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Reform, Conservative Win Large Allocations in Israel

December 26, 1995
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Advancing the cause of religious pluralism in Israel, the Religious Affairs Ministry will allocate some $160,000 to the Reform and Conservative movements in the Jewish state.

Secular organizations that deal with Jewish issues from a pluralistic perspective are also expected to receive funding.

Israel’s High Court of Justice previously ruled that the Reform and Conservative movements should receive funding from the Religious Affairs Ministry for Torah studies.

But until now, only small amounts were disbursed in an informal matter.

In New York, the move by the Religious Affairs Ministry was greeted by Rabbi Alexander Schindler, outgoing president of the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

“I could not be more delighted,” he said.

The announcement of the allocations reportedly came in the wake of new funding criteria established by Religious Affairs Ministers Shimon Shetreet, who has sought to eliminate inequities in funding for non-Orthodox institutions.

The allocations provoked criticism from Orthodox parties in Israel.

Knesset member Avraham Ravitz, of the Orthodox Degel HaTorah Party, said Shetreet “did something that should not have been done, when he allowed the Reform movement to embezzle the public coffers.”

“The Reform movement has lots of money already, and it is outrageous that is should swoop down on the meager allowances of the Religious Affairs Ministry,” Ravitz said.

However, Knesset member Avner Shaki of the National Religious Party, a former minister of the Religious Affairs Ministry, was more accepting of the decision.

“Their way is not mine,” he said of the Reform and Conservative movements. “But it is a good deed to teach every Jew the Torah.”

In related news, Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Avraham Burg has called for the establishment of a religious conversion court comprised of non-Orthodox rabbis to provide alternatives to Orthodox conversions in Israel.

If non-Orthodox conversions that are performed abroad are recognized in Israel, he said, then there should be a way to perform them in Israel as well.

Burg said that if his proposal for establishing non-Orthodox conversions in Israel were not adopted, then the government should fund overseas conversions for all Israelis who want them.

The Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling tht paved the way for possible Knesset legislation to enable the recognition of non-Orthodox conversions perofrmed in Israel.

Orthodox parties are actively opposed to such legislation.

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