Ministry Keeping Closer Eye on Yeshivas

New measurse taken in wake of enrollment scam.

The Education Ministry recently stiffened its monitoring of ultra-Orthodox yeshivas in response to a recent revelation that directors of a number of Haredi institutions systematically forged identity documents to puff up enrollment numbers and receive higher budget allocations.

Under the new ministry guidelines, should an institution refuse a check of the veracity of its students' identity documents, it will "be considered as having no pupils at all, and the institution's status could be annulled, and it could be required to return any allocations it has received."

The head of the ministry's branch for religious institutions, Amos Tzyadah, informed yeshiva heads in a letter that "we are talking about a small minority which stains the names of all Torah students."

However, he added, "clarifications are necessary regarding institutions that are supported by this branch."

Yeshiva heads and Haredi community leaders responded angrily to the ministry's new guidelines, and have called on it to rescind its intention to engage "a disgraceful monitoring regime," and to refrain from attempts to "trample upon the dignity of all of those who study Torah."

The new guidelines were formulated in cooperation with the police and are based on practices allegedly used by some yeshivas. One procedure will keep absent students from being misrepresented by others called in just for the task. Another will disallow photocopies of identity cards. Another new monitoring procedure will require a representative of the institution to be present at the time of an inspection. This representative will "identify the pupils, and he will bear personal responsibility should there be false representation of pupils."

The guidelines stipulate that should suspicion of false representation arise, the ministry's religious institutions branch "will consider lodging a complaint with the police, both against the person who appears to have falsely presented his identity, and also against the institution itself; and allocations made to the institution are to be returned," should allegations of false representation be verified.