Monday, December 15, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - December 15, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

December 15, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Messianic Jews detained at Ben-Gurion Airport

By Matthew Wagner December 15, 2008

A director of the US Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations and his wife were detained Sunday at Ben-Gurion Airport by Interior Ministry officials amid allegations he is involved in illegal Christian missionary activity.

It is illegal in Israel to proselytize among minors. It is also prohibited to engage in missionary activities among adults when economic incentives are offered.

After over eight hours of detention, Jamie Cowen, a former president of the union, and his wife, Stacy, were permitted to enter Israel only after they agreed to sign a document that they would not engage in missionary activities during their stay.

The film they wouldn't screen

By Robin Garbose Opinion December 12, 2008

In the United States, we have just elected the first black president, but in Israel I, an Orthodox Jewish woman filmmaker with the first high-quality Orthodox Jewish women's film, cannot find acceptance in the one festival where we most belong - the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival. 

"Greytowers" is a genuine work of art from a community that has not until now had a cinematic voice; it represents the voice of religious Jewish women who choose to live their lives according to the Jewish laws of modesty and who, consequently, do not sing or dance in front of men.

The 10th Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival

The Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival has been held annually since 1999 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque-Israel Film Archive.

During the days of the Festival, over 50 films, from Israel and from all over the world, are screened - feature films, documentaries, shorts, animated and avant-garde films - that explore themes of Jewish faith and practice, history, culture, music, the Holocaust, contemporary life in Israel and the Jewish Diaspora, the relationship between Judaism and other world religions and the role of Jewish identity in the State of Israel.

Rabbinical courts attacked at divorce law conference

By Matthew Wagner December 11, 2008

The rabbinical courts bore the brunt of sharp criticism Tuesday as hundreds of attorneys, legal professors, judges and rabbinic court advocates packed into Bar-Ilan University's Mintz Auditorium to discuss the ramifications of a new divorce law amendment.

According to the new amendment to the Spousal Property Relations Law, it will be possible to execute the division of jointly owned property prior to the giving of the get. 

This can be done in cases where divorce proceedings last more than one year or if it is proven that a marriage is in irretrievable breakdown, as well as in cases of domestic violence.

The amendment is designed to prevent a situation in which either the husband or the wife uses the get as a bargaining chip to extract a large slice of property from the other side.

However, the finalizing of the get is still within the jurisdiction of the rabbinical courts.

Halperin-Kaddari raised concerns that the courts might claim that the property arrangement decided by the civil family court was a type of coercion.

"Rabbinical courts might have the audacity to claim that only when the husband is permitted to use the get as a bargaining chip to extort his wife will it be a kosher divorce," said Halperin-Kaddari.

Casting blame: A response to Chief Rabbi Amar

By Leah Aharonov Opinion December 10, 2008

The writer is president of the International Council of Jewish Women, an NGO which represents 52 Jewish women's organizations around the world and is a member of the

I would invite Rabbi Amar to consider an alternative scenario. Women's organizations are probably the ones that are mounting the last-ditch effort to save the rabbis and rabbinate from themselves.

The fact that they want to bring them kicking and screaming into a Jewish world that will not tolerate inequality and discrimination, and that will not allow women to suffer abrogation of their human rights, is what may still preserve the relevancy of the rabbinate.

For too many in Israel, religious marriage is no longer an option, if only to avoid what may be a horrendous situation in the event of divorce.

The women's organizations have been and continue to be the most positive force in preserving this aspect of Jewish life in Israel - if only the rabbis would wake up and recognize it.

The great and equivocal vanishing trick of Israeli women

By Susan Weiss Opinion December 9, 2008

The writer is the founder and director of the Center for Women's Justice.

Susan Weiss blogs at

The great vanishing trick of Muslim women behind the weight of the chador is a bit heavy-handed and obvious. We in Israel are much more subtle. We eliminate our women with élan, delicacy - and equivocation.

…If it's so clear to us modern-Westernized-Israeli world travelers that the chador chokes and obliterates Muslim women, it's time that we modern-Westernized-Israeli world travelers, as well as our state courts and institutions, observe and eliminate - without equivocation - our more sophisticated versions of the same.

My wife is a bigamist

By David Breakstone Opinion December 12, 2008

The writer is a member of the executives of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization, where he represents MERCAZ Olami, the Zionist arm of the worldwide Conservative/Masorti Movement.

I've been married eight years now, and have decided it's time to confess: My wife is a bigamist. That's when she's in Santiago. In New York, she's simply married. In Europe, she's single. Here in Israel, she's actually divorced.

…If this were only a story of personal interest, I might not bother sharing it.

But, sadly, it is also a story of national importance. 

The interference of state-run religious institutions in our personal lives has continued for far too long and has reached dangerous proportions, threatening the Jewish character of the state it purportedly exists to preserve.

With the influx of some 300,000 olim from the former Soviet Union who are not Jewish according to Halacha, it has become increasingly clear that the monopoly of the rigid Orthodox establishment over life-cycle events was never only a parochial concern of Israel's Reform and Masorti/Conservative Jews.

Husband grants wife a divorce after being jailed

By Yair Harush December 8, 2008

The Ashdod Rabbinical Court has recently sent a recalcitrant husband to jail for refusing to grant his wife a divorce. 

The arrest apparently helped change the man's mind, and soon after he agreed to grant the sought-after get.

Biblical Sarah scares the men

By Tsafi Saar December 15, 2008

Rachel Adler’s "Feminism Yehudi" is due to be published in Hebrew, as part of the series Yahadut Kan Ve'achshav, published by Yedioth Ahronoth, Sifrei Hemed, and translated by Ruth Blum. It was first published 10 years ago as "Engendering Judaism" and is considered revolutionary. 

In the brit ahuvim, she explains, "men and women acquire a partnership that either partner can dissolve. No get [Jewish divorce decree] is required.

A beit din [rabbinical court] in which three scholarly Jews would sit would simply certify that the brit ahuvim was terminated.

This could make a big difference to women who currently can be made to pay large sums of money for a get, or can be kept waiting for long periods" or not get a religious divorce at all.

The brit ahuvim, Adler says, is a proposal that could help the growing split among the people of Israel.

This is especially pertinent in Israel, where there is no alternative to the traditional Jewish marriage ceremony and where quite a few populations face difficulties on this subject. 

Rabbis order compensation over infidelities

By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay December 14, 2008

The Netanya rabbinical court has ordered a man to pay his ex-wife NIS 52,000 in compensation for the destruction of their family and for the mental anguish he caused her by his repeated infidelities, reports

The rabbis rejected the man's argument that he was driven to the infidelities because his wife had lost interest in intimate relations after the birth of their third child, saying that it was possible that it was difficult for a woman to resume relations after having a baby, and in such cases a husband should wait until she was ready.

According to the report, the couple's divorce case was being heard by three rabbinical court judges, who decided that the husband's claims that he wanted to remain with his wife were not genuine. 

The rabbis also criticized the husband for going to the civil courts in an attempt to sell off the family's apartment and divide up the proceeds. They said the apartment had been bought by the wife before the marriage, and ruled that it belonged entirely to her.

Ne’eman: Use Halachic Courts December 15, 2008

Former Minister of Justice Yaakov Ne’eman said Sunday that the solution to a crisis in Israeli courts is for Israelis to use the halachic court system which follows traditional Jewish law. Ne’eman made these comments in a conference on monetary issues held at Bar Ilan University.

Ne’eman explained that monetary cases currently take an inordinate amount of time to come to completion in the secular law system. He said that plaintiffs should make more use of the halachic law system which is similar to an arbitration system.

Feds Argue Law of Return Makes Jews Flight Risk

By Stewart Ain December 10, 2008

In a legal argument called “astounding and very troublesome,” a federal prosecutor has argued that Israel’s Law of Return makes American Jews a flight risk and therefore ineligible for bail.

Click here for US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa (pdf) Order of Detention

Hat Tip to

Rubashkin appeals denial of bail December 8, 2008

Lawyers for the former head of an Iowa kosher slaughterhouse asked a judge to reconsider his decision to deny bail.

In court documents filed Dec. 5, lawyers for Sholom Rubashkin made a substantial argument over the fact that the original detention order deeming Rubashkin a flight risk cited Israel's Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to every Jew. 

Some Jews saw the ruling as setting a dangerous precedent that could be used to deny bail to Jewish defendants solely on the basis of their religion.

Click here for US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa (pdf) Order of Detention

Hat Tip to

Integration of mixed families

By Ludmilla Oigenblick and Yona Triestman Opinion December 11, 2008

Ludmilla Oigenblick is the founder and CEO of the Association for the Rights of Mixed Families and has a PhD in sociology and has conducted research on mixed families for nine years. Yona Triestman is resource developer for AMF.

Who is a Jew, or who has the right to be a Jew? Eighty percent of children of mixed families are Jewish by patrilineal descent.

…AMF WAS founded to improve the integration of mixed families into Israeli society. All our community projects strengthen their sense of belonging to the Jewish people. 

Some of our students have already celebrated bar and bat mitzva in Reform synagogues, and many serve in IDF combat units. We celebrate in communal Pessah and Shavuot Sedarim, and are now preparing for Hanukka and Purim. 

No one can tell these children that they are not Jewish. Some parents have enrolled in non-Orthodox conversion courses.

Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur: The Chief Rabbinate Should Dissociate Itself from Conversion Authority

By Yechiel Sever December 11, 2008

Vaad HaRabbonim is calling on the Chief Rabbinate to absolve itself of responsibility for the Conversion Authority and stop recognizing the conversions it performs.

"The Chief Rabbinate cannot certify conversions that are not under the control of rabbonim yirei Shomayim from the early preparation stage through the end of the conversion process if the conversion candidates do not undertake genuine mitzvah observance in full," said a Vaad HaRabbonim spokesman.

The 'Subbotnik' Case

By Leora Eren Frucht December 10, 2008 Issue 18, December 22, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report

In a case that could have implications for thousands of Subbotnik Jews in Russia, the Supreme Court has asked the Interior Ministry to reconsider the applications of two members of the community who sought to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return, but were turned down, ostensibly because they were married to non-Jews.

Michael Freund tells The Report that Shavei Zion plans to wait for the formation of the new government, following the February election, and the appointment of a new interior minister in the hope that

"we will be able to bring about a change in policy without going back to court. We are not giving up on this issue. We are determined to bring about a change in the status of Subbotnik Jews of Russia."

The Bnei Menashe truth

By Barlev Haokip Opinion December 15, 2008

The writer is about to publish a book on the Bnei Menashe and their Jewish origin, based on the Talmudic and Midrashic teaching that are at root of the ancient tradition of the Kukis.

I have been back in Manipur twice as an emissary to teach Judaism among the Kukis, pointing out the connection of our customs, culture and traditional belief with those of the Jewish tradition. Some became excited about the connection to the exclusion of all else.

Therefore I explain to them the importance of Halakha for living a truly Jewish life, which is the most important goal after learning our true identity. 

Many have come back to their Jewish roots and embraced Judaism in this manner, one of the reasons for the tremendous growth in number of Kukis now practicing Judaism

Tiv Taam Givatayim to close Saturdays

By Adi Dovrat December 9, 2008

The Givatayim Magistrates Court has ordered Tiv Taam to close its local branch on Saturdays.

The Givatayim municipality raised a fuss after the branch opened in February of this year on Weizman Street, one of the town's thoroughfares, saying that operation of the business on the Sabbath was in violation of city ordinances.

Tiv Taam argued that the chain was being discriminated against, and named 33 other businesses that operate regularly on Saturdays on Weizman Street and other nearby locations, including some of its largest competitors.

Kosher Wars

By Yehudit Singer Opinion December 11, 2008

Here in Israel, the kashrut system has turned into a highly proliferated, politically-charged, unregulated web of inconsistent policies.

Yet, for the top brass that sit atop any given kashrut company in Israel, be sure that they sit atop a highly-profitable business.

...With no unification in sight, one must wonder what will be. Perhaps the solution is to revert back to the ways of life in the Diaspora, vigilantly checking kashrut status on each item.

Perhaps we should revert to the ways of Rav Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel, and support the Rabbanut. After all, a Jew is a Jew. Do we close our eyes and hope for the best?

'Letters to G-d' delivered to Western Wall AP December 11, 2008

Postal authorities have delivered hundreds of "letters to G-d" from across the world to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Every year Israeli officials bring letters addressed to the wall or to G-d and stuff them into the cracks between the stones in the wall.

The site's chief rabbi carried a cardboard box Tuesday marked "Letters to G-d" and containing letters in a variety of languages, including English, Russian, French and Spanish.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz says prayers of people all over the world "ascend through this holy place." He says he hopes G-d grants all of the requests.

The significance of Israel for the future of Judaism

By Rabbi David Hartman Havruta Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 2 December 7, 2008

…Not only has the return to the land recreated some of the existential conditions that informed the biblical, covenantal foundations of Judaism, but it has also provided Jews with an exciting opportunity to recapture some of the salient features of their biblical foundations.

The acceptance of responsibility for Jewish national existence can be understood as a progressive extension of the rabbinic understanding of the covenantal relationship between God and Israel. 

An Orthodox oasis

By Sam Ser December 14, 2008

Tifrah lies 10 minutes of nondescript highway travel outside of Ofakim, a town as down on its luck as any in the country.

Tifrah’s saving grace was Yeshivat Tushia, which opened up in 1968. It had two dozen students then, but boasts more than 600 now.

…Only a few of the students will stay here once they marry, joining the kollel at the other end of the moshav. As for the veteran residents, the situation isn't promising.

Some 300 families live in Tifrah, totaling about 2,000 people - but, Finkelstein, notes; many of the residents are elderly. Most of their children moved out to the main centers of haredi life, in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Kiryat Sefer and Ramat Beit Shemesh.

U.S. Army sends American-Israeli woman to Afghanistan

By Cnaan Liphshitz December 12, 2008

The Foreign Ministry on Thursday began reviewing an unusual plea from a 55-year-old American-Israeli woman from Netanya who is fighting the U.S. Army's decision to send her to active reserve duty in Afghanistan.

Citing the fact that Command Sergeant Orli Avior is also an Israeli citizen, the woman's husband wrote Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that his wife's Afghani tour would be "unnecessarily dangerous and irrational." Orli Avior is currently in Kuwait, awaiting mobilization to Afghanistan. 

Religion and State in Israel

December 15, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Religion and State in Israel - December 15, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

December 15, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Barkat sweeps 30 of 31 city councilors – Shas joins coalition

By Etgar Lefkovits December 15, 2008

The accord with Shas will allocate the Sephardi haredi party, which has four seats on the city council, the title of vice-mayor - a non-paying position - with the promise of receiving a deputy mayor post if Barkat can convince the government to increase the number of deputy mayors from six to eight.

Shas, which will also receive responsibility for various municipal portfolios related to the haredi public, had previously demanded at least one deputy mayor in the city council.

Barkat brings haredi party UJT into fold in J'lem

By Etgar Lefkovits December 9, 2008

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has reached a coalition agreement with the haredi United Torah Judaism Party, his spokesman announced Monday, giving him a solid 26-seat majority in the 31-member council.

The agreement, considered a major political coup for the secular mayor, will allocate UTJ, which has eight council seats, one deputy mayor, with the promise of a second if Barkat can convince the government to increase the number of deputy mayors from six to seven or eight.

The haredi party, which will also be responsible for various municipal departments related to the haredi public, had previously demanded two deputy mayors, in acknowledgment of its status as the largest party on the council.

…Barkat said that negotiations were continuing to bring Shas into the coalition, adding that he hoped the Sephardic party, which has four seats on the council, would join soon.

New faces on the Jerusalem city council

By Peggy Cidor December 11, 2008

"The thing that will characterize the haredi Ashkenazi party in Barkat's era the most will be an all-out internal war among its eight members," explained a haredi source at Kikar Safra. 

…After a few days of hesitation, the United Torah Judaism Party finally joined the coalition, with only one deputy mayor at this stage. The tension between the party members is such that for the moment, it is not even clear who will receive the NIS 42,000 salary.

Feiglin and The Jewish Leadership website

By Amnon Meranda December 10, 2008

The Jewish Leadership Movement's website has linked Israel's success to its connection with "the God of Israel," presenting religion as an essential condition for the continued existence of the State.

However, Feiglin has since taken an uncompromising stance on the separation of religion and state.

What should be the Rabbinate's place in Israel's leadership?

"It should be in no way involved in politics."

Should the laws of the Torah become the laws of the State?

"I am thoroughly opposed to the idea of a Halacha state. I do want to see the laws of the State reflect its national values, however."

Feiglin's missing manifesto

By Yair Ettinger December 10, 2008

The Web site of the Jewish Leadership movement went down for a few hours on Tuesday and was replaced with an announcement.

"Dear friends (and rivals!)," the announcement read. "Our heartfelt congratulations on the sweeping victory, the victory of the people of Zion, the victory of the eternity of Israel. Due to the new circumstances and our new agenda, which to this day we dared not even dream about, we have to upgrade our Web site."

The message was later replaced with a simpler one: "

The Web site is under construction. It will be up again in a few days."

By Tuesday evening the site was up again but Feiglin's manifesto had been removed.

Rabbis threaten to split from new party

By Kobi Nahshoni December 14, 2008

Three days before a public council is slated to determine the composition of Habayit Hayehudi's Knesset list, rabbis and right-wing activists are threatening to split from the new religious party.

…Rabbi Yuval Sherlo expressed his doubt over the possibility to combine between the different streams of Religious Zionism based on shared issues.

"This mission may be impossible, as the disputes are extremely deep, but I believe there is a certain possibility for this to work."

Hershkowitz Heads ‘Jewish Home’

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu December 19, 2008

Rabbi-Professor Daniel Hershkowitz was chosen Monday night to head the new Jewish Home party, a spin-off of the National Religious Party (NRP) and the religious flank of the National Union (NU) party.

He defeated Rabbi Avi Wartzman, a Be'er Sheva educator, and Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, administrative head of the rabbinic courts.

A party council will choose the list of Knesset candidates on Tuesday after having elected Hershkowitz, a Technion University mathematics professor. The party council had decided not to name any of the better-known and veteran national religious figures in order to present a new image to the public.

Hershkowitz, 55, also is rabbi of the Ahuza neighborhood in Haifa, where the Technion is located.

Haredi web-surfers interfering in new party's list

By Kobi Nahshoni December 11, 2008

"Jewish Home" party officials fear that ultra-Orthodox surfers, who are not among the new party's potential voters, are taking part in the internet vote.

According to estimates, the haredi voters seek to prevent the entry of "as many pluralists as possible" into the Knesset.

Values begin at home

By Shahar Ilan Opinion December 10, 2008

…it's reasonable to assume that Shas will not secure the education portfolio, and a seasoned political operator like Yishai knows that. 

That's why it's worth looking into what exactly he is trying to achieve. One possibility is that he wants control of the Interior Ministry to compensate for not getting the education portfolio. 

…Shas also appears to want to renew the tradition of having a deputy education minister with full authority over ultra-Orthodox education.

…There is another danger here as well. Shas took advantage of the last Knesset term to revive some remnants of the former Religious Affairs Ministry, turning them into a mini-ministry called the Religious Services Ministry. 

It might be seeking a full revival of the ministry, which would entail giving it back responsibility for yeshivas, Torah studies and the establishment of religious institutions. 

Rabbi Aryeh Deri for President of Shas

By Yechiel Spira December 11, 2008

Last week, a number of rabbonim and askanim visited Rabbi Shalom Cohen Shlita, a member of Shas’ Council of Torah Sages, suggesting that Deri be appointed as the party’s [president], a move to orchestra his reentry into the political arena.

Rebel With a Cause Winter 2008

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

After a six-year legal battle—short by Israeli standards—we secured state funding for six non-Orthodox synagogues—the first time in Israel’s sixty-year history that the government recognized the religious needs of non-Orthodox Jews and provided them with a sacred place to pray.

What a change: in the past we haven’t even been able to get permits to establish a Reform synagogue, let alone receive assistance in actually building one.

Hopefully, this will be but the first step in securing full and equal government funding for the Reform Jewish presence in Israel.

Our country desperately needs a Jewish movement like ours that promotes humanistic, egalitarian, and democratic values—a spiritual Judaism that can not only help to heal the world, but to heal Israel.

So, you see, if we keep up the pressure year after year, eventually we will win. We’ve got to.

Reform Movement in Israel December 11, 2008

Other IMPJ education activities now underway include a long-running bat mitzvah program for girls in secular public schools, held in cooperation with local Progressive congregations; 

a program called "Mothers and Daughters," which features study sessions and discussions on issues ranging from the maturation process to women's empowerment; 

special lectures and mini-courses led by local rabbis; and seminars and ongoing in-service training programs for public school teachers.

Israeli girls celebrate their bat mitzvah at Or Hadash, Haifa, through a public school program implemented by the education department of the IMPJ.

The Israeli Progressive movement brings Jewish education to public schools, as demonstrated by second graders who learn about reading from the Torah on Rosh Hodesh at the Tali Reform elementary school in Jerusalem.

Death of a Giant: Thoughts on the Passing of Rabbi Emanuel Rackman

By Rabbi Michael J. Broyde December 10, 2008

Rabbi Michael J. Broyde is a law professor at Emory University, founding rabbi of the Young Israel in Atlanta, and a member (chaver) of the Beth Din of America.

…Rabbi Rackman shared with me his unrelenting awe for the return of Jewish sovereign rule over the holy land of Israel - and his hope that halacha was prepared for the challenges that living in the world we had created would surely present.

Then, in a moment I can recall so vividly the words ring verbatim in my mind, he turned to me directly and said: "Jewish law must live in the present and not in the past."

…His book on Israel's constitution, written in 1950, correctly predicted Israel would never be able to have a written constitution - even though its declaration of independence mandates that one be written - as the religious conflicts would prevent such a document from being ratified.

A precious light dims with Yakar founder Mickey Rosen's death

By Raphael Ahren December 12, 2008

Tributes came in from all over the world for Rabbi Michael (Mickey) Rosen, one of the most popular and most revered Anglo rabbis in the country, who died Sunday in Jerusalem, aged 63. 

Best known for founding the Modern Orthodox Yakar communities in London and later in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Rosen was also committed to social activism and political engagement in many different areas. 

Closure of Baka's Ulpan Etzion's spells end of an era

By Michael Green December 14, 2008

The Jewish Agency maintains that far from signaling the end of Etzion, the program will continue on the new site with improved facilities. 

Its claims, however, are falling on deaf ears of many staff and students who believe that the move is more than physical and that the ulpan's unique atmosphere, which has attracted thousands of young Jews from across the world, will be lost.

Students and alums fight to keep Ulpan Etzion in Baka

By Raphael Ahren December 12, 2008

Only "a miracle" could keep Ulpan Etzion in its current Jerusalem location, the upscale neighborhood of Baka, a senior Jewish Agency official told Anglo File this week. 

For decades the popular intensive Hebrew-language study program has been the first home in Israel for thousands of Western immigrants. 

Earlier this month the Jewish Agency announced that after Monday, when the current session ends, Ulpan Etzion will move to Beit Canada, a larger property in the close but less attractive area of Armon Hanatziv, or East Talpiot, to save expenses. 

Jewish Agency freezes youth aliyah program

By Danny Adino Ababa December 12, 2008

NAALE, one of the Jewish Agency's flagship programs, which helped bring to Israel over 11,000 Jewish teenagers from across the world, is now facing the risk of being shut down due to financial difficulties and lack of donors.

$20 Million in Birthright Funds in Doubt

By Anthony Weiss December 10, 2008

Birthright Israel, the popular initiative offering young Jews free trips to Israel, may be unable to pay for thousands of such trips in the summer of 2009 due to the financial meltdown of its largest donor.

Nefesh B'Nefesh launches 'Go North' campaign

By Itamar Eichner December 15, 2008

New Anglo olim settling in northern Israel will receive a NIS 100,000 ($25,000) grant and a car for a two-year period, as part of Nefesh B'Nefesh's new 'Go North' initiative, aimed at encouraging the immigration of English speaking Jews to Israel's northern communities.

Israeli Ninth Graders Flock to Kfar Chabad December 19, 2008

During the past week many groups of ninth graders from schools all over the country visited 770 in Kfar Chabad.  The visit is a hands-on experience lesson about Jewish religion and communities outside Eretz Yisroel. The students come to learn about Chabad Chassidus and what makes it so unique. 

The visits began with the boys putting on t'fillin and the girls receiving a Shabbos candlestick.  The students took upon themselves to strengthen their commitment to mitzvos, in honor of the Shluchim murdered in Bombay- Rabbi Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg HY"D.

Israel Dept Store Okays Chabad Chanukah Lights

By Yechiel Spira December 12, 2008

Once again the nation’s Mashbir department store chain has granted permission to Chabad to light Chanukah menoras in its 30 branches nationwide.

…The two company leaders added that to them, Jewish tradition is important, as is their decision to close all stores on Shabbos.

Finance Ministry [may help Chabad Houses] December 15, 2008

MK Litzman [UTJ]…met with the head of the budget department in the Treasury, Ram Belinkov, and restated his urgent demand, which was also aired in the media in the past few weeks.

The conversation was a positive one, at the end of which Belinkov said that he will weigh the issue positively and see what he can do to make sure that some Chabad Houses are granted a onetime budget slot for security purposes.

An ultra-Orthodox startup's secret to weathering crises: modest living

By Guy Grimland December 9, 2008

The man behind this model of modesty is Dr. Yoram Devary, scientist and "the first ultra-Orthodox entrepreneur." His startup employs nine people, all Haredim.

The office space is segregated by gender, with one area earmarked for men and another area for women, as befits the mores of the ultra-Orthodox community.

Devary's personal story is not the usual one of an Israeli "start-upist." He found religion 27 years ago, at the age of 18, after meeting his future wife at a science workshop at the Weizmann Institute of Science. 

"She was religious and I was secular," he relates. They lost touch for a while but then reconnected and wound up marrying. "She influenced me to become religious," he says. 

Rabbis urge yeshiva heads to decline state funds

By Kobi Nahshoni December 10, 2008

Thousands of people attended a demonstration in Jerusalem on Tuesday against government supervision of haredi educational institutions. In the rally, which was organized by the [Eidat Haredi] anti-Zionist faction, rabbis urged education institution heads not to apply for state funds.

A banner hung over the central stage at the event read, "It's time to say no to the heretical government's budgets, which bring a catastrophe on haredi education."

Rabbi Avraham Freuilich:

"It's unacceptable to have the Education Ministry transform yeshiva students into its own students and to strictly supervise student admission, budgeting and the employment of educating rabbis."

Child Allowance and the Future of Zionism

By Prof. Sam Lehman-Wilzig Opinion December 9, 2008

The writer is Schusterman Visiting Israeli Scholar, Brown University

…This is a very touchy issue and when it is raised lots of people cry “racism”.

But this has nothing to do with “ethnicity” or “race” — it has everything to do with retaining the underlying raison d’être for establishing the Jewish State in the first place as a haven for displaced Jews around the world and as a place that Jews can express themselves culturally in a relatively free and democratic framework.

Haredim, of course, are very Jewish but their definition of “Jewish State” is the antithesis of “democracy”; Israeli Arabs don’t even accept the concept of “Jewish State” in any form.

Chinuch Atzmai and Beis Yaakov HaTzafon

By Yechiel Spira Opinion December 9, 2008

…To my profound dismay, I have since learned that tens of American girls from Sanhedria Murchevet, the same neighborhood of Beis Yaakov HaTzafon, are not being accepted by the school.

This contradicts what Rav Horowitz explained is Chinuch Atzmai’s mission, that a Beis Yaakov is not an elitist school and must accept the neighborhood’s chareidi children.

I have also learned there are rabbis addressing the issue on their behalf as well, working to place children in schools to permit the children of American avreichim to enjoy a torah education as their Israeli counterparts do.

Betar Illit – ‘Torah & Chassidus’

By Yechiel Spira December 11, 2008

Well, there is a new slogan for the community of Betar – it is official. Previously, the large welcoming slogan under the village’s name was “Betar, the city of torah in the Judean Hills”.

 Today, the new slogan says, “Betar, the city of torah and chassidus in the Judean Hills”.

Indeed, many residents of the community are Chassidim and the mayor is a Breslov chossid, it is now official, part of the community’s image and official slogan.

The mayor explains the decision to make the official change was prompted by complaints, but the real force behind inserting the word “chassidus” was the city’s Chabad shaliach, Rav Asher Lemel Cohen.

New Accountants in Mea Shearim?

By Amit Granek Opinion December 15, 2008

“Daat” is an important step towards the better integration of the ultra-Orthodox in the Israeli modern economy and can serve to unlock the sector’s huge potential in human capital, a crucial component for socio-economic leapfrogging.

According to the College’s manager, its primary goal is to tackle unemployment that hinders women from fulfilling their role as the family’s bread winner and allowing men to study torah.

See also:

The Charedi Challenge to Israel’s Prosperity

The Charedi Challenge: Adaptive not Technical

The Charedi Challenge: Policy Recommendation

If this is love, then what is hate?

By Tamar Rotem December 15, 2008

Because of his job as a debt collector and a quarrel with his neighbors, Shalom Segal has been threatened and severely beaten. He says the harassment was approved by Bnei Brak’s Vishnitz Hasidim.

VC for the little guy

By David Shamah December 14, 2008

The Beshalva Investment Fund, run by Yosef Baumgarten… [is a] unique program, but not as unique as Baumgarten, who is an ordained rabbi and a Belzer Hassid.

As a religious person ("ultra-Orthodox," in journalese), Baumgarten says his conscience and commitment to the Torah guide his investment strategy - both in the types of companies he will or won't invest in, and the conservative attitude he takes when considering a company, especially for small investors.

Baumgarten says there are companies he won't invest in. "Anything that I feel runs counter to the spirit of Judaism is a nonstarter for us," he says, specifying companies that work in the area of television and certain Web sites.

Religion and State in Israel

December 15, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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