MK Calls Reform Jews 'Clowns,' Ejects their Representative

Finance Committee Chairman MK Gafni (UTJ) kicks out Reform Movement's Gilad Kariv in stormy session.

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Gil Ronen,

MK Moshe Gafni
MK Moshe Gafni
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Knesset's Finance Committee discussed the recent instruction by the Attorney General and Legal Advisor to the Government, that Reform and Conservative Jewish rabbis are eligible for state funding.

The session was a stormy one. In the course of the debate, committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) called Reform Jews "clowns" and ejected Reform Movement Director Gilad Kariv from the room after Kariv spoke without permission.

Representatives from the State Attorney's Office said that funding for the Reform and Conservative rabbis would be transferred soon. The funding will come out of the coffers of the Ministry for Religious Services but pass through the Ministry of Education – presumably to save Minister Yaakov Mergi of Shas from having to give funds directly to the movements.

Mergi and Gafni both expressed their anger over the fact that the appointment of regional rabbis has been held up for seven years as legal experts thoroughly studied the problem.

MK Gafni came out swinging against "the decision to give government funding to those who are not defined by law as rabbis [and] who were not authorized as rabbis by the Chief Rabbinate."

"Who gave the Legal Advisor to the Government the authority to decide to budget matters that were still undecided? The Legal Advisor's decision is contrary to the Knesset's position that recognizes the Chief Rabbinate as the only body authorized to deal with rabbinical matters."

Mergi accused the judges who decided in favor of a motion by the Reform Movement of improper behavior. "The judges who decided the motion should have recused themselves due to lack of good faith and conflict of interest," he said. "One of them received an honorary plaque from the Reform Jews, a second said for the record that he had represented Reform Jews for money in the past, and another judge announced that he is friendly with one of the appellants and studied alongside him in the past.