In a precedent setting ruling, Israel's High Court of Justice ruled last week that the State must fund private conversion classes operated by the Reform and Conservative movements. The court was petitioned by veteran NIF grantee Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) of the Movement for Progressive Judaism (Reform) in Israel.
Symbolically, the ruling came just ahead of the Shavuot holiday, which is associated with Ruth the Moabite who converted to Judaism and pledged fealty to both her husband’s family and to the Jewish people.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Associate Director of IRAC, is confident that there will soon be more court rulings in favor of Jewish pluralism in Israel.
In the unanimous ruling the judges wrote, "The State does not have to support private conversion schools, but as long as it chooses to do so, it cannot give preference to one form of conversion [Orthodox], and must exercise equality."
In the wake of last week’s decision, NIF Israel Executive Director Eliezer Yaari immediately issued the following statement to the Hebrew-language media, which was widely published:
NIF welcomes the High Court decision that the State must provide equal funding to Reform and Conservative conversion institutes as it does to Orthodox conversion institutes. This precedent-setting decision is also especially important for millions of Reform and Conservative Jews around the world because it bestows State recognition that in Israel too there is more than one way to convert and become a legitimate Jew.
This is the latest in a series of groundbreaking decisions won by the NIF family in its program to promote religious pluralism and end the Orthodox monopoly on Judaism in Israel. Over the years, NIF victories have included requiring the State to register non-Orthodox converts as Jews and providing government funding for non-Orthodox synagogues.
The ruling has incensed the Orthodox Jewish parties in the Knesset who want to amend the law to make the Chief Rabbinate the sole body authorized to handle conversion.
However, IRAC Associate Director Rabbi Gilad Kariv is confident that the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel will move forward towards greater equality. He said, “This most recent achievement heralds a series of court decisions to come.”
Rabbi Kariv noted that the High Court of Justice will soon rule on whether Reform and Conservative rabbis are entitled to receive salaries from government and local authorities.
Read more about this in Ynet's article on the story.