State attorney formalizes hiring for religious councils

Disciplinary procedures for employees yet to be established.

Wedding with blurred background (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Wedding with blurred background
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
For the first time in the state’s history, formal hiring procedures have been instituted for local religious councils by the State Attorney’s Office, it was announced Sunday.
However, there are still no disciplinary procedures in place for local religious council employees.
Until now, there has been no framework for such procedures against employees in local religious councils, unlike other state bodies and employees that have had them in place since 1963.
According to the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, which submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice in 2007 regarding both hiring practices and the lack of disciplinary procedures, the absence of a standardized recruitment process within local religious councils has led to the inappropriate allocation of jobs by the rabbis and management staff of those bodies.
This is something that the annual State Comptroller Reports have repeatedly highlighted, MQG says.
Local religious councils are tasked with providing religious services to Jewish residents living within its municipal jurisdiction, and are under the authority of the Religious Services Ministry. They provide administrative services for many religious matters, such as marriage registration, synagogue construction and maintenance, burial, kashrut certification and religious slaughter.
Employees on the councils are under state jurisdiction and their funds and resources come from the central government.
There are 132 local religious councils up and down the country employing 3,000 workers, for which the government spends NIS 201 million a year.
In November, the High Court warned that if disciplinary procedures were not implemented with 90 days, it could issue a final ruling on the matter without a further hearing.
However, in the state’s response to the court, filed last Thursday, it said that the prime minister, who has oversight on the issue, will make a decision on the matter in the coming six months.
The state has frequently pointed to bureaucratic obstacles as the reason behind the ongoing delay in the implementation of disciplinary procedures.
MQC and other groups on the petition argue that the lack of disciplinary procedures for religious council employees allows them to act with impunity toward the general public, encourages corruption and prevents the implementation of best practice.
Attorney Dafna Kiro-Cohen, an MQG lawyer working on the case, said she hoped the High Court would shortly issue a ruling obligating the state to implement these procedures.
“Six years after this petition was filed and innumerable excuses and instances of foot-dragging by the state, the time has come to issue an order that will instruct the prime minister and the Ministry of Religious Services to do what they should have done 30 years ago, and implement the law relating to disciplinary procedures on religious councils,” Kiro-Cohen said.
According to ITIM, an NGO that on provides advice for people seeking to navigate the bureaucracy surrounding religious services, the organization frequently receives complaints about the behavior of religious council employees.
A common complaint, ITIM says, comes from women seeking to open a file for marriage registration, who are refused by the registrar on the grounds that they are not dressed modestly enough.