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Israeli government pays salaries of 4 Reform rabbis

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli government money was transferred for the first time to the Reform Movement in Israel to pay the salaries of four community Reform rabbis.

The transfer of the more than $86,000 on Wednesday comes 18 months after Israel’s Supreme Court approved an arrangement to enable non-Orthodox rabbis who lead congregations to receive state salaries like their Orthodox counterparts.

The money was paid by the Culture and Sport Ministry, however, instead of the Religious Services Ministry, according to the Times of Israel.

Under the agreement, the Reform and Conservative rabbis in Israel’s regional councils, but not in large cities where most serve, will be recognized as “rabbis of non-Orthodox communities” and will receive wages equal to those of their Orthodox counterparts. In addition, the rabbis must work full-time and be present at their congregation for at least 40 Sabbaths per year. Only rabbis of congregations with at least 250 members can receive full-time pay; those leading congregations of 50-250 members may receive half a salary even though they’d be required to work full-time.

Prior to the agreement, sparked by a lawsuit filed in 2005 by Rabbi Miri Gold, only Orthodox rabbis received state funding.

“This is a historic and important step in the long struggle toward pluralism, religious freedom and the recognition by the State of Israel of all branches of Judaism,” Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform Movement in Israel,” told Haaretz. “The Reform Movement will continue to act to redefine the relationship between religion and state in Israel and to separate the religious establishment from the authorities; however, as long as the state continues to fund religious services and the salaries of rabbis, we will make sure that this is done on an egalitarian basis.”

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