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Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev & Chairman Stanley P. Gold

A message from Hiddush

August 10, 2017
18 Av, 5777

Dear Friends,

The good news, as you can read on the right, is that there is a consistent rise in support among Jewish adult Israelis for the virtues of pluralism and religious freedom. They are critical of governmental policies in matters such as the right to marry and the prohibition against public transportation on Shabbat. Clearly, as we have repeatedly stressed, not only do these policies depart from what is taken for granted in all other enlightened democracies, but they also run counter to the clear will of the majority of the Israeli public, including those who vote for the non-Haredi governmental coalition parties.

Hiddush just presented its data regarding public transportation on Shabbat at a special Knesset hearing, dedicated to this challenge; it encourages us immensely to know how welcome and appreciated these data were by the committee chair MK Prof. Dov Hanin and many of the other participants and attendants at the meeting. The data were centrally featured in the announcement issued by the committee following the deliberations, and there was wide media coverage of the proceeding.

The bad news, on the other hand, is that the government's policies continue to be detached not only from the notions of democracy and equality, but they also defy all economic logic and put Israel's economic well-being at grave risk. In the past, we've pointed out the concern about the Israeli economy sliding into bankruptcy if the non-participation of ultra-Orthodox men in the workforce and their refusal to incorporate core curricular studies in ultra-Orthodox boys' schools is not addressed. Now, a new study published by the Finance Ministry points to the fact that ultra-Orthodox poverty could be greatly reduced if only they were willing to enter into the workforce at a rate commensurate to the general population. Israeli taxpayers end up paying greatly for this self-imposed poverty, which is going to evermore threaten Israel's economic stability when, per the Central Bureau of Statistics projections, the ultra-Orthodox share of the working age population will rise from 7.5% in 2015 to 26% in 2065.

Clearly drastic measures are called for, both in healing the rift between Israel and Diaspora Jewry over such aberrations as the the breakdown of the Kotel agreement, the conversion bill, and the Rabbinate's rabbinic blacklists; and also - domestically - in moving towards basic civil and religious freedoms, such as the right to marry and the basic notions of equality and responsibility... as in the non-participation of ultra-Orthodox men in the workforce imperiling the Israeli economy as a whole!

All the very best,

Stanley P. Gold,
Hiddush Chair

Rabbi Uri Regev,
Hiddush President

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Hiddush public opinion survey:
67% of Jewish Israelis support
freedom of choice in marriage

50% of the Jewish Israeli public prefers non-Orthodox marriage. A growing majority of the Jewish public is fed up with and rejects the Israeli government's position and wants Israel to join all other Western democracies in establishing marriage freedom.

Click HERE for full article

67% of the Jewish Israeli public supports Israel recognizing all forms of marriage, including civil, Conservative, and Reform marriages. 50% would be personally interested in having non-Orthodox marriages or couplehood ceremonies. These results emerged from a survey conducted by the Smith Institute for Hiddush in honor of the Jewish holiday of love: Tu b'Av. The survey was conducted at the end of July 2017 among an expanded representative sample of 800 Jewish Israeli adults. This survey was conducted with the support of the IREP project of the Jewish Federations of North America.


Hiddush public opinion survey:
73% Jewish Israelis support the use of
Public transportation on Shabbat

At a Knesset hearing, Hiddush presented a recent public opinion survey measuring the extent of support among Israeli Jews for public transportation on Shabbat. According to the findings, 73% of the Jewish public supports partial or full availability of public transportation on Shabbat.

Click HERE for full article

73% of the adult Jewish Israeli public supports full or limited public transportation on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. 45% support public transportation "on a limited scale along central lines and at a lower frequency, perhaps with service taxis [instead of buses]," and 28% support "full-scale public transportation, such as during weekdays." Among supporters were 94% of the secular Jewish public, 75% of the traditional Jewish public, and 86% of immigrants from the former USSR.


How to bring 21% of
Haredi households out of poverty:

We turn back to addressing one of the key manifestations of the unholy link between religion and the economy. This time, it follows on the publication of a review by the Ministry of Finance's Chief Economist department, according to which increasing participation in the workforce among ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs will reduce the poverty level in Israel by 21%.

Every year, when the National Insurance Institute (Israel's Social Security Agency) publishes its annual poverty report, a public debate ensues as to the phenomenon of poverty altogether, particularly regarding the disproportionally high representation of ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs among those in poverty.

At the same time, the controversy rises as to the origins of poverty, and whether there is no need to distinguish between poverty resulting from discrimination in employment and poverty that results voluntarily from poor families refraining from realizing their earning potential. To this, one must add that the challenge of poverty is particularly high when it comes to families on the side of not seeking work because they also make the choice to give birth to many children in a way that causes increased poverty among children. Within this group of poor children, there is a high representation of ultra-Orthodox children. In this regard, there is a complex public debate as to the responsibility of parents to their children and their obligation to consider their ability to provide a respectable standard of living for their children when they decide to grow their families. To put this in context, it is necessary to mention that an average ultra-Orthodox family has ~6.5 children, compared to ~2.1 children in non-Haredi Jewish families (and ~3.6 children in an average Israeli Arab family).

It should also be stressed that in contrast to the governmental coalition policies, the overwhelming majority of the public, including those who voted for the non-Haredi political parties in the government wants to see linkage between one's realization of his/her earning potential and his/her entitlement to support from the taxpayer funds. According to the 2016 Israel Religion & State Index, 83% of the public holds that the government should give preference in receiving subsidies and benefits to those who work or attempt to work, as opposed to 17% who hold that no preference should be given. What also comes to mind is the public pronouncement of Minister Rabbi Litzman, head of the Agudath Israel party, claiming that who publicly declared that ultra-Orthodox women work - and therefore: why should ultra-Orthodox men work?

The recent review done by the Finance Ministry further demonstrates how much the poverty levels in ultra-Orthodox society are indeed the result of voluntary choice...


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