City rabbis' salary about to go up by thousands of shekels: The Social-Economic Cabinet, headed by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, will be asked Monday to approve a proposal to significantly increase the wages of Israel's city rabbis, Calcalist has learned.
The proposal was submitted by Minister of Religious Services Yakov Margi in coordination with the finance minister. Should it be approved, rabbis' wages will be increased as of March 2012.
The Social-Economic Cabinet meetings are held behind closed doors without publishing any protocols. The Ministry of Finance's Director of Wages Ilan Levin revealed the rabbis' new salary guide during a discussion at the Knesset's Finance Committee in May, sparking a public row.
The ministers are likely hoping to approve the proposal far from the public eye.
The proposal will apply to city rabbis appointed from January 1, 2006. A rabbi of a city with more than 250,000 residents is expected to earn an additional NIS 10,000 (about $2,600) a month. A rabbi of a city with 50,000-100,000 will get an additional NIS 12,000 ($3,200).
In 2005, the government reduced rabbis' salaries in a bid to ease the financial burden on municipalities, the State and religious councils.
According to the current proposal, the previous decision "significantly reduced city rabbis' wages and seriously harmed the rabbis, as the Religious Services Ministry believes that the current salary does not properly reflect a city rabbi's tasks, responsibility and authorities."
The proposal noted that city rabbis had "one of the most important roles in providing religious services in the religious council."
Israel has 120 city rabbis. Their wage increase, estimated at millions of shekels a year, will be paid by Israeli citizens through municipal and state taxes, as the rabbis' salary comes from the religious councils which are financed by the State and local authorities.
City rabbis are in charge of outlining their cities' halachic policy, granting kashrut certificates, registering marriages and supervising neighborhood rabbis.
'Exclude racist rabbis'
Shutafut Sharakah – a coalition of social organizations for a shared, democratic and equal society – called on the finance minister not to increase the wages of rabbis who spoke against renting apartments to Arabs, and especially Safed's chief rabbi.
"We are shocked at the possibility that the salary of Safed's chief rabbi would be raised and that his working conditions would be improved, given the fact that he still has his job despite calling on the public not to rent apartments to Arabs," the social organizations said in a statement.
"This arrangement adds insult to injury, as the rabbi should have been fired immediately after making that racist comment, instead of continuing to receive his salary from the Israeli taxpayer.
"Now this rabbi is expected to enjoy a wage increase, sponsored by the finance minister. The State is thus authorizing racist calls by public figures like the Safed rabbi, who will now enjoy an exaggerated salary."
This report was originally published in Hebrew by Calcalist