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May 29, 2012

Rabbinic Salaries and Rabbinic Influence

A new decision by the Attorney General is seemingly a landmark decision in how the State will now relate to non-Orthodox rabbis. Really though it is only the first step in what is going to really become the landmark decision.

In 2005 a petition to the Supreme Court led to the Supreme Court ordering out of court negotiations to work out the issues of funding community rabbis, or leaders, who are non-Orthodox, specifically, but not limited to, Reform Rabbis and even more specifically female Rabbis.

It has taken 7 years of negotiating and being sent back to the Supreme Court in between, but the State has finally announced what it will be doing. The State announced, via Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein that it has decided that local municipalities could employ non-Orthodox community Rabbis, and the funding would come from the State.

Weinstein qualified it by explaining that this decision only affects the source of the salaries of said non-Orthodox Rabbis, and does not change anything in regard the ability to affect religious law. (source: Israel Hayom and Hattip to Joel Katz)

I am not quite sure what that means. I get that now the State will pay the salaries of these community Rabbis rather than forcing it to be funded by the community privately, but I don't see how these rabbis will not be able to affect religious law. Are they official rabbis or not? if the State is recognizing them as official rabbis, I am not sure how these rabbis will be prevented form influencing law.

This itself though is a major change from the status quo, for lack of a better word, but I see it as just a step to what is inevitable and will really be the major change in Israeli society. I have not seen a statement or reaction yet from the haredi politicians and askanim, but I am sure they don't like it. I don't know what they can do about it, but they should really be preparing to figure out how to deal with what this is going to lead to.

In a state like Israel, with an active Supreme Court and a very liberal attempt to bringing equality to the public sphere, I see it as inevitable that eventually, unless something major changes along the way, the State will, no matter how begrudgingly, have to recognize the non-Orthodox as legitimate streams in Judaism and will have to give them equal standing with the orthodox. Whether we like it or not.

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  1. I'm not sure who has less of a place in an Orthodox Olam Haba - some Neterei Karta dude or a Reform woman Rabbi. Take a look in Rambam Hilchot Teshuva 3:14 onward and make up your own mind. So if one gets recognized as a legitimate stream of Judaism, then I suppose the other one should as well.

  2. BTW, personally I think the Reform Rabbi wins a considerably better position in the Orthodox Olam Haba for lack of malice and doing a certain amount of Kiddush Shem Shamayim even by Orthodox standards, even if Orthodoxwise he has his beliefs wrong.

  3. Halevi the Neturei Karta (Y"S) should be shunned by our society, religiously, the way reform have been.

    As for the gist of what's happening here, I think these Rabbis are just receiving a salary from the state and nothing more. I read that the money is coming from the budget of the culture and sports ministry and not the religious ministry.

    IMO, we are going to start seeing real growth of conservative and reform in Israel as the Rabanut and orthodoxy in general continue to be hijacked by growing religious extremism.

  4. While this is a step in the right direction, it is just the first baby step.

    This is the problem with a "democratic" state funding religion. Israel has absolutely discriminated and is discriminating against a huge number of Israelis, of all stripes.

    My choice is for Israel to get out of the business of religious practice which is coercive and in many respects, theocratic. And for a people with a history such as ours, where we have been slaughtered for our religious ethnicity, to force jews to practice a minor and fringe stream of judaism, to force jews to practice something some people believe is not even Judaism, is ironic at best.

    But given that we have to take the world as it is, and Israel is not going to stop funding religion anytime soon, at least this is a step towards some form of pluralism.

  5. Margi said that he would ask ROY for permission to resign if the AG's recommendations became practice.

  6. Ben - Margi is playing a political game to make himself look good for his voters. These reform and conservative rabbis are paid by a different ministry, of culture and sport, not by the religious ministry.

    So he gets to equivocate (tell the literal truth but it's actually a lie of sorts) and trick his people into thinking he is a man of principle, and would resign, when in fact, he has no plans to.

    Obviously he has to pretend to be a man of principle.

  7. Thanks Rafi for the H/T.

    I interviewed Rabbi Miri Gold back in July 2006 when the Supreme Ct was first petitioned.

    Here is part of what she said:

    “Three or four years ago the secretary of the Gezer Regional Council listed me, in the spirit of protest, as the rabbi of Kibbutz Gezer. He insisted, saying, ‘You are the rabbi and I’m putting your name on the council’s website.’ At that point in time, we were very cautious and told him, ‘Write M. Gold, not Miri Gold,’ and he said, ‘No way!’”

    (original article here: http://bit.ly/LFNHOB)

  8. according to this report, http://www.kikarhashabat.co.il/%D7%94%D7%A9%D7%A8-%D7%99%D7%A2%D7%A7%D7%91-%D7%9E%D7%A8%D7%92%D7%99-%D7%94%D7%A1%D7%9B%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%91%D7%97%D7%A9%D7%90%D7%99-%D7%9E%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%93.html , a reporter has revealed a document that shows the funding is coming from the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Originally it was going to be funded through this ministry completely. After Margi threatened to resign, it was adjusted. An agreement was reached by which Margi would transfer the funds for this operation to the Ministry of Culture who would then pay the non-Orthodox community rabbis.

    So, the funding is still coming from the Ministry of religious Affairs, but it is being funneled through the Ministry of Culture for appearances sake.

    I think we call that money laundering.

    1. it reminds me of the old joke about the orthodox jew, when told that the rabbanim have banned smoking, said "no problem, i'll sell them to a goy".


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