High Court orders state to fund non-Orthodox conversions - Israel Jewish Scene, Ynetnews

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173383 Photo: Gali Tibbon
173383 Photo: Gali Tibbon

High Court orders state to fund non-Orthodox conversions

Court rules against inequality in resource distribution, says government must support private Reform and Conservative schools as well

Aviad Glickman
Published: 05.20.09, 07:54 / Israel Jewish Scene

The High Court ruled on Tuesday that the State must fund private conversion classes operated by the Reform and Conservative movements, in addition to the regular funding of private Orthodox institutions.


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The Movement for Progressive Judaism in Israel petitioned the High Court demanding funding for private conversion schools that are operated by the movement, and that refer their students to independent Reform and Conservative rabbinical courts at the end of the process.


According to the movement, the fact that the State currently only allocates a budget to the Orthodox stream is discriminative and undermines the State's duty to distribute its resources in an equal manner, regardless of worldview and religious affiliation.


In its reply to the court, the State claimed that the large majority of conversions are being carried out in state-funded public conversion schools, whether Orthodox or otherwise, and that the budget allocated to private bodies amounts to the insignificant sum of NIS 1.5 million (roughly $365,000).


The State also argued that there was sufficient difference between the private Orthodox schools and Reform and Conservative schools, in a manner which justified the differentiation in funding.


However, the court ruled that the State failed to uphold its obligation to equality, and that "the State does not have to support private conversion schools, but as long as it chooses to do so – it cannot give preference to one form of conversion, and must exercise equality."


Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said that "following this important ruling, the communities of progressive Judaism will boost their efforts to assist thousands of olim to complete their journey to Israel and to the heart of the Jewish people."


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