believe in democracy when it suits their values, but when it doesn’t, they criticize the Haredim for exercizing their political power.

  16. YM says:

    I take exception to the comment by bag. Israel is not the USA, Canada, Britian or any other country. As a Jewish state it has the right to fund Jewish schools and not religious Islamic schools. The Haredi world believes that only Torah will save the state of Israel and the belief in that part of the Haredi world that participates in Israeli politics is that funding Jewish education contributes more the long term survival and success of the State than the danger and loss that a pullout from Gaza creates or the perpetuation of the Olmert government creates.

  17. Bitzy P says:

    Does this mean that haredim will be giving back to the country now by joining the army? The reason it is beneficial for a government to educate its population is because it creates an econmically sound population. For the israeli government to educate haredim its like thrwoing money in the garbage unless there is a guarantee that these charedim will give back both in terms of army service and in holding steady jobs. (No kollel is not a steady job)

  18. Moshe says:

    I have mixed feelings about this law.

    On the one hand, I think it is a very important step towards the right to educate ones children as he sees fit. As an example, I prefer to send my children to schools that are more accepting of others – who will have a good religious and secular education, and stress Midos Tovos (basically, the way a US Yeshiva elementary school runs). In E”Y, it is very difficult to open such a school for a few reasons:
    The Chareidim get funding for their schools. Chinuch Atzmai and others – who are under the Chareidi umbrella – do get funding, although they have to negotiate for it every year. That funding only goes to their schools – they would not allow me to open a school and get funding through them. This creates an inequality, whereby schools affiliated with political parties get funds, and schools who simply want to teach their students in the best possible way cannot get funding, as they don’t want to dirty themselves in politics. As such, we have to compromise on the education of our children, and they become more fanatical – as they are being taught more extreme points of view in the schools they go to. If the law passes, I imagine there will be a slew of ‘middle of the road’ schools – ones that stress Yiddishkeit without being extremists – as these schools will now be able to get Govt. funding. This is very good for Israeli society in general, as children will be taught tolerance and understanding, the need to support oneself financially yet still be a Talmid Chacham.

    Such schools cannot be opened privately en mass, as parents simply can’t afford them. Th average salary in Israel is about 7,200 shekels monthly – and one can’t afford to pay so much in tuition. In the USA, the average salaries are far higher, and the community is much wealthier, so they are able to support the schools, even though there is economic hardship for some.

    On the other hand, passing this law will allow many Islamic schools to be funded by the Govt. – teaching extreme, anti Jewish and anti Israeli sentiments to their students. Is that what we want? As an afterthought, I know that the State is funding schools in the arab population, and who knows what they are currently teaching them? Maybe they are already funding radical Islamic schools?

  19. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Does it put any lives at risk of have somebody with Olmert’s level of competence leading Israel? Are the Hizbullah and the Hamas more or less likely to kidnap Israelis having seen how poorly the Second Lebanon War was run?

    It’s one thing to support school vouchers (that’s what Degel haTorah wants, if I understand it correctly). It’s another to accept that the price for them will be somebody else’s blood. That will be the perception among the Chiloni public in Israel if Degel haTorah bails Olmert out – that Degel haTorah values getting government money more than it values the lives of IDF soldiers.

    And as Bob Miller said, what one Knesset can enact another can undo.

  20. Bob Miller says:

    Can’t any Knesset repeal any enactment of an earlier Knesset? So what can be gained here that really is lasting? Pragmatically, the “longer term deal”, if it really is one, should be negotiated with people who might stick around awhile in power, as opposed to Olmert and Kadima.

  21. bag says:

    I don’t see why it’s a right for haredi education to be government funded.
    The government provides schools, even mamlachti dati schools, and if they don’t satisfy haredi demands, the haredim are free to open their own private schools. That’s the way it works in the US, the UK, etc. No Americans walk about complaining that the US government is depriving Orthodox Jews of their right to Jewish education al taharas hakodesh because yeshivas are privately funded.
    If one views the Israeli state as secular, or a secular state with some religious interests, the state should not be expected to fund yeshivas – they should be private.
    It’s only if one insists that it’s natural for a Jewish government to support yeshiva education – and not just religious education but haredi education – that one comes to the conclusion that they are depriving haredim of their rights. Maybe there was reason to believe that the first generation of Zionists were turning their backs on religion. But today, the secular Zionist state is a fact, and it’s not fair to view the secular as “Depriving” haredim of their rights when no other western government feels obligated to fund religious schools. If the law would require the government to fund madrassahs too, that is absolute insanity!

    “”If this law is passed today,” warned the education minister, Labor’s Tamir, “we will not only be funding Shas. We will also be funding Hamas and the Islamic Movement.”

    Shas members resented the comments. “When you use up all your intelligent justifications, you start sowing fear among the public,” said Minister Yitzhak Cohen”

    That doesn’t sound like fear-mongering; it sounds like rational self-interest. Try to get the American public to fund Catholic schools and they will immediately ask if they are required to fund madrassahs too.

    .It would greatly benefit the religious community to start viewing the government as secular and disinterested, instead of viewing it as composed of evil people turning their backs on religion.
    It’s true that private yeshiva education is an enormous financial drain in Disapora communities. That is why there is a kollel movement in the US, but ten years after marriage, most American haredim are working and not in kollel. If the yeshivas in Israel were privatized, fewer haredim would have the luxury of long term kollel, and more would have to work. SO? No secular government has an interest in supporting families so that fathers can stay in kollel for life. This is not hatred or discrimination or anti Orthodox bias, and it’s time Israeli haredim realized this. Nor are cuts in stipends to kollelim motivated by antiHaredi animus. Did anyone expect the Czars to fund kollelim? The rhetoric about “Rights” and the sense of victimization and hostility should end. The secular are already funding yeshivas and kollelim to a degree that makes no rational sense, that could not and would not exist any place but Israel, and all they receive in return is talk about how antiOrthodox they are.

  22. Cordac Hesperon says:

    If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and lays eggs like a duck, it is a duck.
    Ever since the religious parties first got a taste of real power in 1977 with the election of the Likud, it has been a regular feature of the Israeli news to discover that one religious party or another is willing to join whatever the government of the day is in order to get more funding. It doesn’t matter if this government has been merciless to the religious population or is extremely unpopular. It’s a well known fact – if you need seats, you can buy the Chareidim. The Degel and Agudah may not see it this way. They are, after all, only doing what they were elected to do and representing their voters and their needs but to the rest of Israel, they appear like fringe parties who will sell out to anyone.
    Yes, all the other fringe parties will but they’re not frum. They don’t walk around one minute talking about the moral superiority of their way of life and stick out their hand the next. They don’t condemn the government and the state they live in as a betrayal of G-d and Torah in the same breath they ask for money with. This is what has always set the Chareidi parties apart.
    Thus the current situation – a prime minister at 0% in the polls, a country begging for elections and what does the Degel do? Offer to prop up the government for money. And this is supposed to be good pr?

  23. Dovid Eliezrie says:

    There is no question for the need for fairness in education in Israel for Haredi schools. But there is a deeper question also. Is everything negotiable. Last summer it was the Haredi support that enabled the forced removal of thousands of Jews from their homes. As one Kollel youngeman told me just before the disengagement, “we have no choice we need the money for the Yeshivas”. Its the possibility of that same support today that will help maintain a failed government.
    The Frum community needs to ask the question when does its needs be set aside for the the welfare of all Jews. Is the money worth endangering the lives and security of millions of Jews.
    Dovid Eliezrie