Israel to pay salaries of non-Orthodox community rabbis

Israel’s attorney general has agreed to pay the salaries of non-Orthodox rabbis who lead their communities.

The agreement announced Tuesday comes three weeks after a panel of Supreme Court judges called on the attorney general to intervene during a hearing on a petition filed more than seven years ago calling for the state to recognize and pay the salaries of rabbis of all streams of Judaism.

The Israel Religious Action Center of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, the Reform movement in Israel, had filed the petition.

The attorney general’s office had opposed the request; the settlement was negotiated out of court.

Some 4,000 Orthodox rabbis serve as rabbis of their communities and draw a salary from the government.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said the rabbis would have the moniker “rabbi of a non-Orthodox community.” Financing for the positions will come from the Culture and Sports Ministry as opposed to the Religious Services Ministry. The decision is limited to regional councils and farming communities, according to Haaretz, and is not intended for large cities.

Rabbi Miri Gold of Kibbutz Gezer, who was named in the original petition to the court, on Tuesday became the first non-Orthodox rabbi to receive the designation.
Israeli Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi, a member of the haredi Orthodox Shas party, told JTA earlier this month that he objects to Gold’s designation as a rabbi.

“The decision today paves the way for dozens of other Reform and Conservative Rabbis in Israel to receive a salary from the government for their holy work, in the same way that 4,000 Orthodox rabbis do,” Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, said in a letter to supporters. “This historic victory is another step in leveling the playing field.”

She urged supporters to write to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express their gratitude.