Monday, November 24, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - November 24, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

November 24, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Livni: Israel not a rabbis' monopoly

By Ronen Medzini November 19, 2008

"Israel is not a monopoly of rabbis," the Kadima chairwoman noted. "Israel is a Jewish state, but a Jewish state is not a religious state but mainly a nation-state."

"We must not forget Israel's ultimate goal to be a Jewish, democratic state living in complete security.

A Jewish state is the nature, tradition and history of our people, regardless of what one chooses to do at one's own home on Shabbat and holidays

Livni: There are lines I will not cross

By Attila Somfalvi November 23, 2008

Livni spoke of her negotiations with Shas, prior to the decision to call for a general election, and said that "when trying to form a government, I proved that when it comes to Shas' demands, there are some lines I'm just not willing to cross. Issues like conversion and marriage must be dealt with.

"The idea is to find an answer that isn't anti-religious, but can still provide a proper solution… The Israeli public has to realize that the question of conversions doesn’t concern only immigrants."

Conversion must be taken out of haredi hands, officials say

By Haviv Rettig and Matthew Wagner November 19, 2008

The failure of the Conversion Authority to deal with some 300,000 non-Jewish olim who came to Israel as family members of Jewish olim "is not an administrative problem," Yehezkel told The Jerusalem Post.

"It is a political problem. If the haredim don't begin to show flexibility, the moderate Orthodox establishment in Israel will begin to independently convert many thousands of Jews.

In the end, the State of Israel will be forced to recognize these conversions regardless of the desires of the Chief Rabbinate or the official Conversion Authority."

Jewish Agency chairman Ze'ev Bielski warned at the meeting that "the [overly] stringent conversion process could delay the decision of potential olim to come to Israel."

…Only a government coalition without haredim could enact the necessary reform to the conversion process, Diaspora Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog said

Jewish Agency resolutions ire liberals, conservatives

By Cnaan Liphshiz November 20, 2008

Gilad Kariv, a Reform rabbi and associate director of the Israel Religious Action Center, agrees.

He said he found the proposal's shelving "regrettable," adding that the Jewish Agency had voted it down to "avoid stepping into a political minefield." Kariv nonetheless supports the resolutions, which were passed. 

Kariv [said] that Ne'eman, despite his extensive efforts, has failed in "breaking the corruption-inducing monopoly that the ultra-Orthodox stream has on conversion," and that there is no need to keep pursuing his path. 

Rabbi Shaul Farber, head of ITIM, a nonprofit that helps potential converts navigate rabbinic bureaucracy, says he understands Pearlstone's approach.

"The resolutions that the Jewish Agency passed have little chance of being adopted by the rabbinical court system, whose progress on conversions is virtually stalemated," said Farber, who added that he supported making conversions more accessible. 

Bronfman slams ultra-Orthodox conversion system

Moshe Ronen November 23, 2008

The strict approach to conversions advocated by the rabbinic institutions in Israel and abroad infuriates Jewish billionaire Edgar Bronfman, the man who for nearly three decades led the World Jewish Congress.

Anyone who declares himself Jewish should be accepted to the Jewish people, he says. Or else the Jewish people would cease to exist.

New Pluralistic Conversion Forum Brings Together Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and Secular Jews November 19, 2008

The Pluralistic Conversion Forum, which is coordinated by NIF grantee Panim for Jewish Renewal in Israel, brings together representatives of mainstream Orthodox Judaism as well as Conservative, Reform and other non-Orthodox streams – a convergence which is virtually unprecedented in Israeli history.

Most of the members of the Forum are NIF grantees including Ne’emanei Torah Va’avodah, which promotes a moderate voice in Orthodox Jewry, Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) of the Movement for Progressive Judaism in Israel (Reform) and The Masorti (Conservative) Movement.

…The Forum hopes to establish two new streams for conversion – Orthodox and Secular Humanistic. 

Since a landmark Supreme Court ruling won by IRAC in 2005, the Conservative and Reform movements can perform conversions and annually convert about 300 Israelis who are subsequently registered as Jews by the Ministry of Interior.

Tmura, the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, has announced that it will begin a Jewish conversion course in January. 

Ne’emanei Torah Va’avodah, which is part of a coalition of mainstream Orthodox organizations, is expected to announce the establishment of an Alternative Orthodox Conversion Court in early 2009.

The precedent ruling ordering the Ministry of Interior to register Conservative and Reform converts as Jewish should mean that graduates of these new courses will qualify for recognition as Jewish Israelis.

Graduates of the alternative conversion tracks will still not be entitled to marry in Israel, but progress on the conversion issue will provide a platform to push for solutions regarding marriages, divorce and burial for those not recognized as Jews by Israel's Chief Rabbinate. 

'Now I feel 100% Jewish'

By Etgar Lefkovits November 19, 2008

Like thousands of other young immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Ukrainian-born Igor Lermont always considered himself Jewish, even though his mother is not Jewish.

…After enlisting in the army, Lermont heard of an educational Jewish-Zionist educational program, offered in conjunction with his military service, which culminates with official conversion performed by the IDF Rabbinate.

The program, called Nativ, offers soldiers and officers who are not Jewish according to Halacha a seven- or 11-week intensive course in Judaism to prepare them for conversion.

The programs, which are a joint project of the IDF Education Corps and the Joint Institute for Jewish Studies, are made possible with the support of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency for Israel. 

National-Religious Ally with Secular to Set Up New "Conversion" Courts

By Yechiel Sever November 20, 2008

Rabbonim and dayanim issued harsh remarks against the partnership between secular and national-religious organizations, noting that dayanim have long been raising an outcry against conversions by Rabbi Druckman and other national-religious figures that have sunk to the level of Reform "conversions."

Now this sector has begun to actively join forces with the Reform Movement in undermining the Jewish religion. Though predictable this decline remains deeply disturbing.

Resurrect the secular-liberal agenda

By Shahar Ilan Opinion November 21, 2008

It would behoove [Amos] Oz and his friends to remember that the list of the oppressed of Israeli society includes 300,000 who are not affiliated with any religion, cannot marry here and whose path to Judaism is blocked by the rabbinical establishment.

It includes hundreds of thousands of couples who divorce and are forced to endure a humiliating process in the rabbinical courts.

It includes hundreds of thousands of children who are denied the right to a basic education that will enable them to make an honorable living.

It includes tens of thousands of people who do reserve military duty though they could have stayed home if only some of the Haredi public was forced to enlist in the army. 

Shas Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: Secular teachers are 'asses'

Click here for VIDEO

By Haaretz Service November 24, 2008

Spiritual leader of the Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called secular teachers in Israel "asses" on Saturday during his weekly sermon.

Yosef has previously voiced his desire that the Education Ministry be handed over to Shas' authority.

In his sermon, the rabbi said that the teachers in the secular education system know nothing, "neither Shabbat, nor holiday", and teach only "nonsense", and added that people whose parents placed them in the secular education system are unfortunate. 

"What do they teach? They teach history and all sorts of nonsense about world nations, that's all," he said.

Shas mentor Yosef calls secular teachers 'asses'

By Matthew Wagner November 24, 2008

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef:

"Over there [in secular schools], they do not keep Shabbat or the holidays. They don't know anything - [they are] ignoramuses," he said.

"The teachers are asses. Teachers [morim] need to add to their name the letter het [which yields hamorim or 'donkeys']."

Shas' Ovadia Yosef under fire for calling secular teachers 'asses'

By Haaretz Staff November 24, 2008

"What do we want in reference to the Education Ministry?" asked Shas chairman Eli Yishai, as he elaborated on his plans for his next term.

He answered: "To teach Judaism, tradition, bar mitzvah, Shabbat, honoring thy father and mother - this is what Maran [Ovadia Yosef] preaches daily." 

Is Ovadia Yosef also an ass?

By Yossi Sarid Opinion November 24, 2008

Many recommend leaving him to his foolishness and ignorance. Any response, they say, only eggs him on to speak more, spitting out his repulsive crumbs of thoughts.

They may very well be right. Nevertheless, he should not be let off the hook completely: The dignity of the teachers requires it. 

Who are the real asses?

By Assaf Wohl Opinion November 24, 2008

There is one thing that worries me in this respect. Shas’ new objective, the Education Ministry. 

…why should Shas have any interest in promoting enlightenment in Israel? For them this is akin to shooting themselves in the foot.

Holon man loses job for opposing Shas, says lawyer

By Tomer Zarchin November 21, 2008

For three weeks Haim Hayon, a kashrut supervisor for the Holon rabbinate, has been sitting home unemployed. 

During the recent municipal election campaign, Hayon had been helping the Agudat Israel list by putting up election posters at night. Agudat Israel was challenging the other ultra-Orthodox party, Shas, for exclusivity on the city council during municipal elections. 

…During the campaign, officials in the Holon rabbinate told Hayon that providing assistance for Agudat Israel was frowned upon by the city's rabbi, Avraham Yosef, who is the son of the Shas spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef. 

The New Honor & Tradition Party

By Yechiel Spira November 17, 2008

Many yeshiva students in Bayit Vegan have been signing to register as members of the new Kovod U’Mesoret Party which is being headed by attorney Shlomo Deri, a brother of Aryeh Deri.

It is believed that the former Shas leader will direct the operation from outside, and if successful, he will be appointed as a cabinet minister after his moral turpitude clause expires, permitting him to reenter the public arena.

The Brothers Party

By Yechiel Spira November 20, 2008

After the announcement by Shlomo Deri, a brother of Aryeh Deri, that he is launching the Honor & Tradition Party, Nissim Yishai, an older brother of Shas leader Eli Yishai has announced he wishes to enter the political arena.

UJC General Assembly Links

G.A. organizers reach out to ‘Next Gen’

Jewish Agency nixes Birthright funding cut

GA 08’ in Jerusalem

Opening press conference of United Jewish Communities General Assembly 2008

One People, One Destiny - GA 2008

G.A. organizers reach out to ‘Next Gen’

Financial concerns underscore the G.A.

Tours, tears and Tel Aviv at the GA (Haaretz)

GA largely ignored by Hebrew press

By Haviv Rettig November 21, 2008

All but ignored by the Hebrew-speaking press as they gathered in Jerusalem this week, American Jewish professionals and activists have lashed out at the Israeli media and society for failing to notice - and learn from - another Jewish community nearly as large as their own.

Israel's English-language press devoted extensive coverage to the gathering of one of the largest charitable networks in the world. 

The Post and the English-language edition of Haaretz both devoted a supplement and ran many news and opinion articles about American Jewish society and philanthropy this week.

Yet at the same time, Haaretz's Hebrew edition almost failed to note the conference's existence. A glance at the papers' Web sites also showed the same disparity in coverage

A brave new philanthropic world

By Ahava Zarembski November 18, 2008

…why is the Jewish world not adopting some of these broad new trends? It remains frightened. And stuck. 

We continue to look at our basic institutions as if change spells their destruction instead of progress. 

This outlook is not logical, and greatly limits the effect of our own dollars and the strength of our own efforts at change.

JGooders seeks Jewish philanthropy revolution

By Haviv Rettig November 18, 2008

Formally launched here on Sunday, is a for-profit company that connects Jewish charities to the enormous potential of small on-line giving.

On its second day of operation, the site already boasted 150 projects, some added by large organizations such as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Jewish Agency.

"The biggest [Jewish] organizations understand that this is the future of philanthropy," said Eli Shua, the startup's chief operating officer.

A renewable light

By Haviv Rettig November 19, 2008

In the end, saving the world is not just morally satisfying - it's a good way to get people excited about Jewish life, whose greatest existential threat is that it is become boring and inaccessible.

The entire process and the inspiration for change are contained to a unique extent within the Jewish experience, Abramowitz believes.

"We can do all this with core Jewish values, and with hope. Yes, everybody believes in hope. But the Jewish experience with hope is special. The return to Zion, a 2,000-year shlep through history based on a dream, is uniquely powerful stuff."

Crucial Friends

By Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein Opinion November 21, 2008

The writer is the president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

Many evangelical organizations maintain that they will continue to raise funds for Israel.

Today, more than ever, we have to acknowledge this ongoing commitment.

We have to cease making cynical statements that hurt the feelings of hundreds of thousands of donors, who contribute to the defense of Israel and its citizens.

We must not denigrate the strategic alliance that stands by the State of Israel. 

'Vindicated' Eckstein finally gets official appreciation from Jewish organizations

By Jacob Berkman November 19, 2008

Monday, Eckstein said he finally felt "vindicated" and officially accepted by the organized Jewish community.

The reception, which included fine fare and a rolling video of Eckstein's work in the FSU and overseas, was paid for by the UJC, JDC, the Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod.

Top professionals from each organization thanked Eckstein publicly for his financial help, including Schwager, Jewish Agency chairman Ze'ev Bielski and UJC President and CEO Howard Rieger.

Eckstein, in turn, gave his thanks.

Israeli Congregational Rabbi Seeks Further Support for State Recognition November 20, 2008

Rabbi Miri Gold, spiritual leader of Congregation Birkat Shalom at Kibbutz Gezer…is one of 17 rabbis serving communities in the Gezer Regional Council; the rest, all Orthodox males, are state employees and receive state salaries.

...“I was picked as the ‘test case’ because Peter Weiss, the ‘mayor’ of our Gezer Regional Council, was willing to stick his neck out [and] risk the wrath of the Orthodox (and it has rained down hard!).

He wrote to the Prime Minister's Office asking that Kibbutz Gezer, populated by liberal Jews, be assigned a liberal rabbi.

I believe that Weiss' willingness to write this letter of advocacy stems from his connections with the Kansas City Jewish community, which ‘partners’ with the [Gezer] Region.

This partnership shows that our connections to Progressive Jewish communities outside of Israel will make the difference.”

Jewish Agency Center Prevents Jewish Learning

By Ma'ayana Miskin and Ze'ev Ben-Yechiel November 19, 2008

In Rabbi Sterne's experience, the Jewish Agency provides for the physical needs of the immigrants, but sorely neglects their spiritual needs.

“The Jewish Agency is a mixed bag,” he says. 
“There are those who are neutral and even supportive of Jewish enrichment within the absorption centers, but there is a strong undercurrent of opposition among certain JA employees as well.” 

Most of Rabbi Sterne’s experience has been with the Jewish Agency’s “flagship center,” Ulpan Etzion, located in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood. 

NGOs: Teach Islam to Jews and Judaism to Muslims

By Matthew Wagner November 19, 2008

A coalition of non-governmental organizations and educators hope to improve Muslim-Jewish coexistence in Israel by teaching Islam to Jews and Judaism to Muslims in the nation's public schools.

"We believe that if there will be more knowledge about Islam among Jews and if Israeli Muslims know more about Judaism this would have a positive effect on social relations," said Rabbi Ron Kronish, head of the Interreligious Coordination Council (ICCI).

"There is a high level of ignorance on both sides which leads to mutual suspicion and stereotyping."

Six New Israeli Rabbis Ordained by HUC-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem November 14, 2008

Six Israeli Progressive rabbis were ordained at the academic convocation held on the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) on November 14, 2008.

The secret of Israel and its people

By Rabbi David Hartman November 23, 2008

Click here for AUDIO recording

What is there about the Jewish people that we don’t want to leave history?

What is there about the Jewish people that we can live through destruction, despair and the deepest sense of the dehumanization of man, and proclaim our willingness to be dependent upon the world, to in some way act together with them and to build a culture of trust?

Inside an innovative Jerusalem work space

Click here for VIDEO tour

By Jacob Berkman November 18, 2008

JTA's Dan Sieradski and Jacob Berkman pay a visit to the new offices of PresenTense and speak with its founders, Ariel Beery and Aharon Horowitz, about the space.

The PresenTense Institute is a two-month old open space where Jewish innovators can work and collaborate -- and can crash for a few nights if need be.

The space, which is the brainchild of American ex-pats Ariel Beery and Aharon Horowitz, is meant to spur a free exchange of ideas to build a modern Jewish world that fully capitalizes on the social networking era. 

Long term, PresenTense, which also runs an “open source” magazine and a bevy of workshops and lecture series -- and which offers consulting services -- would like to open pods such as the one in J-town in every city internationally where Jews work.

See me, hear me

By Yonit Refaely November 23, 2008

Chana Stroe, who worked at Tzofiah and is now the director of Tikva, explains that there is an aversion in Orthodox circles to seeing girls in trouble (and thus, to helping them).

"Boys are 'meant' to rebel," says Stroe. "They go out and do things that teenage boys are known to do, and then they settle down and go to yeshiva and everyone is proud of them for sorting their lives out.

"[But] this is not so for girls. It is hard for the Orthodox community to see girls leaving religion to explore their own options, so many just deny that this phenomenon is becoming less rare as time goes on."

Religion and State in Israel

November 24, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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