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Friday, 22 February 2008

Yozma - the first Progressive community in Israel to receive buildings from the state

Dear Friend of the Israel Religious Action Center,
This week we have something to crow about - having finally won our case
demanding synagogue buildings from the State for several of our Reform
kehilot. Some of you may find the following story hard to understand.
After all, why should the government pay for synagogues? Please remember
that in Israel where there is no separation between religion and State,
the government cultivates and supports Jewish life and Jewish
institutions. From the beginning of the State, and in fact up until last
month, the government of Israel had granted land and buildings to
hundreds of Orthodox synagogues, but never to a Reform or Conservative
congregation. Kehilat YOZMA, a vibrant and rapidly growing community in
the modern suburban city of Modi'in, is the first in a group of young
Reform congregations who will now, thanks to IRAC, receive synagogue
buildings from the State. We invite you to come and celebrate a Shabbat
with us at YOZMA on your next Israel trip.

New Success in State Recognition of Reform Judaism
The year 2008 marks the beginning of a change in the attitudes of the
National Authority of Religious Services, the Ministry of Construction
and Housing, and several municipalities with respect to the rights of
non-Orthodox Jews. The Legal Department of the Israel Religious Action
Center has been engaged in a years-long legal battle to secure public
funding for non-Orthodox synagogue buildings for Reform and Conservative
congregations throughout Israel. In 2008, at least four non-Orthodox
congregations will proudly erect their synagogues with the help of
governmental funds. This is the first time since the establishment of
the State of Israel, that the State is funding the construction of
non-Orthodox synagogues. This a groundbreaking accomplishment which sets
a precedent for future cases of similar background. Public funding is an
irrefutable sign of recognition by the State, which indicates a desire,
however restrained, to move forward towards reconciliation between the
various streams of Judaism in Israel.

From the Ministry of Construction & Housing to Religious Services
In 2005, the Ministry of Construction and Housing made the
precedent-setting decision to transfer funds from its annual budget to
construct transportable buildings to be used as synagogues by several
non- Orthodox congregations. Unfortunately, at almost this same time,
the responsibility for these allocations was transferred to the National
Authority of Religious Services, which promptly articulated a complex
set of criteria for those seeking to qualify for public funding for a
religious structure. IRAC went to the Supreme Court demanding that the
criteria set by the National Authority of Religious Services make room
for affirmative action for non-Orthodox congregations to amend past
discrimination. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court was reluctant to make
an all- encompassing decision on this matter and recommended that IRAC
takes legal steps against each municipality separately. From that point
on, IRAC has been engaged in legal dialogue with numerous municipalities
to reach a compromise regarding the amount of public funding that will
be directed to non- Orthodox congregations seeking to build synagogues.

The State Gives Kehilat YOZMA a Home
This January, our efforts finally bore fruit. After a long wait, a
transportable synagogue building was erected at Kehilat YOZMA, the
Reform congregation in Modi'in. In the upcoming weeks, the municipality
will connect the building to electricity, water and sewage, make some
additional renovations and the official opening is expected very soon!
In the upcoming months, we are also looking forward to the establishment
of transportable synagogue buildings in Reform congregations in Maalot
Tivon, Tzur Hadassah and Sulam Yaakov. In addition to this, IRAC, on
behalf of the Natan-Ya congregation, is in the midst of a legal
negotiations with the Municipality of Natanya to secure funding for a
new synagogue. The municipality has been willing to compromise and is
now intending to allocate and renovate a building for the congregation's
use, which will hopefully be up-and-running by the end of this year.
The importance of this event can not be underestimated - the
transportable synagogue in Kehilat YOZMA is the very first non-Orthodox
synagogue being subsidized by the state in all of Israel's history. This
is the result of IRAC's long, tedious and often discouraging legal
battle to receive public funding for non-orthodox synagogues. The
Orthodox monopoly on religious issues extends to a wide array of
governmental offices such as the Ministry of Interior, the National
Insurance Institute of Israel, and the Ministry of Construction and
Housing. IRAC has encountered numerous examples of discrimination
against non-Orthodox Jewish Israelis by the Ministry of Construction of
Housing. In a new case of discrimination and corruption, IRAC has
revealed that the Ministry of Construction and Housing offers special
deals for cheaper housing only to those in the Orthodox sector and does
not offer these same deals to the wider public. IRAC has already
submitted a petition on this case which we expect to win. Tomorrow, IRAC
will continue to fight for a just Israeli society where religious
pluralism is a guiding principle but today we will celebrate along with
the members of Congregation YOZMA.

1 Comments:

At 18 June 2010 at 11:42 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

 

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