Monday, December 15, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - December 15, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

December 15, 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.

Messianic Jews detained at Ben-Gurion Airport

By Matthew Wagner December 15, 2008

A director of the US Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations and his wife were detained Sunday at Ben-Gurion Airport by Interior Ministry officials amid allegations he is involved in illegal Christian missionary activity.

It is illegal in Israel to proselytize among minors. It is also prohibited to engage in missionary activities among adults when economic incentives are offered.

After over eight hours of detention, Jamie Cowen, a former president of the union, and his wife, Stacy, were permitted to enter Israel only after they agreed to sign a document that they would not engage in missionary activities during their stay.

The film they wouldn't screen

By Robin Garbose Opinion December 12, 2008

In the United States, we have just elected the first black president, but in Israel I, an Orthodox Jewish woman filmmaker with the first high-quality Orthodox Jewish women's film, cannot find acceptance in the one festival where we most belong - the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival. 

"Greytowers" is a genuine work of art from a community that has not until now had a cinematic voice; it represents the voice of religious Jewish women who choose to live their lives according to the Jewish laws of modesty and who, consequently, do not sing or dance in front of men.

The 10th Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival

The Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival has been held annually since 1999 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque-Israel Film Archive.

During the days of the Festival, over 50 films, from Israel and from all over the world, are screened - feature films, documentaries, shorts, animated and avant-garde films - that explore themes of Jewish faith and practice, history, culture, music, the Holocaust, contemporary life in Israel and the Jewish Diaspora, the relationship between Judaism and other world religions and the role of Jewish identity in the State of Israel.

Rabbinical courts attacked at divorce law conference

By Matthew Wagner December 11, 2008

The rabbinical courts bore the brunt of sharp criticism Tuesday as hundreds of attorneys, legal professors, judges and rabbinic court advocates packed into Bar-Ilan University's Mintz Auditorium to discuss the ramifications of a new divorce law amendment.

According to the new amendment to the Spousal Property Relations Law, it will be possible to execute the division of jointly owned property prior to the giving of the get. 

This can be done in cases where divorce proceedings last more than one year or if it is proven that a marriage is in irretrievable breakdown, as well as in cases of domestic violence.

The amendment is designed to prevent a situation in which either the husband or the wife uses the get as a bargaining chip to extract a large slice of property from the other side.

However, the finalizing of the get is still within the jurisdiction of the rabbinical courts.

Halperin-Kaddari raised concerns that the courts might claim that the property arrangement decided by the civil family court was a type of coercion.

"Rabbinical courts might have the audacity to claim that only when the husband is permitted to use the get as a bargaining chip to extort his wife will it be a kosher divorce," said Halperin-Kaddari.

Casting blame: A response to Chief Rabbi Amar

By Leah Aharonov Opinion December 10, 2008

The writer is president of the International Council of Jewish Women, an NGO which represents 52 Jewish women's organizations around the world and is a member of the

I would invite Rabbi Amar to consider an alternative scenario. Women's organizations are probably the ones that are mounting the last-ditch effort to save the rabbis and rabbinate from themselves.

The fact that they want to bring them kicking and screaming into a Jewish world that will not tolerate inequality and discrimination, and that will not allow women to suffer abrogation of their human rights, is what may still preserve the relevancy of the rabbinate.

For too many in Israel, religious marriage is no longer an option, if only to avoid what may be a horrendous situation in the event of divorce.

The women's organizations have been and continue to be the most positive force in preserving this aspect of Jewish life in Israel - if only the rabbis would wake up and recognize it.

The great and equivocal vanishing trick of Israeli women

By Susan Weiss Opinion December 9, 2008

The writer is the founder and director of the Center for Women's Justice.

Susan Weiss blogs at

The great vanishing trick of Muslim women behind the weight of the chador is a bit heavy-handed and obvious. We in Israel are much more subtle. We eliminate our women with élan, delicacy - and equivocation.

…If it's so clear to us modern-Westernized-Israeli world travelers that the chador chokes and obliterates Muslim women, it's time that we modern-Westernized-Israeli world travelers, as well as our state courts and institutions, observe and eliminate - without equivocation - our more sophisticated versions of the same.

My wife is a bigamist

By David Breakstone Opinion December 12, 2008

The writer is a member of the executives of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization, where he represents MERCAZ Olami, the Zionist arm of the worldwide Conservative/Masorti Movement.

I've been married eight years now, and have decided it's time to confess: My wife is a bigamist. That's when she's in Santiago. In New York, she's simply married. In Europe, she's single. Here in Israel, she's actually divorced.

…If this were only a story of personal interest, I might not bother sharing it.

But, sadly, it is also a story of national importance. 

The interference of state-run religious institutions in our personal lives has continued for far too long and has reached dangerous proportions, threatening the Jewish character of the state it purportedly exists to preserve.

With the influx of some 300,000 olim from the former Soviet Union who are not Jewish according to Halacha, it has become increasingly clear that the monopoly of the rigid Orthodox establishment over life-cycle events was never only a parochial concern of Israel's Reform and Masorti/Conservative Jews.

Husband grants wife a divorce after being jailed

By Yair Harush December 8, 2008

The Ashdod Rabbinical Court has recently sent a recalcitrant husband to jail for refusing to grant his wife a divorce. 

The arrest apparently helped change the man's mind, and soon after he agreed to grant the sought-after get.

Biblical Sarah scares the men

By Tsafi Saar December 15, 2008

Rachel Adler’s "Feminism Yehudi" is due to be published in Hebrew, as part of the series Yahadut Kan Ve'achshav, published by Yedioth Ahronoth, Sifrei Hemed, and translated by Ruth Blum. It was first published 10 years ago as "Engendering Judaism" and is considered revolutionary. 

In the brit ahuvim, she explains, "men and women acquire a partnership that either partner can dissolve. No get [Jewish divorce decree] is required.

A beit din [rabbinical court] in which three scholarly Jews would sit would simply certify that the brit ahuvim was terminated.

This could make a big difference to women who currently can be made to pay large sums of money for a get, or can be kept waiting for long periods" or not get a religious divorce at all.

The brit ahuvim, Adler says, is a proposal that could help the growing split among the people of Israel.

This is especially pertinent in Israel, where there is no alternative to the traditional Jewish marriage ceremony and where quite a few populations face difficulties on this subject. 

Rabbis order compensation over infidelities

By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay December 14, 2008

The Netanya rabbinical court has ordered a man to pay his ex-wife NIS 52,000 in compensation for the destruction of their family and for the mental anguish he caused her by his repeated infidelities, reports

The rabbis rejected the man's argument that he was driven to the infidelities because his wife had lost interest in intimate relations after the birth of their third child, saying that it was possible that it was difficult for a woman to resume relations after having a baby, and in such cases a husband should wait until she was ready.

According to the report, the couple's divorce case was being heard by three rabbinical court judges, who decided that the husband's claims that he wanted to remain with his wife were not genuine. 

The rabbis also criticized the husband for going to the civil courts in an attempt to sell off the family's apartment and divide up the proceeds. They said the apartment had been bought by the wife before the marriage, and ruled that it belonged entirely to her.

Ne’eman: Use Halachic Courts December 15, 2008

Former Minister of Justice Yaakov Ne’eman said Sunday that the solution to a crisis in Israeli courts is for Israelis to use the halachic court system which follows traditional Jewish law. Ne’eman made these comments in a conference on monetary issues held at Bar Ilan University.

Ne’eman explained that monetary cases currently take an inordinate amount of time to come to completion in the secular law system. He said that plaintiffs should make more use of the halachic law system which is similar to an arbitration system.

Feds Argue Law of Return Makes Jews Flight Risk

By Stewart Ain December 10, 2008

In a legal argument called “astounding and very troublesome,” a federal prosecutor has argued that Israel’s Law of Return makes American Jews a flight risk and therefore ineligible for bail.

Click here for US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa (pdf) Order of Detention

Hat Tip to

Rubashkin appeals denial of bail December 8, 2008

Lawyers for the former head of an Iowa kosher slaughterhouse asked a judge to reconsider his decision to deny bail.

In court documents filed Dec. 5, lawyers for Sholom Rubashkin made a substantial argument over the fact that the original detention order deeming Rubashkin a flight risk cited Israel's Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to every Jew. 

Some Jews saw the ruling as setting a dangerous precedent that could be used to deny bail to Jewish defendants solely on the basis of their religion.

Click here for US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa (pdf) Order of Detention

Hat Tip to

Integration of mixed families

By Ludmilla Oigenblick and Yona Triestman Opinion December 11, 2008

Ludmilla Oigenblick is the founder and CEO of the Association for the Rights of Mixed Families and has a PhD in sociology and has conducted research on mixed families for nine years. Yona Triestman is resource developer for AMF.

Who is a Jew, or who has the right to be a Jew? Eighty percent of children of mixed families are Jewish by patrilineal descent.

…AMF WAS founded to improve the integration of mixed families into Israeli society. All our community projects strengthen their sense of belonging to the Jewish people. 

Some of our students have already celebrated bar and bat mitzva in Reform synagogues, and many serve in IDF combat units. We celebrate in communal Pessah and Shavuot Sedarim, and are now preparing for Hanukka and Purim. 

No one can tell these children that they are not Jewish. Some parents have enrolled in non-Orthodox conversion courses.

Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur: The Chief Rabbinate Should Dissociate Itself from Conversion Authority

By Yechiel Sever December 11, 2008

Vaad HaRabbonim is calling on the Chief Rabbinate to absolve itself of responsibility for the Conversion Authority and stop recognizing the conversions it performs.

"The Chief Rabbinate cannot certify conversions that are not under the control of rabbonim yirei Shomayim from the early preparation stage through the end of the conversion process if the conversion candidates do not undertake genuine mitzvah observance in full," said a Vaad HaRabbonim spokesman.

The 'Subbotnik' Case

By Leora Eren Frucht December 10, 2008 Issue 18, December 22, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report

In a case that could have implications for thousands of Subbotnik Jews in Russia, the Supreme Court has asked the Interior Ministry to reconsider the applications of two members of the community who sought to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return, but were turned down, ostensibly because they were married to non-Jews.

Michael Freund tells The Report that Shavei Zion plans to wait for the formation of the new government, following the February election, and the appointment of a new interior minister in the hope that

"we will be able to bring about a change in policy without going back to court. We are not giving up on this issue. We are determined to bring about a change in the status of Subbotnik Jews of Russia."

The Bnei Menashe truth

By Barlev Haokip Opinion December 15, 2008

The writer is about to publish a book on the Bnei Menashe and their Jewish origin, based on the Talmudic and Midrashic teaching that are at root of the ancient tradition of the Kukis.

I have been back in Manipur twice as an emissary to teach Judaism among the Kukis, pointing out the connection of our customs, culture and traditional belief with those of the Jewish tradition. Some became excited about the connection to the exclusion of all else.

Therefore I explain to them the importance of Halakha for living a truly Jewish life, which is the most important goal after learning our true identity. 

Many have come back to their Jewish roots and embraced Judaism in this manner, one of the reasons for the tremendous growth in number of Kukis now practicing Judaism

Tiv Taam Givatayim to close Saturdays

By Adi Dovrat December 9, 2008

The Givatayim Magistrates Court has ordered Tiv Taam to close its local branch on Saturdays.

The Givatayim municipality raised a fuss after the branch opened in February of this year on Weizman Street, one of the town's thoroughfares, saying that operation of the business on the Sabbath was in violation of city ordinances.

Tiv Taam argued that the chain was being discriminated against, and named 33 other businesses that operate regularly on Saturdays on Weizman Street and other nearby locations, including some of its largest competitors.

Kosher Wars

By Yehudit Singer Opinion December 11, 2008

Here in Israel, the kashrut system has turned into a highly proliferated, politically-charged, unregulated web of inconsistent policies.

Yet, for the top brass that sit atop any given kashrut company in Israel, be sure that they sit atop a highly-profitable business.

...With no unification in sight, one must wonder what will be. Perhaps the solution is to revert back to the ways of life in the Diaspora, vigilantly checking kashrut status on each item.

Perhaps we should revert to the ways of Rav Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel, and support the Rabbanut. After all, a Jew is a Jew. Do we close our eyes and hope for the best?

'Letters to G-d' delivered to Western Wall AP December 11, 2008

Postal authorities have delivered hundreds of "letters to G-d" from across the world to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Every year Israeli officials bring letters addressed to the wall or to G-d and stuff them into the cracks between the stones in the wall.

The site's chief rabbi carried a cardboard box Tuesday marked "Letters to G-d" and containing letters in a variety of languages, including English, Russian, French and Spanish.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz says prayers of people all over the world "ascend through this holy place." He says he hopes G-d grants all of the requests.

The significance of Israel for the future of Judaism

By Rabbi David Hartman Havruta Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 2 December 7, 2008

…Not only has the return to the land recreated some of the existential conditions that informed the biblical, covenantal foundations of Judaism, but it has also provided Jews with an exciting opportunity to recapture some of the salient features of their biblical foundations.

The acceptance of responsibility for Jewish national existence can be understood as a progressive extension of the rabbinic understanding of the covenantal relationship between God and Israel. 

An Orthodox oasis

By Sam Ser December 14, 2008

Tifrah lies 10 minutes of nondescript highway travel outside of Ofakim, a town as down on its luck as any in the country.

Tifrah’s saving grace was Yeshivat Tushia, which opened up in 1968. It had two dozen students then, but boasts more than 600 now.

…Only a few of the students will stay here once they marry, joining the kollel at the other end of the moshav. As for the veteran residents, the situation isn't promising.

Some 300 families live in Tifrah, totaling about 2,000 people - but, Finkelstein, notes; many of the residents are elderly. Most of their children moved out to the main centers of haredi life, in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Kiryat Sefer and Ramat Beit Shemesh.

U.S. Army sends American-Israeli woman to Afghanistan

By Cnaan Liphshitz December 12, 2008

The Foreign Ministry on Thursday began reviewing an unusual plea from a 55-year-old American-Israeli woman from Netanya who is fighting the U.S. Army's decision to send her to active reserve duty in Afghanistan.

Citing the fact that Command Sergeant Orli Avior is also an Israeli citizen, the woman's husband wrote Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that his wife's Afghani tour would be "unnecessarily dangerous and irrational." Orli Avior is currently in Kuwait, awaiting mobilization to Afghanistan. 

Religion and State in Israel

December 15, 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.