Monday, March 10, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - March 10, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

March 10, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Reform Judaism puts immigration front and center

By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz March 6, 2008

"I do not paint them a picture of a land flowing with milk and honey," says [immigration emissary in San Francisco, Adi] Farjoun.

"Anyone who lived here and was part of the Reform community has to hear from me that it won't be possible to get married in Israel according to the marriage ceremonies that are accepted in the United States, and that the conversion to Reform Judaism of a partner is not possible in Israel."

Nevertheless, she says, "as part of those who belong to the Reform movement, the discrimination against the movement in Israel has a negative effect on them.

But at the individual level, they are not disturbed by the fact that in Israel the Reform movement is not recognized."

Parallel to the growth in the number of immigrants from the U.S. who identify as Reform Jews, the movement's branch in Israel, "Progressive Judaism," has adapted itself to the change in the sphere of immigration that is now gaining momentum.

Absorption committees have been formed in some 25 Reform communities active in Israel, which assist the Reform immigrants with their first steps in Israel.

"One should not expect masses of Reform Jews to immigrate to Israel," explains Rabbi Andrew Davids, the director of ARZA.

"We must remember that we are talking about immigration from a wealthy country."

But, he says, "at this stage, more important than the numbers is that the message gets across inside the movement and filters down into the consciousness of the members."

The cynicism of Shas

Haaretz Editorial March 4, 2008

Shas is playing a cynical game.

On the one hand, it is assuring its uninterrupted presence in the coalition by means of benefits and budgets.

These range from reestablishing the dispensable Religious Affairs Ministry to projects such as "livelihood with dignity," intended as job training for yeshiva students but which have yet to produce impressive results.

...It is strange to hear these calls for an all-out war from someone whose rabbis are increasingly preaching the values of the separatist, ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian Jewish stream that prefers the yeshiva to army service and a working life.

Shas swayed by Mammon over billboards, Greens say

By Guy Leshem, Haaretz March 5, 2008

"Like any topic, be it economic or environmental, our vote was substantive and based on the rabbis' directives," [Yakov Margi, Shas Knesset faction chairman] says.

"The Greens can fume all they want, but they should learn the facts first. We have an agreement with two big advertisers, that the ads along the Ayalon will be modest and the achievement from my perspective is that these advertisers committed to taking down content that offends our constituents from billboards in other areas."

"Keep things in proportion," he advises. "This isn't religion and the state, though they're important issues. Generally speaking we support environmental issues and preventing pollution. But we will not have it turned it into idol worship."

Kibbutzim can now open their own businesses on Saturday

By Amiram Cohen, Haaretz March 7, 2008

After 10 years of legal proceedings, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that kibbutzim may open their own stores and businesses on Saturday, the legal Jewish day of rest. However, the condition is that the stores are owned by the kibbutz and operated only by kibbutz members.

The Supreme Court ruling overturned a National Labor Court decision saying the allowing kibbutzim to open businesses on the Sabbath violated the law.

The new ruling, however, does not apply to such stores and businesses operating outside the kibbutz but on kibbutz-owned land, such as the huge shopping centers at Shefayim, Ga'ash or Gan Shmuel; but only to kibbutz-owned and operated businesses.

Shabbat buses reach the end of the line

The Dan bus company has announced that it has stopped running nine central lines that until now operated on Saturdays, reports ''. The company will now run those lines only after the end of the Sabbath.

According to the report, the affected lines run through Gush Dan and the central Tel Aviv area, and include lines traveling to Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital and Ramat Gan's Sheba (Tel Hashomer) Hospital.

A Dan spokesman said the decision was based on economic reasons, as there were too few passengers on Saturdays for the lines to be viable. But Meretz Knesset member Ran Cohen has asked Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz to act against the decision, saying it is problematic for those needing to travel by public transport on Saturdays.

Dan Bus Company wants to run Mehadrin bus lines in Bnei Brak

By Idan Yosef, (Hebrew) March 4, 2008

Pending review

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz March 6, 2008

The religious Knesset members can't understand why Shas refuses to quit the government because Dan buses operate on Shabbat.

Public transportation in the Dan region on Shabbat afternoons is the sort of thing that the religious public preferred to repress. The Dan company's decision forced them to look the buses straight in the windshield wiper.

MK Nissan Slomiansky of the National Union-National Religious Party explained that "only when Dan became newly religious did I learn that they had sinned."

Demand to MKs: Stop the Apartheid on Mehadrin Bus Lines

By Kobi Nahshoni, (Hebrew) March 10, 2008

The Israel Religious Action Center, who petitioned the Supreme Court on the issue, insisted on the establishment of a committee to discuss arrangements for Mehadrin bus lines.

However, Kolech is firmly opposed to any such arrangement.

Chairperson Rachel Keren:
“...Egged is a public company and in principle, cannot lend a hand to discrimination that is a type of “apartheid” within the State of Israel. Every person is entitled to travel on public transportation freely as he or she wishes...”

Chief rabbi urges more humane slaughter methods

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger met Monday evening with importers of South American kosher meat to encourage them to phase out the "shackle and hoist" slaughter method and adopt the more humane "rotating pen" method.

During the meeting, Metzger told the importers that the shackle and hoist method was "primitive" and instructed the importers "to exert major pressure on the slaughterhouses they work with to make them adopt the rotating pen method."

Jewish slaughter in danger, chief rabbi tells importers

By Neta Sela, March 4, 2008

The meeting was held in a bid to recruit the importers to fight "the international attack initiated by organizations for the prevention of cruelty to animals against the kosher slaughtering," Metzger explained.

Brain-Death Definition Bill on Way to Passage

By Hillel Fendel, March 3, 2008

A bill submitted by MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) regulating when a person can be declared brain-dead has passed its first Knesset reading.

The bill is a historic one, as it may finally put to rest a decades-long dispute between the rabbinical and medical establishments - a dispute based on mutual mistrust that has prevented many would-be organ donors from willing their post-death organs to others.

His proposed legislation states that brain-death will be determined not merely by the doctors who happen to be on the scene, but rather by two doctors who have been authorized and trained to do so by a special Health Ministry committee.

The committee is to comprise three doctors; three rabbis recommended by the Chief Rabbinate, one of whom is a doctor; and representatives of the ethics, philosophy, and legal disciplines, including a religious non-Jew.

Where myth and reality meet

Click here for VIDEO

EYES WIDE Open's aim is to take a "hard look at long standing beliefs and myths about Israel, demythologize them and then remythologize them for a new generation of American Jews for whom the old myths ring false," continued Stuart Schoffman.

Knesset lobby to promote Western aliya

A new lobby in the Knesset to improve the absorption of immigrants from Western countries will be founded by MKs Gilad Erdan (Likud) and Yoel Hasson (Kadima) on Tuesday.

Tuesday's meeting at the Knesset will be attended by representatives of the Jewish Agency and independent aliya organizations Nefesh B'Nefesh and AMI, as well as Immigrant Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri (Kadima) and individuals interested in increasing aliya.

Between 40 percent and 45% of the world's Jews reside in the United States, and together the US, France and Britain contain around 90% of Diaspora Jewry.

This demographic reality has led the government to seek new ways to encourage so-called "aliya by choice."

Poll: 51% of Israelis want separate secular, religious neighborhoods

By March 6, 2008

29% of respondents indicated that religious families ought to live in their own specially designated communities, where as 22% supported the establishment of segregated or religious neighborhoods within “religiously diverse” cities.

Only 33% of respondents indicated that they favored the establishment of joint communities containing both secular and religious residents.

When breaking down this survey data according to religious affiliation, it appears that haredi respondents favored segregation most, with 61% of haredi respondents indicating that they preferred to live in separate communities and neighborhoods.

A majority of traditional and ultra-Orthodox respondent (53%) as well as secular respondents (49%) were also in favor of separate depending on religious affiliation.

Study: Young American Jews are not detached from Israel

By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz March 9, 2008

The study released last Wednesday by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University maintains that there has been no decline, nor will there be one.

Click here for study (pdf file)

"Jewish attachment to Israel has largely held steady for the period 1994-2007," the study says, adding that there are "strong reasons for rejecting the prevailing pessimism regarding the future relationship of American Jews to Israel."

New Study says American Jews feel as close to Israel as ever

By Jacob Berkman, JTA March 5, 2008

Are Jews Less Attached to Israel? Maybe Not

, The Forward March 05, 2008

‘We need Judaization’ - Interview with Lev Leviev

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 7, 2008

Q: Don't 300,000 Jews who are not Jews according to halakha [Jewish law] deserve to have a solution found for them?

"Prime Minister Sharon asked us at the time to set up conversion institutes. I told him, what are we, a factory?

Go to the rabbis. If you need a donation I'm here. But to decide who is a Jew and who isn't a Jew - I'm not qualified for that. Just as I'm not qualified to fly the plane to Russia, even if I think I may have the ability.

Who is a Jew? Neither a prime minister nor a president can determine that; for that there are experts in the rabbinate."

Q: But the ultra-Orthodox rabbis are opposed to letting the yeshiva students go out to work.

"It's not all the rabbis, it's a certain segment; these are not mainly Hasidim, they're Lithuanians.

If a Jew thinks that a good Jew can only be an ultra-Orthodox Jew, then he has to repent: He has wasted his time all his life in vain if he hasn't understood that.

If a Jew who calls himself ultra-Orthodox thinks that a Jew who is not ultra-Orthodox is not a Jew, then he has to be reborn, because in my opinion he is a damaged Jew."

Amazing grace

By Ari Shavit, Haaretz March 7, 2008

Conversation with historian Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell

"But there is another dimension here. I have no religion. I do not have the security of religion or the prop of religion. Therefore, without the nation-state framework, I remain a person detached, lacking.

There is a paradox here.

Today the religious elements are those who speak in the name of a nationalism I do not accept because it does not respect the other - Palestinian - nationalism.

But the truth is that our need, that of the secular Israelis, for the nation-state framework is far greater than that of the religious. If you take Israel from me, I am left with nothing. I am stark naked.

That is why Israel is so important to me.

And I cannot treat it as a fait accompli, as regular and normal. I treat it as something that must be constantly safeguarded, something we have to ensure will not fall apart in our hands.

Because things fall apart easily - that we have already learned. And sometimes fast: from one day to the next."

Ultra-Orthodox get their own free daily

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz March 6, 2008

The first edition of Yom Hadash, a free daily newspaper for the ultra-Orthodox community, appeared yesterday. The 16-page publication reflects a leadership crisis in the ultra-Orthodox community.

It will be distributed from Sunday to Thursday to compete with the existing daily ultra-Orthodox papers Yated Ne'eman and Hamodia.

Nahum Bernstein, Yom Hadash's marketing manager…does not conceal the paper's intention to challenge Yated Neeman and Hamodia's policy. Both these partisan newspapers "don't give certain rabbis their stage, while others receive exposure or elevated titles and photos, due to internal disputes," he says.

In show of modesty, Haredi women make up in private

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz March 10, 2008

…the paradox involved in the desire of ultra-Orthodox women to meet the norms of beauty in secular society, in spite of the instructions to practice tzniut (modesty) that are practiced in their society.

Eighteen Weddings of B'nei Menashe New Immigrant Couples

By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, March 3, 2008

Eighteen new immigrant couples from the B'nei Menashe clan of northeastern India, who claim descent from a "lost tribe" of Israel, were married Sunday in simultaneous ceremonies in Jerusalem's Great Synagogue. Several hundred guests, including friends, family and loved ones, attended the festive affair.

The 18 couples are among a group of 230 B'nei Menashe who came on Aliyah (immigrated to Israel) from India in August of last year.

Their immigration was organized and facilitated by the Shavei Israel organization, which reaches out and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people.

Shavei Israel founder Michael Freund organized the multiple weddings on Sunday, which were supervised by Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, the rabbi of Shavei Israel.

Nearly seven decades after its demise, Rabbinical Association of Poland re-established in the presence of the Chief Rabbi of Israel

Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger [signed] a special scroll together with Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich and all of the community rabbis currently serving in Poland (in Warsaw, Krakow, Lodz and Wroclaw) declaring the formal re-establishment of the group.

The Rabbinical Association of Poland existed up until the outbreak of World War Two and included all of the country's rabbis.

Next-Generation Religious Kibbutzniks Want More Religion

By Hillel Fendel, March 4, 2008

The survey was carried out by Professors Miriam Billig of Ariel University Center and Yossi Katz of Bar Ilan University.

The Kibbutz HaDati movement includes three moshavim (Masuot Yitzchak, Bnei Darom, and Nir Etzion), as well as 16 kibbutzim.

The young generation wishes to become more religiously observant, and even to send their children to more religious schools.

In addition, they believe that a religious lifestyle should be a clear condition for acceptance into a kibbutz of the movement.

However, at the same time, they are not interested in extremism in terms of religious observance.

The little Torah that could

, March 6, 2008

What was missing, says lawyer David Schapiro, who lives in Beit Shemesh and works in Tel Aviv, was a Torah scroll.

After consulting the Beit Shemesh Rabbinate, he was given permission to buy an easily portable Torah scroll, namely one that is only 15 cm. high, which was put to use for the first time this week.

Schapiro described it as "a historic occasion." It certainly gives a new fillip to the journey.

The Torah Reading Choo Choo

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz March 7, 2008

Click here to watch video

Anglo commuters aboard the 8:27 train from Beit Shemesh to Tel Aviv made history this week, after they became the first moving minyan aboard an Israel Railways train car to read the Torah as part of their daily prayer services.

The train has long had a minyan in the last carriage, but this week, David Shapiro brought aboard a miniature, but nevertheless kosher, Torah that had been commissioned for the unusual service - now set to take place every Monday and Thursday morning during prayers.

Local Beit Shemesh rabbis offered their blessings and support, and the festive celebrations even included candy throwing.

Shapiro carried the Torah in a back-pack that doubled as an ark, while other Beit Shemesh Anglos also pitched in.

Jan Wimpfheimer, a partner at the law firm Herzog, Fox and Neeman who immigrated from New Jersey in 2001, read from the Torah - an experience he described in a widely circulated email as particularly "unique" given the combination of the Torah's small writing and the constant moving of the train car.

Religion and State in Israel

March 10, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Religion and State in Israel - March 10, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

March 10, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Taking power away from the rabbis

By Rabbi Marc Angel and Rabbi Avi Weiss, The Jewish Week March 5, 2008

We are not the first to raise concerns about the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

Over the last few years, there have been legitimate and important Orthodox voices in Israel that have raised opposition to its rightward trend and its hard-line position concerning conversions in Israel.

Now, through its deal with the RCA, the Chief Rabbinate is dictating its specific conversion standards to those living thousands of miles away in the United States.

With its cowering to outside dictates, the RCA appears to have opted to reflect the haredi-controlled voice of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate instead of insisting that the broad spectrum of Modern Orthodox positions be part of the solution.

Rabbi Marc Angel is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York and past president of the RCA.

Rabbi Avi Weiss is senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and longtime member of the RCA.

See same opinion article in JTA: Conversion deal hurts converts, disrespects Orthodox rabbis in U.S.

The Conversion Crisis

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel,

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has taken a restrictive, hareidi view on conversions to Judaism.

They have imposed "standards" that are unrealistic for many would-be converts, and which are not required by the halakha itself.

The Rabbinical Council of America has essentially capitulated to the Chief Rabbinate, and is now in the process of establishing regional courts in the U.S. and Canada that will adhere to the extremist opinions relating to conversions.

Orthodox rabbis, members in good standing of the RCA, who perform conversions outside the RCA system will not have their conversions endorsed by the RCA.

Thus, in order to be "accepted" by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, American converts will now be faced with an increasingly rigid rabbinic bureaucracy.

Rabbis Form New Orthodox Organization

06, 2008

Rabbis Marc Angel and Avi Weiss have convened an organization they are calling the Rabbinic Fellowship, a national affiliation of rabbis that they say will create a safe space for Orthodox rabbis to exchange ideas without fear of repercussions.

In one sign of how the organization could influence the Orthodox world, Angel and Weiss said that it could set up an international network of rabbinic courts.

The establishment of the fellowship was inspired in part by a series of negotiations between the Rabbinical Council of America, which is the leading union of Modern Orthodox rabbis, and the Israeli chief rabbinate over conversion standards in America.

A Conversion Critique From Within

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen, The Jewish Week March 5, 2008

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, spiritual leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and recently retired head of the Ramaz Jewish day schools on the Upper East Side, is one of Modern Orthodoxy’s elder statesmen.

…he is feeling deeply pained about the direction the Orthodox rabbinate is taking when it comes to conversions, and conflicted about his own role in the system.

“I oppose the system,” said the rabbi, in an interview from Jerusalem, where he was visiting. “I am very much afraid of this system.

“The RCA is making it more difficult for people to convert just as the Chief Rabbinate has made it more difficult for people to convert in Israel. We are replicating their mistakes,” he said.

“…Because the system is being set up in a way like it is in Israel, it will make it more difficult for people to convert in an Orthodox bet din. That’s bad for the conversion candidates, and I think it’s bad for the Jewish people.”

The Chief Rabbinate-RCA Deal - The case for ‘centralized’ conversions.

By Rabbi Barry Freundel, The Jewish Week March 5, 2008

The writer is spiritual leader of Kesher Israel Synagogue in, Washington, D.C., and chairman of the Rabbinical Council of America’s GPS Committee.

The procedures and standards of the network were composed, finalized and ratified solely by the rabbis of the RCA. The Chief Rabbinate had no input into the standards that were adopted. There simply was no capitulation whatsoever, as has been charged.

We are pleased that the Israeli Chief Rabbinate ultimately endorsed the procedures of the GPS. We recognize that some may believe that a different halachic standard should apply. However, the vast majority of the membership of the RCA simply does not agree.

Here's our answer to the conversion conundrum

The writer is rabbi of the Bikur Cholim-Machzikay Hadath Congregation in Seattle, Washington and Rosh Beth Din, Pacific Northwest Regional Beth Din for Conversion and a member of the [Orthodox] Rabbinical Council of America.

…a significant development, announced last week by the Rabbinical Council of America and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, has the potential to diminish the severity of these problems in several important respects, while still maintaining reasonable halachic conversion standards.

In the process these two rabbinic entities have created a model for reasoned cooperation, rather than rancor, in Jewish life.

I am referring to the announcement establishing a North American network of standing regional rabbinical courts for conversion, under the auspices of the Rabbinical Council of America, with the blessing, and endorsement, of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

See also same opinion article in JTA: Conversion deal with Chief Rabbinate could diminish a major Jewish rift

Barak refuses to exempt 1,000 haredim from IDF service

By Hanan Greenberg, March 6, 2008

Barak has ordered his assistants and legal advisors to form new criteria which will allow the addition of new yeshivas to the arrangement.

"The Defense Ministry will no longer be a rubber stamp and will not approve each and every request to shirk military duty," a security source explained.

Barak Doesn't Recognize New Yeshivot, Students Face Army Stint

By Hillel Fendel, March 6, 2008

For the first time, the Defense Minister has refused to recognize a group of 61 new yeshivot - meaning that 1,000 students now face being drafted into the army. The decision affects yeshivot under three years old.

Barak's assistant Ruth Barr and the Defense Ministry's Legal Counsel, Ach'az Ben-Ari, will formulate new criteria by which to determine which new yeshivot can be accepted to the "Torah is his livelihood" plan.

Defense Ministry sources hope the new difficulties in being accepted to a recognized yeshiva will encourage would-be students to join the army instead.

Shas vows to reverse yeshiva decision March 6, 2008

According to the Tal Law, the defense minister must personally authorize requests by yeshiva students for army service deferments; under certain circumstances, the defense minister can deny such requests.

The precise limitations on the defense minister's powers are presently being investigated by legal advisors in the Defense Ministry.

The students whose requests Barak said he would deny belong to 61 newly created Torah institutions, most of which are smaller kollelim for married men, according to Rabbi Asher Tannenbaum, chairman of the Council of Yeshivot, the haredi body that presents an annual list of Torah students requesting deferrals.

Barak must not cave to the Haredim again

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz March 7, 2008

A quota must be set, beyond which no new students will be added to the deferred service arrangement.

The quota will undoubtedly be bigger than it should be - for example, 5,000 instead of several hundreds, or 10 percent rather than 2 percent of the annual draftee pool - but it must be absolute.

The issue should become central in the next elections, and all candidates must be required to take a clear-cut position on it.

Barak’s Orthodox spin

By Yair Borochov, March 8, 2008

Barak is the last person who wants to see yeshiva boys in the IDF.

Barak is even more interested than the Orthodox in seeing yeshiva boys stay out of the army. He simply needs this issue as a punching bag, just like the air he breathes. This spin is a result of his desperation, so please don’t play into his hands.

With just 50 takers in 6 months, national service option fails to attract yeshiva students

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz March 10, 2008

Only 50 yeshiva students have opted for civilian national service since this option was made available to them about six months ago, according to data provided by the head of the National Civilian Service Administration, Dr. Reuven Gal.

This is less than 0.1 percent of the more than 50,000 yeshiva students who currently receive draft deferrals.

During the [Tal] law's first four and a half years of existence, from mid-2002 through the end of 2006, only 2,150 yeshiva students (4 percent) took a gap year, and of those, all but 150 (0.3 percent) returned to yeshiva afterward. So far, however, opening a civilian service track has not improved the picture.

For national religious Zionists, yeshiva attack was personal

By Dina Kraft, JTA March 9, 2008

In the close-knit world of religious Zionism, no one feels removed from the grief for eight young people gunned down while studying Gemarah in their Jerusalem yeshiva.

The national-religious camp's flagship yeshiva

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz March 7, 2008

The Mercaz Harav rabbinic college is the most prominent yeshiva in the religious Zionist world. It trained the movement's leading rabbis as well as many yeshiva heads, city rabbis, and teachers in religious colleges and high schools.

The school was central in shaping the evolution of religious Zionism. As the flagship of national-religious yeshivas, the religious right is bound to attribute greater symbolic meaning to a terrorist attack here than anywhere else.

Mercaz Harav's dilemma: Land or unity

The attack on [Education Minister Yuli] Tamir can be seen as a symptom of a fundamental change in religious Zionism. For the sake of pursuing Greater Israel, religious Zionism's leadership has decided to abandon the unity and togetherness fostered by cooperating with diverse elements of the Jewish people in the building of the Jewish state.

Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav Kook: A Yeshiva that Started a Movement

By Hillel Fendel,

Merkaz HaRav was founded as the Central Universal Yeshiva by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook in 1924. He saw it as the ultimate Torah center in which to raise Torah scholars and leaders who would help build a modern Torah society in the Land of Israel that would lead to universal and religious redemption.

When Rabbi Kook, who also served as the Chief Rabbi of the Holy Land, passed away in 1935, he was succeeded by his colleague/student, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlop.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, son of the original founder, took over in 1952, and served until his death in 1982.

He was then succeeded by Rabbi Sha'ul Yisraeli and Rabbi Avraham Shapira; the latter took over as sole Rosh Yeshiva when Rabbi Yisraeli died, and Rabbi Yaakov Shapira took over from his father, who died just five months ago.

U.K. Jewish school sued for barring pupil over conversion

By Anshel Pfeffer and Saul Sadka, Haaretz March 6, 2008

The parents, who have remained anonymous, describe as racist and illegal the school's refusal to accept their son because his mother was converted to Judaism in a Conservative ceremony.

They say this is racist and illegal because the school receives government funding.

Other couples whose children were refused entry by the JFS have also joined the suit.

One of the parents, David Lightman, father of 14-year-old Maya, said his wife underwent an Orthodox conversion in Israel 20 years ago, and although they keep a kosher home, go to synagogue every Saturday and are very active in the community, the London religious court said she had not been sincere in her conversion because he is a Cohen (descendant of a priest), and according to Jewish law should not marry a convert.

See also article from November 28, 2008

Conversion Authority head threatens to resign

In protest against a government decision to reject conversion reforms, Rabbi Haim Druckman, head of the State Conversion Authority, announced Monday that he was considering resignation.

"Unless all of the Halfon Committee recommendations are adopted by the government I will have to seriously weigh my future plans," said Druckman in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post.

Druckman's resignation threats come after an appearance in the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee which discussed the government's rejection of some of the reforms proposed by the Halfon Committee.

All the recommendations were enthusiastically supported by the Jewish Agency, Druckman and Professor Ya'acov Ne'eman, who headed the Ne'eman Committee which created the Joint Institute for Jewish Studies.

However, several key recommendations were not adopted by the government.

Chief Rabbi Amar: “The Supreme Court is leading the war against the Rabbinical Courts

By Oded Ben Tzvi, (Hebrew) March 6, 2008

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar:

“I proposed a law where every conversion would be within the Chief Rabbinate.

Today there is no such law. The entire conversion system is in danger. Everything is in the hands of the government.

The Prime Minister or an appointed Minister is able to set up a Reform Beit Din. This is troubling…

I proposed to anchor in law that conversion be added to the Law of Marriage and Divorce of the Chief Rabbinate..."

Most new conversion court judges will be ultra-Orthodox

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 10, 2008

At least eight out of 10 new judges to be selected today to serve on the rabbinical courts for conversion will come from the strict ultra-Orthodox sector.

Leading officials involved in the conversion process said the original objective was to choose more liberal judges who would make conversion easier.

The officials said the selection committee, headed by Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, made a deal to appoint four ultra-Orthodox judges who currently serve in the private rabbinical court of Rabbi Nissim Karelitz in Bnei Brak and four rabbis who are affiliated with Shas or Amar's associates.

The other two will likely be from the religious Zionist camp.

A discriminatory and dangerous trick

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz March 5, 2008

…the tricky wording "agreement of the parties" that [Social Affairs Minister Isaac] Herzog pulled out of his hat as a condition for giving such authority to the rabbinic court is very problematic, especially when it involves giving it the power, after a divorce has been granted, to rule on issues stemming from the divorce.

Under this cloak of free will, this pretense of equality and forced agreement, a move was made, almost a grab, toward the establishment of autonomous judicial authorities based on Torah law.

This dangerous bill, if it had passed, would have worsened women's status, already low in rabbinic courts.

Meanwhile, following the public debate after the bill's presentation, Herzog backpedaled, and its discussion by the cabinet was postponed.

The threat, however, is still there, because it is rooted in coalition agreements between Kadima and Shas, and Shas will not give up easily.

A new religious Zionist party

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz March 6, 2008

The National Union party is going through turbulence. Unlike what its name implies, its nine MKs are divided into four factions…

…there is a need to recreate a large party that will represent the combination of Judaism and democracy, not only one of its components (as in the ultra-Orthodox and secular parties).

Such a party would not put the political issue with the Palestinians at the head of its agenda, but the question of the image of Israeli society and the combination of Jewish and Zionist identities, committed to a modern life. This should be at the top of its agenda.

On the political issue, it must grant its members the freedom to vote as their consciences dictate.

To neutralize the influence of the rabbinic establishment, as well as that of the national religious rabbinic establishment, it is important to establish that this party's institutions and representatives will be elected in primaries as inclusive as possible (but only open to party members paying dues).

Thus we will avoid a scenario in which a narrow, extremist minority shapes the political face of a broad, multifaceted and complex community.

High School Seniors Demand Unity among Religious MKs

By Hillel Fendel, March 2008

In light of the splintered national-religious Knesset factions, seniors from two yeshiva high schools have initiated an ultimatum: Unite, or it's likely we won't vote for you.

The petition was initiated by the seniors of two prestigious yeshiva high schools: Kfar HaRoeh near Hadera, Israel's first yeshiva high school, and Ulpanat Tzviyah in Herzliya for girls.

There is currently one religious-Zionist party in the Knesset - the National Union-National Religious Party (NU-NRP) - but it is comprised of four different factions: The NRP and the three parties that make up the National Union.

The party's four members are: NRP, Tekumah, Moledet, Achi. Further muddling the picture are two other nationalist movements: The Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction of the Likud, and HaTikvah.

Religion and State in Israel

March 10, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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