Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - May 5, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

May 5, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Sephardic Chief Rabbi to revoke ruling invalidating thousands of conversions

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz May 5, 2008

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, acting in his capacity as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, will attempt to revoke a ruling from last week that invalidated thousands of conversions carried out in Israel over the last few years.

The judges, it emerges, went ahead with the ruling over the fierce objection of Amar, who is said to have been surprised by the decision.

The Ashdod Regional Rabbinical Court ruled that the woman cannot be recognized as Jewish, since she has never practiced Judaism. The debate was subsequently extrapolated to a broader discussion of Druckman's conversion parameters.

Sherman's ruling said: "Conversion certificates from whichever rabbinical court, however big, reputable and qualified, do not enable the marriage registrar to allow a convert into the People of Israel, when there has not been a genuine acceptance of the religious duties, which is something that can be discerned by the appellant's appearance and demeanor."

Amar calms converts after decision

By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com May 5, 2008

In a short written statement to the press, Rabbi Amar said he was sorry about the controversy caused by the rabbinical court's decision.

"The decision relates to one particular incident that has yet to be resolved. At any rate, no one has annulled the conversion of anyone. Rather, the court just criticized one of the panels of judges on the conversion court."

An Amar spokesman said the chief rabbi stood behind Druckman and recognized his conversions as kosher.

Knesset to debate rabbinic court's move to nix conversion

National Religious Party chairman Zevulun Orlev said he was planning to propose a law that would remove the rabbinic courts' authority to deal with conversion.

MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) who has spearheaded his party's campaign to place the authority for conversions at the level of the municipal rabbinate, was even more emphatic, describing the rabbinic court's ruling as an attack against the authority of the state.

Bill: Rabbinical courts will not rule on conversions

By Kobi Nahshoni, Ynetnews.com May 4, 2008

National Religious Party Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev:

"The High Rabbinical Court's political, anti-Zionist ruling about conversions proves we have no choice but to form alternative conversion courts, presided by rabbis who served in the IDF and who pray for the state."

Thousands of conversions questioned

Ynetnews.com May 2, 2008

According to Attorney Susan Weiss, who is the founding director of the Center for Women's Justice, says this verdict has far-reaching implications on thousands of people who have undergone conversion in the last few years and on their children, and is planning to appeal to the High Court of Justice against this severe resolution.

For background, see: Marylander Caught In Israeli Conversion Snafu

By Joel N. Shurkin, Baltimore Jewish Times January 14, 2005

"I decided to go public," she said the day before the Jerusalem Post interviewed her, "whilst the rest remain silent out of worry of its effect on their cases. I don't want any other potential convert to go through what I went through.

"I wonder what would happen if my younger sister, Shawn, would decide to someday make aliyah and want to convert."

Taking On the RCA?

By Gary Rosenblatt, TheJewishWeek.com April 30, 2008

In a move certain to be seen as an effort to compete with the Rabbinical Council of America — the largest group of Orthodox rabbis — two vocal critics this week launched a clerical group called the International Rabbinic Fellowship.

…Most recently, the point of contention has been over an agreement reached by the RCA and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel over conversions performed by American rabbis.

The Chief Rabbinate used to automatically accept conversions performed by RCA members, but the new agreement would only allow for conversions approved by a dozen or so religious courts in the U.S.

Rabbinical court ordered to rehire female worker

By Tova Tzimuki, Ynetnews.com May 5, 2008

The Petah Tikva Rabbinical Court has recently been ordered to rehire a woman who was supposed to begin work at the court as a secretary but was sent away by the halachic [poskim] because of her gender.

…Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann sent a harsh letter to the Petah Tikva court's presiding judge, Rabbi Baruch Shimon Salomon, stressing that the rabbinical court was obligated to follow the laws of the State of Israel, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Law that prohibits discrimination based on gender.

The minister warned that should the court fail to accept the worker, sanctions would be taken against it.

Independence Day among religious Zionists: Less happy, more questions

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz May 5, 2008

The rabbis of Tzohar, an Orthodox organization working toward dialogue with secular Jews, have brought [the prayer for the welfare of Israel] into the streets in response to a process of disengagement from the state and its symbols on the part of some religious Zionists following the evacuation of Gush Katif and Amona.

Last year it was a "solo" by Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein of the Har Nof congregation in Jerusalem, who got up on stage between the performances of Hip Hop group Hadag Nahash and a rock group, and read out the prayer, which begins: "Our Father in Heaven, rock and redeemer of Israel. Bless the State of Israel..."

This year Tzohar rabbis will recite the prayer on stages in 12 additional communities.

Benizri's empty shoes (and Knesset seat) not easy to fill

By Zvi Zrahiya, Haaretz April 29, 2008

The removal of Shas MK Shlomo Benizri from the Knesset following his conviction Monday for receiving bribes - a ruling that carries with it the determination of moral turpitude which automatically removes an MK from his post - has left a void in the Knesset: it still remains unclear who will take up Benizri's seat in the Knesset.

One option that is being examined is whether Mazur Bahayne, the 13th Shas candidate on its election list for 2006, is eligible to fill the position.

Bahayne is a rabbi in the Ethiopian community in Be'er Sheva, and his salary is paid by the Be'er Sheva Religious Authority. Article 7 of the Basic Law: the Knesset, states that a list of election candidates cannot include rabbis whose service is remunerated by the state.

Shas changes copy of historical document

By Roni Sofer, Ynetnews.com May 4, 2008

Shas ministers abstained from signing Sunday a copy of the government’s 1949 resolution declaring Independence Day as Israel’s national holiday on the 5th of Iyar. The argument: The historical resolution bears no marking of a Jewish identity.

The proclamation was printed ahead of Israel’s 60th celebrations with Yishai’s comment, “We must remember that God’s hand was in it and I pray to the Creator of the Universe that we will restore passed glory today.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave his approval to the new symbolic addition, after which Shas’ ministers affixed their signature.

Only after Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai had consulted Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, did the ministers agree to sign the historical proclamation – but not before they added a hand-written comment at the bottom.

Rabbis call for Bible Quiz boycott

By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com May 1, 2008

A group of religious Zionist rabbis have called for a boycott of this year's International Bible Quiz after discovering that one of the four finalists from Israel is a Messianic Jew who believes Jesus is the true Messiah.

"Messianics are missionaries who proselytize in very sophisticated ways," said Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of the rabbis calling to boycott the quiz.

"It is forbidden to give them legitimacy by allowing them to take part in the quiz."

Other rabbis that have called to boycott the quiz include Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed, Ya'acov Yosef, son of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Tzvi Tau, head of Har Hamor Yeshiva.

The Education Ministry said in response to a query from The Jerusalem Post that the "Global Bible Quiz for Jewish Youth" was open only to Jewish pupils.

Regarding Messianic Jews, the pupil in question was Jewish, and therefore, according to the ministry's legal department, was not disqualified from participating.

What if a 'messianic Jew' wins Israel's annual Bible quiz?

By Roy Eitan, JTA May 2, 2008

The Education Ministry refused to bar Levy. A ministry spokesman said that issues of personal belief were not the organizers' concern and that because Levy "is Jewish according to her Israeli identity cards and school registration," she can take part in the contest.

Messianic alert threatens Bible quiz

JTA April 29, 2008

An Israeli anti-missionary group warned that a messianic Jew could win the international youth Bible quiz in Jerusalem.

Yad L'Ahim, a group of fervently Orthodox Jews who combat missionaries in Israel, said Tuesday that a 17-year-old Jerusalem girl who is among four contestants in next week's Independence Day quiz belongs to a secret Christian sect.

The daily newspaper Yediot Achronot identified the girl, but Yad L'Ahim's claims about her religious affiliations could not immediately be confirmed.

Yad L'Ahim's chairman, Rabbi Shlomo Dov Lipschitz, called for religious Jews to boycott the quiz if the girl is not disqualified.

"Missionaries will be greatly encouraged by the fact that a member of their messianic Christian community has a chance of being the world champion and will exploit this, God forbid, to increase their efforts to convert people in Israel and the Diaspora," he told the newspaper.

The Education Ministry, which oversees the quiz, said it had looked into the complaint about the contestant and decided not to act because she is considered Jewish.

The girl's father, whose first name was not given, told Yediot, "If anyone tries to hurt my daughter, I believe that God will pay them back."

Russian deacon calls for proselytizing Jews in Israel

JTA May 5, 2008

A leading Russian Orthodox scholar has called for a more fervent effort to convert Russian-speaking Jews in Israel.

Deacon Andrei Kuraev, a professor at the Moscow Spiritual Academy, said the Orthodox Christian Church based in Moscow should begin to proselytize actively among Israel's 3 million Russian-speaking Jews.

"This is a unique missionary opportunity," Kuraev said. "Through Jews who were raised on European and Russian classics, we could carry the light of the Gospel to all Israel."

Number of students at state secular schools getting extra tuition in Jewish studies climbs by 92 percent

By Or Kashti, Haaretz April 30, 2008

Despite the sharp rise in Jewish studies in non-religious schools, however, most of the budget for this subject goes to religious schools.

The Education Ministry is considering changing the criteria for receiving these funds in order to direct the money to more non-religious secular schools - a move expected to spark opposition from the religious parties.

Religious homosexuals hold first meeting

By Kobi Nahshoni, Ynetnews.com April 29, 2008

Almost three months have passed since the "gays' letter" was published on Ynet, and members of HOD – Gay Religious Group are forging on in their efforts to gain the religious society's recognition.

Last Thursday, some 70 religious homosexuals convened at a famous Jerusalem theater, in what was defined by the organizers as a "historic and exciting meeting."

The event was initiated by HOD leaders, Itai and Rabbi R., but was attended by representatives of all movements, including Chavruta – the religious section of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance.

…even though non-religious schools have been getting a bigger piece of the pie lately, some principals complain that the funding criteria still discriminate against them, making it easier for religious schools to get the money.

"The criteria are not sufficiently flexible to include the creativity that every school has developed in Jewish studies," one principal said.

"There has been an important step forward, but it is nowhere near enough," he added.

New WebYeshiva Brings the Whole World into the Study Hall

By Ezra HaLevi, IsraelNationalNews.com May 4, 2008

Rabbi Brovender has big plans for the future.

“We are looking to developing programs in Russian, French, Spanish and in Hebrew, of course – all the languages Jews happen to speak today,” he said.

“We also have very serious plans about entering the high school market. There are a lot of high school kids in America, England and even Israel who don’t live in religious centers – who go to good secular schools but don’t get the opportunity to receive a quality Jewish education.”

Kidney transplant candidates in limbo after Philippines closes gates

By Matthew Wagner, Jpost.com May 5, 2008

Yechiel Landman, a haredi yeshiva dropout in his mid-sixties who joined the army and went on to a successful career as a banker.

In 2003 he established Haverim, an organization that matches people in need of various kinds of medical help - from kidney, heart or liver transplants to drugs not covered by the state-subsidized basket of medicines to dental work - with charity organizations, donors and other do-gooders.

Rabbis in Israel, who have come out against China's organ harvesting policies, have nevertheless supported the practice in the Philippines, because until now it has been governed by the state authorities, and donors were undergoing operations of their own free will.

Meanwhile, Israel's first law governing organ donation and trafficking went into effect on May 1.

We have had it up to here with the ultra-Orthodox

By Asher Maoz, Opinion article Haaretz May 5, 2008

These are painful statements, but they must be said loud and clear: Two peoples live in this land, both Jewish - they and we.

They are the ultra-Orthodox, who see themselves as emissaries of God on earth. We are all the rest - secular, traditional and religious.

It is not that we have suddenly separated; we never were one people. We tried to delude ourselves that we were. They knew all along that we were not.

Haredim boycott 'Zionist' snacks

By Nissan Shtrauchler, Ynetnews.com May 4, 2008

The [Eda Haredi], an ultra-Orthodox communal organization which strongly opposes Zionism, declared a consumers' boycott on leading Israeli food brands that have been adorned with the Israeli flag in honor of the country's 60th birthday.

These products include sugar, oil and peanut butter snacks, which are now marketed in special editions with packages that have been redesigned to include the blue and white flag.

In notices distributed across Jerusalem this weekend, the hardei public was urged not to buy any product that carries the flag or any other symbol "that advocates Zionist idolatry."

With help of Haredim, Yad Vashem IDs another 120,000 Shoah victims

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz May 1, 2008

"Historically, it has been difficult for Yad Vashem to reach the ultra-Orthodox community," Sarah Berkowitz, the manager of the institution's activities in the ultra-Orthodox community, said.

"They realized the immense importance of commemorating, but had their own ways. Their public is built of communities that adhere to calls from their rabbis, and to enlist them we needed first to contact the rabbis of each and every community to ensure cooperation."

Ultra-Orthodox communities were for many decades not comfortable associating with a body like Yad Vashem, which is affiliated with the Zionist establishment, so they formed their own Holocaust remembrance organizations.

The first Vishnitz vs. the original Vishnitz

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz May 5, 2008

The succession dispute that has been dividing the Vishnitz community for several years was taken before none other than a Justice Ministry official: the registrar of nonprofit organizations.

The latter was in effect asked to determine indirectly who is the heir of the elderly and ailing leader of the Vishnitz sect, Rabbi Yehoshua Hager, whose two sons are fighting over his inheritance even while he is still living.

…The registrar of nonprofit organizations decided at the beginning of last month not to intervene.

“…The appropriate forum for this complaint is the authorized court and not the registrar of nonprofit organizations."

Panel: Modi'in Illit should be city, despite illegal construction

By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz May 5, 2008

The ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modi'in Illit in the West Bank should be granted city status despite suspicions that its council members were involved in authorizing illegal construction, an ad hoc committee set up by the Interior Ministry has recommended.

…One of the committee's two members, however, is suspected of being in a conflict of interest. Committee member Zvi Cohen, the mayor of the nearby ultra-Orthodox town of Elad, recently told a local weekly newspaper that he has close ties to Rabbi Yitzhak Guterman, the mayor of Modi'in Illit.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, Modi'in Illit had 33,200 residents as of September 2006.

Agnon next to Haggai, Begin next to Avshalom

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz April 30, 2008

During the past 200 years the demographic situation in many parts of Jerusalem has been changed, and the position of the Jews has strengthened. On the Mount of Olives, the vast majority of the dead may be Jews, but place of the living Jews there has both logic and a future.

Thousands Flock to Midnight Visit at Joshua's Tomb

By Sarah Morrison, IsraelNationalNews.com May 4, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

The tombs of biblical Jewish Leaders Joshua ben Nun and Caleb ben Yefuneh were open to the Jewish public on Thursday May 1st.

The tombs, which are located 20 miles east of Tel Aviv in the Arab village of Timnat Haras, are open to Jews only three or four times a year. Thursday corresponded with the 26th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan which is the anniversary of Joshua's death.

Thousands of Jews, secular and religious, flocked to the site in order to recite psalms and prayers of gratitude at the tombs.

Religion and State in Israel

May 5, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Religion and State in Israel - May 5, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

May 5, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

First state-funded Reform synagogue to go up in Modi'in

Click here for VIDEO of synagogue "landing" in December 2007

By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com May 5, 2008

For the first time in its 60-year history, the State of Israel is funding the building of synagogues that will serve non-Orthodox congregations.

Until now, the Orthodox establishment, under an unofficial status quo arrangement, has enjoyed a total monopoly over state funds earmarked for the building of houses of prayer.

In Israel, where there is no separation of religion and state, all public religious services are provided through a network of neighborhood and city rabbis who are chosen by the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate. Non-Orthodox streams of Judaism in Israel are not officially recognized by the rabbinate.

The soon-to-be built synagogue belongs to Modi'in's Yozma Reform Congregation. A special ground-breaking ceremony will be held on Monday.

Kinneret Shiryon, Yozma's female rabbi, said the announcement, on the eve of Israel's 60th anniversary, was particularly satisfying.

"It feels enormously rewarding to see that our perseverance has finally paid off," said Shiryon, a US immigrant.

"I have seen progressively that the State of Israel's pluralistic Jewish expression has grown during my 26 years here. People have not just stayed with the Orthodox status quo; rather, they are looking for and finding different options."

A total of six prefab synagogues will be provided to both Reform and Conservative congregations in Modi'in, Tivon, Zichron Ya'acov, and Tzur Hadassah.

Rabbi David Lau, one of three state-salaried Orthodox rabbis in Modi'in, refused to comment.

Shiryon said none of Modi'in's rabbis have ever openly recognized Yozma, which runs six preschools, an elementary school and various volunteer and social activities in addition to the synagogue. About 240 families belong to the community, and a total of 550 families receive various services from Yozma, she said.

State recognition and funding of the synagogue is the result of a legal battle that began several years ago, waged by the Reform Movement's legal arm, the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), and Yozma.

IRAC and Yozma petitioned the High Court against what they called the discriminatory methods of state money allocations for religious institutions adopted by the Construction and Housing Ministry and Modi'in's municipality.

As a result of the legal action, IRAC and Yozma entered negotiations with then-construction and housing minister Isaac Herzog (Labor). A compromise was reached in which the Reform Movement dropped its petition while the ministry's religious institutions development unit agreed to provide the Yozma community with a 200-square-meter prefab building.

Attorney Rabbi Gilad Kariv, a senior member of IRAC, said Sunday that although municipalities had allocated city land for the building of non-Orthodox synagogues in the past, this was the first time the actual building was being funded by the state.

Kariv explained that IRAC had taken advantage of two developments that facilitated the acquisition of state funding.

"First, there was the dismantling of the Religious Affairs Ministry and the parceling-out of its various functions," Kariv said. "Jurisdiction over the building of synagogues was transferred to the Construction and Housing Ministry. Secondly, Isaac Herzog, who is sensitive to liberal Judaism's needs, was appointed as construction and housing minister."

Recently, power over the building of synagogues was restored to the reinstituted Religious Affairs Ministry, headed by Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen.

Kariv said he fears that additional synagogues for about eight Reform congregations in Netanya, Kiryat Ono, Nahariya, Karmiel and Rosh Ha'ayin, among other places, will be long in coming.

Reform Jews open Israel's first state-funded non-Orthodox synagogue

AP May 5, 2008

"This is a substantial step in recognizing different streams of Judaism in the state of Israel," said Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon, who leads the 240-family congregation.

"The power of religious political parties in the Israeli government may be one factor keeping funds and recognition away from Reform and Conservative synagogues," Shiryon said. She said many Israelis believe Orthodox Jews are the only ones who keep the coals of Jewish identity burning.

"Religion in Israel has traditionally been an either-or proposition," said Rabbi Uri Regev, president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. "Most Israelis consider themselves religious or secular and don't accept the liberal streams."

Groups like Regev's want to change that. "There's more than one way to be Jewish," he said.

Seeking an Independent Path to Jewish spirituality

By Haviv Rettig, Jpost.com May 5, 2008

"Something is happening in the Jewish world. It's giving birth to groups that don't need permission from any movement or rabbi to have a valuable spiritual experience," says Orly Kenneth, who initiated a unique conference that took place on Friday at a community center in Petah Tikva.

The conference brought together over 200 representatives of new kehillot, or independent "communities," which have sprouted up around Israel since the first one was founded seven years ago in Nahalal in the Jezreel Valley.

These privately-organized groups of friends and community members gather to celebrate holidays and conduct Jewish ceremonies outside the "confines" of Israel's established religious hierarchy.

They are not synagogues, adhere to no rabbi and usually write their own liturgy, but, participants say, they are nevertheless an attempt to inject Israeli identity with a sense of Jewish life and community.

Jewish Agency plans large-scale cutbacks

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz May 2, 2008

The Jewish Agency will soon be initiating a large-scale cutback in a move that would significantly reduce staff size, chairman Zeev Bielski warned this week.

Though he would not specify the number of intended job losses at the organization, he said the cutbacks in the coming weeks would "touch every department in the Jewish Agency."

But he rejected claims the Jewish Agency is on the decline and insisted it remains as relevant as in the years after the establishment of the State, saying the "reduction in manpower" is simply the result of the dollar's decline.

Deal between Jewish Agency and Nefesh B’Nefesh near

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz May 2, 2008

Bielski also confirmed reports that a deal with Nefesh B' Nefesh, the private immigration organization, is near.

Tensions between the two groups have long been high; an agreement between the two expired last summer and has yet to be renewed. He expects a renewed deal "in the coming weeks."

He insisted, "We have to reach a deal. To have an argument with an organization that deals with aliyah is crazy."

Under pressure from federations, UJC set to cut back staff

By Jacob Berkman, JTA May 1, 2008

Rieger and the UJC's chairman, Joe Kanfer, have spent the last year and a half trying to implement an operational strategy to streamline the organization.

That plan has included the UJC playing a more active role in advising federations and splitting the organization into a North American office and an overseas office in Israel.

Israel and Judaism’s future

By Rabbi David Hartman, www.Hartman.org.il May 5, 2008

This essay will argue that our return to the land has not only recreated some of the existential conditions that informed the biblical, covenantal foundations of Judaism but also that modern Israel provides Jews with an exciting opportunity to recapture some of the salient features of their biblical foundations.

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

Monday Declared 'International Aliyah Day'

By Ezra HaLevi, IsraelNationalNews.com May 4, 2008

The one-day display of the ingathering of exiles, orchestrated by the Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency, will mark the absorption of more than 3,000,000 Jewish immigrants to the Promised Land in the 60 years since the State of Israel declared independence.

Oldest immigrant couple to Israel weds

Ynetnews.com May 5, 2008

Ya’akov Manlun, 97, and his wife Orah, 88, new immigrants from the Benei Menashe Tribe of India, wed Friday in a lavish ceremony joined by many guests in Kiryat Arba.

Ya’akov and Orah have been married for almost 70 years, and have recently made aliyah to Israel. The couple concluded their conversion process days ago and asked to be remarried under the Law of Moses.

The couple immigrated to Israel last year with the help of Shavei Israel.

Rethinking the Partnership between Israel and World Jewry

By Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman

The fundamental challenge now facing world Jews as well as Israelis, is to recognize Israel as a work-in-progress and join in the effort.

…The Israeli experiment in society-building is, essentially, a joint venture, and the Jews of the world have a place at the table, if they should choose to sit and earn it.

…The process of becoming one people, with a collective identity and common sense of peoplehood, will begin when each community learns to see the other as the other sees itself. It will continue and thrive when mutual perception turns into mutual respect.

And it will culminate when the unique beauty and distinctive sensibilities of each community are forged into a coherent, meaningful whole: a shared vision of who we are and of where we want to go - together.

Ethiopians threaten sanctions unless Falashmura brought

Haaretz May 4, 2008

Members of Israel's Ethiopian community are threatening to shut down all the immigrant absorption centers in the country and go in a convoy to Jerusalem if the government implements its decision to stop bringing Falashmura Ethiopians to Israel next month.

Some 600 Ethiopians rallied Friday in Tel Aviv and suggested moves like a hunger strike outside the Knesset, and demonstrations in Jerusalem with 50,000 immigrants.

Shas leader Eli Yishai will go to Ethiopia in a few weeks to study the matter in person.

An anchor for national mourning

By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com April 29, 2008

A dichotomy was created. The use of religious rituals such as liturgy, the learning of sacred texts and fasting to memorialize those murdered in the Shoah was allocated to the 10th of Tevet and Tisha Be'av.

In contrast, secular ceremonies such as torch-lighting and standing at attention during a memorial siren were allocated to Holocaust Remembrance Day with the religious aspects of memorializing, such as the reciting the Kaddish, kept to a minimum.

The Chief Rabbinate's failure to compose a significant liturgy commemorating the memory of the victims combined with the fear among early state leaders that the rabbinate would monopolize Holocaust memorializing have created a cultural chasm.

However, a liturgical composition called the Shoah Scroll (Megilat Hashoah) might just be the means of bridging this chasm.

In Israel the reading of the scroll has not been limited to the small Conservative (Masorti) Movement. Last year the Israel Community Center Association (ICCA) printed the scroll as the centerpiece of a booklet which included excerpts from diaries, eyewitness accounts and modern Hebrew poetry.

Jewish studies, for Muslims only

By Jack Khoury, Haaretz May 1, 2008

The clerics, imams and muezzins are now in their second consecutive year of studying Judaism, as part of a seminar organized by the Inter-religious Coordinating Council in Israel. Rabbi Marc Rosenstein, the director of the [Galilee Foundation for Value Education], and Ziad Halalila, a teacher from Sakhnin, took the initiative and brought the project into being.

Climate change

By Rabbi Berel Wein, JPost.com May 1, 2008

The climate has changed; no respect for tradition or our past or for the sensitivities of a large and ever growing section of society is present.

So it is not the individual issue of public display of hametz on Pessah that is so hurtful. It is rather the indication of how severely the climate regarding Jewish tradition has changed.

There are many Jews who are not observant but who nevertheless respect the prohibition of hametz on Pessah.

The court's ill-advised decision, which concentrates on the legal tree in front of it and does not take into account the general societal forest that exists, weakens the public's resolve of respect for tradition and sensitivity to generations and other sections of society.

'Israelis must rediscover Jewish values'

President Shimon Peres says he is greatly concerned about the demoralization of the nation and the loss of traditional Jewish values.

He is not trying to dictate to Israelis how they should live their lives, he told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that will be published in full in the Independence Day edition next Wednesday. But it is vital, he said, that the different segments of Israel's society learn to understand and respect one another.

In America, said Peres, people do not begrudge each other in the way they do in Israel. "Here, everyone begrudges everyone else."

It bothered him deeply, Peres said, that Orthodox Jews are intolerant of secular Jews here and vice versa; that Jews have problems understanding Arabs, and Arabs have problems understanding Jews; that Ashkenazim find fault with Sephardim and vice versa.

An inconvenient truth

By Gidi Weitz, Haaretz May 2, 2008

Interview with Attorney Dr. Yaakov Weinroth

Born in 1948 in Germany, his parents immigrated to Israel when he was two years old and settled in Netanya. It was a Torah-observant but not an ultra-Orthodox household. His mother does not cover her hair.

He attended the Yavneh state-religious school, a yeshiva high school and at age 15 transferred to the ultra-Orthodox Ponevezh yeshiva. He spent another year at the Mir yeshiva. When he was 20 and studying at yeshiva, the Six-Day War erupted and he decided to enlist in the Nahal Brigade.

"I'm a stranger everywhere. You think that my kind of life is an accepted thing among the Haredim? You come to my house, you see all the Western literature - is that a standard thing?

What makes me belong to the Haredi public? That I believe wholeheartedly in the value of the Torah as the central value of the Jew and the human being. This is the thing that is central in my life. Which is why not a day goes by in which I don't study for at least two hours.

If you ask me if I'm a Zionist, then I'll also say yes without any hesitation. I'm not a Zionist in the sense that I want to build a new kind of man, but I definitely view the Jewish people's return to its land as an event that defies comprehension.

I don't belong to the secular experience, I don't belong to the Haredi experience and I don't belong to any other experience. And it's hard. You have no idea how hard it is. But I have no choice. I'm not prepared to give up any one of the thousand different souls inside me."

Religion and State in Israel

May 5, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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