(photo credit: Miiam Alster)
A bill presented by MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) on Sunday proposing to scrap all
local religious councils was given support on Monday from somewhat surprising
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Rabbi Shimon Biton, chairman of the Petah Tikva Religious
Council, said in a radio interview with 103 FM that he “agreed with every word
of Sheetrit’s bill,” and supported his idea to transfer the provision of their
services to local municipalities.
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“Workers in religious councils are
unprofessional,” Biton said. “In the Petah Tikva religious council there are 58
employees, half of whom are not needed.”
Sheetrit’s law proposes to
abolish the Law for Jewish Religious Services of 1971 through which local
religious councils were established; close all local religious councils; and
create religious services departments within local municipalities to provide the
same services that the councils currently do.
There are approximately 130
religious councils throughout the country that offer various services, some of
which – such as marriage registration, provision of rabbis for wedding services
and burial services – are of a religiously sensitive nature.
religious councils operate under the auspices of the Religious Services Ministry
and act on matters of Jewish law in accordance with the rulings of the Chief
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The Minister himself appoints 45 percent of council members,
with another 45% elected by local municipalities and 10% by the local chief
The ministry had not replied to a Jerusalem Post request for
comment by time of press.
Calling religious councils “corrupt” and
“politicized,” and accusing them of lacking transparency and accountability,
Sheetrit said that municipal authorities could do the job better.
the lack of transparency in their operations, religious council members are able
to advance their own personal interests without having to heed any form of
supervision or even public opinion, he continued.
The MK says that
because local councils are sufficiently transparent and well-supervised, they
will be more efficient in the provision of religious services.
has come to put an end to the festival of jobs for cronies, the politicization
of the religious councils... and their waste of money,” Sheetrit said in a
statement released by his office.
Last week, MK Moshe Gafni of the
ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party threatened to propose his own bill to
dismantle the local religious councils, as part of a political struggle
currently being waged between factions within the UTJ and Shas
The UTJ was furious when Shas struck a deal with national-
religious political factions that will enable a national-religious rabbi to be
elected as Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Jerusalem. Gafni expressed anger about this
last week, saying that a small group within the Shas movement is “acting against
On the ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Berama, Gafni said that
in light of this, UTJ may consult with leading rabbis in order to advance a bill
to “abolish the religious councils and sever the link with Shas.”
response, Minister for Religious Services Ya’acov Margi said “It troubles me
greatly that there are Jews who define themselves as haredi, and are exploiting
the wild incitement against the haredi community in order to lead the abolition
of the religious councils, which disseminate Torah and purity to the Jewish
UTJ’s proposal would pass the responsibility for religious
services to local rabbis and another specially designated authority.
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