Late yesterday afternoon, the Jewish Agency made public a letter to Religious Affairs Minister Ya’acov Margi from JAFI’s Chair Natan Sharansky concerning a pre-Shabbat interview with the Jerusalem Post. According to the paper, Margi is quoted as saying:
“I recommend to those organizations that do not want to accept [Orthodox] halacha to build their own mikvaot and their own synagogues according to their own halacha.
According to the law for Jewish Religious Services, the Chief Rabbinate is the sole body responsible for providing religious services. And they do this in accordance with halacha. Since the Conservative and the Reform do not conform to halacha they are not eligible for state funds. Nor do they have the right to use existing mikvaot and synagogues.”
Here’s the complete text of Sharansky’s response:
“I was surprised by your words published in the Jerusalem Post this morning, in which you claimed that only organizations that conduct themselves according to halacha are entitled to receive financing from the Ministry of Religion.
I would like to remind you that the Ministry of Religion is not a halachic body and it is charged with providing religious services to all citizens of Israel from all religions, communities, and streams that need those services. The Ministry of Religion is obligated to ensure the freedom of religion and to prevent infringements of the rights of citizens in that matter.
The Jewish Agency for Israel calls upon the Ministry of Religion to fulfill its responsibility to all religious communities within Israel and to nurture mutual respect among the leaders of the diverse faiths and religious approaches and, in this way, to deepen the honor and appreciation for the tradition of Israel.”
(translated from the original by eJewish Philanthropy)