Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, JPost.com Opinion May 29, 2008
The writer is the founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs, and chief rabbi of Efrat.
I am ashamed of a Chief Rabbinate which can summarily nullify the conversions of thousands of Israelis (even though they were performed by a court of Torah scholars) with crass indifference to the lives they are destroying, and disregarding the manifold biblical directives of how we are to love the proselyte.
I am ashamed of the religious court judges who, in the name of the "purity" of Israel, are impervious of the cries of abused women, captives to husbands who either refuse to grant a get or demand a high ransom for them.
I am ashamed of a politically controlled, coalition-driven system of religious court judges who disregard the compassion of the Talmud and have made our divinely given and just laws a cruel laughingstock for Jews and gentiles alike.
The Knesset Law Committee took advantage of a session meant to mark the 70th anniversary of the Union of Local Authorities on Monday to debate the crisis between religious Zionists and Ashkenazi haredim over the legitimacy of the special conversion courts established several years ago to facilitate conversions.
Rehovot Chief Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook said the government and the Knesset would be violating the human rights of rabbis if they forced them to recognize conversions they did not believe in.
Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun, a senior figure in the religious Zionist movement, argued that
"we must return to the point where we decide [whether or not to approve a conversion application] in accordance with the Shulkan Arukh.
If we take a more exacting position beyond that, we will be beset with intermarriage. In the Shulkan Arukh it says not to be too severe or to demand too much. But the rabbinical courts are doing the exact opposite."
Jpost.com Editorial May 27, 2008
This month brought two more reasons - if any were needed - to bolster the case for disbanding Israel's established "church" and its ultra-Orthodox curia.
…This is an institution that cannot be reformed. It must go.
…The Orthodox stream, which comprises a minority of Jews worldwide and perhaps 19 percent of Israelis, is convinced that the future of "authentic Judaism" is in its hands.
So even if the rabbinate were in the hands of Orthodox modernizers, the institution would still see itself as God's oracle imposing its definition of Divine will upon the rest of us.
Orthodox Judaism has many qualities to recommend it, but the 60-year-old experiment in which the state entrusted its functionaries with control over our personal and spiritual lives has failed.
By Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, www.jewishpress.com Opinion May 28, 2008
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, a graduate of Merkaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem, is the rabbi of Har Bracha and its hesder yeshiva.
The foremost condition of conversion is that the convert accept upon himself the Torah. It is unthinkable that a person convert without embracing the Torah.
Just as the Jewish people became a nation by accepting the Torah at Mount Sinai, so must one who wishes to join the Jewish people accept upon himself the Torah as an individual before a rabbinic court.
…Just as a Jew who does not yet observe all of the commandments of the Torah is nonetheless considered Jewish, so a convert who subsequently neglects the Torah remains Jewish.
…Conversion under Reform or Conservative auspices, however, is no conversion at all because the convert does not accept all of the commandments in principle.
By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz Opinion May 28, 2008
Only the presentation of an alternative basic perception - one that is not afraid of a wholesale confrontation with the ultra-Orthodox (over conversion, the sabbatical year, women who are refused religious divorce, and so forth);
an approach that portrays religious Zionism as the successor to the ways of the sages of Yavne, who were wise enough to change halakha from beginning to end to adapt it to the times,
and an approach that portrays the ultra-Orthodox as Sadducees, who adhered zealously to the text and were rejected - will be correct, not only from the matter-of-fact point of view but also from the point of view of achieving clear practical gains.
By Avraham Poraz, Haaretz Opinion June 1, 2008
The writer served as Interior Minister (Shinui) in the years 2003-2004.
The government should therefore change the decision it made back when the recommendations of the Neeman Committee were adopted, and stipulate that the Interior Ministry register as Jews also people who underwent Reform or Conservative conversion.
The appropriate solution of course is civil marriage and divorce, but if that is not possible yet, then the Conservative and Reform movements should be allowed to marry people and end marriages, by means of religious courts to be established by them and recognized by the state.
Granting legal recognition to both of these important streams would put an end to the Orthodox monopoly, and to the sense of alienation and disaffection of hundreds of thousands of Israel's citizens.
We cannot rely on conversion administrations of Rabbi Druckman's sort, particularly since the battle over conversion between Orthodox Zionism, as reflected by Rabbi Druckman, and the ultra-Orthodox will end in my opinion with a victory for the Haredim.
By Maskil, www.blog.altneuland.info May 29, 2008
Have the latest efforts to bar the gates of Judaism to all comers by the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Religious-Bureaucratic Complex in Israel turned out to be a good thing or a bad thing for Judaism (and for Israeli society)?
Looking at some of the likely or possible outcomes, the answer might be – surprisingly –a good thing, at least in the long run.
By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur May 28, 2008
The Vaad is calling on the heads of the Chief Rabbinate not to submit to public pressure and rather to ensure that conversion requests are handled solely by reputable, fixed conversion courts that adhere to halacha and examine every case with due seriousness.
The Vaad HaRabbonim also notes that the Chief Rabbinate is authorized to block the appointment of the Conversion Authority chairman, which is supposed to be a rabbinical and spiritual post.
The Chief Rabbinate should publicly declare that large-scale conversion is impossible and government officials must seek alternative solutions to the demographic issues.
June 3, 2008 21:30 U.S. EST
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, member of the Beit Din l'Giyur of the Rabbinical Council of California
Rabbi Seth Farber, Founder and Director, ITIM: The Jewish Life information Center
Rabbi Barry Freundel, Head of the Gerut Commission of the Rabbinic Council of America
Rabbi Benny Lau, Director Beit Morasha
By Rivkah Luvitch, Ynetnews.com Opinion May 27, 2008
Anyone inflicted with a severe hearing and speech impediment cannot undergo Jewish conversion. This harsh statement was recently made by Rabbi Avraham Sherman of the Chief Rabbinical Court, in a ruling now made public.
…The thought that parts of Jewish law categorically prevent admission of the deaf into the flock sent shivers down my spine.
What happens if a family wants to adopt a deaf child? The Rabbinical Court would not agree to convert the child.And what if a family wishes to convert and one of its sons is hearing impaired? Will the court convert all but one?
A student from Germany is set to be deported Friday, after the Interior Ministry determined that she was doing missionary work.
Barbara Ludwig, 32, who has been living mainly in Israel for the past decade, completed her undergraduate degree in philosophy here, and is now working on her master's degree in religious studies at the Hebrew University.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said Ludwig was being deported because she had not arranged her residency status.
However, the head of the Population Administration's central region, Elinor Golan, sent two letters to Ludwig's lawyer stating that Ludwig's repeated requests for residency status had been denied because she was "doing missionary work."
By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz May 30, 2008
MK Zahava Gal-On asked Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit yesterday to rescind the decision to deport a German national living in Israel for more than a decade.
The Meretz MK argued that Barbara Ludwig, 32, be allowed to stay in the country and complete her studies at the Hebrew University. Ludwig was slated for deportation after she was accused of involvement in missionary work, a claim she has denied.
"I don't see how a student's private activities should have any affect over whether she is given permission to stay as a student," Gal-On wrote.
www.washingtonjewishweek.com Editorial May 28, 2008
The students and [Deputy Mayor Uzi] Aharon were upset with the proselytizing that had come to their community.
But destroying the texts of another's faith is not the way to fight against missionaries, and every rabbi in Israel, including the most fervently Orthodox, should vociferously condemn it.
Teaching about Judaism in a positive way is. Welcoming immigrants to the Jewish community, rather than quibbling over their Jewish ancestry, is.
Israel may be the Jewish homeland, but it also is the birthplace of Christianity and Islam.
And, if Israel -- and the Jewish people -- are to fulfill our role to be a light unto the nations, then we must not forget Hillel's dictum: Do not do unto others what is hateful to you.
JTA May 30, 2008
"The Foreign Ministry condemns the recent burning of the New Testament in Or Yehuda and views it as contrary to the values of the State of Israel as a democratic Jewish state that grants freedom of religion and freedom of worship to all its citizens."
Messianic Jew David Ortiz describes the events leading up to the attack on his family in Ariel.
By Joshua Goldberg, Christian Post May 28, 2008
In an unparalleled historical development, a major Orthodox Jewish institution has announced its decision to begin theological dialogue and fellowship with Christians.
Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Israel, and founding member of The Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation, said that the center would help bridge gaps between Jews and Christians while emphasizing their common heritage and shared Judeo-Christian values that emphasize harmony, the sanctity of human life and dignity, and world peace.
Front Page Jerusalem radio is a production of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin highlights new developments taking place in Jewish-Christian relations
www.mfa.gov.il May 27, 2008
Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni met today with the Forum of Leaders of Monotheistic Religions in Israel, comprised of the chief rabbis of Israel, the archbishops, and important sheikhs.
"You as religious leaders can and should spread one interreligious message that expresses the religious values of all of us."
The Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel, in cooperation with Rabbi Yonah Reiss and Rabbi Prof. Michael Broyde--both of the Beth Din of America, has translated the “Agreement for Mutual Respect”, developed in Israel, into English.
An additional clause has been included which assigns jurisdiction to the Beth Din of America (as an arbitrator) should either of the parties not reside in the State of Israel, or should the agreement not be deemed enforceable in the jurisdiction that the parties reside.
By Kobi Nahshoni, Ynetnews.com May 26, 2008
“Religious Zionism has settled in many places, but not in our hearts,” Bar-Ilan University President Prof. Moshe Kaveh Monday during the opening of the conference “60 years of religious Zionism in Israel” held at the university.
The university president used the occasion to express his full support of Rabbi Druckman and denounce his objectors and disqualifiers on the issue of conversion.
Rabbi Prof. Nachum Rabinowitz, head of the Yeshivat Hesder in Ma'ale Adumim and one of the heads of the Committee of Yesha Rabbis, said in the conference that the Jewish Law is democratic and encourages separation of powers between the rabbinical and political leaderships.
Therefore, he determines that Israel as a Jewish state has no room for religious legislation, and that the religious institution has no right to force its position on the public.
By Kobi Nahshoni, Ynetnews.com May 30, 2008
Every religious child is entitled to study in any religious education system, and we must not allow the classification of students for irrelevant reasons, states a new petition signed by dozens of rabbis, educators, academicians and public figures calling on the government to strengthen the state-religious education.
Due to the multitude of private schools, the petition signatories urge the State to "stop the privatization process religious education is undergoing," explaining that "this is our responsibility for social justice."
The document, which was recently composed by the Ne’emanei Torah VaAvodah movement, goes on to say that "we, men and women from all parts of Religious Zionism, believe that religious education should be shared by everyone.
www.theyeshivaworld.com May 27, 2008
Once again there is a stir in the military, this time surrounding a program implemented by the army’s Chief Rabbinate, intended to accommodate the needs of frum soldiers.
The Rabbanut has decided to arrange for separate vacation locations for frum soldiers who would like to go swimming and be surrounded by a Torah atmosphere and not the opposite G-d forbid. The vacation areas offer shiurim, minyanim and an opportunity to relax.
By Avirama Golan, Haaretz Opinion June 2, 2008
All signs point toward national service undergoing a natural process of development in Israeli society, both within itself and by itself, transforming it from a controversial solution for Orthodox girls to a comprehensive civilian service.
This is a path of enrichment, contributing to equality in a society that in the past would evaluate its citizens solely based on a militaristic standard.
By Efrat Weiss, Ynetnews.com May 28, 2008
"The people Israel must rise as one and purge from within these leaders, and therefore in accordance with Torah law, anyone with information regarding or who himself is involved in bribing the prime minister - and there are many of those in Jerusalem and throughout the country – it is a mitzvah to share this information with the police authorities."
The aforementioned ruling is that of Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, a founding member of the 'Temple Institute' and one of Religious Zionism's most prominent leaders, following the recent corruption allegations against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
By Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Ynetnews.com Opinion June 2, 2008
Tommy always emphasized that he is not against religion or the religious, but rather, rejects religious coercion.
Therefore it hurt me a little when he joined the Shinui party and focused on struggling against issues that are dear to the heart of many Jews.
Sitting in the opposition for the following four years, Lapid was able to effectively slash at the Barak and Sharon governments for their concessions to the religious parties, especially the generous funding of yeshivot, expansive child allowances for large families and continued expansion of religious draft deferments.
…Joining the government meant Shinui temporarily forsaking some of its key positions, especially introduction of civil marriage and an end to religious draft-deferments (or at least repeal of the Tal Law).
Although Lapid was criticized for these compromises, he felt Shinui could bring about more change working on the inside.
…His rhetorical style, especially the tough (some would say incendiary) anti-haredi rhetoric he utilized in Shinui's election commercials, was a development whose impact on local campaigning will remain controversial.
Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.