In a letter addressed to the prime minister Poraz argues that “it is neither the PMO’s nor the state’s responsibility to fund a campaign using tax payers’ money to persuade people to become observant Jews and take part in Yom Kippur prayers.”
“The state has more pressing issues to attend to than to waste money on an unnecessary campaign,” added Poraz, whose centrist party Shinui is known for its secular ideology.
In response to Poraz’ comments, MK Michael Melchior (Labor), Deputy Minister for Social and Diaspora Affairs, said that the campaign is to promote a “project known as ‘Judaism for all’ which has been taking place for six years. The idea is to allow people, secular as well as religious, to experience Jewish custom outside the synagogue, in place like cultural centers, community centers and other public places. Numerous secular Israelis who participated in the project spoke of an exceptional experience.”
“The project organizes activities on holidays other than Yom Kippur such as Tisha B’Av when conferences to discuss social issues are organized. Poraz attempted to prevent such activities when he was interior minister, yet he failed,” Melchior said.
Yom Kippur for all
Under the ‘Judaism for all’ project, which is the fruit of the joint efforts of Melchior, the Education Ministry’s Cultural Department, the Israel Cultural Centers Company, and a number of social organizations, gatherings to pray and discuss religion have been held in public places throughout Israel for the last six years.
New Immigrants as well as Israelis, religious and secular, who abstain from attending Yom Kippur prayers in synagogues for a number of reasons, can take part in these gatherings and have a feel of the exceptional religious atmosphere that pervades Israel on Yom Kippur.
Over 100,000 people took part in activities organized under the umbrella of the project last year.
The project’s organizers argue that their conferences allow religious and secular Israelis to make their amends on Yom Kippur in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, while discussing issues pertaining to Israeli and Jewish culture.
Shas Party Chairman Eliyahu Yishai criticized MK Avraham Poraz’s demand to put an end to the public funding of the campaign encouraging people to pray on Yom Kippur.
“Poraz wishes to eradicate everything that pertains to Judaism and tradition,” he said.
“His war against all things that are traditional in character reveals his apparent ambition to become and anti-Jewish censor," Yishai said.