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Treasury said planning funding reform to push Haredi schools to teach core subjects

Ultra-Orthodox institutions to see budget cut, but can get funds by showing good Hebrew, English, math test results; Haredi school denies certificate to student who left community

Yeshiva students study in separation capsules in Jerusalem on September 2, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yeshiva students study in separation capsules in Jerusalem on September 2, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Finance Ministry is said to be planning a major reform to the funding of ultra-Orthodox schools, as part of a continued effort by the state to get these schools to teach core curriculum subjects.

The Kan public broadcaster reported Monday that the plan would see an immediate cut of 25 percent from the funding allocated to Haredi schools, totaling around NIS 1 billion.

Institutions would be eligible to win some of that funding back based on their students’ test results in Hebrew, English and mathematics.

The reform is set to be included in the 2023 national budget and will be submitted for government approval next week, the report said.

Many ultra-Orthodox communities shun core curriculum subjects at their schools, saying instead that education should focus only on Torah studies.

However, a growing trend in Israel has seen more and more Haredim seeking to enter the job market, which they are unable to do without learning secular subjects.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting at the Knesset on May 16, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

With the community continuing to grow at a rapid pace compared to its secular counterpart, many officials have warned that the economy will face increasing strain unless Haredim are able to get an education and enter the job market.

The proposed budget cut joins other Finance Ministry reforms aimed at getting more Haredim into the workforce.

In February, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said he intends to halve the minimum number of hours that ultra-Orthodox men must spend in study in order to qualify for state stipends – from 40 weekly hours to 20 – thereby freeing up their time to join the workforce.

Many ultra-Orthodox men learn full time in yeshivas, or kollels for older married men, where they study Jewish religious texts. Those in kollels can receive state stipends but are required to spend at least 40 hours a week in study.

Liberman, who heads the staunchly secular Yisrael Beytenu party, said the idea was to provide “positive incentives” to encourage more ultra-Orthodox men and Arab women to find jobs.

Kan also reported on Tuesday that an ultra-Orthodox school for girls refused to give a former student a graduation certificate stating that she completed her required 12 years of schooling, because she has since left the religious community.

Batya Adler, 29, contacted the New Beit Ya’akov Seminar for Girls in Ashdod to get the document in order to get into university.

When she called the school and told them she needed the certificate, a representative for the institution, which is partially funded by the state, told her they had been ordered by the headmaster Rabbi Yehiel Zucker not to give it to her.

The move is against regulations. Since the school does not conduct matriculation testing, and therefore cannot give out a high school diploma, the document is the only way for her to apply for higher education.

Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox girls enter a school in Beit Shemesh, on September 8, 2014. (Flash90)

“It frustrates me that even after all these years, they still try to control me, even when it comes to requests they are obliged to approve by the Education Ministry, which they refused the moment they heard it was related to academia,” Adler told Kan.

Adler later received the document directly from the ministry after it was contacted by the public broadcaster.

The ministry also released an official statement reprimanding the school for its conduct, saying it went against regulations.

Zucker refused to comment on the report.

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