What is the real reason for this break? How much money do these Yeshivot get from the Israeli government?
Last update - 07:22 17/12/2007
Top yeshivas sever ties with Jewish Agency program MASA
By Daphna Berman, Haaretz Correspondent
Three top yeshivas have decided to sever ties with the Jewish Agency sponsored program, MASA, and several other Orthodox schools are considering following suit, Haaretz has learned.
MASA, which enables Diaspora Jewish youth to spend time in Israel within the framework of a wide range of programs, is jointly sponsored by the Jewish Agency and the Prime Minister's Office.
Yeshiva representatives, speaking on condition of anonymity, cite MASA's failure to respect their religious sensitivities in mandatory events, as well as an abundance of paperwork that they said made the partnership no longer tenable.
"While we respect the efforts of your organization toward bringing youth of the Diaspora to Israel, after evaluating the present requirements and grants of the MASA program we feel that we are unable to renew the relationship between MASA and our yeshivot for the 5769 academic year," read the letter addressed to MASA officials, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz. The signatories on the letter included rabbis and administrators from Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavne, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshivat Sha'alvim.
MASA holds a mega-event for its estimated 9,000 participants, ¬ about 35 percent of whom are Orthodox, about once a year. However, yeshiva officials said these events weren't geared toward a religious audience. "We felt they weren't respectful of our needs," an official at one yeshiva said of decision.
The official also cited changes in the way that MASA funds participants as a reason for the decision. All MASA participants from North America now receive a $2,000 scholarship, regardless of financial need, unlike in years past when grants were need-based. The result, yeshiva officials say, is that even needy students aren't receiving the sufficient scholarship funds they would require.
MASA officials, in response, said they never received a letter from the yeshiva heads describing their desire to leave the program. They further denied having overlooked religious participants' sensitivities. "MASA is a pluralistic project that respectfully treats the broad array of opinions and movements within Judaism. These are the measures we employ toward the Orthodox public: in every MASA event, we make sure to allocate special spots in the designated hall to separate between men and women. In every MASA event, mehadrin food is ordered specially."
A MASA spokesperson also said that changes to the scholarship program nevertheless ensure that "every participant can get a scholarship that will cover most of his/her costs, just like in the past."