Jerusalem to Fund Groups That Champion Jewish Pluralism

It’s not clear the ultra-Orthodox members of the allocations committee knew which institutions were behind the request.

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
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An illustrative image of a Bar Mitzvah ceremony at a Reform movement synagogue in Tel Aviv.
An illustrative image of a Bar Mitzvah ceremony at a Reform movement synagogue in Tel Aviv. Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

The city of Jerusalem has approved funding to institutions that promote Jewish pluralism and institutions affiliated with the Jewish renewal movement — the first time such backing has been forthcoming.

In a decision this week, the municipal allocations committee approved nearly 40,000 shekels ($10,500) in funding to such institutions, out of 500,000 shekels to all institutions in the city that provide Jewish-studies classes. Almost all the other institutions awarded funding were ultra-Orthodox.

Among institutions to receive money for the first time are the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College (for a young Jewish leadership program that it runs), Elul, the Jerusalem Secular Yeshiva, the Shalom Hartman Institute, Kolot and Gesher.

Allocations are based on the number of hours a week institutions provide Jewish-studies classes. In the past, the pluralistic institutions never requested funding because they fell below the threshold for weekly hours of classes.

But this year, about a dozen such institutions pooled their hours and submitted a joint funding application. Elul, a pluralist beit midrash, filed the funding request on behalf of the entire group.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement in Israel Credit: Gili Eitan

It is not clear the ultra-Orthodox members of the allocations committee knew which institutions were behind the request when they voted to approve it.

“We work together because that seems to us to be the right thing to do,” said Shlomit Ravitzky Tur-Paz, the executive director of Elul.

Asked if this represented a change in policy for the city, a municipal spokeswoman said: “There is no change in policy. The Jerusalem municipality provides funding to nonprofits and institutions according to specific and transparent criteria, and any entity that fulfills these criteria is eligible for support.”

According to Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the executive director of the Reform movement in Israel, “The good news is that this is the first time we’re in the loop. The bad news is that 90 percent of the money still goes to ultra-Orthodox institutions.”

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