Monday, December 1, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - December 1, 2008 (Section 1

Religion and State in Israel

December 1, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

ZAKA Prevails Upon Authorities to Avoid Autopsies on Jewish Mumbai Victims November 29, 2008

ZAKA, the Israel-based volunteer emergency Chevra Kadisha has been instrumental in assisting in the aftermath of the attack on the Mumbai Chabad house.

ZAKA members arrived at the scene before Shabbos, and were involved in the recovery and handling of the victims' bodies from the moment security forces neutralized the terrorist threat.

Chief Rabbinate urges State to secure Chabad houses

By Kobi Nahshoni December 1, 2008

Chabad houses serve as a kind of Israeli embassies throughout the world and the government should allocate a budget for them accordingly and take responsibility for securing them, the Chief Rabbinate Council declared on Monday in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks.

Satmar family: No State involvement in son's funeral

By Kobi Nahshoni December 1, 2008

The State has decided to recognize the Israelis murdered in the Mumbai terror attacks as victims of terrorism and pay for their funerals, but not all are happy with this decision.

The family of slain Hasid Aryeh Leib Teitelbaum has informed the government that it would like the State not to intervene with his funeral.

According to a family member, "Holding a Zionist funeral for Teitelbaum, who was a Satmar Hasid, would desecrate the dead man's honor."

The family demanded not to have a government representative at the funeral and that the casket, which will be flown into Israel today, would not be covered with the Israeli flag.

Birthright screening out Messianic Jews

By Matthew Wagner November 26, 2008

Trip organizers for Birthright have begun screening American candidates interested in free trips to Israel to prevent Messianic Jews from participating.

A questionnaire of a Birthright (Taglit) trip organizer that was obtained by The Jerusalem Post includes a question regarding applicants' religious faith.

Under a category entitled "eligibility rules," applicants are asked to declare that they are Jewish.

They are also asked to declare that "I do not subscribe to any beliefs or follow any practices which may be in any way associated with Messianic Judaism, Jews for Jesus or Hebrew Christians."

100% kosher

By Aliza Hausman Opinion November 25, 2008

The writer is a Latina Orthodox Jewish convert, freelance writer, educator and blogger. Currently working on a memoir about her conversion, she lives in New York with her husband, who is pursuing rabbinical ordination.

As I nodded, I thought not of myself but of all the prospective converts who have been scared away by the latest news in Orthodox conversion. While I hadn't acted as they did, I understood them.

Isn't all this news just a slap in the face to all converts? A sign that they'll never be truly accepted among the chosen people?

Israeli Conversion Crisis

By Rabbi Vernon Kurtz Opinion November 26, 2008

It is time for us to say enough is enough and to demand of the current and next Prime Minister of the State of Israel and all political parties not to accept the present situation.  

Politics as usual with the mixture of religion thrown in is unacceptable.  It destroys politics and religion.

It is time for Jews of goodwill to sit down and break the monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate which has currently sent more people away from Judaism than bringing them closer to it. 

It is time for us to use all appropriate Halakhic means to reach out to those individuals who wish to join us in faith and in peoplehood and bring them under the wings of the Divine Presence. 

And it is time for the Unity of the Jewish People Committee of the Jewish Agency to take a tough and principled stand on this issue.

Why I Started the Half-Jewish Network

By Robin Margolis

Robin Margolis is the Coordinator of the Half-Jewish Network, a rabbinical student at Rabbinical Seminary International.

I started the Half-Jewish Network on Sept. 22, 2005, because the adult children and other descendants of intermarriage need the same resources that are available for interfaith couples: advocacy organizations, literature and Jewish outreach.

We don't know exactly how many adult children of interfaith marriage there are, but Dr. Pearl Beck estimates, based on the National Jewish Population Survey, that the number is well over 350,000 in the United States alone.

In some European countries, the numbers may be as high or higher. 

In Israel, the Association for the Rights of Mixed Families estimates that there are at least 300,000 people who have entered the country under the Law of Return but are not considered Jewish because they come from interfaith families.

Conversion and aliyah

The expert is Maurice Singer, Senior Aliyah Consultant at the Jewish Agency. November 27, 2008

Q: Why must one wait a full year following conversion before making Aliyah? 

If a person has been known in the community for several years before making it official can that person submit information to prove such circumstance so he/she may reduce the waiting time?

A: No. The Israeli Immigration Authorities demand that converts spend a minimum of one year as active members in their Jewish Community abroad before granting an Immigrants Visa. 

This is done to prevent "conversions out of convenience" making Aliyah and reaping the benefits. The one year before has nothing to do with the validity of the conversion. 

An ever-expanding pool of would-be immigrants

By Amir Mizroch November 25, 2008

Speaking to the Bnei Menashe here in Kangpopki, I am told something that I didn't fully grasp before, but which is quite startling: All of the Kuki in Northeast India - as well as elements of the tribe in neighboring Myanmar, totaling some three million people - are considered, by the two men who had the visions and by the current leadership, to be Bnei Menashe.

So even though only a tiny minority of the Kuki tribe have embraced Judaism and want to make aliya, they are all potential Jewish converts and Israeli citizens. All three million of them.

Member of Subbotnik community appeals to make aliya

By Matthew Wagner November 26, 2008

The High Court of Justice will hold a hearing on a petition Thursday that could have ramifications for 20,000 Russians whose Jewish status is being questioned by the State of Israel.

Lubov Gonchareva, 48, a member of the "Subbotnik" community in Vysoky, southwest Russia, has been denied the right to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return by the Interior Ministry.

The Ministry refused Gonchareva's request despite the fact that her mother was permitted to immigrate under the Law of Return and was recognized by a Chief Rabbinate Rabbinical Court as a full-fledged Jew.

More than just Sabbath Jews

By Michael Freund Opinion November 25, 2008

The Subbotniks are Russia's forgotten Jews. After everything that they have gone through over the past two centuries, we cannot and dare not turn our backs on them.

They have struggled valiantly to survive, and the vestiges of this community wish to come home.

Now is the time to enable them to do so, before it is too late.

The Women of the Wall, Twenty Years On

By Phyllis Chesler Opinion November 30, 2008

Twenty years ago today, on December 1, 1998, for the first time in history, 70 Jewish women prayed together out loud as a group at the Western Wall (or "Kotel") in Jerusalem

Two films have already been made about this struggle.

The most recent film, by Yael Katzir, a secular Tel Avivian and a professor of film, is a powerful, haunting, soulful, heartbreaking, and enraging film.

It is called "Praying in her own Voice." You may both read about it and order it here and see clips of it here.

…Katzir's film now includes opening comments from prominent American woman rabbis but it also includes deeper portraits of Women of the Wall's core of long-timers: Danielle Bernstein, Batya Cohn-Kallus, Anat Hoffman, Rahel Jaskow, Haviva Ner-David, Peggy Cidor, and lawyer Frances Raday at their most heroic.

Dr. Aryeh Geiger z”l: Giant of the Human Spirit

By Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman December 1, 2008

The Jewish world lost a gem last week. Dr. Aryeh Geiger, founder of the pioneering Reut School in Jerusalem, founder of Ometz Hinuchi for principal independence, creator of the Gidonim project for the renewal of Eastern European Jewish cemeteries, died last week after a long and uphill battle with cancer.

But his long list of amazing achievements does not capture what made him truly great. His greatness was who he was as a person.

Aryeh Geiger embodied kindness and care as an entire world view. He built relationships and institutions on the same principle of spirituality as human connection.

He never veered from these unwavering beliefs, and dedicated every ounce of his life to transmitting this love for humankind.

See also: Spirituality in Leadership: Principal Aryeh Geiger

By Elana Maryles Sztokman Winter 2007 (5:2) - The Search for Spirituality in Jewish Education

Divide Jerusalem to unite it

Rabbi Donniel Hartman Co-Director of Shalom Hartman Institute November 26, 2008

…The ultra-Orthodox are no one's enemy. They are a part of our people, and Jerusalem belongs to them just as it belongs to the rest of us.

At the same time, however, they can no longer be allowed to be the sole carriers of Jerusalem's soul, culture, and aspirations.

Jerusalem must be a divided city - divided among all aspects and ideologies of Israeli society, for only as a divided city can it be united as the capital of all Israelis. Jerusalem must be a safe city - safe for all expressions of Jewishness.

Of little people and landmark decisions - Revolution in Yeruham

By Hila Raz November 28, 2008

"Everyone thought we were crazy anyway, so we gave them another reason to think so," says Leah Shakdiel, who rocked the country in 1987.

She petitioned the High Court of Justice to force then-minister of religious affairs Zevulun Hammer to approve a list of candidates for the Yeruham religious council on which her name appeared.

Hammer never dreamed that he would find himself locked in a ferocious battle with an ultra-Orthodox woman, which would cast a shadow over his public career and threaten his standing in the National Religious Party. 

Tipping point

By Ariel Hirschfeld Opinion November 28, 2008

Israel today is the most important Jewish laboratory for the dynamic between Jewish religiousness and secularism, because in Israel Jewish secularism is possible, and it is amid this secularism that the most important Jewish spiritual creation of the past 100 years has arisen.

Those accustomed to speaking of the emptiness of Israeli secularism ought to take a moment to see what a profound lesson it has to teach Jewish religiousness.

This lesson begins with "The Tip of the Yud."

Choking on Modesty

By Joseph R. Hoffman November 27, 2008 Issue 17, December 8, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report

Born into an ultra-Orthodox household 49 years ago, Chana Goldberg has moved toward the religious center and has been struggling through her art for close to two decades to point out the inequalities of the sexes in her native milieu.

Being a woman makes her task all the more of an uphill struggle. 

"I believe I am the only professional frum-from-birth female artist in the city," she says, using the Yiddish word for observant.

…Returning to Jerusalem in 1996, Goldberg began to expand on the themes nurtured at Tyler, including controversial scenes of motherhood, like her "Last Supper," which was first shown in a 1999 group exhibition for new members at the Jerusalem's Artists House. 

…At the time of the 1999 exhibition, Goldberg was teaching art at a religious high school in Jerusalem. 

When a supervisor from the Ministry of Education for the religious schools saw her paintings at the Artists House, she gave Goldberg an ultimatum: either remove her works from the exhibit or lose her job. Goldberg chose the latter and quit.

So they're asses

Haaretz Editorial November 27, 2008

Shas is trying to have its cake and eat it too: to deride the fundamental values of a state education while setting its sights on the Education Ministry.

While Shas leaders claim that their constituency is loyal to the state and its sons serve in the Israel Defense Forces, their education system, which is funded by state subsidies, aims to insulate its children from symbols of the state while teaching them to scorn the core-curriculum subjects that are the backbone of the state education system.

One ought not be moved by Rabbi Yosef's sermons, and handing the education portfolio over to Shas should be looked at as a fleeting election joke.

Thank God I’m an ass

By Oved Tzur Opinion November 27, 2008

Oved Tzur is a teacher at Ramat Gan’s Blich High School

Teacher responds to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who referred to secular teachers as ‘asses’

A [gaon] genius says that soldiers died on duty because they failed to pray and lay tefillin. Meanwhile, the ass explains to his students the importance of defending the homeland while observing the verse commanding us to guard our souls.

Extortion in God’s name

By Ariana Melamed Opinion November 24, 2008

…The problem with statements such as the one uttered by [Shas] MK Margi is not the fact that it was made in the heat of an election campaign.

Rather, it is part of an orderly doctrine of an organization whose final objective – forgive this expression – is the establishment of a religious state in Israel.

If you push them into a corner, all of Shas’ Knesset members will admit that, God willing, this is exactly what they envision.

What American Jews don't get about Israelis

By Anshel Pfeffer November 28, 2008

While the Jews in America and other communities have been grappling for decades with the question of how to define a Jewish identity that is not tied down only to religion, secular Israelis simply don't have that problem.

Sure, many of them lack a lot of Jewish knowledge and they certainly are not very aware of the Jewish world outside Israel.

But they're not very bothered about it, because for them every moment in Israel is passed within a Hebrew speaking Jewish environment. 

Jewish Agency leaders approve major cuts, push reform plan

By Jacob Berkman November 25, 2008

Officials at the Jewish Agency for Israel are saying a $40.5 million budget cut and a radical restructuring ultimately will provide a major boost to its campaign to reorganize and expand its efforts beyond aliyah.

The GA should not be remembered as another bad date between American Jews and Israelis

By Gil Troy November 30, 2008

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and the author of Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity, and the Challenges of Today. His latest book is Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents.

Non-religious Israeli Judaism is different than non-religious American Judaism - but in so many ways more substantive, rooted, integrated, learned.

Moreover, while too many secular Israeli Jews are too distant from traditional Judaism, these contemptuous remarks ignore the Jewish renaissance taking place among non-religious Israeli Jews.

When he next visits Israel on his movement's tab, this leader should visit the Shalom Hartman Institute… the Hebrew Union College… the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem… the TALI Education Fund…

President of Charles Bronfman Philanthropies highlights steep drop in US donations to Israel November 17, 2008

HAT TIP to Dan Brown Private Philanthropy in the Public Sphere

Contributions received in Israel from American Jewry make up a significant part of the income for Israel's third sector - estimated at 19 percent of the third sector's income - amounting to approximately US$1.5 billion per year.

Zohan and the Quest for Jewish Utopia

By Michael Oren Opinion Autumn 5769 / 2008, no. 34

Michael B. Oren is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center and a contributing editor of AZURE.

Adam Sandler's hit comedy reflects a deep divide between Israeli and American Jews.

The choices made by their protagonists thus, to a great extent, reflect the gulf between Israeli and American Jewry over which community best guarantees Jewish survival—physical as well as spiritual—in a precarious, secular age.

Which polity, these misleadingly superficial films ask, constitutes the sole Jewish utopia, the State of Israel or the United States? Which is the real Promised Land?

Such questions, of course, are as old as Zionism itself.

…In its own naive way, the film tries to bridge the gap that divides Israelis and Palestinians.

But at the same time, it only accentuates the gap separating Israelis from American Jews.

Regrettably, the chasm still yawns between these conflicting utopias, between contrasting dreams of national and personal freedom and disparate formulas for Jewish survival.

At the local level

By Peggy Cidor November 27, 2008

Following the decision to unite the National Religious Party and the National Union into one party called Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home), some interesting changes are also taking place on the city council.

Instead of the four seats the NRP held on the outgoing city council, Habayit Hayehudi will have only three…

Regarding the issue of education, Rabbi Dr. Micha Goodman, head of the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership and research fellow at the Hartman Institute, believes that the best thing for Jewish Zionist education is precisely for the [education] portfolio not to be held by a religious city councillor. 

"Without expressing a political point of view regarding the NRP or Habayit Hayehudi, I am convinced that Jewish Zionist education doesn't have to be a matter for religious Zionists.

Regarding the role of this new political party, I would say that with all due respect, Judaism belongs to us all, observant and non-observant; it is not a matter of 'dati'im.'

Slogan: Reelect Safed mayor, bring Messiah November 25, 2008

A previously unknown religious organization has jumped into the electoral fray in Safed, urging people to vote for incumbent Mayor Yishai Maimon in today's run-off by claiming that he will help bring the Messiah.

Maimon is contending against Ilan Shochat, who outpolled him in the first round of voting on November 11.

The organization, called Lovers of God in the Holy Community of Safed, published a manifesto saying that voters have the power "to advance the coming of the Messiah" by reelecting Maimon, as his election "will enable us to end all the abominations, desecrations of God's name and sexual immorality."

Let the biblical times roll

By Raphael Ahren November 28, 2008

Two years ago, Thrasher, 57, came from the United States to Ein Kerem, the picturesque village in southwest Jerusalem, to become the executive director of the Bible Times Center and Heritage Garden, which she founded and built largely with her own savings. 

…It is equally popular among evangelical Christians and Jews, Orthodox or secular. Perhaps surprisingly, a large number of "Christian Chinese Zionists"- as Thrasher calls them - visit the center, too, as well as some religious Muslims.

Pope to make rare visit to Israel in May, following months of Jewish-Catholic tension

By Anshel Pfeffer November 27, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI is set to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories in May 2009 after accepting an invitation by President Shimon Peres.

The Vatican and Israel are said, thus, to hopefully end the high tension of recent months between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people over the initiative of canonizing Pope Pius XII. 

This visit, which would be the third visit of a pope to Israel since the establishment of the state, has not yet been officially confirmed. 

2008's Sigd spells affirmation, unity, joy and hope for Ethiopians

By Abe Selig November 28, 2008

Singing, dancing and reveling in the fulfillment of years spent yearning for a return to Jerusalem, thousands of Ethiopians from all over the country descended on the capital's Haas promenade in Armon Hanatziv Thursday to celebrate Sigd, the annual Beta Israel festival commemorating the revelation on Mt. Sinai and the acceptance of the Torah.

…Still, as some measure of the Beta Israel's acceptance inside the Jewish State, this year's Sigd was the first to be recognized as a national holiday, after the Knesset added it to the list of official state holidays in July.

Golden Baha'i dome to get first renovation 

By Fadi Eyadat November 25, 2008

The Baha'i Temple in Haifa will soon undergo its first renovation since the building was completed in 1953. As a result, its famous gilded dome will be covered for almost two years.

The project includes reinforcement against earthquakes, replacing iron with steel, upgrading the electrical system and replacing the gilded panels of the dome.

Preparations began this week for the work, which is expected to take four years and cost an estimated NIS 25 million, covered entirely by Baha'i donors worldwide. The dome will be covered in the middle of next year.

Now you can get the Koran on your cellphone

By Kobi Ben-Simhon November 25, 2008

Pelephone announced a new service last week, inviting subscribers to read the Koran on their cellphones. The service, which costs NIS 5.90 a month, comes on the heels of the cellular version of the Bible, which the company launched about six months ago. 

Religion and State in Israel

December 1, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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