The Knesset Committee for Combating Poverty headed by Elie Elaluf has submitted their findings and recommendations to the government. Below please find RHR’s response to their report.
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The Knesset Committee for Combating Poverty headed by Elie Elaluf has submitted their findings and recommendations to the government. Below please find RHR’s response to their report.
The Human Services Department’s end-of-year practicum ceremony for the academic year 5774 took place Thursday, May 29 2014 (29 Nisan.) At the end of the ceremony, the outstanding projects were presented. The last, and most highly honored, project to be presented was Rabbis for Human Rights’ project, titled Empowering Beit She’an Public Housing Residents, which was facilitated by Rabbi Kobi Weiss under the management of Rabbi Arik Ascherman.
In Parashat Behar, Rabbi Sigal Asher explains the radical idea behind the shmita, or sabbatical year, and wonders if it isn’t time to add a modern interpretation to the ancient agricultural practice of allowing the land to rest. Perhaps, Rabbi Asher suggests, we must also call for a rest for the modern worker–from debt, obsessive consumerism, and incessant work. Continue Reading
In Biblical times, the contraction of a mysterious disease known as tzara’at could mean permanent banishment from one’s community or, in the event of recovery, a set prescription of purification and “guilt offerings” to allow for re-integration into society. Modern times call for a similar process, but in the opposite direction– a path for society to cleanse itself and return to the neglected and forgotten ill and dying.
Rabbi Professor Yehoyada Amir in Parashat Metzora on our responsibility to the sick and dying. Continue Reading
PRESS RELEASE | 29 January, 2014
Rabbis for Human Rights presented a position paper to the Elaluf Committee summarizing the key reasons that people living in poverty do not receive the benefits they deserve, such that their situations worsens.
Rabbi Idit Lev is back with unfortunate findings from the hearing of the Subcommittee on the Cycle of Employment Program, or as it used to be known, the Wisconsin Plan. Read on to find outabout what goes on behind closed doors in government ministries, and affects all of our lives outside of them.
By: Rabbi Idit Lev
The Finance Ministry has been attempting to bring back the Wisconsin Plan since it was cancelled, and now we find this bill up for discussion by the Committee. The Committee sent various inquiries to the Finance Ministry, and as far as I know has not yet received a response. The Cycle of Employment Program was revealed by surprise via a labor dispute of the Committee. Some claim that it is not the Wisconsin Plan, and that there’s no room for comparison between them.
We are not convinced. We fid the comparison between the Wisconsin Plan and the Cycle of Employment Program relevant for the following reasons:
This program redirects to a private company those who are required to present themselves in the Employment Service office in order to receive a minimal subsistence benefit. The private company’s employees will be able to recommend revoking the person’s benefit.
The program requires reporting in person three times a week, without support services (such as transportation reimbursements or babysitting), and the criteria for revoking a person’s eligibility are vague. Therefore we see this program as ruling the lives of those who participate in it, rather than allowing them the ability to find work. We can already identify different populations which will find it extremely difficult to meet the program’s conditions, and as a result will withdraw from the program and therefore have their benefits revoked.
There is no significant vocational training in the Cycle of Employment program.
The Israeli Employment Service has had its funding dried up for many years; although this program was presented by the Finance Ministry as a budgetary surge of eight million shekels for the Employment Service, in reality, the majority of funding goes to a private company.
The study control group for the program will be people who report in person to the Employment Service and receive no aid other than meetings with a placement coordinator. Each placement coordinator works with at least 500 people simultaneously (and some of them with up to 800 people simultaneously). The program will not be compared to people enrolled in any other programs.
For all of the reasons listed above and more, we believe that this program is unacceptable, and is a variation of the Wisconsin Plan.
This program can be put into effect without legislation, and in fact, the Employment Service can begin putting it into effect today. However, it is on hold at the request of the Knesset. Nevertheless, the Director of the Employment Service requests that the hearings be speedy, as all the preparations have already been made, and my guess is that the computers have been bought, and the “coaches” – employees of the private company – are sitting at home, collecting a paycheck without the program operating. Let me remind you that this same director did not bother passing on written material about the program to the Committee until yesterday.
So what have we learned about the background and workings of the program?
The program was formulated with Tevet and Strive, and is based on a program which has been tried in thirty countries around the world. People from the Employment Service were also consulted with (MK Rosenthal requested this information).
The program workers will be employed by a private company, Yeadim.
The program is intended for people who are new recipients of income support benefits, and apparently will not include recipients of income supplements (working people who receive a benefit because their salary is very low).
The program will be operated by “coaches” though it’s not clear what that means and how these coaches are trained. It has been said that these are people who have studied group facilitation, passed an evaluation and are suitable for work with the population of income support benefit recipients.
The first month is a kind of assessment of the motivation level of the participants. The people assessed to be highly motivated will go to a job seeking workshop. Those who are assessed to be poorly motivated will go to a change workshop. The change workshop is a preparation for the process of job seeking. (It is not clear what gives the coach the ability to make this assessment).
The program: Workshop will be held during months 2-4, afterward there is a three month interval without workshops, weekly in-person reporting to a clerk in an increased effort to make a placement, and then if this does not succeed, returning to two-three months of guided job seeking. If this also does not succeed, they will return to a regular pattern of in-person reporting.
The program includes three weekly meetings of around two hours each, for a total of five-six hours. One of the meetings is with a placement coordinator from the Employment Service.
The program has a budget of eight million NIS for one trial year. The budget is for coach salaries, computer purchases and workshop supplies.
There will be thirty coaches in total.
The difference between the first and second stage is one month.
The coach has no access to information about the job seeker other than the information s/he acquires him/herself.
The payment to the private company is not per placement.
The assessment of success will be based on the difference the program makes: will people successfully integrate into the workforce or slide into deeper unemployment?
The definition of “unable to work” will remain as it is today, based on a meeting with an Employment Service doctor. (I know that people see a committee which has more than one person).
There are no program support services, and it’s quite clear that absences will be a reason for revoking a person’s benefit, so this can lead to the revocation of benefits.
The company implementing the program is Yeadim, which won a tender for workshops for the Employment Service a year ago.
There will be a clerk in each office who will be responsible for the program.
What will be examined in the accompanying research? Many topics including preventing people from becoming deeply unemployed, whether the program makes people more proactive, preventing dependence on benefits.
The program is meant to operate in parallel to the Wisconsin Plan, which stands as a separate bill before the Committee.
It has been promised that the Member of Knesset (and apparently also government ministries) will receive from the Employment Service a written description of the program by today, and the Finance Ministry will consider what it can provide.
Director Boaz Hirsch said that he cancelled employee incentive pay from the revocation of benefits and that there are no longer benefit revocation targets at the Employment Service. Today there are 500 to 600 refusals per month throughout the country, amongst all populations.
The Finance Ministry representative said in the Committee, in my paraphrasing: “Pass Wisconsin because it’s very important. And here, this program won’t let you claim any more that we drain the Employment Service’s funding as they were given eight million shekels! And this program is one of four programs which were agreed upon with the Employment Service.”
In addition, the Finance Ministry understood that a track for individuals who are unable to work must be established, but they will only do so if there is Wisconsin.
And take note – this funding is NOT being given to the Employment Service, but to a private company! Micky Rosenthal tried to convince the Finance Ministry representative to directly employ the coaches and that then the Committee would approve the program. The Finance Ministry representative refused to consider it.
The Knesset Research and Information Center will be asked to prepare a mapping document of all the employment programs with government funding today.
We will continue to follow developments and update you.
More information on the Wisconsin Plan and the Cycle of Employment program:
PRESS RELEASE | December 23, 2013
Rabbi Idit Lev, Social Justice Department Director at Rabbis for Human Rights, who greatly assisted Moshe Silman z”l, who self-immolated in July 2012 in an act of protest against Israel’s social welfare system’s failure to assist him, responds in a public letter to Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s assertion that in the case of Moshe Silman there was a lack of involvement and responsibility of friends and family. This is part of the response to Bennett’s remarks, which were quoted in Globes [link in Hebrew] on December 19, 2013 and widely circulated on Facebook [link in Hebrew].
Minister Bennett, you blamed Moshe Silman z”l’s friends and relatives, here is our response:
Dear Minister Naftali Bennett,
You were quoted in an article in Globes as saying, “When Moshe Silman set himself on fire in the social protests, I kept asking myself, where were his neighbors, where was his family? If someone thinks that this country can survive one minute without mutual assistance – the whole business will collapse.”
But Honorable Minister, the correct question is where was the state? Because in the case of Moshe the fact is that mutual assistance was very much present, and the state was not, and without the state, the involvement of family, neighbors and friends was not enough!
I wonder if you read the extensive coverage of Moshe’s story in the media and on the internet. Because in your remarks, unfortunately, there was unfamiliarity with the situation and an insult to the many who supported Silman z”l and were involved in his life. Because you are an Israeli government minister, you have an obligation to check facts before acting or speaking. And it is even more unfortunate that you do not remember that “One who embarrasses another in public, it is as if that person shed blood” (Babylonian Talmud, Baba Mezia 58b).
I, Rabbi Idit Lev, work at Rabbis for Human Rights and am active in the social protest movement in Haifa. Through this work I met Moshe, and was privileged to accompany him in the final year of his life. During this year, his friends and family attempted to assist him as much as they could. One friend gave him an apartment to live in for free for a year, his family guided him and assisted him as much as they could. His friends in the protest leadership in Haifa did their best, and at Rabbis for Human Rights we fought together with him against the National Insurance Institute for him to receive the disability benefits that he deserved (a battle that we won!) and for him to receive rental assistance from the government through Amidar (in this battle, we lost). Moshe met the criteria published by the government, but the government refused to give him what he deserved. Even if Moshe had received the rental assistance, his family would still have had to help him pay the remainder of the rent, pay some of his bills and help him buy food and medication. This is because our country’s social safety net simply is not enough for basic subsistence, not to mention subsistence in dignity.
The State of Israel and its representatives, the large community which is supposed to be responsible for ensuring that mutual assistance is the policy of the Jewish state, told Moshe that if he became homeless and lived on the street, they would then begin to help him. Moshe refused to live on the street. Would you have agreed to live on the street for a month in order to receive assistance from the state?
The Silman family did all it could. And it seems that you did not check the facts before blaming them in front of the entire country. You must apologize to them!
I would be happy to meet with you and show you how without mutual assistance, none of the people I know who live in poverty (and there are many) would still be alive, because the State of Israel does not think that part of its role is to take care of people living in poverty and Israel is abandoning them every single day. We have mutual assistance. The question is if we have a government aware of the Biblical commandment, “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.” (Leviticus 25:35). I have not encountered this government; I still hope that I do one day.
A country which destroys its citizens: The story of Moshe Silman, Ori Ben Dov, 16 July 2012.
The writing was on the wall, 17 July 2012.
Much water cannot put it out, Almog Behar, 30 July 2012
Farewell, Moshe Silman: Israel cares more for the dead than the living, Rabbi Kobi Weiss, 24 July 2012.
You are the ones who should apologize, Rabbi Idit Lev and Dror Dvir, 24 July 2012.
Being poor in Israel, Rabbi Idit Lev, 31 July 2012.
Our weekly parasha is the second of the seven “Haftorahs of Consolation” following Tisha B’Av. Each parasha has a haftara whose purpose is consolation and redemption. We can learn from this that the people of Israel were in such a state of deep pain and sadness after the destruction of the Temple that seven full weeks were needed to console them. But it seems there is more to it. Continue Reading
Jews must constantly labor to mend the world, making it a place of peace and justice. Continue Reading
All my life I provided for myself, but I was recently evicted from my home. How can you work when you have no home? How can I be called a mother if I can not provide my daughter with the security of a home? And where are the equal opportunities?
From time to time we hear on the media about people who were evicted from their public housing homes. In The best case it is mentioned quickly and then forgotten. But what happens later to a person who was evicted? What happens to a person who was evicted from the home where he grew up, the place where all their memories are – a life packed in boxes?
Two months ago I was evicted from the apartment in which I grew up, because after my mother’s death my rights as a daughter who can continue living in the apartment were not recognized. I was thrown on to the street because I have no alternative apartment and my income does not enable me to live. My story is only one of many, and it starts with things people do not think about when a home is something obvious.
Where will I sleep tonight? This is a question I ask my self everyday. This is the reality of a manor woman after eviction. The bag is home, it is always big and contains more than needed, just in case… And the energy it takes to think about tomorrow’s night does not leave much time to think of the future. The reality now is an existing reality.
How can you continue to be called a mother? What about my guilt feelings to my daughter? What will I tell her aboutthe world? My daughter is 24 years old, and in her short life she never had the security that a young girl should have. She grew up in a society which is not able to provide her with a place where she can sleep. And precisely now we are separated so we will not be a burden on people. Each of us wanders alone between friends and family, dividing the burden.
Let us speak on equal opportunities that capitalism likes to raise. The starting point is not a choice. You are born into an existing reality. How can my daughter have an equal or at least possible starting point? Can she, in her situation, learn a profession? What are her chances? Like me, she will have to fight for survival and will not be able to develop another future, to develop herself as an individual in society.
You do not have an address? You will not receive Social Insurance allowance
And even, if I do find work. To go out to work – in this expression we can see the absurd. To go out, from where? In order to go to work we need a place to go out from and to come back to – a place that gives you the strength, the sheltered space and the capability to have a life. This is the place where your clothes, your bags are and it gives you the possibility to have strength for the next day. How can you make a good impression in a job interview when you are asked where you live and you have no answer? Why precisely in this situation can I not get from the Social Security the allowance I am entitled to, as an unemployed person – just because I do not have a permanent address?
And even if I do find work, will I be able to have a home and live in dignity? There is hard work, but someone has to do it. But even with very hard work, I will not be able to rent an apartment and live and I will end up at the same point. Under these conditions now, even if I do have a job it does not assure that I will have a home; wandering is my destiny. Although I was very good at school, I do not have the money and time for academic study. At the age of 47 I find myself starting with nothing.
Society expects that the weakened manor woman will help him/herself. And indeed all my life I worked and even if barely, provided for myself. But, on top of the existing difficulties, the State makes more difficult, and we do not have any conditions and tools to help ourselves, so this demand is mockery. I gave up on the State; I wanted to give up its help and build myself a shed or a tent, a place to put my head during the night and grow vegetables. What is more independent than this? But the State blocked even this possibility – I will be evicted also from there and my poor home will be demolished. In the last year it happened to many “Ein Breiea” encampments. The State forces me to be dependent on it and its exploitative work market.
In the absence of the State’s support, many organizations like Rabbis for Human Rights, Tarabut, and Life in Dignity, try to help not only to survive, but also to fight. The fight is for a society where every man and woman, even if they are wealthy, will know that if, god forbid, they or their children will fall (and it could happen to any one), they will be trapped in a dead end and without any compassion. This is the life insurance of all of us.
Rachel Levi Dodia was a tenant of the public housing and now she is active in the fight for public housing.
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