Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
www.jta.org 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."
Rabbi David Golinkin, www.ynetnews.com Opinion July 18, 2008
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…
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.
By Or Kashti, www.haaretz.com 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.
By Yair Sheleg, www.haaretz.com 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
By Cnaan Liphshiz, www.haaretz.com 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.
By Or Kashti, www.haaretz.com 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.
By Nadav Shragai, www.haaretz.com 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.
By Yair Ettinger and Yuval Azoulay, www.haaretz.com 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.
By Rivka Lubitch, www.ynetnews.com 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?
By Eli Ashkenazi, www.haaretz.com 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.
By Eli Ashkenazi, www.haaretz.com 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.
www.ynetnews.com 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.”
By Yechiel Spira, www.theyeshivaworld.com 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.
Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.