Religious Affairs Ministry to Fund Kiruv Activities, Shabbos Dinners

Making Kiddush (illustrative). (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

The Religious Affairs Ministry plans to fund Shabbos dinners for religious families who host secular Israelis in order to introduce them to a religious way of life. A report in Haaretz said that the Jewish Identity Administration (JIA), a part of the Ministry, will administer the program via organizations that promote Jewish identity.

The dinners will be part of an overall education program of these organizations to enhance Jewish identity. The programs will be geared to Israelis between 18 and 50 years of age who are not graduates of state religious schools or chareidi institutions. Private households – which include a “husband and wife who are legally married,” according the program’s criteria – will be able to apply directly to the JIA, if they run programs for at least 15 hours a week during the afternoons and evenings. The program can include the Shabbos dinners, provided they last at least three hours and include an educational component. The funding will be used to pay for the costs of activities and meals, as well as partially subsidize expenses like rent, arnona (real estate taxes) and other costs.

According to the report, the JIA’s criteria requires that the programs be run in a manner that has “a positive attitude to Jewish sources and the national heritage of the Jewish people.

Funded programs will focus on Jewish tradition and heritage, Torah learning circles, classes on family values and education, the Jewish attitude to marriage and dating, the place of the Land of Israel in Jewish tradition, and others. The programs will include between two and six participants,” the report quoted the criteria as saying.

One of the criteria for qualification is proof that an organization or group invested at least NIS 100,000 in similar programs over each of the past two years. That condition, Haaretz said, was aimed at ensuring that only organizations with an Orthodox orientation could qualify, as conservative and reform groups would not be able to prove that they conducted such programs.

The reform movement said in response that “this is the first time that money is being allocated to households in order to ‘show the light’ to benighted secular families, via Shabbos dinners, which religious families would be conducting in any event. The program appears to be a fresh source for potential corruption. The criteria conflate public and private activity and make it impossible to supervise the program in a professional manner.”

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