Shas demands guidelines for yeshiva inspections

After controversial visit by two inspectors to Bnei Brack that ended in formal complaints, Shas demands guidelines for funding, survey inspections.

Yeshiva 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yeshiva 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A furious Shas is demanding that the Finance Ministry draw up guidelines for their inspections in yeshivot after a reportedly unsavory visit by two inspectors at a Bnei Brack institution.
According to the rabbis and students of the Beit Shmaya yeshiva, two inspectors showed up at the institution on Wednesday around noon, in the middle of the 'general lesson' to the entire student body, taught by the venerable Rabbi Shlomo Englander. According to what Shas chairman Avraham Michaeli relayed on Thursday, the men wouldn't agree to wait till the end of the session, and one of them entered the study hall and stood next to Englander, who observed the uncanny presence but chose to ignore it and continue in his teaching. The visitor then apparently chose to leave on his own volition, without conducting the inspection.
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Following the incident, Englander sent an angry letter to the Education Ministry, with copies to Shas and United Torah Judaism Knesset members. Though headed by an Ashkenazi rabbi, Beit Shma'ya is a yeshiva composed largely of Sephardi students.
The financial support yeshivot receive from the state is determined by the number of students registered at the institution. The money is then provided by the Education Ministry, but the ongoing supervision over the correlation between the number of students in the books and in the institutions is carried out by an accountant firm sub-contracted by the Finance Ministry's Accountant General. The past year has seen a tightening of the supervision over the yeshivot, after a few large-scale swindles were exposed.
“Shas will not rest until an investigation of the incident is carried out and there is a formation of procedures to determine general attendance at yeshivot,” a message from the movement read.
Early Thursday afternoon, Shas had initially pointed a finger at the Education Ministry for the conduct, but throughout the day Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar assured Michaeli that his office was not behind that inspection, which was described by Englander as extremely demeaning. Michaeli added that Sa'ar spoke with Accountant General Michal Abadi-Boyano and demanded of her that clear procedures be drawn up, to avoid such occurrences.
Deputy Education Minister Menahem Eliezer Mozes also condemned the incident, and said he will demand clarifications from the Finance Ministry.
“I will send a harsh letter to the Finance Minister for him to set out the regulations and determine who is responsible for it,” Michaeli said. “Rabbis are very angry, and want to hold a protest rally. There is no problem in holding inspections, we have nothing to hide. But these inspectors should be told to wait till the end of the lesson, this is insulting, and we can't let it pass by unaddressed.”
Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen is a member of the same Shas, but Michaeli explained that on Thursday Cohen was busy in meetings all day, and could not deal with the issue. Michaeli added that Cohen was already in the midst of consolidating such procedures, but such tasks always face many bureaucratic obstacles.
“This is not the first time we are witness to such incidents, it's really too much already,” said Michaeli.
The Finance Ministry acknowledged that the inspectors were working under the auspices of the Accountant General, and explained in response to the criticism that “inspection of the numbers of students in yeshivot is by essence  a surprise inspection, hence the importance of it taking place immediately upon the inspectors arriving at the inspected institution.”
“At the same time, the inspection does not mean to disrupt the normal course of study, and if there was a disturbance – the matter shall be examined,” a message from the ministry read.
Late on Thursday, a spokesman for head of the Knesset's Finance Committee UTJ MK Moshe Gafni said that the Accountant General told Gafni they would apologize to Englander.