Reform Jews pray in Jerusalem [Illustrative]_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The Reform Movement has filed a petition with the High Court of Justice
demanding that the state implement a decision made last year to fund
non-Orthodox rabbis from state coffers.
Last May, the Attorney General’s
Office agreed that the state would pay the wages of non-Orthodox rabbis serving
in regional councils, as it does for Orthodox rabbis, following a recommendation
from the High Court which was deliberating on an earlier petition from the
Reform movement’s legal advocacy arm the Israel Religious Action Center
The Orthodox religious establishment bitterly opposed the
agreement, with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar saying that non-Orthodox
movements were “poisoning the well of holiness and taking people to a nethermost
Until now, non-Orthodox religious leaders have not been recognized
as rabbis and their communities have had to pay their salaries through money
raised by membership dues. The wages of Orthodox rabbis are paid by the Ministry
for Religious Services.
The Reform Movement said on Tuesday however that
the state was dragging its feet on the implementation of the agreement. IRAC’s
petition also demanded that certain conditions a non-Orthodox rabbi is required
to fulfill to receive state funding be changed.
Director of the Reform
Movement in Israel Rabbi Gilad Kariv pointed out as an example one condition
stipulating that Reform rabbis for small communities numbering a maximum of 250
members are to be funded as part-time employees entitled to half the salary of
Orthodox rabbis are considered to be full-time
employees and receive a full- time salary regardless of the size of their
Kariv said his objection was that the state was asking for the
Reform Movement to pay the rabbi of such a community as a full-time employee and
only then would the state pay half of his or her salary.
He also noted
that there was no definition in the conditions for a “non-Orthodox rabbi,” as
the title is called in the agreement, that would ensure that the state funding
be directed toward rabbinic activity.
Kariv said that what was equally
regrettable was the state’s attitude toward the non-Orthodox movements, and
criticized the government for not entering into serious dialogue with them and
for trying to hinder the implementation of the agreement.
saddened,” he said “that the government is forcing us to go back to
The Reform Movement in Israel insists on reaching a situation in
which full equality exists between all Jewish denominations in Israel, and we
will work to achieve this through all available public and legal avenues,
together with hundreds of thousands of Israelis who participate in our communal,
educational and social activities.”