5 nabbed for alleged involvement in yeshiva fraud

The Jerusalem Post/May 6, 2012

Expensive cars seized from yeshiva heads accused of enrolling fictitious students, reaping millions of shekels in living stipends.

The police's National Fraud Squad raided a number of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) yeshivot on Sunday morning that are suspected of falsely enrolling students to obtain millions of shekels in grants from the state.

The institutions in question are located in Jerusalem and Betar Illit, a haredi enclave in the West Bank.

Police arrested five people and seized documents, computers and expensive cars belonging to the heads of the yeshivot. Additional arrests are expected.

Investigators accused the religious institutions of swindling the state for millions of shekels by enrolling fictitious students.

Police have recently cracked down on attempts by haredi institutions to deceive the Education Ministry by submitting paperwork for students who do not exist or who are not enrolled. In March, police arrested three haredi men from Jerusalem for creating a fake yeshiva and enrolling dozens of "students" to receive the living stipends for full-time Torah students.

Ultra-Orthodox students who learn full time in approved institutions can qualify for grants of at least NIS 3,000 per month depending on factors such as the size of their family.

The practice of providing living stipends to haredim has drawn ire from university students, who counter that the government should support them during their studies as well.

Rabbi Uri Regev, head of the religious freedom activist group Hiddush, blamed haredi rabbis' reluctance to condemn the practice for the continued attempts to fraudulently obtain funds.

"The result is that in the haredi public it enables the perception that the state funds are abandoned and it's permissible to spend them fraudulently," he said.

Regev added that even if the ultra-Orthodox do not support the state they should redirect the funds to improve existing haredi education rather than enriching the corrupt directors.

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