Ultra-Orthodox Jews, February 28, 2010.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews at a Bnei Brak synagogue. Photo by Getty Images
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In response to claims by an ultra-Orthodox youth movement that the Education Ministry is “placing it beyond the pale and with a yellow patch” for not inviting it to a Holocaust conference of youth movements, a ministry official replied that the movement did not meet the criteria for funding, and he would not give into pressure “even if you call us kapos in your next letter.”

The chairman of the movement, Pirchei Hadegel, Naftali Zvi Porush, wrote that what he called the ministry’s ban on his movement was part of a trend of “Judenrein [a Nazi term for freeing an area of Jewish presence] that still prevails in the State of Israel.”
Porush is the brother of deputy education minister Meir Porush, a member of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism faction.

In the ministry’s reply to Porush, administration head Yossi Levy accused him of improperly seeking government funding. Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar wrote to Porush on Monday that: “As long as I am education minister, pressures and attacks on public servants will not change decisions made by egalitarian, professional and germane criteria,” adding that he backed Levy’s decision completely.
Porush on Tuesday declined to respond.

The storm started about three weeks ago, when Porush wrote a lengthy letter to the chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Avner Shalev, in which he complained that his movement had not been included in a conference on the Holocaust for representatives of the various youth movements. “We are ashamed that the trend of Judenrein still exists in the State of Israel, when a lively and active movement is boycotted by wheeler-dealers,” Porush wrote, in an apparent reference to the administration responsible for funding youth movements in the Education Ministry.
Porush further wrote: “Only the youth who represent the continuation of authentic Jewish youth, which was hugely decimated during the Holocaust, was not seen at the conference.”

According to various sources, Pirchei Hadegel has for several years failed to meet the Education Ministry criteria for funding as a youth movement. The government gives NIS 60 million to 16 different youth groups, divided according to various elements such as “education in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence,” “existence of democratic institutions,” activities within the community and organizational elements such as branches throughout the country.

Levy, the head of the administration that deals with youth movements in the Education Ministry, wrote Porush following the letter to Shalev: “To [associate] public officials, who serve the state and the youth, who have taken part in the defensive wars of the country, with Judenrein is monstrous.”

Levy also wrote that Porush had never requested to participate in the conference at Yad Vashem, and therefore no one had prohibited his movement’s participation.

“The body you direct is very interested in being supported by the government, but unfortunately it does not meet the standards for support, despite repeated examinations, above and beyond what is usual for other bodies who approach us. These pressures, together with other improper pressures you are trying to exert on us in recent years, will not deter us, not even if you call us kapos in your next letter.”