Monday, May 12, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - May 12, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

May 12, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

Rabbis delay converts' marriages

By Matthew Wagner, May 11, 2008

Rabbis responsible for registering Jewish Israelis for marriage said Sunday they would not register converts for marriage until Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar issues a definitive rejection of a High Rabbinical Court decision that cast doubt on the validity of thousands of conversions.

"Before I can register a convert for marriage as a full-fledged Jew, I'll have to consult with Chief Rabbi Amar," said Rabbi Ratzon Arussi, chairman of the Rabbinate's Marriage Council.

Rabbis in Ramat Gan and Jerusalem concurred with Arussi's call.

"Rabbi Amar has to voice his opinion on this issue," said Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel. "He is the final authority on conversions."

Meanwhile, Rabbi Yitzhak Ralbag, the official marriage registrar in Jerusalem, said he would operate in accordance with whatever Amar decided.

…Amar's spokesman said the chief rabbi intends to convene the Chief Rabbinate's governing council to discuss the issue and reach a definitive decision. But before the council can be convened new elections must be called.

The term of the previous council came to an end in Nissan and a new council has yet to be chosen. The spokesman said he was unsure how long this would take.

Click here for original Supreme Rabbinical Court decision (Hebrew)

[No need to download – click “Preview” and document will be appear in new window]

Rabbis come to aid of converts

By Matthew Wagner, May 6, 2008

Tzohar rabbis decided to create a hotline and provide rabbis who could defend converts before marriage registrars and rabbinical courts.

"We plan to publicize [the hotline] in the Russia-language media," said Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, chairman of Tzohar, who stressed that his organization would not do anything against the law.

"We want to send out a message to converts that they are not alone. They should also know that Rabbi Amar has promised to recognize them as full-fledged Jews," he said. "The Talmud says that the rabbinic court is the father of the convert. So we are just trying to fulfill our religious duty."

Friedmann targets decision to annul conversions

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz May 6, 2008

Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann plans to submit a bill that would allow the Rabbinic Court of Appeals to rehear important cases with an expanded panel of judges.

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who serves as president of the Rabbinic Court of Appeals, also opposes the ruling, and would like to convene a special panel of rabbinic court judges to overturn it - preferably before the divorcee in whose case it was issued petitions the High Court of Justice against it.

Amar insisted yesterday that no conversion would actually be overturned by the ruling.

Professor who headed conversion probe: Check rabbinic court for criminal actions

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz May 7, 2008

Professor Ya'akov Ne'eman told a stormy session of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee…called on the judicial ombudswoman, Judge Tova Strasberg-Cohen, to investigate a number of "defects" - including the fact that they issued their verdict overturning the conversions of the special rabbinic conversion court - in opposition to the direct instruction of the Supreme Rabbinic Court president, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

Chief Rabbi: Decision to Overturn Conversions Won't Stand

By Hillel Fendel, May 5, 2008

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a leading figure in the religious-Zionist camp:

"If the ruling is not overturned," he concluded, "a genuine conversion authority will be immediately established that will operate according to Jewish Law and not according to politics, and will deal with one of the supreme missions in the Nation of Israel in a manner that is in keeping with the Torah and not via ugly manipulations. We can no longer evade this responsibility..."

Knesset panel worried by conversion ruling

"There is no logic to the situation in which since 1999 until today, people were considered Jewish, and as of 2008 are no longer considered Jewish," said Committee Chairwoman MK Sofa Landver (Israel Beiteinu).

"The State of Israel and Judaism as a whole must 'open its ranks,' bring people closer to Judaism, and not push them away."

Landver added that she hoped that in the future, courts would be prevented from reopening conversion files after the process had been completed, describing the current situation as emerging from a "power struggle between rabbis."

The committee ultimately resolved to call upon the rabbinic courts not to invalidate any conversions and said that it would continue to follow the issue.

In addition, they commended the intent of the [Israel Religious Action Center] to submit an appeal to the High Court of Justice challenging the rabbinic courts' ability to invalidate conversions.

Israeli court revokes 15-year-old conversion, sparking uproar

By Dina Kraft, JTA May 6, 2008

"Our phone has been ringing off the hook with people who have gone through conversions who are deeply concerned about their status and potential converts who are trying to figure out if this whole process is worth the effort,"
said Rabbi Seth Farber, who runs the Jewish Life Information Center, or ITIM, which runs a 24-hour hotline for those seeking assistance on Jewish issues in Israel.

A split from Israeli society

By Menachem Ben Sasson, Haaretz Opinion May 9, 2008

MK Menachem Ben Sasson (Kadima) is the chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

The [Supreme] Rabbinic Court is invalidating a legal instance that derives its formal authority from the same source as the Rabbinic Court - an official state appointment. By so doing, it leads the way to having its own courts treated in a similar fashion.

…Pulling the rug out from under the feet of yesterday's converts and digging a hole in front of tomorrow's is unacceptable. It will shatter what's left of the public consensus that the Supreme Rabbinic Court is worthy of running family issues in Israel. The court's revoking past and future conversions is tantamount to destroying the house and everyone inside.

Free Israel!

By Rabbi Benjamin Lau, Haaretz Opinion May 7, 2008

The writer is rabbi of a congregation in Jerusalem's Katamon neighborhood, and heads Beit Morasha of Jerusalem.

Birthdays are generally times for soul-searching and clarifying one's wishes for the next year.

From my narrow world, I look out at the face of the religious establishment in Israel and wish that my fellow citizens and I could manage to break free of the tyrannical regime of ultra-Orthodox Judaism that has nothing to do with the State of Israel.

…Religious Zionism has so far been restrained in its criticism of the ultra-Orthodox, out of a feeling of respect for the Torah sages and a desire to maintain a united religious camp.

No longer! In honor of the state's 60th birthday, we must free Israel, strengthen the Zionist camp - including among the religious - and establish religious services and religious courts that are fundamentally identified with the values of the country in which they operate.

Cruelty under the guise of religion

Haaretz Editorial May 6, 2008

The affair of the annulment of the conversions strongly underlines the urgent need to separate religion from state and to restore civil sovereignty to the state system.

Its first, significant step should be registering all citizens, regardless of religion, as being of "Israeli" nationality in their identity cards.

On the eve of Israel's 60th Independence Day, the time has come to return to the values of the Declaration of Independence and liberate ourselves from the destructive bonds of religious coercion.

Conversion Blues Editorial May 8, 2008

[Israel’s Supreme Rabbinical Court] may have done the rest of Israel a favor by training a spotlight on the untenable role assigned to the religious establishment in Israel’s evolving society and culture.

…there are signs, in the wake of the ruling, that religious Zionists are finally getting the message — that their home is ultimately with the larger Zionist and Jewish community. That’s the good news, and it’s not a small thing.

Are We Headed For A Split In Orthodoxy?

By Marc B. Shapiro, Special to May 7, 2008

The writer holds the Weinberg Chair in Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton

[T]his isn’t simply a conflict between the haredi (or ultra-Orthodox) rabbinic leadership and some liberal Orthodox rabbis with regard to this issue. Rather, the haredi leadership rejects the entire notion that there can be Modern Orthodox and Religious Zionist halachic authorities and dayanim, and indeed has attempted to keep non-haredim off the religious courts.

…We have finally reached the point in Israel, and to a lesser extent in the United States, where the non-haredi rabbinate must make a choice.

…Yet before solving the problem of who will be a Jew, we must solve the problem of who is a dayan and who is a halachic authority. The haredim have already given their answer to this question.

One would that think that the Modern Orthodox/Religious Zionists would take the hint and realize that the time has come to go their own way.

RCA Raps New Conversion Ruling

By Michele Chabin, May 7, 2008

In a May 6 statement, the RCA said the ruling, its language and tone “are entirely beyond the pale of acceptable halachic practice, violate numerous Torah laws regarding converts and their families, create a massive desecration of God’s name, insult outstanding rabbinic leaders and halachic scholars in Israel, and are a reprehensible cause of widespread conflict and animosity within the Jewish people in Israel and abroad.

Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur Backs Beis Din Annulment of Conversion

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur May 8, 2008

The Beis Din determined that presumably the conversion candidate never accepted ol mitzvos, which means the conversion was not annulled — but rather the original conversion was never valid.

…According to ranking chareidi jurists the ruling issued by the High Rabbinical Court has both halachic and legal validity and is not subject to annulment or alteration, just like every other ruling issued by the beis din, and certainly no court in the world has the authority to interfere in halachic matters.

Making do with the Declaration of Independence

By Ze'ev Segal, Haaretz Opinion May 7, 2008

Had the founding fathers enacted the declaration as a constitution, various Mandatory laws that are inappropriate to a democratic state - such as the Emergency Defense Regulations and the Press Ordinance - would have been annulled almost automatically, while laws such as the Rabbinical Courts Law (Marriage and Divorce), which violate the freedom from religion enshrined in the declaration, might never have been enacted.

…Former Shas MKs Aryeh Deri and Shlomo Benizri have been quoted as saying that they would oppose the enactment of any new Basic Law, even one enshrining the Ten Commandments, as long as the Supreme Court was the one interpreting it.

Ben-Gurion's original sin

By Yossi Sarid, Haaretz Opinion May 9, 2008

As Israel's 60th birthday approached, I considered my opinion on the subject of the biggest mistakes made by David Ben-Gurion.

Ben-Gurion's second mistake was to break away from his traditional allies on the way to a state - the Mapam camp, then the second largest party - and align himself with the religious parties in a government coalition.

In so doing, Israel's founding father delivered the newborn into the hands of the rabbinical establishment, a new alliance that exacted a heavy price, one we are still paying - the exemption of yeshiva students from military service. And that is only part of the price.

…The agreement at the time to this original sin had much broader significance. Ben-Gurion ultimately made peace with the reality of a state within a state - a theocracy ruled by the rabbis within a Jewish state where democracy was meant to lead the way.

Religious homosexuals contend with self-hatred and Haredi condemnation

Click here for VIDEO

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 May 11, 2008

The ideological struggle between Jewish orthodoxy and homosexuality has been in the headlines since a Haredi man stabbed three people marching in the Jerusalem gay pride parade in 2005.

But that struggle isn't a black and white one. Naturally, within Jewish Orthodoxy, there are many who live their lives trying to reconcile their religious identity with their sexual orientation.

Narrow-mindedness and discrimination

By Tzvia Greenfeld, Haaretz Opinion May 12, 2008

Dr. Gershon German, a family court judge…refused to apply the domestic violence prevention law, and the law governing family matters in general, to a homosexual relationship.

The judge ruled that "the question is whether, in light of these relations conflicting with the values of the state as a Jewish state, these relations should be elevated and given recognition and approval."

…The issue of what exactly a Jewish state means in our time and what its values are supposed to be is an open question that the Israeli populace, which is casting about for its Jewish identity, has yet to clarify seriously for itself.

We need a lot of inspiration for this large task, which needs to be carried out for the first time out of a sense of political independence and moral responsibility.

One thing is certain: If Judge German thinks that discrimination, insults and a revocation of rights can be part of the meaning of a Jewish state in our time, then maybe we would be better off without it.

Rabbi calls to abolish army service for women

By Kobi Nahshoni, May 12, 2008

Prominent Zionist-religious leader, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner called on young religious women not to enlist in the army, a move he defined as a violation of Torah laws.

"Never enlist in the army…ever," Aviner wrote, quoting a list of leading chief rabbis and religious leaders who have prohibited such service in the past.

"It is forbidden! Forbidden like kashrut! Forbidden like Shabbat! And especially forbidden like modesty!"

Breaking the Barriers

Click here for VIDEO (see bottom of page)

By Elad Shalev and Amir Kido, IDF Spokesperson Office May 8, 2008

In today’s army, women can serve in 90 percent of all positions.

24 percent of IDF officers, including lieutenant colonels, colonels and even brigadier generals, are females.

Almost three percent of females serving in the army serve as combat soldiers.

The IDF is the only army in the world in which females, alongside males, are obligated to enlist and boasts the highest percentage of women serving in its ranks.

34 percent of the soldiers in the IDF are females.

Prayer under fire

By Hanan Greenberg, May 11, 2008

As far as religious practice, the battalion maintains its status-quo;

glatt-kosher field rations, taking turns praying, just like in wartime.

And there aren’t any girls to distract the soldiers.

'IDF's hit parade smacks of religious discrimination'

By Matthew Wagner, May 7, 2008

Tadmit, a Hebrew acronym for "strengthening democracy in the Israeli media," addressed a complaint to Army Radio Commander Yitzhak Tunik explaining that because most of the songs in the contest had been played on Shabbat, religious soldiers had been prevented from taking part in the voting process.

“Religion and State: Fundamentalism or Freedom?”

International Town Hall Webcast presented by the New Israel Fund - May 18, 2008

Panelists - Naomi Chazan, Jafar Farah, Gershom Gorenberg, Frances Raday

Moderator - Michael Greenspan

Religion and State in Israel

May 12, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.