Four Questions for Rabbi Miri Gold of Congregation Birkat Shalom on Kibbutz Gezer

Categories: Israel
By An Interview with Rabbi Miri Gold

(Editor: We have been following the Israeli High Court of Justice petition of Rabbi Gold for years now.  Since there was recently a significant development in the case, we conducted this exclusive interview with her as part of our ongoing “Four Questions” series.)

1)Ameinu- When did you first bring your case to Israeli High Court of Justice and, simply put, what is the central point of your case?
Rabbi Gold:  The appeal was brought to the Supreme Court in September 2005 but only in June 2006 did we finally get to court.  I am petitioning the government of Israel to recognize me as the rabbi of my community, Kibbutz Gezer, and to give me a salary.  In our region there are 16 Orthodox rabbis serving about 25 communities and they all receive a salary.  Remember, Israelis pay a “religious tax” and those monies go only to the salaries, buildings, etc. which are approved by the Rabbinate. We are contending that Israel, as a democracy, must recognize all the streams of Judaism and provide support for liberal Judaism, i.e. Reform and Conservative Judaism.  To date, because the Rabbinate does not recognize us, neither does the State of Israel.

2) Ameinu- What has happened leading up to your most recent court date on July 17?
Rabbi Gold:  Nothing has moved forward until this last date.  The government lawyers claimed that a committee was working on a change in policy concerning community rabbis. They constantly asked for  time extensions, hence the court dates in June 2006, June 2008 and July 2009.

3)Ameinu- It appears that the tide has turned and that the court is signaling support for your position. What was said this time and what are the next steps?
Rabbi Gold: At this most recent court appearance, the government lawyer admitted that there is no policy, but that the Orthodox would be upset if a position is created for Reform rabbis.  What boded well was the fact that the judges asked if there really is a Miri Gold, and I was asked to stand up in the courtroom, which I understand is unusual.  The Court told the IRAC (Israel Religious Action Center) lawyers and the government lawyers to find a solution.  They have four months to work things out, and if not, we’ll be back in court. My impression was that the three justices –Meltzer, Rubenstein and Beinish– demonstrated their advocacy for finding a viable solution to our demand for recognition and funding.

4)Ameinu-  What is the general feeling in the Israeli Reform movement about progress towards more equal treatment?
Rabbi Gold: The only good thing about this span of time since 2005 is that we’ve seen progress  on two fronts:  non-Orthodox congregations have received pre-fab buildings to use as synagogues, and the High Court recently ruled that Reform and Conservative conversion courses must receive funding just as the Orthodox courses do because in a democracy there must be recognition of all the streams of Judaism. We still have a long way to go.  We’re asking people to sign the petition at www.irac.org  to show their support and to send a message to the government of Israel that a democracy must allow for religious pluralism.

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