The Charedi world rejects this as not factual. Dr. Chaim Zicherman of the Center for Research on Haredi Socierty maintains that Gemachim cannot all be lumped together. Some are very specific and one cannot borrow from them just to pay a bill. The bank of Israel concedes this point and says that most of them are not involved in fraud – but they add that it is easily ‘fertile ground for criminal activity including money laundering and tax crimes’. I think that has been shown to be true. Let us not forget that a Chasidic Rebbe in America was convicted of money laundering and tax fraud using Israeli Gemachs as part of his scam.
None of this is really all that new or surprising. I’ve said it all before. I’m glad to see that a Charedi Magazine does not shy away from the truth or cover it up – or spin it into something positive just because it is politically correct to do so.
And yet the Charedi leadership seems to be oblivious to this. They do not wish to change a single thing about their society to improve conditions for their own people. The only thing they seem to be able to do is ask for more charity from abroad – like the new ‘Adopt-a-Kollel’ project. Or try to restore entitlement money removed by government budget cuts. That is not going to solve anything for the average Charedi that spends $800 more per month than he makes – even with a working wife! Especially when Charedi leadership won’t even allow their working wives to improve their lot with higher education – saying that the reward for avoiding it and remaining with their low paying jobs – will be in heaven.
Help could be on the way, if only the Charedi leadership would accept it. I am reminded of the story about people on the roof of a building praying to God for help as flood waters rise. People in a lifeboat come by and urge them on board. They reject it (and all other earthly help) and keep praying that God save them. Eventually the flood waters overcome them and they drown. When they see God in heaven, they ask Him why He didn’t answer their prayers. God tells them He did. He sent them a lifeboat. They refused to understand that this was the way God answered their prayers.
Sometimes God sends help – but because it does not fit the traditional notion of Godly help it is not recognized as such. Instead it is not only rejected, but cursed. This is the case with Yesh Atid and its leader Yair Lapid. They consider him the second coming of his atheist father Yosef ‘Tommy’ Lapid who was not reticent about his antipathy for Charedim and his goal to destroy them. But Yair is not Tommy. Yair wanted to help them integrate into society by bettering their world materially. Not to destroy their culture, but to improve their financial lot and thereby better able to preserve it.
But Charedi leadership continues to vilify him. Why? Because he dared to challange the system. Which they see as virtual Shmad.
I understand why there is resistance to change. They are used to a 60 year old system that has allowed the Charedi world in Israel to grow into the biggest Makom Torah in the world. (Why quantity replaced quality as their number one goal is a question I have yet to hear answered.) And yet the Charedi leadership sees this as the norm and not to be tampered with. Doing so even slightly is seen as the same thing the Czar in Russia did over 100 years ago. They do not see any difference at all. The Czar tried to install a secular studies curriculum. And Israel tried to install a secular studies curriculum. That was Shmad. And this is Shmad.