Social workers protest in the North 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The late chief rabbi of Britain Lord Jacobovitz once grieved about the sad state
of Jewish education in his country by explaining that “when you pay teachers
peanuts, you get monkeys.”
When it comes to Israel’s social workers,
however, nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, we at Hakeren
Leyedidut, who donate tens of millions of dollars each year to help needy people
in Israel, have come to rely heavily on the expertise and cooperation of social
workers from the welfare departments of more than 150 local councils. These are
our soldiers on the social welfare front, and we as a society, have essentially
abandoned them on the front lines.
The social workers I have encountered
here over the years, almost without exception, have devoted their lives to
helping the weakest, most vulnerable and needy citizens, often during the most
difficult periods of their lives. With the ever widening circle of
poverty and absence of an effective government safety net in place, many more
families will undoubtedly come to need the help of these social
workers. It is, therefore, a moral outrage that such talented and
dedicated people – educated, experienced and invaluable to the health of our
society – are not sufficiently respected, appreciated or compensated for their
Faced with the seemingly endless needs of a growing number of
clients, they are also illequipped for the tasks they are
assigned. Almost daily we receive desperate pleas from mayors and social
workers around the country asking us for urgent help for families with basic
needs such as food, clothing, medicine, electricity or furniture – needs for
which the welfare system has no funds. In the vast majority of cases, the meager
budgets provided the social workers do not enable them to provide their clients
with any help other than other than empathy.
SOCIAL WORKERS are truly the
“salt of the earth” who, with few exceptions, deeply want to help the people and
state but aren’t provided the tools to do so. I have myself witnessed occasions
when social workers paid out of their own pockets to provide shoes or a warm
coat for a child whose parents couldn’t afford it and there was no government
budget for such things.
It took a dangerous decline in children’s
academic achievements for the government to start investing intensively in the
education system; half of the Carmel had to burn down before the government
committed to investing in proper fire and rescue services. We must not wait for
the welfare system to completely collapse before initiating a war for the
country’s social future. And as in any war, our soldiers, the social workers,
must be taken care of and well equipped for the mission.
The writer is
the founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
and it’s Israeli arm HaKeren Leyedidut.