Sunday, January 10, 2010

Not a Zero-Sum Game

Jonathan Rosenblum has printed some really interesting columns lately, Not a Zero-Sum Game is another one.

For the record, I made a very similar point 5 years ago in this post The Charedi view of the government and money.

I would like to make a few comments on some of what he wrote:

From an economic point of view, Israel has no interest in chareidim performing menial work when they are capable of much more productive labor. As a professor of computer science at Bar Ilan University commented recently, “Anyone who can hold kop in Rabbi Akiva Eiger can be taught to be a highly skilled computer programmer.”

This is a myth that the Charedi likes to perpetuate, that Charedim are smarter then everyone else. It is simply not true. There are smart Charedim and not so smart Charedim. חכמה בגויים תאמין and there are some very smart chilonim as well. This idea that any Charedi who wants could become a professional is silly. Some certainly could, others definitely could not.

Both arguments implicitly accept the necessity of higher and better paid chareidi employment. In his interview with the English Mishpacha two weeks ago, Bnei Brak Mayor Yaakov Asher spoke of the upsurge in vocational education in the wake of dramatic cuts in child allowances.. Still, according to the article, there are only 13,000 employed individuals in Bnei Brak, a city of 165,000 souls. Clearly, it is a rare salary that can support 12.5 individuals.

There are 2 very important points here.
1. He can say that there is a necessity for higher Charedi employment but until the "Gedolim" say it it is meaningless.
2. It is unbelievable that in a city of 165,000 only 13,000 people work. Believe it or not money doesn't grow on trees. This relates back to the post that I quoted at the beginning. Many Charedim view the government as a cash machine, give us money and leave us alone. The budget is a zero sum game, whatever we can save and get for us great whatever doesn't go to us is basically lost.


Orthonomics said...

And I am in shock at the 13K of 165K. I hope this figure if off. Nonetheless, the unemployment/underployment rate is far too large.

Ken said...

"myth that...Charedim are smarter than everyone else"

I've heard this too, and it's really grating. A yeshivish rabbi I was speaking with blithely assumed that anyone from BMG could surely get into Harvard Law School if they wanted to. Those guys exist, but there are a whole lot more guys squeezing into a lot less prestigious schools like Cardozo, New York Law, Seton Hall, etc.

pc said...

Your post assumes that these 150,000 people are not performing a useful role within society which is untrue becuase they are learning.

pc :-)

Eric said...

I just found this site and you have a wonderful site. That is an interesting insight into the Charedi community.

I would love to chat with you about your journey through Jewish blogging. Please drop me a line sometime if you are interested. I can be reached at

yingerman said...

Sheesh!!! I lived there, you're not counting the othere jobs, like running local stores and schools. you really believe that just 5% have jobs? Wool over your eyes.
Over 90% earn a living, it may not be white or blue collar jobs, but they work.