Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
By Dan Izenberg www.jpost.com July 20, 2009
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday approved the government's proposal for a bill allowing Israelis classified as having no religion to be registered as a couple and receive, though not immediately, the rights of married couples within Israel.
Although the couples will be registered as having entered a "couple union," they will not be considered married in the way that Israelis married in religious courts are so considered.
By Dan Izenberg www.jpost.com July 20, 2009
A coalition opposed to the legislation charged that it would create a separate sect within Israel whose members could only form unions among themselves, even though most of those registered as non-Jews considered themselves Jewish, mixed with the Jewish population in schools and the army, and were most likely to want to marry Jews.
The coalition estimated that of all the Israeli couples who married abroad, only 170 marriages per year involved partners who were both classified as having no religion. These couples constituted 3.8 percent of all the Israeli couples that married abroad, according to the coalition.
It also charged that the fact that the religious courts were the final arbiters of whether someone registered as not having a religion actually did have a religion was absurd.
In the case of many immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were not halachically Jewish but regarded themselves as Jews, and had often suffered in their homeland because they were Jewish, they would be put in the absurd position of trying to prove to the religious courts that they were not Jewish, even if they felt they were.
By Aviad Glickman www.ynetnews.com July 19, 2009
Meanwhile, the committee also okayed the civil marriage bill, that will enable the recognition of the marriage of Israelis defined by the State as "non-denomination", i.e. – having no official religious affiliation. The bill was the initiative of Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman.
The minister proposed that a judge be appointed to manage the registration of married couples that are not defined as Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze or Circassians, but are recognized as citizens or permanent residents of Israel.
If the proposal is approved by the Knesset, couples without an official religion will be eligible for the same rights as married.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, of [Israel’s Reform Movement], who demanded civil marriage for all slammed the decision. According to Kariv,
"The Israeli government chooses to sell out the olim and the rest of the citizens of Israel to the rabbinical establishment for coalition agreements. This bill is a fraud that gives a marginal solution to less than four percent of the Israeli couples, who are forced to marry each year in foreign countries."
By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com July 17, 2009
A bureaucratic change slated to go into effect on Sunday will force Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to oversee funding of Reform and Conservative conversion institutes.
Until now, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry was responsible for financing conversion institutes that prepared potential converts to Judaism.
But as a result of a cabinet decision to adopt the Halfon Committee recommendations for reform in the state-funded conversion apparatus, all conversion activities will be centralized in the Prime Minister's Office under Amar.
…"Rabbi Amar has one of three choices," said Avigdor Leviatan, head of the conversion division in the Immigrant Absorption Ministry.
"He can accept the decree and agree to fund Reform and Conservative institutes, which will bring the wrath of haredi rabbis upon him; he can attempt to return the situation to the way it was before the policy change; or he can avoid discriminating against the non-Orthodox institutes by stopping funds for everybody, something which would totally destroy the entire state conversion system."
By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com July 16, 2009
In an encouraging sign for converts whose Jewishness has been questioned by the haredi-controlled rabbinic establishment, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar ruled this week that a conversion annulled by a Haifa Rabbinic Court was perfectly kosher.
…Amar's ruling came weeks after the chief rabbi took over control of all cases involving conversion that reach the Supreme Rabbinic Court.
The move was aimed at bypassing Rabbi Avraham Sherman, a controversial dayan who has questioned the legitimacy of conversions performed by the Chief Rabbinate
By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com July 16, 2009
Amar recently announced that from now on he will oversee personally, as president of the Great Rabbinical Court of Appeals, every case related to the validity of a conversion.
By Or Kashti www.haaretz.com July 15, 2009
The Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee changed the bill introduced by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) that sought to give ultra-Orthodox schools preferential treatment.
According to the original law proposal, the two existing ultra-Orthodox school systems which function independently from the state system would have received full funding of their activities instead of 75 percent.
…Einat Hurvitz of the Israel Religious Action Center said the new version of the bill was an improvement.
"It stops the discrimination in favor of the ultra-Orthodox which existed in the original version," she said.
"It's important that the Knesset stay on guard and make sure the current amendment won't rid the ultra-Orthodox schools from teaching their pupils the core curriculum."
By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com July 20, 2009
Rabbinic leaders of the Ashkenazi Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community will hold a rare summit in Jerusalem Monday to discuss the fate of the community's Hinuch Atzma'i school system.
The conference, the first in 29 years, is an open challenge to the Gur Hasidim, the largest Hasidic sect in Israel and one of the many sects within the broader Ashkenazi Haredi community.
The battle for control of Hinuch Atzma'i - which is extremely influential and controls vast budgets…
By Rafi Israeli www.haaretz.com July 20, 2009 Opinion
The Haredim, meanwhile, are reared on traditional studies that do not prepare youngsters for tomorrow's world, and build dependence rather than creativity and progress. The results are low achievement and an ingrained culture of poverty and dependence.
…If there is a state school system subsidized by taxpayers, it must be forced upon everybody. Any minority that wishes to maintain a separate school system must do so at its own expense.
By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com July 18, 2009
In the latest salvo in the ongoing war between two vying camps over the future of religious Zionism, haredi-leaning rabbis this week torpedoed the appointment of a liberal-minded professor as president of a popular teachers college.
…Prof. Glick teaches at the Schechter Institute, which also has a rabbinical seminary that trains Conservative (Masorti) rabbis. In addition, the Schocken Institute which he heads is associated with the JTS, the US seminary for Conservative rabbis.
In a letter to Lifshitz's board, which backtracked on a previous decision to ratify his appointment, Glick wrote that his "heart went out to Lifshitz, which used to be the flagship of national religious education and has since become a 'haredi-national' institution that values parochialism over openness, and separation over integration."
By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com July 15, 2009
A decision by the heads of the Lifshitz College of Education in Jerusalem, a prominent religious institute for teachers' training, to call off the appointment of a new president following pressure from the national-haredi stream, is stirring the Zionist religious world.
Last week the institution's board went back on its decision to appoint Prof. Shmuel Glick as the school's new head, after rabbis affiliated with the ultra-Orthodox stream that supports religious Zionism, threatened to stop sending their students to the college if the appointment goes through.
According to the rabbis, Glick had in the past taught at the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies, which is affiliated with the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel.
Israel TV www.jpost.com July 14, 2009
By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com July 15, 2009
Kolech’s conference, entitled "The Woman and Her Judaism," was conducted under the shadow of…allegations that Kolech was a "neo-Reform" organization.
In many of the sessions, speakers referred to themselves tongue-in-cheek as "proud neo-reformers," convinced that any changes in practice or approach could be fully justified in Orthodox Jewish law.
…Rachel Keren, Kolech's chairwoman, said that Monday's conference was probably the motivation for various comments by Shapira and other rabbis, such as Technion Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Rachamim Zini.
"The Kolech conference raises many issues that demonstrate so clearly the need for change in the Orthodox world," said Keren.
"One of these issues is leadership. Suggesting that women can also be spiritual and community leaders undermines the existing hierarchies and frameworks.
…Rabbi Yehuda Gilad of the Religious Kibbutz Movement's yeshiva in Ma'aleh Gilboa, said that ordination of female rabbis was inevitable and that women had a special contribution to make to the development of Halacha.
By Tzofia Hirschfeld www.ynetnews.com July 19, 2009
The Religious Women's Forum Kolech decided at their conference last week to choose a Hebrew title for a woman ordained as a rabbi by an Orthodox institution, although no woman in Israel yet holds this position.
The title chosen by a majority of conference participants is "rabba."
"The women's learning revolution has existed for quite some time," said Rachel Keren, chairwoman of Kolech's Board of Directors, to Ynet.
"Women are advancing in Torah study, but there is a glass ceiling hindering their advancement. The glass ceiling was already shattered in the course for female halachic advisors and on the issue of female legal counselors, but still hasn't been shattered in the field of rabbis and religious judges. This issue is of prime importance."
By Simon Rocker www.thejc.com July 9, 2009
For many years, this animated educator kept a secret: she can lay claim to being the first modern-day Orthodox woman rabbi.
A flutter of excitement followed Rabbi Avi Weiss’s announcement a couple of months ago that he was launching a school in New York to train Orthodox women clergy — to be known as maharats (an acronym meaning leaders in law, spirituality and Torah) rather than rabbis. But Reb Mimi was quietly ordained 15 years ago.
By Gil Ronen www.israelnationalnews.com July 15, 2009
The religious-Zionist camp’s candidate for the important position of Jerusalem’s Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi will be chosen from a field of seven right after Rosh Chodesh Av, in the course of the “Nine Days” that end on Tisha B’Av.
The candidate will be selected by a special committee that has been in charge of the matter for some time, under the leadership and guidance of Rabbis Chaim Druckman, Yaakov Ariel and Aharon Lichtenstein.
…There are reports that Barkat has sealed a deal with Shas according to which he will support their candidate for Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef – the son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef – and Shas will support a religious-Zionist for the Ashkenazic post.
By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com July 17, 2009
The Great Rabbinical Court has ordered the Israel Prison Service to deny a jailed long-time recalcitrant husband glatt kosher meals, as means to pressure him into granting his wife a divorce.
The court…sentenced the man to five years in prison, of which he has already served two. However, even after he was incarcerated, the man continued to present demands and conditions to his wife in return for a divorce.
By Susie Becher www.ynetnews.com Opinion July 19, 2009
Susie Becher is a member of the National Executive of The New Movement-Meretz
The State of Israel, “the only democracy in the Middle East,” expects Cphir to be ready to die for his country but will not allow him to marry because, according to the Rabbinate, his matriarchal lineage means that Cphir is not a Jew.
By Yechiel Spira www.theyeshivaworld.com July 19, 2009
The High Court of Justice last week reversed rulings of the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court and the Supreme Rabbinical Court because of a “procedural issue” as the court put it, with the three-justice panel ruling the rabbinical courts ruled with only two dayanim, and therefore, they must begin proceedings against with three dayanim.
By Anshel Pfeffer www.haaretz.com Opinion July 17, 2009
The JFS crisis is a classic example of the "Who is a Jew" debate. And just as Israel's political and legal systems have repeatedly ducked their responsibility to resolve this conflict, so will the British courts ultimately fail.
…Meanwhile, in all religious matters, the Israeli government and the British community will both continue to defer to the most extreme ultra-Orthodox rabbis, who have achieved a stranglehold over the rabbinates in both countries.
By Netty C. Gross www.forward.com July 15, 2009
[MK Anastasia Michaeli Samuelson, Yisrael Beiteinu] immigrated to Israel from St. Petersburg in 1997 and converted to Judaism in 2000.
…Michaeli gives lip service to her party’s proposal for civil unions in Israel, where currently marriage is legally controlled by the state-funded rabbinate and the recognized religious heads of the country’s Muslim, Christian and Druze minorities.
This leaves thousands of secular Russian immigrants unable to marry because their status as Jews under traditional religious criteria is questionable.
…Michaeli does lament having had to regularly drive on the Sabbath to visit her husband’s now deceased father when he was ill. It is an infraction that could prompt the state rabbinate to revoke the conversion it granted her.
Today’s rabbinate insists that converts remain religiously observant. She wistfully expresses the hope that someday she can be frum. “I would love that,” she said.
By Rabbi Michael Graetz www.ynetnews.com July 19, 2009 Opinion
Rabbi Michael Graetz, Rabbi Emeritus in the Masorti congregation 'Magen Avraham' in Omer, is one of the Founders of the Masorti Movement in Israel, its first director and past president of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.
The Masorti Movement in Israel, and the world wide Conservative Movement produces just such results. We offer a living example of just such a process of positive choice of Jewish and Israeli identity, with NO belittling of other ethnic groups or religious groups. It is a Jewish approach that we believe can repair the tear in the Jewish identity of many Israelis and many Jews.
…While some Orthodox leaders and the Chief Rabbinate conduct a public campaign of defamation of Masorti (Conservative) Judaism, we continue to believe in the positive approach of our movement of inclusion based on the intrinsic values of Judaism about the ultimate worth of every human being.
By Cnaan Liphshiz www.haaretz.com July 20, 2009
Rabbi Michael Melchior is slated to head the World Zionist Organization as of next month, after Kadima chairperson Tzipi Livni invited him to join the organization on her party's ticket
By Daniella Feldman www.jpost.com July 19, 2009
Just two days before the 15th anniversary of the AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, 150 Latin American immigrants who traveled to Israel on a direct flight out of Brazil were welcomed to their new home in a ceremony on Thursday at the Western Wall.
By Raphael Ahren www.haaretz.com July 20, 2009
Nefesh B'Nefesh's new vice chairman is former Immigrant Absorption Ministry director general Erez Halfon, the immigrant assistance organization announced yesterday.
Halfon, 38, will assume his new post on September 1. He will be responsible for "enhancing the organization's strategic partnerships with Israeli government bodies and agencies, and furthering its ties within the Jewish World," NBN stated.
By Cnaan Liphshiz www.haaretz.com July 17, 2009
The fire that gripped Modi'in's Conservative community last week has in turn ignited a fierce dispute between the city and non-Orthodox residents about who started it.
Worshipers accuse ultra-Orthodox "fanatics" and complain of municipal indifference, while the city speaks of petty vandalism, adding that claiming otherwise is "reckless and disingenuous.
By Ruth Eglash www.jpost.com July 19, 2009
Three Acre-based youth centers, established with funding from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), were vandalized earlier this week following on-going threats from local community members concerned that the programs run there are missionary in nature, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
In a letter to the IFCJ, which was obtained by Post, Acre Mayor Shimon Lankri explains that some of those living in the vicinity of the so-called Fellowship Centers "are suspicious of your intentions and distrust the organization.
By Ofri Ilani www.haaretz.com July 20, 2009
The booklet was published by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, in cooperation with the chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, and has been distributed for the past few months.
www.ynetnews.com July 15, 2009
The Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem Monday a unique project initiated by the Bible Valley Society together with the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The project is a global initiative wherein thousands of people unite together to hand-inscribe bibles in their native languages, building bridges of understanding between the many cultures and faiths united by a shared love and reverence for the Bible.
Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.