Report: Government Doles Out Special Educational And Cultural Grants To Haredi And Right Wing Organizations While Underfunding Secular And Pluralistic Organizations
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Ha’aretz reports that in the past year the Shas political party’s El Hama'ayan educational network received 12 million shekels from the Education Ministry for "Torah and Jewish culture lessons not held within a formal learning framework." This is in addition to the regular funding El Hama'ayan gets from the ministry.
About NIS 35.3 million has been distributed to various organizations by the ministry for this purpose in 2012, most of it to Orthodox or haredi organizations. Some of those haredi organizations allegedly use the money to do kiruv to try to convert secular Jews to haredism.
But while the government pours these grants into haredi and Orthodox organizations, secular and pluralistic organizations alleged get shafted.
"On the face of it, everything is legal," a senior figure in a non-Orthodox Jewish educational organization told Ha’aretz. "There are regulations that everyone can access, and these are published. In some cases, there is an occasional review by the Registrar of Associations or the Finance Ministry.
"In practice, though, the support is not divided equally among organizations, and certainly not fairly. The government ministries are very good at giving goodies to those who are close to their heart or to their political creed, and at ensuring that they get more than others.…The Education Ministry places hurdles in front of Jewish pluralistic groups. They have to prove they were active in the past year, especially in regard to number of hours and number of students. Amazingly, these criteria favor the Haredi associations in particular. The result is a closed circle of associations of a certain type, which enjoy ongoing government support. It is very difficult for new organizations to enter that circle, especially if they are pluralistic."
An official in another similar organization claims the situation is even worse. Inside information from the Education Ministry about changes in regulations that determine the scale of support organizations get was leaked exclusively to Orthodox and haredi organizations.
"Organizations that are not privy to the secret can submit requests until they are blue in the face. At best, they will get a few tens of thousands of shekels."
The Education Ministry denied the claim.
The ministry’s 35.3 million shekels earmarked for informal Torah and Jewish culture classes and lectures is the largest part of the ministry’s Jewish culture budget.
Along with Shas’s El Hama'ayan, the Education Ministry reportedly gave large grants to the following haredi and Orthodox organizations: 4.8 million shekels to Torah Veyahadut La'am; 3.2 million to Ma'ayana Shel Torah; 2 million to Ha'adarat Hatoda'ah Hayehudit; 1.4 million to the Degel Yerushalayim Cultural Fund; and 1 million to Jews for Jerusalem and the Holy Cities.
In contrast, the Conservative Movement, whose activity exceeds that of some of the organizations on the list, only got 99,000 shekels.
The ministry also funds colleges of “Judaism and Land of Israel studies.” These institutions are not specifically haredi or Orthodox.
But West Bank settler organizations got almost 3 million shekels under this budget line and a Golan Heights settler organization got almost 700,000.
Other right wing organizations also were funded under this budget line, including Elad, which manages the City of David archaeological site in Jerusalem. It received about 466,000 shekels. The Midrasha, which is the educational arm of the Temple Institute, which lobbies for the building of the Third Temple on the Temple Mount got 189,000, and the institute itself got 121,000.
In contrast, the lowest amount given under this budget line was 61,000 shekels to the left-leaning Kibbutz Movement’s Merhavim organization, which runs the movement's Seminar Efal.
"The pluralistic organizations tend to whine about discrimination in the granting of support for Jewish culture, but the simple truth is that secular people are not inclined to study Torah,” a well-placed source inside the ministry told Ha’aretz. “The bottom line is that the state does not give much money to the Haredi and other religious institutions, in terms of the scale of their activity. A secular beit midrash, which meets once every two weeks, cannot compare with the daily study of Torah."
A Education Ministry spokesman responded that the size of the grant each institution receives corresponds to the amount of its activity. The ministry "supports different bodies, including institutions of Jewish culture, based on - and subject to - nonpartisan, egalitarian criteria, which are made public after having been approved by the attorney general,” he reportedly claimed.
The Culture and Sports Ministry grants only about 1/18th of the money the Education Ministry grants to support external organizations. Even so, it found 45,517 shekels to give the Yeshiva Shavei Hevron association in the West bank settlement of Kiryat Arba. It also got 3.6 million from the Education Ministry.
The amount given the Yeshiva Shavei Hevron Association is apparently the default amount given by the Culture Ministry for preserving settlement sites. However, the exact same amount of money was given to other organizations, including the Yeshiva Karlin Stolin Association and a related hasidic organization.
Yeshiva Karlin Stolin is not a Zionist organization.
The Karlin Stolin Hasidic sect is in fact one of the most extreme in Jerusalem. Its mission statement filed with the government makes no reference to cultural or tourism-related activities.
Even so, the Ministry of Culture gave the sect more than 281,000 shekels:- 45,517 as a preserver of settlement heritage sites; 160,000 for "the heritage of Jewish ethnic communities;” and 76,000 for promoting "culture in the community.”
The Culture and Sports Ministry also subsidizes "sports projects in the local authorities" – but only to the tune of 2.2 million shekels.
The Culture and Sports Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office also subsidize the Jabotinsky Institute, which is connected to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
The Rina Mor National College, the educational arm of the Jabotinsky Institute, also saw a dramatic rise in government support over the past few years.
Shulamit Livnat, the mother of Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat of the Likud Party, has headed Rina Mor for years. In the time period reviewed by Ha’aretz, government grants to Rina Mor rose 80%. The Education Ministry used to fund the college. However, in the past few years its funding has come directly from the Prime Minister's Office.