(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, who chairs the Knesset Finance Committee, has said he will fight any effort by the government to build mikvaot for the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) movements.
His comments come after his committee approved a transfer of NIS 10 million to the Prime Minister’s Office earlier this week for a request “to advance infrastructures and initiatives to strengthen ties between the State of Israel and Diaspora Jewry.”
The Jewish Agency has confirmed that this money will be transferred to its construction arm Ami Gur to build up to four mikvaot for the non-Orthodox movements, but the Prime Minister’s Office has studiously avoided commenting on inquiries about the designated purpose of the funds this week.
Gafni, who is virulently opposed to the progressive Jewish denominations, said Wednesday night in an interview with Army Radio that he was unaware the funding request from the PMO was designated for building the mikvaot.
This appears unlikely however given the tight control the MK wields over his committee, as well as the fact that he himself abstained in the vote.
A more likely explanation is that Gafni is denying knowledge of the designated purpose of the NIS 10 million to prevent accusations against him from inside the haredi community for having enabled government money to be passed to the Reform and Masorti communities.
The US Jewish leadership lobbied heavily against the recently approved mikve law, which essentially bans the Reform and Masorti movements from using public mikvaot for conversion ceremonies.
Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unwilling to prevent the passage of this law, advanced by Gafni himself, the government proposed that the Jewish Agency build mikvaot, which is the purpose for this week’s funding allocation approved by the committee.
Director of the Masorti Movement in Israel attorney Yizhar Hess said that there was no way Gafni didn’t know the funds were designated for the new mikvaot.
“This terrible [mikve] law is a stain and we do not intended to ‘make it kosher’ through any kind of return payment,” said Hess.
“Not even one nail which passes from one [budget] item to another in the Finance Committee [which he doesn’t know about], but suddenly he doesn’t know? And if he didn’t know why did he abstain in the vote? “Gafni doesn’t fear He who sits on high, but rather from headlines in the haredi press.”
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