Monday, June 9, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - June 9, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

June 9, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Special Shavuot Conversion issue

High Court asked to overturn rabbinical court's voiding of Druckman conversions

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz June 6, 2008

A petition was filed in the High Court of Justice yesterday against a ruling by the Rabbinical Court of Appeals that nullified thousands of conversions performed by the state-sponsored Conversion Authority, headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman, since 1999.

The petition, filed by attorneys Aviad Hacohen and Susan Weiss on behalf of a woman whose conversion to Judaism was revoked by the ruling, accused the rabbinical courts and the Chief Rabbinate of running "a state within a state."

It was joined by several nonprofit organizations, mostly religious Zionist groups, including WIZO, Emunah, the Center for Women's Justice, Ne'emanei Torah v'Avoda and Mavoi Satum.

The petition accused the judges of both the Ashdod Rabbinical Court and the Rabbinical Court of Appeals of having exceeded their authority by nullifying a conversion performed by an authorized court.

It said the rabbinical courts thereby violated the rules of natural justice and the principles of human dignity and liberty, and therefore asked the High Court to overturn the ruling.

Court to decide on rejected conversions

By Dan Izenberg, June 6, 2008

"[Religious Court Judge Avraham] Attia devoted eight pages of the nine-page decision to a crass diatribe against the woman and Rabbi Haim Druckman," [attorney Susan Weiss of the Center for Justice for Women] said. "He used language unfit for any person, let alone a dayan."

According to Weiss, the case highlights many of the faults of the rabbinical courts. "They have no concept of due process or fairness, and they display no sensitivity to those who come before them," she said.

Center for Women's Justice and the Cancelled Conversions

By Susan Weiss, May 28, 2008

Weiss Advice: agunah and other troubles - challenging the status quo regarding Jewish women and divorce

"Susan works in the Israeli rabbinic and family courts (which is like being an anthropologist on mars)"

Women’s groups petition against possible annulment of conversions

By Elad Tene, June 9, 2008

A protest rally under the heading of “Love thy foreigner” took place Thursday night on the steps of the High Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem.

The meet included a dramatization of Ruth the Moabite fearing the annulment of her conversion – an act that may cast a doubt on the Jewishness of King David, who was among her offspring.

Converts, activists protest ruling

By Matthew Wagner, June 6, 2008

Speakers called to end the monopoly of haredi rabbis over the Chief Rabbinate, to pass legislation to limit the rabbinical courts' power over conversions and to make the conversion process more congenial to potential converts.

Bearing the yoke

By Matthew Wagner, June 9, 2008

One of the judges in the special conversion courts run under the auspices of the [Conversion] authority, Rabbi David Bass:

"Within a few decades," wrote Bass, "a rift is liable to be created between totally secular Jews willing to marry non-Jewish immigrants [whom they meet in day-to-day to life] and religious Jews who will not marry gentiles.

Eventually, the Jewish people of Israel will be split into two separate peoples who are unwilling to marry one another.

"In my opinion, if we do not succeed in assimilating the waves of immigration into the Jewish people and its heritage, if we do not succeed in creating a consciousness of a common destiny, a common purpose among the religious, traditional and secular Jews of Israel, I do not see how we will manage to exist in this part of the world in the long run.

"Therefore, conversion should not be seen solely as the interest of the non-Jewish immigrant looking to integrate into Israeli society, it is also an existential imperative of the State of Israel as we enter the 21st century."

Jewish converts are pawns in religious sector power struggle

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz June 8, 2008

Almost all those who petitioned the High Court of Justice against the ruling to nix conversions were not converts themselves. They hail from religious Zionist circles.

Former Bnei Akiva secretary-general Dr. Amnon Shapira said it is "the first time that the religious Zionist public has told the ultra-Orthodox outright that they have gone far enough."

He added:

"It begins with the military service and the national service, it went on with the Shmita debate and now it has come around to conversion. It cannot go on. The ultra-Orthodox have created a new religion, and now they're calling for a war. A cultural war."

Conversion focus heats up ahead of Shavuot

By Matthew Wagner, June 4, 2008

Yonatan Ben-Harosh, a spokesman for Ne'emanei Torah Ve'Avodah, said that the main objective of the demonstration was to force the Chief Rabbi to come out in defense of the converts and to assure them all that their conversions would be recognized for marriage and divorce purposes.

Conversions Nullification

By Netty Gross, The Jerusalem Report Issue 4, June 10, 2008

Legislation to prevent rabbinic panels from nullifying conversions is being drawn up, the chairman of the Knesset Law Committee, Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), has told The Jerusalem Report.

Knesset Member Ben-Sasson, himself an Orthodox Jew, says his committee has jurisdiction to examine all the country's courts, including religious ones.

He says the bill to stop reversals of legitimate conversions will be ready for its first reading in a few months.

It will also empower local rabbis to carry out conversions and allow couples to register wherever they wish, enabling them to avoid courts with a reputation for excessive strictness.

When Boaz met Ruth

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Opinion June 6, 2008

This is not a problem that will go away or remain contained.

The group of halakhically non-Jewish immigrants, now put at about 300,000, will grow, since many of their children, and the majority of the immigrants still arriving from the former Soviet Union, share the same status.

But the more significant development is the linking up of secular Jewish Israelis with their [halakhically] non-Jewish fellow citizens, who they meet at work, in the army and in school.

A generation from now, most of the younger generation of these immigrants will have started families with Jewish spouses. They will be 100 percent Israeli, and Jewish in their own view, but will be seen by the ultra-Orthodox as goyim (non-Jews).

Not your people, not my people

By Avirama Golan, Haaretz Opinion June 8, 2008

The ultra-Orthodox Sherman, well aware of the tension between the needs of society, the nation and Jewish law, waved a red flag before the nationalist religious rabbis in ruling that halakha overrode any other circumstance - but they responded with silence.

Their silence does not stem from a weak capitulation to the ultra-Orthodox. It is the reflection of a process that goes much deeper and is far more serious.

…conversion has become a symbol. It holds the key to the gate to the Jewish people and/or Israeli society, and it pits the social-national agenda against halakha, Israeliness against the Judaism that favors "a nation that dwells alone," and the choice of forming a civil society dwelling on its land against the old longing for an existence outside history and time.

The annulment of the conversion and the denunciation of Druckman revealed a gap that is hard to breach among the religious Zionist public, and optimists hope that some kind of change for the better will emerge from it.

However, it seems that the religious and secular majority, Jewish and non-Jewish, is incapable of and uninterested in waging the fight to wrest power from rabbinical tyrants.

The converts' holiday

By Avraham Burg, Haaretz Opinion June 8, 2008

A covert civil protest has already been launched against the Orthodox monopoly over marriage and divorce in Israel.

The time has come to start an active civil rebellion against the "identity thug" zealots, to take back responsibility for Israeli identity from closed and backward groups and return it to the free majority.

We must return to the biblical heritage of Ruth; first of all: "thy people is my people" and only then, if then, "thy God is my God."

From now on, let the holiday of Shavuot be a national holiday honoring converts and conversion, the "other" who enrich us.

A holiday of human heroes

By Gilad Kariv, Haaretz Opinion June 8, 2008

The writer is a Rabbi, Attorney and Associate Director, Israel Religious Action Center.

Those who receive the convert are supposed to select a few of the Torah's commandments and to present them to him or her, but the mitzvot related to helping others and to charity are not a matter of choice. In any situation or any scenario, they must appear among the acts required of converts after they join the fold.

An unholy alliance

By Avi Gisser, Haaretz Opinion June 5, 2008

The writer is the rabbi of Ofra, and chairman of the Religious Public Education Council.

Successive governments paid the ultra-Orthodox political parties by giving them control over Judaism.

The government handed them the rabbinic courts, the judges' appointment, the conversion policy, and control over the issue of women whose husbands refuse to grant them an official bill of divorce, or cannot be located. They are the ones who appoint chief rabbis and determine the Jewish character of the state.

Moreover, the government pays the ultra-Orthodox coalition with an exemption from oversight of their school curriculum and the core curriculum requirement, and with generous budgets. The military service exemption for yeshiva students is also expanding.

And all this, the Jewish agenda, has been placed in the hands of the ultra-Orthodox in return for coalition peace and quiet and acquiescing in any peace plan, whatever its price. A safety net for political survival in exchange for total control over Israel's Jewishness.

Israel cannot be arbiter of conversions to Judaism

By Rabbi Donniel Hartman, May 28, 2008

The writer is Co-Director of Shalom Hartman Institute

The State of Israel needs multiple rabbinates that reflect the diversity of ideology permeating Israeli religious life.

As the home of all Jews, the State of Israel does not have the right to determine authentic Judaism, but must reflect the diverse Jewishness of that population.

Retroactive Annulment of Giyyur (Conversion)?

By Dr. Zvi Zohar, Chauncey Stillman Professor of Sephardic Law and Ethics at Bar-Ilan University, and Senior Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

There is no justification for anyone to hold, that halakha enables retroactive annulment of giyyur based upon the proselyte’s future conduct.

Majority of Israelis support conversions

By Kobi Nahshoni, June 5, 2008

"Converting non-Jewish immigrants in a national, strategic mission for Israel is one which is crucial for the State's future," Minister of Immigrant Absorption Jacob Edery told Ynet.

"The study disproves the notion that the Israeli public loves immigration but doesn't like immigrants. The Israeli public is ready and willing to make its fellow immigrants feel and be a part of Israeli society.

"The State and its religious establishments must create more solutions which could facilitate immigrants' conversion," he added.

"This challenge should be our top priority. These people have chosen to become a part of the Jewish people. It is up to us to help them do that."

Secular Israelis wary of impact of non-Jewish olim

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz June 5, 2008

Most of the public are interested in helping them convert to Judaism and 74 percent are in favor of Orthodox conversion.

But the same number of people - unlike most Orthodox rabbis - believe that they should be allowed to convert to Judaism even if they don't intend to maintain a religious way of life.

The survey reflects a more stringent attitude on the part of the religious public, 89 percent of whom fear that the non-Jewish immigration would lead to assimilation and only 54 percent of whom are willing to live next door to non-Jewish immigrants.

Fifty-five percent of religious people do not accept conversion for any purpose other than observing a religious way of life. However, the survey also showed a greater willingness to help immigrants to convert among the religious public.

Two-thirds agreed to accompany a family in the process of conversion, 85 percent agreed to host a person undergoing conversion for the Sabbath and 79 percent are ready to accept the would-be converts in their children's schools.

The Conversion Crisis June 3, 2008

In light of the recent ruling invalidating thousands of converts Torah in Motion hosted a discussion on the crisis with

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

Click here for MP3 download purchase - The Conversion Crisis- Panel - 1:27 hrs.

On Halacha, no compromises

Undoubtedly, declaring a conversion invalid after the passage of years, as in the Ashdod case, is always a tragedy.

But the blame does not belong to the bearer of the message. Orthodox rabbis have long criticized heterodox rabbis for not informing "converts" that their conversions will not be recognized by a large segment of the Jewish world, and thereby paving the way for future tragedies.

And the same can be said of an Orthodox rabbi who follows a single opinion against the overwhelming weight of historical and contemporary halachic decisors.

Response to

By Shmarya Rosenberg June 2, 2008

…both rabbis in question are now haredi. They are both – especially Avraham Sherman – close to Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the haredi leader behind the conversion crisis.

And, despite Rosenblum's assertion to the contrary, the European Conference of Rabbis is largely haredi.

As for Israeli journalists' ability to read rabbinic teshuvot, the rabbinic court could alleviate this problem (which extends to the vast majority of haredim, who also lack the skills necessary to read those teshuvot) by translating their sources into modern Hebrew with full punctuation (and no arcane abbreviations) and publishing them, along with the court's own teshuva, on the internet and with its decision.

To not do this but to criticize the public for (allegedly) not understanding the basis for the court's decision is disingenuous.

…What Rosenblum does not tell you is that Sherman's decision overturning Rabbi Druckman's conversions was made by ruling Rabbi Druckman a willing heretic.

In other words, without doing that, Druckman's conversions would still stand.

…Rabbi Druckman followed the opinions of several noted rabbis – including a former Sefardic chief rabbi of Israel. The idea that Druckman took one lone opinion and held by it when there are hundreds of opposing opinions is simply false.

Finally, Rosenblum fails to tell his readers there is a very real rabbinic discussion over what, exactly, accepting the yoke of the commandments actually means.

'I want my former citizenship back'

By Lily Galili, Haaretz June 3, 2008

The "one person" in this riddle is Rabbi Haim Druckman, the man in the eye of the storm - a storm whose meaning on the Russian street is different than on the broader Israeli street.

For most Israelis, this is entirely a political story of power struggles between national religious Zionism and the Orthodoxy represented by the Supreme Rabbinic Court. It is the inevitable clash between the Zionist ethos and the spirit of rabbinic law.

For tens of thousands of immigrants, however, this is a personal-collective story of people who find themselves in the crossfire and do not always understand what is happening but feel that the shooting is aimed at them. The reactions on a Russian-language site are sad and confused.

Religion and State in Israel

June 9, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Special Shavuot Conversion issue

Religion and State in Israel - June 9, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

June 9, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

A Milestone in Modi'in

Issue 4, June 10, 2008

A Reform synagogue built with government funds makes a small crack in the Orthodox monopoly on religion in Israel

"Today is a celebration for the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, which has won recognition as its right and not as an act of charity," said IMPJ Executive Director Iri Kassel at the dedication ceremony.

"This is a breakthrough for us; this is equality," Kassel declared, calling the occasion "a celebration for the congregation, the movement, and the Jewish people."

…It was [in 1996] that [Rabbi Kinneret] Shiryon, who lives in Maccabim, adjacent to Modi'in, decided to build a Reform community from scratch.

"There was enormous potential here. I wanted to start a community where I could realize my vision of a Jewish outlook that would speak to secular Israelis and give them a religious home."

Orthodox-Conservative-Reform trio tries to 'heal the world'

One woman prays in a synagogue where gender separation is strictly enforced. Another is a member of a mixed-seating congregation that bars homosexuals from rabbinical ordination. A third belongs to a movement unfettered by Halacha but with a rock-hard Jewish identity.

Though these three Jerusalem women represent Orthodox, Conservative and Reform streams of Judaism, respectively, they have put aside theological and ideological differences in an idealistic attempt to transform Israeli society.

"The idea was born in the Reform Movement," Na'ama Dafni-Kellen said this week.

The "idea" referred to by Dafni-Kellen is Kehillat Tzedek, a grassroots movement aimed at increasing social activism within congregations of all denominations.

Since it was founded four years ago, 80 congregations have joined - 50 of them already have active social programs - representing the entire rainbow of Judaism, including congregations that define themselves as "secular" or "nondenominational" such as Nigun Halev on Moshav Nahalal in the Jezreel Valley or Beit Tefila Yehudit in Tel Aviv.

Jewish NGO May Be Expelled from UN

Click here for VIDEO interview

Interview with World Union for Progressive Judaism U.N. representative David Littman June 5, 2008

Effort Afoot To Expel Jewish Group from U.N.

By Benny Avni, June 4, 2008

Bringing up a contrary argument "did not go over very well," the president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, Rabbi Uri Regev, told The New York Sun.

'Insult' may cost Reform Jews UN status

The United Nations Committee on NGOs met in New York Wednesday with an agenda that included possibly stripping the umbrella organization of Reform Judaism of the observer NGO status it has held since 1972. The decision was later delayed until Thursday.

"Sanctioning the World Union would be extremely unjust and unwarranted," said World Union of Progressive Judaism president Rabbi Uri Regev.

"It would be a sad statement as to the way that the decisions and considerations play out in the UN today."

'Birthright is changing the Jewish world'

By Haviv Rettig, June 4, 2008

"Israel is the greatest classroom the Jewish people has at its disposal, and Birthright is succeeding in bringing it to life," Prof. Barry Chazan, who together with Prof. Leonard Saxe wrote the just-released Ten Days of Birthright Israel: A Journey in Young Adult Identity, told The Jerusalem Post in the capital on Monday.

More Christians join Birthright

By Jackie Len, June 8, 2008

According to Birthright Israel's Web site, participants are eligible if they are recognized as Jewish "by the Jewish community or by one of the recognized denominations of Judaism, or if either parent is Jewish and the applicant does not actively practice another religion."

But it is evident that this criteria is not always used when selecting participants.

Thousands of Young Jews from All Over the World Celebrate In Israel & Discover Their Roots

Click here for VIDEO June 4, 2008 Birthright-Israel VIDEO

Flexible aliya plan presented to Knesset

By Haviv Rettig, June5, 2008

According to the new initiative, Jews from around the world will be able to move to Israel for a period ranging from several months to several years, during which they will be able to work, study and volunteer in the country.

This might mean eligibility for state-funded Hebrew courses, but not for the tax breaks and partially funded university studies contained in the aliya absorption package, while the compulsory military service of olim would not be required but other unspecified civic duties could be imposed.

Report unveils 'humbler' gov't Diaspora policy

By Haviv Rettig, June 4, 2008

[Cabinet Secretary Ovad] Yehezkel "would like to see a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling of the state's funding of Birthright Israel and Masa," which today reaches $18 million annually for Birthright alone.

…Specifically, the change must include cutting down on the number of organizations that claim to represent the Israel-Diaspora relationship, making the communication between the communities more efficient, and accepting the new, humbler relationship.

New plan to offer tax breaks to Western immigrants

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz June 5, 2008

A new program will offer Jews from Western countries tax breaks and other accommodations, as incentives to immigrate to Israel.

The program, proposed by the Jewish Agency and the Absorption and Interior ministries, will offer new Jewish immigrants temporary residency status, and would exempt them from most taxes and national service for several years. Immigrants who continue to run businesses abroad also will receive tax exemptions.

…In order to balance its budget, the Agency has had to reform its aliyah encouragement setup. As a consequence, dozens of Jewish Agency emissary positions have been cut.

Jewish Agency officials hope that a new global information center will take the place of foreign emissaries in providing information to potential immigrants.

Knesset wants Jerusalem to be capital of the Jewish People

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz June 5, 2008

The Knesset yesterday passed in preliminary reading an amendment to the Basic Law whereby Jerusalem would be not just the capital of Israel, but also the capital of the Jewish people.

The amendment, submitted by MK Zevulun Orlev, the National Religious Party faction whip, passed by a majority of 58 to 12.

First Nativ emissary to Germany arriving this summer

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz June 4, 2008

Nativ, an organization that encourages immigration to Israel from former Soviet bloc countries, is to send its first emissary to German Jewish communities in about two months, after a delay of several months caused by opposition from the Jewish community and the German government.

…The Jewish Agency remains irate over the move. "It's a waste of resources, since the Jewish Agency is already operating there," an agency official said.

In about-face, government may open doors to Falashmura immigration

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz June 3, 2008

In a reversal of its position, the government has decided to consider examining the eligibility for immigration of an additional 8,700 Falashmura.

But people at the meeting on the subject at the Prime Minister's Office on Sunday complained that the decision was politically motivated and contradicted the recommendations of professional bodies.

…Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently agreed to reconsider the 2005 decision - even though the Interior Ministry representatives responsible for checking eligibility left Addis Ababa six months ago, in line with that decision. His staff is currently studying the issue, and Olmert is expected to make a final decision in a few weeks.

Falash Mura Funds Dry Up

By Steve Lipman, June 4, 2008

UJC informed major Jewish federations in April that earmarked funds from the $160 million Operation Promise fundraising campaign, launched three years ago, would run out at the end of May. Part of the money went to Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union.

Portman avoids Falash Mura issue

By Ruth Eglash, June 6, 2008

Hollywood actress Natalie Portman, who was born in Israel and is known for her commitment to Jewish values, visited Ethiopia this week in order to gain a greater understanding of the trials and tribulations faced by Ethiopian immigrants as they adjust to life in Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

They only appear to be supporters

By Colette Avital, Haaretz Opinion June 3, 2008

MK Colette Avital (Labor) served as Israel's Consul General in New York.

The Israeli public is so thirsty for love that it becomes very excited by the support it gets from Christian groups;

this is the case when the support comes in the form of political support or in the form of millions of dollars in cash that flows generously to various causes in Israel, some of them questionable.

Yad Vashem urges Latin Patriarch to maintain Schindler's grave

Yad Vashem has appealed to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem to maintain the graveside of the internationally-renowned Holocaust hero Oskar Schindler following complaints by survivors that the site was in need of maintenance and upkeep, Israel's Holocaust Memorial said Monday.

The Latin Patriarchate is charged with the upkeep of the cemetery.

Tel Aviv dedicates first gay municipal community center

By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz June 5, 2008

A mezuzah painted the colors of the gay pride flag was affixed yesterday to the doorpost of the Dov Hoz School building in Tel Aviv. For years, the building housed the elementary school of the Labor party elite. Then it housed a vocational high school.

As of yesterday, the old building became home to a new organization, the first such in Tel Aviv: a municipal center for the gay community.

"Every person, whoever he may be, was created in the image of God," said Conservative Rabbi David Lazar, as he recited the blessing over the mezuzah. "And therefore this place is not just a house for the community, but a house of God," he said.

Shas city councilor sees red over Gay Pride in TA

By Yigal Hai, Haaretz June 5, 2008

Tel Aviv councilor Doron Levy (Shas) yesterday filed a police complaint against the municipality for holding the Gay Pride parade in violation of the law, which prohibits advertising, organizing and displaying abomination.

The city spokesman commented:

"Tel Aviv has always been a free, liberal, pluralistic and tolerant city that respects all its residents and will remain so."

Councilor Itai Pinkas, a leader of the gay community, said the complaint was a "pathetic attempt to prevent the parade."

Religious MK’s take anti-Pride steps in Jerusalem

By Shahar Ilan and Yigal Hai, Haaretz June 5, 2008

A group of right-wing and religious MKs decided yesterday to promote an amendment to the Jerusalem Basic Law banning the Gay Pride parade from taking place in the city.

The bill was submitted last year and passed its preliminary Knesset reading.

They also decided to protest the parade, scheduled for June 26, by holding 10 mass demonstrations across the capital the day of the parade.

National Union faction whip MK Uri Ariel said "the majority of Jerusalemites find the Pride parade intolerable, and it shouldn't take place anywhere. But, at least, leave Jerusalem alone."

Rabbinic Court head supports use of prenuptial agreements

By Matthew Wagner, June 3, 2008

Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Dahan, administrative head of the Rabbinic Courts, recently expressed his support for prenuptial agreements as a potentially important remedy to the tragic situation of agunot.

Careful to sidestep a potential confrontation with Rabbinic Court judges who oppose the use of prenuptials, Ben-Dahan made it clear that his comments expressed his personal opinion and were not to be construed as representing the official Rabbinic Court policy.

Wiessman may exit stores in ultra-Orthodox areas

By Nati Toker and Adi Dovrat, Haaretz June 5, 2008

Blue Square chairman Dudi Wiessman may be planning to sell about ten branches of the company's Shefa Shuk supermarket chain, located in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, say sources close to the versatile businessman.

Wiessman himself says he intends to pull out of his involvement in the ultra-Orthodox sector, following the boycott declared against Shefa Shuk due to the operation of Wiessman's AM:PM convenience store chain on Shabbat.

The two chains are not related except by ownership.

Haredis, who live off of dollar donations, set their own exchange rate

Click here for VIDEO

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 June 4, 2008

The sinking rate of the U.S. dollar against the shekel has profoundly affected the ultra-Orthodox, many of whom survive off of donations from the United States.

The dollar rebounded very slightly on Wednesday, trading at 3.322 shekels after dropping last week to its lowest rate in 11 years.

But some Haredi communities have found a clever solution to combat their shrinking budgets.

In Bnei Brak and in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem, a second economy has sprouted, where the dollar is set at four shekels.

Fear and loathing in Beitar Illit

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz June 6, 2008

For two weeks now, the streets of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Beitar Illit have been rife with tension. Bulletins have been posted throughout the city, denouncing problematic youths and sowing panic.

Residents have taken to the streets to demand that the troublemakers be expelled from the city, riots have erupted and rumors have spread.

…According to official municipal figures, Beitar Illit's current population numbers some 38,800, 63 percent of whom are minors.

In this small city, however, there is no alternative educational framework for youngsters who do not find their place in the Haredi system. There are no professional learning tracks, no sports, no facilities.

“…The Ashkenazim don't want us in the town. I was born in this town, but I'm Sephardic. They don't give me or my parents the permit we need to buy an apartment, just because we are not Hasidim."

Book Week, with a Haredi twist

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz June 5, 2008

The secular Hebrew Book Week has been adopted by the ultra-Orthodox, hand over fist.

Under the auspices of the Hamodia newspaper, the fourth Jewish Book Week opened this week at an events hall in Jerusalem, where separate hours have been arranged for women and men, in addition to more veteran book fairs operating at shopping centers in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak.

Jail Time and Fine for Operator of Kol HaEmet Radio

By Yechiel Spira, June 5, 2008

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday sentenced Rabbi Shmuel Ben-Atar to nine months in prison and a NIS 100,000 fine for illegally operating the Kol HaEmet Radio station.

The rabbi was found guilty of a number of offenses including broadcasting without a license, illegal operation of a telegraph device and using radio frequencies without authorization, which communications ministry officials stated posed a danger to air traffic.

Air Force Compels Frum Jews to Remove Beards and Payos

By Yechiel Spira , June 5, 2008

Sadly, cadets entering the IDF’s pilot training program are prohibiting from keeping or growing beards and payos, and on day-one of the elite course, they are compelled to remove them in the presence of a base non-commissioned officer.

The Office of the IDF Spokesperson responded to the report stating that the air force and the pilot program “have maintained a unified appearance for years.

There is no trend to remove beards or payos elsewhere in the IDF or even in the air force. Quite the contrary – chareidim are serving in different units and are respected.

The issue of the pilot training program will be investigated again by the air force’s commander.”

Lawyer for Jailed Pioneer to Appeal on Tuesday

By Hillel Fendel, June 8, 2008

Rivka Meirchik, 29, from Kiryat Ata near Haifa, was arrested during one of the violent evictions of the Shvut Ami outpost in Samaria over two months ago.

She, like others before her, has refused to recognize the authority of a Jewish court system in the Land of Israel that refuses to recognize Jewish rights to the Land.

She therefore has not posted a bond guaranteeing her presence at future court sessions, nor has she cooperated in any way with the legal system.

Balaniyot Outraged Over Jerusalem Religious Council Decision

By Yechiel Spira, June 4, 2008

The women in charge of Yerushalayim mikvaot are outraged over the implementation of a cost-saving plan which they say is resulting in deterioration in the condition of women’s mikvaos in the capital.

Echoes of the past

By Michael Green, June 8, 2008

Making that connection is the mission Judelman has been on since he and other religious Jews set up the Torah and Ecology program at Simchat Shlomo in 2006.

A number of the yeshiva's graduates [are] staffing the SPNI's Derech Hateva environmental education program, as well as the New York-based eco-NGO Hazon ("Vision").

Religious texts to become available online for free

By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz June 5, 2008

Thousands of Jewish religious and other texts in Hebrew will be made available online for the first time by Bar-Ilan University, as part of an initiative sponsored by President Shimon Peres.

The texts, which will be accessible via a special search engine, will be funded by donations raised by Peres.

The works slated for inclusion in the project will be selected by academics from Bar-Ilan and other universities over the next few months.

In addition, a section of the data us Hebrew texts, spanning the timeline from the Enlightenment until the modern era. The database will only include texts whose authors have been dead for over 70 years, and whose copyright has become available to the public.

The Web site operators, however, plan to make excerpts of more recently written texts available to Internet surfers with the approval of the authors. Such excerpts will feature links to the publishers' Web sites where the books may be purchased in their entirety.

Religion and State in Israel

June 9, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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