Drastic fall in yeshiva students getting state support
By JONAH MANDEL
Haredi sources say 6.5% drop is the result of ‘draconian’ new checking policies; currently 121,500 students receiving state stipends.
A recent dramatic decrease in the number of haredi men enrolled in yeshivot is
getting contradictory explanations from differing parties.
As of today,
there are approximately 8,500 less yeshiva and kollel students receiving state
stipends than there were at the end of 2010, a 6.5 percent drop that brings the
number down from 130,000 to 121,500. These numbers were revealed by Ynet on
Thursday, and confirmed by the Education Ministry. The state is expected
to save approximately NIS 70 million, which it would have otherwise spent on the
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The drop is the result of heads of institutions
requesting that the ministry remove students from their lists, and is a result
of the ministry’s recently tightened inspections. Last November, police arrested
a number of managers from the Matmidim yeshivot on the suspicion that they were
part of a scam producing fraudulent identity cards to create the appearance of
greater numbers of students in their institutions.
Yeshivot and kollels
recognized by the Education Ministry receive financial support on a per capita
basis. Inspectors are regularly conducting surprise visits to yeshivot to ensure
that those enrolled are indeed real and present.
Rabbi Uri Regev, the
head of Hiddush: For Religious Freedom and Equality, said that the numbers prove
“that contrary to what heads of the yeshivot are claiming, the state’s
supervision over yeshivot and kollels is not tight enough.”
suspicions of widespread fraud that must be eradicated,” a statement read.
“Instead of fortifying the world of Judaism, dozens of yeshivot [that have been
proven to be scamming the state] are causing a desecration.”
called upon the haredi MKs and heads of yeshivot who “launched an attack against
the Education Ministry’s supervision mechanism to publicly apologize and
unequivocally condemn fictive registrations, lest the public think they condone
stealing from public funds.”
Senior Ashkenazi adjudicator Rabbi Shalom
Elyashiv had in fact spoke out in the most harsh terms against the possibility
that haredi educational institutions defrauded the state of dozens of millions
of shekels. “If the story turns out to be true, the thieves should be considered
pursuers [literally din rodef, a harsh term from halachic tradition],” he was
cited as saying shortly after police raided the institutions and made
Head of the Knesset Finance Committee Moshe Gafni (United Torah
Judaism) refused to comment on the numbers, and said he’d do so only when
similar data was released regarding universities and state-supported culture
institutions. Gafni had on Wednesday approached Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar
to protest the conduct of the Education Ministry and the inspectors after heads
of yeshivot received a letter warning them that funds they had received might be
recalled if the High Court of Justice rules against the continued funding of the
While the numbers of students removed from the ministry’s
lists is not being challenged, sources within the haredi world, however, are
charging that the decrease is a result of the fear of being fined, in the wake
of the “draconian” inspections.
A rabbi who wished to remain unnamed said
that many heads of yeshivot approach the ministry and ask that their institution
be removed from the lists for the fear that an inspection will unjustly cause
great financial damage and that that is not worth the risk.
“As head of a
yeshiva for dropout youth, my father underwent a few inspections in the past
months, and passed them all. But if one of the youths happens to be out of the
yeshiva at the time, my father could face a fine equal to three years of state
support. It’s just not worth it,” the rabbi said.
inspections do not exist in any other system receiving state support,” he
continued. “Why can’t the Finance Ministry, which is behind hiring the
inspectors, use private investigators the same way the National Insurance
Institute does?” “There will always be inaccuracies in the margins of such a
large group of institutions receiving funding,” the rabbi said of the yeshivot
in which the registries did not match the reality. “But the state is now
spending millions of shekels on the investigators, who cannot supply an accurate
picture of what is happening in the yeshivot. The whole mechanism has become too
lucrative to stop at this point.”
A spokesman for the Education Ministry
could not say how many of those removed from the supported lists were entire
yeshivot, and how many secluded individuals.