Monday, July 21, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - July 21, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

July 21, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Olmert vows to solve conversion crisis July 21, 2008

Ehud Olmert pledged to solve an Israeli conversion crisis prompted by a rabbinical dispute.

The Prime Minister on Monday gave the government four months to address a recent decision by Israel's Rabbinical High Court to fire Rabbi Haim Druckman as head of a state-sponsored Conversion Committee.

In dismissing Druckman, who was considered relatively lenient by the standards of Orthodox conversion, the court said it would annul thousands of conversions of immigrants from the former Soviet Union that he had approved.

Israel Radio quoted Olmert as saying in a statement that such immigrants "include the best of our soldiers, the cream of our academia, and so the issue of conversion in Israel tops the national agenda."

'Who is a Jew?' once again

Rabbi David Golinkin, Opinion July 18, 2008

Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin is the President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

This episode shows once again that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which was founded by Religious Zionists, is now a haredi institution opposed to all lenient approaches within Jewish law.

…I hope and pray that the Supreme Court of Israel will overturn this mistaken and destructive ruling.

I hope and pray that the State of Israel will start to appoint modern Orthodox and other qualified rabbis as dayanim. If not, the Chief Rabbinate will have to be abolished because it will have cut itself off from most of the Jewish people.

Finally, I hope and pray that the State of Israel will make every effort to welcome converts…

Dominated by minorities

The writer is a professor of law at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a former minister of education and MK as well as the recipient of the 2006 Israel Prize in Law.

This extremist decision, which contradicts every sense of justice, was not made by a court of rabbis belonging to the Zionist-religious camp but by one whose manifest intent was to work against them.

Thus the fate of thousands - most of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union - who want to join the Jewish People was determined not by the Knesset, not by the Supreme Court, but by the ultra-Orthodox minority. In other words, the legal rights of Israelis were decided by a minority within a minority.

The decision ought to be frustrated either by the ordinary courts of law or by the sociological processes of Israeli society, which is basically tolerant.

It is indeed time to put an end to the arbitrary monopoly given to rabbinical courts - initially granted them when they were the province of Zionist Orthodoxy, before being taken over by haredi rabbis.

School plan joins secular, observant

By Or Kashti, July 16, 2008

The Knesset yesterday approved the creation of a new state school educational program for both secular and observant Jews. A few dozen schools will probably adopt the new system, designed to increase understanding among Jews.

The Ministry of Education says the new plan will not be a separate school system, but will offer the opportunity for schools to teach Jewish values and emphasize tolerance and understanding between ultra-Orthodox, national religious and secular Jews.

It has a budget of NIS 34 million, and every school in the country will be given the choice to join it. Schools that adopt the program will be assigned Jewish values teachers.

Watered down, but still important

By Yair Sheleg, July 16, 2008

If the original proposal called for "recognizing the importance of education for tolerance and coexistence between secular and religious Jews," the final law has no reference to the religious-secular divide at all. Instead, it defines its focus as strengthening "Jewish identity and education for tolerance."

Those responsible for this change were the religious MKs, particularly the ultra-Orthodox ones. They do not like the idea of a joint school system for secular and observant Jews

Melchior isn't afraid of 'producing heretics'

By Cnaan Liphshiz, July 18, 2008

"On the one hand, they [ultra-Orthodox representatives] always complain about the alienation of secular Israelis from Judaism, but on the other hand they are unwilling to support interest in Judaism unless it is done on their terms, in their schools systems," Rabbi Michael Melchior (chairman of the Knesset Education Committee) countered.

In an attempt to overcome ultra-Orthodox resistance to his bill, Melchior told Anglo File, he changed a reference in the original draft which spoke of a "pluralistic" education system.

"In the minds of many in the ultra-Orthodox world, the world 'pluralism' is synonymous with the Reform movement. But the new system will not be a Reform school system, so we took it out to reduce resistance to it," he said.

Education Min. now seeking to adopt Leviev Jewish identity program

By Or Kashti, July 20, 2008

In a stark turnaround, the Education Ministry is in advanced negotiations with the Lev Leviev Foundation to approve its Zman Masa (Journey Time) program for bolstering Jewish identity.

For the past two years the Ministry steadfastly objected to using the program in state elementary schools, but it has approved it for the upcoming school year under two key conditions:

The course booklets must undergo major revisions, and the program must be taught by faculty members or student teachers, not Orthodox teachers from outside.

Two more yeshivas okayed for hesder track

By Nadav Shragai, July 15, 2008

In an ironic twist of fate, the same week that the head of the Israel Defense Forces' Personnel Directorate, Maj. Gen. Elazar Stern, retired, Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved for two more yeshivas to open hesder tracks, combining army service with study.

Stern was considered the biggest "enemy" of the hesder yeshivas by many of their rabbis and leaders.

The two seminaries, devoted to Torah study, are the Bnei David Yeshiva in Eli and the yeshiva in Shim'a in the southern Hebron Hills.

Rabbis felt emotional difficulty in identifying remains

By Yair Ettinger and Yuval Azoulay, July 18, 2008

The current IDF chief rabbi, Brigadier General Avichai Ronsky, told reporters Wednesday that identifying remains "was a difficult and complex process."

Lt. Colonel (res.) Yaakov Roja stressed the importance of identification beyond all doubt because of its significance regarding Karnit Goldwasser, who before was considered an aguna, or "chained woman," since her husband's fate was not determined, who now had the status of a widow.

Getting your get

By Rivka Lubitch, July 15, 2008

US-based organization Ora (Organization for the Resolution of Agunot) finds creative way to convince get-refusers to set their wives free.

Why is there no organization in Israel like Ora to demonstrate outside the homes, workplaces of these men?

Shortage of non-religious cemeteries burdens families

By Eli Ashkenazi, July 18, 2008

Maruschenko's mother, whose father was Jewish but whose mother was apparently not, died of an illness about six months ago. Alex was told there was no place in the new municipal cemetery near Moshav Hazorim for those who are "dubiously Jewish."

The case of Maruschenko's mother is typical of thousands of Israelis, mainly immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who cannot be buried near their homes because of a lack of non-religious cemeteries, despite the law requiring their establishment.

…The law mandating the cemetery sections for non-religious burial, passed 12 years ago, is also not being followed; such cemeteries have been established only in Kiryat Shmona and Be'er Sheva. Other such cemeteries are private, with plots costing between NIS 10,000 and NIS 30,000.

In 2007, NIS 11.5 million was allocated for non-religious burial. None of it was spent and the money was returned to the Finance Ministry.

"The state prevents civil marriage and sends people to Cyprus to get married. Does it think that the dead can also be sent there?" MK Solodkin said.

Carmiel funeral for 'non-Jewish' Tiberias woman

By Eli Ashkenazi, July 21, 2008

A Tiberias woman will be buried at a Carmiel cemetery and not in her hometown, because authorities have deemed she is not Jewish, and there is no non-Jewish cemetery in the lakeside town.

…A new cemetery was built in Tiberias a few years ago. While a law stipulates that non-religious plots must be allocated at new cemeteries, this was not done.

Tiberias municipal authorities have contacted the Interior Ministry, asking it to allocate land for a non-religious cemetery at a cost of NIS 1.5 million.

Some sources say the cost is so high due to ultra-Orthodox demands that it be located far from the Jewish cemetery.

Religious lesbian organization lays down code of conduct July 21, 2008

Five year after founding the Bat-Kol Religious Lesbian Organization, its members convened last Thursday for their first plenary session.

“For us this means a new phase in our organization, which has become more institutionalized,” said Avigail Sperber, co-founder of Bat-Kol and a member of its managing committee.
“It was a historical plenum; festive, moving and most of all – important,” Sperber added.

“From now on, Bat-Kol is not only a support group but an institution run by professional committees, working towards changes we would like to lead in the religious society in treating the “other” and educating towards that end.”

Rabbinical Courts Must Transcribe Sessions

By Yechiel Spira, July 16, 2008

A bill presented by MK (Likud) Michael Eitan passed its second and third (final) readings in Knesset on Tuesday, compelling the Supreme Court and Rabbinical courts to transcribe all court sessions.

Existing laws demand the courts document court hearings but over the years, the Supreme Court offered its own interpretation which led to a cessation of the practice, which recently has slowly begun to return in limited form.

The new law demands that the session be recorded as is done by stenographers, and not just questions, responses and main points of sessions. It is commonplace that much of what is said by a judge or dayan is lost, never transcribed in the hard copy of the session, and therefore, never documented in a case.

Because the Rabbinical Courts are not financially able to meet the demands of the new law immediately, they have been granted an 18 month period to prepare themselves for this new reality.

Religion and State in Israel

July 21, 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 - July 21, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

July 21, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Court Rejects Group Appeal to Be Declared "Israeli" in IDs

By Gil Ronen, July 14, 2008

Click here for original article (Hebrew)

The Jerusalem District Court rejected on Tuesday a request by a group of citizens of myriad religions to mark the "nationality" box in their ID cards as "Israeli," instead of "Jewish" or "Arab." The judge ruled that their petition is not justiciable.

The request was filed by 21 citizens, composed mostly of Jews, but also including an Arab, a Druze, a Buddhist, a Georgian and a Burmese

…The state answered that what Jewish, Druze and Arab Israelis have in common is their citizenship, not their nationality. It added that any change in the national definition of Israelis has to be carried out by the Knesset and not by the court.

Judge Noam Solberg noted that the "nationality" box in Israeli IDs is left blank anyways since 2000. He determined that by determining that an "Israeli" nationality existed the court would be exceeding its bounds and legislating instead of judging.

The next haredi candidate?

By Peggy Cidor, July 20, 2008

According to an internal agreement between the two parties that make up UTJ, Lupolianski, a representative of the Degel Hatorah faction, obtained the rabbis' blessing for the 2003 elections on condition that in the next mayoral race it would be Agudat Yisrael's turn.

Yehoshua Pollack, 60, is a father of eight. He was born in Romania and made aliya with his family in 1961. He spent 22 years in haredi educational institutions, where he obtained rabbinical ordination.

"All my life has been inside the haredi world. I was married through a shidduch, and all my children, thank God, married also through shidduchim," he says.

After the 2003 elections, Pollack was appointed deputy mayor and awarded the planning portfolio.

Before he became a city councillor, Pollack held various positions on the Jerusalem Religious Council, including director, treasurer and head of the Kashrut Department. His 20 years on the council, however, were controversial.

For the haredi public, his time there earned him the title "shpitz," a term reserved for the exceptionally smart, and those who can easily juggle figures and negotiate legal issues. For the non-haredi public, his years there drew charges of mismanagement.

In Defense of the Western Wall

July 17, 2008

I do understand the critiques. But I’m not willing to let either conservatives or liberals steal my people’s most sacred space from me.

If progressives let the fundamentalists capture all the spiritual treasures of our tradition, we’ll be left with nothing but the dregs. And we’ll continue to lose the demographic battle, because we’ll be left with less to inspire us.

Progressive Jews are like that Hasid in the famous story — unaware of the great treasure that’s lying right in his home. Only it’s not that we’re unaware of it; we’re suspicious of it.

Out of the fold

By Anshel Pfeffer, Opinion July 18, 2008

But while Kiryas Joel and a few other Haredi ghettos are no more than pinpricks in the American firmament, in Israel these questions are of an entirely different magnitude.

More than 20 percent of the Jewish schoolchildren in Israel last year, some 215,000 kids, studied in ultra-Orthodox schools. Their proportion is growing, the younger the age group.

These schools come under varying degrees of government supervision, but the Education Ministry as a rule has little power over the curriculum taught there.

The ministry's attempts to ensure that all schools receiving some kind of government funding teach at least a core of basic subjects (mathematics, Hebrew grammar, English and science at a satisfactory level, and not only religious studies) or else lose their funding, has met with fierce Haredi opposition.

How U.S., Israeli Jews Could Draw Closer

By Yoav Shoham July 16, 2008

Certainly, all Israelis are exposed to Judaism in everyday life in the form of laws and customs that mix state and religion, from public transportation and shopping that are often not available on Shabbat, to restaurants and hotels that keep kosher whether out of ideology or self interest, to marriage and burial controlled by the rabbinate.

But precisely because they are exposed to them with such intensity, usually without having a choice in the matter, and in the uniform flavor reflecting the Orthodox hegemony in Israel over Conservative, Reform or other brands of Judaism, the majority of Israelis conceive of religion in practical rather than spiritual terms. Indeed, they often develop antagonism towards religion, and the establishment that represents it in their minds.

Make aliyah, for soccer's sake!

By Yaniv Kubovitch and David Marwani, July 15, 2008

Maccabi came up with an ingenious way of filling the position with an Israeli player: Find a foreign player who is Jewish or is of Jewish descent, give them Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, and the problem is solved.

Thus Sjaak Polak, an aging midfielder who used to play for clubs including Sparta Rotterdam and who is of Jewish descent, is on his way to Maccabi Tel Aviv. Last year, the same team signed French Jews Rudy Hadad and Jonathan Assous. Maccabi Tel Aviv also plans to expedite Armenian Ilya Yavruyan's citizenship process.

Maccabi Haifa also sees the value of signing Jewish players - the team has signed Ukrainian-born U.S.-Israeli citizen Leonard Krupnik. "Show me where you can get a better defender than Krupnik!" Haifa coach Elisha Levi says.

Officials: Zimbabwe instability could double South African immigration

By Cnaan Liphshiz, July 21, 2008

Zimbabwe's impending collapse will serve to double immigration from South Africa this year, absorption professionals in Israel and Johannesburg told Haaretz Sunday.

On Monday, 100 newcomers are scheduled to be welcomed at Ben-Gurion International Airport, after arriving on the largest flight of its kind from South Africa, leaving earlier Monday morning.

'Israel to me is the safest place in the world'

More than 300 additional olim are expected to leave South Africa for Israel in 2008, bringing the total number of new immigrants to over 450, up from 178 in 2007 and 157 in 2006.

A Zionist kick in the pants

By Haviv Rettig, July 15, 2008

Aharon Horwitz and Ariel Beery founded PresenTense, a Jerusalem-based hub for a social entrepreneurship training institute, a magazine on Jewish and Israeli culture, a consulting and education service and a network of entrepreneurs, activists and professionals from around the Jewish world.

The work of PresenTense, now just in its second year, is already beginning to resonate in the boardrooms of large Jewish organizations.

Some of America's largest federations, including those in Boston, Cleveland and New York, are interested in Horwitz's and Beery's ideas. Foundations and federations have begun to donate "chairs" at the institute that provides room and board for one aspiring entrepreneur in attendance.

Haredim threaten to boycott Dor Gas

By Nati Toker, July 17, 2008

About 1,000 ultra-Orthodox consumers will be leaving Dor Gas, a subsidiary of Dudi Wiessman's Dor Alon group.

The boycott follows an ad in the religious paper Hamodia, which is leading the battle against Wiessman. The ad called on the religious public to cut off ties with Dor Gas, to protest the fact that the convenience store chain AM:PM, which Wiessman also owns, operates on Shabbat.

"The first step will involve about 1,000 customers who will stop buying, and we will continue to advertise this matter until thousands of Haredi consumers advise the company that they wish to do the same," the organizers said yesterday.

Haredim sue Tiv Taam in Tel Aviv

By Nurit Roth, (hard copy edition) July 17, 2008

Ultra-Orthodox living in the Tel Aviv neighborhoods of Neve Sharett and Ramat Hahayal are demanding the closure of a nearby non-kosher grocery that opened just last week.

Three ultra-Orthodox residents of those neighborhoods sued the Tiv Taam chain and city of Tel Aviv, asking a Tel Aviv court to close the grocery on the grounds that it is operating without a license, is open on Shabbat, and sells pork products.

One of the three is on the Tel Aviv City Council – Rabbi Naftali Lobert.

No longer taboo?

By Yair Ettinger, July 17, 2008

The group exhibition "Adam-Ma?" - a play on words meaning "What is man?" as well as "Earth" - opened in Jerusalem, with 26 ultra-Orthodox and religious artists and sculptors exhibiting in an event catering to the ultra-Orthodox public.

In addition to this exhibit, there will also be one by the graduates of the Oman school, which operates in the same building. There are 120 women studying in the school in a professional track, which aspires to be the "Haredi Bezalel" (School of Art and Design), with departments of art, photography, ceramics and jewelry making.

A question of faith

By Noa Raz, July 16, 2008

The film "Halake" (“Upsherin") premiered at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

Director Avigail Sperber is somewhat familiar with this situation from her own life. “As someone living with a non-religious and a non-believer, this conflict is well-known to me,” she told Ynet. “It feels like the religious cannot give up anything – often times forcing the one with lesser faith to make compromises, which is very frustrating.”

Sperber is a graduate of the Maale Film School and the Idit Schori Scriptwriting School. This is her first TV drama as a director.

Environment in Jewish Thought & Law July 9, 2008

Click here for Volume IV, The Environment in Jewish Thought and Law - English Articles

Sviva Israel publishes an annual scholarly journal featuring academic papers by rabbinical scholars on the topic of The Environment in Jewish Thought and Law.

The journal is sponsored by the Israel Ministry for the Protection of the Environment, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ramat Shlomo Community Council and distributed free of charge to hundreds of synagogues and yeshivot throughout Israel

Speaking at the Jerusalem Conference on The Environment in Jewish Thought and Law 2008 were Israel Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger; Minister for Environmental Protection, MK Gideon Ezra and Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski.

Hat tip: Dan Brown

Support group for Orthodox divorcees aims to battle cultural stigmas

By Ruth Eglash, July 16, 2008

A support group run by the national religious women's organization Emunah is aimed at helping observant women deal with the breakdown of the family unit and battle the cultural stigmas within the community. The organization runs several such support groups countrywide, including one in English in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

While many of the problems faced by divorcing religious women are the same as their secular counterparts, Ziederman points out that some of the issues are exacerbated by the cultural norms of the observant community and Jewish law.

In addition to tackling these social and cultural issues in the support groups, the women provide each other guidance and support in dealing with the rabbinic court system, which can sometimes be extremely bureaucratic and daunting.

Interfaith meet signals thaw in Saudi hostility toward Israel

By Yoav Stern, July 18, 2008

Rabbi David Rosen, who is also the Chief Rabbinate's adviser on interfaith dialogue, had been invited to the conference as Chairman of IJCIC, the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations.

The conference organizers knew he was Israeli, following media reports to that effect last week. He met King Abdullah, told him he was a rabbi from Jerusalem and even received his blessing.

Anti-Darwinists turned away by Israeli academia

By Avital Lahav, July 15, 2008

A group of Muslim religious scholars arriving from Turkey to participate in a reconciliation conference at the Hebrew University claim that the head of the Social Sciences Faculty refused to greenlight the event, calling it off in short notice.

The Turkish lecturers arriving from Istanbul on a joint initiative between the research and scientific foundation they represent and the Interfaith Encounter Association, were planning to speak at the two Jewish-Muslim conferences at the Hebrew University’s campus on Mount Scopus and at Tel Aviv University.

Livni’s 17 Tammuz Faux Pas

By Yechiel Spira, July 21, 2008

The ministers on Sunday morning decided to respect the 17 Tammuz Fast Day and refrain from eating during the weekly cabinet meeting, all but one that is.

It appears that no one bothered telling Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of the decision even though a memo was posted for cabinet ministers. One assumes the minister did not see the memo.

Torah Scroll Dedication on Board Tel Aviv Train

By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, July 15, 2008

A specially commissioned Torah scroll was dedicated on Sunday for use aboard a commuter train by a traveling prayer quorum on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv line.

A group of commuters living in Beit Shemesh commissioned the small Torah scroll and custom-made carrying case for their daily prayers.

‘Sanhedrin’ against Beijing Olympics

By Kobi Nahshoni, July 17, 2008

Only three weeks are left before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games open, and the remonstration against holding the games is joined by the Sanhedrin rabbis.

The Sanhedrin’s judges, convening as an International Court of Law presided by Rabbi Adin Even-Yisrael (Steinzaltz), discussed the claims of Israeli athletes training in Falun Dafa (also called Falun Gong), a high-level Buddhist cultivation practice believed to bring great improvements in health and fitness.

As part of examining the case, the Sanhedrin sent emissaries to collect testimonials in Israel and abroad. The judges were also presented with documents by renowned international organizations supporting this harsh reality.

Religion and State in Israel

July 21, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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