Monday, June 16, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - June 16, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

June 16, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Rabbinical courts to be prohibited from annulling conversion

By Neta Sela, June 16, 2008

The bill, submitted by MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor), demanded an amendment to the existing law, prohibiting the court from annulling conversions.

The amendment to the law will be part of the Rabbinical Courts’ Jurisdiction Act, stating that:

“despite what exists in the law or any other judgment, a rabbinical court will not be able to rule on annulling a person’s conversion,” proposed Pines.

Ombudsman recommends firing rabbinic judge in Druckman saga

By Matthew Wagner, June 12, 2008

Strasberg-Cohen's letter was addressed to Druckman and was a response to a complaint filed by Druckman against Sherman.

"In light of the serious faults in Rabbi Sherman's conduct, I find it appropriate to recommend that the Committee for the Appointment of Rabbinical Judges consider firing Sherman," the letter said.

"Sherman's behavior is not in accordance with the legal system's ethical standards nor is it in line with that system's fundamental principles.

"It seems to me that Rabbi Sherman's perception of the essence of his role and obligations is flawed.

My impression is that Sherman has not internalized the problematic nature of his conduct and the way he ran the case against Druckman."

Ombudsman urges rabbinical judge’s ouster over conversion ruling

By Tomer Zarchin and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz June 13, 2008

...But it is not clear what Ombudsman Tova Strasberg-Cohen's recommendation will lead to, as Sherman's ultra-Orthodox backers have a majority on the committee that appoints rabbinical judges.

Justice Friedman moves to oust Rabbinic Court Dayan Rabbi Sherman

By Shahar Ilan and Anshel Pfeffer, (Hebrew) June 16, 2008

Knesset: Community Rabbis won’t be able to Perform Conversions

By (Hebrew) June 11, 2008

PM taken to task for conversion scandal

By Haviv Rettig, June 15, 2008

Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski and former justice minister Yaakov Ne'eman sent a strongly worded letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over the weekend blasting the firing of Rabbi Haim Druckman, a leading religious-Zionist leader, as head of the Conversion Authority.

The letter complained of the "public" and "unreasonable" firing of Druckman, saying it "sabotages the state's conversion process."

Why my Torah is crying

By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Opinion June 16, 2008

The writer is the founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs, and chief rabbi of Efrat.

My Torah has been stolen away, hijacked, by false and misguided interpreters.

My Torah is crying because of rabbinical court judges who have forgotten that the major message of the Exodus from Egypt is for us to love the stranger and the proselyte.

My Torah is crying because these judges have, in the name of Torah, disrupted and possibly destroyed hundreds if not thousands of families of converts, whose children and even children's children were brought up and accepted as Jews - only now to learn that their forbears' conversions have been retroactively nullified.

Conversion versus joining

By Ruth Gavison, Haaretz Opinion June 13, 2008

The writer is founding president of the Metzilah Center for Zionist, Jewish, Liberal and Humanist Thought

I personally support non-Orthodox conversions as a means of joining both the Jewish people and the Jewish religion. I think that the state should register those who have converted in this way as Jews.

Nevertheless, I see no reason to obligate rabbis who do not feel that this constitutes valid conversion to recognize non-Orthodox converts as Jews according to their own religious precepts. In my view, this is a crucial internal religious matter that the state should stay away from.

Therefore, registration should be transparent, allowing those who do not accept such conversions as a way of joining the Jewish religion to know what the facts are.

…we need to thoroughly and creatively examine the question of joining the Jewish people in ways other than conversion.

It is important to ensure that such a process not be for the purpose of immigrating, and the proofs required for such a move should be as demanding, protracted and substantial as they are in conversion.

But they should not be religious in nature, nor should they be determined by religious officials.

'Whither Thou Goest . . .'

By Hillel Halkin, June 10, 2008

Mr. Halkin is a contributing editor of The New York Sun

Hundreds of thousands of citizens of Israel today are not recognized as Jews even though they have chosen to cast in their lot with the Jewish people, which many of them would gladly join in a formal manner if this could be done in a relatively simple and non-demeaning way.

One would like to see Israeli Orthodoxy make this possible. If it is not prepared to do so, secular Israel will have to risk a deep secular-religious rift by fully recognizing Reform and Conservative conversions performed in Israel and treating them as no less valid than Orthodox ones.

…Sooner or later, secular Israel will say: Enough. The decision of the High Rabbinical Court has brought that day closer.

An obsolete monopoly

By Alexander Yakobson, Opinion June 11, 2008

…the basic worldview that underlies the ruling is doomed to failure - namely, the Orthodox establishment's pretension that it holds the sole key to entry into the Jewish people.

The demand that anyone who becomes Jewish must become Orthodox, rather than secular or traditional, implies that Orthodoxy is the "standard" of Jewish identity, and any other version of Jewish culture can perhaps be tolerated if absolutely necessary, but is not legitimate - and is certainly not of equal value.

The haredi offensive against religious Zionism

By Isi Leibler, Opinion June 12, 2008

Religious Zionism is under siege today.

If it fails to confront and overcome its adversaries, it will become marginalized from Israeli society and Jewish life.

The long-term national repercussions of the conversion issue have made this a defining moment for religious Zionists.

…Religious Zionists must aggressively distance themselves from anti-Zionist haredim who concentrate almost exclusively on promoting their own parochial interests, refusing to assume the obligations of citizenship.

They must also condemn both the snowballing haredi draft exemptions and haredi unwillingness to earn a livelihood as being contrary to Jewish religious values.

They should demand that haredim at least be obliged to participate in some form of national service.

The Conversion Progress Report

By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, June 16, 2008

Strip away all the detail, and the conflict boils down to two hostile assessments of what the other side stands for.

… In duking it out in the current imbroglio, both sides have simply reinforced the stereotypes held by the other. In alienating the other, both sides deserve near-perfect scores.

…If only we could both sides to realize that precisely what separates them is what unites them – a deep commitment to the eternity and centrality of Torah.

If only they could use that common enthusiasm for Torah to mend the breaches and work together for the benefit of all of Klal Yisrael!

EJF: Rabbonim Must Ensure Conversions Performed Only If Candidate Commits to Keep Mitzvas

By Yechiel Sever, June 12, 2008

Eternal Jewish Family held a gathering in Jerusalem for rabbonim and dayonim

During the course of the gathering the rabbonim discussed the thousands of wholesale conversions performed every year in Eretz Yisroel, even though the "converts" have no genuine desire to keep Torah and mitzvas, which is bringing non-Jews into the fold under the cover of an apparent conversion.

The rabbonim also considered various ways to cope with this situation, such as reiterating calls to city rabbonim and marriage registrars to look into the Jewish status of individuals applying to marry.

They also praised marriage registrars from certain cities who do their job faithfully, thoroughly evaluating every applicant.

Conversion survey: IDF over religion

By Kobi Nahshoni, June 11, 2008

In the first part of the survey, participants were asked, “In your opinion, what is the most important criterion when deciding whether or not to convert someone to Judaism?”

Thirty-one percent said that they or their children need to serve in the army, 29% said that the commitment to abide by the commandments is more important and 28% said that the main criterion is if the applicant is offspring to an assimilated Jewish family. Twelve percent refused to answer the question.

The second question in the survey was, “If you had a non-Jewish friend interested in conversion, who would you want to convert them?”

Thirty-six percent chose a national religious rabbi who follows in the footsteps of the exiting conversion system’s leader, Chaim Druckman.

Twenty-six percent prefer an ultra-Orthodox rabbi and 25% would send their friend to a reform or conservative rabbi. Thirteen percent of the participants did not respond to the question.

Taking the Silk Route back home

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz June 13, 2008

Kaifeng Jews do not object to undergoing a "giyur l'chumra" - a conversion ceremony done for the sake of removing any doubt, in contrast to other groups such as Ethiopian Jews.

The girls describe their year in the conversion institute as stressful. "We felt we needed to learn because that's what we lacked," says Wang.

In contrast to other conversion candidates, they didn't feel insulted by being required to strictly observe Jewish commandments.

Michael Freund, the head of Shavei Israel, estimates the potential number of immigrants from Kaifeng to be no more than a few hundred. However, he described the community members as "people with very high motivation who we need to help them."

Neither the Israeli government nor the Jewish Agency currently encourages the immigration or conversion of Kaifeng Jews, but Jin Jin and Nina Wang believe that within a generation a proper community of Jewish Chinese immigrants will be established in Israel.

Foot-Dragging & Politics May Spark the Next Crisis in the Chief Rabbinate

By Yechiel Spira June 14, 2008

The Chief Rabbinate Rabbinical Council will complete its term this rosh chodesh Tammuz, in about three weeks, which will leave yet another major void in the state’s religious services.

Woman protests ruling placing son in custody of Belgian father

By Ruth Sinai, Haaretz June 11, 2008

A woman from the south picketed in front of the Knesset yesterday to protest the Supreme Court's decision to return her 9-year-old son to his father's custody in Belgium.

The woman, who is ultra-Orthodox, had argued this would endanger the child emotionally and physically, but the court ruled she had kidnapped the boy and must return him to his homeland.

The boy is the product of the woman's marriage to a non-Jewish Belgian citizen 10 years ago, which ended in divorce when the boy was 4-years-old.

Kadima MK warns Religious Zionism has become 'cult'

By Kobi Nahshoni, June 11, 2008

"Religious Zionism has lost its true substance and has become a cult," said MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) Wednesday at the Religious Zionism conference on education, the economy and society.

"The fight for the Land of Israel is important, but hailing it as the sole theme makes Religious Zionism a cult. I know many of you will resent this definition, but this wasn't the way taught by the Religious Zionism I grew up on."

"Religious Zionism cannot stay closed up within itself. If it does it will suffocate," he concluded.

Divided they stand - on unity

By Matthew Wagner, June 14, 2008

The specter of early elections has thrown the splintered, embattled religious-Zionist camp into a mad rush to somehow consolidate its ranks and present a unified front.

[Dr. Asher Cohen of Bar-Ilan University] hopes to bring into a new religious-Zionist party charismatic rabbis, such as Yuval Cherlow and Benny Lau, together with female leaders, such as Yaffa Gisser of Bat Ami and Emunah chairwoman Liora Minka, and municipal-level politicians, such as Tirat Carmel Mayor Arye Farjun.

Ofra rabbi allows settlers to build on Shabbat to beat court

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz June 12, 2008

Concerns that the High Court of Justice might put a stop to the construction of new homes in the West Bank settlement of Ofra has led to the extraordinary step of keeping the work going seven days a week, irrespective of the religious prohibition against labor on Shabbat.

The decision relies on a religious ruling by Ofra's rabbi, Rabbi Avi Gisser, aimed at expediting construction so homes can be occupied before a possible court intervention.

Rabbi Gisser's ruling was made possible since all of the construction workers at the site are non-Jews. They include foreign and Palestinian laborers

As for the halakhic reasoning, Gisser cited a Talmudic ruling (in Tractate Gittin) that says that the commandment to settle the land of Israel overrides the principle of not engaging non-Jews to work on Shabbat.

Jerusalem’s Kosher Electricity Project

By Yechiel Spira, June 13, 2008

Jerusalem City Hall has begun a project that is a first in Israel, seeking to place solar panels on the roofs of municipal and public buildings around the city towards enhancing the Shabbos.

The initiative comes from the mayor himself, Rabbi Uri Lupoliansky, who hopes the NIS 100 million price tag will bring a solution to the growing number of the city’s residents who are seeking alternative electricity for Shabbos and Yomim Tovim, not wishing to benefit from the chilul Shabbos of the Israel Electric Company (IEC).

New in Jerusalem: Daily Beit Midrash for Women at Machon Lander

By (Hebrew) June 10, 2008

Religion and State in Israel

June 16, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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