The first state-funded Reform Temple in Israel's history officially opened its doors in the city of Modiin on Monday. Until the recent deal reached between the Yozma Reform community in Modiin and local and state governments, Israel funded only those Jewish religious services recognized by the Chief Rabbinate.
Reform movement spokespeople said that the prefab "will be the first building of many."
As an initial step towards a more permanent building, a prefabricated structure provided by the state was put into place on land allocated by the Modiin Municipality for the Yozma Temple and community center in December 2007. It was the first time that the government, through the Construction and Housing Ministry, provided a building for a non-Orthodox synagogue in Israel.
On Monday, the new Temple, which has been in use for several weeks, was formally inaugurated in the presence of Modiin Mayor Moshe Spector, Yozma and Union for Progressive Judaism leaders, and other local politicians.
Reform movement spokespeople said that the prefab "will be the first building of many that will eventually serve as Modiin's center for Progressive Judaism and will include a synagogue, a community center, nursery school classes and a day care center."
'Interesting Social Dynamic'
State funding for the Yozma Temple was long in coming and followed two petitions to the High Court of Justice by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and the Movement for Progressive Judaism. The petitioners claimed unfair "discrimination in the allocation of funds for the construction of synagogues," and demanded that public funding and land be distributed for use by the Reform community just as it is for the many Orthodox synagogues in Modiin. As a result, the High Court ordered all religious structure allocations halted in the interim. The order prevented Orthodox synagogues from being built for the several years of litigation.
the High Court ordered all religious structure allocations halted in the interim.
Ultimately, with the support of city leaders and then-Housing Minister Yitzchak Herzog, a compromise was reached in which the litigation was suspended by the Reform movement and the city released land for their use, while the Ministry of Housing agreed to provide a prefab structure from its Religious Buildings Department. As a result of the Yozma precedent in Modiin, five other Reform and Conservative congregations nationwide are slated to receive funding and land as well.
According to Yozma Executive Director Yossi Aud, an "interesting social dynamic took place between us and the Orthodox community, which included a fruitful dialogue that contributed to the compromise solution."
The city's Sephardic Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Elharar told Arutz-7, "I had no part in any such dialogue, but I can say that this is a shameful and shocking phenomenon." Asked if he feels that the city's irreligious youth might be attracted to the Reform temple, the rabbi said, "Not at all. I work with entire classes of the secular high school here - I am right now on my way to a Memorial Day ceremony with them - and they themselves have told me that they know the Reform have nothing to offer them in terms of genuine Judaism."
The city's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau was unavailable for comment.
Last year, the spiritual leader of Yozma in Modiin cooperated with Mayor Spector in a unique initiative aimed at encouraging members of Reform congregations in North America to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel).
Hillel Fendel contributed to this story.