“THREE SOLUTIONS ARE commonly offered to the destructive poverty in the Israeli chareidi community (though the problem is hardly limited to Israel): greater government support; increased contributions from rich Jews abroad; and adopting a simpler lifestyle.”Commentor #4 voiced the thinking of the masses with this note:
How can you possibly say you want to talk seriously about poverty and not even mention the only real solution: WORKING FOR A LIVING. There is no other solution.
Comment by Seriously — August 31, 2008 @ 1:26 pm
The editor confirmed that this is the thinking of the masses with this insertion:
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Within an hour of receiving this comment, perhaps another fifteen came in, all making the same point. We suspect that there will be many more. We remind our readership - and those who take the trouble to respond - that we are trying to avoid posting comments that say the same thing. There is no question, however, that many of our readers all have the same solution in mind - and reacted extremely quickly, and emotionally. All comments received so far, including some strong ones, were civil and appropriate. The only reason you are not seeing them is the policy on needless repetition.]
As usual, I see things dfferently. for two reasons:
- I live in Israel.
- I don't think like the masses.
Here is a comment I submitted to Cross-Currents (note that Cross-Currents' moderation system is painfully slow. This may take some time to appear - if it isn't canned totally):
I hate to swim against the tide, but I guess that is what I am [in]famous for. I am not speaking for Rabbi Rosenblum nor did I discuss this matter with him, but my acute understanding of Israeli society and the Israeli workforce - of which I am a part - leads me to surmise that the reason Rabbi Rosenblum did not offer what everybody calls “The Obvious Solution” is because it is not an obvious solution. This “solution” is presented as some magic all benefit/no cost just-get-up-and-do-it fix that is more elusive than realistic.
The details of this are too complex to articulate in a blog comment and I am gathering material for a chapter in my book project about this issue that I can assure you will not be brief.
One earlier poster (ZB #9)touched on some of the issues. A few additional points - the work environment in Israel is not chareidi friendly both in terms of tznius in the work place (worse than the US IMO)and work hours. Even shabbos is a problem especially in International concerns - true, the law requires compliance to Shmiras shabbos but, in practice, a Shomer Shabbos worker will have a hard time competing for a position against one who is not (likewise, the chareidi worker who must leave his job at 6 pm to be home for his kids and to maintain a seder will have a hard time competing for a position with an unmarried chiloni who is willing to work late). To debate poster 11, low paying unskilled jobs are not an “obvious solution”. Nobody has time to wait till Rome is built. As my father always says, “Even before you arrive at the tavern, you already need a drink.”
The system is also not large-family friendly. There is no such thing as deductions for dependents for a working man (there is for women). A man who works in Israel with 12 children pays the same taxes as a bachelor. Not a penny less. That is why there are child allowances.
Israeli living is expensive for everyone. The average Israeli secular Jew with only 2-3 kids that go to public school can only maintain a decent standard of living because both spouses work with all the accompanying social hazards. For a chareidi lifestyle where the mother cannot work and the father gets no tax breaks and the average salary is currently between 6-7000 shekels/ mo ($2000 BEFORE taxes) even working does not get the job done. Of course it’s better than nothing but now we return to ZB’s points.
Most posters are unaware or ignoring that only a limited segment of Chareidi family heads (bet 40,000-60,000) learn full time. And even those, if the wife can work, she does. Ironically, many of these are in better financial condition than the working ones.
I could go on and on but all I really need to say is this: for all non-Israelis who fantasize that “working for a living” will answer Chareidi poverty in Israel, please take your lucrative skills that you developed for years and pick yourselves up and come over here to live and work for a living and see how far it gets you.
My contacts at Nefesh B’Nefesh are standing by for your applications.
See you soon.