Orthodox Jewish Groups Exploit Government-Funded Library Program

(Photo by Ariel Jankelowitz, via The Jewish Daily Forward).

The federally-backed library subsidy program E-Rate has committed $1.4 million to ultra-Orthodox religious institutions in Brooklyn that don’t actually qualify as libraries, The Jewish Daily Forward reports.

In an investigation, Josh Nathan-Kazis has found that nine groups have received an average of $161,000 each in commitments from E-Rate since 2010 — more than twice the average amount committed to libraries in New York State during the same period.

One of those ultra-Orthodox institutions in Brooklyn is described as a “small room with bare walls and a dozen computers”.

The plaque on the door at Kollel L’Horauh calls the room a library. As a library, it has received $135,000 in congressionally mandated library subsidies. But there’s no librarian, and the room’s “collection” consists of a subscription to a single digital database of Jewish books that is not even available on all the computers. In Brooklyn, not being a library is no barrier to receiving library subsidies.

(Photo by Ariel Jankelowitz, via The Jewish Daily Forward)

According to the article, the Metropolitan New York Library Council  (METRO), which is legally in charge of serving as a gatekeeper for E-Rate eligibility in the city “chose not to exclude these ultra-Orthodox groups, which in some cases didn’t have librarians or card catalogs.”

That wasn’t their only option. Elsewhere in New York, another gatekeeper agency has taken a stand to block questionable libraries from E-Rate. In 2010, around the same time that the Brooklyn ultra-Orthodox groups were seeking to become E-Rate eligible, a “flurry” of ultra-Orthodox congregations from Rockland County, N.Y., applied to join an upstate library association and become E-Rate eligible, too, according to John Shaloiko, executive director of the Southeastern New York Library Resources Council.

Shaloiko’s group drew up new guidelines, including that libraries have online card catalogs and librarians with master’s degrees, to join their association and become eligible for E-Rate.

The handful of ultra-Orthodox Jewish congregations that have applied to join the group since the adoption of the new guidelines have all dropped their requests after learning of the organization’s membership requirements, Shaloiko said.

E-Rate has developed a reputation for waste and abuse since Congress set it up in 1996 to help connect schools and libraries to the Internet. Today, the program is in crisis. Increasing demand has tapped out E-Rate’s funding, leaving it unable to meet broad categories of legitimate request. In 2012, only the most needy schools and libraries were allowed to apply for certain sorts of subsidy. In 2013, even applications from some of the poorest schools and libraries for things like servers may be turned down.

The E-Rate pool is fixed at $2.25 billion a year, so more money allocated to questionable expenditures mean less money for everyone else.

Public and so-called “private” libraries across the country are eligible for E-Rate subsidies, which reimburses telephone and Internet connectivity costs. But reporter Nathan-Kazis draws attention to the fact that there are no clear federal or state officials guidelines to describe what’s a private library.

One example is the Satmar Hasidic center in 193 Keap Street in Williamsburg, which boasts large rooms with walls of religious books, and a computer room “with eight desktops and laptops loaded with a database of Jewish texts.”

Does all this amount to a library? Not quite, according to the Metropolitan New York Library Council, known as METRO, New York City’s regional library association. At METRO, however, “not quite” is enough to qualify you for E-Rate. The institution at 193 Keap Street has received $190,000 worth of commitments from E-Rate between 2010 and 2012.

The Satmar Hasidic center joined METRO as a “collegial” member, which means that it doesn’t  meet all the criteria for full membership but still is eligible for E-Rate. According to the article, the vast majority of the roughly 20 Orthodox groups that have joined METRO in recent years applied as “collegial” members.

The Forward has identified nine ultra-Orthodox groups that are collegial members of METRO and have received commitments from E-Rate for subsidies from 2010 through 2012.

According to the article, ultra-Orthodox collegial METRO members receiving E-Rate subsidies receive far more in commitments and allocations than what is normal among libraries in New York State.

In the three funding years from 2010 to 2012, more than 400 New York State libraries — not including library consortia — received an average commitment of $70,900 from E-Rate. Among the nine ultra-Orthodox collegial METRO members, the average commitment was $161,400 over the same time period — more than twice the general New York State average.

Nathan-Kazis notes that the ultra-Orthodox libraries receive the highest possible rate of E-Rate reimbursement based on information they submit to USAC, “yet visits to the ultra-Orthodox collegial METRO members raised questions about whether the subsidies some were receiving were proportional to the scale of their operations.”

According to E-Rate expert Dan Riordan, the $137,000 paid out in subsidies to Kollel L’Horauh represents an extraordinary sum to spend on eligible services for a room with 10 computers.

Riordan said that a more appropriate amount would be $11,500, based on what he understood of Kollel L’Horauh’s size.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

https://www.bachelortreats.com/about-us/ https://www.sexxxotoy.com/about-us/