Rabbis for Human Rights

PRESS RELEASE | 29 January, 2014

Rabbis for Human Rights presented a position paper to the Elaluf Committee summarizing the key reasons that people living in poverty do not receive the benefits they deserve, such that their situations worsens.

Last Sunday, Rabbis for Human Rights presented a position paper to the anti-poverty committee headed by Elie Elaluf on the phenomenon of unclaimed social rights among people living in poverty. The presentation of the paper is part of the organization’s advocacy effort to put the topic on the committee’s agenda, and to demonstrate that this little-discussed issue is a signification reason why escaping poverty can be very difficult , and why the situation sometimes worsens.

More on Elaluf here

The document (attached to this press release) was written by Rabbis for Human Rights’  Sigal Asher,  director of the Rights Center in Hadera,  based on her wealth of experience in the field. The document examines the main reasons for the failure of people living in poverty to claim the social rights, such as allowances and grants,  they are entitled. The reasons include cumbersome and confusing bureaucracy, inaccessible information, making one benefit conditional upon another, language barriers, negative social stigmas, personal desperation and more.

At a meeting of the Anti-Poverty Committee led by Elie Elaluf, Professor Johnny Gal noted that an estimated ten percent of people entitled to income support do not receive it.

Rabbi Idit Lev, Head of the Rabbis for Human Rights Social Justice Department:

“When you’re talking about people who live in dire poverty and are still unable to receive that which they are entitled to from the state, you find that this causes many people to despair and turns small problems, sometimes temporary and solvable ones, into a spiraling of emotional and financial crises which have no solution. Income support, for instance, is an allowance intended for people who have almost nothing.”

Rabbi Sigal Asher, author of the document and Director of the Rabbis for Human Rights Rights Center in Hadera:

“We see people every day at the Rights Center who live in poverty for whom, in addition to other hardships, the difficulty in claiming their benefits from the state and other bodies can make their lives impossible, and occasionally this is the factor which drags them down further into poverty. As a society we must look after people before they descend into poverty, and it is our obligation to help and assist those who live in poverty.”

As was published recently in a study by Professor Eldar Shapir [link in Hebrew], “poverty does not harm people with limited abilities; rather people’s abilities become limited as a result of living in poverty. The inability to claim benefits infringes on the most basic needs of life.”

If your brother becomes destitute and his hand falters beside you,” – Do not allow him to fall down. To what can this be compared? To a load on a donkey. While it is still on the donkey – one person can grasp it and hold it in place. Once it falls to the ground – [even] five people cannot pick it up.- Sifra (Malbim) Parashat Behar (Leviticus 25:35)

Rabbis for Human Rights has run the Rights Center in Hadera for people living in poverty since 2005. We assist the residents of Hadera, Wadi Ara and the surrounding areas in claiming the benefits they are entitled  to from state institutions (the National Insurance Institute, Ministry of Welfare, schools, etc.) and also from private organizations (such as communications companies). In that time we have accumulated extensive information about the difficulties people who live in poverty face in claiming their social rights.