MKs call for state to help fund Chabad Houses

Knesset c'tee discusses terror threat against Chabad Houses worldwide, Israel's cooperation with outreach programs, education of Diaspora Jews.

Danny Danon (do not publish again) (photo credit: Flash 90)
Danny Danon (do not publish again)
(photo credit: Flash 90)
Almost three years after the deadly attack at the Mumbai Chabad House, the Knesset’s Immigration and Absorption Committee on Thursday discussed terrorist threats against Chabad Houses worldwide, as well as Israel’s cooperation with programs for outreach and education of overseas Jewry.
MKs called on the government to increase funding for Chabad educational institutions worldwide, and to restore the budget for Jewish education in the Diaspora, which has been reduced by nearly 80 percent in recent decades.

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Committee Chairman Danny Danon (Likud) complimented the activities of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. “Every Jew who arrives at any remote point in the world knows that they have a place on holidays and Shabbat. The government already invests today in Jewish education in the Diaspora, and should use this power to take responsibility for places where travelers are concentrated on the holidays,” he said.
Danon called on Religious Services Minister Ya’acov Margi (Shas) to prepare a proposal for a cabinet decision to determine criteria to provide financial support for Chabad institutions to cover security and education- related expenses.
Rabbi Berel Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia and a Chabad rabbi, told the Knesset committee that most Israelis are exposed to Chabad Houses during emergency situations and tragedies, but that even in routine situations, they are an address for Israelis seeking lodging, food, a telephone call to home or just rest.
“The existence of the Jewish people in the Diaspora is part of Jewish existence in Israel, and thus there should not be any problem with utilizing Israeli budgets,” he said, adding that money should be allocated not just to Chabad Houses but to other Jewish institutions.
Lazar added that recently, when the embassy was closed in one of the Caucasian states out of concern that it could be targeted for attacks marking the anniversary of the death of Hezbollah terrorist leader Imad Mourghniya, the embassy’s security officer recommended that the local Jewish school be closed.
Lazar said that he was concerned that when the school was reopened, the local Jews would be hesitant to send their children – and so instead of closing the school, the institution remained open with increased security arrangements.
In a similar vein, Rabbi Nechamya Wilhelm, a Chabad emissary in Thailand, said that “there are warnings of terror threats against concentrations of Israeli travelers, but the Chabad House’s security is carried out at our expense, at a cost of $60,000 to $80,000 per year.”
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said Chabad had developed to previously unknown levels a model of emissaries for the Jewish people.
“Although Chabad does not declare their desire for in-gathering of the exiles, the fact is that more people immigrate to Israel after receiving Jewish education,” he said. “In places where the Jewish Agency is unable to maintain an institution or an emissary, we certainly rely on the Chabad emissary. Chabad rabbis lead the struggle for Israel on campuses. The cooperation between us and Chabad is not sufficient, and we are ready and happy to expand it.”
Deputy Education Minister Menahem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism) said that in the past two decades, the state’s budget for overseas Jewish education had plummeted. In 1987, it stood at NIS 48 million, and by 2003, then-education minister Yuli Tamir (Labor) had stripped it down to NIS 8m., he said.

Moses said that he had asked that the budget be restored to NIS 50m., and that Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) had promised to discuss the subject in the cabinet.
Ronen Plot, director-general of the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, called on Chabad representatives to submit proposals for increased cooperation to his ministry.