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Secular Upset over Canceled ‘Stay Religious’ Program

Media, opposition upset over Jerusalem program to keep young women religious. City: It’s already been canceled.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 4/5/2013, 10:47 AM

Girls in religious Jewish family
Girls in religious Jewish family
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Jerusalem municipality’s opposition has rejected a plan, widely covered in the media this week, to provide city funding to a program that encourages young women from religiously observant Jewish families to remain religious.

According to various reports, Jerusalem’s Finance Committee approved a grant of 500,000 shekels to the Orot Pnima program. The stated goal of the program is to assist “female students who graduate religious high schools and leave religion, or neglect its significance and vitality.”

City Opposition head Meir Turgman filed a complaint against the grant. “The Jerusalem municipality, like any other municipality, is not authorized, and it is not its duty to, provide or fund, directly or indirectly, any program or activity aimed at preventing or decreasing abandonment of religion,” argued attorney Yossi Havilio on Turgman’s behalf.

The issue “is clearly a matter of religion and conscience that is not among the roles of the municipality, and undermines female students’ freedom of religion,” he added. “The decision to be religious or secular, to join religion or leave religion, is clearly a choice related to each person’s freedom of religion and conscience.”

Sources in the Jerusalem municipality said opponents’ reaction is unnecessary, because the plan was canceled before coming to the media’s attention. “The plan was canceled by the municipality more than two weeks ago, some time before the complaint was filed, and with no connection to the complaint, because it was not appropriate for the city system.”