Monday, January 14, 2008

Religion & State in Israel – January 14, 2008

Religion & State in Israel

January 14, 2008

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Photo credit: Jewish Chronicle

Court to hear petition against segregation of sexes on buses

By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz

Orthodox American-Israeli novelist Naomi Ragen and the Israel Religious Action Center, the advocacy arm of Israel's Reform movement, brought the petition a year ago in a bid to sharply reduce the operation of sex-segregated buses and prevent men and women from being forced to sit separately.

"This phenomenon [of sex segregation] impinges upon equality and causes degradation and damage to human dignity," said IRAC attorney Einat Hurvitz.

"Since the government is not prepared to settle the matter, the court must intervene."

Reform Movement Challenges Mehadrin Bus Service in Court

By Hana Levi Julian,

“There is no reason for a woman to sit in a men’s section on a bus clearly intended to cater to those who observe Torah law,” he said, “other than for the purpose of deliberate provocation.”

See also past articles:

July 2006 Reform movement: Sex-segregated Egged buses are illegal

December 2006 Like the Taliban

Egged appoints Haredi advisor for national traffic branch

Egged attaches great importance to the Haredi passenger community

By Yerucham Shmuelivitch, (Hebrew) January 10, 2008

Wrong kind of modesty

By Uri Orbach, January 14, 2008

The silent majority that up until a moment ago traveled in mixed-gender buses easily gave in, and started obeying the “religious edicts” elicited from the leading rabbis (they too, you will be surprised to hear, do not have the courage and strength to stand up to their fanatic students.)

Religious Ministry harms religion

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, (Hebrew) January 10, 2008

The writer is an attorney and Israel Religious Action Center (Reform Movement) Associate Director

After the present fiasco of resurrecting the Religious Ministry, it’s doubtful whether it can be dismantled in the future and the necessary reform of the religious services system advanced - including the dismantling the Religious Councils and transferring the responsibility of religious services to local authorities and relevant local religious communities.

Shas optimistic about Religious Affairs vote

By MATTHEW WAGNER, January 14, 2008

Meir Spiegler, director-general of the National Authority for Religious Services described corruption in the areas of kosher supervision and the running of mikvaot.

"Workers used to live in fear of being fired suddenly," he said.

"They were afraid to open their mouths. They knew they would be fired if they did not go along with the game.

There was no one who could come along and say, 'You can't do that,' Now there is."

Hadar Lipschitz, a senior member of Ne'emanei Torah Ve'avodah (The Torah and Labor Faithful) - a group of liberal-minded, modern Orthodox activists - said that four years devoid of policy vision had been wasted since the dismantling of the Religious Affairs Ministry.

They have no God

By Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz

If Olmert cared about the taxpayers' money, he would put into practice a government decision from the Sharon era that would turn the religious councils into religious services departments within the local councils, just like municipal welfare and education departments.

Such a move would save a tremendous amount of money and improve religious services.

The Ministry of Corruption

By Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, (Hebrew) January 9, 2008

Now, funds will be transferred with just the signature of Yitzhak Cohen – the difference is worth tens, if not hundreds, of millions of shekels to the followers of Shas.

Taking the extortion out of divorce, if the rabbi permits it

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz January 14, 2008

Under the proposal, the civil and rabbinical courts will be able to divide property between the couple before they divorce.

As a result, the economic situation of women who are requesting a divorce and their children will improve considerably.

Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Menachem Ben-Sasson (Kadima) says the amendment's aim is "to disassociate entirely the money issue from divorce," thereby denying the man the ability to extort his wife.

Under the formulation approved by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, the family court or rabbinical court can balance assets prior to divorce in several cases: one year after the suit for divorce or the request for the division of property is filed; when the man and the woman have been living apart for at least nine months; in a situation where there is proven violence.

Knesset Committee: Division of property before divorce

By Neta Sela,

The new bill, proposed by Knesset Members Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) and Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party), conversely, can do much to aid women on their way to the Rabbinical court.

The current Property Relations Law does not intentionally discriminate against women, however “it is unfortunately the men in our society that not only have the power to grant or refuse a divorce according to Jewish law, but also hold the upper hand financially as well,” said MK Melchior.

Knesset Committee: Division of property before divorce

By Neta Sela, January 10, 2008

“I sincerely hope that political considerations won’t torpedo this bill… it somewhat corrects the balance of power between husbands and wives and amends a grievous wrong,” said Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror of the ‘Dead End’ (Mavoi Satum), part of the ICAR [International Coalition for Agunah Rights]

New initiative gives recognition to unrecognized couples

In a victory for the concept of civil marriage, three Israeli municipalities now officially recognize the "Partnership Cards" issued by NIF grantee New Family, Organization for Family Rights.

The cards, which detail the rights and responsibilities of a shared life, are signed by both partners and a lawyer.

The cards have been issued to hundreds of couples including some of the 300,000 Russian speaking immigrants who are not entitled to marry in Israel because they are not recognized as halachically Jewish, to same-sex couples, and to Israelis protesting the Orthodox rabbinical monopoly on Jewish marriage in Israel.

Tel Aviv, Mevasseret Zion and Lod already recognize these cards and offer a range of rights to partners of city homeowners such as parking permits and discounts for municipal activities.

"The partnership card transforms a relationship," said New Family Chair Irit Rosenblum, from a normative common law relationship to a contractual one.

Municipalities cannot afford to ignore the card because it is a legal document signed by a lawyer that affirms a contract."

Justice Barak and Chief Rabbi Bakshi-Doron agree on solution to marriage issue

By Ruti Avraham, (Hebrew) January 14, 2008'".

Couples choose alternative routes to the Rabbinate

Tali Heruti-Sover, The Marker (Hebrew) January 11, 2008

Behind Bars: 2 prisoners release agunot

By Raanan Ben-Zur, (Hebrew) January 10, 2008

By any other name

The writer is editor in chief of the New Jersey Jewish News.

By ANDREW SILOW-CARROLL, January 13, 2008

"A hyphenated last name for women undermines family values," declared Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, according to Ynet.

The hyphen is indeed a dangerous symbol, because it has the ability to yoke together two different, sometimes contradictory sensibilities, and make something wonderful and new. Try it: Jewish-American, liberal-Orthodox, religious-Zionist, traditional-Reform. It's a miracle of union and compromise - just like marriage.

His father was Jewish. His adoptive family is Catholic. Can he make aliya?

By RUTH EGLASH, January 11, 2008

A US citizen of Jewish descent, who was adopted as a baby by a devout Catholic family with some anti-Semitic leanings, is posing a tough challenge to the Law of Return.

Two years ago, Timothy Nicholas Steger, 37, discovered that his biological father, Robert J. Kates, was a Jew who had been a member of Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo, New York.

But attempting to make aliya last August, Steger was turned down by the Interior Ministry, which deemed that the connection with his biological parents had been severed as a result of the adoption and that he was therefore not eligible for citizenship.

Cabinet Secretary: We'll fire rabbis who refuse to recognize legitimate converts

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

The cabinet secretary said that he had learned of this issue through meetings with Reform and Conservative leaders.

"It is unthinkable that rabbis who receive their salaries and draw authority from the state should refuse to recognize that same state's formal conversion certificate. They will not be allowed to carry on in this manner," Yehezkel said.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Progressive (Reform) movement said he believed that Yehezkel was acting with the best of intentions.

"The problem is that he is hoping for the assistance of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar. But Amar has had five years to take care of matters, and so to date, matters have only gotten worse," Kariv said.

Source: Conversion judges making extreme demands

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Contrary to popular belief, most of the rabbis taking the hard-line stance on conversions are from the national-religious camp, not the ultra-Orthodox community.

"These judges want to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the Haredim, in part because they know it's the only way they have of advancing as judges in the system," a senior official in the Chief Rabbinate said "and they also belong to the Haredi-nationalist wing of the national-religious camp, which feels increasing alienation toward the state."

Gentile Lubavitcher refused conversion

By MATTHEW WAGNER, Jan 3, 2008

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar will be asked to decide this weighty theological question and in the process pass judgment on thousands of members of the messianic stream within Chabad Hassidism who believe that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who passed away in 1994, is the messiah.

A source in the State Conversion Authority said that at least two leading religious Zionist rabbis ruled that messianic Chabad was beyond the pale of normative Jewish belief.

‘Who Is A Messiah?’ New Twist On Conversions

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen, The Jewish Week

"I think it could be agreed upon that someone who was observant but continued to deny the singularity of God or God’s omnipresence ought be denied entry through the gates,"
said Rabbi Seth Farber, director of Itim, an Israeli organization that helps converts deal with the rabbinic establishment there.

"Given the consensus among the Orthodox community regarding the fact that messianic deliverance has not yet occurred," Rabbi Farber continued, "it seems reasonable that someone who assumed [and acted upon this belief] this could be denied."

Jerusalem rabbis indicted for racist incitement


Attorney Einat Hurvitz, who represents The Israel Religious Action Center, which filed the original complaint against Yitzhak and David Batzri and several other rabbis, including Beersheba Chief Rabbi Yehuda Deri, said she was pleased with the decision.

"In the past few years we have been witness to a worrisome increase in racist expressions by rabbis and Jewish religious leaders, who make distorted use of Jewish tradition," she said in a statement.

"This phenomenon obliges the law enforcement authorities to make use of all legal tools at their disposal to eradicate it.

The prosecution's decision, although belated, is a step in the right direction and we hope that it is the harbinger of an increasing severity in the law enforcement policy against racist manifestations."

Hartman Institute to ordain women rabbis


Jerusalem's Shalom Hartman Institute, founded by Rabbi David Hartman, himself a modern Orthodox rabbi, will open a four-year program next year to prepare women and men of all denominations - Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and also Orthodox - for rabbinic ordination.

The Hartman program will be the first rabbinic ordination program to bring together students from all the streams of Judaism. Each graduate will receive ordination in accordance with the stream of Judaism to which he or she belongs.

Rabbi Dr. Haviva Ner-David, perhaps the first woman ever to receive Orthodox ordination (from a private rabbi, Aryeh Strikovsky, on Pessah eve 2006), said she hoped what she termed Hartman's rabbi-educator program would be "the first step toward full rabbinic ordination for Orthodox women."

She asserted that the Hartman Institute was "stopping short" of "calling them rabbis" and said this was "annoying." But, she added, "perhaps it is a political decision to start off with a half-title so as not to be too controversial and only later to give women the full title of rabbi.

Sanhedrin to Bush: Declare that Israel belongs to Jews

By Koby Nahshoni,

The American president is requested to seize the opportunity of his visit to Israel to make a proclamation similar to proclamations, Steinsaltz claims, made by Persian king Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE as well as Englishman Lord James Balfour in 1917: to recognize the right of the Jewish people over the Land of Israel.

Rabbi Eliyahu warns Bush

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz

Former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu warned U.S. President George W. Bush in a circular against "activity that would harm Israel."

Eliyahu explains in the circular, "The Jewish people will remember forever all those who do it harm." Eliyahu addressed Bush as "a man who believes in the Bible," and quoted a biblical promise to give the Land of Israel to the People of Israel.

"Plans being published today counter God's word. They include giving the place of the Temple to those who use the Lord's name in vain as they kill women and children." Eliyahu closes the circular by asking Bush to utilize his visit here "to strengthen the Jewish people and act to remove the threat on Sderot."

When knitted kippot turn black and short sleeves get long

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz

The practice of sending Orthodox high-school graduates for a year of study in Israel has drastically changed the face of the American Jewish community, increasing stringency and knowledge, but with it, also fueling insularity, says a leading sociologist who examined the phenomenon.

Prof. Chaim Waxman, co-author of "Flipping Out? Myth or Fact: The Impact of the 'Year in Israel,'" also says that the trend has remarkably increased immigration rates among American Orthodox Jewry, as well as contributed to the community's shift rightward in terms of its support of both American and Israeli politics.

More religious, less sexy movies

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz

Adherence to ritual behavior and commitment to Torah study increased following a year of study in Israel and many of these changes remained constant a year later, a study found.

Before a year of study in Israel, just 43 percent of students surveyed said immigration was "very likely" or "somewhat likely." Nearly 70 percent felt that way after they completed their year in Israel and the number stayed the same among those surveyed a year later.

Fifth Group of Women Halakhic Advisors Ready For Work

By Hillel Fendel, January 14, 2008

At a ceremony last week at Nishmat, the Jerusalem Center for Advanced Jewish Study for Women, eleven women were deemed "Halakhic Advisors," authorized to answer Jewish-legal questions that women may feel embarrassed to ask rabbis.

Nismat - Ask the Yoetzet

Secular Ramat Gan high school bans pupils from praying

By MATTHEW WAGNER, January 9, 2008

A small group of pupils at the secular Ohel Shem High School in Ramat Gan who have begun to embrace a more religious lifestyle have been denied permission to pray on school premises.

The city spokesman said that Ohel Shem "was always and will always be a secular school that is open to secular, traditional and religious students.

[But] religious activity has no place in the school, nor will it in the future, just as secular activities have no place in religious schools, he added.

Wrong kind of modesty

By Uri Orbach, January 14, 2008

We are not talking about modesty, but rather, about the desire and possibility to force one’s worldview upon others.

We are talking about extroverted defiance against the world out there and also against the modern religious world, which is open and a little feministic.

Reform Reflections: To be a Jerusalemite

By Rabbi Michael Marmur, January 10, 2008

As a Reform Jew, I hear the call of Jerusalem to be part of its impossible mosaic.

I read the papers and see the signs, and I know that one day in the coming years the demography of the city may have little place for Jews of my disposition.

Rosner's Guest – Tsvi Bisk

I still hold out hope that the Reform and Conservative Movements will get serious about their Israeli presence and demand official recognition as independent Jewish sects, especially in matters related to marriage, divorce and chaplains in the Army.

This will not be done politically but only through the courts.

This will galvanize new kinds of Jewish energy in Israel, which in turn, I believe, will recharge the batteries of both movements in the Diaspora, to the benefit of the entire Jewish people.

Conservative Movement hopes to build Tel Aviv center


Some two-thirds of the $3.2 million cost of construction have already been raised, and the project, the 1,300-square-meter Schechter Institute Neve Tzedek Center, should be ready for the public in two years' time.

The center will not be a synagogue - Rabbi Roberto Arbib is already rabbi of Congregation Sinai on Bograshov - but a "cultural-spiritual center of Judaism that can serve Israeli society in all its sectors," he said on a recent visit to the site of the new center.

The new center will join the quiet revolution that is already underway in Tel Aviv, evident in institutions such as Yakar, Bina, Alma College, the Secular Yeshiva, Reform Judaism's Beit Daniel, and Arbib's own synagogue and midrasha, which are sprouting up and steadily expanding throughout the city.

The new institutions, says Arbib, "understand that changing Israeli society won't happen in Jerusalem, but in Tel Aviv, and not politically or through coercion, but spiritually. Israelis are more open to this than ever."

For the first time, Masorti synagogue taps a rabbi to lead

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz

Ramot Zion has chosen Rabbi Chaya Rowen Baker, 30, a home-grown product of the Israeli Masorti movement and in many ways, the face of the movement's new generation.

She was also raised by an Orthodox father and Reform mother - who are still married, she notes - which she believes has given her a uniquely tolerant view of religious diversity.

Shas, Republicans join forces in fight against abortions

By Neta Sela,

The three, all leading pro-life figures in the US, are Congressman Chris Smith from New Jersey, who heads the anti-abortion lobby in Congress, Congressman Frank Wolf from Virginia and Congressman Joseph Pitts from Pennsylvania.

In a meeting with Shas MK Chaim Amsellem, the latter announced his plans to establish a parliamentary lobby against abortions that would work closely with Smith's American lobby.

A response to Ronald Lauder

By SHLOMO AVINERI, January 12, 2008

The writer is the author of The Making of Modern Zionism.

All of us in Israel welcome the serious and deep concern Jews all over the world have for the Jewish state.

We recognize how meaningful it is for the future of all Jews.

Your voice should be heard; but the ultimate decisions - whether to go to war or make peace, whether to pay the price, for war as well as peace - are for the sovereign body of the country's citizens to make.

Without engaging in any simplistic Zionist "negation of the Diaspora," this is, after all, the difference between living in the Jewish state and deciding to live, well, somewhere else.

Each Jew can change his or her status any minute, and he or she will be more than welcome, regardless of their views or political commitments.

Come, join us in the front seat. VIDEO – Prof. Waxman on world Jewry report

Head of this year's annual world Jewry report Prof. Chaim Waxman explains why the percentage of world Jewry living in Israel jumped to 41%.

A Constitution – Equality for all – or without a constitution at all

By Meirav David, (Hebrew) January 7, 2008

MK Yitzhak Levi (NRP): “If you count sexual discrimination within ‘equality’, then tomorrow you’ll be shutting down the Rabbinical Courts.”

Education Minister Tamir approves increase in Haredi education

By Or Kashti, (Hebrew) January 10, 2007

Rabbi Aviner: Segregate male and female teachers

By Kobi Nahshoni,

Female and male teachers must be separated at the workplace, according to Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, the rabbi of the settlement of Beit El, north of Jerusalem.

Aviner lists the six conditions that stipulate when it is acceptable to hold co-ed encounters "when there is no other choice":

In a lecture where men are sitting in the front of the lecture and women are seated in the back, places of rest and ceremonies, the discussions should be segregated and co-ed discussions, if they are held, should be very business-like.

Months go by and ethnic discrimination continues

By Shimon Cohen, (Hebrew) January 10, 2008

PM promises additional budget for Haredi educational institutions (Hebrew) January 10, 2008

Addition of NIS 173 million promised

Falash Mura aliya finished, state tells High Court

By DAN IZENBERG, January 14, 2008

[Former] Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler maintained that the government did not have the right to restrict immigration in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner, quoting former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar, who told the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee that the state could not deny any Jew's inherent right to immigrate to Israel if he were indeed eligible to immigrate.

High Court to Rule on Falash Mura Aliyah

By Hana Levi Julian,

The list now being used to determine who is still considered eligible to immigrate has 1,413 fewer names than the list compiled in 2004.

It is this group of 1,413 would-be immigrants that Justice Ayala Procaccia has said the state must accept into the country.

A separate petition on behalf of 8,000 other would-be immigrants who were allegedly included in a 1999 census but were not deemed eligible will not be considered by the court, said Procaccia.

Paz-Pines: Recheck Ethiopian aliya lists

By RUTH EGLASH, January 10, 2008

If the government wants to end its official operation to bring the remaining Ethiopian Jews to Israel, the interior minister must conduct a comprehensive investigation into whether all those on its original aliya list have been processed, MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor), chairman of the Knesset's Internal Affairs and Environment Committee,

Knesset panel: External auditor should review Falashmura eligibility

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

The Knesset Interior Committee yesterday called on Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit to appoint an external investigator to check whether the ministry had examined whether all Falashmura in Ethiopia are eligible to immigrate to Israel.

The committee's call came after Ethiopian immigrants' organizations complained that the government and the Jewish Agency are planning to stop bringing Falashmura to Israel in five months, although 8,000 community members are still waiting for entry permits.

Rabbi’s Incitement Against Olmert Threatens To Split Apart Chabad

By Nathan Jeffay, The Forward Jan 09, 2008

Habad occupies a privileged position among Israel’s ultra-Orthodox groups, being the only major Hasidic group whose members serve in the army. Its rabbis are also regarded as informal chaplains.

It is the threat to this activity that could force Chabad to declare the messianists separate from the movement, Chabad spokesman in Israel, Moni Ender said. The sect would “prefer to get to every soldier and every Jew wherever they are, rather than pay the price of Rabbi Wolpe’s comments.”

Dangerous Talk

The Forward Editorial Jan 11, 2008

It has become apparent over the past decade or so that the core Chabad belief in the messiah’s imminent arrival is having a corrosive effect on civil discourse in Israel.

The environment a popular cause among the Ultra-Orthodox

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 January 13, 2008

Secular Israeli stereotypes regarding their religious counterparts tend to hold fast.

The ultra-Orthodox are known to isolate themselves and denounce anything relevant to the modern world. The environment is the last cause many would expect them to take up.

Lucky for the earth, the secular are wrong. Religious leaders across the country have done an impressive job combining environmentalist ideology with Jewish teachings thousands of years old.

CBS reports drop in ultra-Orthodox fertility rate

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz

The fertility rate in the Haredi community of Beitar Illit dropped from 8.9 children per woman in 2001 to 7.7 children in 2006, a decrease of 13.5 percent.

In Modi'in Illit, another ultra-Orthodox community, the total fertility rate fell from 9 to 8 in the same period.

Even after the drop, these communities still have the highest fertility rates in Israel.

Injustice corrected: Muslim and Druze religious courts get equal treatment

By Zeev Kam, (Hebrew) January 13, 2008

Fraud squad recommends indicting Absorption Min. Edery for 'accepting bribes'

By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz

The suspicions revolve around an offer from an official in the Haifa Rabbinical Court to Edery before the Likud primaries. The official allegedly offered to send out greeting cards for Edery to voters, and provide him with a car for use on election day, in return for promoting a police officer friend of his, Commander Yaakov Zigdon.

The investigation against Edery was only one part of a broader inquiry against senior officials in the Haifa Rabbinical Court.

The investigation revealed that the officials took bribes from citizens appearing before the court, and in return sped up and influenced cases.

Local rabbis living high on the hog

By Meirav Arlosoroff, Haaretz

The rabbis of small communities, in contrast, are outsiders, freelancers.

No one supervises them, they report to no one, and there are even legal disputes as to who their employer really is.

The state may have absolved itself of all responsibility for being these rabbis' employer, but this does not seem to have prevented it from paying their full salaries.

The body that was evidently supposed to have supervised such rabbis was the Religious Affairs Ministry.

But supervision was never one of its strong points, either in its previous incarnation as a government ministry or in its present life as a government authority for religious services.

Toys-R-Us, Ace Auto Depot, and Mega Sport seek Supreme Court relief from Sabbath inspectors

BY Shmuel Dekalo and Noam Sharvit,

Toys-R-Us Israel, Ace Auto Depot, and Mega Sport Ltd., claim that the government's discriminatory enforcement of the ban on Jewish-owned businesses to operate on Saturday is scandalous.

The retailers note that the government hires non-Jewish supervisors to single out businesses open on Saturday.

The retailers claim that the state does not enforce the law at Ben Gurion Airport for extraneous reasons.

Rabbi Elyashiv: Heiter Mechira=Chicken in Milk

By Idan Yosef, (Hebrew) January 10, 2008

Police gear up to stop rabbis from praying on Temple Mount

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz

Jerusalem police are preparing to prevent religious Zionist and settler rabbis from holding prayers on the Temple Mount this morning.

The rabbis used posters to exhort supporters to pray at the mount "for the annulment of the wicked plans for the division of Jerusalem and the surrender and abandonment of the Temple Mount to the hands of foreigners and adversaries."

Temple Mount Closed to Rabbis

By Hana Levi Julian,

A delegation from the Judea and Samaria (Yesha) Rabbinic Council was blocked from ascending the Temple Mount on Tuesday morning.

Jerusalem police closed the Temple Mount to Jews, telling those who arrived that an ancient Muslim holiday was discovered to be taking place, thereby precluding entrance by Jews. They could not name the holiday when asked, however.