A crucial step towards religious pluralism in Israel

June 2, 2012

The landmark decision to have the Ministry of Culture and Sport pay salaries to non-Orthodox rabbis who serve communities in Israel has been greeted with joy and hope by Progressive and Conservative Jews around the world. Initially this will be limited to those with congregations on farms and regional councils with a total of 15 people receiving the official title and salary of a “rabbi of a non-Orthodox community”.
“Following almost 7 years in the legal system, Rabbi Miri Gold, Reform rabbi for Kehilat Birkat Shalom on Kibbutz Gezer, will become the first non-Orthodox rabbi in the history of the State to receive government recognition and funding for her salary” said Rabbi Stephen Fuchs, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism “We hope that we may now go from strength to ever greater strength until all legitimate expressions of Jewish religious practice enjoy full equality in the Jewish State”.

Reflecting on this historic decision Rabbi Gold said “Today, “Hareformim” is no longer a disdainful word to the growing numbers of Israeli Jews who have been exposed favorably to Reform communities in Israel and abroad. Rather, it describes a group of socially active Jews who believe that there is more than one way to practice Judaism.”

As Vice Chairman of the WUPJ, Dr. Philip Bliss, said on hearing the news: “This decision has many beneficial ramifications. As well as the financial support, it gives moderate Jews both in Israel and the Diaspora reason to believe more fully in the Zionist cause. This is only the beginning, but when Progressive and Conservative Rabbis have equal status then Jews generally can work together to advance Judaism and Israel.”

“We are not deluding ourselves into thinking that this decision will transform the religious landscape in Israel overnight” said UPJ Executive Director, Steve Denenberg “but it certainly gives hope to the many people in Israel, and around the world, who long for Israel to fulfill the promise of religious freedom described in the Declaration of Independence”.

“We recently met with Rabbi Gold in Israel and she felt that there was still a long way to go before such a decision would be made” says Denenberg “but thanks to the work of Anat Hoffman and the Israel Religious Action Centre working together with Rabbi Gilad Kariv and the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism have achieved an amazing breakthrough.  This is a small but significant step in achieving religious equality for all Jewish groups in Israel; providing Israelis with a Judaism that meets their spiritual and religious needs; and contributes to the unity of world Jewry.”




from Steve Denenberg


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