The Shmooze

Israeli Rabbis Get a Raise

By Nathan Burstein

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Being a young rabbi in Israel just got a whole lot more lucrative.

Starting salaries for Jewish clergy will rise by up to 250 percent in the coming years, according to a new set of raises approved today by Israel’s treasury. Because the salaries will be paid by the government — Israel doesn’t separate synagogue and state — the increases have ignited an explosion of criticism, with one Knesset minister comparing them to a “mugging.”

The issue remains small in the context of the national budget — the raises currently apply to just 15 rabbis, though the new income figures will be extended to more starting rabbis in the coming years. For a rabbi serving a town of 2,500 residents, monthly incomes will rise from 6,500 shekels (about $1,850) to 16,000 (a bit more than $4,560). In cities of 250,000 or more residents, starting rabbis’ monthly incomes will jump from 18,000 shekels (roughly $5,133) to 29,000 (about $8,271). The average Israeli earned a monthly salary of 8,426 shekels ($2403) last year.

Moshe Gafni, the head of the Knesset’s finance committee and a member of the religious United Torah Judaism party, called current salaries for starting rabbis “shameful,” and said the raises were an appropriate step to keep them in line with the incomes of more senior rabbis.

But members of the centrist Kadima party and leftist Meretz party slammed the raises, noting that the government has yet to resolve a dispute over pay with the country’s doctors. Meretz legislator Nitzan Horowitz described the deal as a “mugging of the public till.”

An article on Israel’s Ynet news website earned a staggering number of angry responses, with most readers condemning the raises.

The Shmooze senses this story may not be over.


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