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May 23, 1986 - Image 34

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-05-23

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34

Friday, May 23, 1986

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

(Orthodox pupils comprise about 30 per
cent of the total number of pupils in the
regular puplic school system. Of the 146
villages and schools which receive pupils
referred by Youth Aliya, 34 are "general"
(i.e., non-Orthodox) and 112 are Orthodox,
the latter including more than 40 tradi-
tional (ultra-Orthodox) yeshivas.
The system that has emerged since 1971
thus subsidizes a broad network of costly
residential schooling that clearly favors the
Orthodox pupils and Orthodox schools,
not to mention the ultra-Orthodox yeshiv-
as that have been brought into the system
mainly since the late 1970s. Without the
tremendous increase in Jewish Agency
support for all these schools since 1971,
many would have had to close their doors

Instilling Zionist
idealism was just as
important, if not more
so, than training the
children for a specific
occupation.

due to the decline in mass immigration
from lands of distress. This support in-
cludes not only subsidized or free tuition
for many pupils, but grants for construc-
tion and other improvements as well.
Moreover; the availability of this extensive
Jewish Agency support encouraged new
residential schools to spring up in the
1970s, built mainly by Orthodox parties or
associations.

Where Do All Our Dollars Go?

Youth Aliya provides more financial
support than any other unit in the Jewish
Agency and WZO for ultra-Orthodox ye-
shivas, which range in their ideological
leanings from non-Zionist to anti-Zionist.
There are now about 1,760 pupils in these
40 yeshivas, which receive roughly $3.5
million a year toward their support — in
addition to the considerable financial aid
that they have been receiving from the
government since the Likud came to power
in 1977.
The pupils in these institutions — which
boycott Israel Independence Day obser-
vances and teach that service in the Israeli
Defense Forces is morally corrupting —
comprise about 20 percent of all Orthodox
pupils under Youth Aliya care. These
schools do not even make a pretense of in-
culcating the values of good citizenship
and service to the nation that have been
the cornerstone of Youth Aliya education
for decades.
How did such a drastic change from the
original purpose of Youth Aliya come
about? Youth Aliya head Uri Gordon is
plainly disturbed at this development, but
said that he "inherited this situation from
my predecessors." He freely admitted that
the department has no influence over the
educational program in these yeshivas, as
it does in the other schools that it sup-
ports. Gordon said that he has been try-
ing to reduce Youth Aliya support for the
ultra-Orthodox, which is way beyond their
share of the population served by the
department. He produced newspaper clip-
pings to show how the ultra-Orthodox par-
ties of Shas (Sephardi Torah Guardians)
and Agudat Israel have been attacking

him for not yielding to their demands to
increase departmental support for their
yeshivas.
How can these parties make such de-
mands in the first place? The official posi-
tion of the department is that the distribu-
tion of pupils according to religious pref-
erence is simply an outcome of the requests
of the families whose children are accepted
to Youth Aliya schools. But this position
ignores the political underpinnings of the
decisions made by the heads of the depart-
ment as to which schools will be eligible
for Youth Aliya support. As a result of the
political deals made by the Likud govern-
ment in the late 1970s with the ultra-
Orthodox, there was a major increase in
the number of yeshivas eligible for Youth
Aliya support. Similar political pressures
in the past have created the lopsided sup-
port in Youth Aliya for Orthodox residen-
tial education in general.
It is common knowledge that the posi-
tions of department head in the Jewish
Agency are determined according to polit-
ical considerations in the WZO and the
government coalitions. It is less well
known that deals made in the government
coalition — in' which the larger parties of-
fer assorted benefits to the smaller parties
in return for their support — spill over in-
to the Jewish Agency, as in the case of
Youth Aliya support for anti-Zionist ye-
shivas. Why else would the leaders of Shas
and Agudat Israel seek to extract promises
of increased support from Prime Minister
Shimon Peres, who is then expected to see
to it that his Labor Party colleague Uri
Gordon "delivers the goods" through the
Jewish Agency? From this wheeling and
dealing one might never guess that
Agudat Israel has always refused to par-
ticipate in the Agency and WZO on the
grounds that Zionism is treife (not Kosher)
— while accepting money from both.

dditional evidence that the
villages and schools supported
by Youth Aliya have strayed
from their original education-
al goals was provided recently
by no less an authority than the former
chief administrator of the department,
Meir Gottesman, who retired in 1984 after
28 years with the department, first as head
of education . and then as its top
administrator.
In the December 1985 issue of the Youth
Aliya Bulletin, published by the depart-
ment, Gottesman lamented a decline in the
original spirit of its schools. He noted that
the general trend towards materialism and
individualism in Israel, accompanied by a
decline of Zionist idealism, has also in-
fected the schools supported by the depart-
ment. He wrote that "residential education
has surrendered to the social climate, di-
minishing the importance of work and self-
help, and introducing [educational] pro-

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