Should Israeli Taxpayer Money Fund Reform Rabbis In Israel?

UPDATE 2 pm Israel time Monday:

There has been intense action on the border with Gaza this morning and further activity within Gaza this afternoon.

A section of the border fence between the northern Sinai near Gaza and Israel where an Israeli civilian was killed by Hamas terrorists this morning.

In the morning an Israeli-Arab civilian contractor, 36 year old Said Phashpashe from Haifa, helping to build the new wall along the northern Sinai border was killed and several of his co-workers wounded by group of Palestinian Hamas terrorists–in response, several of the terrorists were killed by members of the IDF’s Golani Brigade.

Early this afternoon, two Islamic Jihad terrorists were killed in Gaza by an IAF strike. Southern Israel is under high terrorist alert–and heavy air activity continues over Ashdod.

Last night saw many unofficial and official reports of Palestinian Hamas terrorist rocket fire and accompanying explosions throughout southern Israel. At 7:33 pm, a Qassam rocket struck the Eshkol Regional Council area. Two explosions were reported in Sderot (11:20 pm), with three more heard in Ashkelon (at 12:53 am)At 1:08 am, incoming terrorist rocket sirens were sounded throughout the Eshkol Region.


It may seem like an odd subject to write about on a morning which has seen such news as the German government finally releasing information that the perpetrators of the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes in 1972 were abetted by “neo-Nazis” within Germany, but your humble servant was struck by comments made by Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar last night in an interview on Israel’s Kol Berama radio station.

Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel

Amar’s ostensible point was simple: the decision of the Netanyahu government and the Israel Attorney General last month to recognize some Reform and Conservative rabbis in Israel by paying them with public taxpayer money was incorrect.

But Amar’s main point was a scathing criticism of the Reform and Conservative movements themselves: “We know that the greatest danger to this generation is the assimilation that is eating into us and depleting us, and they give a hand, haphazardly and easily, to this terrible phenomenon, aside from what they uproot – actually uproot – from the foundations of Torah.”

This morning, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the director of the Reform Movement in Israel, fired back at Rabbi Amar saying:  “it would be appropriate for him to internalize the principles of democracy and avoid exploiting his state position to incite against a public of tens and hundreds of thousands who identify with the approach and the path of Reform Judaism.”

Whether you agree with Rabbi Amar’s comments concerning assimilation or not (and your humble servant does agree with them especially insofar as Reform Judaism is concerned–coming as he does from an “inclusive” California Reform synagogue in which nearly half of the congregants are non-Jews), Kariv completely misses the point.

Israel is a democratic state–and there are already reform synagogues all over the country, including here in Ashdod. Each person in Israel is completely free to follow his or her conscience and attend whatever Jewish religious service he or she likes–or attend no services at all.

Indeed, the Israeli government does nothing to stop any Israeli from following the path of Reform Judaism.

But does democracy mean that the state of Israel needs to subsidize Reform rabbis who so openly countenance assimilation? Sometimes a state, religion, or movement attempts to embrace so many people that the very core values of that religion or movement are jeopardized (one thinks of how some pro-Israel organizations have absurdly included J Street under their tent, a J-Street that seeks to undermine the Israeli government at every turn).

There is nothing wrong with Conservative and Reform congregations within Israel continuing to pay their rabbis out of the membership dues of their own congregants–just like they do all around the world.

With all due respect, however, your humble servant believes that the government and the Attorney General erred; Israeli taxpayer money should not be used to fund Conservative and Reform rabbis.

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