A Major Victory for Religious Pluralism in Israel!
Today marks an historic turning point in Israel. For the first time ever, the Israeli government will recognize the rabbinic work of Reform and Conservative rabbis by paying the salaries of up to 15 rabbis in smaller communities and regional councils. This victory comes after a seven-year period of waiting. In 2005, Rabbi Miri Gold demanded state financing for non-Orthodox religious services equal to the funding received by Orthodox rabbis and institutions Orthodox from municipal authorities. Today, the hard work of Rabbi Gold and the many Reform and Masorti (Conservative) rabbis in Israel is beginning to bear fruit. You might be surprised to learn that Orthodox rabbis and institutions receive between $400 million and $600 million in state funding each year while liberal movements receive less that $200,000! Clearly, this is just a first step in rectifying that imbalance. There are still many needed changes. For instance, these 15 rabbis will be compensated by the Ministry of Culture and Sports rather than the Ministry or Religious Services. They will also continue to be banned from having any type of influence on state-recognized halakhic rulings, particularly regarding conversions and weddings.
As I prepare to leave for Israel a week from Sunday, this good news rings a special chord in my heart and I felt it was necessary to share it with each of you. Each day, as I pray for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, I regularly take note of the lack of religious pluralism that still plagues our Jewish State. As I have written here before, sometimes I feel as though I am not truly welcome to practice my Judaism in Israel. Yet, while we still have a long way to go and many more battles to fight, we should all take pride in this step forward. God willing, this victory will help non-orthodox Jews in Israel realize there are alternatives to being “religious” or “secular”. May the State of Israel that I care for so deeply continue to move forward toward it’s perfected form, the concept of a Heavenly Jerusalem here on earth.
Here are links to articles in the New York Times and Haaretz on this subject: