Monday, August 18, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - August 18, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

August 18, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Being written out of the Jewish people

By Rabbi Seth Farber, Opinion August 15, 2008

Rabbi Seth (Shaul) Farber, Ph.D. is the founding director of ITIM and the founding rabbi of Kehilat Netivot in Ra'anana

As Anna Gostamelsky shattered Israel's national swimming record for the 100-meter freestyle on Sunday evening in Beijing, once again demonstrating her incredible endurance, I couldn't help thinking about another battle she has been fighting, this one for more than six years, and to date unsuccessfully: her bid to be recognized by the Rabbinate as Jewish.

Gostamelsky is one of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have been unable to convince the rabbinate here that she is Jewish according to halakha. As such, she has been denied the right to be married in Israel.

…I estimate that at least 60 percent of Jewish Israeli families will have to go through this process in the coming two decades.

…The status quo is untenable. Jewishness authentication is an issue that relates to the entire Jewish people, not merely to the Orthodox.

Rabbi Druckman: ‘They Are Jews’

By Elliot Resnick, August 6, 2008

Q: What is the current status of the converts in question?

They are Jews. Nobody can take their Jewishness away from them. This is the truth. But still, the psak din harms those who converted. There will definitely be different rabbinates that will not register them for weddings.

Q: That's a problem.

Yes. Practically we can help them go to those rabbinates that will register them, but still it's no good.

Q: Are we talking about hundreds of converts? Thousands?

Believe me, I don't know the number. But it doesn't matter because each and every one is a human being, not a number, so it doesn't matter how many there are.

Q: What was the main issue of contention between you and the beit din that opposed you?

I think the difference is that we think we have a responsibility for Am Yisrael. Those immigrants who came from Russia suffered for being Jewish. For about 70 years, the Russians took away from Jews everything which belonged to their being Jewish; they punished Jews and Jews suffered. Non-Jews who married Jews also suffered because the Russians considered them Jewish.

Therefore, when [these Russian non-Jews] come here, I think it's a great mitzvah if they want to become Jewish to do everything to help them become an integral part of Am Yisrael.

Q: But some of your critics maintain that to attain this goal you have lowered the standards for conversion.

No, no! We are not lowering any standards of conversion, it's false, it's not true! We are doing everything according to the Halacha.

Q: What is the future of conversions in Israel?

I really don't know. Look, I hope that we will continue in the same way because if we won't find a way to help [these Russian non-Jews] become Jewish there are going to be, unfortunately, mixed marriages. Their children will grow up, speak Hebrew, serve in the army, be a part of Medinat Yisrael and there will be a danger of mixed marriages.

'A utopian document, a utopian law'

By Haviv Rettig, August 16, 2008

Prof. Jacob Neusner:

“The classical position of the Sages is that you become an Israelite through Torah, through accepting its discipline.

It would seem that Orthodoxy carries this forward. But the Sages expressed a liberal spirit in accepting people coming in, and this social policy would also have to be carried forward.

Recognition of converts is a case in point. Ruth Raba contains the message that conversion is undertaken by the convert and the Jewish response is a welcoming one. Orthodoxy in Israel is the opposite of this.”

22 young Poles complete special seminar in Jerusalem August 17, 2008

Twenty-two young Poles who recently discovered their Jewish roots have completed a special seminar - the first of its kind – organized on their behalf by Shavei Israel in Jerusalem.

In recent years, a growing number of such people, known as the "Hidden Jews of Poland", have started to return to Judaism and to the Jewish people, with many contemplating aliyah.

Porush officially gets UJT nod for Jerusalem mayor

By Jonathan Lis, August 12, 2008

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) yesterday nominated MK Meir Porush as its candidate for Jerusalem mayor, in place of incumbent mayor Uri Lupolianski.

Porush was chosen in keeping with a rotation agreement he had signed with Lupolianski during the previous mayoral campaign.

Lupolianski is a member of Degel Hatorah, one of the two factions comprising UTJ.

A remote ultra-Orthodox city

By Uzi Benziman, August 13, 2008

The decision to place Porush at the top of the ultra-Orthodox list threatens to give Jerusalem the status and appearance of Beitar Illit. Ostensibly, there is nothing bad about that: Every city determines its image in keeping with its demographic profile and the resulting political balance of power.

…For years the Jewish/ultra-Orthodox component in the Jerusalem landscape has been increasingly crowding out the colorful mosaic that characterized it in the past.

Not only secular and moderate Orthodox people have become a minority in the city - the multinational and multi-religious minorities that once bustled through the city's streets seem to have withdrawn in the face of ultra-Orthodox domination.

Predictions show that in seven years the number of schoolchildren aged six to 14 in ultra-Orthodox educational institutions will be three times the number in state secular and state Orthodox schools.

…The city is become increasingly provincial, zealous and narrow-minded, its leaders apparently focused on promoting the needs of the ultra-Orthodox population.

Make national elections more local

By Jeff Barak, Opinion August 17, 2008

The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.

In the past, the secular residents of Jerusalem - a dying breed it has to be said - have accommodated the haredi political interests by simply not turning out to vote, leaving the political playing field open to the haredim.

Now, faced with the prospect of a full-on haredi mayor - let's not forget it was pressure from Lupolianski's haredi colleagues that forced the ridiculous Taliban-style clothes on the young dancers at the opening ceremony for Jerusalem's Bridge of Strings - these secular residents have a chance, possibly the last chance, to keep the city in the 21st century.

High Court Extends Interim Order Regarding Jerusalem Chief Rabbi

By Yechiel Spira, August 11, 2008

The High Court of Justice on Tisha B’Av decided to extend a temporary order preventing the appointment of a chief rabbi in Yerushalayim.

The order was originally issued in response to a petition filed by Jerusalem opposition City Councilman Nir Barkat and MK (National Union) Uri Ariel against Minister of Religious Services Yitzchak Cohen.

Last week the court called on the parties to explain why the process to appoint a chief rabbi in the capital should be held now, with local elections three months away.

The three justices decided to permit the status quo, the temporary restraining order, to remain, pushing off the elections for chief rabbi.

Israel: Finance Minister Looking to Cut NIS 200 Million from Yeshivos

By Yechiel Spira, August 13, 2008

Finance Minister Roni Bar-On is looking for approval for a NIS 200 million cut in the 2009 budget. The cut would come from funds supporting the nation’s yeshivos.

The news of the planned cut was announced in a press event held on Tuesday morning, at which time Bar-On announced some of planned budgetary cuts for the coming fiscal year.

Making things worse for religious services in Israel, the minister is suggesting that some of the religious councils be closed — another cost-saving measure.

He suggests that in municipalities with less than 10,000 residents the responsibility for religious services be taken from the local religious councils and placed in the lap of local municipalities.

If passed, the minister of religious services would be compelled to order the closure of the religious councils in those areas within 30 days.

Both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

By Eli Kavon, Opinion August 16, 2008

The writer, based in Florida, is an adjunct lecturer on Jewish history at Broward Community College.

The challenge today for religious Zionists is not to build a third temple but to apply halacha to a sovereign Jewish state.

The Zionist dream, once shunned by Orthodox and Reform Jews, has revived Jewish tradition. There could be no Jerusalem to inspire Jewish faith without the reality of secular Tel Aviv. Zionism has strengthened Judaism.

…While Israel is a modern democracy in which the Torah is not and should never be the law of the land, Judaism must still play a central role in Zionist identity.

The state-religion relationship

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition is conducting an international online survey about the relationship between state and religion. will provide the results of this survey to major Jewish media in Israel and around the world, including Israel's leading television network - Channel 2.

Don't miss this opportunity to let your voice be heard! Many media outlets and national leaders are interested in your opinion.

Click here to Vote

Which stream of Judaism should be recognized by the state when performing marriage ceremonies?

Should the state recognize civil marriage?

Which stream of Judaism should be recognized by the state when performing conversions to Judaism?

Should ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students be exempted from service in the IDF?

Is the Law of Return discriminatory?

Should state and religion be separated in Israel?

Families discuss ways to cope with children who leave religion

By Yair Sheleg, August 18, 2008

Dilemmas posed by children who leave religion were the focus of a conference of rabbis and educators held last week in Jerusalem. The conference was organized by the religious Zionist group Tzohar.

Other issues under discussion included late marriage ages among young religious Zionists, dilemmas that arise during military service and the rising popularity of the ultra-Orthodox Bratslav sect and Chabad.

Prof. Shraga Fischerman of Orot Israel College in the West Bank settlement of Elkana:

"We still have to encourage people not to deny or repress things. But at a time when there has been a 'coming out of the closet' in other sectors of society, it's been happening among the religious public as well."

Studying the Results of the ‘Year in Israel’

: Flipping Out? Myth or Fact: The Impact of the ‘Year in Israel’

By Shalom Berger, Daniel Jacobson and Chaim Waxman Yashar Books

The most significant change, he found, surrounded religious ritual. Before the year in Israel, less than 20% scored “high” on his ritual practice scale, which included prayers, ritual hand-washing and fasting. At the end of the year, almost 70% scored “high.”

When it came to modest dress and comfort in mixed-gender environments, just 30% of respondents were judged highly observant at the beginning of their year in Israel, but 64% were at their visit’s end.

And in the area of interaction with the secular world — for example, whether one would refuse to eat “kosher” food in a nonkosher restaurant — slightly less than 30% scored “high” before they left for Israel, and almost 50% scored “high” at the end of their year.

Mother of all campaigns

By Nadav Shragai, August 12, 2008

Now Porush and Porat are waging another age-old campaign: the lifting of the restrictions on free access "by every means - pedestrian and vehicular" to Rachel's Tomb.

…Thousands visit Rachel's Tomb each week: tourists, the religious, the ultra-Orthodox, and "women from the market, with their shopping bags," as Ariel Sharon once called them. They pray for a livelihood, for health, for marriage partners and for children.

…MK Uri Ariel (National Union) and Porat say the goal is to "make Rachel's Tomb accessible to every Jew, at all hours, and in every way, just like the Western Wall, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."

Loan amnesty shmita fund set up

By Matthew Wagner, August 15, 2008

A group of rabbis, inspired by the Bible's simple message of caring for others, have announced the creation of a loan amnesty fund called Keren Nediveh Aretz (The Generous People of the Land Fund).

These rabbis hope to bail out thousands of Jews who have sunk deep into debt to banks, credit card companies, cellular phone companies or other creditors.

The two organizations behind the initiative are Otzar Ha'aretz, a kashrut supervision body that distributes Jewish-grown fruits and vegetables during shmita, and Pa'amonim, a charity that provides financial counseling to families that have trouble making ends meet.

Dome of the Rock 'erased' from Temple Mount

By Kobi Nahshoni, August 15, 2008

Photo by Michael Huri

"On the eve of Tisha B'Av the serious question is raised whether we should take the opportunity and ascend to the Temple Mount as it stands empty, inviting us to build our dream house on it."

Whoever read this caption which appeared on the cover of the Maayanei Hayeshua movement’s latest pamphlet might have thought that this was a symbolic expression of the expected redemption on the eve of Tisha B’Av.

However, those with a keen eye noticed that the huge picture of the Temple Mount which was spread on the cover page was missing the Dome of the Rock, and that the pamphlet “cleaned” the mount of all Muslim signs.

Digging out the truth?

By Lela Gilbert, Opinion August 17, 2008

The writer has authored or co-authored more than 60 books, primarily in the field of ecumenical Christian non-fiction. She is also an Adjunct Fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute.

Biblical archeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkay, professor at Bar-Ilan University:

"This denial of the historical, spiritual and archeological connections of the Jews to the Temple Mount is something new."

"There was always talk about the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem - called the 'praise of Jerusalem'- in Arabic literature, in Islamic literature.

This new idea of Temple denial is due to the Arabic fear of Jewish aspirations connected to the Temple Mount. It is part of something I call the 'cultural intifada.'"

Ascending the Temple Mount on the 9th of Av

Photograph by Lorelai Kude August 8, 2008

This Tish'a b'Av , while thousands mourned and fasted below in the Western Wall Plaza, hundreds of observant Jews ascended the Temple Mount in strict accordance with halachah.

Religion and State in Israel

August 18, 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 - August 18, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

August 18, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

In Israel, religious schools get a boost

By Richard Boudreaux, August 18, 2008

Secular Israelis, who rule the nation, see in the ultra-Orthodox an assault on the rational, modern and democratic world they embrace.

Haredi Jews believe secular Israelis have undergone a dangerous assimilation -- a separation of Jews from Judaism -- that threatens to contaminate religious children.

…What little secular education haredi boys get ends in primary school. The Supreme Court calls this a violation of a universal education law that requires students 18 and younger to be taught "basic knowledge, proficiency and values" needed "to function in a pluralistic society."

Fictitious IDF rabbis to refund military expenses

By Hanan Greenberg, August 18, 2008

The Israel Defense Forces announced Monday that it intends on demanding that hundreds of career officers, who were illegally ordained as rabbis and received additional pay for their title, refund the money – hundreds of thousands of shekels each.

The affair, which has been the focal of a Military Police investigation for the past two years, revolves around some 300 career and enlisted officers, who have allegedly submitted false rabbinical certifications.

The title of rabbi did little to help them in their everyday military duties, but did constitute reason for a pay raise, of up to NIS 2,000 (approximately $560) a month.

See also: Justice Ministry uncovers rabbinical ordination fraud

By Aviram Zino, July 18, 2007

IDF: Rabbis and Officers August 14, 2008

On August 12th, after six weeks of intense training for their new jobs, a hundred cadets of the Military Rabbinate Reserves Course received their officers’ ranks.

A small percentage of the graduates, mostly those who excelled in the course, are expected to continue their career in the Military Rabbinate as officers, while the rest will continue to serve as reserve soldiers.

“Their mission is to be trained to serve as military reserves rabbis for different battalions,” added Lt. Col. Almaliach.

It's the economy, 'tipesh'

The writer is a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute and a professor emeritus of sociology and Jewish studies at Rutgers University.

The high cost of Jewish living has had an impact on patterns of American aliya. Those for whom living a Jewish lifestyle is more important are those who are most likely to make aliya because their lifestyle costs are much lower in Israel.

Ironically, although American Jews have traditionally associated making aliya with economic sacrifice, aliya can make economic sense.

However, the current economic recession and the housing crisis may actually have just the opposite effect.

Out of the shadows

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 15, 2008

The first interview ever by a serving head of Nativ

Naomi Ben Ami is having to cope not only with an ongoing threat to the organization's existence, but also with an undisguised lack of sympathy on the part of many in the Foreign Ministry, the Jewish Agency, the major Jewish organizations and the leaders of local communities.

…Officially, Nativ engages primarily in verifying the eligibility of candidates for immigration under the Law of Return and deals with several other related consular matters.

For that, three clerks would be sufficient. Nativ, though, has some 50 personnel in Israel and another 19 permanent emissaries throughout the FSU.

IDF olim program pulls in record numbers

By Cnaan Liphshiz, August 12, 2008

The army's program for recruiting young ex-Israelis and Diaspora Jews is set to break all previous attendance records tomorrow, with the arrival of the last members of a group of close to 160 fresh recruits from the U.S. and several other Western countries.

The current group comprises 20 new immigrants and 140 sons and daughters of Israelis who left Israel, according to Ruth Sapir, the spokesperson for the Israel Scout Movement, which runs the program along with the Israel Defense Forces, the Jewish Agency, MASA and the Absorption Ministry.

Israel Reform Congregation Breaks Ground for State-Supplied Structure August 14, 2008

Members of Kehilat Tzur Hadassah, located in the Jerusalem suburb of the same name, held a groundbreaking ceremony on July 3, 2008 to prepare for the delivery of a state-supplied pre-fabricated structure they will use as a synagogue and community center.

The parcel of land was allocated by the regional council. According to congregational co-president Ilan Halperin, it is hoped the structure will be ready in time for Rosh Hashana.

Tzur Hadassah is the third congregation affiliated with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism to be provided with such a structure, following congregations in Modi’in and Kiryat Tivon.

Suit against Shefa Shuk ex-CEO may reignite ultra-Orthodox boycott

By Adi Dovrat and Nati Toker, August 18, 2008

The ultra-Orthodox boycott of Blue Square may resume in the wake of a lawsuit Blue Square filed against Yehuda Porat, the former CEO of Blue Square subsidiary Shefa Shuk, which serves the ultra-Orthodox market.

A source in the ultra-Orthodox community says Blue Square alleges that Porat disclosed commercial secrets to competitor Super-Sol, and that the community's rabbis will respond to this affront against one of their own by ratcheting up the boycott.

Hamat Gader becomes haredi-friendly

By Israel Moskovitz, August 14, 2008

History is being made at the hot springs site of Hamat Gader. For the first time ever, women and men will have separate bathing hours until end of August.

Since the opening of the Hamat Gader spa and entertainment center 10 years ago, there has been joint male-female bathing in the site’s hot springs.

Recently, travel agents working with the ultra-Orthodox sector turned asked the site to provide separate bathing times for men and women in the haredi community.

Tel Aviv Authorities Fail to Enforce Tisha B'Av Law

By Yechiel Sever, August 14, 2008

In a letter to Justice Minister Prof. Daniel Friedman, MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said he was deeply upset by the disdain shown for Tisha B'Av through the failure to enforce the law against opening entertainment spots on this day.

In his letter Rabbi Moshe demands clarification regarding the ministry's inconsistent policy of strictly enforcing the law requiring closing of such establishments on Fallen Soldiers Remembrance Day (Yom Hazikoron that immediately precedes Yom Haatzmaut) while allowing Tel Aviv nightclubs and other establishments to operate in plain view on Tisha B'Av.

Bnei Brak residents hold funeral for torched Torah scrolls

By Moti Katz, August 17, 2008

On Friday, the town crier passed through the city calling on residents to attend a funeral procession for two Torah scrolls, which were severely damaged Wednesday in an arson attack on the city's Beit Yaakov synagogue.

…"We must ask ourselves how it can be that this criminal act has returned in recent months here - in this sacred city. Why does this happen to us?" Landau asked the assembled crowd.

"I have no doubt that we are to blame. We must sort through our deeds and consider our sins," he said.

Stranded In Gondar

By Michele Chabin, August 3, 2008

The debate, which will decide the fate of thousands of Ethiopians, many of whom have relatives in Israel, is also creating a dilemma for Diaspora Jews, who must decide whether to support continued aliyah, even if it means going against the wishes of the Israeli government and many Ethiopian Jews.

…Acknowledging that Falash Mura immigration cannot go on indefinitely (“there will always be more who want to come”) Feldman, who works with SELAH, the Israel Crisis Management Center, says the Jewish Agency and other bodies that have supported Ethiopian aliyah have, in the past, discussed ways to help those left behind.

Ethiopians Protest Government Decision to Bar Falash Mura from Entering Israel August 17, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

Hundreds of Ethiopians demonstrated outside the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on Sunday demanding that the government act immediately and allow their relatives to immigrate to Israel.

Thousands of Ethiopian Falash Mura remain stranded in Addis Ababa and Gondar waiting in camps to be flown to Israel.

The Falash Mura’s hope remains in the hands of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss who asked to freeze the decision to halt the Falash Mura immigration to Israel until the special report he wrote on the issue comes to light.

Ethiopian Jews call for continued immigration

"I regret hearing that the Jewishness of our Ethiopian brothers, the Falash Mura, has again been called into question," Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"It is a big mitzva to bring them to Israel as Jews and to rescue them from certain assimilation and both physical and spiritual danger."

Thousands protest in favor of Falash Mura immigration

By Shlomit Sharvit, August 17, 2008

Moving mental mountains

Shaf Yativ…is the name for a small Jerusalem house of Torah study - the only one of its kind in Israel - aimed at rehabilitating haredi and a few modern Orthodox men suffering from mental illness who have regained daily stability with psychotropic medications.

…Over the past decade, the Health Ministry has invested much energy and resources in rehabilitation for the mentally disabled, but existing programs were unsuited to haredim and other observant Jews due to their religious lifestyles.

…The Defense Ministry will soon help subsidize the project and bring in modern Orthodox IDF veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. "If all goes well, we hope to open another branch of Shaf Yativ for men in Jerusalem and then Bnei Brak and Ashdod."

A new breed of Muslim cleric? Imams for the environment

Fifty Muslim clerics were "inducted" into the environmental movement on Thursday in a groundbreaking conference to raise awareness among imams.

The Imams of the Mosques Conference - Islam and Environmental Protection 2008 was sponsored by the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Interior Ministry's Islamic Administration and Religions Department, the Umm el-Fahm Municipality and the Environmental Quality Unit Northern Triangle organization. It was held at the Umm el-Fahm Science and Art Center.

Jordan bars Jews with religious items

By Matthew Wagner, August 1, 2008

Jordanian border officials refused to allow a group of Israeli tourists carrying religious objects such as talitot and tefillin to enter their country on Tuesday, saying it was "a safety measure" to avoid potential terror threats.

Alan Novetsky, a recent immigrant from New York said that at first the guides tried to bargain with the Jordanian officials, promising to keep the religious items hidden and to pray inside the hotel. But the suggestions were rejected.

"The vast majority of the group decided that as proud Israelis, we were either going to be allowed to walk into Jordan holding our religious objects or we would not go in at all."

Jordan: Israeli tourists asked to hand over Jewish paraphernalia

By Itamar Eichner, August 13, 2008

Last week authorities reiterated their advisory that "Jewish paraphernalia" that could risk the lives of the tourists, must be left at the border checkpoint.

Religion and State in Israel

August 18, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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