'State should fund Reform, Conservative'

Jewish Agency head on 'Post' story in which Shas minister told non-Orthodox to finance themselves.

sharansky 248 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
sharansky 248 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky sent a letter to Religious Affairs Minister Ya'acov Margi last week in which he rejects Margi's claim that only Orthodox institutions are eligible for state-funded religious services. "I was surprised to read your statements in The Jerusalem Post in which you claim that only institutions that are run in accordance with Halacha are eligible for Religious Affairs Ministry funding," wrote Sharansky. "I wish to remind you that the Religious Affairs Ministry is not a halachic body and is responsible for providing religious services to all citizens of the state of Israel from all religions, streams and congregations who need these services. "The Religious Affairs Ministry must ensure religious freedom and prevent infringement of citizens' rights in this field. The Jewish Agency calls on the Religious Affairs Ministry to fulfill its responsibility to all the religious congregations in Israel and to foster mutual respect and brotherhood among different religious approaches and beliefs. By doing so the ministry will deepen appreciation and respect for Jewish tradition." In an exclusive interview with the Post last week, Margi said that Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism had to fund their own institutions and were not entitled 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 their own Halacha," said Margi during the interview in his office in Jerusalem. "According to the law for Jewish Religious Services, 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," he said.