New York (Mar. 9)
— The Orthodox Jewish community, because it is largely a “lower working and middle class” group, will suffer proportionally more than other communities as a result of President Reagan’s proposed budget cuts, according to a study by Agudath Israel of America.
The study by Agudath Israel’s Office of Government and Public Affairs, directed by Rabbi Menachem Lubinsky, while noting “it is difficult not to support the motivation behind the President’s budget proposals” of some $50 billion in the 1982 fiscal year which begins Oct. I, said the proposed cuts would have a “devastating impact” on the Orthodox Jewish community.
Orthodox Jews already spend as much as 22 percent above other Americans for living costs peculiar to the observance of Jewish law, the Agudath analysts stressed. They noted that the number of poor among Orthodox Jews are also increasing, even among “kollel” students (postgraduate rabbinic fellows), who have come to rely on such federal programs as food stamps, the Urban Development Action Grant, the Small Neighborhood Development program and Medicaid to survive.
EXAMPLES OF THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS
In citing some examples of the negative effects of the cuts, the Agudath study said that a family of four with an income of more than $11,000 would no longer be eligible for food stamps. “Obviously, this does not take into account the 22 percent higher cost for kosher food and tuition,” the Agudath said.
“A similar case was made for the child nutrition programs where a family of four earning more than $15,000 would no longer be eligible for the federal assistance given to schools for meals. This will create havoc for parents who will now be forced to pay additional costs for meals in the private schools, which, when added to rising tuition, will prove to be yet another unexpected increase for thousands with children in yeshivos.”
Agudath Israel also stressed that the elimination of jobs from the Public Service Employment (PSE) program and the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA), which the Administration wants to phase out, “would eliminate many jobs from Orthodox Jews and also hurt many agencies which have used workers from the program to assist in various community task. While the elimination in the PSE program would be a loss to the Orthodox Jewish community, the preservation of ongoing other CETA programs is essential.”
Agudath Israel stressed that tuition tax credits rather than the tax cuts proposed by the President would help the Orthodox Jewish community it serves. “While the tax cuts will be relatively small and in most cases will be just enough to offset higher social security taxes, tuition credits which the President has promised to support does provide some measure of relief,” the study argued.
Sens. Daniel Moynihan (D. NY) and Robert Packwood (R. Ore.) are sponsoring a bill to provide tuition tax relief which is being supported by Agudath Israel and other Orthodox Jewish groups.
At the same time, the Agudath study also expressed concern about the Reagan Administration’s proposals to convert many categorical grants into block grants. “The Reagan Administration’s proposal to consolidate education funds into two block grants, one for local education agencies and one for state education agencies, will hurt yeshivos and other non-public schools,” the report said.
“The return to the block grant system poses the danger of reverting back to the days when state and local education agencies would not mandate a fair share of education funds to the non-public schools.” Yeshivos now benefit from many categorical grants, including programs for new immigrants, disadvantaged children, and bilingual education.
The Agudath study also expressed concern that the change to block grants would harm the many neighborhood programs now funded with federal categorical grants.
FEDERATIONS TO ASSESS IMPACT OF BUDGET CUTS
Meanwhile, the Council of Jewish Federation (CJF) has invited representatives from 40 Federations for a meeting at CJF headquarters here Thursday to assess the impact of the Reagan Administration’s proposed budget cuts on Federation programs and the Jewish community in general. It was originally reported that the meeting was to be held in Washington. On Friday there will be a meeting between the CJF and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC) to discuss strategy for dealing with the situation.