Monday, July 7, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - July 7, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

July 7, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Conversion and marriage: A call for civil disobedience

Rabbi Barry Schlesinger is president of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly. Atty. Yizhar Hess is executive director of the Conservative Movement in Israel.

It will require rabbinical courage to bring about the creation of religious Zionist courts that operate parallel to the Chief Rabbinate.

The establishment of a religious Zionist court that performs conversions according to its standards, and whose rabbis marry converts in adherence with the religion of Moses and Israel, would be a revolution in Israel.

Early on, granted, couples married in this manner will not be able to change their marital status officially at the Interior Ministry.

But when tens of thousands of couples follow suit, the law will change. Revolutions can also begin from the ground up.

Today already, 20 percent of all "Jewish" couples marrying in Israel do not do so via the Rabbinate.

Marriage registration mitigations underway

Nissan Shtrauchler, July 6, 2008

According to the new initiative, couples who wish to get married would be able to use the services of the rabbinate bureau of their choice, and will no longer be restricted to the bureau which oversees the residential area under which they appear in the Ministry of Interior records.

"It's a well known fact that some marriage registrars are more strict than others," said a marriage registrar from central Israel. "It's a very sensitive matter."

Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel:

"I hold the Halacha and the Sages Council in the highest regard, but when it comes to logistic changes in a service provided to the public the State will have the final say.

"I'm sorry to learn that people who have been properly converted by the religious establishment are so poorly treated in some places. If by chance, the proposed change will fix this problem as well, it would be a blessing," said Yehezkel.

Shas may be ready for compromise on extension of rabbinical court powers

Shas is reportedly prepared to accept a bill aimed at extending the powers of the rabbinical courts even though the legislation does not go as far as it wanted, it emerged during a meeting of the Knesset State Control Committee in the presence of Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann.

State Control Committee chairman Zevulun Orlev said the two elements of the proposed legislation should be separated.

The part granting the right of the rabbinical court to arbitrate property disputes after divorce, which was standard practice until abolished in March 2006 by the High Court, should be restored. The other section of the bill should be considered separately.

Friedmann agreed and indicated that he was ready at any time to bring the first portion of the bill to the government and Knesset for approval.

Ad campaign for Conservative Jewish weddings strikes chord in Israel

By Dina Kraft, July 3, 2008

"Young couples are giving up totally on having a Jewish chupah, and we as a movement think that's very problematic," said Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, the director of the Masorti movement's wedding initiative.

"Because of their reluctance to go to the Rabbinate, which they hear is a difficult process, they give up on their heritage."

The idea of the ad campaign, she said, is to show Israelis there’s an alternative.

“We want them to see there is another way to marry, and that's the Jewish way, under a chuppah, as has been done from generation to generation,” she said.

“We need to make sure our young people do not lose touch with their traditions."

Scandal in the Rabbinate

By Gershom Gorenberg, July/August 2008 Opinion

Gershom Gorenberg is a Jerusalem-based journalist and the author of The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977

The decision undermines the last teetering arguments for state-established religion in Israel.

It removes the basis for the controversial agreement on conversion between the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA)—representing modern Orthodoxy—and the Israeli rabbinate.

And it demonstrates that ultra-Orthodoxy is not old-time religion, but rather a modern movement—one increasingly setting itself apart from the rest of Judaism.

…Given the ideological divisions in contemporary Judaism, there is no universal standard for who is Jewish. The ultra-Orthodox have fed the uncertainty.

There’s no way that other groups, including modern Orthodoxy, can play by ultra-Orthodox rules, and no reason to try.

Responsible rabbis will make their choices on conversion based on their own understanding of Jewish law and of the good of the converts and the community.

I now pronounce you conned

By Nissan Shtrauchker July 2, 2008

Yedioth Ahronoth received testimonies from other Ethiopian couples who encountered a similar experience.

Shortly before the wedding, and after having made all the arrangements, Rabbi Yosef Hadana, chief rabbi of the Ethiopian community in Israel, informed them there was a problem with the Jewish status of one of them, meaning the wedding could not be officiated on the appointed date.

After causing the couples such severe distress, Rabbi Hadana then referred to acquire a speedy conversion, simultaneously telling them to seek Rabbi Shalom Tsadok, of the local council Bnei Ayish. The latter, they were told, could help “solve the problem.”

Tsadok on his part offered the couple a quick fix: A fake wedding attended by an authentic rabbi, so that at least the guests believe they are witnessing a real Jewish wedding.

He also referred the couples to a rabbi who officiates such ceremonies – Rabbi Shilo Tsadok, a rabbi from Kiryat Ata, also known as “Rabbi Shaul” or “Rabbi Shauli” – who just happens to be his son. The price tag for a fake weeding? About NIS 4,000 (approx. $1200).

The Chief Rabbi is one of the boys

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 4, 2008

As it is, the concept of a chief rabbi is pretty outlandish.

Originating from the days when Jewish communities needed a religious leader to represent them in the corridors of power, it has little place in a democracy - in Israel or the Diaspora.

For secular Jews, the Chief Rabbi is meaningless, if not a nuisance, but for most religious Jews he is just as superfluous, since they don't need anyone to choose a rabbi for them.

Their spiritual allegiances are determined by birth, family, geography and personal preference, not by the electors who choose a new pair of chief rabbis every ten years.

The Failure of Religious Zionism

July/August 2008 Opinion

By Marshall Breger, July/August 2008 edition Opinion

Marshall Breger is a professor of law at the Catholic University of America.

The goal of the state rabbinate should be to serve the needs of the entire population, not merely already committed Orthodox Jews.

If the rabbinate continues to fail in this awesome responsibility, the question of the relation of synagogue and state will, of necessity, remain open, and disestablishment will be a real possibility.

Stymied by ‘The System’

By Gary Rosenblatt, Editorial July 2, 2008

Rabbi Benjamin Lau, nephew of former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, is prepared to take on the haredi establishment. At 47, the charismatic and popular pulpit rabbi in Jerusalem also heads the beit midrash program of Beit Morasha, a communal and educational leadership institute in Jerusalem for observant men and women.

“We can’t accept this,” he told me of the conversion decision. “We should be the power,” he said of rabbis like himself who, in his words, “care about the needs of all Jews in Israel.”

He said he is prepared to help lead an effort for like-minded rabbis to wrest political control of the chief rabbinate from the haredim, and if that fails, to create their own religious courts to deal more sympathetically with issues like marriage, conversion and divorce in Israel.

Is There an Orthodox War Against Modern Orthodoxy?

Reading Flipping Out? Myth or Fact: The Impact of the "Year in Israel”

By Professor Shaul Magid, June 30, 2008

I argue here that the ostensible symbiosis between American Modern Orthodoxy and its more right-wing (both religious and political) cousins in Israel and the U.S. is beginning to crack.

Having found a safe place in American Orthodoxy, having survived the challenge from Conservative Judaism in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Modern Orthodoxy may be under a new attack from a another formidable foe, a re-energized haredi Judaism.

Pre-bride program offers new approach to marriage counseling

By Ruth Eglash, July 2, 2008

The 'Sister Bride' program…is run by the Tzohar nonprofit organization, which aims to strengthen ties between the religious and secular communities, together with the rabbinate in Jerusalem and several other locations countrywide, Sister Bride pairs modern-Orthodox women who are experienced wives and mothers with young, secular brides-to-be for a lucid, two-way session.

"We are not an alternative to the rabbinate, we try to work together with them," said Sister Bride coordinator Nomi Wolfson, who oversees the training of some 200 volunteer-counselors countrywide.

According to Wolfson, most local rabbinates have welcomed the group's new approach. However, she says about 12 rabbinical councils have yet to agree to her services, including overwhelmingly secular Tel Aviv and Herzliya.

Livni on conversion

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called for a more lenient position regarding the conversion process, especially in light of what she said was the fact that currently only one out of every 10 immigrants coming from the FSU today is halachically Jewish.

'Girls, go to the back'

By Neta Sela, July 2, 2008

In a brochure distributed recently among the girls of the Beit Yaakov congregation, the Rabbinical Committee of Transportation asked the young women to preserve "halachic riding" during every bus ride, and not only on the buses defined as "kosher".

In their letter to the young women of Beit Yaakov the rabbis stressed that those girls who are strict about their own modesty should see it as a privilege, and asked them to advise their friends to sit in the back of the bus.

"Thanks to the preservation of the modesty and sanctity limitations we will gain the inspiration of the Divine Presence of creation, an abundance of wealth and happiness and everything good," the rabbis blessed the girls.

Haredi cover-up

By Neri Livneh, Opinion July 4, 1008

Shuki and Yaniv Hoffman, founders of the Mehola Dance Center and its choreographers, both secular Jerusalemites, also talked about how the secular public in Jerusalem needs to wake up.

But instead of announcing the cancellation of this circus, Shuki Hoffman gave in, and when the girls under her command protested the order to hide their hair under wool hats, she silenced them, saying, "It's not our decision."

Secular members of the city council also urged the secular public to wake up before it's too late, but as usual in Jerusalem, no secular folk thought of boycotting the ceremony or organizing even a small and symbolic protest. Not to mention causing a real fuss.

Body of murdered rabbi's wife won't undergo autopsy

By Neta Sela, July 4, 2008

The High Court of Justice has instructed a Jerusalem hospital to release the body of Ziona Samin, the murdered wife of a prominent rabbi, so it can be buried.

In this ruling, the judges rejected a demand by the State Prosecutor's Office that the body undergo an autopsy, after an MRI revealed that she had been strangled.

“As an Orthodox family, we firmly object to any postmortem and abashment of the deceased’s honor. The Halacha strictly forbids us from doing so, and the family feels like Rebbetzin Samin is being murdered twice,” said Samin’s son-in-law Tal-Or Atari.

Next goal: Train wreck

By Neta Sela, July 2, 2008

The rabbis are also preparing for their battle against Jerusalem's new light train, which, in their opinion, holds various dangers in its wake.

In an ad published by the committee, the rabbis explain that once the train is completed, the Transportation Ministry plans to cancel many of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods' kosher bus lines, thus forcing the inhabitants to make use of the new train.

The rabbis stated that "the light train is not compatible with the needs of the ultra-Orthodox public, material or spiritual, and the intention to coerce the ultra-Orthodox public into using the light train constitutes a grave spiritual danger."

Who does Torah belong to?

By Uri Orbach, Opinion July 6, 2008

Seculars must stop looking for excuses and thinking that Judaism only belongs to religious Jews. Come on; start studying without asking for permission and without pangs of conscience.

Meanwhile, religious Jews should remove the sour expression from their face which they tend to use every time a secular Jew deals with Judaism and instead be happy about every additional Jew who shows interest in the Torah.

IDF Rabbinate prepares to exhume enemy dead ahead of Hezbollah deal

By Amos Harel, Yoav Stern and Eli Ashkenazi, July 7, 2008

The Military Rabbinate called up reservists last week in anticipation for the prisoner exchange with Hezbollah that is expected to take place sometime in the middle of next week. Both Israel and Hezbollah expect the deal to take place on July 15.

The process of exhuming the bodies and checking their identity is expected to take several days, and is a task handled by the Military Rabbinate.

Whatever happened to Gush Katif's Judaica?

By Kobi Nahshoni, July 5, 2008

In the past few days, the former Gaza inhabitants discovered their belongings, mostly Holy Scriptures and additional materials that were packed at the various community synagogues and stored at a Ministry of Religious Affairs’ warehouse at Moshav Givati near Ashdod, have been severely damaged.

Some of the Judaica was completely ruined and some was cast on the floor covered in mold and dust.

“We arrived there and saw a huge hangar in which podiums, arks, memorial boards, prayer books, Torahs and Holy Scriptures were thrown together,” said Tucker. “Most of the equipment was destroyed and whatever was intact was covered in dust, mud and garbage.”

The Sela Administration stated in response that the treatment of the synagogue’s contents is the Ministry of Religious Affairs’ responsibility. The latter was unavailable for comment.

Coming to a theater near you

By Tom Segev, July 4, 2008

Now this secret is at the center of a new feature film, "Bruriah," directed by Avraham Kushnir.

The film, which premieres at the Jerusalem Film Festival this month, depicts a crisis in the life of a modern ultra-Orthodox family, which in certain aspects resembles the story of Bruriah and Rabbi Meir.

Its plot is based on the assumption that it was not by chance that Judaism concealed this story, which contains a message of equality between the sexes.

Stand-up guru

By Ofri Shoval, July 4, 2008

What brings thousands of people to your lectures?

Eli Reifman:

"Oh, that's quite simple. When I thought about what I know how to do in life, there is one talent that my mother, together with the Creator, gave to me: the ability to explain things.

I explain the kabbala in simple terms, in a way that anyone can understand. I've wrapped the kabbala and Judaism in entertainment. Quick and exciting, with lots of graphics, a snappy pace, presentations.

I sell it that way, too: the best show in town! Look, we all have different levels of attention disorders. We can't concentrate for long periods, we need a lot of stimulation, we need everything to be fast. People come to the lectures because of the entertainment and they stay because of the Judaism."

Bible theme hotel marked for nature reserve

By Irit Rosenblum, July 1, 2008

The management of the Neot Kedumim nature preserve hopes to build a Bible-themed resort on the premises, near Modi'in, at the cost of $40 million.

The plan is backed by group of Jewish businesspersons who chose to identify themselves only as the KTHLLC Group. They have no background in hospitality or tourism, but were attracted to the location's history and potential for tourism development, the reserve's management stated.

The director of Neot Kedumim, Shlomo Teitelbaum, said the initiative is the first of its kind to translate Israel's biblical and Talmudic-era culture into a living reality. One wonders what the "Greens" will say.

Third Temple preparations begin with priestly garb

On Monday, the Temple Institute started preparing to build a Third Temple on Jerusalem's Mount Moriah, the site of the Dome of the Rock and the Aksa mosque, by inaugurating a workshop that manufactures priestly garments.

Religion and State in Israel

July 7, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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