Thursday, December 27, 2007

Jonathan Rosenblum on Chareidim and Poverty

Thsi article Money Matters really surprised me. It is great that the Mishpacha magazine is delaing with this really important issue.

Here are some interesting excerpts
While the Israeli chareidi community has been largely untouched by the social pathologies associated with welfare recipients around the world, a certain “culture of dependency” – the sapping of individual initiative that accompanies long-term dependence on welfare – has not entirely passed us by.

More than twenty years ago, while returning from the levaya of the Steipler Gaon, zt”l, I asked my rosh yeshiva, why the Chazon Ish had chosen to live in Bnei Brak, rather than in the “old yishuv” of Jerusalem. He replied that the Chazon Ish felt that more than 200 years of the “chaluka” system (contributions from Jewish communities abroad) had deprived the “old yishuv” of its vitality, and he hoped to build something entirely new in the “new yishuv.” And that was before there were any government social benefits to speak of.

We tell ourselves that poverty in the chareidi world is a function of our commitment to Torah learning. And to a large extent that is true. But there are large pockets of endemic poverty in our world that have little to do with Torah learning. The majority of those who descend on every affluent Torah community abroad are not in full-time learning nor do their efforts allow them much time for Torah study.
A disconnect between effort and family income, which is one effect of government benefits, creates a sense of entitlement to even those things that would have been considered unimaginable luxuries one or two generations ago, including an apartment for every newlywed couple. Even in families struggling to make basic ends meet, it is not uncommon to find a number of children with their own cell phone and family cell phone bills of a thousand shekels or more per month. In supermarkets catering to the cost-conscious chareidi consumer, one still sees shopping carts piled high with soft drinks and junk food that are not only unhealthy but costly.

Poverty is exacting a terrible toll on the Israeli chareidi community. The government has an important role to play in reducing the deepening despair. But so do we as individuals and as a community.

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