J.J Gross

Beware the scam of Haredi ‘therapy’

Proposed certification changes will stream massive public funding into the ultra-Orthodox sector and do nothing for those with special needs

With our new government coalition, the haredi tail is perfectly positioned to wag the Zionist dog to a degree unprecedented since the establishment of the State. As always, the main currency of exchange is … currency. The ostensibly ruling party will acquire a haredi rubber stamp for its policies in exchange for hard coin, so long as the policy in question is of no particular interest to haredim, such as defense, international relations and commerce. Money talks, nobody walks. The coalition survives for another day.

Recently a new haredi initiative seeks to have the government sanction a two-year psychotherapy program of sorts for haredi girls. Graduates of this program would be allowed to provide therapy services within the haredi community which would be given equal status – in terms of government reimbursement and benefits, of course – to that accorded to therapy offered by qualified psychologists and clinical social workers who have undergone years of education and supervised training before being allowed to treat patients.

Ostensibly the purpose of this program is to make therapy available to a community that cannot accept such treatment from anyone who is outside the four cubits of haredi life.

What’s frightening is not the green-lighting of ignorant and uneducated post-adolescents to provide therapy services. Rather, what is terrifying is that the entire quest is a charade. A community that insists on hermetic ignorance of all basic secular subjects, and which raises and educates its young without the slightest interest in modern pedagogical methods, is hardly interested in psychotherapy.

In haredi society, emotional problems, when they are even recognized as such, are taken to a Rav for discreet advice or to a Rebbe for a blessing, and then swept under the carpet in order to thwart any negative effects on the marriage prospects for that family’s offspring.

Indeed, as always when it comes to haredi programs, the operative phrase should be cherchez la kessef – where’s the money.

The ‘special needs’ windfall

Because the issue is not whether a haredi girl with a marginal education and two years of sketchy ‘training’ can be qualified to work as a certified therapist of any kind. This is prima facie absurd. Nor is there any real clamor for therapy in a community that eschews all modern concepts of pedagogy, and refuses in principle to expose its children to even the most rudimentary secular knowledge. To expect such a community to somehow leapfrog its own ultra-conservatism, or to even have a clue regarding what constitutes special needs and how to cope with them, is absurd.

What we see here is a chapter that is being borrowed from a particularly lucrative form of haredi chicanery that is endemic in the American frum community. For some years now, American askanim – haredi community busybodies – have known that there is a great deal of money to be milked from the government for any special needs child. This spawned an entire industry whereby kollel wives armed with faux undergraduate degrees from Lakewood and similar institutions, would gain admission to graduate programs in therapy at dubious colleges. This, in turn, allowed these young women to certify children as ‘special needs’ thereby turning such children into a windfall for the parents and a livelihood for the kollel wife/therapist.

It is known that in the American Satmar community alone some 65% of children are now classified as special needs, thereby bringing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into the pockets of people whose concept of child-rearing is as removed from therapy as it is from outer space.

Just two weeks ago the New York City Government started waking up, and summarily shut down several leading haredi therapy mills in Boro Park that account for some $90 million annually in this outright scam.

Israeli askanim have belatedly recognized the beauty of this concept. In Israel, the parents of a special needs child receive 1500 shekels from the Government every single month. Hence if in a family with ten children, six are certified as special needs, this would reap an annual windfall of 108,000 tax free shekels for a family in which the father has never worked, and which is already fleecing the medinah in myriad ways while contributing nothing to the benefit of the greater society.

Men like the Gerer Rebbe’s hand-picked uber ward heeler, MK Yitzhak Goldknopf, are seasoned veterans of schemes to bilk the taxpayer of millions of shekels for highly questionable ‘educational’ shenanigans. By certifying totally unqualified and unsophisticated girls as “therapists” they can open the floodgates to hundreds of millions of new shekels to be pilfered from the Zionists every single year. And it would all be 100% kosher. After all, who can be opposed to helping children with special needs?

Of course within the haredi community itself, almost no one is really interested in any therapeutic benefits. The benefits they care about are purely fiscal, and the only loser is the same ‘frier’ who serves in the army, does reserve duty, pays for his higher education, works for a living and pays taxes.

Millions of functioning Israeli citizens have woken up to some of the more transparent tricks that our new government is up to. But they should not ignore the Trojan horse of haredi “therapy” which is attempting to slip past the gates while everyone’s attention is riveted to the justice issue. If allowed to gain passage, this haredi scam will cost literally billions with zero benefit accruing to the greater society and little or no psychological benefit to haredi society.

About the Author
J.J Gross is a veteran creative director and copywriter, who made aliyah in 2007 from New York. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a lifelong student of Bible and Talmud. He is also the son of Holocaust survivors from Hungary and Slovakia.
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