Israeli Finance Minister Cancels Childcare Subsidies For Non-Working Yeshiva Students

Young Ultra Orthodox Jewish children study at a school in the ultra orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem on June 15 2009 . photo by Abir Sultan/ Flash 90

JERUSALEM (JNS) – Starting Sept. 1, unemployed yeshiva students will no longer be eligible for daycare-center subsidies for their children, Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced on Wednesday.

“The current mechanism harms parents who work and prioritizes those who do not,” he said, according to Channel 12. “Change is therefore required.”

“I will continue to move towards eliminating negative incentives for integration into the labor force,” he said, stressing the “importance of putting those who work and pay taxes at the forefront.”

Today, according to Channel 12, the state provides a subsidy of about NIS 1,000 ($306) per child in kindergartens run by WIZO, NA’AMAT and other non-profit organizations to families in which the wife works at least 24 hours per week, and the husband is not required to work due to his studies.

Ninety-three percent of the families in the above category are from the haredi sector, according to the Finance Ministry.

Under Lieberman’s new policy, the definition of “studies” will be changed to “employment-oriented studies” (i.e. academic studies, studies towards a certificate and others, but not yeshiva studies. In addition, fathers, not just mothers, will be required to work at least 24 hours per week in order for parents to meet the criteria for receipt of a discount in childcare.

The eliminated discounts are estimated at about NIS 400 million ($122 million) per year, constituting approximately one third of the state’s total current subsidies for daycare center and kindergarten tuition.

Lieberman’s decision does not require legislation in order to be implemented, Channel 12 said, but will be coordinated with Economy Minister Orna Barbivai.

Haredi Knesset members expressed outrage at the policy shift, with United Torah Judaism chairman Moshe Gafni stating, “The criterion determined by the evil Lieberman will prevent a working woman whose husband is studying Torah from subsidizing a child in a daycare center, and will cause severe economic harm to these families.”

“The first decision of the finance minister is to harm the haredim,” said Shas Party leader Aryeh Deri.

Referring to the new prime minister and justice minister, Deri added, “[Naftali] Bennett and [Gideon] Sa’ar, who promised to ‘take care of the haredim,’ formed a hate government that made hurting the Torah world its flagship.”

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