Israeli chief rabbis want to disband religious councils

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau also spoke against members of the Reform movement sitting on the religious councils, and he does not object to the councils being abolished or taking on a different form.

The Knesset Interior Committee is due to discuss several bills on the matter next week.

Politicians apparently favor disbanding the religious councils for different reasons. Some want to prevent non-Orthodox Jews from joining them; others want to end the Orthodox control over the councils.

In a preliminary meeting Monday with the chief rabbis, Interior committee head Micha Goldman of the Labor Party called for a "complete revolution in the religious councils."

At a later meeting with Labor Party leader Ehud Barak, both Lau and Bakshi-Doron spoke of the need to revamp the religious councils.

"It is common sense to support efficiency steps even in the religious councils, but one cannot ignore the fact that the move comes after the High Court ruling regarding the Reform and Conservative members on the religious councils," Barak later acknowledged.

Deputy Education Minister Eliezer Zandberg of the Tsomet Party asked the prime minister not to give in to threats that would prevent non-Orthodox members from sitting on the religious councils.

Meretz Party leader Yossi Sarid said he favors abolishing the religious councils, but in reality he does not believe that they would cease to exist. "They will just exist under a different name."