Metzger to PM: Clause in budget would destroy religious communal services

The gov't intends to decentralize religious communal services and transfer responsibility to local governments.

rabbi metzger 88 (photo credit: )
rabbi metzger 88
(photo credit: )
Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger warned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday that a decentralizing plan included in the 2007 budget would mean the demise of communal religious services in many cities and towns throughout the nation. Burial, marriages, and the upkeep of ritual baths [mikvaot] will be almost impossible to maintain, warned Metzger, who also appealed to Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson. According to the 2007 fiscal plan, the government intends to decentralize religious communal services, transferring complete responsibility, both budgetary and managerial, to local governments. Religious Councils, the bodies responsible for providing services on the local level, currently receive 60 percent of their funding from the religious affairs department in the Prime Minister's Office. The remaining 40% is funded by local government. However, the chronically cash-strapped local governments have repeatedly failed to fulfill their part of the funding, resulting in salary delays for thousands of Religious Council employees and a general deterioration in the quality of these services. According to Metzger, "Religious services are the first expense on which many local governments default." As a result, many religious councils are forced to get by on the 60% they receive from the PM's Office. "Transfer of complete control over budgeting religious services to local government will mean the complete collapse of these services in many cities," warned Metzger. The Treasury said in response that the revamping of religious services is still being discussed and no final decisions will be made until the middle of next week.