On the eve of Rosh Hashana the Construction and Housing Ministry assured non-Orthodox congregations that they would receive prefabricated synagogues like Orthodox communities, according to an internal document belonging to the Israel Movement for Progressive (Reform) Judaism.
The document, addressed to rabbis and other leading movement members, announced that Aryeh Bar, director-general of the ministry, sent a letter promising that four communities would receive the buildings.
The four mentioned in the letter are Yozma in Modi'in, Sulam Ya'acov in Zichron Ya'acov, Ma'alot Tivon in Kiryat Tivon and Tzur Hadassah in the town of the same name.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, a legal adviser to the Reform Movement, said that while Bar's letter was a positive step in the right direction it was still too early to know when the prefabs would be supplied.
Ministry spokesman Kobi Bleich said in response that the local authority, not the ministry, decides to whom to allot the prefabs and other public buildings constructed with ministry funds.
"We build according to population growth," said Bleich. "But we do not decide whether haredim, national religious, Reform or secular communities get them." Bleich said that in predominantly secular areas community centers are built instead of synagogues, while in more religious neighborhoods the opposite is true.
Non-Orthodox communities have been struggling for years against an Orthodox monopoly over state-funded religious services. The Reform and Conservative movements have demanded, but have not yet received, state recognition of their rabbis, their conversions, their marriages and state funding of their synagogues.
In 2005, former construction and housing minister Isaac Herzog promised non-Orthodox communities that state-funded public buildings would be allocated according to egalitarian criteria.
However, due to a legal dispute unrelated to the issue of non-Orthodox discrimination, the building of the prefabs has been delayed.
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