It will be the end of the world as Israel’s haredi rabbis currently know it. Israel’s Religious Services Ministry announced today that it will abolish the position of state-appointed neighborhood rabbis. Instead of state-appointed haredi or Zionist Orthodox rabbis, the state will give financial support to communities that want it to hire rabbis of their own choosing – including non-Orthodox rabbis.
Israel Moves To Fund Rabbis From Non-Orthodox Streams; End Of State-Appointed Neighborhood Rabbis Should Break Haredi-Orthodox Monopoly On Judaism In Israel
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
It will be the end of the world as Israel’s haredi rabbis currently know it.
Israel’s Religious Services Ministry announced today that it will abolish the position of state-appointed neighborhood rabbis, Ha’aretz reported.
Instead of state-appointed haredi or Zionist Orthodox rabbis, the state will give financial support to communities that want it to hire rabbis of their own choosing – including non-Orthodox rabbis.
The process of appointing neighborhood rabbis, which is rife with cronyism and nepotism, was harshly criticized by the State Comptroller in his the 2009 report.
“[Neighborhood rabbis were appointed without the ministry having] examined the religious needs of neighborhood residents or defined what the job of neighborhood rabbi entails [and] the basic requirements that derive from this,” the report said.
The ministry’s plan was submitted to the High Court of Justice earlier today in response to a petition by the Reform and Conservative movements and several non-Orthodox community rabbis. That petition demands non-Orthodox community rabbis receive a salary from the state, just as their Orthodox counterparts do. It also insists that the City of Jerusalem must reserve at least two of its neighborhood rabbi slots for non-Orthodox rabbis.
The state asked the court to postpone hearing the case in order to give the ministry time to implement planned reform of religious services. That reform will start by reducing the number of state-funded-and-state-appointed rabbis from the current 157, eventually abolishing the position completely. In their place, money will be given directly to communities to hire rabbis of their own choosing.
According to the government’s brief, the ministry is in the process of drafting criteria for awarding this funding, which will be "independent of which Jewish denomination the relevant community belongs to."
No new neighborhood rabbis have been hired in the last decade.
No decision has yet been made on what to do with the 157 existing rabbis.
"At this stage, the general intention is to transfer the currently serving neighborhood rabbis to other posts in the religious councils," the government’s brief said, noting that about 100 of these rabbis already have second jobs in those positions.
The Religious Services Ministry is headed by Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett of the right wing Zionist Orthodox HaBayit HaYehudi Party.