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Reform rabbis start receiving state-paid salaries
By JEREMY SHARON
01/01/2014
The move comes 18 months after Supreme Court allows non-Orthodox rabbis to be paid by the state like Orthodox counterparts.
 
Israel’s Reform rabbis have started receiving government- paid salaries for the first time, a year and a half after the state agreed to do so.

The Reform Movement said on Wednesday that the rabbis of four regional councils have now received their salaries for 2013, with the state transferring NIS 300,000.

The Reform Movement, along with Reform Rabbi Miri Gold of Kibbutz Gezer, submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice in 2005 demanding that rabbis of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism who serve as heads of religious communities be paid by the state.

In May 2012, the Attorney- General’s Office announced that the state had agreed to pay the wages of non-Orthodox rabbis serving in regional councils, just as it does for Orthodox rabbis.

However, there were lengthy delays in the implementation of the agreement and the Reform Movement submitted another petition to the High Court in February 2013 insisting that the wages of four regional council rabbis be paid.

The salaries of Rabbis Miri Gold of the Gezer Regional Council, Stacey Blank of the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council, Gadi Raviv of the Misgav Regional Council and Benji Gruber of Hevel Eilot Regional Council have now all been paid. The salaries, however, were paid by the Ministry for Culture and Sport, rather than the Ministry for Religious Services.

Although the Ministry for Religious services is the body that pays government rabbis’ salaries, Shas, which ran the ministry when the state agreed to pay in 2012, refused to finance the reform rabbis from its budget.

The Reform Movement agreed that the funds could come from the Ministry for Culture and Sport as long as the recipients were recognized as rabbis by the state, which they have been.

Director of the Reform Movement in Israel Rabbi Gilad Kariv welcomed the development and said the organization would continue to work toward ensuring that Israeli citizens could choose non-Orthodox rabbis to provide their religious requirements.

“This is an historic and important step in the long struggle for pluralism, freedom of religion, and recognition by the State of Israel of all Jewish denominations,” said Kariv.

He said the Reform Movement would at the same time continue its work toward “separating the religious establishment from government authorities.” Nevertheless, he added, while the state continues to fund religious services and rabbis’ salaries, the organization would fight to ensure that such funding is provided in an equal and non-discriminatory manner.
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