Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the President of the Union of Reform Judaism, North America’s largest Jewish movement, has hailed Tuesday’s decision to institute state funding for Reform rabbis, describing it as “a new era” in the relations between Israel and the Reform Movement.

“It has always been a puzzle to our members that in a state that lives in our hearts and in our minds, we, as Reform Jews, are considered second-class citizens at best,” Rabbi Jacobs wrote in an article for Haaretz. “Now, due to the persistent efforts of our Reform movement in Israel, the courts and the attorney general have taken the first step in acknowledging that the type of Judaism that is practiced by the majority of Jews in the Diaspora will be accorded recognition by the government of our Jewish homeland.”

Describing as “an amazing moment” the news that the attorney general had announced that Reform rabbis would be accorded state funding, Jacobs said that the Reform Movement in Israel is “strong and bold and inevitably moving in the direction of making Israel a more open and representative society.” He said this was “a first step towards legalizing and sanctifying liberal Judaism in Israel.”

Jacobs praised Rabbi Miri Gold of Kibbutz Gezer who led the struggle for recognition of Reform rabbis. He said that the movement would now work to extend the arrangement so that it would include Reform city rabbis as well. He said that while under the current arrangement the rabbis’ salaries would be paid by the Ministry of Culture and Sports – “for us this is not a game. It is the essence of who we are as Jews.”