Column Date 2011-02-15


The following story (in spite of accusations by some readers that I make all this stuff up) is true:


If you happen to be an ultra-Orthodox Jew in Israel, the government will give you a weekly allowance and you don’t have to work.


I’ll repeat that:  a weekly allowance so you don’t have to work.


O.K., you may ask, but what do you actually have to do to get this weekly allowance?


Well, the Israeli government seems to think that if you just pray regularly and study your religious books, you’ve earned your money.


I call this “Paying for Praying,” and I think it’s an idea the U.S.A. should look into, especially in these times of high unemployment.


For a start, don’t you think there’s something truly comforting about groups of ultra-religious Americans on duty, 24/7, constantly praying for America? Of course, who knows if this will actually accomplish anything, but, as they say, it couldn’t hurt. (And it keeps them out of politics.)


However, if we pay people to pray, I suggest we go even further.


For example, I know a terrific singer-songwriter whose words and music go straight to your heart. I think the government should pay him to write and perform -- to continue to nourish the soul of America.


And then  there’s a fine artist I met in New York whose paintings give us a wonderful insight into our lives and society. She deserves a weekly check, too.


Not to mention a friend who’s an unemployed clown. There’s no question he’d be delighted to spend his time helping us all laugh through these tough times. And, boy, do we need his gift these days!


I’d argue that all this singing and painting and clowning is really good for America – and it will be money well spent.


But, is this (GASP!)...socialism?


Well, nobody has ever accused Israel of being anything but a tough, hard-driving capitalist country. “Paying for Praying” seems to be a quirk of Israeli society that supports their values.


I think American values could use some support, too.


Come to think of it, if these Tannen Weekly columns have value for you, get over to your computer right now and send an e-mail to your congressman.


A government check every week would really come in handy.




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 (c) 2011 Peter Tannen