Friday, April 09, 2010

MK Gafni on Poverty: Going To Work Solves Nothing; That's All Nonsense

A rather incredible article appeared on the Dei'ah veDibur site this week entitled Bank of Israel: Entering Workforce Does Not Ensure Escape from Poverty. The article tries to make the case that, for chareidim in Israel, leaving welfare is a bad thing and that families that do leave welfare do not end up better off financially.

The article quotes MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (the Knesset Finance Committee Chairman) who states:

"The country is lying to its citizens. Once again it has been shown that leaving the ranks of welfare recipients and joining the job market does not change the situation and people who work very hard for their living are unable to make ends meet."

He also goes on to say (emphasis mine):

"Emerging from the cycle of poverty requires an ability to get accepted to one of the positions that brings in tens and hundreds of thousands of shekels per month. Going to work solves nothing; that's all nonsense. In the State of Israel, today someone who wants to get out of the cycle of poverty has to network with the elites and the power centers just to get a decent salary that will really enable him to make a respectable living."

In other words, according to Rabbi Gafni, working is worthless. We're all better off just increasing welfare payments to people so that they can sustain themselves. I don't know if his comment that you need "tens and hundreds of thousands of shekels" of shekels per month to get out of poverty is accurate (it sounds high to me), but let's say, for the moment, that he's correct (given chareidi family sizes). Assuming a shekel is worth about a quarter (it's actually a bit more right now), that's the equivalent of saying that you need "twenty five hundreds to twenty five thousands dollars per month" to escape poverty. Of course, jobs paying twenty five grand a month are scarce... I don't have one, nor do the vast majority of people in the U.S. But what Rabbi Gafni is missing (or, IMHO, purposely avoiding) is that people on welfare, when they enter the workforce, generally start by talking entry-level jobs that are meant for unskilled workers. As their skills and experience increase, workers will be able to begin commanding higher salaries. When I started working, I was earning very, very little. However, now that I've been working for quite a few years and have invested in some training and education, I now command a much higher salary. Had I said, twenty years ago, that it doesn't pay to work because I can't get my present salary, I would have been an idiot. Very few people get to start at the top... most of us have to work our way up through the ranks, just like everyone else. That means you "pay your dues" by working for a while at low wages and then, with hard work, experience and a bit of Siyata D'Shmaya (Divine Providence), you will begin to earn better wages.

Of course, all this is predicated on one assumption -- that the person is employable and has job skills that he can bring to the market. Rabbi Gafni makes the following observation concerning the ability to earn a salary (again, emphasis mine):

"The problem is especially acute in the chareidi public. The state does not recognize the years of yeshiva and seminary study as it recognizes the years of study of its secular citizens. As a result both husband and wife who work earn paltry salaries, and are unable to extract the family from the cycle of poverty. On the other hand there are people earning as much as an entire neighborhood."

And here, Rabbi Gafni has the solution to the problem staring him in the face and he willfully chooses to ignore it. The problem, very simply, is education. When people are not educated with any skills (other than being a rebbe/teacher), there is little chance that they will be able to command a "good salary" when they enter the workforce. In order to command a "good salary," a worker has to be able to show that s/he will add at least that much value to the enterprise and have skills that differentiate him/herself from the other people seeking employment. Almost anyone off the street can answer a phone or man a cash register -- and so those jobs pay very little. On the other hand, since not everyone can hold the job of a skilled worker (be it computer programmer, plumber, doctor, etc.), people in those professions earn more.

In the ultimate of ironies, Rabbi Gafni even brings an example of a high earner and, instead of recognizing why the person has a high salary, he engages in petty envy. He states (once more, emphasis mine):

"We considered the possibility of setting up a ministerial committee to discuss the inconceivable wage gaps that exist in this country. We need a far-reaching change and a totally new attitude. There are enormous class gaps in this country that will turn into an existential social problem. The salary the CEO of Bank Mizrachi receives is enough to sustain a whole street in Bnei Brak. These class disparities have led to very difficult situations throughout history in all places, and it is imperative that the government comes to its senses on time."

I don't know who the CEO of Bank Mizrachi is, and I certainly don't know his salary or whether or not it can really sustain a street in Bnei Brak. But I do know this: he probably holds an MBA and/or an advanced degree in finance. He probably didn't walk in off the street on his first day of work and say "I want to be the CEO." He probably spent years working at less prestigious jobs, building up his experience. He probably put in a lot of hours over the years and earned the respect of his peers in the banking industry. He probably spent quite a bit of time networking professionally. In other words, the CEO of Bank Mizrachi earns a large salary because he has worked himself up to that point, not because it was magically given to him.

Rabbi Gafni looks at the CEO of Bank Mizrachi and purposely ignores the very reason for his success. Instead of crediting his education, skill and hard work, he says that you have to "network with the elites and the power centers" to get a decent job. As if anyone could get a CEO job (or any job that requires skills) just simply by knowing an "elite" or someone in a "power center." He purposely (IMHO) ignores the importance of education and job skills and says that it's better to simply sit back, give up on any chance for developing job skills and get a welfare check from the government.

I find it utterly ironic that Rabbi Gafni is complaining about poverty in the chareidi community when it's attitudes like his that are the chief reason for it. When school systems are purposely designed NOT to teach any job skills and the society is set up to actively discourage getting an education that will lead to such skills, there can be little doubt that the outcome will be continued poverty. In short, Rabbi Gafni is like someone who ensures that there are no firefighters and then complains when his house burns down and no one was there to put out the fire.

The Wolf


Orthonomics said...

I will be linking to you. In other words, blame it on "the man." These statements are truly tragic and it is very painful to watch a community be led off an economic cliff. You have basically covered the economics. It is obvious that Gafni believes in the economic fallacy of a limited pie which only leads to engaging in class warfare, so naturally he is jealous that the Bank CEO has "too big" a piece of the pie.

Truly we have our own [insert name here]'s, leaders who blame the man and place no trust in their consitutient's abilities. Shameful.

Larry Lennhoff said...

We considered the possibility of setting up a ministerial committee to discuss the inconceivable wage gaps that exist in this country. We need a far-reaching change and a totally new attitude.

Perhaps by this he means something like 'equivalent pay' - the idea that people doing work of equal value to society should receive equivalent compensation. Thus a Rosh Yeshiva might be paid the same as the CEO of Mizrachi bank, and a high school rebbe might be paid the same as a captain in the army, etc.

This idea will shock those who think Judaism == Conservative economics, of course. And I wouldn't support it myself either. But I can believe he could believe in it.

Orthonomics said...

I'm definitely a free market gal myself, but I see no indication that the Torah and our great Rabbis endorsed what Gafni is endorsing. There is some commentary I spotted recently on Mishlei that points to so called trickle down economics. And when it comes to a RY earning as a CEO, the sages have hashed out whether a Rabbi can receive a salary at all. We do allow it, but the idea of paying on a payscale seems rather preposterious.

Ahavah said...

This man and his followers want to have their cake and eat it, too. They want to "protect" themselves and their kids from any kind of secular academic education but still get the same benefits as those who choose to give their kids a competitive education. They also suffer from an innate arrogance toward those who take parnasah seriously and are absolutely not interested in "working their way up" like normal people have to do. They want it handed to them on a silver platter. They are like teenage know-it-alls. They imagine themselves to be superior and competent, but everyone else can see the reality. It's an immature and yes, snobbish, position he's taken. The fact that they have waited until they are married with a housefull of kids to get started on their climb to competence is regrettable, but that's the choice they made. They should absolutely not receive any sort of "affirmative action" or artificial wage guarantees. They should have to start at the bottom like all the rest of us did - get an academic education, learn skills and crafts, become experienced, and live frugally along the way. If it was good enough for the rest of us, it's good enough for them, too - whether they like it or not.

G*3 said...

> The state does not recognize the years of yeshiva and seminary study as it recognizes the years of study of its secular citizens.

I don’t know enough about Israeli society to know exactly what this means, but if it means, as it seems to, that someone who spent ten years sitting and learning should be entitled to a salary equal to that of an MD who spent ten years in college and med school, then it shows a complete lack of understanding of how the job market works.

SuperRaizy said...

How on earth did someone with so little understanding of basic financial principles get to become the Chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee?!

Dave said...

I don't keep Kosher.

I don't speak Hebrew (much less Talmudic Hebrew or Aramaic).

I've never spent time in a Yeshiva.

Is that supposed to be some kind of excuse for me not to be the Gadol HaDor? Clearly, there are people of a similar age who are greatly respected poskim, why am I not considered to be one?

It is ludicrous to suppose that study and immersion in religious law would have someone treated differently than someone immersed in secular culture and studies.

Dave said...

SuperRaizy: Block voting and coalition politics, of course.

YoelB said...

Looks as though those yeshiva bachurim who became Communists weren't so far off the derech after all.

I can see the dissertation topic now: Capitalism vs Communism: Approaches in Orthodox Jewish Religious Education (Chinuch)

Abstract: An historical investigation was undertaken to characterize religious pedagogical approaches ("hashkafos") and chains of transmission from teacher to disciple. Those educated in certain hashkafos tend to become Communists (enrollees and graduates were present in unusually large numbers in Communist ranks in Tsarist and Soviet Russia. Descendants have an unusually high rate of participation in radical politics when settled in North America and Europe.) For those enrollees and graduates remaining in the Orthodox world, the same approaches produce a low rate of workforce participation and a high percentage of welfare recipients. Other identifiable hashkafos lead to a wider range of political-economic philosophies and a greater rate of workforce participation, business ownership and other participation in productive economic activity.

Zach Kessin said...

When in doubt, blame the man.

Aaron S. said...

This is nothing unique to Israel.

In America too, simultaneously being on food stamps, WIC, welfare, Section 8 housing, Earned Income Tax credits, etc. etc., you can have a standard of living at leasr equal to the lower middle class -- without working.

SubWife said...

It does seem to be somewhat unfair that someone putting in 60+ hours would be unable to sustain his family or even himself financially earning only minimal wages. On the other hand, I completely agree with you - yeshivas are guilty not only in not teaching any valuable working skills, they are guilty in discouraging thinking seriously about parnasa and seeking those skills elsewhere. This is insane. Eventually, this system will crumble. There's just no other way.

Orthonomics said...

SubWife-What is "unfair?" Througout history, many immigrant families have combined resources with relatives to help build a better future for the next generation.

Zach Kessin said...

Work is a good start to getting out of poverty, but its not the only thing that is required.

Being able to make and live with a budget is pretty important. As are realistic expectations. And of course you need to constantly update your skills.

Its competitive out here! You can't walk out of a yeshiva with no skills and expect to get much of a job. Or to put it another way, it took time to learn one's way around the Gamarra, it will take time to learn one's way around the workplace.

ProfK said...

How does Rabbi Gafni reconcile his statements with what is written in Chumash and discussed by our sages? "Talmud Berakhot 8a
Rabbi Hiyya bar Ami said in the name of Ulla: One who earns by the efforts of his own hands stands even higher than one who is completely God-fearing. For of the God-fearer, it is written, “Happy (Ashrei) is the one who fears the Lord”, and of the one who earns by his own efforts, it is written, “You shall enjoy the fruits of your labors, you shall be happy (Ashrekha) and you shall prosper.” That is, you shall be happy in this world, and you shall prosper in the future world. And notice that of the God-fearer it does not say “you shall prosper.”

And what about the statement in Chumash "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread"?

I was not under the impression that we are allowed to pick and choose which parts of chumash we consider binding on us--they all are.

Larry Lennhoff said...

And what about the statement in Chumash "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread"?
While I agree with the rest of your post, I feel obligated to point out that this statement is a curse, not a commandment. Assuming you don't oppose allowing women to use anesthetics during childbirth (because of the curse "In pain shall you bear your children") I don't think this quote is relevant.

Rambam's says in Hilchot Talmud Torah:

Anyone who decides to be engaged in Torah [study] and not to work, and will be supported by Tzedaqa - this person desecrates God's name (*Chillel et Hashem*), degrades the Torah, extinguishes the light of our faith, brings evil upon himself and forfeits life in *Olam haBa* (The world to come); since it is forbidden to derive benefit from the words of Torah in this world. The Rabbis said (Avot 4:5): Anyone who derives benefit from the words of Torah in this world, forfeits his life in Olam haBa. They further commanded and said: (Avot 4:5) Do not make them [the words of Torah] a crown to magnify yourself or an axe with which to chop. They further commanded, saying: (Avot 1:10) Love work and despise positions of power (*Rabbanut*). And: (Avot 2:2) Any Torah which is not accompanied by work will eventually be nullified and will lead to sin. Ultimately, such a person will steal from others.

Source : which includes a discussion about in what circumstances kollel is permissible.

OTD said...

If you try to prove that work is necessity and kollel is ridiculous from textual sources, I'm afraid you're on thin ice. Yes there are sources here and there that suggest working for a living is honorable. Yet there are also many sources that suggest the opposite (pas bemelach tochel is one). Not to mention there are boatloads of rabbis alive today and over the centuries who were adamant about a kollel way of life. It's one of the problems with religion: it can sometimes tell you to ignore the reality in front of your eyes, and to listen to some nonsense blabbered by fools, often with tragic consequences.

Sinclair said...

Larry, additionally you forgot the other Rambam's:

Rambam describes those who WANT to join Shevet Levi. He does not condition their membership in the Kollel community as having to be the best, but rather having the desire. The idea that only the "best" should learn in Kollel is a baseless falsehood and it is against the Halchah as expressed by the Rambam which states that anyone who so chooses may learn in Kollel. See also Yoreh Deah Laws of Talmud Torah 246:21 and the Shach there. Kollel is a special privilege and status that anyone can go for if they so choose, the Rambam says.

(The Rambam also writes that a "working person" is someone who learns 8 hours a day and works 3 hours.)

Mike S. said...

OTD: There aren't boat loads of rabbinic sources praising kollel for centuries. The first kollel was started in Kovno in the 1870's or so. You will find sources here and there praising full time learning (although they are less common than the one's praising work, rather than the reverse, at least until very recent times) but to qualify you had to have family money, convince a patron to support you, or convince one to let you marry his daughter. And you had to except a life of poverty (that is the pas b'melach tocheil part.) You could expect your father-in-law to give you a room in his house, not to buy you an up-to-date home in a fancy neighborhood.

Mike S. said...

I meant, "you had to accept a life of poverty." If you want to understand the kind of mesiras nefesh that produced the gedolim of previous generations, look at an account of the Gaon's hesped for his wife. Among other things he said that she had more mesiras nefesh for Torah than he because when they didn't have money for fuel, he could go to the beis medrash which was kept warm at communal expense and she had to stay home in the cold.

Yes, anyone with enough desire should be able to learn full time. But you can't have them living upper middle class lifestyles at the same time. The numbers don't add up. You can either have near universal kollel and lives of poverty, or those with the most burning desire learning in kollel with a reasonable amount of support from the rest of us. You can't have most of the adult male population in kollel and sustain middle class lifestyles. The numbers don't add up.

OTD said...

Mike S: I'm aware that kollel is relatively modern, and that's why I emphasized rabbis "alive today." My point is that the rabbis advocating kollel nowadays are no more idiots than the rabbis who don't. There are some serious halachic and hashkafic arguments in support of their case, and ignoring them won't really solve the problem.

OTD said...

I would also stress that a life of poverty is not necessarily either an option. It's not just the lifestyle that's killing them, it's basic expenses too. If you want to subject yourself to a life of asceticism that's your business, but when you have a spouse and children, your responsibilities change. Maybe the Christians got it right when they had their nuns and monks celibate.

Larry Lennhoff said...


The Shevet Levi approach is discussed in the same article I linked to originally.

Shmendrik said...

>(The Rambam also writes that a "working person" is someone who learns 8 hours a day and works 3 hours.)

This is a classic Chareidi distortion of the Rambam. It's an example he gives, nothing more, and based on his own testimony he worked a heck of a lot more than 3 hours per day.

Mike S. said...


I have no problem with kollel--I am happy to support a couple to the extent I can. And I don't wish poverty on anyone. And I agree that there are good reasons for kollel. But you have to get the finances to balance, and the more people in kollel, the less the stipend can be.

And it does trouble me when kollel men come asking for money to buy their kids apartments. I can't afford to do that for my kids; it is somewhat silly to expect kollel to provide the kind of lifestyle where you can buy apartments for five kids.

Likewise, although I learn for a few hours a day, I wouldn't expect that I can quit my job and instantly be comparable to the Gadol Hador in learning. That would be foolish. It is equally foolish to expect a kollel guy, who has spent far less time on anything marketable than I have on Shas and Posekim, to earn money like the had of Bank Mizrachi.

Shlomo said...

The CEO of Bank Mizrahi earns 190k shekels per month. Minimum wage in Israel is 3585 shekels/month. So he could support 53 people at minimum wage. That's about two apartment buildings in Bnei Brak.

And he's one of a handful of the most successful people in the country, in lucrative field, at the peak of a career that he's 36 years into.

Anonymous said...

He is very obviously correct, as he apparently had no secular education and has invented Socialism all by himself...

Yossi Ginzberg

Unknown said...

Let's say that a given Jew (other than one who truly "belongs" in full-time learning) has a job opportunity in the private sector that will bring in somewhat less money overall than the government welfare benefits he now receives. Isn't he obligated by Torah and Rabbinic law to try to go to work and not be a voluntary charity case?

Maimonidean said...

"Rambam describes those who WANT to join Shevet Levi. He does not condition their membership in the Kollel community as having to be the best, but rather having the desire. The idea that only the "best" should learn in Kollel is a baseless falsehood and it is against the Halchah as expressed by the Rambam which states that anyone who so chooses may learn in Kollel."

This is a tragic misunderstanding of Rambam.
Rambam is talking ONLY about people who are financially independent. NOT about people throwing themselves on the community for support.

J. said...

The Radvaz on that Rambam makes clear that the Rambma is NOT talking about living off others - have a look before you start sprouting propaganda.

Fozzie said...

One of the best written, most timely, thoughtful, correct posts I've ever read on any blog ever.

Kol Hakavod!

You should try to get this more widely read - maybe ask if some local rag will publish it.

Fozzie said...

Re: life in America

Just FAYI (for all your information) bais yaakov girls are being taught how to keep money out of their name so as to not be a barrier to them getting benefits.
What a way for a school to prepare it's students for adult life.

BrooklynWolf said...


First of all, thank you for the kind words. It's greatly appreciated.

Secondly, the charge you are leveling is very serious. Do you have any proof to back it up?

The Wolf

Simple Simon said...


Why are you asking for backup? In the JBlogosphere any attack against Yeshivos, Bais Yaakovs, Chareidim, and Gedolim MUST be taken at face value.

Otherwise you lose all credibility with fellow JBloggers.

BrooklynWolf said...


Hah hah.

Seriously, I generally try to be as fair as I can possibly be.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

First time reading your blog
I am a Haredi living in Israel. 2 short comments
1. Take a look only at public or quasi-public sector jobs. My favorite example is liberal arts professors and education. The state budgets many millions of shekels for "Tarbut", and many millions more to pay the elevated (state-defined) salaries of Liberal Arts/Social science professors and to subsidize (college is $2500 a year) these studies for countless students. The public value of these studies does not appear to me (in the vast majority of cases) to add substantive value to society, certainly any more than yeshiva studies contribute.
2. On a technical level, salaries for state jobs in Israel (the pay scale) are based on categories of education. A teacher with a second degree (Masters) from a recognized institution gets a much higher salary. The state refuses to recognize extended yeshiva studies as equivalent for that purpose, which would seem like discrimination to me

Fozzie said...


yes, unfortunately, personal experience.

Fozzie said...


what precisely does Kollel study contribute to society?

Given Wolf's side point about the way that those of us who earn are having to fund the Torah students and thus being a drain on tzedakah that could be given to, y'know, the geniunely needy; it's hard to argue what contribution they do make.

There's only a finite amount of money out there. If you are learning, you are taking away from that finite pot of tzedakah money.

Culture contributes to a society's moral structure and values. They force the debate.

I would argue that the culture of begging and taking that the kollel society creates is a serious drain on our moral capital. Teaching a generation to be beggars doesn't contribut much.

Larry Lennhoff said...


I think a kollel supporter would disagree with you. While the supply of tzedaka is finite, that finite supply can be greater or less. If we support torah study, Hashem will increase our wealth and thus the amount of tzedakah available to the righteous non-scholar will be the same or possibly even greater.

I suspect that kollel supporters believe the non-monetary blessing brought by the mitzvah of Torah study makes it worthy of support. To my mind the question is whether Torah study should be supported in the same sort of fashion we support R&D or in the same sort of fashion we support the arts.

J. said...

The problem is that while we are sitting here discussing whether kollel is like the arts or R&D, the Charedi system in Israel causing serious problems for Israel's economy, and is going to cause even more severe issues in the future. See here:

Change is absolutely vital and urgent.

Sam said...

Too bad. If you don't like Torah, lump it. It will not change. We've been hearing this same drumbeat for the past 50 years - how its all going to collaps - ever since Rav Kotler zt"l started the Lakewood Kollel.

J. said...

Who is talking about lumping Torah? If anything, mass kollel is a 'change' in that it is unprecendented in Jewish history. Perhaps you should familiaries yourself with the data before nonchalantly waving away the disastrous effects of a third of school children in Israel receving little in the way of employable skills.

Sam said...

Keep wasting your lives carping against the Torah and Kollel. Your ilk have been beating this same theme, with all the same liners, for the past 50 years.

Look we're we've gotten in the past 50 years (+++) and look where you're ilk has gotten (---).

BrooklynWolf said...


The post is not about Kollel. It's about a Finance Minister spouting the idea that going to work doesn't help someone financially. It really has very little to do with Kollel at all.

It's about education (or the lack thereof) and jobs and his ridiculous notion that getting a job doesn't help anyone and that the only way to get a job is to "know someone."

The Wolf

J. said...

Sam - you are arguing against a straw man - I was in kollel myself - I think it is a wonderful institution and vitally necessary both to enable individuals to learn Torah lishma and to produce the next dor of talmidei chachomim - I just believe that the system as a whole is heading towards diaster - and it can be changed without giving up the fundamentals. Aderaba, if kollel was seen as an 'elite' occupation, then all those who were there would be likely to take it more seriously. And don't minimse the problems, both economic and social that mass kollel (together with a lack of secular education) has caused.

BrooklynWolf said...


He's not arguing -- he hasn't actually put forth a cogent argument. He's ranting.

The Wolf

Fozzie said...


And, yes, it is collapsing around you. The current generation will have no money to provide for their families and will be poor. The system has run out of cash.

Larry -
Fine for you personally, but the societal implications are unavoidable. You can feel free to donate but the socio-economic structure is unsustainable. And it hurts people who are genuinely poor. Not a great middah, I think, from a Torah scholar, to take money from those who really need it so they can study. Who is to say that so many are so worthy of being supported at the expense of so many others?

Sam said...

And, yes, it is collapsing around you. The current generation will have no money to provide for their families and will be poor. The system has run out of cash.

Been hearing exactly that for 50+ years. And I expect you'll be hearing it for the next 50+ years. As Kollel grows and grows, the naysayers and sourpusses will still be sounding like the same old broken record.

Chaim said...

Sorry, Sam. The only thing we here from your own community and from the Chareidi rabbonim in Israel is how poor and desperate for money everyone is. Why don't you tell them that they sound like a broken record?

Sam said...

"The only thing we here from your own community and from the Chareidi rabbonim in Israel is how poor and desperate for money everyone is."

That's BS. Sure they raise money for the poor. There are poor Chareidim and poor DL and poor seculars. The Chareidim today, are no poorer than the Chareidim of 50 years ago. We got along fine for the past 50 years, and we'll get along just as fine for the next 50 years.

Anonymous said...

That is objectively false. The Chareidi community has vastly lower employment rates than even 20 years ago, let alone 50.

BTW, Most yeshivish people I know don't use terms like "BS". I guess the trolls who hang around online are different.

Sam said...

"The Chareidi community has vastly lower employment rates than even 20 years ago"

BS. Which hat did you pull that data out of?

(And who said I'm yeshivish?)

Chaim said...

"The percentage of ultra-Orthodox men not working has more than tripled over the past 30 years. In 2008, 65% of Haredi men did not work, compared to only 21% in 1979, reveals the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel in its annual report."

Sam said...

An anti-semitic rag like Haaretz quoting a Zionist think tank?

Surely you jest.

(P.S. Where is the cry to get all the think tank employees out in the workplace to do some real work? Or are the anti-Kollel folks only anti-Torah. Torah study is verboten, but Zionist think tank study is kosher.)

BrooklynWolf said...


Let's try to stay on topic here. No where in my post did I mention Kollel.

What do *you* think about Rabbi Gafni's remarks? Do *you* feel that going to work doesn't help to bring families out of poverty? Do you think it's better for everyone to just subsist on government subsidies?

The Wolf

Chaim said...

An ad-hominem rebuttal from a Chareidi because they have no better answer?

Surely you jest.

(P.S. The think tank employees are in the workplace.)

Sam said...

So where is Wolfish cracking down on Chaim's off-topic post? Ah, idealogical soul-mates are exempt from rules only implemented to keep away truth sayers.

And Chaim, of course, throws around Latin terms he doesn't understand like ad hominem in a poor attempt to sound impressive. But instead he comes across as foolishly when he uses that term after he wasn't personally attacked. But why let facts get in the way of Latin, when your arguments have failed on the logic?

Dave said...

Actually, Sam, he got it right.

An anti-semitic rag like Haaretz quoting a Zionist think tank?

Surely you jest.

That is an Ad Hominem response. You are attacking the source, rather than the argument.

Shmuel said...

What's the problem calling a spade a spade? Discounting "facts" presented in Haaretz about Chareidim simply because it is a Zionist propaganda publication is no more ad hominem than discounting "facts" presented in Der Stürmer about Jews simply because it is a Nazi propaganda publication.

Dave said...

Facts are independent of who states them.

They are either true, in which case they are facts, or false, in which case they are lies.

It is reasonable to say "I don't trust this source". That doesn't mean that everything the source says is untrue, it means that you don't assume that its claims are true. And that's fine, when you are considering things on your own; we all do it.

When, however, you are debating with someone, that is not reasonable. The statement is either true or false, regardless of what you think of the source of the information. If you think it is false, demonstrate that it is false. At best, demonstrate that the source doesn't provide enough information in this specific case for anyone to follow up. But simply attacking the source is the very definition of the Ad Hominem fallacy.

Shmuel said...

What proof is there the statement (that this brouhaha is about) is true? (Other than someone publishing such claim, without substantiation.)

The burden of proof is the responsibility of the one making the claim, not the one disputing it.

Bruce Krulwich said...

30 years ago almost all chareidi families could buy an apartment for their marrying children, or at least make a down payment.

Now there are thousands each year who need to collect tzedaka just to make a wedding.

Now there are statements by Rabbonim on a weekly basis about priorities between simchas and how to downscale so that simchas can be afforded.

It clear from timestamps that Sam lives in America, where the things he's saying are probably true because kollel is seen as voluntary and everyone receives minimal high school education. Things in Eretz Yisroel are different, plain and simple.

Chaim said...

The Taub Center report is just presenting the official statistics from Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics. You can check out either of their websites to find out more.

Frankly, as Dov alluded to, while the report's figures seem shocking, the general trend is trivially true. A certain number of years ago very few people were in kollel, nowadays most Chareidim are.

Anecdotally, don't you know many families were most of the sons are in full time learning but the fathers, uncles, and grandfathers are mostly baale battim?

Shmuel said...

I checked out both their websites, and could not find ANY substantiation to their claims. It appears to be an outlandish claim, without an iota of serious evidence. If you claim you found it on their website, please link to it directly.

Shmuel said...

Any evidence that substantiates their claim, that is. Not merely link to them making this outlandish claim itself.

Bruce Krulwich said...

My claims were personal observations day-to-day.

The Taub center's claims are reported here:
in their 355 page report. It's currently just in Hebrew, they say it'll be in English soon.

Shmuel said...

Who cares for "The Taub center's claims". The substantiation is not there.

BrooklynWolf said...


The 65% umemployment rate is documented on page 158 of the report. The course is Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics.

The comparison to 1979 is on page 198 of the report and is also from the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The Wolf

Shmuel said...

Counted using what methodology?

Any consideration for "off the book" employment -- especially considering the fact that employment is greatly limited to non-military serving people, as most Chareidim are, therefore forcing them off the books?

BrooklynWolf said...


Here you go:

My reading of this says that if you are working off-the-books, then you're not in the labor force at all and therefore not included in the umemployed.

Unemployment figures are only used for people who are looking for work. If you're working under the table, then you're probably not looking for "legitimate" work.

The Wolf

Shmuel said...

My reading of this says that if you are working off-the-books, then you're not in the labor force at all and therefore not included in the umemployed.

Let's for argument's sake assume your understanding is correct. Let's for argument's sake assume, per your understanding that off the book workers are ignored for the statistical purposes presented in this report, that 60% of Chareidi men work off the books. So they are only counting the remaining 40%, of which 65% are unemployed. 40% of 65% = 26% actual unemployed. (And this 26% may even include women with working husbands -- either on the books or off the books -- so the actual families with no breadwinner is say 13%. This isn't too far off unemployment figures seen elsewhere as well.)

BrooklynWolf said...

And now it's my turn to ask you for sources.

How do you know that 60% of chareidi men work off the books? What's the support for your numbers?

The Wolf

Shmuel said...

[A better read would be 65% unemployment of the only 40% being counted, equated to an actual unemployment figure of 26% - prior to considering the working spouse + non-working spouse factor.]

And I'm being conservative in estimating the off the book Chareidi workforce. It is probably (even significantly) larger than 60%, considering the employment factors in Israel (compulsory military service affecting legal workability and a whole host of other reasons. The point isn't to discuss the reasons for working off the books, which is whole other discussion - and eminently justified considering the strong obstacles the Israeli government places on Chareidim.)

Shmuel said...

As I said, I am using numbers for arguments sake to illustrate the overall point I am making, that the figures presented by the Israeli government does not -- per your understanding -- factor in the off the book working crowd. And that missing factor can change the unemployment rate completely, producing the opposite truth than being claimed depending on how much these unknown figures truly are.

IOW, the figures presented are unreliable.

Fozzie said...

"My reading of this says that if you are working off-the-books, then you're not in the labor force at all and therefore not included in the umemployed."

Wolf, are you in some way justifying this additional stealing from the working/tax-paying public?

So basically, chareidim don't work, add a burden to charities, avoid paying taxes and then giving flimsy 'gafni-excuses' for being a slacker and destroying the socio-economic fabric of society?

I mean, this isn't news to me, but...

BrooklynWolf said...

Quick Administrative Note:

I don't always have a chance to catch every comment that goes up.

If you find a comment offensive, please let me know and I'll judge whether or not to delete it. Please don't, however, post an even more-offensive comment as a response.

The Wolf

Dovy said...

All I know is what I see: legions of chareidim knocking on my door, disturbing me and my family, begging for handouts.

So who am I gonna believe: You (Shmuel and Sam) or my lying eyes?

Anonymous said...

Your distorted perception.

Bruce Krulwich said...

Samuel, when you've read the report you can complain about the methodology. You can't complain without reading it and then expect everyone who has read it to clamor to answer your uninformed snipes.

Furthermore, since you seem to live in the USA, you don't see with your eyes what people here see with their eyes - the rising number of people coming to the door for tzedaka (it's up to several every day in many areas), the increasing number of horrible stories of poverty in pamphlets in chareidi shuls, the non-learning and non-working teens and young adults standing in the streets during mid-day, the hundreds of men davening shacharis at 11am clearly not working or learning at the time, statements made by Gedolim urging families not to give that much to their marrying children because they need to support themselves and not go into poverty with each wedding, the number of people kept on the books at kollels even if they're working off the books because they can't get by without illegal tax breaks, signs on the wall in chareidi neighborhoods selling meat with hechshers I would never eat for people that otherwise can't afford meat for yomtov, etc. These are all personal observations.

I do happen to agree with you about unrepresented chareidi income. There's no question that there's a lot of it, such as people selling things from their house. But that doesn't change the clear and evident poverty.

Y. N. said...

Is there any evidence that the average poverty in Chareidi communities is greater than the average poverty in overall Israeli society? (Especially if people agree there is a lot of off the books employment in the Chareidi community that isn't counted in official statistics.)

Akiva said...

Sadly, both the article and the commentors all clearly represent themselves as having little or no experience in Israel. They evaluate MK Gafni's statement against US standards (though dividing the monetary value to come to a comparative judgement) and just shake their heads in wonder.

Let's clear a few things up...

- All civil service jobs in Israel require one to pass the equivalent of the New York Regents Exam x 5. This is the Israeli Bagrut. It includes details on zionist history and philosophy, liberal and communist ideology, and a completely different take on Jewish history. It also includes humanities, art, evolutionary science, and many other topics problematic in frum Jewish circles. Indeed, the charedi schools won't teach it, their students therefore can't pass it. This knocks the charedi public out of 20% of the jobs in the country.

Similarly most skilled jobs require one to have a Bagrut. It's considered like a US high school diploma, but the test's standards are another matter. Note that of those who take it, 35% fail it. And the charedi doesn't take it. That's another 30% of the job market off the table.

Now there's a distinct segment of the job market where you either need really top skills or connections, or both, to get in the door. Union jobs, various cushy (relatively high paying but low skill) positions in city government offices, electric company, water company, etc. For these you indeed need connections to get in and get a mid-level salary at starter-level skill.

Net net, much of the system here is built around a very particular mindset which excludes the charedi, another is built around connections - which excludes the charedi except in charedi areas (Bnei Brak or Beitar Illit for example).

In open areas, high tech, software development, call centers, customer support, book keeping, have much higher rates of charedi participation.

MK Gafni's analysis is right and wrong - there are serious barriers to charedi entry in Israel, he's right about that. (As an example, it was illegal to leave yeshiva to go to work under age 30 if you didn't go in the army, but the army had NO programs that offered glatt kosher food and segregated training! That changed as of 5 years ago, but the now after 62 years embedded mindset of the charedi community is the army isn't kosher. That said, the charedi units, an army combat battalion, an air force maintenance group, etc, have been filled to capacity and very successful.) But he's wrong to say that working towards change won't bring change.

Indeed, any society has a capacity limit on how much wealth can be redistributed before it starts to collapse under the weight. It seems the US may be in for re-learning that lesson.

Bruce Krulwich said...

Akiva wrote: "This is the Israeli Bagrut. It includes details on zionist history and philosophy, liberal and communist ideology, and a completely different take on Jewish history. It also includes humanities, art, evolutionary science, and many other topics problematic in frum Jewish circles..."

I'm sorry, but this is incorrect.

The bagrut is primarily made up of math, Hebrew language, English language, a choice of science, Tanach, Gemorah + Halacha, choice of literature or Jewish philosophy, history, and ezrachut (citizenship). The choice between literature and Jewish philosophy is specifically meant to fit religious students. Tanach and Gemorah + Halacha are based on fully traditional sources. History is primarily pre-state, include the expulsion from Spain, the holocaust, etc. Ezrachut admittedly requires passing a test on how the government works.

But that's it. No socialist philosophy, no evolutionary science (unless you choose a science elective that includes that, but one can choose computer science instead), no humanities (can take machshevet instead of safrut).

This whole discussion is in fact a good representation of the whole disagreement on secular studies. 50 years ago a BA degree required a whole lot of humanities and philosophy that is contrary to Torah. But now virtually all BA degrees are so focused, with so many options, that there are not problematic subjects whatsoever.

As I wrote before, 99% of all jobs in Israel that pay more than minimum wage require education. This is the same in the USA. The difference between the USA and Israel is that in the USA Yeshiva students get at least enough secular education to fit the Board of Education's requirements for high school. Here in Israel they don't. So how can one earn more than minimum wage with no skills in math, computers, or formal writing?