PM sides with conservatives, not Shas

PM sides with Conservati

By MATTHEW WAGNER
November 2, 2009 21:50
2 minute read.

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu notified the Conservative Movement last week that statements made by Religious Services Minister Ya'acov Margi against non-Orthodox streams of Judaism "do not reflect" his own positions. "We have informed Minister Margi that his recent statements in The Jerusalem Post do not reflect the positions of the Prime Minister," wrote Ron Dermer, senior adviser to the prime minister in a letter dated October 28. The Prime Minister's Office also "made it clear that decisions regarding the allocation of public funds must be fully consistent with Israel's laws." Netanyahu "strongly believes that strengthening the connection between Israel and Jewish groups throughout the world is a source of our national strength," the letter also said. "He will continue to fully protect freedom of worship for all and to work toward bringing the various streams of Judaism together." At the end of August Margi told the Post in an exclusive interview that non-Orthodox streams of Judaism did not have a right to state funding. "I recommend to those organizations that do not want to accept [Orthodox] Halacha to build their own mikvaot and their own synagogues according to their own Halacha," Margi said. "According to the Jewish Religious Services Law, the Chief Rabbinate is the sole body responsible for providing religious services. And they do this in accordance with Halacha. Since the Conservative and the Reform do not conform to Halacha, they are not eligible for state funds. "Nor do they have the right to use existing mikvaot and synagogues." The prime minister's letter last week was a response to an appeal by leaders of the Conservative Movement in Israel and in North America who were shocked by Margi's comments. "We need to have a clear statement from you that the policy of your government is not as Minister Margi states and that you and your entire government are committed to assuring fair and equal treatment for the major recognized streams of Jewish life," Netanyahu wrote. Yizhar Hess, executive director and CEO of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel, said that while he was pleased with the response he hoped that the prime minister would "follow through with actions." "We are waiting for the day when non-Orthodox streams of Judaism will be given an equal standing here in Israel from a budgetary perspective and will stop being discriminated against," said Hess. "After all, the majority of Jews in North America are not Orthodox." Hess added that "the letter is proof that the PM took seriously what we had to say." David H. Lissy, executive director and CEO of the Masorti Foundation in New York, said, "We appreciate the response. "As passionate supporters of Israel, we believe that a thriving spiritual life both for Israel and the Diaspora depends upon a pluralistic and democratic Israel. No one political party has the right to dictate. Opinion polls in Israel show that overwhelming numbers of Israelis support pluralism; the government of Israel should follow this lead."

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