Monday, August 18, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - August 18, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

August 18, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Being written out of the Jewish people

By Rabbi Seth Farber, Opinion August 15, 2008

Rabbi Seth (Shaul) Farber, Ph.D. is the founding director of ITIM and the founding rabbi of Kehilat Netivot in Ra'anana

As Anna Gostamelsky shattered Israel's national swimming record for the 100-meter freestyle on Sunday evening in Beijing, once again demonstrating her incredible endurance, I couldn't help thinking about another battle she has been fighting, this one for more than six years, and to date unsuccessfully: her bid to be recognized by the Rabbinate as Jewish.

Gostamelsky is one of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have been unable to convince the rabbinate here that she is Jewish according to halakha. As such, she has been denied the right to be married in Israel.

…I estimate that at least 60 percent of Jewish Israeli families will have to go through this process in the coming two decades.

…The status quo is untenable. Jewishness authentication is an issue that relates to the entire Jewish people, not merely to the Orthodox.

Rabbi Druckman: ‘They Are Jews’

By Elliot Resnick, August 6, 2008

Q: What is the current status of the converts in question?

They are Jews. Nobody can take their Jewishness away from them. This is the truth. But still, the psak din harms those who converted. There will definitely be different rabbinates that will not register them for weddings.

Q: That's a problem.

Yes. Practically we can help them go to those rabbinates that will register them, but still it's no good.

Q: Are we talking about hundreds of converts? Thousands?

Believe me, I don't know the number. But it doesn't matter because each and every one is a human being, not a number, so it doesn't matter how many there are.

Q: What was the main issue of contention between you and the beit din that opposed you?

I think the difference is that we think we have a responsibility for Am Yisrael. Those immigrants who came from Russia suffered for being Jewish. For about 70 years, the Russians took away from Jews everything which belonged to their being Jewish; they punished Jews and Jews suffered. Non-Jews who married Jews also suffered because the Russians considered them Jewish.

Therefore, when [these Russian non-Jews] come here, I think it's a great mitzvah if they want to become Jewish to do everything to help them become an integral part of Am Yisrael.

Q: But some of your critics maintain that to attain this goal you have lowered the standards for conversion.

No, no! We are not lowering any standards of conversion, it's false, it's not true! We are doing everything according to the Halacha.

Q: What is the future of conversions in Israel?

I really don't know. Look, I hope that we will continue in the same way because if we won't find a way to help [these Russian non-Jews] become Jewish there are going to be, unfortunately, mixed marriages. Their children will grow up, speak Hebrew, serve in the army, be a part of Medinat Yisrael and there will be a danger of mixed marriages.

'A utopian document, a utopian law'

By Haviv Rettig, August 16, 2008

Prof. Jacob Neusner:

“The classical position of the Sages is that you become an Israelite through Torah, through accepting its discipline.

It would seem that Orthodoxy carries this forward. But the Sages expressed a liberal spirit in accepting people coming in, and this social policy would also have to be carried forward.

Recognition of converts is a case in point. Ruth Raba contains the message that conversion is undertaken by the convert and the Jewish response is a welcoming one. Orthodoxy in Israel is the opposite of this.”

22 young Poles complete special seminar in Jerusalem August 17, 2008

Twenty-two young Poles who recently discovered their Jewish roots have completed a special seminar - the first of its kind – organized on their behalf by Shavei Israel in Jerusalem.

In recent years, a growing number of such people, known as the "Hidden Jews of Poland", have started to return to Judaism and to the Jewish people, with many contemplating aliyah.

Porush officially gets UJT nod for Jerusalem mayor

By Jonathan Lis, August 12, 2008

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) yesterday nominated MK Meir Porush as its candidate for Jerusalem mayor, in place of incumbent mayor Uri Lupolianski.

Porush was chosen in keeping with a rotation agreement he had signed with Lupolianski during the previous mayoral campaign.

Lupolianski is a member of Degel Hatorah, one of the two factions comprising UTJ.

A remote ultra-Orthodox city

By Uzi Benziman, August 13, 2008

The decision to place Porush at the top of the ultra-Orthodox list threatens to give Jerusalem the status and appearance of Beitar Illit. Ostensibly, there is nothing bad about that: Every city determines its image in keeping with its demographic profile and the resulting political balance of power.

…For years the Jewish/ultra-Orthodox component in the Jerusalem landscape has been increasingly crowding out the colorful mosaic that characterized it in the past.

Not only secular and moderate Orthodox people have become a minority in the city - the multinational and multi-religious minorities that once bustled through the city's streets seem to have withdrawn in the face of ultra-Orthodox domination.

Predictions show that in seven years the number of schoolchildren aged six to 14 in ultra-Orthodox educational institutions will be three times the number in state secular and state Orthodox schools.

…The city is become increasingly provincial, zealous and narrow-minded, its leaders apparently focused on promoting the needs of the ultra-Orthodox population.

Make national elections more local

By Jeff Barak, Opinion August 17, 2008

The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.

In the past, the secular residents of Jerusalem - a dying breed it has to be said - have accommodated the haredi political interests by simply not turning out to vote, leaving the political playing field open to the haredim.

Now, faced with the prospect of a full-on haredi mayor - let's not forget it was pressure from Lupolianski's haredi colleagues that forced the ridiculous Taliban-style clothes on the young dancers at the opening ceremony for Jerusalem's Bridge of Strings - these secular residents have a chance, possibly the last chance, to keep the city in the 21st century.

High Court Extends Interim Order Regarding Jerusalem Chief Rabbi

By Yechiel Spira, August 11, 2008

The High Court of Justice on Tisha B’Av decided to extend a temporary order preventing the appointment of a chief rabbi in Yerushalayim.

The order was originally issued in response to a petition filed by Jerusalem opposition City Councilman Nir Barkat and MK (National Union) Uri Ariel against Minister of Religious Services Yitzchak Cohen.

Last week the court called on the parties to explain why the process to appoint a chief rabbi in the capital should be held now, with local elections three months away.

The three justices decided to permit the status quo, the temporary restraining order, to remain, pushing off the elections for chief rabbi.

Israel: Finance Minister Looking to Cut NIS 200 Million from Yeshivos

By Yechiel Spira, August 13, 2008

Finance Minister Roni Bar-On is looking for approval for a NIS 200 million cut in the 2009 budget. The cut would come from funds supporting the nation’s yeshivos.

The news of the planned cut was announced in a press event held on Tuesday morning, at which time Bar-On announced some of planned budgetary cuts for the coming fiscal year.

Making things worse for religious services in Israel, the minister is suggesting that some of the religious councils be closed — another cost-saving measure.

He suggests that in municipalities with less than 10,000 residents the responsibility for religious services be taken from the local religious councils and placed in the lap of local municipalities.

If passed, the minister of religious services would be compelled to order the closure of the religious councils in those areas within 30 days.

Both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

By Eli Kavon, Opinion August 16, 2008

The writer, based in Florida, is an adjunct lecturer on Jewish history at Broward Community College.

The challenge today for religious Zionists is not to build a third temple but to apply halacha to a sovereign Jewish state.

The Zionist dream, once shunned by Orthodox and Reform Jews, has revived Jewish tradition. There could be no Jerusalem to inspire Jewish faith without the reality of secular Tel Aviv. Zionism has strengthened Judaism.

…While Israel is a modern democracy in which the Torah is not and should never be the law of the land, Judaism must still play a central role in Zionist identity.

The state-religion relationship

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition is conducting an international online survey about the relationship between state and religion. will provide the results of this survey to major Jewish media in Israel and around the world, including Israel's leading television network - Channel 2.

Don't miss this opportunity to let your voice be heard! Many media outlets and national leaders are interested in your opinion.

Click here to Vote

Which stream of Judaism should be recognized by the state when performing marriage ceremonies?

Should the state recognize civil marriage?

Which stream of Judaism should be recognized by the state when performing conversions to Judaism?

Should ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students be exempted from service in the IDF?

Is the Law of Return discriminatory?

Should state and religion be separated in Israel?

Families discuss ways to cope with children who leave religion

By Yair Sheleg, August 18, 2008

Dilemmas posed by children who leave religion were the focus of a conference of rabbis and educators held last week in Jerusalem. The conference was organized by the religious Zionist group Tzohar.

Other issues under discussion included late marriage ages among young religious Zionists, dilemmas that arise during military service and the rising popularity of the ultra-Orthodox Bratslav sect and Chabad.

Prof. Shraga Fischerman of Orot Israel College in the West Bank settlement of Elkana:

"We still have to encourage people not to deny or repress things. But at a time when there has been a 'coming out of the closet' in other sectors of society, it's been happening among the religious public as well."

Studying the Results of the ‘Year in Israel’

: Flipping Out? Myth or Fact: The Impact of the ‘Year in Israel’

By Shalom Berger, Daniel Jacobson and Chaim Waxman Yashar Books

The most significant change, he found, surrounded religious ritual. Before the year in Israel, less than 20% scored “high” on his ritual practice scale, which included prayers, ritual hand-washing and fasting. At the end of the year, almost 70% scored “high.”

When it came to modest dress and comfort in mixed-gender environments, just 30% of respondents were judged highly observant at the beginning of their year in Israel, but 64% were at their visit’s end.

And in the area of interaction with the secular world — for example, whether one would refuse to eat “kosher” food in a nonkosher restaurant — slightly less than 30% scored “high” before they left for Israel, and almost 50% scored “high” at the end of their year.

Mother of all campaigns

By Nadav Shragai, August 12, 2008

Now Porush and Porat are waging another age-old campaign: the lifting of the restrictions on free access "by every means - pedestrian and vehicular" to Rachel's Tomb.

…Thousands visit Rachel's Tomb each week: tourists, the religious, the ultra-Orthodox, and "women from the market, with their shopping bags," as Ariel Sharon once called them. They pray for a livelihood, for health, for marriage partners and for children.

…MK Uri Ariel (National Union) and Porat say the goal is to "make Rachel's Tomb accessible to every Jew, at all hours, and in every way, just like the Western Wall, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."

Loan amnesty shmita fund set up

By Matthew Wagner, August 15, 2008

A group of rabbis, inspired by the Bible's simple message of caring for others, have announced the creation of a loan amnesty fund called Keren Nediveh Aretz (The Generous People of the Land Fund).

These rabbis hope to bail out thousands of Jews who have sunk deep into debt to banks, credit card companies, cellular phone companies or other creditors.

The two organizations behind the initiative are Otzar Ha'aretz, a kashrut supervision body that distributes Jewish-grown fruits and vegetables during shmita, and Pa'amonim, a charity that provides financial counseling to families that have trouble making ends meet.

Dome of the Rock 'erased' from Temple Mount

By Kobi Nahshoni, August 15, 2008

Photo by Michael Huri

"On the eve of Tisha B'Av the serious question is raised whether we should take the opportunity and ascend to the Temple Mount as it stands empty, inviting us to build our dream house on it."

Whoever read this caption which appeared on the cover of the Maayanei Hayeshua movement’s latest pamphlet might have thought that this was a symbolic expression of the expected redemption on the eve of Tisha B’Av.

However, those with a keen eye noticed that the huge picture of the Temple Mount which was spread on the cover page was missing the Dome of the Rock, and that the pamphlet “cleaned” the mount of all Muslim signs.

Digging out the truth?

By Lela Gilbert, Opinion August 17, 2008

The writer has authored or co-authored more than 60 books, primarily in the field of ecumenical Christian non-fiction. She is also an Adjunct Fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute.

Biblical archeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkay, professor at Bar-Ilan University:

"This denial of the historical, spiritual and archeological connections of the Jews to the Temple Mount is something new."

"There was always talk about the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem - called the 'praise of Jerusalem'- in Arabic literature, in Islamic literature.

This new idea of Temple denial is due to the Arabic fear of Jewish aspirations connected to the Temple Mount. It is part of something I call the 'cultural intifada.'"

Ascending the Temple Mount on the 9th of Av

Photograph by Lorelai Kude August 8, 2008

This Tish'a b'Av , while thousands mourned and fasted below in the Western Wall Plaza, hundreds of observant Jews ascended the Temple Mount in strict accordance with halachah.

Religion and State in Israel

August 18, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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