Thursday, June 6, 2013

Religion and State in Israel - June 6, 2013

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

State-salaries for non-Orthodox rabbis

The Religious Services Ministry has said that it is moving toward a system in which the serving rabbi of any congregation, whether Orthodox or non-Orthodox, will be financially supported by the ministry.

The Jerusalem Post, however, understands that it is doubtful such measures will be implemented because of opposition to them from elements within the ministry.

By Anat Hoffman

There are still many questions we need answered from Minister Bennett. When will this plan become reality? When will these new community appointed rabbis be given the same status as their Orthodox counterparts? We need to see the results of his words.

Important differences will remain between Orthodox and non-Orthodox rabbis. Salaries for the Reform and Conservative rabbis will come from the Ministry of Culture and Sports, rather than the Ministry of Religious Services. Also, the rabbis will not be government employees, but will instead receive stipends from the state. The new regulations cover only rural communities, not cities.

Still, this is the first time that the term “rabbi” will be used by the government to refer to a female religious leader.

The ministry is working on drafting criteria for awarding this funding, the brief said, and these criteria will be "independent of which Jewish denomination the relevant community belongs to."

Miri Gold, 63, rabbi of Kibbutz Gezer’s Birkat Shalom congregation, is taking this latest hurdle in stride. “I spent seven years fighting for this – what’s a few more years?” she shrugs. “After all, I didn’t do this for the money, but the principle,” she adds. “It was always a symbolic issue for me.”

…To date though, only two non-Orthodox Israelis have drawn state salaries as a result of the ruling, and one of them is not even a rabbi.  (In comparison, some 4,000 rabbis of Orthodox congregations receive state salaries.)

The rest have, like Gold, faced a series of hurdles from the Ministry of Culture in the form of unclear, rapidly changing and seemingly discriminatory criteria, says Orly Erez Likhovski, the Israel Religious Action Center lawyer behind the petition. 

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, who leads a 300-family Reform synagogue in Jerusalem. “We’re a long way from it happening. I’m certainly not going to put in additional spending money yet.”

“The big question is if this will be implemented in a way that’s really equal,” said Yizhar Hess, CEO of the Israeli Conservative movement. “It’s too early to say what the criteria will be, when they will come up or whether they will be equal.”

The Religious Services Ministry offered no information about the criteria being formulated, or even when the standards would be decided.

Women of the Wall (Special issue coming soon)

The Women of the Wall campaign group met with Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Minister Eli Ben-Dahan on Wednesday afternoon as part of efforts to reduce tensions over the combustible issue of prayer rights at the Western Wall.

WoW will hold their monthly prayer service at the women’s section of the Wall on Sunday, which marks the start of the Jewish month of Tamuz, and the group has said that it will read from a Torah scroll during the service.

“Women of the Wall won’t back down in the face of bullying; the people who should be punished for disturbing the peace are the people who disturb the peace, not the Women of the Wall who are just seeking to conduct their prayer service.”

By Susan Weiss

[A]ny solution at the Wall must acknowledge the fact that the Wall is, first and foremost, a national and historic site, with religious significance to all Jews, whatever their denomination. 

Right now it has been transformed into an exclusive haredi shteible – an ultra-Orthodox synagogue in which the rabbi in charge is constantly raising the divisional barrier and shrinking the women’s section.

Religious Pluralism

By Isi Leibler

Jewish character of the State of Israel

Chief Rabbinate

By Yedidya Schwartz


By Dan Margalit

IDF Haredi Draft


Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
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