Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - December 7, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

December 7, 2009 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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

Chief Rabbi: Israeli conversion certificates valid for marriage

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com December 7, 2009

In an unusual departure from the ultra-Orthodox stance, Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi has declared that anyone holding a conversion certificate issued by the State of Israel can register to be married in his place of residence.

Rabbi Yona Metzger's declaration, contained in a letter to the Knesset's Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, comes on the heels of converts' complaints that local rabbis were refusing to recognize them as Jews according to Jewish law and to register them for marriage.

..ITIM's director, Rabbi Seth Farber, welcomed Metzger's position but asked whether the chief rabbi was simply advocating a temporary solution to the problem.

Threat of suit pressures Rabbinate to reopen conversion annulment issue

By Cnaan Liphshiz www.haaretz.com December 4, 2009

A local nonprofit assisting Jewish converts is for the first time planning to take the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to court for not preventing the retroactive annulment of conversions, Anglo File has learned.

The organization's founder asserts "back room" talks convinced him such outside pressure would give rabbinate leaders the impetus to address the issue on its own.

"We've cooperated with the rabbinate for years, building a dialogue and trust with them, but the situation cannot be allowed to go on," said Rabbi Seth Farber, the U.S.-born founder of the Jerusalem-based assistance organization ITIM, which is preparing a petition to the High Court of Justice against the rabbinate.

Never mind the rabbis, here's the chuppah

By Cnaan Liphshiz www.haaretz.com December 4, 2009

The matter-of-fact manner in which Maxim Serdhiukov recounts how Ashkelon's rabbi in August refused to register him and his converted fiancée for marriage betrays little emotion. But signs of his indignation are nonetheless present.

"This country has a Knesset and it has laws, and if some punk rabbi decides to take the law into his own hands, then I will not remain silent about it," says the 24-year-old Serdhiukov, who was born in Latvia to Jewish parents who immigrated to Israel in 1993.

…"Imagine you walk into [the Arlosoroff] station in Tel Aviv to catch a train to Haifa, when the ticket lady tells you that because you're Ashkenazi, you'll have to catch the train at Tel Aviv University," Serdhiukov says. "Would you do it?"

The State of Conversions in Israel - Rabbi Haim Druckman

By Aliza Hausman www.alizahausman.net December 2, 2009

Lecture at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY on December 1, 2009 co-sponsored by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School (YCT) and the International Rabbinic Fellowship.

Click here for AUDIO (mp3)

Q: From our perspective in the States, it looks like the [Chief Rabbinate] is becoming areidiized. Do you see a possibility of change in the future? How do you think change can be brought about, and how could we support it?

A: Generally speaking that's true. But it depends on what issue. In terms of [conversion] , we work together with [Chief Rabbi Amar] no problem, though we don't always see eye to eye. In other aspects — [heiter mechira] for instance, and [shmitta] — in the end, the appointed rabbis handle it even in those local rabbinates that refused.

Nofrat Frenkel's speech at the demonstration

http://rabbicreditor.blogspot.com November 30, 2009

Nofrat Frenkel's speech at the demonstration on Saturday night (November 28, 2009) in Jerusalem:

Translation by Shoshana Michael-Zucker, Kehilat Hod Ve-Hadar, Kfar Saba__._,_.___


"My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples," said the prophet Isaiah. If God's Temple is to be a House of prayer for all peoples, surely it must also be one for all Jews, male and female, of all varieties and movements.

The attempts of patriarchal, chauvinist ultra-Orthodoxy to turn the Kotel into an ultra-orthodox synagogue will not succeed. The Kotel is a place prayer for everyone, male and female…

Nofrat Frenkel, 28 Nov. 2009

Here is a wall at which to weep, Part I: The Kotel

Miriam Opinion http://tovahhaaretz.blogspot.com December 2, 2009

…The group decided to read Torah at the Kotel, instead of relocating elsewhere like they usually do.

We rolled the Torah to the reading for Rosh Hodesh, and then rolled it back up and started the Torah service, led by a young Israeli medical student, Nofrat Frenkel. At this point, the commotion started.

Men came over and asked Nofrat why she was wearing a tallit, and demanded that she put the Torah away and that we leave. To which Nofrat responded, "Because it's a mitzvah, where is yours?" The police came over and started to lead Nofrat away, still holding the sefer Torah and wearing her tallit.

The Right to Disrupt Your Prayers

By Yaakov Menken Opinion www.cross-currents.com November 30, 2009

Nofrat Frenkel made the news two weeks ago — by getting herself arrested. In violation of an Israeli court order, she took out a Torah scroll in the area of the Western Wall consecrated for women’s prayer, and prepared to read it.

Why is such an apparently benign, religious act against the law, worthy of arrest? When it isn’t a religious act at all, but rather a political one, aimed to disrupt the prayers of those around her and to confront them with her agenda.

…What she does not have, though, is the right to disrupt the prayers of others. It is the freedom of religious worship of “the offended public” which needs our protection — protection from those like Nofrat Frankel, who believes her religious “freedom” must involve a political confrontation in order to be worthwhile.

CSI: Jerusalem - the crime of being a woman

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion www.jpost.com December 6, 2009

The writer is Director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel

Last Saturday evening some three thousand people gathered to march to Take Back Our City. Hundreds of Masorti Jews turned out. So did Reform, secular, modern Orthodox, young, old, students and political leaders. This demonstration was organized with little PR and people were informed mainly by word of mouth.

The great Jewish philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel spoke of praying with his feet when he marched in Selma, Alabama, for civil rights. The throng gathered in Zion Square, in downtown Jerusalem, were surely praying with their feet.

Women of the Wall - Am Israel

By Beth (Elisheva Hannah) Frank-Backman Opinion www.lilith.org December 1, 2009

Several years ago when I used to join WOW for Rosh Hodesh prayers, my fellow liberal Jews used to ask me, but “why pray at the wall? I don’t see the point of praying there. Let them have their wall if it means so much. We know better that God is not restricted to a place.”

…Like the prayers of Hannah, the prayers of the Women of the Wall are the longing of women to take their part in an act of creation and healing, hand in hand with God. Even if Eli isn’t listening, God is.

Free Jerusalem

By Rabbi Elyse Goldstein Opinion http://jerusalemofgoldstein.blogspot.com December 1, 2009

So my family and I took part in a quickly-organized protest rally convened by a consortium of groups under the banner “Free Jerusalem” on the last Saturday night of November in Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem press reported that a few hundred “secular Jerusalemites” marched. In truth it was close to 2500 people of all ages, with many, many kippot and tzitzit, skirts and hair-covering scarves.

The Conservative and Reform movements were there in full form. Secular? If by that you mean those who do not wear or live in black-and-white.

The speeches emphasized the willingness of the protesters to dialogue with the haredim, and their desire for a peaceful and united city, but their unwillingness to let Jerusalem devolve into a fundamentalist city with its own brand of morality police, run by those who do not recognize the rights of all citizens of that city.

Separating the issues

By Yael Brygel www.jpost.com December 7, 2009

One would not expect to see Eda Haredit leader Yehuda Meshi Zahav and Shahar Ilan, deputy director of Hiddush, an association to promote equality and freedom of religion, in the same room…

Alongside Meshi Zahav and Ilan on the panel sat Rabbi Ya'acov Shapira, founder and head of Midreshet Ye'ud, a modern Orthodox learning institute; novelist and activist Naomi Ragen; and Rabbanit Rivka Shimon, a well-known matchmaker in the haredi world and supporter of the segregated bus lines.

Topics included where the line could be drawn between wanting to protect religious values and not infringing on the rights of individuals; their vision of how the Western Wall should be managed; and whether compromise was possible.

Interview with Anat Hoffman

By Simon Round www.thejc.com December 3, 2009

“The important question is not who is a Jew but who is a rabbi. I want every type of rabbi to be considered a rabbi in my country — not just the Orthodox ones. I want every rabbi to be able to compete for government jobs.

I want people to be married in any way they choose, whether that is Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or civil.

I want that people should be buried in any manner they choose, with music if they want, with non-Hebrew lettering on the stone if they wish.”

And, of course, she is insistent that everybody has equal access to the Western Wall. “It is a national monument and should be open to all including the Pope with his cross, Arabs without head covering, anyone as long as they don’t have a bomb — even a woman with a tallit and a sefer Torah.”

Saying 'No' to the Back of the Bus

By Elana Sztokman Opinion http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog December 7, 2009

"Drive in Safety, Drive with Egged"

Let’s not confuse the issues. The haredi movement for gender segregation is not about real protection of women from men, but about illusory protection of men from women.

Women are being asked to remove themselves from what is now considered a man’s domain. The bus is de facto a man’s space, with women as an afterthought. Women will wait, women will stand in the back, women will squash, women will cover up, women will remain silent.

Women will accommodate a society that seeks to erase women from its midst. Erasing photos of women in the newspaper, erasing women cabinet members, physically and materially making women cover up and be seen as little as possible.

Women to Israeli government: No to back of the bus

By Sarah Breger http://momentmagazine.wordpress.com December 4, 2009

Whether it is the case of marriage, divorce or kashrut, the gap between haredim and the rest of Israeli society is growing larger and larger. Whether it is possible to bridge this gap is unclear, but for now it is unfortunate that women will once again become victims of a religious and political power play.

Say No to the Back of the Bus – New Israel Fund

www.nif.org December 2009

Haredi man delays bus after refusing to sit next to woman

By Ruth Margolin www.ynetnews.com December 5, 2009

"I sat on the bus line from Kiryat Gat to Kiryat Malachi next to a young haredi man. He started elbowing me and shoving me. He also swore at me and warned me not to sit next to him," 66-year-old Evelyn Assal related Sunday, describing her experience boarding a bus on her way to a funeral.

…The Egged bus company stated in response that passengers are free to sit where they like on that bus line.

Rabbis: Woman must pass polygraph test

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com December 3, 2009

In a precedent-making decision, the Rabbinical Court in Haifa this week forced a woman in the midst of a divorce case to undergo a lie-detector test to determine if she was a drug user and had cheated on her husband.

The court said that the test could help determine whether the mother was fit to have custody over her children.

Cinematheques to screen film intended for women only

By Raphael Ahren www.haaretz.com December 4, 2009

A dogged Orthodox American filmmaker has managed to bring in her latest movie to the Cinematheque theaters in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on condition they be targeted to women-only audiences.

The screenings mark the first time these venues - considered strongholds of secularism - have made such a concession.

Marketing materials for the upcoming Jerusalem screenings of "A Light for Greytowers," to be held on December 10 and 24, will include a disclaimer explaining that the Haredi actresses don't want men to see them singing or dancing for reasons of modesty and "kindly request that only women and girls attend." Yet men will not be prevented from entering the theater, organizers said.

Ilan De Vries, director-general of the Jerusalem Cinematheque:

"We are happy to screen the film but we didn't agree to saying that anyone would not be allowed to see it. We believe in pluralism and democratic values and our program is open to all who are interested, regardless of their sex."

Aish HaTorah dedicates $20 million building across from Kotel

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com December 7, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

Aish HaTorah, the institution known for its programs that bring unaffiliated Jews closer to traditional Judaism, dedicated the building last week in Jerusalem's Old City overlooking the Kotel that holds its new world headquarters.

About $20 million was raised from various donors including Kirk Douglas; the Dan family (founders of Novopharm, Canada's second largest generic drug company, which was sold to Teva for half a billion dollars); Len Leader, the founder and former CFO of AOL; Sol Kerzner, the South African hotel and gambling magnate; Louis Mayberg, founder and principal of National Capital; and the Bronfman family.

Another $20m. will be invested in the building to create a "museum for the Jewish idea”.

Haredi minister mulls segregating sexes at psychiatric hospitals

By Dan Even www.haaretz.com December 1, 2009

The latest storm to emerge from the office of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman stems from the plan being considered to separate the sexes in Jerusalem's psychiatric institutions. The idea is to transform the Kfar Shaul Psychiatric Hospital to men-only, and Eitanim to an all-women's facility.

In a letter to the Israel Medical Association, Dr. Gregory Katz, head of the doctors' union at the hospital wrote”

"It is clear that this [proposed] plan runs contrary to any professional and ethical common sense, in medicine in general, and in psychiatry in particular. Moreover, this is religious coercion in its most extreme form and undermines gender equality."

Israel moves toward allowing egg donations among lesbian couples

By Dan Even and Tomer Zarchin www.haaretz.com December 1, 2009

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) is promoting a bill on egg donations, which was previously approved on first reading and was also debated in the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee.

In recent weeks, the legal adviser to the ministry has met with rabbinic figures including Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar in order to discuss sensitive aspects of the bill, due to come up for a Knesset vote in the coming weeks.

'Haredim torched messianic Jew's car'

By Ben Hartman www.jpost.com December 3, 2009

Beit She'an police on Wednesday arrested two haredi residents on suspicion they torched a car belonging to a local messianic Jew late Tuesday night. The car was parked next to the city's police station when it was burned.

The owner of the car, Eliav Levine, identifies with the messianic Jewish community and has lived with his family in Beit She'an for a year and a half. Originally from the former Soviet Union, Levine and his family have been subjected to repeated harassment by local Orthodox Jews, Levine's attorney said Wednesday.

'Haredi Madoff' bilked Bnei Brak families

By Nati Toker www.haaretz.com December 3, 2009

Another Ponzi has been uncovered in the ultra-religious sector. Kikar Shabbat, a news Web site caters to the sector, reports that Moshe Zussman bilked about $50 million from Bnei Brak residents and wealthy families overseas.

Israel Basketball star Doron Sheffer - The Ice Man, melting

By Esti Ahronovitz www.haaretz.com December 3, 2009

Like every climax in his life, this time a deep abyss awaited on the other side of the mountaintop as well. An abyss whose bottom he was very familiar with. In the year he raised the cup, he started to become more religiously observant.

In 2003 he came to the capital in order to play for Hapoel Jerusalem, after one resignation from professional basketball that left shocked the sports world, a two-year spiritual journey all over the world, a fight against cancer, and a not particularly successful comeback in Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Rivlin, Cheshin launch Knesset Bible-study

By Jonathan Lis www.haaretz.com December 2, 2009

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and former Supreme Court justice Mishael Cheshin launched a Bible study group at the Knesset yesterday.

The group will be open to all Knesset members, alumni and employees, as well as to students. Rivlin said he launched the group because the Bible is too important to Jewish history and culture - and thus modern-day Israel - to be left to archaeologists and scholars of the ancient world.

Israel may turn Megiddo Prison into a tourist site

By Eli Ashkenazi www.haaretz.com December 7, 2009

Megiddo prison, surrounded by prison guards on horseback supplemented by guard dogs, is not a place that many people would care to approach. But if a plan now in the final stages comes to fruition, it could become a tourist attraction drawing Israelis and tourists from around the world.

Behind the prison walls, the remains of the oldest Christian house of worship ever discovered were unearthed four years ago in the course of prison renovations.

8 people arrested after riots at holy burial site

By Eli Ashkenazi www.haaretz.com December 7, 2009

Eight men were arrested yesterday morning after "particularly violent" riots at the burial site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) on Mount Meron, police reported.

The men, from the Eda Haredit community in Beit Shemesh outside of Jerusalem, were protesting repair work being done on the premises.

…A year ago, the state decided to regularize the site's administration by replacing representatives from various ultra-Orthodox sects with a committee of five.

If the Vilna Gaon was right, the Third Temple is on its way

By Nir Hasson www.haaretz.com November 30, 2009

On March 15, the reconstructed Hurva Synagogue, considered the most important house of prayer in Jerusalem will be rededicated. It was last destroyed in the War of Independence.

However, during the reconstruction process, the Hurva has become a bone of contention between ultra-Orthodox and other Jerusalemites.

The conflict is over what kind of institution the Hurva will be. A group of secular and national-religious Jerusalemites say that if the state does not act quickly, the Hurva will become another ultra-Orthodox synagogue, where women and tourists are unwelcome.

Vandals Smash Mt. of Olives Rabbi's Gravestone

By Gil Ronen www.israelnationalnews.com December 3, 2009

Jews who came to pray Monday at the area reserved for the Lalov Hassidic group on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem found that the gravestone of the Rabbi of Lalov had been smashed by vandals. The gravestone was dedicated recently, after 30 days had passed since the funeral of the rabbi.

Globus Group plans large new movie theater for Jerusalem

By Ilanit Hayut www.globes.co.il December 3, 2009

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Globus Group will build a multiplex in Jerusalem at an investment of NIS 20 million. The multiplex will have 20-25 screens, and will be open on Saturdays as well.

Bostoner Rebbe Levi Yitzhak Horowitz dies at 88

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com December 6, 2009

Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Horowitz, better known as the Bostoner Rebbe, passed away Saturday after struggling to recover from the cardiac arrest he suffered during the summer.

In 1984 Horowitz decided to establish a second center for his hassidic dynasty in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem. Over the years he split his time between Boston and Har Nof. In 1999 a center was established for the younger members of the hassidic movement in Beitar Illit.

Religion and State in Israel

December 7, 2009 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.