|NIF Forms Pluralist Forum to Oppose Special Benefits for Yeshiva Students|
Thousands of Israeli students took to the streets this week in Tel Aviv following a similar demonstration earlier this month in Jerusalem, as the government remains determined to pass the Yeshiva Students Law. The proposed law will by-pass a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that held that special stipends for married yeshiva student discriminate against secular college students, who are ineligible for the payments.
NIF has launched a forum of eight grantees from all streams of Judaism including the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) of the Movement for Progressive (Reform) Judaism, Masorti (Conservative) Movement, and Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah to oppose the Yeshiva Students Law. The forum has set up a think tank to devise a strategy for coordinating opposition to the new law and has begun activities by establishing a website and on-line petition to raise awareness about the issue. A major conference on the topic will be held at the Hebrew University in the coming weeks.
The forum’s goal for the petition is to collect tens of thousands of signatures of leading public figures, organizations and ordinary individuals to present to the country's decision-makers and media. (See the English translation of the petition here.)
The NIF Forum is stressing two major messages. The first is that "Torah and Avodah" (work) were the basis of Jewish life through the centuries, and the Ultra-Orthodox – whose unemployment rate is among the nation’s highest -- must be integrated into Israel's labor market. Additionally, Israeli college students also have a strong Jewish identity, usually work their way through university study and should not be discriminated against because of their secular studies.