Reports that the salary of city rabbis will be raised to up to NIS 29,000 (roughly $8,500) per month prompted thousands of angry reactions. Several rabbis were genuinely wondering about the source of what they characterized as the “hatred” towards them. After all, they serve the public faithfully.
Hence, I will attempt here to present the arguments against the Rabbinate as reflected by the responses to the recent pay raise.
Firstly, the Rabbinate has become the “military wing” of the haredi community. Through it, the haredim abuse the rest of the population. Through the Rabbinate they force Israel’s citizens to get married, divorce, convert and set their clocks the haredi way. And as we know, depriving human beings of freedom provokes fury. Hence, one needs great chutzpa to force people to behave in ways they don’t wish to adopt.
Will a religious person agree to eat pork of desecrate the Shabbat? Heaven forbid. Then why would the religious community force others to adopt customs that others view as a big no-no?
Secondly, the Rabbinate is perceived as a corrupt body that produces nothing but jobs for its close associates. In fact, it is a sort of closed off elite that mostly takes care of the people it cares about; a body meant to feed only one sector – the haredim. The best proof of this is that the haredi rabbis and kashrut supervisors who took the Rabbinate hostage don’t even recognize the kosher certificates they issue. It’s only an income source for them.
The American modelThe National-Religious Jews are kept out. Reform Jews are out, Conservative Jews are out, and anyone who doesn’t have the beard and hat required by the clique is out. And what about women? Don’t even mention that.
What kind of theocracy has been created within our democracy? Where else will you find a job that is paid by the public and is good for life, like the city rabbi position? And why do we need two chief rabbis, at an exorbitant cost?
Thirdly, there’s the issue of the economic situation and market conditions. After all, social workers, doctors and police officers are employed under disgraceful terms, yet their jobs are perceived as much more vital than the abstract, spiritual work done by the rabbis. What will happen if the rabbis strike tomorrow? The sun won’t shine? Now let’s try to imagine a day without doctors.
Meanwhile, the argument that we can say the same about humanities researchers is invalid for a simple reason: Their cost is a fraction of the cost of rabbis. Have you ever heard of a “neighborhood anthropologist” or a “chief Sephardic philosopher?”
The coercion, the costs, the hunger for power, and the translation of Judaism into money all prompt open hostility towards the Rabbinate and Judaism. The solution can apparently be found in the American model. It is precisely the separation of religion and State in the US that boosted the status of religion. Indeed, the caption “In God We Trust” can be found on every American bill. It appears that in America, the dollar trusts God. Around here, thanks to religious politicians, God puts His trust in the dollar.
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