PMO to ‘match funds given by Jewish Agency’ to non-Orthodox groups

According to agency, it currently distributes approximately $1.09 million to Reform institutions and programs, and the same sum to the Masorati (Conservative) Movement.

November 12, 2015 18:15
2 minute read.
Netanyahu General Assembly

PM Netanyahu addresses the Jewish Federations of North America's 2015 General Assembly November 10, 2015 in Washington, DC. (photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

Following comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week that the government will fund Reform and Conservative communities in Israel, the Jewish Agency has confirmed that the proposals are for the government to match the funds provided by the agency to non-Orthodox institutions and projects.

“For the first time, the government of Israel is joining with the Jewish Agency, to invest in strengthening Reform and Conservative communities within Israel,” Netanyahu said at the annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Washington.

According to the Jewish Agency, it currently distributes approximately $1.09 million annually to Reform institutions and programs, and the same sum to the Masorti (Conservative) Movement.

These funds have gone to the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies of the Masorti Movement, located in Jerusalem, the Hebrew Union College of the Reform Movement, also located in Jerusalem, and other similar institutions and programs.

The Jewish Agency also provides approximately half a million dollars annually to modern- Orthodox institutions, including youth projects and a program within the Young Israel Movement organization to combat the phenomenon of recalcitrant husbands and chained women.

The government will match the sums provided to the Reform and Conservative Movements by the Jewish Agency, a spokesman of the organization said. A spokesman at the Prime Minister’s Office would not to confirm these details and declined to comment on the issue.

Senior haredi politicians harshly denounced the prime minister for his promise in his General Assembly speech, virulently attacking the non-Orthodox movements and arguing that such funding would contradict coalition agreements signed by the haredi parties with the Likud.

“Throughout the generations, we have known that the Reform and Conservative [movements] are tearing the Jewish people apart and it is forbidden to lend them a hand to tear up the Torah of the Jewish people,” Health Minister and United Torah Judaism MK Ya’acov Litzman said in response to the news. “It is a shame that the prime minister made these comments, and we will do everything so that this commitment is not fulfilled.”

Clause 35 of the coalition agreement between the two parties states that “The status quo on issues of religion and state will be preserved, as has been the case for decades.”

UTJ and Shas use this clause broadly to oppose many government measures that touch on religion and state issues.

On Thursday, the Anti-Defamation League denounced Litzman’s and others’ statements against the non-Orthodox movements.

“We deplore the continued slander and vitriol heaped on Reform and Conservative Judaism by members of Knesset and other Orthodox individuals and institutions as contrary to the principles upon which the State of Israel was founded,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “It only serves to deepen the fissures within Israeli society and alienate committed Reform and Conservative Zionists around the word.”

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