Tighten the Purse Strings

It is not the first time that Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a leading halachic authority in the Israeli charedi community, has issued rulings that their schools should open in blatant contravention of the government’s insistence that they remain closed in an effort to contain the number of coronavirus infections.

In any normal democracy such a call to civil disobedience would result in criminal proceedings being issued. But when it comes to the charedim, who comprise a substantial component of any government coalition, no one wants to upset them.

However, perhaps things are beginning to change. Only last week Prime Minister Netanyahu refused to accede to Arie Deri’s demand that up to two hundred guests be allowed to attend weddings.

Our country does not have enough policemen or inspectors to close down every charedi school, and it is questionable whether such a course of action would be advisable.

However, the government has warned that those towns and neighbourhoods with the highest level of infection and that are classified as red would remain under lockdown until their figures improved.

Given that at least forty percent of confirmed infections come from charedi towns and neighbourhoods, that does seem like a sensible way of trying to limit the spread of infection elsewhere.

Of course, there will be some charedim who will call the police Nazis and accuse the government of putting them in a ghetto, but many recognize that this is unfortunately the only way to deal with matters.

That having been said, people like Kanievsky ought not to be able to get away with their calls to disobey the law. Tightening the purse strings on government funding channelled to his institutions might be an effective way of pulling him and others into line.

About the Author
Rabbi Boyden was educated and received his rabbinical ordination in London, England. Having served as the rabbi of Cheshire Reform Congregation for thirteen years, he made aliyah with his family in 1985. He has established Reform congregations in Ra'anana and Hod Hasharon and previously served as director of the Israel Reform Movement's Beit Din.
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