Chief Rabbis Seek Law to Ban Non-orthodox from Councils

Israel’s two chief rabbis want the Knesset to block the appointment of non-Orthodox Jews to local religious councils.

They have called for an emergency meeting with Orthodox legislators to discuss amending the law regulating how religious council members are appointed.

The move by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron is the latest salvo in the ongoing battle between the country’s Orthodox establishment and the non-Orthodox movements, which are seeking an official role in Israel’s religious life.

The meeting is scheduled in advance of a High Court of Justice ruling on the right of Reform and Conservative Jews to sit on religious councils in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Kiryat Tivon.

A ruling is expected on Oct. 29.

The court has ruled on several occasions that non-Orthodox representatives cannot be barred from religious councils on the basis of their religious beliefs, but no religious council has permitted a Reform or Conservative representative to participate in its proceedings.

The religious council in Netanya has refused to seat a Reform representative, Joyce Brenner, despite a High Court ruling in August upholding her appointment.

The local religious councils, supervised by the Religious Affairs Ministry, have exclusive control over marriage, kashrut, burial and other religious matters for all Jews living in Israel.

Forty-five percent of each religious council is appointed by the local municipality, with another 45 percent appointed by the religious affair minister and 10 percent by the local rabbinate, an Orthodox body.

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