June 18, 2012
Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi said he will fight the state’s agreement to pay the salaries of some non-Orthodox rabbis who lead their communities.
Rabbi Shlomo Amar said in an interview with the haredi Kol Berama radio station on Sunday night that he would convene the Chief Rabbinate Council, made up of Orthodox rabbis throughout Israel, to discuss ways to reverse the decision. The meeting reportedly will take place next week.
“The greatest danger for our generation is the danger of assimilation, and we need to be strong and steadfast in our fight,” Amar said. “It is forbidden to remain silent because there is nothing more serious than this measure.”
He added that the decision to recognize non-Orthodox rabbis could “uproot all the foundations of the Torah.”
Amar also objected to the fact that the attorney general, who brokered the agreement, did not consult with the Chief Rabbinate.
The agreement announced last month came three weeks after a panel of Supreme Court judges called on the attorney general to intervene during a hearing on a petition filed more than seven years ago calling for the state to recognize and pay the salaries of rabbis of all streams of Judaism.
The Israel Religious Action Center of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, the Reform movement in Israel, had filed the petition. The attorney general’s office had opposed the request; the settlement was negotiated out of court.
Some 4,000 Orthodox rabbis serve as rabbis of their communities and draw a salary from the government’s Religious Services Ministry.
The non-Orthodox rabbis would have the moniker “rabbi of a non-Orthodox community,” and financing for the positions would come from the Culture and Sports Ministry.
The decision is limited to regional councils and farming communities and is not intended for large cities.