United Torah Judaism chairman slams Trajtenberg report

MK Yisrael Eichler criticizes recommendations regarding integration of haredim into labor market and education in haredi schools.

Orthodox Jews synagogue_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Orthodox Jews synagogue_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
MK Yisrael Eichler, chairman of the United Torah Judaism faction in the Knesset, harshly criticized the Trajtenberg Report on Tuesday, particularly its recommendations regarding the integration of haredim (the ultra-Orthodox) into the labor market and education in haredi schools.
“Any proposal that benefits the general public without discrimination on an ethnic or class basis is welcome and will receive our support in the Knesset, but proposals which try to harm a particular sector and which are discriminatory will be completely rejected,” Eichler said in a statement to The Jerusalem Post.
Leef on Trajtenberg: Disappointed, but not surprised
“The state is doing a great injustice to haredi job-seekers by not recognizing religious education while [certain] academic degrees are irrelevant to employment,” he said. “A person who wants to be a doctor should go to medical school and an electrician needs to study electrical engineering. But degrees in the humanities are not more relevant than religious education.
“United Torah Judaism maintains and will maintain the independence of the haredi education system, which guarantees the existence of Israel throughout the generations. Without it, assimilation will be huge, as is happening in America and around the world, where education is determined by the state curriculum,” Eichler said The Trajtenberg Committee stated in its report that the Education Ministry needs to ensure that all elementary schools teach core subjects such as mathematics, English, computers and at least one of the traditional sciences.
“The Education Ministry must also supervise effectively the teaching of these subjects in all schools, and carry out state examinations in them,” the committee said in its recommendations to the government.
The report also expressed concern regarding the teaching in yeshivot ketanot, parallel to middle schools, of only religious studies, saying that vocational studies should be integrated into these institutions and that implementation of this would require NIS 760 million over the next five years.
MK Moshe Gafni, also of UTJ and chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, was more measured in his response, but nevertheless implied that the recommendations of the committee would not necessarily survive the scrutiny of his committee.
“The Trajtenberg Report is not Halacha m’moshe m’sinai [‘oral law handed down to Moses at Sinai’],” Gafni’s office told the Post. “Some aspects of the report will be implemented as they stand, some will be changed, some added and some removed. The issues raised require broad and deep discussion.”
The report also included significant sections on the integration of haredi men into the labor market. The document states that because the haredi population is growing so rapidly, the socioeconomic status of the sector affects not only its own community but also the general society, and stresses the “importance and urgency” of understanding the problems preventing the integration of the haredi population into normal economic and social life, and to then “plot an appropriate course of action.”
The religious-Zionist movement Ne’emanei Torah Ve’avodah welcomed the proposals regarding haredi employment and called on haredi politicians to implement them.
In a letter addressed to Shas and UTJ lawmakers, the movement said, “[We] call upon you as a Knesset member, a person of influence with the haredi public and as one of its leaders, to use this opportunity...
to advance the conclusions [of the report] which, with their help, will help find the common ground that will lead to a strengthening of Torah and the economy in Israel.”
The letter called for either active support from haredi politicians for the recommendations or for them to propose new ideas to help integrate the haredi sector into the labor market “through vocational training and [contributions] to community service.”
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform Movement in Israel, welcomed the Trajtenberg Committee’s recommendations, saying that the low level of both haredi integration into the labor market and enlistment in the army “creates social tension which undermines the ability of Israeli society to function normally.
“We have a real challenge to ensure that these issues stay on the agenda, and that haredi politicians will not use the current discourse on social justice to simply gain more benefits for their sector alone,” Kariv said.
“The Reform Movement is concerned that with their chairmanship of the Knesset Housing and Finance committees, haredi politicians will continue to act in the interests of their sector alone instead of the wider Israeli society.”
A Shas spokesman told the Post that the report was generally positive but gave only a partial answer to the issues of social justice, saying that there were certain sectors of the population that were also expecting answers to their issues and did not receive them in the committee’s proposals. “The task of addressing these issues is incomplete and it needs to be completed, the spokesman said.
MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) told the Post in a statement that the Trajtenberg Committee analyzed the situation correctly and defined its objectives well. “However, it is clear that this is only the first [stage of the process] and we cannot be satisfied with this alone.” He called on the government to prove its willingness to bring about socioeconomic change.