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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 1, 2013 Bill granting FEMA funds to Sandy-damaged shuls sparks uncharacteristic Jewish response By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- How essential is a house of worship to a neighborhood? That's the crux of a ques- tion now exercising Congress as a bill advances that would provide direct relief to syna- gogues and churches dam- aged by superstorm Sandy last October. The bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives by avote of 354-72 with strong bipartisan support, adds houses of worship to those defined as a"private nonprofit facility that provides essential services of a governmental nature to the general public." The Senate is expected to take up the measure soon; backers there include Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ben Car- din (D-Md.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). The Federal Emergency Management Agency has withheld funding for houses of worship, citing constitutional separations of church and state. FEMA, which fiercely opposes the bill, wrote in a backgrounder distributed to congressional offices and ob- tained by JTA that "churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship" can- not "be broadly considered to provide 'essential services of a governmental nature.'" Despite the strength of its House approval, the bill has stirred controversy, but the divisions are novel: Instead of the classic disagreements engendered by church-state arguments, this one has lib- eral Democrats disagreeing and the two major Jewish civil rights groups on oppo- site sides. TheAmericanJewish Com- mittee joined lobbying on behalf of the bill along with a number of other Jewish groups, including the Ortho- dox Union, Agudath Israel of America and the Jewish Federations of NorthAmerica. The Anti-Defamation League is opposed. The Reform move- ment, meanwhile, has been careful not to take a position, noting its disagreement with such funding in the past but not weighing in this time. "In general, we have serious Sandy on page 19A Ben Harris At Mazel Academy in Brooklyn, Torah scrolls were unrolled to dry after being damaged by the floodwaters from Hurricane Sandy, Oct. 31, 2012. By Ben Sales Nine months after Israeli court ruling, non-Orthodox rabbis still fighting for equal pay Miri Gold's Facebook page Less than a year after Israeli Reform Rabbi Miri Gold won a court fight over salaries for non-Orthodox rabbis in Israel, Gold is going back to court. "I can't tell you how ag- gravating it is," Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Reform movement's Israel Religious Action Center, told JTA. "We TEL AVIV (JTA)--In a prec- edent-setting decision, Israel's Supreme Court ruled last May that a Reform rabbi, Miri Gold, should be paidastate salary, just like her Orthodox colleagues. The Reform and Conserva- tive movements hailed the decision as a step closer to full equality for non-Orthodox religious denominations. But Gold, who works as a rabbi at Kibbutz Gezer in cen- tral Israel, still has yet to see her first government paycheck. The government says Gold has not fulfilled the criteria set by the state for non-Orthodox rabbis. Gold and her allies say the criteria are onerous and un- fairly set different conditions for Orthodox and non-Orthodox rabbis. In a bid to challenge the rules, Gold, another non-OrthodoxIs- raeli rabbi, and the Conservative and Reform movements filed a new court petition last week. thought this was a victory, and then it started to be a rigmarole. It's a real insult." Last year's Supreme Court ruling determined that Reform, Conservative and other non- Orthodox rabbis in rural com- munities could be recognized as "rabbis of non-Orthodox communities" and receive wages equal to those granted by the state to Orthodox rabbis. Several caveats, however, set special conditions for non- Orthodox clergy. The decision applied only to Israel's regional councils--large districts of rural communities--but not Israeli cities. The rabbis would be paid by the Ministry of Culture and Sport rather than the Religious Affairs Ministry, which pays Orthodox rabbis. The non-Orthodox rabbiswould not have religious legal author- ity over such matters as mar- riage, divorce and conversion. 3vo months ago, the Min- istry of Culture and Sport released its new criteria for non-Orthodox rabbis to collect state salaries. To be eligible, the rabbis must work full-time and be presentattheir congregation for at least40 Sabbaths peryear. Only rabbis of congregations with at least 250 members can receive full-time pay; those leading congregations of 50- 250 members may receive half a salary even though they'd be required to work full-time. By contrast, Orthodox rabbis do not need to work a certain numberofhours, and there is no minimum size requirement for their congregations to qualify for salaries. Aside from the obvious inequalities, the new rules put Gold in something of a Catch-22 in 2012: Unable to raise a full- time salary on her own last year, she worked only half-time. As a result, she won't be paid at all for her work in 2012. "Part of the reason our rabbis are part-time is that there isn't enough funding," Gold told JTA. "The idea is to have more of an even playing field. The more we can be available to people, the richer Jewish life will be in this country." A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Culture and Sport, Or Doron, said non-Orthodox rabbis are paid according to "set criteria" and that the ministry uses the same pay scale as those for Orthodox rabbis. Just two non-Orthodox rabbis currently meet the criteria for state wages: Rabbis Yoav Ende of Kibbutz Hannaton and Shai Zarchi of Nigun Halev, a congregation in the town of Nahalal, near Haifa. Doron said that in light of complaints submitted by the Reform and Conservative move- ments, the ministry is con- sidering changing its criteria for 2013 to allow for part-time salaries. Reform and Conserva- tive advocates say the change is coming too slowly; last week's court petition is an attempt to push things along. "It's hard to move these things without the courts," said Orly Erez-Likhovski, the lawyer who submitted the peti- tion. Aside from Gold, the other rabbi named in the petition is Benjie Gruber, a Conservative rabbi from Kibbutz Yahel in southern Israel. Gold says she sees one po- tential glimmer of hope: the makeup of the new Knesset. The Yesh Atid party, which controls 19 seats, includes advocates for religious plural- ism such as the liberal Jewish scholar Ruth Calderon. In her inaugural Knesset speech, Calderon called for equal state support for secular and plural- istic institutions on par with Orthodox ones. Gold hopes that means a wider push for the rights of non-Orthodox rabbis. "Meaningful change can happen in the Knesset," Gold said. "It would be healthier if some of these decisions were coming out of the government and we wouldn't have to run to the court." Israel and Turkey might be headed for reconciliation By Linda Gradstein The Media Line Despite the widespread belief that ties between Israel and Turkey are virtually non- existent, if fact, Israeli and Turkish officials have held a series of meetings, the most recent three weeks ago, ac- cording to Israeli officials who confirmed media reports in both countries. The goal has been to find a formula for an apology acceptable to Ankara for the 2010 "Gaza flotilla af- fair" in which Israeli troops killed nine Turkish citizens during aviotent clash on a ship trying to break the Israeli na- val blockade of the Gaza Strip. "There's an ongoing dia- logue and we're speaking to them and trying to find a formula that they will accept," a senior Israeli official told The Media Line on condition of anonymity. "They're upset with us and we believe that is not fair." The Turkish weekly Radikal reported that Israel may apolo- gize to Turkey for "operational errors" during the raid on the Mavi Marmara in advance of President Obama's visit to the Middle East next month. He has pressed for reconciliation be- tween the two American allies. Turkey has demanded a formal apology for Israel's conduct during the flotilla. In May 2010, Israeli naval commandos boarded the Turkish-flagged ship which set out to break the blockade Israel implemented when Hamas took control of the Gaza in 2007 in order to prevent materials that could be used militarily from fall- ing into Hamas' hands. The soldiers encountered violent resistance and nine Turkish citizens were killed in the clashes that ensued. Turkey insists those killed were civilian passengers while the Israel insists they were agents provocateur. In addi- tion to the apology. Turkey is demanding compensation for the families of those killed, and an end to Isra.:i's naval blockade of Gaza. Israel has expressed "re- gret" that innocent civilians were killed but has refused to "apologize", saying the soldiers were attacked when they boarded the ship. A United Nations commission has upheld that account, but also accused Israel of using disproportionate force. "In the past, some parts of the Israeli government includ- ing Defense Minister Ehud Barak and to some extent even Prime Minister Binya- min Netanyahu, were ready to go pretty far to apologize to Turkey," Dror Zeevi, an expert on Turkey at Ben Gu- rion University told The Media Line. "But this was blocked by others in the government, especially former Foreign MinisterAvigdor Lieberman." Lieberman is currently on hiatus as foreign minister as he faces charges of corruption and Netanyahu is enmeshed in efforts to form a new coalition. "It is possible that the new Israeli government will go even further towards an apol- ogy," he said. In another sign of possible reconciliation, Israel this month supplied advanced electronic warfare systems to the Turkish Air Force. It was the first exchange of military equipment with Turkey since the raid in 2010. The warfare systems will significantly upgrade the capabilities of the Turkish Air Force's early warning systems. They are made by ELTA, a subsidiary of state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, and were ordered by Boeing, the American aircraft manufacturer, for Turkey. Despite the tensions, eco- nomic ties continue. Turkey is Israel's sixth largest export destination and the level of trade between the two coun- tries rose to $2 billion dollars in 2011. Israel supplies Turkey with high-tech defense equip- ment. Israel buys Turkish military boots and uniforms as well as vegetables and other processed foods. On the diplomatic level, the relations are handled by second secretaries, the lowest level of diplomatic representa- tives. Turkey's ambassador to Israel was recalled after the flotilla affair and Israel's ambassador to Turkey was asked to leave Ankara. "They insisted that the relations be on the level of second secretary," the Israeli official said. "We've made it very clear that we want to go back to where we were before all of this happened. At the same time, I don't see any real evidence that Turkey is interested in that happening." But money can sometimes override politics. In this case, Israel's recent discoveries of huge quantities of natural gas off its coast could push the two countries to move beyond their differences. Earlier this month, Israel proposed building a pipeline under the Mediterranean Sea to southern Turkey. The pipeline would be used to market the natural gas to Western Europe, and would cost an estimated $2 billion. It would also ensure Turkey a cheap supply of natural gas. Before the flotilla, Israel and Turkey had extremely close relations. As a large Muslim country, Israel especially valued that relationship, with the Turks often functioning as mediator between Israel and the Islamic world, and in particular, with the Islamist Hamas movement. Now, Turkey has been frozen out of any mediating role. Israel and Turkey are both threatened by the ongoing chaos in Syria. Both countries share borders with Syria, and both are concerned that vio- lence could spill over into their borders. In October, a stray Syrian mortar shell killed five Turkish citizens. Turkey is also hosting at least 150,000 Syr- ian refugees in camps along the border. Israel, for its part, is con- cerned that the large chemical weapons stocks in Syria could fall into the hands of Iranian and Syrian-proxy Hizballah guerillas in southern Leba- non. Israel also fears that Syria could strike Israel as a way of diverting attention from the civil war. While relations between Israel and Turkey are likely to remain tense analysts say better ties would benefit both sides. "I think the Turkish gov- ernment has come to the conclusion that some kind of working relationship with Israel is necessary, and Israel is certainly interested in that," said Zeevi.