Monday, December 8, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - December 8, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

December 8, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Why Israelis Love Chabad

By Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic Opinion December 4, 2008

Yossi Klein Halevi is a contributing editor at The New Republic and a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

In embracing the Holtzbergs, Israelis were restoring to the national ethos the old concept of kiddush hashem, religious martyrdom--confirming a process that began with the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

…Still, it is doubtful the country would have reacted with the same emotional intensity had the Holtzbergs been ordinary ultra-Orthodox Jews rather than Chabadniks.

Mainstream Israelis resent ultra-Orthodox Jews for separating from the state and its obligations even as they demand that it subsidize their separatism.

Chabad neither separates nor demands, but gives.

‘With Them There Was No Religious or Secular’

By Joshua Mitnick December 3, 2008

With its iconic billboards of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson and its yellow “Messiah” flags, Chabad Lubavitch has always been outside the Israeli mainstream.

But with the targeting of the Mumbai Chabad center and the murder of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah in front of their 2-year-old son Moishe, the worldwide movement has been cast in a new light.

…“With them, there was no ‘religious’ or ‘secular,’” said Shmulik Peri, another diamond trader. “There were only Jews.” 

…They are the great exception to secular antipathy toward the ultra-Orthodox. The rest of the ultra-Orthodox community is seen by mainstream Israelis to take from society and not give back. Chabad gives and asks for nothing in return. 

Burying the Jew-Israeli distinction?

By Matthew Wagner Opinion December 6, 2008

The Foreign Ministry's distinction between official and unofficial Israeli organizations, however, might hint at another reason for official opposition to supporting Chabad:

Why should the secular State of Israel support Chabad, an organization with the essentially spiritual goal of spreading Yiddishkeit?

…A senior official in the Foreign Ministry said that Mumbai represented a "turning point in relations between Chabad and the State of Israel.

I don't know if we will be seeing more state funding for Chabad Houses, but the attack definitely blurred the distinctions between 'Israeli' and 'Jew.'"

In Terror, Satmar and Chabad Rabbis United

By Marissa Brostoff December 4, 2008

…But in far-flung places with tiny Jewish populations, Chabad, which has outposts around the globe, is often the only outlet for kosher food and prayer services.

Even though Chabad is best known for its outreach to non-Orthodox Jews, the tragedy in Mumbai illuminates the role that Chabad has played as a haven for fellow ultra-Orthodox travelers.

“They made sure not only to have Chabad shchita [certification for kosher meat] but to have other shchita as well, so that others could be accommodated,” 

said Leib Glanz, a rabbi and community leader in one of Brooklyn’s Satmar enclaves, who had spoken with Teitelbaum’s father.

'Mumbai attack reminds Israelis of shared destiny with Diaspora Jews'

By Matthew Wagner December 7, 2008

Aviva Raz-Shechter, director of the Foreign Ministry's Department for Combating Anti-Semitism:

"Mumbai opened a window for Israelis unfamiliar with Chabad's good work. It helped them get closer to a group of Jews who do not necessarily define themselves as Zionists but who are willing to open their homes to everybody."

Behind the carnage

By Anshel Pfeffer Opinion December 7, 2008

Mumbai, India

…But neither this nor the terrible tragedy of their death should make us forget the fact that Chabad is a controversial and highly-politicized movement with an aggressive agenda that is anathema to many Jews and Israelis.

…The demands that the government take responsibility for the security of Chabad missions around the world are unfeasible and, quite frankly, preposterous. 

Chabad is a New York-based organization with its own hierarchy and objectives, it certainly doesn't represent Israel.

State angry at Zaka's Mumbai 'meddling'

By Herb Keinon December 2, 2008

Senior Foreign Ministry officials lashed out at the Zaka rescue and recovery organization on Monday, charging that the group was causing considerable damage to Indo-Israeli ties by "meddling" in Mumbai.

"They are causing all kinds of problems," a senior Foreign Ministry official said of the six-man team that flew Thursday on its own volition to Mumbai. 
"They are selling all kinds of stories to journalists looking for stories, and taking credit for things they didn't do."

…Regarding Zaka, one senior Foreign Ministry official said that the six-man team went to Mumbai on its own, and was not working together with the official Israeli representatives on the ground.

"It is not exactly clear what they are doing there," the official said.

According to the official, the Indian authorities removed the bodies from the home, and there was no need for Zaka to do what it often is called upon to do after terrorist attacks in Israel - collect body parts.

New conversions chief will only exacerbate problems, critics charge

By Matthew Wagner December 5, 2008

The controversial appointment of a new administrative head to the state's Conversion Authority Wednesday is expected to hamper efforts to encourage tens of thousands of non-Jewish Israelis to embrace Judaism.

Muli Yeselson, an employee of the Joint Institute for Jewish Studies, which employs Orthodox, Conservative and Reform teachers who educate potential converts before conversion, was chosen by the Prime Minister's Office and the Civil Servants' Commission.

…Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, an aide to Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, said that Yeselson was potentially problematic since he was coming from the Joint Institute, where non-Orthodox streams of Judaism are taught.

"We have to wait and see whether he accepts Rabbi Amar as his new boss," he said.

Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, champion of halachic justice, dies at 98

By David M. Weinberg December 4, 2008

The writer was spokesman of Bar-Ilan University and a student of Rabbi Rackman.

Rackman never shrank from a fight for halachic justice. In his late 80s, when most great men retire to write their memoirs, he launched his boldest and most controversial enterprise: an independent Bet Din (Jewish law court) to free agunot, women chained to their halachic marriages against their will by recalcitrant husbands.

The "tears of the oppressed," he said, were making his heart bleed, and few rabbis were willing to employ the far-reaching legal tools necessary for the task.

Using disputable Talmudic precedents for annulment, he dissolved over 100 marriages without the husband's agreement. Rackman admitted that one of his goals was to prod the rabbinical establishment out of its slumber on this painful issue, yet insisted that the Bet Din's technical solutions remained within the halachic envelope.

Rackman said that "the neglect of agunot by the rabbinic establishment is alienating people from Judaism. I am fighting for the glory of Torah and the halachic system, and my solutions will do more for the future of Halacha than the stringency of its mandates. I certainly feel that I can meet my Maker on this!"

Former Bar-Ilan chief remembered for contribution to women's Jewish rights

By Raphael Ahren December 5, 2008

Rackman was perhaps best known for his commitment to ease legal restrictions on women within the framework of religious law. 

He found a halachic basis for annulling more than a hundred marriages, effectively freeing women trapped in these marriages from their status as agunot (chained women), caused by their husbands refusal to divorce them. 

"He felt Halacha had to be, as it were, client-friendly," said Daniel Sperber, president of Bar-Ilan's Institute of Advanced Torah Studies and a close friend Rackman's.

"Whenever people who are interpreting Halacha seemed to be causing pain and hardship, he felt that something was wrong. 

He was an activist in trying to innovate Halacha, but always within the parameters of the law." 

New Reform push for rabbinic funding

By Raphael Ahren December 5, 2008

In a bid to revive its struggle for official recognition by the state of Israel, the Reform movement here has collected over 5,000 signatures on a recently launched petition.

Beginning with the words "We, too, deserve Rabbis," the petition cites the case of Miri Gold, the American-born Reform rabbi who three years ago turned to the Supreme Court demanding to be officially recognized as spiritual leader of her 

The petition, initiated by the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and the Israel Religious Action Center, will be submitted to President Shimon Peres after it garners more than 10,000 names. 

Immigrant legal aid forced to downsize

By Yael Branovsky December 2, 2008

R. has been working as an attorney with the legal aid department at the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) for about a year, but starting Tuesday she will be unemployed.

Attorney Reut Michaeli, who heads the IRAC's legal aid department, told Ynet her office handles some 6,000 cases a year; the majority of which concern arranging residency status for the immigrants and their families.

Until august of 2007, the IRAC's legal aid department, which has been operating for 17 years, had 11 staff members – five lawyers, an intern and people proficient in various languages. 

Once downsized, the department has only four employees, and according to Michaeli, they can now take on only a third of the cases.

Recognizing modern streams of Judaism

Letters to the Editor December 8, 2008

By Muriel Goldhammer, Kfar Sava

…As an immigrant I've heard too often from friends, "We don't go to shul and the shul we don't go to is Orthodox."

Last year, Haaretz interviewed secular Jews "on the street" about how they viewed the modern streams of Judaism. I was shocked to read of one woman who confessed that she hated the "Reformim," even though she didn't know any.

This rejection of the newer streams of Judaism is also a tacit rejection of Western Jewish immigrants who wish to retain their religious identity but not be suffocated by Haredi rules.

Many native-born Israelis shrug their shoulders at attempts by the modern streams of Judaism to change the laws on marriage, divorce and conversion because even though they reject Orthodoxy, they apparently believe that only the ultra-Orthodox are legitimate Jews.

There are many tensions between Israeli and Diaspora Jews but this failure in Israel to legitimize the modern streams of Judaism is the most serious.

Lindenstrauss: Chaos at Mt. Meron

By Dan Izenberg December 7, 2008

One-and-a-half million people visit the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mt. Meron each year, but the holy site is improperly administered and in a state of disrepair, state comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss has found in a special report released on Sunday.

The state comptroller also found that the celebrations on Lag B’Omer draw 250,000 to 400,000 people each year but are illegal because the regional council does not issue a permit, and dangerous because there is no supervision of the accommodations and the activities that take place there.

Comptroller: Popular rabbi's tomb seriously mismanaged

By Eli Ashkenazi December 8, 2008

Under the current arrangement, most of the built-up area and donation boxes are managed by the Sephardi religious leadership, namely Rabbi Shlomo Chelouche, son of Netanya chief rabbi David Chelouche.

Other religious leaders involved in the tomb's management include Safed chief rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and his father, former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu. 

MK Yitzhak Levy quitting politics

By Nadav Shragai December 5, 2008

MK Rabbi Yitzhak Levy (National Union-National Religious Party) yesterday announced his intention to leave politics, declaring he would not run for a place on the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party list. 

Levy has served as education minister and as head of the National Religious Party in the past.

3 outsiders vie for Habayit Hayehudi chairman

By Matthew Wagner December 5, 2008

In a surprise move, three non-politicians were chosen Thursday evening as candidates for chairman of the new right-wing party Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home).

Habayit Hayehudi's Public Council selected Technion mathematician Prof. Rabbi Danny Hershkovitz, Beersheba educator Avi Wartzman and rabbinical courts administrative head Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan as finalists in the chairmanship elections.

The other three candidates, NU/NRP MKs Uri Ariel, Zevulun Orlev and Benny Elon, were dropped.

No good deed goes unpunished

By Shahar Ilan Opinion December 3, 2008

MK Michael Melchior (Meimad), as chairman of the environmental caucus, was a partner in the green revolution led by Khenin, which included sweeping legislation such as the Clean Air Law and the "polluter pays" law.

And Melchior led the educational revolution, in the process turning the generally unimportant Education Committee into a very efficient factory for legislation.

Among the laws it passed were one extending compulsory education to age 18, one creating a mixed religious-secular school system, and the Public Libraries Law. 

None of this helped him, however, because Meimad's home for the last 10 years, the Labor Party, is facing a serious dearth of seats, so it is no longer able to reserve a slot for a religious reinforcement.

One could argue that this is the deserved fate of someone who has consistently refused to subject himself to the test of an election.

But Meimad's public is small, so joining up with a larger faction would seem to have been the correct, and perhaps even the only, choice.

Renegade Chabad rabbi 'right of Kahane' plans run for Knesset

By Nadav Shragai December 7, 2008

Meet Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe, head of the World Headquarters to Save the People and Land of Israel (SOS Israel), director of the Chabad educational institutions in Kiryat Gat, author of more than 40 books on a wide range of topics in rabbinical law and Torah and the man who a few days ago said that "the state of Israel is the enemy of the Jewish people," before softening his stance a bit. 

Now Wolpe, one of the heads of the Messianic faction of Chabad, is registering a new political party, "Eretz Yisrael Shelanu - A United Jewish Party for the Wholeness of the Torah, the Land and the People."

Study: Haredi stores are 20 percent cheaper than other stores

By Nati Toker December 3, 2008

General retail stores catering to the ultra-Orthodox sector are about 20% cheaper than their parallels serving the secular community, the Nielsen research institute found.

Nitzan Holzberg, marketing and sales director at Nielsen presented the data at a conference on marketing to the ultra-Orthodox sector at the Israeli Management Center this week. 

The Blue Square Israel group runs a special chain of supermarkets for the Haredi sector, Shefa Shuk. Super-Sol recently launched a rival chain, Yesh. The ultra-Orthodox sector is also served by private-label chains such as Bar Kol. 

Boycott of Shefa Shuk continues

By Nati Toker December 3, 2008

The Blue Square Israel group runs a special chain of supermarkets for the Haredi sector, Shefa Shuk. Super-Sol recently launched a rival chain, Yesh. The ultra-Orthodox sector is also served by private-label chains such as Bar Kol. 

Certain elements in the religious community, led by the Gur Hassidic, sect had been boycotting Shefa Shuk because the chain's owner also owns AM:PM, a supermarket chain open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in the greater Tel Aviv area - in other words, it violates the Shabbat. 

However, the ultra-Orthodox community was riven anew by the municipal elections in Jerusalem. Anger at the Gur sect for backing Nir Barkat, a secular candidate who was just elected mayor, has worked in Shefa Shuk's favor. 

However, Shefa Shuk isn't out of the woods. Rabbi Yitzhak Goldknopf, secretary of the Rabbinic Committee for the Sanctity of the Shabbat, attended this week's conference and said that the rabbinic leaders continue to urge followers to shun the chain. The rabbis have also been blocking Shefa Shuk's attempts to advertise in ultra-Orthodox communities. 

"[Haredi Lithuanian leader] Rabbi Elyashiv has ordered that until the last store closes on Shabbat, we will not allow Shefa Shuk to advertise in ultra-Orthodox papers," Goldknopf said. 

Chinuch Atzmai: Say ‘No’ to Discrimination in Yerushalayim Beis Yaakov

By Yechiel Spira December 1, 2008

Rabbi Henach Cohen, the head of Chinuch Atzmai in the United States:

“It is worthwhile to point out that while many believe it is funded by the Israeli government, in actuality, the system functions primarily as a direct result of donations.

If chas v’sholom Chinuch Atzmai would be compelled to survive on Israeli governmental funding alone, schools like Beis Yaakov HaTzafon and many others would surely vanish.

The contributions from givirim and those who can give whatever they can ensure the torah network in Eretz HaKodesh remains a steadfast foundation to ensure the proper chinuch for the torah community of Israel.”

At Art Auction Orthodox Jew Praised For Not Selling Nude Photos December 1, 2008

The auction did not include any works featuring nudes, because MatsArt owner Lucien Krief, a French-born veteran Jerusalem art dealer, is an Orthodox Jew.

“Such paintings are considered by me and many of my regular clients as not showing proper respect for the female form,” Krief said.

Meet ‘HaMevaser’

By Yechiel Spira December 4, 2008

In Eretz Yisrael, there will be a new face in the chareidi printed media, the HaMevaser, a project of MK Rabbi Meir Porush, his apparent response to the hostile position adopted by the daily Hamodia during his recent unsuccessful bid in the Jerusalem mayoral race.

Religion and State in Israel

December 8, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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