Monday, November 24, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - November 24, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

November 24, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Livni: Israel not a rabbis' monopoly

By Ronen Medzini November 19, 2008

"Israel is not a monopoly of rabbis," the Kadima chairwoman noted. "Israel is a Jewish state, but a Jewish state is not a religious state but mainly a nation-state."

"We must not forget Israel's ultimate goal to be a Jewish, democratic state living in complete security.

A Jewish state is the nature, tradition and history of our people, regardless of what one chooses to do at one's own home on Shabbat and holidays

Livni: There are lines I will not cross

By Attila Somfalvi November 23, 2008

Livni spoke of her negotiations with Shas, prior to the decision to call for a general election, and said that "when trying to form a government, I proved that when it comes to Shas' demands, there are some lines I'm just not willing to cross. Issues like conversion and marriage must be dealt with.

"The idea is to find an answer that isn't anti-religious, but can still provide a proper solution… The Israeli public has to realize that the question of conversions doesn’t concern only immigrants."

Conversion must be taken out of haredi hands, officials say

By Haviv Rettig and Matthew Wagner November 19, 2008

The failure of the Conversion Authority to deal with some 300,000 non-Jewish olim who came to Israel as family members of Jewish olim "is not an administrative problem," Yehezkel told The Jerusalem Post.

"It is a political problem. If the haredim don't begin to show flexibility, the moderate Orthodox establishment in Israel will begin to independently convert many thousands of Jews.

In the end, the State of Israel will be forced to recognize these conversions regardless of the desires of the Chief Rabbinate or the official Conversion Authority."

Jewish Agency chairman Ze'ev Bielski warned at the meeting that "the [overly] stringent conversion process could delay the decision of potential olim to come to Israel."

…Only a government coalition without haredim could enact the necessary reform to the conversion process, Diaspora Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog said

Jewish Agency resolutions ire liberals, conservatives

By Cnaan Liphshiz November 20, 2008

Gilad Kariv, a Reform rabbi and associate director of the Israel Religious Action Center, agrees.

He said he found the proposal's shelving "regrettable," adding that the Jewish Agency had voted it down to "avoid stepping into a political minefield." Kariv nonetheless supports the resolutions, which were passed. 

Kariv [said] that Ne'eman, despite his extensive efforts, has failed in "breaking the corruption-inducing monopoly that the ultra-Orthodox stream has on conversion," and that there is no need to keep pursuing his path. 

Rabbi Shaul Farber, head of ITIM, a nonprofit that helps potential converts navigate rabbinic bureaucracy, says he understands Pearlstone's approach.

"The resolutions that the Jewish Agency passed have little chance of being adopted by the rabbinical court system, whose progress on conversions is virtually stalemated," said Farber, who added that he supported making conversions more accessible. 

Bronfman slams ultra-Orthodox conversion system

Moshe Ronen November 23, 2008

The strict approach to conversions advocated by the rabbinic institutions in Israel and abroad infuriates Jewish billionaire Edgar Bronfman, the man who for nearly three decades led the World Jewish Congress.

Anyone who declares himself Jewish should be accepted to the Jewish people, he says. Or else the Jewish people would cease to exist.

New Pluralistic Conversion Forum Brings Together Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and Secular Jews November 19, 2008

The Pluralistic Conversion Forum, which is coordinated by NIF grantee Panim for Jewish Renewal in Israel, brings together representatives of mainstream Orthodox Judaism as well as Conservative, Reform and other non-Orthodox streams – a convergence which is virtually unprecedented in Israeli history.

Most of the members of the Forum are NIF grantees including Ne’emanei Torah Va’avodah, which promotes a moderate voice in Orthodox Jewry, Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) of the Movement for Progressive Judaism in Israel (Reform) and The Masorti (Conservative) Movement.

…The Forum hopes to establish two new streams for conversion – Orthodox and Secular Humanistic. 

Since a landmark Supreme Court ruling won by IRAC in 2005, the Conservative and Reform movements can perform conversions and annually convert about 300 Israelis who are subsequently registered as Jews by the Ministry of Interior.

Tmura, the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, has announced that it will begin a Jewish conversion course in January. 

Ne’emanei Torah Va’avodah, which is part of a coalition of mainstream Orthodox organizations, is expected to announce the establishment of an Alternative Orthodox Conversion Court in early 2009.

The precedent ruling ordering the Ministry of Interior to register Conservative and Reform converts as Jewish should mean that graduates of these new courses will qualify for recognition as Jewish Israelis.

Graduates of the alternative conversion tracks will still not be entitled to marry in Israel, but progress on the conversion issue will provide a platform to push for solutions regarding marriages, divorce and burial for those not recognized as Jews by Israel's Chief Rabbinate. 

'Now I feel 100% Jewish'

By Etgar Lefkovits November 19, 2008

Like thousands of other young immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Ukrainian-born Igor Lermont always considered himself Jewish, even though his mother is not Jewish.

…After enlisting in the army, Lermont heard of an educational Jewish-Zionist educational program, offered in conjunction with his military service, which culminates with official conversion performed by the IDF Rabbinate.

The program, called Nativ, offers soldiers and officers who are not Jewish according to Halacha a seven- or 11-week intensive course in Judaism to prepare them for conversion.

The programs, which are a joint project of the IDF Education Corps and the Joint Institute for Jewish Studies, are made possible with the support of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency for Israel. 

National-Religious Ally with Secular to Set Up New "Conversion" Courts

By Yechiel Sever November 20, 2008

Rabbonim and dayanim issued harsh remarks against the partnership between secular and national-religious organizations, noting that dayanim have long been raising an outcry against conversions by Rabbi Druckman and other national-religious figures that have sunk to the level of Reform "conversions."

Now this sector has begun to actively join forces with the Reform Movement in undermining the Jewish religion. Though predictable this decline remains deeply disturbing.

Resurrect the secular-liberal agenda

By Shahar Ilan Opinion November 21, 2008

It would behoove [Amos] Oz and his friends to remember that the list of the oppressed of Israeli society includes 300,000 who are not affiliated with any religion, cannot marry here and whose path to Judaism is blocked by the rabbinical establishment.

It includes hundreds of thousands of couples who divorce and are forced to endure a humiliating process in the rabbinical courts.

It includes hundreds of thousands of children who are denied the right to a basic education that will enable them to make an honorable living.

It includes tens of thousands of people who do reserve military duty though they could have stayed home if only some of the Haredi public was forced to enlist in the army. 

Shas Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: Secular teachers are 'asses'

Click here for VIDEO

By Haaretz Service November 24, 2008

Spiritual leader of the Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called secular teachers in Israel "asses" on Saturday during his weekly sermon.

Yosef has previously voiced his desire that the Education Ministry be handed over to Shas' authority.

In his sermon, the rabbi said that the teachers in the secular education system know nothing, "neither Shabbat, nor holiday", and teach only "nonsense", and added that people whose parents placed them in the secular education system are unfortunate. 

"What do they teach? They teach history and all sorts of nonsense about world nations, that's all," he said.

Shas mentor Yosef calls secular teachers 'asses'

By Matthew Wagner November 24, 2008

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef:

"Over there [in secular schools], they do not keep Shabbat or the holidays. They don't know anything - [they are] ignoramuses," he said.

"The teachers are asses. Teachers [morim] need to add to their name the letter het [which yields hamorim or 'donkeys']."

Shas' Ovadia Yosef under fire for calling secular teachers 'asses'

By Haaretz Staff November 24, 2008

"What do we want in reference to the Education Ministry?" asked Shas chairman Eli Yishai, as he elaborated on his plans for his next term.

He answered: "To teach Judaism, tradition, bar mitzvah, Shabbat, honoring thy father and mother - this is what Maran [Ovadia Yosef] preaches daily." 

Is Ovadia Yosef also an ass?

By Yossi Sarid Opinion November 24, 2008

Many recommend leaving him to his foolishness and ignorance. Any response, they say, only eggs him on to speak more, spitting out his repulsive crumbs of thoughts.

They may very well be right. Nevertheless, he should not be let off the hook completely: The dignity of the teachers requires it. 

Who are the real asses?

By Assaf Wohl Opinion November 24, 2008

There is one thing that worries me in this respect. Shas’ new objective, the Education Ministry. 

…why should Shas have any interest in promoting enlightenment in Israel? For them this is akin to shooting themselves in the foot.

Holon man loses job for opposing Shas, says lawyer

By Tomer Zarchin November 21, 2008

For three weeks Haim Hayon, a kashrut supervisor for the Holon rabbinate, has been sitting home unemployed. 

During the recent municipal election campaign, Hayon had been helping the Agudat Israel list by putting up election posters at night. Agudat Israel was challenging the other ultra-Orthodox party, Shas, for exclusivity on the city council during municipal elections. 

…During the campaign, officials in the Holon rabbinate told Hayon that providing assistance for Agudat Israel was frowned upon by the city's rabbi, Avraham Yosef, who is the son of the Shas spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef. 

The New Honor & Tradition Party

By Yechiel Spira November 17, 2008

Many yeshiva students in Bayit Vegan have been signing to register as members of the new Kovod U’Mesoret Party which is being headed by attorney Shlomo Deri, a brother of Aryeh Deri.

It is believed that the former Shas leader will direct the operation from outside, and if successful, he will be appointed as a cabinet minister after his moral turpitude clause expires, permitting him to reenter the public arena.

The Brothers Party

By Yechiel Spira November 20, 2008

After the announcement by Shlomo Deri, a brother of Aryeh Deri, that he is launching the Honor & Tradition Party, Nissim Yishai, an older brother of Shas leader Eli Yishai has announced he wishes to enter the political arena.

UJC General Assembly Links

G.A. organizers reach out to ‘Next Gen’

Jewish Agency nixes Birthright funding cut

GA 08’ in Jerusalem

Opening press conference of United Jewish Communities General Assembly 2008

One People, One Destiny - GA 2008

G.A. organizers reach out to ‘Next Gen’

Financial concerns underscore the G.A.

Tours, tears and Tel Aviv at the GA (Haaretz)

GA largely ignored by Hebrew press

By Haviv Rettig November 21, 2008

All but ignored by the Hebrew-speaking press as they gathered in Jerusalem this week, American Jewish professionals and activists have lashed out at the Israeli media and society for failing to notice - and learn from - another Jewish community nearly as large as their own.

Israel's English-language press devoted extensive coverage to the gathering of one of the largest charitable networks in the world. 

The Post and the English-language edition of Haaretz both devoted a supplement and ran many news and opinion articles about American Jewish society and philanthropy this week.

Yet at the same time, Haaretz's Hebrew edition almost failed to note the conference's existence. A glance at the papers' Web sites also showed the same disparity in coverage

A brave new philanthropic world

By Ahava Zarembski November 18, 2008

…why is the Jewish world not adopting some of these broad new trends? It remains frightened. And stuck. 

We continue to look at our basic institutions as if change spells their destruction instead of progress. 

This outlook is not logical, and greatly limits the effect of our own dollars and the strength of our own efforts at change.

JGooders seeks Jewish philanthropy revolution

By Haviv Rettig November 18, 2008

Formally launched here on Sunday, is a for-profit company that connects Jewish charities to the enormous potential of small on-line giving.

On its second day of operation, the site already boasted 150 projects, some added by large organizations such as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Jewish Agency.

"The biggest [Jewish] organizations understand that this is the future of philanthropy," said Eli Shua, the startup's chief operating officer.

A renewable light

By Haviv Rettig November 19, 2008

In the end, saving the world is not just morally satisfying - it's a good way to get people excited about Jewish life, whose greatest existential threat is that it is become boring and inaccessible.

The entire process and the inspiration for change are contained to a unique extent within the Jewish experience, Abramowitz believes.

"We can do all this with core Jewish values, and with hope. Yes, everybody believes in hope. But the Jewish experience with hope is special. The return to Zion, a 2,000-year shlep through history based on a dream, is uniquely powerful stuff."

Crucial Friends

By Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein Opinion November 21, 2008

The writer is the president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

Many evangelical organizations maintain that they will continue to raise funds for Israel.

Today, more than ever, we have to acknowledge this ongoing commitment.

We have to cease making cynical statements that hurt the feelings of hundreds of thousands of donors, who contribute to the defense of Israel and its citizens.

We must not denigrate the strategic alliance that stands by the State of Israel. 

'Vindicated' Eckstein finally gets official appreciation from Jewish organizations

By Jacob Berkman November 19, 2008

Monday, Eckstein said he finally felt "vindicated" and officially accepted by the organized Jewish community.

The reception, which included fine fare and a rolling video of Eckstein's work in the FSU and overseas, was paid for by the UJC, JDC, the Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod.

Top professionals from each organization thanked Eckstein publicly for his financial help, including Schwager, Jewish Agency chairman Ze'ev Bielski and UJC President and CEO Howard Rieger.

Eckstein, in turn, gave his thanks.

Israeli Congregational Rabbi Seeks Further Support for State Recognition November 20, 2008

Rabbi Miri Gold, spiritual leader of Congregation Birkat Shalom at Kibbutz Gezer…is one of 17 rabbis serving communities in the Gezer Regional Council; the rest, all Orthodox males, are state employees and receive state salaries.

...“I was picked as the ‘test case’ because Peter Weiss, the ‘mayor’ of our Gezer Regional Council, was willing to stick his neck out [and] risk the wrath of the Orthodox (and it has rained down hard!).

He wrote to the Prime Minister's Office asking that Kibbutz Gezer, populated by liberal Jews, be assigned a liberal rabbi.

I believe that Weiss' willingness to write this letter of advocacy stems from his connections with the Kansas City Jewish community, which ‘partners’ with the [Gezer] Region.

This partnership shows that our connections to Progressive Jewish communities outside of Israel will make the difference.”

Jewish Agency Center Prevents Jewish Learning

By Ma'ayana Miskin and Ze'ev Ben-Yechiel November 19, 2008

In Rabbi Sterne's experience, the Jewish Agency provides for the physical needs of the immigrants, but sorely neglects their spiritual needs.

“The Jewish Agency is a mixed bag,” he says. 
“There are those who are neutral and even supportive of Jewish enrichment within the absorption centers, but there is a strong undercurrent of opposition among certain JA employees as well.” 

Most of Rabbi Sterne’s experience has been with the Jewish Agency’s “flagship center,” Ulpan Etzion, located in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood. 

NGOs: Teach Islam to Jews and Judaism to Muslims

By Matthew Wagner November 19, 2008

A coalition of non-governmental organizations and educators hope to improve Muslim-Jewish coexistence in Israel by teaching Islam to Jews and Judaism to Muslims in the nation's public schools.

"We believe that if there will be more knowledge about Islam among Jews and if Israeli Muslims know more about Judaism this would have a positive effect on social relations," said Rabbi Ron Kronish, head of the Interreligious Coordination Council (ICCI).

"There is a high level of ignorance on both sides which leads to mutual suspicion and stereotyping."

Six New Israeli Rabbis Ordained by HUC-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem November 14, 2008

Six Israeli Progressive rabbis were ordained at the academic convocation held on the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) on November 14, 2008.

The secret of Israel and its people

By Rabbi David Hartman November 23, 2008

Click here for AUDIO recording

What is there about the Jewish people that we don’t want to leave history?

What is there about the Jewish people that we can live through destruction, despair and the deepest sense of the dehumanization of man, and proclaim our willingness to be dependent upon the world, to in some way act together with them and to build a culture of trust?

Inside an innovative Jerusalem work space

Click here for VIDEO tour

By Jacob Berkman November 18, 2008

JTA's Dan Sieradski and Jacob Berkman pay a visit to the new offices of PresenTense and speak with its founders, Ariel Beery and Aharon Horowitz, about the space.

The PresenTense Institute is a two-month old open space where Jewish innovators can work and collaborate -- and can crash for a few nights if need be.

The space, which is the brainchild of American ex-pats Ariel Beery and Aharon Horowitz, is meant to spur a free exchange of ideas to build a modern Jewish world that fully capitalizes on the social networking era. 

Long term, PresenTense, which also runs an “open source” magazine and a bevy of workshops and lecture series -- and which offers consulting services -- would like to open pods such as the one in J-town in every city internationally where Jews work.

See me, hear me

By Yonit Refaely November 23, 2008

Chana Stroe, who worked at Tzofiah and is now the director of Tikva, explains that there is an aversion in Orthodox circles to seeing girls in trouble (and thus, to helping them).

"Boys are 'meant' to rebel," says Stroe. "They go out and do things that teenage boys are known to do, and then they settle down and go to yeshiva and everyone is proud of them for sorting their lives out.

"[But] this is not so for girls. It is hard for the Orthodox community to see girls leaving religion to explore their own options, so many just deny that this phenomenon is becoming less rare as time goes on."

Religion and State in Israel

November 24, 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 24, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

November 24, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Barkat seen forming broad coalition in Jerusalem

By Etgar Lefkovits November 24, 2008

Jerusalem Mayor-elect Nir Barkat is conducting intense negotiations that are likely to lead to a near wall-to-wall coalition in the city council, which would be Zionist-based, but include haredi parties as well, and could even see his haredi former rival become his deputy.

The Kikar Safra shuffle

By Peggy Cidor November 22, 2008

Zaka founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav:

"For years, Meir Porush managed to unite all the different hassidic sects and get them together with the Lithuanian haredim. That's how the haredim became so powerful.

Now, thanks to the Ger Hassidim, it's all crumbling. I foresee that at the general elections in February, there will be more than one haredi party, and that means the end of our power."

Barkat Offers Chareidim One Deputy Mayor Slot

By Yechiel Spira November 21, 2008

Barkat is willing to give Agudah a deputy post, and the chareidi education and Torani culture & public health portfolios.

To Shas he is willing to give social welfare portfolio and head of the allocations committee. 

Barkat is also working on other enticements to win over the chareidim, such as a possible assistance to the city’s director-general and possibly a chair of other committees.

Holy City, Secular Mayor

By Michele Chabin November 18, 2008

“For the first time in many years the non-ultra-Orthodox population in Jerusalem was galvanized,” said Rabbi David Rosen, director of the American Jewish Committee’s department for inter-religious affairs and a longtime resident of the city. 

“Barkat managed to coalesce them into a united bloc.”

…Pioneering feminist and Israel Prize winner Alice Shalvi, who has lived in Jerusalem for three decades, believes Barkat won because

“a large number of Jerusalemites have suffered — and I mean suffered — from the ultra-Orthodox rule over the city during the past five years and wanted to stop the neglect of public services and cultural activities. They wanted a change, a return to some normality and even the glory days of [longtime Mayor] Teddy Kollek.”

…Rabbi Rosen agrees that Barkat is beholden to the haredi and national religious rabbis who either supported him or nixed Porush, thereby easing his way.

However, he says, 

“I do think [his win] will make things easier for the non-Orthodox movements.

While I understand and acknowledge Alice’s skepticism, I still think the non-Orthodox will have an address with the mayor that was not there before,” he said.

Take a look in the mirror

By Uri Orbach Opinion November 18, 2008

Uri Orbach writes open letter to ultra-Orthodox Jerusalemites in wake of elections defeat

Dayan wants Tel Aviv rights commission

By Noah Kosharek November 21, 2008

Dayan says she envisions the commission's representatives as coming from women's organizations, the gay community, refugees and unrecognized streams of Judaism.

She says it must be an active body that meets regularly and an address where complaints and injustices will be dealt with. 

For national religious, the party's over

By Nadav Shragai November 18, 2008

Two weeks ago, following months of negotiations, NRP and the parties making up the National Union, Moledet and Tekuma, announced their plan to disband and form a single political party. 

…Dr. Asher Cohen, a scholar studying Israel's modern-Orthodox public, believes NRP has never been able to recover from the loss of votes to Shas, the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi party.

The numbers prove him right. Up until the 1981 election, NRP regularly secured 10 seats in parliament and above. After NRP split into two splinter groups - one Ashkenazi and another Sephardi - the party lost four seats.

The Sephardi splinter party, Tami, soon died, but Shas quickly arose on its ruins, and has since stood as a firm wedge between NRP and Sephardi constituents.

NRP votes self out of existence, approves merger with right

By Nadav Shragai November 20, 2008

NRP chairman MK Zevulun Orlev stressed that the new, merged party would focus on education and the state's Jewish character. 

"The fact that religious Zionism has been pushed into a political corner has eroded the State of Israel's Jewish character, the status of the family and the status of the settlement movement," he said.

"More than religious Zionism needs the state, the State of Israel very much needs religious Zionism, which will give it content, a soul and values." 

A new direction for religious Zionism

By Yair Sheleg Opinion November 20, 2008

All national-religious people, not only the politicians of the four parties trying to improve their ratings, should ask themselves about the movement's contribution to Israel's agenda. It does not have to be in the political arena, it could be spiritual-cultural:

That is where religious Zionism's position of integrating Judaism with modern life could represent a significant formula for Israeli society on the whole. 

New national-religious party lets supporters choose name online

By Nadav Shragai November 24, 2008

The new national-religious party formed by the merger of the National Religious Party, Moledet and Tkuma made the most of online technology last week, as supporters logged into its Web site to select a name for the new party - "Habayit Hayehudi," or Jewish Home. 

The party's public council is also conducting an online dialogue with voters. On the site,, the council asked voters to suggest and choose a logo and a name for its Knesset list. 

The spirit is gone Editorial November 19, 2008

We would like to remember the NRP in its idealized form - as a bastion of modern Orthodoxy, a bridge between religious and secular, for its inclusion of women in leadership positions, for the bipartisan civic-minded legislation its MKs ushered into law, and for representing Israelis concerned with Jewish education.

It is dismaying that the dwindling constituency that was once animated by these issues is now left politically homeless.

Religious-Left Party Picks Secular Head, May Join Greens

By Hillel Fendel November 21, 2008

 “A Jewish state is not measured by how many people observe Sabbath or wear Tefillin,” Rabbi Melchior said, “but rather by a rooted concern for others – for the converts, new immigrants, and foreign workers…”

…Ami Ayalon added that he has cooperated with Rabbi Melchior on several of the latter’s legislative initiatives in the past, including pre-military academies, a religious-secular educational stream, agunot [women whose husbands have left them without a Jewish divorce], and more. 

Ultra-Orthodox make inroads to university

By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay November 23, 2008

Twelve new ultra-Orthodox students will soon be gracing the halls of Haifa's Technion after completing the first-ever special tertiary studies preparatory course for the ultra-Orthodox, reports

The 12 were part of a class of 30 in a new project designed to prepare ultra-Orthodox young adults who had never been exposed to general education for the demands of university courses.

…One of the successful ultra-Orthodox students, who will be studying civil and environmental engineering, said he had grown up in Bnei Brak and had received almost no general education, learning only basic mathematics and never having studied physics or English.

He said he had reached a stage in his life during which he realized he could not study Torah all day and needed to do something more, when he saw a newspaper advertisement for the special course and immediately signed up for it.

Tel Aviv yeshiva tries to keep budding artists within the fold

By Lisa Urbach November 22, 2008

Bar-Ilan is the only yeshiva in Israel that offers programs in music and visual arts (drawing, painting, photography and film).

"It's the first time a yeshiva has reached out to connect religious studies with art studies. 

Our focus is not only to make Jewish music and art, but for our talented students to graduate with a strong Jewish identity and art and music education. 

We want to open the world to these students and widen their horizons," Perl says.

Religious families demand school funding in Herzliya

By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay November 23, 2008

Religious families in Herzliya are demanding that the city begin funding their children's secondary-school education outside Herzliya because of a lack of state religious secondary schools in the city, reports

The parents sent a letter to mayor Yael German and to Education Minister Yuli Tamir saying that in order to obtain a religious education at secondary-school level, they are being forced to send their children privately to schools outside the city, where they are being charged fees ranging from NIS 6,000 to NIS 17,000.

J'lem festival says no to 'women only' screening for Orthodox film

By Matthew Wagner November 21, 2008

The Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival has rejected a film created by Orthodox women after the film director demanded screening for female audiences only in accordance with Halacha.

The festival's management refused to acquiesce to Garbose's demand, made at the time the film was first presented for consideration, that screening would be billed as "by women, for women."

Barak said that the director-general of the Cinematheque, Ilan De Vries, had offered two compromises.

One was that the festival would market two screenings, one for men only and one for women only.

"Out of respect for the religious feelings involved, we were even willing to plan the screenings so that men and women would not meet each other," said Barak.

The other option was that the film would be screened for women only outside the framework of the Jewish Film Festival.

Barak said that both options were rejected by the filmmakers.

The haredi house at war

By Matthew Wagner November 22, 2008

The Ashkenazi haredi political establishment is undergoing a major shakeup. Normally a bastion of stability and unity, haredi politics has abruptly been engulfed in a period of uncertainty and fluctuation.

…Political scientist Asher Cohen of Bar-Ilan University has pointed out that the UTJ has yet to realize its full electoral potential since the sharp rise in fertility in the haredi sector began in the 1980s.

For instance, in 1990, haredi elementary school students made up only 7.6 percent of the national average. In 2005, they represented 25%.

Part of this rise can be attributed to the growth of Shas's educational system - Ma'ayan Hahinuch. But many are future UTJ voters. In five years these students will come of age and begin to vote.

Until now, UTJ has avoided division; in part due to the real fear that if Aguda or Degel tried to run alone, they would not pass the minimum electoral threshold for entering the Knesset.

Ironically, says Cohen, as the UTJ grows stronger on the back of natural population growth, the chances of a split increase.

Fischer: Haredim must change habits

By Zvi Lavi November 19, 2008

As for decreasing poverty rates, Fischer noted that the ultra-Orthodox community would have to take an active part in that effort, by having more of its members join the workforce. 

Today, he added, only 25% of the community contributed to the workforce.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's Kollel May Be Forced To Close November 19, 2008

Rabbi Dovid Yosef, the son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has announced that Kollel Yechaveh Da’at, which he heads, is in danger of closing.

On Sunday, he entered the Kollel, banged on a table and made an announcement to the men learning there that there was no money to pay them for the next month.

Meir Porush's son beaten as haredi confrontations continue

By Matthew Wagner November 18, 2008

In another incident demonstrating the escalating tensions between rival camps within the haredi community, the son of United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush was beaten and knocked to the ground Monday.

Yisrael Porush confirmed that he had been attacked but added that he did not want to provide details of the incident for fear it would lead to the desecration of God's name.

HaRav Shmuel Auerbach: We Have an Obligation to Protect Yeshiva World from Interference

By A. Cohen and Yechiel Sever November 20, 2008

"The yeshiva world is in danger. Efforts are being made to constrict bnei Torah. Every effort is being made to make them unable to learn. A yeshiva is a holy entity. Since the days of our forefathers the yeshiva has always been in existence…

Our sole obligation is to reinforce the number of `soldiers' in the yeshivas and the kollelim and not to get caught up by various suggestions intended to diminish Torah in quality and quantity.

What about secular intolerance?

By Tali Farkash Opinion November 18, 2008

You can imagine my astonishment at the struggle launched by the haredi residents of a northern Tel Aviv neighborhood against a Tiv Taam branch which was opened near their homes.

…The residents of the small neighborhood, a haredi enclave at the heart of secular Tel Aviv, are having trouble getting the same understanding, tolerance and consideration from the city's progressive and enlightened residents.

They are a small minority, no more than 300 households, and someone is trying to infringe on their lifestyle.

They are ultra-Orthodox people who discovered that a "piggish store" has been opened opposite their home. How can they not be angry and upset?

Bar Rafaeli and the Haredim?

By Greer Fay Cashman November 23, 2008

Not everyone falls over backwards to accommodate a celebrity. Notwithstanding her fame, the Israel Airport Authority refused to allow Bar Rafaeli to pose on the tarmac for a fashion shoot that focused on a collection of skimpy underwear.

The reason: The airport is a state-owned property, and as such should not be used for photo shoots which could be offensive to any sector of the public.

Trying to get your day in (rabbinical) court

By Rabbi Seth (Shaul) Farber November 19, 2008

The writer is the director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center and the rabbi of Kehilat Netivot in Ra’anana.

Unfortunately, rather than investing in human resources, the courts have determined that the best way to help individuals is to eliminate the human side altogether. 

…Ultimately, rabbinical courts need to focus on better human relations, not simply efficiency.

Until those who populate the offices of the rabbinical courts are trained properly, even the most technologically sophisticated system is destined to heighten the disenfranchisement Israelis feel toward the rabbinate.

Chief Rabbis declare day of prayers on economic crisis November 24, 2008

Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger declared that a special day of prayer will be held on Thursday dedicated to the global financial crisis.

Days of prayer

By Michael J. Salamon November 20, 2008

The writer, a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, is the founder and director of the Adult Developmental Center in Hewlett, NY.

I was confused by the recent call by several of the leaders of Israel's largest kollels for a day of prayer for the financial well-being of Jewish philanthropists.

…And, is it not the case that God helps those who help themselves?

I just read that many haredi men are trading in the study hall for jobs. Are there prayers being offered for them to be successful as well or are they on their own once they start working outside the kollel?

Your land is my land

By Esti Ahronovitz November 21, 2008

A long moment passes before you manage to take in the sight on the yellow hill. After all, this is the Arava, not Texas.

But here he comes, John Larsen, 72, father of 16 and grandfather of 18, tall and imposing, wearing a button-down checked shirt and white pants held up by suspenders, with an old cowboy hat on his head.

…John Larsen was born and raised in Copenhagen and was educated as an Evangelist, the Christian denomination that adheres strictly to piety, morality and family values, and sees the return of the Jewish people to Israel as an important stage on the way to redemption.

Larsen worked in Denmark as a journalist. After his first wife died of cancer, he was left alone with their four children. Eventually he hired a young Frenchwoman, Giselle, to help in the house, and two years later he and Giselle were married; a daughter was born shortly afterward.

One day, Larsen informed his wife that they had to pack their bags and embark on a missionary journey.

Who should help them?

By Anshel Pfeffer November 19, 2008

Most government officials prefer not to talk about the issue on record, so as not to anger both American Jewry and the local Ethiopian constituency.

The official position of the Jewish Agency - which carried out the entire process of preparing, transporting and absorbing the Ethiopians in Israel - is that it follows the government's policy.

Off record, views within the Agency diverge - there are those who believe that the Falashmura are not really Jewish and that bringing them simply drains scarce resources.

Others are interested in continuing the emigration since it boosts the Agency's dwindling aliyah operation. 

Falash Mura advocates press UJC to continue funding Ethiopian aliya

By Ruth Eglash November 17, 2008

Advocates for continuing the immigration to Israel of Ethiopia's Falash Mura community have utilized the United Jewish Communities General Assembly taking place in Jerusalem to press the group's executives to resume sponsoring aid programs for thousands of Ethiopians still waiting to make aliya.

Religion and State in Israel

November 24, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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