The religious-Zionist Jewish Home party, a member of the current government coalition, supported recent legislation to draft Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, for the first time; approved a liberalizing overhaul of marriage procedures, and created a modest dedicated space at the Western Wall for non-Orthodox prayer.
Yet the same party backing these religious reforms — the most progressive passed by any recent Israeli government — appears to have sabotaged a bill to help would-be converts.
... The influential rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of Jerusalem’s Ateret Cohanim yeshiva, told the Forward that conversion is just too important to be entrusted to local rabbis.
“Each rabbi decides things for his community, but with conversion, you are making decisions for the whole Jewish nation,” he said. “The rabbinate for this is the Chief Rabbinate, and only it should decide.”
Fear of intermarriage and assimilation is baseless. The inability of Israelis of no religion to wed in Israel can be solved simply by instituting a civil option. That leaves only the problematic bureaucracy of the present conversion system. It is possible that the presence of a civil marriage option would actually improve service, as prospective converts would no longer be suspected of converting solely so that they could get married.
There is no need to take that chance, though. Once a civil option is instituted alongside the existing Chief Rabbinate track for marriage, the state can completely deregulate the conversion system. Rabbis and laymen from any denomination will be able to convene conversion panels at their whim, and the state will have no need or reason to authorize or reject any conversion. ...
When a convert or their children or grandchildren make aliyah, he or she needs Jewish status validated. Because of the centralization of the GPS standards, the Chief Rabbinate's office now turns to the Beth Din of America for guidance.
The upshot of this is that conversions performed by RCA rabbis who served in non-mehitza shuls for years — some who even went on to become presidents of the RCA — are now in question.
The High Court of Justice will hear an appeal Thursday against a decision by the state to deport 13 African-American Jews from Israel on the grounds that their conversion was bogus.
The appeal was submitted a year ago by the Israel Religious Action Center, an organization affiliated with the Reform movement and that advocates on behalf of religious pluralism in the country.
The 13 African Americans, originally from Kansas City, Missouri, are all members of one extended family.
It was a year ago this week that Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky unveiled his grand plan for a new “egalitarian” prayer space at the Western Wall.
... The anniversary provides a good opportunity to look at some of the dramatic developments of the past year. Pushing and pulling in different directions, with varying degrees of success, these were some of the key players who influenced, or at least tried to influence, the course of events at the Wall.
... Anat Hoffman did another about-face – this time after being warned that if she didn’t sit down at the negotiating table with Mendelblit, the consequences could be quite severe.
Specifically, she was told that if no agreement were reached, the government would likely decide to draft new regulations outlawing certain practices at the Western Wall by women, such as wearing prayer shawls and phylacteries. Then, whatever hard-earned gains had been made in their struggle would be completely lost.
Lapid also campaigned on establishing civil unions in Israel, a measure that would have broken the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate’s control of Jewish marriage. Yesh Atid introduced a bill to create civil unions in October, but it is opposed by Jewish Home, a religious Zionist party that entered the coalition in alliance with Yesh Atid.
Lapid sounded confident that he could get a civil unions bill past Jewish Home, possibly with support from left-wing parties. But though he vowed to continue to push the issue, he would not say if Yesh Atid would leave the coalition if the bill fails.
I was so shocked by the venom he was espousing in front of his wife and 16 year old son that I felt like stopping the conversation right there just to avoid embarrassing him. This verbal assault on the majority of Jews alive and the Jews who I consider my dearest constituents was not going to pass without a fatal blow. One, of course, I would have to deliver with love.
The Hamodia article quoted a rav who said, "The most difficult golus to endure is a golus suffered from other Jews and therefore we plead for a final redemption from this terrible golus." I experienced a great deal of personal anguish just writing that sentence.
First of all, it's absolutely false. We are not in Czarist Russia, Inquisitionist Spain, Crusader-ravished Rhineland, Cossack-scorched Poland, nor fascist Nazi Germany, nor assimilation-ridden America. Klal Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael is experiencing the most magnificent era in 2,000 years.
Lapid said that overall, he is happy with how the past year has gone for his party. He dismissed criticism that Yesh Atid’s signature achievement, a bill mandating that the haredi Orthodox perform military service, is too weak. The bill defers criminal sanctions for haredi draft dodgers for three years, but Lapid said a stricter law would have been unrealistic.
“If we would just send draft [notices] to any young 18-year-old haredim, we’ll be the winners of some game, but nothing would have happened,” Lapid said. “The way we’ve been doing this, it will actually happen.”
Lapid said all Jewish denominations should have equal standing in Israel, which he said would strengthen Israel’s relationship with American Jews. He also called for ending the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over Jewish marriage and conversion, and for an end to all forms of religious coercion.
But he stopped short of calling for the abolition of the Chief Rabbinate or for a complete separation of religion and state, which he said would hurt the country’s Jewish character.
“I don’t think the American model of total separation of religion and state is feasible in Israel because it was established as a Jewish state,”Lapid said. “I don’t want to give up this identity.
“I would favor having parallel institutions to the Rabbinate. If someone wants to get married in the rabbinate, he can. If someone wants to get married at City Hall, he should be able to do so as well.”