Rashi Foundation pushes plan to close Israel's socioeconomic gaps

"A high level of inequality means a low level of social mobility," the organization said

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks with his children on a street in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood September 24, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS)
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks with his children on a street in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood September 24, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Rashi Foundation is pushing for Israel’s government to close the growing social gaps facing the country.
The organization is launching a large-scale public campaign, titled “Springboard to Social Mobility,” which includes a blueprint for national policy designed to promote social mobility in Israel.
The organization has been working for more than 30 years to promote social mobility and create opportunities in the country’s education and welfare systems.
“The blueprint represents a months-long, intensive effort initiated by the Rashi Foundation,” the organization said. “It draws on more than 35 years of activity by Rashi and its affiliate associations to advance under-served populations in the geographic and social periphery of Israel.
“This is a response to the growing inequality and lack of opportunities, particularly when central and peripheral Israel are compared,” the group added.
According to the foundation, the Springboard plan, which was published last week before the elections, is aimed at driving change in Israel “by moving the government to develop policy and take steps that will give all Israeli children an equal opportunity in life, regardless of where they were born or what their parents’ income is.”
The Rashi Foundation’s Springboard plan includes a policy blueprint with operative recommendations for a comprehensive policy to promote mobility and equal opportunity and to change the social-economic reality in Israel.
The blueprint is based on Rashi’s extensive activity, interviews and meetings with dozens of leading Israeli experts and professionals in the fields of social services, economics, education, research studies in Israel and learning from other countries.
Michal Cohen, general director of the Rashi Foundation and former director general of the Education Ministry, recently met with heads of political parties to gain their support and commitment to advance equal opportunity for Israel’s children and to include concrete steps for this purpose in the coalition’s basic policy guidelines while forming a new government.
“What the Springboard to Social Mobility plan says is very simple: all children should have an equal opportunity in life,” Cohen emphasized. “As the first stage in driving social mobility, the next government must take three immediate steps: assuming responsibility for children from birth, a reform in the allocation of resources to the periphery, and establishment of a national council for equality of opportunity.”
Cohen also said that, “the time has come to establish a clear policy designed to change the equation that determines children’s future according to their place of birth and the level of education and income of their parents.”
“We must not accept a situation of huge social disparities that compromise the future of hundreds of thousands of Israeli children,” she added.
According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, several parameters that affect mobility – such as equality in education, healthcare, employment and income, as well as parents’ social network – indicate that social mobility in Israel is declining.
The foundation explained that the blueprint describes several structural barriers to mobility in Israel, which includes the current situation where too many poverty-stricken families are struggling to survive while living in under-served communities in the periphery, and this significantly lowers their chances to achieve social mobility.
A high level of inequality means a low level of social mobility, the organization added.
According to the blueprint, “the inequality is so pervasive that one can actually predict with a high degree of certainty the socioeconomic future of newborn Israeli children, based solely on their place of residence. There are big differences between the prospects of a child in Tel Aviv and in Migdal Ha’emek, or between an Arab and a Jewish child of the same age.”
The blueprint further emphasizes that the government and civic organizations have been working to promote equality of opportunity, but these efforts are not coordinated under a comprehensive national policy with “measurable objectives.”
During Cohen’s meetings, she urged the party leaders “to support this most important social-national mission.
“Happily, they all expressed a commitment to create equal opportunity for all children in Israel, and I hope that this will result in concrete steps in the policy guidelines of the next government,” she said.