Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - November 17, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

November 17, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Jewish Agency adopts conversion resolutions

By Ami Eden www.jta.org November 16, 2008

The assembly defeated a stronger resolution, submitted by delegates from Los Angeles, that would have called on the Israeli government to "recognize and accept as Jews" all those converted under the supervision of rabbis from the four major Jewish religious movements, as well as those from "other religious streams of Judaism."

Professor Yuval Ne’eman, who has been appointed by successive Israeli governments to resolve the controversial issue, had threatened to quit if the stronger resolution was adopted.

JA assembly reaffirms support for nearly all conversions

By Cnaan Liphshiz www.haaretz.com November 17, 2008

"Conversion is an issue that regularly comes up at Jewish Agency assemblies, but I don't recall hearing such a sweeping proposal as this one," Kenneth Bob, President of Ameinu, a New-York based nonprofit promoting "liberal values" in Israel, told Haaretz. 

Jewish Agency calls for 'independent' conversion authority

By Haviv Rettig www.jpost.com November 16, 2008

Some 300,000 non-Jewish Israelis have made aliya as family members of Jews. They live as members of the Jewish sector, serving in the military and often marrying Jews.

Their conversion to Judaism, say critics, has been held up by demands from the official rabbinate that converts adopt an Orthodox and sometimes haredi lifestyle.

"The governmental bureaucracy is preventing the conversion of many of these people, keeping them from joining the Jewish people," said Prof. Yaakov Neeman on Sunday. [former chair of the Neeman Commission tasked in the 1990s with reforming Israel's conversion apparatus]

Jewish Agency adopts conversion resolutions

By Ami Eden www.jta.org November 16, 2008

Resolution number 4

Therefore be it resolved,

1. that JAFI calls or the establishment of courts of Jewish law which will base themselves on appropriate moderate and tolerant prior halachic decisions to allow the conversion process to move forward

2. that JAFI calls for the establishment of an independent conversion authority which will facilitate and assist in the conversion process

3. that JAFI calls upon the chairman of the board and the chairman of the executive to call upon all political parties to commit to this independent conversion authority

4. that JAFI affirms its support for the conversion institute and its goals as it is currently instituted

Resolution number 5

Therefore bi it resolved,

5. that JAFI calls or the establishment of courts of Jewish law which will base themselves on appropriate moderate and tolerant prior halachic decisions to allow the conversion process to move forward

6. that JAFI calls for the establishment of an independent conversion authority which will facilitate and assist in the conversion process

7. that JAFI calls upon the chairman of the board and the chairman of the executive to call upon all political parties to commit to this independent conversion authority

8. that JAFI affirms its support for the conversion institute and its goals as it is currently instituted

10 new conversion judges await A-G's OK

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com November 17, 2008

A committee headed by Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar appointed 10 new conversion court judges during a meeting on Sunday in the chief rabbi's office.

The appointees await the approval of the attorney general, who will decide whether civil service appointments can be made ahead of national elections.

…Rabbi Shaul Farber, head of ITIM, a non-profit organization that helps Israelis navigate the bureaucracies of the Chief Rabbinate, said the appointments were the wrong move at the wrong time.

"A new head for the Conversion Authority still has not been chosen," Farber said. "The conversion authority needs someone with vision who can map out a new direction, not more judges."

'Rabbis stunt Europe's Jewish growth'

By Haviv Rettig www.jpost.com November 17, 2008

Another complaint of Europe's rabbis was perhaps more surprising. 

Many Israelis attended the conference, including chief rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger.

 The Israelis held the more conservative position throughout, and came to be seen by many participants as unhelpful.

One organizer said that the many Israeli participants "were more trouble than they're worth. Next year, we're considering not inviting the Israelis."

Conversion courts to perform secular conversions which bypass rabbinate

By Shahar Ilan www.haaretz.com November 16, 2008

The Knesset caucus for secular Judaism and organizations from all streams of Judaism have created a coalition of conversion courts independent from the Chief Rabbinate. 

The coalition, which was approved last week, is being coordinated by PANIM for Jewish Renaissance, an advocacy group for pluralistic Judaism. 

The goal is to create two new tracks in Israel for conversions to Judaism, one secular and one national-religious, both independent from the Chief Rabbinate. 

These come on top of the conversion courts of the Reform and Conservative movements, which produce about 300 converts a year. 

Converts of the new coalition will not be permitted to marry through the rabbinate, but rather in accordance with a ruling by the High Court of Justice that these converts will be registered as Jews in the Interior Ministry's Population Registry. 

One of the coalition's main innovations is the inclusion of Ne'emanei Torah Vaavodah, a moderate Orthodox movement, in a forum that recognizes Reform, Conservative and secular conversion.

The chairman of Ne'emanei Torah Vaavodah, Yonatan Ben Harosh, said at the forum's latest meeting that his movement plans to establish independent conversion courts "in close cooperation with two other organizations: Mavoi Satum (Dead End) and Kolech, Jewish Woman's Voice." 

Secular conversions begin cautiously

By Shahar Ilan www.haaretz.com November 16, 2008

The founding document of the pluralistic conversion forum contains two main innovations.

1. It marks the beginning of secular conversions to Judaism.

2. Moderate Orthodox organizations are willing to try to break the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly on conversion.

In addition, converts who choose this path are not expected to encounter problems with the recognition of their Judaism by the state:

In 2002 the High Court of Justice ordered the Interior Ministry to register as Jewish anyone who converts in the framework of a Jewish community that is recognized in Israel. 

Despite the revolutionary nature of these ideas, they are only the beginning.

More on Secular conversions

By Shahar Ilan www.haaretz.com November 16, 2008

…The idea behind the secular conversion initiative is that most of those classified as being without-religion in Israel are secular, and thus there is no reason for someone in this category to be obligated to join a religious stream in order to become a secular Jew.

It must be noted that while both Reform and Conservative Judaism are open and liberal they are still religious streams.

In order for secular conversions to become a mass movement, one of two things must occur: Either a powerful secular organization with deep pockets, such as the kibbutz movement, must take on the project, or the Reform movement must win its High Court of Justice case demanding state funding for pluralistic conversions, too. 

At first glance, the road to Orthodox conversion seems much easier.

All the Ne'emanei Torah Ve'Avodah movement needs is to have three rabbis to convert those who have completed their training.

The challenge of this moderate Orthodox organization is to get over the psychological barrier of rebelling against the Chief Rabbinate. Everyone knows the Chief Rabbinate has become Haredi and not Zionist.

But it is very difficult for the national-religious to get used to this idea, and to take action. 

Gov't approves aliya of some 150 Bnei Menashe from India

By Amir Mizroch www.jpost.com November 13, 2008

The Interior Ministry has granted permission to the Shavei Israel organization to bring a group of some 150 Bnei Menashe from northeastern India on aliya, a government source told The Jerusalem Post this week.

…Because the new arrivals will be coming on special tourist visas, and not under the Law of Return, the entire cost of the operation will be borne by Shavei Israel.

The immigrants will subsequently undergo formal conversion by the Chief Rabbinate, after which they will receive Israeli citizenship.

Olmert: 200 Bnei Menashe can make aliyah

By Itamar Eichner www.ynetnews.com November 13, 2008

Sharp drop in Christians converting to Judaism

By Nurit Felter www.ynetnews.com November 14, 2008

A significant decrease was registered this year in the number of Christians who converted to Judaism in Israel. Only 119 Christians chose to become Jewish in 2008, a figure dramatically lower than the annual average in the last 20 years.

According to Immigration Administration statistics, 437 Christians converted in 2003, 884 in 2004, 733 in 2005, 457 in 2006 and only 273 in 2007.

A (Limited) Promise of Marriage in Israel

By Nathan Jeffay www.forward.com November 13, 2008

According to Livni’s promise, made on October 29, people who find themselves unable to get married will, for the first time, have the right to a civil marriage.

…It turns out that under the plan, the 350,000 people caught in the marriage trap are to be allowed to marry only each other.

“Israel is the only country in the Western world in which people cannot marry according to their wishes and people from different faith cannot establish their partnership,” 
said Gilad Kariv, associate director of the Israel Religious Action Center, which is the Reform movement’s lobbying arm and one of the leading pressure groups promoting civil marriage.

Kariv was as outraged as Oigenblick [Association for the Rights of Mixed Families] about Livni’s proposal, saying that it will create a “ghetto of people who are not able to get married through Orthodox means.”

Kadima Eyes the Secular Vote

By Leslie Susser 10 www.jrep.com Issue 16, November 24, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report

As for the civil marriage initiative, Kadima's Menachem Ben-Sasson, chairman of the Knesset's Law, Constitution and Justice Committee, has been tasked with putting the final touches on the draft legislation.

"What we are proposing is that the family courts be authorized to marry people without religious affiliation," Ben-Sasson, himself an Orthodox Jew, tells The Report.

"They will register all such marriages and if, at some point, a couple wants to marry in a religious ceremony, they will be able to bring the registration to a rabbinical court.

In the event of divorce, the couple will be able to litigate the same way as anyone else in the civil courts as far as property, custody and alimony are concerned.

The lists kept by the family courts will enable strict monitoring of marriages and divorces to prevent bigamy."

The Reality of (Legally) Marrying in Israel

Reut: The Center for Modern Jewish Marriage http://www.reutcenter.org/eng/

No couple wants to think about divorce when planning a wedding.

Yet, living in a State where marriage and divorce are controlled by ultra-Orthodox policy-makers, we at Reut believe it essential that marrying couples understand the legalities and implications of marrying and divorcing in Israel.

Many couples during this time of excitement and preparation intentionally avoid or unintentionally neglect these challenging issues which, when a marriage fails, can come back to haunt them.

It is better for couples to enter into marriage wiser and well informed, even if it means bringing them down a bit from the clouds.

Therefore, Reut dedicates an entire seminar evening to the legal implications of marrying in Israel, prenuptial agreements and alternative options to marrying through the Israeli Rabbinate.

Haviva Ner-David, Director Reut: The Center for Modern Jewish Marriage


Haviva Ner-David is a teacher, writer, and activist.  The founding director of Reut: The Center for Modern Jewish Marriage.

She has a doctorate from Bar Ilan University in the Philosophy of Halakhah, and private smikhah from Rabbi Aryeh Strikovsky, an Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Dr. Ner-David, who considers herself a post-denominational rabbi, worked for many years in pre-marriage religious counseling, especially in the area of the laws of nidah—the topic of her doctoral dissertation.

A writer of many articles and essays, she is the author of the book Life on the Fringes: A Feminist Journey Towards Traditional Rabbinic Ordination (2000 JFL Books) and is currently completing a second memoir also dealing with feminism and Judaism.

Rabbi Dr. Ner-David is on the board of Women of the Wall and Rabbis for Human Rights.

UJC, JAFI and JDC officially thank Eckstein

By Jacob Berkman www.jta.org November 17, 2008

Click for VIDEO

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, got the thanks from the organized Jewish world that he's been looking for on Monday at a reception at the United Jewish Communities General Assembly.

An Israeli idealist

Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski

By Greer Fay Cashman www.jpost.com November 16, 2008

While acknowledging that some JAFI activities could perhaps be taken over by the government, there are several areas in which JAFI, not only by virtue of its experience but because it is not a government organization, can take initiatives. Jewish education in the Diaspora is one example. Another is a more concerted effort to encourage young Jews to come to Israel.

GA Article Links


Financial crisis crashes GA's party

After raising almost $2.5b in 2007, American Jewish federations are plagued by profound uncertainty.

One People, One Destiny - GA 2008

How will the financial crisis affect this year's GA in Jerusalem?

One on One: Israel on his mind

Nachman Shai, the outgoing UJC external affairs director-general, says his goal is to provide GA participants with an experience to keep their connection to this country going strong.

An old-new phenomenon

Philanthropy in Israel must adapt to a changing environment.




Press Releases/Backgrounders

UJC Briefing: 4,000 Join 2008 GA Opening With Israel's PM

Barak, Bronfman, Peres Outline Vision for Israel, Jews at 2008 GA

PM Ehud Olmert's address to the General Assembly, Jerusalem, Israel (Israel Foreign Ministry)

800 young Jewish leaders meet to powwow and tour

GA special report / Olmert: Strong Israel is best deterrent protecting world Jewry (Haaretz)

GA special report / Peres to Obama: To help Israel, be a great president for the U.S. (Haaretz)

GA conference / JA Chairman Ze'ev Bielski blames $45 million cutback on financial crisis (Haaretz)

Making an impact (Jerusalem Post) 

Birthright Faces The Chopping Block

By Stewart Ain www.thejewishweek.com November 12, 2008

There will be 17,000 fewer young people accepted to the Birthright Israel program in 2009 as the organization slashes its budget by $35 million due to increased costs, an unfavorable exchange rate and a decline in fundraising, according to the president of its foundation, Jay Golan.

Gideon Mark, the organization’s international CEO added that Israel has proven to be the “main bridge for Jewish identity, and we believe American Jews will be able to keep this bridge solid.”

WUJS Getting Back On Their Feet

www.israelnationalnews.com November 12, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

The World Union of Jewish Students has reopened its offices in Israel after recovering from a round of financial difficulties. Israel National News TV has the story.

Partnership 2000 Conference

Click here for VIDEO

'Environment could be strong connector between Israel, Diaspora'

By Ehud Zion Waldoks www.jpost.com November 12, 2008

The Jewish Agency's Partnership 2000 program has discovered the potential of the environment to unite people and is eager to exploit it.

The program pairs communities all over the world with communities in Israel to collaborate on projects. About 500 communities worldwide pair up with 45 counterpart communities here, according to strategy director Uri Bar-Ner.

JNF branches in US, Israel end feud with new agreement

By Haviv Rettig www.jpost.com November 18, 1008

An ongoing feud between the Israeli and American branches of the Jewish National Fund which threatened the 107-year-old organization's future has ended, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

…The agreement has yet to be finalized, but will likely center on a lease of the trademark to the UK branch and a joint mechanism for choosing projects and transferring funds to them, he said.

Battling over the blue box

By Anshel Pfeffer www.haaretz.com November 14, 2008

Although 2008 has not quite come to a close, it seems clear that this year’s fundraising figures for the Jewish National Fund in the United States will make grim reading.

The downturn was already evident last year, when fundraising stalled at about $44 million - down from between $50 million and $60 million just two years before.

The malaise that has been eating away at JNF-USA donations is not just an outgrowth of the global financial illness - it is a gradually worsening side effect of a bitter legal feud between the Jewish National Fund’s historic base in Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, and its two oldest and largest affiliates, the JNF branches in the United States and Britain, over who has the rights to the JNF trademark.

New Jewish Theater Finds Home in Jerusalem

By Maayana Miskin www.israelnationalnews.com November 12, 2008

The decision to create “Jewish theater” appropriate for the religious public was made due to the discomfort many religious theater fans faced while watching secular performances, Rabbi Lober said. 

The vulgarity and sexual themes in some plays was enough to make religious members of the audience leave before the performances were complete, he said. Aspaklaria's performances, on the other hand, abide by Jewish law and do not contain inappropriate language.

The purpose of the theater is to renew Jewish culture by producing shows based in Jewish values, members say. 

Its shows deal primarily with the doubts and conflicts faced by many religious Jews and by the interaction between the religious and secular worlds.

Soul music

By David Brinn www.jpost.com November 15, 2008

When Eliezer Blumen enters the zone onstage, his eyes close tightly and he begins a peculiar dance - partly Tevye in the shtetl, partly psychedelic free form shuffle.

He handles his guitar like it was an extension of his lanky but sturdy body, and the glorious noise that it emits sounds like wails and squeals emerging directly from his soul. He's lost in the moment.

Narratives of Israeli Judaism

By Alan Abbey http://hartmaninstitute.wordpress.com November 11, 2008

Rabbi Dr. Ariel Picard, Hartman Institute Center for Education, talks about Israeli Judaism in this presentation to members of the Hartman Institute’s Lay Leadership Summer Retreat.

In this talk, he makes references to such Israeli cultural figures as Shlomo Gronich, who performed a concert at the Institute over the summer, and Ehud Banai, who have embraced Jewish themes.

Leviev program nixed by schools

By Or Kashti www.haaretz.com November 12, 2008

An educational program initiated by ultra-Orthodox business tycoon Lev Leviev will no longer be run by the state education system, Education Ministry Director-General Shlomit Amichai told a meeting of mayors yesterday.

Amichai said the decision comes after program organizers decided to discontinue its operation. 

…The directive came after program organizers failed to adhere to two conditions imposed by the ministry:

Instruction must be given by teachers or students in state teaching colleges; and the material must meet criteria established by the 1994 Shenhar Report that recommended teaching Jewish studies in a pluralistic, rather than strictly Orthodox spirit.

Online show produced by J'lem yeshiva students all the rage among religious kids

Click here for VIDEO

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 www.haaretz.com November 13, 2008

When Asi and Tuvia, two yeshiva students at Machon Meir in Jerusalem, finish their Torah studies for the day, they head upstairs to a small TV studio above the yeshiva to produce what has become a major hit among religious children. 

What started as a small online TV experiment a few years ago has become a household name for religious Zionist families, many of which don't have televisions. 

The affair stirring up Bnei Brak

By Buki Nae www.ynetnews.com November 17, 2008

The ultra-Orthodox community in Bnei Brak is in turmoil over the alleged extramarital affair between a Hasid, the father of several children, and a young, beautiful divorcee, who also happens to be the granddaughter of a very prominent rabbi.

Help Ethiopians in Israel, not the Falash Mura

By Howard Lenhoff and Nathan Shapiro www.jta.org Opinion November 12, 2008

The writers are the former presidents of the American Association of Ethiopian Jews

While it is imperative that the federations help Israel absorb the Ethiopian immigrants already living in the Jewish state, the federations should not press Israel to accept the Falash Mura remaining in Africa—Ethiopians who claim they are linked to descendants of true Ethiopian Jews forced to convert to Christianity.

…Any Falash Mura left in Ethiopia should be accepted into Israel only if they qualify to immigrate under Israel’s Law of Return. Under that law, most Falash Mura would not be eligible.

Was the Aksa Mosque built over the remains of a Byzantine church?

By Etgar Lefkovits www.jpost.com November 17, 2008

The photo archives of a British archeologist who carried out the only archeological excavation ever undertaken at the Temple Mount's Aksa Mosque show a Byzantine mosaic floor underneath the mosque that was likely the remains of a church or a monastery, an Israeli archeologist said on Sunday.

Christian infighting in Jerusalem

By Michael Hirst http://news.bbc.co.uk November 17, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

The argument over rights within Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre is as complicated and seemingly intractable as the Middle East conflict itself.

Religion and State in Israel

November 17, 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 - November 17, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

November 17, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Haaretz cartoon by Daniella London Dekel - November 13, 2008

www.haaretz.com November 13, 2008

Our City [Tel Aviv]

“Damn…I guess they’re not our cities after all”

Jerusalem voted Porush

Seculars, Jerusalem isn't yours

By Mordechai Lavi www.ynetnews.com November 12, 2008

Jerusalem resident Mordechai Lavi is an ultra-Orthodox media personality and the leading news broadcaster of Kol Chai Radio

…Secular Jerusalemites, don't be confused (and don't take what I'm about to say too hard.)

Jerusalem isn't yours. It really isn't. Jerusalem is more ultra-Orthodox than ever, and this trend will only grow stronger.

The victory is a direct result of the internal Orthodox struggle. It is indeed a miracle that we ultra-Orthodox are such great fools.

I’m sorry to disappoint you, secular voters who wanted a change. You will get change, but the opposite of what you hoped for. Jerusalem will become more Orthodox, more devout, and worse for secular residents under a secular mayor.

Nir Barkat will be a mayor at the mercy of an Orthodox coalition. The implication is that the ultra-Orthodox will receive much more from him than in their rosiest dreams under an Orthodox mayor.

U.S. Jews hear from Jerusalem’s mayor-elect

By Jacob Berkman www.jta.org November 17, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

Be the firefighter, not the pyromaniac

By Shahar Ilan Opinion www.haaretz.com November 13, 2008

Here are a few tips that could prove useful: 

Only the creation of a supply of apartments somewhere else will stop the Haredization of Kiryat Hayovel. A Haredi neighborhood must be built at Givat Alona, in the north of the city, so that the ultra-Orthodox will not need to buy homes in Kiryat Hayovel.

…Barkat must be reelected in five years' time. It won't be easy, and he must not turn the Haredim into his enemies. He'd do well to bring at least one ultra-Orthodox party into his coalition.

Haredim eyeing J’lem construction portfolio

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com November 14, 2008

Newly elected Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is considering thanking the city's ultra-Orthodox Ger community for their support in the elections by handing their representatives the municipality's planning and construction portfolio.

Barkat met with MK Yakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), who represents the Ger community, at his house yesterday for a lengthy meeting.

"We don't give details on meetings that were either held or not held with public officials," a Barkat spokesman said.

The Ger Hasidic dynasty voted en masse in favor of the secular Barkat, causing a split with the rest of the ultra-Orthodox community who largely supported the candidacy of Meir Porush.

The opening shots of Ger's campaign of vengeance

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com November 13, 2008

The results of the 2008 municipal votes point to some interesting haredi voting trends that could have a major impact on the haredi parties in upcoming national elections.

The most radical change is the undermining of the Ger Hassidic sect's political hegemony within Agudat Yisrael.

Haredi voting signals weakening of sector's political establishment

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com November 12, 2008

No matter what the final results, the 2008 municipal elections will go down in history as a watershed event for haredi politics that will likely have far-reaching implications on the national level.

For the first time in Israeli political history, the normally obedient haredi voters showed signs of rebellion.

In two haredi centers - Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh - there is a significant haredi contingent that has come out openly against the haredi political establishment.

For many secular Jerusalemites, Barkat's victory represents liberation

By Nir Hasson www.haaretz.com November 13, 2008

"It's Jerusalem's liberation day," said Jerusalemite Haim Levy after the election results were announced. 

Like most secular residents, Levy regards Barkat's defeat of ultra-Orthodox candidate Meir Porush as a victory in a last battle against Haredi dominance of the capital. 

The day the Gerrers chose secular

By Tamar Rotem www.haaretz.com November 12, 2008

Was his hand shaking, his friend asked. 

"No way," was the response. "The Rebbe said so, and so we're happy to vote for Barkat." 

Hearing the tale, Moshe Friedman, the head of Porush's campaign, let out a sigh, saying, "It breaks your heart." 

How politics tear the ultra-Orthodox apart

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com November 12, 2008

No matter what the outcome of the municipal elections, the truth is already known to every ultra-Orthodox child:

This was a wild election campaign, one that devastated nearly every myth in ultra-Orthodox politics - Agudat Yisrael, the Council of Torah Sages and the idea that "the sages of Israel" are the supreme authority whose opinion is "the opinion of Torah." 

Barkat’s plans

By Jonathan Lis www.haaretz.com November 13, 2008

Although he is capable of setting up a broad coalition without the ultra-Orthodox factions, Barkat is expected to form a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox to bolster his image as "everyone's mayor." 

He is expected to give the powerful planning, construction and finance portfolios, which have been held by ultra-Orthodox delegates, to secular officials. 

Election violence: Haredim riot in Jerusalem

Efrat Weiss www.ynetnews.com November 11, 2008

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox Jews clash with police on municipal Election Day as Haredim try to prevent voters from getting through. Officer, security guard lightly injured in two separate incidents.

UTJ Satisfied with Overall Election Results

By M. Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff http://chareidi.shemayisrael.com November 13, 2008

Despite some prominent disappointments — notably the loss of the mayoralty of Jerusalem — UTJ leaders were satisfied with their achievements throughout the country. 

Even in Jerusalem, the party itself garnered 25 percent more votes than in the previous election only 5 years ago.

The man who would be mayor

By Peggy Cidor www.jpost.com November 13, 2008

Meir Porush, who was almost crowned king of Jerusalem, seen as "one of us" by haredi residents, the man who seemed so confident in his victory that he even declined to answer the hypothetical question "What will you do if you lose?" lost the city to the young hi-tech millionaire for whom his assistants and supporters showed so much disdain.

Bitter Sectarian Election Gives Jerusalem a Secular Mayor

www.forward.com November 13, 2008

Shlomo Hasson, Hebrew University geography professor and expert on Jerusalem’s religious and political tensions, said that the secular population saw the election as a “watershed.” 

“This is a discussion about the image of Jerusalem,” he said. “It is a message from the residents that the city is not yet given over to the Haredim.”

It is widely believed that Lupolianski’s 2003 victory was more a result of secular people failing to turn out to vote than a widespread desire for a religious mayor.

In 2003, almost 90% of Haredim voted, while turnout among other Jewish adults was just 32%. This meant that the Haredi managed to elect their candidate with only around one-third of the Jewish electorate.

“The secular population learned from the previous election, asking why the Haredim should run the city when they are in a minority. 

There was a sense that the secular were abandoning the city to another group if they did not vote,” Israel Kimhi, director of Jerusalem-related projects at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, said.

Mishpacha Magazine: Barkat’s Secret Deal with NRP

By Yechiel Spira www.theyeshivaworld.com November 13, 2008

According to the weekly Mishpacha Magazine, incoming Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat made a secret deal with National Religious Party leader Zevulun Orlev, which resulted in Orlev not supporting the chareidi candidate despite calls to do so from most rabbanim affiliated with the dati leumi camp.

According to the Mishpacha report, the deal promises the city’s education portfolio to NRP, as well as control of the religious council and a deputy mayoral post. 

In addition, the report states Barkat promised to use all his influence towards the appointment of a chief rabbi of the capital who is affiliated with the dati leumi and not chareidi camp.

Soldiers' votes shift J'lem council seat from Shas to Meretz

By Etgar Lefkovits www.jpost.com November 13, 2008

In the city council, secular and modern Orthodox parties gained control of 19 of the 31 seats, a stunning turnaround after five years of haredi control.

The results means Barkat can control the council without having to form a coalition with any of the haredi parties, but he said Wednesday that they should be part of his coalition.

Haredi infighting helps Barkat capture J'lem

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com November 13, 2008

The Ger Hassidic sect led an aggressive campaign against Jerusalem's only religious candidate.

Ger even resorted to violence and incitement to discourage the haredi public from voting for Porush, according to Porush supporters.

"They cut all the telephone lines in our campaign headquarters one day," said a Porush campaigner. "We did not want to publicize it because we did not want there to be a desecration of God's name."

A religious Zionist pro-Porush activist said that Ger Hassidim had also tried to mislead voters by announcing that voting for Porush was against rabbinic opinion.

Subdued Mea She'arim bemoans disunity

By Abe Selig www.jpost.com November 13, 2008

A sense of gloom hung over Mea She'arim on Wednesday afternoon, as the sting of haredi Jerusalem mayoral hopeful Meir Porush's loss to the secular Nir Barkat was still being digested.

European haredim unfazed by 'loss' of Jerusalem

By Haviv Rettig www.jpost.com November 13, 2008

The Orthodox rabbinic leadership of Europe, meeting in Prague at a summit of the Conference of European Rabbis, took the haredi loss of the mayoralty of Jerusalem in stride Wednesday.

"Haredim will continue to control the city," insisted one Israeli haredi rabbi close to the Rabbinate. "No matter that [mayor-elect Nir] Barkat won; he can't form a coalition without us."

Chareidi Success in Bet Shemesh Election

By Yechiel Spira www.theyeshivaworld.com November 13, 2008

Bet Shemesh has undergone a metamorphosis, having elected its first chareidi mayor, Moshe Abutbul. In addition, the United Torah Judaism representation on the city council has increased from 3 to 5 seats.

Abutbul, who received 52.3% of the vote, enjoys widespread support from rabbonim in Bet Shemesh as well as Gedolei HaDor Shlita. 

In addition, there are many unaffiliated with the chareidi way of life who decided to support his mayoral bid. The dati leumi candidate, Shalom Lerner earned 28% of the vote and outgoing Mayor Daniel Vaknin 17%.

UTJ enjoys the largest representation on the 19-seat city council, followed by Shas (3), NRP (3), Dor Echad (2), Likud (2), Mishpacha Echad (2), Labor (1), and Ad (1).

Ladies, Hop on Jerusalem's Buses

By Tim McGirk http://mideast.blogs.time.com November 13, 2008

An edict that kept women's portraits --including rockstar Fergie's-- off Jerusalem's buses is now abolished.


In her race to become Israel's next prime minister, Tzipi Livni owes a debt to a plucky little party whose name sounds like an alarm clock. “Wake Up, Jerusalemites!” it's called.

They fielded six candidates for Tuesday's city council elections.  Three of their candidates were women, and so is Livni. 

So when they went to Egged, the public transportation company, to arrange for ‘Wake Up, Jerusalemite' posters to be plastered on the city buses, they were in for a nasty surprise.

Women's faces can't appear on the sides of Jerusalem's buses, they were told. “It doesn't matter if you're an 80-year old woman or an eight-year old girl,” one company rep explained.

Court orders lifting of ban on election posters with female candidates

By Aviad Glickman www.ynetnews.com November 11, 2008

The High Court of Justice on Monday accepted an appeal submitted by the Wake Up Jerusalem movement, which is running for the capital's city council, and ruled that companies in Israel cannot refuse to advertise election posters displaying pictures of female political candidates.

Canaan Advertising Agency, which works with the Egged bus company, had refused to advertise the posters and claimed that Egged prohibited the hanging of women's pictures on the ad spaces it leases.

Rebel With a Cause

Winter 2008 Issue http://reformjudaismmag.org

Anat Hoffman is executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel.

What is IRAC doing to try to break the Orthodox monopoly on religious affairs?

IRAC confronts this monopoly on multiple levels. Legally, through our Resource Allocations Monitoring Project (RAMP), we track the amount of money allocated to Orthodox institutions and rabbis as compared to non-Orthodox organizations and then use the evidence we find of unjust and unequal government funding to prove discrimination.

This becomes the basis for our cases concerning Reform synagogue buildings, Reform representation on local Religious Councils, and recognition of Reform rabbis in Israel.

We also use litigation when Orthodox communities or institutions abuse their power, such as taking over synagogues or forcing gender segregation on some public buses.

Simultaneously, on the advocacy front, we support the passage of bills that will promote a more pluralistic and democratic Israel, such as the creation of a civil marriage option.

And our staff is constantly blocking a barrage of proposed bills that would further enshrine Orthodox party power, such as a proposed law that would have made it mandatory for all government committees to have an ultra-Orthodox representative.

I’ll be the first to admit, however, that even with all of our legal and advocacy work, it is difficult to make headway.

Attack on Litzman underlines deep splits within UTJ

By Abe Selig www.jpost.com November 17, 2008

The attack on MK Ya'acov Litzman on Saturday night by a group of Slonimer Hassidim shows that the anger with the Gur community over Nir Barkat's victory in the Jerusalem mayoral race has continued past Election Day.

The embattled Litzman, a representative of the Gur Hassidim within the haredi United Torah Judaism Party, was allegedly cursed, pushed and kicked before being pelted with kugel shortly after arriving at a family celebration being held at a Slonimer-owned hall in Jerusalem's Mea She'arim neighborhood.

Amid Financial Crisis, Jewish Schools Pray for Aid

By Paul Goldman http://worldblog.msnbc.msn.com November 14, 2008

Will prayer help deliver world markets? If around 2,500 Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have anything to say about it, hope may be on the way.

Concerned about the health of the global economy, Jews in 11 major seminaries across Israel prayed Thursday night for a fast resolution to the world’s financial crisis – and for Jews who contribute to Israel’s cash-strapped yeshivas.

Day of prayer for philanthropists organized amid financial crisis

www.jpost.com www.jta.org November 13, 2008

Thursday will be a day of prayer and learning in all kollels in Israel, and is being called "a united effort to storm the gates of Heaven and plead for the financial health of Jewish philanthropists, so that they can continue to support Torah institutions in Israel," according to a news release.

Neither flour nor Torah

By Sam Ser www.jpost.com Opinion November 12, 2008

Heavenly judgment notwithstanding, poverty among haredim is almost entirely self-inflicted. Only about half of haredi men and women of working age are employed - some 30 percentage points lower than the figure for non-haredi Jews - and the jobs they do hold tend to be in lower-paying sectors.

The haredi community, therefore, is unable to independently fund its kollel system and relies heavily on donations from abroad.

Considering how impossible this equation is, the only thing that is surprising about this crisis is that it hasn't come sooner.

For all those who have watched with concern while the haredi community's singular devotion to Torah studies has pushed it deeper and deeper into poverty, the impending collapse of the kollel economy is good news.

Not, God forbid, that anyone should take pleasure in the distress of others, or in the thought that Torah learning may decrease.

Rather, it is good news that what has been painfully obvious to so many outsiders may finally be sinking in among stalwart proponents of the widespread kollel culture that has created this catastrophe: that the system is broken, and demands repair.


November 9, 2008

By Netty C. Gross www.jrep.com Issue 16, November 24, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report

So Shas is hurting its electorate?

Dr. Dan Ben-David:

Correct. Its demands are not good for its poor, ultra-Orthodox constituents in the long run, because they kill the incentive to work.

Furthermore, ultra-Orthodox education is limited (since it does not include basic subjects such as mathematics and English) so their children's chances on the job market will be weak, perpetuating the problem.

Once the Sephardi working class gave its children top educations and many rose to the top.

With Shas's emphasis on large families and schooling that does not fall under the supervision of the Ministry of Education, it's a different reality.

Former Shas MK sent to jail for 3 years

By Aviad Glickman www.ynetnews.com November 13, 2008

According to his verdict, which was delivered some two months ago, during his term as MK Hugi forged student attendance lists in order to increase the transportation budget for Shas' school chain.

Using this method he defrauded the Education Minister of NIS 2 million (about $470,000).

Hugi was also convicted of attempting to receive funding from government ministries for a technological college that does not exist.

Whither NRP?

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com November 13, 2008

Last week, after months of negotiations, the NRP and the parties making up the National Union - Moledet and Tekuma - announced they would disband and form a single political party that has yet to be named.

…The unity deal calls for the creation of an election council composed of rabbis, university professors, businessmen, IDF officers and other non-politicians who will choose the new party's candidates for the next elections.

Some of the rabbis who were chosen to sit on the council include Dov Lior, rabbi of Hebron-Kiryat Arba; Haim Druckman, rabbi of the Bnei Akiva yeshivot; Elyakim Levanon, rabbi of Elon Moreh; Yuval Cherlow, rabbi of Tzohar; and Yehuda Gilad, rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi.

Several women are council members as well, including Prof. Yaffa Zilbershatz, vice dean of Bar-Ilan University's Faculty of Law, and Sarah Eliash, who runs an elite girls' high school in Kedumim.

Religion and State in Israel

November 17, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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