Sunday, March 01, 2009



The Magistrate’s Court in Kfar Saba, near Tel Aviv, recently ordered the Religious Affairs Ministry to pay each of three Progressive congregations $2,500 in damages for having left them off a list of the country’s synagogues. The suit was brought by the 
Israel Religious Action Center, the social justice arm of theIsrael Movement for Progressive Judaism.

"We found out that the ministry's Web site feature[d] a database of synagogues from across the country, as well as 22 different prayer versions, but that not even one Reform prayer version or synagogue appeared on it," Attorney Orly Erez-Lachovsky, who represented the congregations in the case, told the Ynet Web site. "We approached the [m]inistry, but they ignored us.”

The three congregations are Mevasseret Zion, in the Jerusalem suburb of the same name, Or Hadash in Haifa, and Ra’anan in Ra’anana.

In finding for the congregations, the court cited a law forbidding discrimination concerning goods, services and entry to public venues. Rather than add the congregations, the ministry removed the list from its Web site. The court also ordered the ministry to pay IRAC about $1,500 in court costs.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the newly appointed executive director of the IMPJ who was associate director of IRAC at the time of the ruling, told Ynet the movement was pleased with the case’s outcome. "We believe that the court's ruling represents the opinion of most of the citizens of Israel, and that the day will soon come when the State of Israel will treat all the congregations of the Jewish people with respect and equality,” he said.

Kariv also expressed disappointment with the ministry. "It's saddening to discover that the heads of the Religious Affairs Ministry prefer to take the list of synagogues in Israel off the site rather than include Reform synagogues on it," he said.