Yeshiva students pray in a synagogue in the Sydney suburb of Bondi.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The High Court of Justice issued an interim injunction on Wednesday asking the state to explain why it pays childcare subsidies to households in which the male parent studies full-time in yeshiva.
The court’s request comes in response to a petition from the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal arm of the Reform Movement in Israel, which claimed that the criteria for receiving discounted childcare require both parents to be working or studying for a professional qualification which would help them integrate into the workforce.
For many years, families in which the father is a full-time yeshiva student were able to claim state subsidized daycare for children.
The criteria for this benefit were reformed, however, by the previous government on the insistence of Yesh Atid, and receipt of subsidized daycare was made conditional on both parents of a household being in employment.
Yesh Atid and others argued that the subsidies were designed to encourage both parents of a family to find employment.
The party argued that full-time yeshiva students remain in their studies for lengthy periods, often without any intention to leave and find employment, and that therefore they should not be entitled to the subsidy.
This policy was bitterly denounced by haredi politicians at the time who said it would discourage employment in the haredi community, and would further impoverish ultra-Orthodox families since a large proportion of a haredi working mother’s salary would have to go childcare costs.
The current government therefore repealed these changes following pressure from United Torah Judaism and Shas and restored qualification for subsidized childcare to families where the father is in full-time yeshiva study.
The new criteria also establish an order of priority for receiving the subsidy according to the family’s total income per head, meaning that the family of a man in full-time yeshiva study, which will have a much smaller total income since only one parent is working, is highly likely to receive the childcare subsidy, whereas a family where both parents work will be less likely to receive this benefit.
IRAC’s petition requests that the subsidy be granted only to families in which both parents are working, and explicitly not to the families of full-time yeshiva students.
“Granting the subsidy to couples in which the father learns in yeshiva full-time does an injury to all other couples who need to prove that they are working or studying in order to gain employment in the future,” said attorney Ricky Shapira-Rosenberg of IRAC.
“This discrimination is expressed in acceptance committees for child daycare in which priority is given to the children of yeshiva students, since the families of yeshiva students will always be poorer than families where both parents work,” she continued, saying the current government’s decision would decrease motivation of haredi men to seek employment.