Israel’s Haredi Welfare State

In his first lecture on R. Joseph Mesas for Torah in Motion, professor Marc B. Shapiro says: The Talmud says explicitly that if you don’t work, if all you do is study, it will lead to thievery.

“This society of learners, now 60,000 strong, takes off in the Steipler‘s reign. The Chazon Ish gave the philosophical justification for this type of life.”

“The Steipler comes from an extreme [Bnai Brak] segment of Haredi life. If haredi society had developed along the [more moderate] Jerusalem model, the Hebron model, it would’ve been different.

“Had American Haredi society developed along the Yeshiva Torah Vodaas or Mir yeshiva or Chaim Berlin model, it would’ve been different. These guys all went to college at night. They all had professions. But Ahron Kotler triumphed.”

“Why? I think the whole reason in Israel is government subsidies. The whole Israeli haredi society is a fiction. It’s based on hand-outs. It’s the biggest welfare state imaginable. Where else do you have a whole society where people are taught to depend on the dole? It’s not the haredim’s fault. It’s the government’s fault. You have a welfare state that supports able-bodied people.

“In America, it’s different. In America, it triumphed for ideological reasons. In America, you have people who work and yet they still adopted the Ahron Kotler model.”

“The haredi world has always not changed until it is too late. Do you know how many lives have been destroyed by this haredi model of being condemned to poverty? It’s a form of child abuse. There’s no other western country where children are permitted to grow up without any education. Not even basic math or skills. The Satmar in America seem to get basic secular education and they don’t assimilate.”

“The Israeli government funds a haredi educational system in opposition to the state.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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