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Jerusalem - Professor: Financial Crisis A Mortal Blow To Charedim That Lack Labor Skills

Published on: November 16, 2008 12:32 PM
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Jerusalem - The High Holiday season is a time for giving. Some of the most important pro-Israel philanthropic appeals take place in North America between Rosh Hashana and Succot. But not surprisingly, this year’s North American appeals yielded particularly flat results. Even the warmest, most generous North American Jew is reevaluating his/her commitment to Israel’s institutions.

“This year’s lackluster holiday appeal is particularly worrisome because it is an indicator of the future, and it comes after the devaluation of the dollar,” says Miles Bunder, a veteran educator and fundraiser who recently immigrated to Israel from Florida. “Donors have made it clear they will not compensate for the weak dollar. And with the global financial crisis, it seems unlikely they will even match last year’s donations in dollar terms.”

Israeli institutions with any dependency on foreign funds are pessimistic. And since it is difficult to imagine an Israeli nonprofit or educational institution that does not rely to some extent on foreign funds, there are many doomsayers.

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But perhaps no other segment of Israeli society has been as affected by the crisis as the haredim. They are disproportionately dependent on the largesse of Diaspora Jews.

Haredi educational institutions do not adopt the curriculum requirements dictated by the Education Ministry, hence they receive only partial state funding. The rest required to run these institutions are supplied by tuition and donations. Another area severely affected are the kollels - study halls for married haredi men who pursue extended Torah education. These men rely on stipends funded almost exclusively by North American philanthropists and a few dozen big donors from Britain, France and Belgium.

Says Rabbi Avraham Pinzel, administrative head of Hochmas Shlomo, one of the largest Talmud Torah elementary schools in Jerusalem, “With fuel prices skyrocketing, our transportation costs have risen by 50%. And rising food costs makes it more expensive to feed our students. The majority of our donations are in dollars. In the past, $10,000 was worth NIS 40,000. Now it is sometimes worth NIS 32,000. Plus many of our students’ fathers learn in kollel. They get paid in dollars and cannot pay shekel-denominated tuitions. “But,” adds Pinzel, “we have always lived on miracles. We have God’s promise that no matter what happens, Torah scholarship will continue.”

Although financial matters have become an obsession for the haredim, there has been little talk among haredi leaders about making changes in haredi society that would reduce its dependence on philanthropy.

Dudi Zilbershlag, haredi founder of Meir Panim, a nonprofit charity that provides food and necessities to all sectors of Israeli society, forecasts the deterioration of the yeshiva world. “Dozens of kollelim will cease to exist. And when there is an economic slowdown, there will not be many job opportunities for haredi men, even if they wanted to work.”

Sociologist Menahem Friedman, professor emeritus of Bar-Ilan University, is convinced the financial crisis will be a mortal blow. “For decades, the haredi community has not been training itself for this world, only for the world to come. Even if haredim wanted to join the labor market, they would not be able to because they lack the necessary skills. With the US economy in the grips of a crisis, we will see haredi society in real turmoil.”

But Zilbershlag, a Seret-Viznitz Hassid, is not totally pessimistic. “There is a special commandment to loan to one’s brother when he is in a tough situation. Hassidism teaches that the commandment is not just talking about when the recipient is in dire straits; it is referring to when the person giving is in financial difficulty. Many religious philanthropists take this seriously. These donors may have real concerns about the future, but they know that when it gets tougher to donate, there is also a greater reward from God for performing the mitzva of charity.



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Read Comments (28)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Nov 16, 2008 at 01:10 PM Big Masmid Says:

there is a lack of jobs in Israel altogether, nothing to do with "Chardeim that lack labor skills "

2

 Nov 16, 2008 at 12:47 PM american in israel Says:

This financial crisis is a blow to chareidim WITH labor skills just as well. Don't be fooled. There are many college-educated, professionally-trained men with years of experience in their fields of expertise who are being laid off and cannot find work. The chareidim without labor skills are no worse off than the rest of us. And if they've learned over the years to expect little and live with less, than they might even be better off than the rest of us who have counted on our paychecks, made commitments such as mortgages, enrichment activities, extra tutoring (I'm not talking about luxuries), etc. accordingly and now don't know how we will pay for them.

3

 Nov 16, 2008 at 01:28 PM A better idea Says:

Get rid of these liberal doom minded professors and replace them with people who are willing to teach in a positive manner.

4

 Nov 16, 2008 at 01:32 PM Anonymous Says:

The Chareidim in USA are also in trouble.
Big bussiness is in the most trouble. Warren Buffet lost billions over the last 3 weeks on investments he made in public, probably billions more on old & those he hasn't had to publiscize yet.
Anyone I spoke to in business has claimed to be a victim in one way or another from the financial crisis.
Ain Ben Dovid Boh Ad Sheyichaleh Prutah Min Hakis, BTW it happened sometime back, we were all living on credit. Now credit has dried up, the governments are trying to plug a ship full of holes in the midst of a rocky ocean.

5

 Nov 16, 2008 at 01:49 PM Anonymous Says:

another jew looking for change (spare)

6

 Nov 16, 2008 at 02:42 PM Dag Says:

Reply to #2  
american in israel Says:

This financial crisis is a blow to chareidim WITH labor skills just as well. Don't be fooled. There are many college-educated, professionally-trained men with years of experience in their fields of expertise who are being laid off and cannot find work. The chareidim without labor skills are no worse off than the rest of us. And if they've learned over the years to expect little and live with less, than they might even be better off than the rest of us who have counted on our paychecks, made commitments such as mortgages, enrichment activities, extra tutoring (I'm not talking about luxuries), etc. accordingly and now don't know how we will pay for them.

#2. They are worse because they will competing for the same jobs. Yes, it is tough out there for all, but it is easier for a skilled person to find a job than an unskilled one.

7

 Nov 16, 2008 at 03:21 PM Anonymous Says:

In the old days every rishon had a profession! Look in "tshuves harambam simen 49" look on his way of live.

8

 Nov 16, 2008 at 02:47 PM Anonymous Says:

Well lets ask this highly esteemed professor, if the mortal blow only goes to hareidem that sit and learn, or also to those hundreds of thousands of isrrrrreali car service drivers, and thieves running around America and Israel, - maybe for them due to a undisclosed reason it will be fine, - and professor genius, I think the hareidim would take a mortal blow when it comes to finance anytime, then take a mortal blow that you and your sabrrras have had all along the way since the creation of the state when it comes to education - were kids threatining teachers at gunpoint with knives and drugs, in your highly esteemed public schools is the nborm, by the hareidim its almost non existent Mr. Mortal blow.

9

 Nov 16, 2008 at 02:51 PM Anonymous Says:

#6 you are correct - everybody is in this mess and when you you have little and dont expect alot its easier to handle it, then when you are doing wel, and all off a sudden you find yourself without a job or being laid off, or having your hours cut back etc, its happening everywhere.

10

 Nov 16, 2008 at 03:45 PM Yankel Menachem Says:

I was in mortgage Banking and I used to earn over a $ 1 million a year for the last five years .Now i am making hardly anything, so we are all together in this sinking ship

11

 Nov 16, 2008 at 05:13 PM $1 million a year Says:

Reply to #10  
Yankel Menachem Says:

I was in mortgage Banking and I used to earn over a $ 1 million a year for the last five years .Now i am making hardly anything, so we are all together in this sinking ship

I wonder what you refer to as hardly anything, is that a decline in 20% 50% you are still left with plenty dough

12

 Nov 16, 2008 at 05:22 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
american in israel Says:

This financial crisis is a blow to chareidim WITH labor skills just as well. Don't be fooled. There are many college-educated, professionally-trained men with years of experience in their fields of expertise who are being laid off and cannot find work. The chareidim without labor skills are no worse off than the rest of us. And if they've learned over the years to expect little and live with less, than they might even be better off than the rest of us who have counted on our paychecks, made commitments such as mortgages, enrichment activities, extra tutoring (I'm not talking about luxuries), etc. accordingly and now don't know how we will pay for them.

Your point is like saying, I will smock cigarettes, because anyone can dye! Stupid.

13

 Nov 16, 2008 at 05:50 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
american in israel Says:

This financial crisis is a blow to chareidim WITH labor skills just as well. Don't be fooled. There are many college-educated, professionally-trained men with years of experience in their fields of expertise who are being laid off and cannot find work. The chareidim without labor skills are no worse off than the rest of us. And if they've learned over the years to expect little and live with less, than they might even be better off than the rest of us who have counted on our paychecks, made commitments such as mortgages, enrichment activities, extra tutoring (I'm not talking about luxuries), etc. accordingly and now don't know how we will pay for them.

I will add to your point; in todays times if you have a career, you are more vulnerable to mixed in the secular society. But in the days of the Rammbam their yidishkeit was very strong.

14

 Nov 16, 2008 at 05:48 PM Yankel Menachem Says:

Reply to 11 Hardly anything means a drop of 75% in $

15

 Nov 16, 2008 at 06:05 PM Noclue Says:

To 14. Only $250,000 a year. How can you possibly live? Perhaps you are eligible for food stamps.

16

 Nov 16, 2008 at 07:54 PM Anonymous Says:

#14-While I do feel badly for anyone who loses out in this financial crisis, you're asking for it by saying that you made $1 million for five years and you're now making $250,000. While I'm sure you have to cut back on your lifestyle, the rest of us shnooks wish we were in your place! You're posting here, where the article is about people not being able to make ends meet. No, sir, we're not sinking together. SOme people have lifeboats--and if you don't, you need a financial advisor. I think many of us who are out of work would love that job and we can help you too!

17

 Nov 16, 2008 at 08:03 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Yankel Menachem Says:

I was in mortgage Banking and I used to earn over a $ 1 million a year for the last five years .Now i am making hardly anything, so we are all together in this sinking ship

You think we're all together in this sinking ship? Read the post a little earlier about the couple in Israel that tried to commit suicide as they owed $$
to loan sharks. Puhleez! We are not all together on this ship! I hope you put something away these past 5 years, and not all in stocks, either.

18

 Nov 16, 2008 at 08:43 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Yankel Menachem Says:

I was in mortgage Banking and I used to earn over a $ 1 million a year for the last five years .Now i am making hardly anything, so we are all together in this sinking ship

Do you have a Hungarian wife?

19

 Nov 16, 2008 at 10:40 PM robroy560 Says:

Skills to make a living are important to all of us - Chareidi or not

20

 Nov 17, 2008 at 02:53 AM american in israel Says:

Reply to #19  
robroy560 Says:

Skills to make a living are important to all of us - Chareidi or not

You are correct in general but the point here is that in this current global financial situation even skills won't necessarily save you. Highly skilled and experienced workers are losing their jobs every day and THERE IS NO WORK!!

21

 Nov 17, 2008 at 02:44 AM american in israel Says:

Reply to #6  
Dag Says:

#2. They are worse because they will competing for the same jobs. Yes, it is tough out there for all, but it is easier for a skilled person to find a job than an unskilled one.

You don't get it. THERE ARE NO JOBS!

22

 Nov 17, 2008 at 01:03 AM matzahlocal101 Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

In the old days every rishon had a profession! Look in "tshuves harambam simen 49" look on his way of live.

and if you look in hilchos talmud torah, the Rambam says a person should divide his torah learning in thirds, A third written law, a third in oral law, a third to understand one thing from another thing. For example If a person works 3 hours and learns for 9 hours, he should divide his time......" The Rambam never had a thought that someone would work 9-5.

23

 Nov 17, 2008 at 08:32 AM $1 million a year Says:

Reply to #14  
Yankel Menachem Says:

Reply to 11 Hardly anything means a drop of 75% in $

So earning $250,000 is not enought to live in??? you must have a very high standard of living, good for you, May g-d fill the gap for you and your family

24

 Nov 17, 2008 at 08:34 AM 770 Says:

Reply to #14  
Yankel Menachem Says:

Reply to 11 Hardly anything means a drop of 75% in $

your wife must be a big spender

25

 Nov 17, 2008 at 09:24 AM Yankel Menachem Says:

reply to #18 & 24. Yes she is hungarian and yes she likes to shop for nice things .

26

 Nov 17, 2008 at 10:25 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #25  
Yankel Menachem Says:

reply to #18 & 24. Yes she is hungarian and yes she likes to shop for nice things .

Yup we all believe you dont worry-a millionaire writing comments on this site......................................sure

27

 Nov 17, 2008 at 01:24 PM Concerned Member Says:

What a shame people have been distracted by making ridiculous comments about this guy's million dollars and his wife. Who cares.

Back to the relevant subject... I believe the article should be talking about everyone in Israel. Personally I feel bad that I have been unable to give Tzedakah to institutions in Israel recently but it's beyond my control. My salary has remained stagnant and my expenses have gone WAY up so I have less money available to give to Tzedakah. Not to mention the fact that there are R"L more people in my local community in desperate need of financial assistance than ever before and I feel it is my responsibility to help them first.

That is what's causing the lackluster funding from the US to Israel.

Please everyone stop making stupid comments about this, it's a very serious issue that we're going to be dealing with for a while.

28

 Nov 18, 2008 at 07:01 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #27  
Concerned Member Says:

What a shame people have been distracted by making ridiculous comments about this guy's million dollars and his wife. Who cares.

Back to the relevant subject... I believe the article should be talking about everyone in Israel. Personally I feel bad that I have been unable to give Tzedakah to institutions in Israel recently but it's beyond my control. My salary has remained stagnant and my expenses have gone WAY up so I have less money available to give to Tzedakah. Not to mention the fact that there are R"L more people in my local community in desperate need of financial assistance than ever before and I feel it is my responsibility to help them first.

That is what's causing the lackluster funding from the US to Israel.

Please everyone stop making stupid comments about this, it's a very serious issue that we're going to be dealing with for a while.

You need to speak to your Rav. The halacha says the poor of Eretz Yisrael come before the poor of your own community. Check it out.

29

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