Thursday, June 7, 2012

Conservative and Reform rabbis in Israel are now eligible to receive state funding--much to the displeasure of Orthodox rabbis

It seems that Orthodox rabbis in Israel regard some Jews as being more equal than others. The first item, as reported by Kobi Nahshoni of Ynet News, May 30, 2012:

Rabbis of conservative and reform communities will be recognized as official rabbis by the state, and will enjoy the same funding as orthodox rabbis who are appointed by the Chief Rabbinate.

The road to state funding was paved after the state and reform movement representatives reached an understanding in a petition which was filed in 2005.

An announcement presented by the State Prosecutor's Office to the High Court with regards to the petition on funding equality for non-orthodox rabbis stated that the disagreements between the reform movement and the State were at an end – with the State agreeing to define the spiritual leaders as "rabbis of non-orthodox communities" rather than "just" "community leaders."

When the petition was filed, the court sent both sides to mediation – without the court's involvement. The State, which at first was opposed to the reform movement's demands, agreed to offer funding several years ago – but the reform movement refused to remove the petition due to disagreements over the definition of their rabbis.

Now, with the State announcing it would agree to the definition of "rabbis of non-orthodox communities," the court's involvement has become unnecessary and it is set to approve the agreement.

Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism Rabbi Gilad Kariv said in response: "The State's agreement to support the activities of the reform rabbis in regional councils out of a clear recognition of their position as rabbis, is an important breakthrough in the efforts to promote freedom of religion in Israel and is a true declaration for hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

"This is a first but significant step in the road to equality between the status of all streams of Judaism in Israel and we hope that the State will indeed be careful in implementing its commitment to the court in full.

"We expect this move to lead to additional moves that will end the deep discrimination towards the non-orthodox streams of Judaism in Israel," he added.
The reaction from Orthodox rabbis, as reported by Kobi Nahshoni on June 7, 2012:

The orthodox world is storming in face of the recent decision that recognizes rabbis of non-orthodox communities and allow them to receive the same funding as orthodox rabbis who are appointed by the Chief Rabbinate.

The announcement presented by the State Prosecutor's Office to the High Court with regards to the petition on funding equality for non-orthodox rabbis ended a seven-year long legal struggle and paved the road to state funding.

Kiryat Ono's Rabbi, Ratzon Arusi, who's also a Rabbinate member lashed at the decision, blaming the Israeli government for aiding "a fraud with no parallels in history. If I'll want to create a new judicial movement, will they recognize my people as judges?"

Arusi reiterated that a Rabbi is a traditional role, and it wasn't invented by orthodox. "You can't call a fraud 'rabbi', the same as judges and doctors. It forges the halacha." Arusi suggested to call the Reform jews "religious leaders instead. He further emphasized that the decision is directed only to allow funding through the Ministry of Culture, but expressed his concerns that this will bring about halachic recognition of non orthodox Rabbis as well.

Arusi further said that if this trend isn't stopped, "It will lead to a separation of religion and state, causing a great tear in the people, assimilation and the destruction of Judaism." Arusi cited the large numbers of assimilation in Europe and the US and called on the MK's to fight the decision.

Rabbi Haim Drukman too was shocked by the decision. "What Rabbis? This is fraud! There are ways to support them without recognizing them," he said. Drukman added he was relieved to know that the Reform Jews will not be funded by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, seeing it as a statement regarding their status. "I only hope this will not lead to recognition in their religious authority as well."

One-way bridge to Christianity

A senior ultra-orthodox city Rabbi called the decision "beyond ridiculous". "The Reform Jews are not Jewish, Christian or Muslim – this is a new religious that has nothing to do with the bible. They don't maintain the mitzvahs, so how can they be called Rabbis and receive state funding?

"These rabbis allow mix marriages world wide, and responsible for building a one-way bridge to Christianity. It is known that Reform Jews have no third or even second generations. Their children contribute to churches, not Synagogues," said the Rabbi.
June 19, 2012 update: Israel's chief rabbis aren't pleased with this development. As reported by Kobi Nahshoni of Ynet News on June 18, 2012:

Israel's Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger called on rabbis of cities, communities and regional councils to attend an "emergency gathering" following the State's decision to recognize rabbis of conservative and reform communities as official rabbis and give them the same funding as orthodox rabbis who are appointed by the Chief Rabbinate.

The "emergency" gathering is scheduled to be held next Tuesday, and the Rabbinate plans to send a letter signed by Amar and Metzger to hundreds of rabbis, urging them to attend the event.

According to sources at the chief rabbis' bureaus, the event aims to voice protestation against the "grave breach" allowed by the State, and also to come up with practical ways to thwart the move.

Last month, Attorney General Yeuda Weinstein announced that the State agrees to recognize leaders of reform communities as "rabbis of non-orthodox communities" – which will allow them to receive the same funding that is allocated to rabbis appointed by the Chief Rabbinate.

The decision stirred controversy among the Orthodox public, leading senior rabbis to claim that "you can't call a fraud 'rabbi', the same as judges and doctors. It forges the halacha."

The head of Israel's Reform Judaism movement Rabbi Gilad Kariv said in response to the chief rabbis' decision to convene an emergency meeting that "Rabbi Amar's intention to fight a decision of the State, which was backed by the Supreme Court, proves how much the Chief Rabbinate lost its state function, and how much it is disconnected from the Israeli public, which has had enough of the Orthodox monopoly.

"Rabbi Amar will do well to resign from his position, and then stage his political and public battles just like any other citizen of the State. Until he does so, he should internalize the principles of democracy and refrain from exploiting his official position in order to incite against a public of tens and hundreds of thousands of people that indentifies with the ways of Reform Judaism," he added.
June 27, 2012 update: Over 100 rabbis attended the "emergency meeting," as reported by Kobi Nahshoni, June 27, 2012:

Over 100 rabbis participated Tuesday in an "emergency gathering" following the State's decision to recognize rabbis of Conservative and Reform movements as official rabbis and give them the same funding as Orthodox rabbis, who are appointed by the Chief Rabbinate.

The gathering was called by Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who received Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's support.

In addition to Israel's Chief Rabbis Amar and Yona Metzger, hundreds of rabbis from the Religious-Zionist movement, Ministers Yakov Margi and Ariel Atias and MK's Uri Arieli and Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), attended the gathering in effort to protest the government's decision which received the High Court's seal of approval.

Amar claimed that the Reform and Conservative rabbis are "battling all that is holy. They are trying to the uproot the foundation of Judaism," he exclaimed, adding that "this is an attempt to tear the Jewish people into two nations .It's a danger without a remedy." He added that people should pray on this matter as they do in times of war, when "rockets are fired at Israel."

The chief rabbi called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do all he possibly can to prevent the State's recognizing and funding of non-Orthodox rabbis.

Rabbi Metzger claimed that a mere 10% of third generation Reform Jews remain Jewish – a figure, he claimed, proves that "their way is not the right way."

'A danger without a remedy'
Dozens of Conservative and Reform rabbis staged a counter demonstration outside the Chief Rabbinate building in Jerusalem, demanding the state implement the recent ruling on state funding for non-Orthodox rabbis. They further said that "it is the will of thousands of Israelis to have the option of receiving religious services from non-Orthodox rabbis."

In response to the "emergency meeting," the head of Israel's Reform Judaism movement Rabbi Gilad Kariv said that "the hatred and incitement which were displayed during the convention will not stop the non-Orthodox movements from flourishing."

"On the contrary, he said, adding that "a convention of this sort just reminds the Israeli public of the Chief Rabbinate's extremism, and the absolute need for a functioning, honest and welcoming form of Judaism."

"If rabbi Amar and his friends continue on this inciting path, we will continue to build communities, build educational institutions and help with the conversion of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Most importantly, we will work towards social justice and tolerance," Kariv said.

President of the Israeli Conservative Movement Rabbinical Assembly Rabbi Mauricio Balter said that "Rabbi Amar's hurtful and harsh words against Reform and Conservative rabbis are inciting and this unprecedented gathering goes against the High Court's ruling. We will not keep quiet, while rabbis are being humiliated."

"We would like to remind these rabbis that the Torah commands us to 'love your neighbor as yourself."

Prior to the meeting, Amar sent out a letter addressed to hundreds of rabbis in Israel, calling on them to join the struggle. In his letter, the chief rabbi urged the rabbis to pray "in order to stop the destroyers and saboteurs of Judaism."

In response to Amar's harsh letter, Rabbi Balter and Conservative Rabbi Avinoam Sharon, filed a complaint with the police against him, claiming he incited against them and slandered them in the letter.

According to them, the letter he distributed and was directed against them can "arouse strife and animosity between different sectors of the population, which is considered mutiny according to Article 136/4 of the Penal Code.

"I was shocked by the way in which I was dishonored and humiliated in public, turning me into an object of hate and disdain," said Sharon, who is subscribed to the Rabbinate's mailing list and received a copy of the letter against him.

"Rabbi Amar describes in the letter how me and my colleagues trample the Torah, eradicate Judaism, destroy the religion and are responsible for the devastation of the people of Israel – all with the aim of harming the sanctity of the Torah."

No comments:

Post a Comment