Israeli Education Ministry to Cut Funding to Jewish Pluralism Programs

Officials say ministry wants to restrict new funding to Orthodox organizations

FILE PHOTO: A school in Israel.
Gil Eliyahu

The Education Ministry intends to cut funding to Jewish pluralism programs in secular public schools, after having funded such programs for years. According to officials, the ministry’s department of Jewish culture is seeking to cut the funding and also wants to make it more difficult for new organizations to receive funding if they are not strictly Orthodox.

In the 1990s the Shenhar Committee recommended that pluralistic Judaism programs be brought into the secular schools, although the recommendations were never fully implemented. Withdrawing the additional funding for the programs that was approved a few years ago would strengthen the monopoly of Orthodox groups working in secular schools, and hurt the non-Orthodox groups by taking away the little government money they are receiving.

The Education Ministry’s Jewish Culture Department has been transferring tens of millions of shekels to Orthodox groups, the so-called centers for deepening of Jewish identity, identified with the Habayit Hayehudi party and working among secular Israeli Jews. 

The umbrella group Panim, the Israeli Judaism Network said: “We regret this conduct by the Education Ministry. The ministry should come to its senses, stop funding bodies that preach religion and fund only organizations that work ... in the spirit of the Shenhar Committee.”

Attorney Orly Erez-Likhovski of the Reform Movement said that canceling the additional funding to the pluralistic organizations “will worsen the discrimination.”