The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) petitioned the High Court of Justice on Sunday, demanding that it instruct the State to appoint a non-Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem in a bid to end the alleged discrimination in religious services given to the capital's residents.
The petition, submitted by Reform and Conservative rabbis and communities, claimed that there were hundreds of neighborhood rabbis in Israel
– all of them Orthodox men whose salaries are paid from taxpayers' money.
"The liberal public has been suffering from discrimination for years," the petition read. "Residents interested in non-Orthodox religious services must finance the services they consume themselves. This is a blatant case of discrimination in favor of the Orthodox public, which enjoys State-funded religious services."
The IRAC added that the fact that a rabbi's affiliation with a certain religious faction (or being a woman) disqualifies him for applying for the position of neighborhood rabbi – even in places with a large liberal Jewish public in need of his services – violates the principle of equality and the Freedom of Religion and Conscience, as well as the principle of religious pluralism the State must promote.
Until the issue is resolved by the High Court, the petitioners demand that the Religious Services Ministry and the Jerusalem Religious Council avoid appointing neighborhood rabbis in the capitals – whether by offering new positions or manning available positions.
The IRAC explained that the High Court petition referred to Jerusalem of all places, as the city has the highest number of neighborhood rabbis in an official position (33 rabbis), as well as the highest number of non-Orthodox communities (six Reform and nine Conservatives), some of which exist since 1958.
According to Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, "The State of Israel is the state of all factions and communities of the Jewish people, and the Orthodox monopoly over rabbinical services must end.
"In recent years, hundreds of thousands of citizens have been using the services of Reform and Conservative rabbis all across the country, and the Israeli government must respect their choice.
"The Israeli government's support for the activity of rabbis of all factions will further the Freedom of Religion and Conscience in Israel, and help Israel's Jewish residents who are interested in strengthening and nurturing their Jewish identity."