Treasury agrees to dramatic hike in city rabbis' wages

A new city rabbi will earn about 80%of what the city's director general's salary is, treasury wage chief tells Knesset Finance C'tee.

By JONAH MANDEL
May 23, 2011 19:33
3 minute read.
MK Moshe Gafni

MK Moshe Gafni 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The Treasury has agreed to a dramatic increase in the salaries of new city rabbis, a senior Finance Ministry official announced Monday during a meeting of the Knesset’s Finance Committee.

“There are huge gaps between the wages of veteran [city] rabbis and new ones, who earn NIS 6,000. They are not allowed to have additional jobs, and their income must be respectable, while at the same time setting a public example,” Treasury Wage Chief Ilan Levin told members of the committee headed by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism).

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“A new city rabbi will earn approximately 80 percent of what the city’s director general’s salary is,” Levin said.

He added that his ministry will within two weeks present the formula that would enable the allocation of NIS 2.2 million to that end. Gafni, who initiated the talks on the topic, asked to ensure that the money would not come at the expense of other religious services.

Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi (Shas) thanked Gafni for raising the awareness on the issue. “Following the previous meeting on the salaries, we met with treasury officials and reached the understanding that the current situation makes no sense and cannot continue, and found ways to agreements on how to change things,” Margi said.

Others were less enthusiastic about the recent development.



MK Haim Amsalem (Shas) said the salary raise is “a small and insignificant step among the measures needed to improve the status of city rabbis in Israel.” The renegade lawmaker, who recently announced the formation of his Am Shalem (Unified People) party, and himself an ordained rabbi who headed a Sephardi synagogue in Geneva, said “significant reforms” were needed for rabbis, “beginning with their appointment processes, which have become increasingly humiliating, ugly and political, and reaching their roles and authorities.

“A rabbi, serving his community and providing its services, is surely worthy of an appropriate and respectable salary, as do other public servants, especially the striking doctors to whom we owe our lives,” Amsalem said.

MK Nitzan Horovitz (Meretz) said that “bumping up the rabbis’ wages by hundreds of percent is a robbery of public funds.

“There is no justification, nor can there be, that the rabbi of a tiny community of 2,500 residents will earn tens of thousands of shekels – more than the locale’s director general,” Horovitz said.

“Once again it is apparent why the haredi parties insist on holding the Finance Committee – the funding pipe for a corrupt establishment.”

He added, “The only solution is separating religion from politics.”

The liberal modern Orthodox Ne’emanei Torah Ve’avoda noted that the question of appointing city rabbis is currently on the table, as part of a petition to the High Court of Justice, which the movement recently filed. Rabbis’ salaries is part of the issue.

“It’s interesting to point out that the [new] rabbis at hand are those appointed after 2006, the very same year Shas received the Religious Services Ministry and began appointing its people as city rabbis,” they said in a statement.

“Comparing their salaries to that of the director-general of the local authority is inappropriate, since a director general is a temporary appointment, while a city rabbi is a lifelong term.”

The statement said city rabbi appointments are currently frozen, since it has yet to be decided how to define the nature of the position, and “it is therefore strange that at this stage it has been decided to increase their salaries.”

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Reform Movement in Israel, said, “The only shameful thing about the city rabbis’ wages is the agreement between the treasury and Gafni, who is exploiting his position as head of the Finance Committee for sectorial accomplishments, and continuing to take money from public funds.”

He said it is positive, however, to see a “renewed awakening of the broad Israeli public against the conduct of the haredi parties, and against the rulership and corruption typical of the Israeli rabbinic establishment.”

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