The budget of the Bennett-Lapid-Leiberman government, which was approved by the coalition on Monday, allotted NIS 40 million to Reform and Conservative groups in Israel.
The money will be granted to the Department for Progressive Judaism, a new division of the Diaspora Affair Ministry established by the Bennett-Lapid government.
“The Department for Progressive Judaism was allocated NIS 40 million(!)” Makor Rishon journalist Tzvika Klein revealed on Twitter.
“It’s important to note that the new Reform division is planning to invest in activities in Israel – not in the Diaspora,” he wrote. “Good news for progressive organizations. Bad news for those who oppose the Reform movement.”
The unprecedented funding for progressive Judaism is in order to encourage and boost “pluralism,” or non-Orthodox Judaism in Israel, Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai (Labor) told the Times of Israel this week.
Shai told TOA: “We’ll find projects, we’ll develop projects, and we’ll encourage different perspectives of Judaism. It’s a precedent. Never been done.”
Shai said that he told leaders of progressive Judaism on his first day of office that everything will be different from now on. “I told them that this is going to be different now, and we are going to be pluralistic… No one [religious stream] will be more important.”
Shai added that the Bennett government is also planning on reviving the pluralistic Kosel plan that was suspended by former prime minister Netanyahu in 2017.
Religious Zionism chairman Betzalel Smotrich wrote in response to the tweet revealing the NIS 40 million budget for progressive Judaism: “Public transportation on Shabbos, a huge budget for the Reform movement in Israel, harm to kashrus, harm to large families, budget cuts to religious education and yeshivos – this is how Bennett ‘fulfills’ his promise to put aside controversial issues and work only on the economy. The only thing Bennett put on the side was right-wing and Religious Zionist values.”
Shas chairman Aryeh Deri wrote: “A sad moment for whoever places importance on the Jewish identity of the state. The Reform movement, which caused terrible destruction and assimilation in the United States, is receiving recognition and a budget from the Bennett-Kariv-Kahana government. The public is wise and understands the attempts to harm traditional Judaism which protected us as a united nation over generations. We will continue to fight against this for the sake of our children’s future.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)