Haredi-style health bulletins sent to secular homes

Insurers now required to state which sector they’re aimed at, as suggested by ‘Post.’

By
December 27, 2011 02:52
4 minute read.
clalit newsletter

clalit newsletter_311. (photo credit: courtesy)

 
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Women have disappeared from some of the health-care material sent out from Clalit Health Services, which instead only shows photographs of haredi (ultra- Orthodox) men and boys to illustrate the “perfect family.”

The word “breast cancer” could not be found in some Kupat Holim Meuhedet material, which preferred to use the euphemism “women’s disease.”

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Although the material was intended for a haredi-only audience, it was also sent to secular and modern Orthodox homes.

Some non-haredi recipients viewed the material as evidence that the insurers had decided on a least common denominator that would not offend the ultra- Orthodox.

But this was false.

The confusion was caused by the fact that the material sent to them was not labeled as being meant for a haredi audience, which is used to the barring of women and intentional censorship of sensitive matters in the haredi press and media.

To address their concerns, Health Ministry Deputy Director-General Dr. Yoel Lipschitz, who supervises the four public health funds, has changed the ministry’s policy, at the suggestion of The Jerusalem Post.

Insurers who issue special editions of information and publicity material will now be required to to state for which sector they are intended and to give members the option of choosing that version or opt out of receiving them.



The Post presented its ideas after it received angry responses to an op-ed it published last week that based on the supposition that Meuhedet health fund members had all received informational material that avoided mentioning the words “breast” and “cancer” to avoid offending haredim.

The image of a haredi man and his two young sons, part of a booklet to market supplementary health insurance, was labeled as “the perfect family.”

Lipschitz said he would not require all the health funds to prepare versions specially for sectors such as the ultra-Orthodox, Arabs or Russian or Ethiopian immigrants, but those insurers who did will have to label them as being meant for a specific sector. He recently, however, told the health funds they must allocate 25 percent of their marketing funds for the elderly rather than targeting only the young.

“This matter requires proper disclosure,” he said about the objections to the “haredi” messages in publications.

In addition, continued Lipschitz, people must be informed that they could choose material meant for other sectors by sending an e-mail, making a call to their health funds, responding to a website or by other means.

Lipschitz, a modern Orthodox Jew, said he understood that some more open-minded haredim would want the general edition while some “haredi Zionists” (hardalim) might object to explicit mentions of breast cancer or publication of women’s photos.

The Post learned on Sunday that at least one health fund has a haredi public relations adviser who tells the insurer what neighborhoods or towns are “largely haredi” and should be mailed special editions that do not publish images of women or girls and avoid sensitive subjects.

One health fund does not use such an adviser but marks down whether a new member is haredi and is likely to want a special edition and continues to send the material to a new address when the family moves.

Kupat Holim Leumit told the Post that for several years, it no longer publishes special editions for haredim as a cost-saving measure. It “rarely” sends material by mail, but when it does to announce the appointment of a new director-general or a new district director (including a woman), the bulletins sent to all members showed photos of the two officials. Leumit said it did not get any objections from haredim over the woman’s photo but conceded that it doesn’t know how many copies were discarded unread by people who objected.

Asked to comment before Lipschitz made his statement, the Clalit Health Services spokeswoman said with the current massive publicity about “obscuring women” due to widespread but not unanimous demands by the haredi community, it “recognizes as a health provider that this is a sensitive issue. Something is happening in Israeli society, and we will examine the issue. We serve a large population; the booklet on supplementary health insurance was meant for the haredi community. Of course we did not mean to offend other members of the public.”

Another Clalit source added: “Our aim is to save lives and improve health. How does one reach people who object to the way the message is presented? We are in a dilemma.”

Maccabi Health Services, the second-largest health fund after Clalit, produces its magazine, Maccabiton, for the general public; a considerably smaller version geared to the sensibility of the haredi public; and two more smaller editions translated from the general edition into Arabic and Russian. All editions together add up to 900,000 free quarterly magazines for member families.

Every new member is asked what edition he prefers to receive, but Maccabi does not poll veteran members on their choice, which they can nevertheless change at will by contacting the health fund.

Producing four versions does not cost Maccabi much extra money, the spokesman said, but it does help educate sectors that need to know about important issues and services relevant to their health. If they will read them because the way they are presented is suited to them, said the spokesman, it is worth it.

He said Maccabi has received very few complaints from people who received haredi Maccabiton issues sent to them in error, but he did not know how many go unread or are discarded because the recipient objected to the publication.

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