Monday, July 6, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - July 6, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

July 6, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Opening the parking garage on Shabbat

By Rachel Azariah Opinion July 2, 2009

The author is a member of the Jerusalem City Council from the Wake Up Jerusalemites faction.

I am a religious woman, and I believe it is essential to keep open the Carta parking garage.

I was educated in the State Religious school system; I grew up in Bnei Akiva. My public service is based on religious-Zionist values, including a commitment to Jewish law, to Israeli society at large and to the Jewish people.

Based on these values, I am certain that we should keep open the Carta garage. There is no connection between Sabbath desecration and opening it.

…The truth is that this has nothing to do with the Sabbath at all.

…We, the secular, traditional and religious public of Jerusalem, are united in our demand that anyone who wants to live in our city can do so - haredi, secular, religious and Arab.

That is true mutual responsibility. It is up to us to make it clear to the haredim that they can no longer decide for Israeli society what the public domain will look like.

Hostages at Safra Square

By Peggy Cidor July 5, 2009

On the sidelines of the Kikar Safra parking lot drama, Nir Barkat almost found his coalition breaking up last week and from an unexpected direction.

Shas officials told The Jerusalem Post that the mayor's decision to open the parking lot on Shabbat had taken them by surprise and that they had considered quitting the coalition as a result.

…Last Wednesday the secret meeting of the four ended in a bold decision to leave the coalition.

But then a message came, directly from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's chambers, ordering them to cancel any plans for going independent and to stick with Barkat. For the Shasniks on the city council it was not so difficult to understand what lay behind the stern request.

"We have been turned into hostages," said one of them sadly.

"There is a not-so-secret agreement between Mayor Barkat and Rabbi Yosef regarding the upcoming elections for the city's chief rabbis.

In return for Barkat's support of Yosef's son's candidacy, Shas representatives have promised to support the election of a religious Zionist Ashkenazi chief rabbi.

And we, the party of the coalition on the city council, are the hostages of this agreement," concluded the city councillor.

Unquiet weekend Editorial July 6, 2009

One way for Diaspora Jews to register their censure of such extremist behavior is by insisting that Mea She'arim-based institutions seeking their support go on record as denouncing such Shabbat riots.

We are also waiting for leading non-haredi Orthodox rabbis to echo former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and challenge the pernicious idea that it is halachically permissible to assault security personnel of the State of Israel - much less on the holy Sabbath.

Boycotting and whining

By Nadav Shragai July 6, 2009 Opinion

If the tens of thousands of members of the Eda Haredit anti-Zionist organization in Jerusalem had participated in the municipal elections and exercised their right to vote and make an impact, perhaps Nir Barkat would not have been elected mayor and the latest Shabbat riots would have been avoided.

The religious kulturkampf

By Isi Leibler July 6, 2009 Opinion

The intense political and economic challenges confronting us divert attention from a festering kulturkampf within the religious arena the outcome of which will impact heavily on the future of Israeli society.

…There are ticking time bombs waiting to explode. The aggressiveness of extremist groups, like the Eda Haredit in Jerusalem, which over the past weeks threatened "to set the country on fire" if a proposed Jerusalem parking lot remained open on Shabbat, must be dealt with firmly or the anti-Zionist zealots will achieve a new lease of life.

The time to confront burning issues such as the haredi school system, military service, conversions and Shabbat legislation is now.

Shabbat Protest is First Test for Barkat

By Joshua Mitnick July 1, 2009

Shai Izenberg, the news editor at the ultra-Orthodox Web site B’hadrei Haredim, said that the protest against the parking lots isn’t going to die down soon. The demonstrations have snowballed from the margins of the ultra-Orthodox into the mainstream.

“It’s gotten out of control. Now that it’s become a fight of the entire haredi community, he said. “If the situation in Jerusalem continues to burn, I believe that the ultra-Orthodox might pull out of the mayor’s coalition.”

“These are not normal days in the haredi politics,” wrote Yair Ettinger in the Haaretz newspaper.

“While it seems to the outsider that the haredi protest is directed only at the ‘religion hating’ mayor (as he is nicknamed in posters), the truth is that the anger is aimed just as much at members of the United Torah Judaism party who sit in his coalition.”

Jerusalem’s Shabbat wars fuelled by rabbis’ fear

By Anshel Pfeffer July 2, 2009

Leading rabbis such as Rav Yossef Shalom Elyashiv and the Gerrer Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Alter, have never been big fans of large demonstrations. They are afraid of losing control of their younger followers on the streets and prefer operating through political back-channels.

But the bitter rivalries between the “Lithuanian” community and the Ger Chasidim, who were blamed for the electoral downfall, mean that no group or rabbi can allow itself to be seen as going soft.

Israel endangered by secular failure to confront ultra-Orthodox

By Meirav Arlosoroff July 2, 2009 Opinion

Israelis who believe in the future of Israel as a modern, developing and democratic state, whether they be secular, national religious or Arab, may well become the minority in the future. In fact, it's a sure thing, as sure as the prediction of the 1970s that if secular Israelis didn't fight for Jerusalem's identity, it would be left to the Haredim.

Thirty years later, the prediction has come true.

The future for Tel Aviv is no more promising. Why should Tel Aviv's situation be any different from that of Jerusalem in 30 years if secular residents and proponents of a democratic Israel won't lift a finger to protect Israel's identity?

Reporter feels mob's hate in the Holy City

By Middle East correspondent Anne Barker July 6, 2009

Hat Tip:

I suddenly found myself in the thick of the protest - in the midst of hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews in their long coats and sable-fur hats.

They might be supremely religious, but their behaviour - to me - was far from charitable or benevolent.

As the protest became noisier and the crowd began yelling, I took my recorder and microphone out of my bag to record the sound.

Suddenly the crowd turned on me, screaming in my face. Dozens of angry men began spitting on me.

I found myself herded against a brick wall as they kept on spitting - on my face, my hair, my clothes, my arms.

It was like rain, coming at me from all directions - hitting my recorder, my bag, my shoes, even my glasses.

Big gobs of spit landed on me like heavy raindrops. I could even smell it as it fell on my face.

Somewhere behind me - I didn't see him - a man on a stairway either kicked me in the head or knocked something heavy against me.

I wasn't even sure why the mob was angry with me. Was it because I was a journalist? Or a woman? Because I wasn't Jewish in an Orthodox area? Was I not dressed conservatively enough?

In fact, I was later told, it was because using a tape-recorder is itself a desecration of the Shabbat even though I'm not Jewish and don't observe the Sabbath.

It was lucky that I don't speak Hebrew. At least I was spared the knowledge of whatever filth they were screaming at me.

Click here for VIDEO

Click here for AUDIO

Police Chopper Disturbs Shabbos Tranquility in Yerushalayim

By Yechiel Spira July 5, 2009

Shortly after shabbos, MK Eliezer Menachem Moses decided to contact Minister of Public Security Aharonovitch to share his feelings, to explain that a low-flying police chopper that hovered over the protest areas on shabbos was a significant disturbance of the holy day and he wished to express his disapproval over the chilul shabbos. Moses is a resident of the Shichun Chabad area, about a kilometer from the protest.

In his letter, the Yahadut HaTorah MK writes that a police chopper hovered over chareidi areas of the capital, flying very low, significantly disturbing the tranquility of the day, including tefillos in shuls as well as being offensive to the religious sensibilities of residents.

Moses cited the public chilul shabbos by the police chopper as unacceptable.

The Nauseating Violence in Eretz Yisroel

By Rabbi Yakov Horowitz Opinion July 1, 2009

Dear Readers:

The visual images and media descriptions of young men who dress like my children and yours throwing dirty diapers and rocks at police officers and burning garbage bins are vile and disgusting – in my humble opinion, a far greater chilul Shabbos than all the secular Jews driving in Yerushalayim.

…Those of us who have any positions of influence in our communities must speak up loud and clear and call this behavior what it is -- a disgraceful Chillul Hashem and a distortion of Torah values -- in the loudest and most unequivocal terms.

I am convinced that those of us who don’t, will have to give din v'cheshbon for not having done so.

Haredim protest Shabbat desecration

Police clash with Haredi protesters in Jerusalem

Violent haredi protests break out over Jerusalem parking lot

Haredi protestor: Only fringe youth use violence

J'lem: 11 haredim indicted for rioting

Toronto and the Israeli conversion dispute

By Paul Lungen July 2, 2009

Rabbi Lockshin called Rabbi Sherman’s renunciation of the Israel conversion court “a matter of grave concern. The main problem is that the decisions that have the blessing or the imprimatur of the state can be overturned by an individual rabbi later on.

“From a political point of view, it’s crazy,” he said. “It’s no way to govern a country.

“The bigger issue is the human damage,” he continued.

“People go through the system, do all they were asked to do and find out later someone decides it’s not valid. The hurt to people being treated this way, the human dimension,” is troubling.

“Even Toronto conversions can come under question from the Israel rabbinate,” he added.

No way out

By Rivkah Lubitch July 6, 2009

Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinical advocate, working at The Center for Women’s Justice

Halachic scholars must start making radical changes to the Halacha being applied nowadays in the Rabbinic Courts, using the existing Halachic tools at their disposal—and these tools do exist.

If they don't do so, then their clients (the Israeli public) will vote with their feet and stop getting married "in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel."

…Change, it seems, will not come about through the Rabbinic Courts. But why are only the women's organizations protesting loudly?

Where is the rest of the rabbinic community and the Halachic poskim (decisors)? The candidates for rabbinic judicial seats, halachic scholars and poskim in our community need to be asked their opinion on these subjects and be required to state their opinions publicly.

The Other Civil Union

By Michael Weiss July 1, 2009

The term “civil union” has acquired special meaning in the United States as the alternative legal code allowing same-sex couples to enjoy the social and economic advantages of marriage.

But in Israel, it connotes something simpler: the right for any couple, gay or straight, to wed without the approval of the Chief Rabbinate, an Orthodox governing body that still determines the only legally acceptable form of wedlock in the Jewish state.

Justice Minister drafts civil marriage bill

By Yuval Azoulay July 1, 2009

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman has drafted a bill on civil marriage that will be submitted to the Knesset shortly. The proposed law deals only with marriages between individuals who have no religion or who are not defined as Jewish.

It would not authorize marriage between a Jewish partner and a partner with no religion or of a different religion.

In its agreement to join the government coalition Yisrael Beiteinu received a commitment that the matter of civil marriage would be addressed. The party sees the proposed bill as a first step.

'Watch out, missionaries!' - Struggle between Messianics and Haredim in Arad

By Larry Derfner July 2, 2009

Members of the Arad [Messianics] congregation, which numbers about 50, say they've had their tires slashed dozens of times. They've been surrounded, threatened and cursed by Gur Hassidim in the market, on the streets or in their homes for about five years.

…[a Gur Hassid] said he wasn't against Christians, just against missionaries who proselytize Jews, insisting that this was against the law. (In fact, it isn't. Israeli law only forbids proselytizing minors or "bribing" potential converts with money or material favors.)

"This is not their land, this is the land of the Jews," he said. "All these missionaries have to be removed."

From Arad? I asked.

"From Israel," he replied.

'Shoah victims - reincarnated sinners' July 6, 2009

"There is no calamity that the people of Israel suffer that isn't part of [the punishment for] the sin of the golden calf.
The tragedies we've endured throughout generations - the Inquisition, the Holocaust - they are all part of the sin of the golden calf," Rabbi Yosef explained.

"After all, people are upset and ask why was there a Holocaust? Woe to us, for we have sinned. Woe to us, for there is nothing we can say to justify it," he said.

"It goes without saying that we believe in reincarnation," continued Yosef. "It is a reincarnation of those souls. Our teacher The Ari said that there are no new souls in our generation…all the souls were once in the world and have returned.

"All those poor people in the Holocaust…we wonder why it was done. There were righteous people among them. Still, they were punished because of sins of past generations."

Tempers flare as Knesset okays bill to fund Haredi schools

By Zvi Zrahiya July 3, 2009

The bill, first reported in Haaretz last week, would mandate extra funding for all schools defined as "recognized but unofficial."

Most such schools belong to one of the two Haredi school systems affiliated with parties that sit in the government - Hinuch Atzma'i, affiliated with United Torah Judaism, and Ma'ayan Lehinuch Torani, affiliated with Shas.

Education Min. expanding religious school program

By Or Kashti July 6, 2009

The Education Ministry is significantly expanding a privately-sponsored educational program operated by the Mibereshit movement run by national-religious rabbi Mordechai Elon. Students who participate in the program go on a six-day journey around the country, ending in Jerusalem.

The program was developed in 2006 by then-education minister Limor Livnat and the ministry department responsible for social and youth affairs.

Some 12,000 students go on the trip every year, and the current minister, Gideon Sa'ar, has expanded this number to 20,000 over each of the next two years as part of his plan to strengthen Jewish and Zionist education.

The program is jointly sponsored by the Education Ministry, Mibereshit and the students' parents, whose payments for the trip are transferred to the movement. Sources at the ministry said it will allocate NIS 10 million to the program.

Breaking down the separation wall

By Liat Rotem Melamed July 5, 2009

Eyal and the other community members believe that the time of separate education system has passed.

"Why should a secular and a religious teen meet each other for the first time in the army, when they are already full of stereotypes on one another? Why shouldn't they learn together and respect each other from a young age?" he asked.

And the Shoham families are not alone. There are currently about 20 such communities in Israel, numbering a total of some 2,000 families.

Ohr Yehuda Tries to Shut Down Nesivos Moshe School

By Y. Sheinfeld July 2, 2009

The school was started by Lev L'Achim organizers for children from families in the process of becoming more observant, but which cannot yet send their children to Chinuch Atzmai schools designed for fully-observant families. The Mayor said the school's success was drawing many students away from local government schools, resulting in the closure of several classes.

Enrollment for the 5770 school year is on the rise and many other parents are inquiring into the possibility of enrolling their children at the school. Unfortunately, due to a lack of space the school administration has had to turn away many parents rather than enabling them to educate their children in Torah and yiras Shomayim.

Religion and State in Israel

July 6, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please 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 - July 6, 2009 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

July 6, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Calls for ouster over IDF Chief Rabbi's 'sexist' comments

By Anshel Pfeffer and Yuval Azoulay July 5, 2009

The statements by the Israel Defense Forces' Chief Rabbi, Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki, in which he expressed his opposition to women serving in the army, have stirred a storm in the army and in the political arena.

Following the report in Haaretz yesterday, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi issued a statement through the IDF Spokesman, saying that "the service of women in the IDF is fixed, it is appreciated, it is mandated by law and by security realities, has been in place since the establishment of the IDF, and even earlier, in the Hagana and the other underground groups, and will continue."

Ashkenazi made it clear that the issue of women serving in the IDF had not been discussed at any level in the army, including the Military Rabbinate, and emphasized that "the focus of the IDF efforts on this issue is to bolster the motivation to serve, open more opportunities and professions to women, and in general to their involvement in the various departments, including the combat units."

Send the IDF Chief Rabbi home

Haaretz Editorial July 5, 2009

The Chief Military Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, Brig.-Gen. Avichai Rontzki, has managed once again to stretch his scope of authority to breaking point.

"In my personal opinion," he said according to statements obtained by Haaretz military correspondent Anshel Pfeffer, "the service of women in the army is not self-evident."

This means, in simple Hebrew, in principle women should not serve in the army.

IDF Chief Rabbi says women shouldn't serve

By Anshel Pfeffer July 2, 2009

Ronski has spoken out in the past against integrating women into combat units, arguing that women cannot realize their full potential in combat units, that putting men and women together under such difficult conditions creates all kinds of sexual problems, and that having women in these units offends the sensibilities of male religious soldiers.

But he has said he favors using women as instructors in the army, because they tend to have personality traits appropriate for this job, such as "delicacy, patience and persistence."

Loud-mouthed rabbi reflects IDF's religious bent

By Amos Harel July 2 ,2009 Opinion

A significant change is occurring within the IDF, and it has not yet been sufficiently analyzed. The face of the army, especially the middle ranks, has become more religious over the last decade.

It's not just a matter of counting skullcaps at graduation ceremonies at Training Base 1, where religious soldiers account for 30 percent of infantry officer course graduates.

The same process is playing itself out in most of the fighting units. As a result the IDF, and not just its chief rabbi, is speaking with a different, more religious voice.

Army officials: Military rabbi must watch his tongue

By Hanan Greenberg July 2, 2009

The rabbi's associates explained that the rabbi's statements made to the said religious forum are not rightly understood by those who are unfamiliar with the halakha.

Educational wars of the Jews

By Akiva Eldar July 3 ,2009

In addition to [Chief IDF education officer Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister], the Posen Foundation and other educational organizations have been working to instill non-religious Jewish cultural values in the IDF.

According to Prof. Eli Yasif, who heads the Posen Foundation, the major army programs that educate officers - the officers training courses, the Command and Staff School, the National Defense College - will be conducting seminars at the Bina campus in Ramat Efal, where the foundation offers its courses.

Yasif promises to present modern Judaism to the officers and is expecting "a battle of the titans between the very powerful military rabbinate and the army's education system, which is in need of the kind of training and support we give."

Religious soldiers refuse to ride in Hummer driven by female soldier

By Anshel Pfeffer July 6, 2009

A group of religious soldiers in the reserves refused last week to participate in a training exercise that required them to ride in jeeps driven by female soldiers, Haaretz has learned.

The incident took place when a group of armored corps battalion reservists from Northern Command attended the national ground troop training exercise at Tze'elim base in the south.

The troops train with large Hummer jeeps, used to simulate tanks and other armored vehicles. The Hummers are driven by female soldiers while the reservists act as tank commanders.

Some religious reservists balked at riding in vehicles driven by women.

Not by force

By Rabbi Reuven Hammer Opinion July 2, 2009

The writer is the head of the Rabbinical Court of the Masorti Movement and the author of several books, the most recent being Entering Torah.

If Israel is to ever be a modern state, it cannot be the only democratic state in the world in which a religious establishment that is not responsible to the will of the people has official, governmentally sanctioned, control over so many parts of our lives.

Not by force should Judaism be conducted in the Jewish state.

At a recent convention here (as a matter of fact in the same place where the Jewish Family Conference took place) the international Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative/Masorti) called for the dissolution and privatization of the Chief Rabbinate.

Citizens of Israel should not have to support with their tax moneys an institution that is forced upon them.

Rather let this rabbinate compete for allegiance with whatever other religious organizations may be formed, and let tax moneys be distributed equitably, based upon the number of members in each such NGO.

Yes to Judaism, yes to Jewish tradition, yes to Jewish law, but lo b'koah. A free people in its own land has the right to choose its own religious affiliation.

By doing so it will join all other Jews in lands of freedom who affiliate by choice with Judaism. In that way we may see a true flourishing of Judaism here once again, and realize the true promise of a Jewish state.

A Jewish Renaissance … in Israel

By Toby Appleton July 3 ,2009

[W]hen I moved to Jerusalem a couple of years ago, I was surprised to discover that religious life here has blossomed and today offers an assortment closer to a Ben & Jerry’s boutique than the Breyers vanilla/chocolate/strawberry freezer-pack of my childhood.

Egalitarian minyanim, secular yeshivas, improvised wedding ceremonies and the growing strength of the Conservative and Reform movements (called “liberal Judaism” here), are all evidence that new modalities of religious expression are exploding.

…Despite the inroads made by alternative spiritual communities here, politics still has the final word.

It is the Orthodox rabbinate that has the power to legally marry Israelis, decide if buses and businesses can run on Shabbat, and determine who is considered a Jew under state law. Genuine religious pluralism is a de facto but not yet a de jure condition of modern Israeli life.

Educational wars of the Jews

By Akiva Eldar July 3, 2009

Felix Posen insists that his foundation is not trying to convince religious people to become secular, but rather seeks to address the secular public, which is ignorant about modern Jewish history, thought, literature and art.

The foundation supports educational programs at about 40 universities in the United States, Britain and Israel.

For example, Posen initiated the Ofakim program at Tel Aviv University, which annually trains 15 outstanding teachers in a variety of subjects in Jewish studies - Jewish philosophy, Bible, Hebrew literature, Jewish history, the culture of the sages and Hebrew language.

Kolech Conference 2009

By Dr. Elana Sztokman July 5, 2009

Next week’s Kolech Conference is offering a cutting edge array of sessions on issues of gender and Jewish life, including fighting the rabbinic courts through the civil courts, educating religious boys, single motherhood, religious dress, women in the economy, racism within religious feminism, and more.

Speakers include noted author Dr. Aviva Zornberg, Mizrahi feminist poet Esther Shekalim, Dr. Gilli Zivan of the Yaakov Herzog Center, and more.

“Can the Civil Courts Reform the Beit Din?,” Susan Weiss, The Center for Women’s Justice, Attorney and Executive Director

“Effecting Change at the Grass Roots: Mobilizing the Public and the Public Servant,” Robyn Shames ICAR – The International Coalition for Agunah Rights

The Kolech Conference will take place next Wednesday, July 13, at the Keshet School in Jerusalem. For more details or to register, click here.

Two Orthodox women's conferences present decidedly different takes on feminism

By Matthew Wagner July 2, 2009

Is feminism compatible with Orthodox Judaism? Is a woman's role primarily in the home? Can women learn the same Jewish texts as men?

Two different Orthodox women's organizations, both holding conferences in July, have radically different answers to these questions.

On Wednesday, a Chabad-sponsored Women's Empowerment Rally is expected to attract about 5,000 to Tel Aviv's Nokia Stadium.

And on July 13, Kolech, a modern Orthodox women's organization, will hold its sixth international conference entitled "The Woman and Her Judaism."

6,500 Chabad women gather in Tel Aviv

By Tzofia Hirschfeld July 3, 2009

Some 6,500 women members of the Chabad organization, young and old, gathered at the Nokia Stadium in Tel Aviv Thursday evening for a unique conference that included joint prayers, lectures and even a standup comedy show.

The event was held by the N'shei u'Bnos Chabad organization.

Hotels sign modesty code to attract haredi guests

By Kobi Nahshoni July 1, 2009

Some 20 hotels that host vacationing ultra-Orthodox guests sign document detailing modesty code to be kept in order to make sure stringent guests comfortable.

Among other things, hotels commit to unplug televisions, disallow looking into pool from rooms, instating modest dress code for female employees. Imposition of code not supported by rabbis responsible for granting kosher certificates

Secular-religious tensions on the rise in Tel Aviv’s Ramat Aviv

By Stephanie Rubenstein July 3, 2009

In the country's capital, the decision to open the Carta parking lot on Shabbat has sparked a series of riots by haredim. Last Saturday, MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) declared that relations between the secular and haredi populations had reached a "severe crisis."

But clashes between the two sectors are not unique to Jerusalem. In Ramat Aviv, the continuing influx of haredim to the traditionally secular area is causing a rise in tension between them and their non-religious neighbors.

Over the past few years, Chabad members have begun renovating public buildings and institutions in Ramat Aviv.

NIS 8 Million Mehadrin Beach

By Yechiel Spira July 2, 2009

While many chareidim are seen among the guests in Dead Sea hotels, their presence on the beach is not a commonplace sight.

This may soon change as a mehadrin beach costing NIS 8 million is being constructed towards accommodating chareidim, a move that is expected to attract frum vacationers to the area in greater numbers.

The Tamar Regional Council is constructing a separate beach in the Chamei Zohar area near the Moriah Hotel, an area about 15 dunam (about 3.5 acres), with a four meter (yard) concrete wall dividing the areas designated for men and women.

Rabbi Shapira: Time to Fight Neo-Reformists in Our Midst

By Gil Ronen July 5, 2009

Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, a leading national-religious rabbi, has declared war on what he says is a neo-Reform stream within the religious Zionist camp.

Besides Kolech – a feminist women's group funded by the New Israel Fund – he mentioned a ruling which allowed co-ed activity in the Bnei Akiva youth movement…

…The rabbi cited the synagogue “Shira Hadasha” in Jerusalem for straying “out of bounds” and said that the women who prayed there were not Orthodox. But that synagogue is not a special case, he added. Rather, it is part of “a huge system that is collapsing under our hands.”

Jews and Muslims unite against Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance

By Nir Hasson July 1, 2009

A new Jewish-Muslim initiative is seeking to derail the planned Museum of Tolerance, which is currently being built in Jerusalem on the site of a former Muslim cemetery.

The initiative's hopes to get the site declared ritually impure under Jewish law, due to the fact that the construction has involved unearthing the remains of hundreds of Muslims. Such a declaration would keep religious Jews from visiting the museum.

The proposal has already received the blessing of Rabbi David Schmidl, head of the ultra-Orthodox Atra Kadisha organization, which fights against the desecration of Jewish graves.

Its Jewish sponsors - who include two left-wing activists plus one activist from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party - are also seeking support from Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar, but he has not yet replied to their letter.

Organic is the true kosher

By Tzofia Hirschfeld July 1, 2009

The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies held a study day for traditional women on the subject "Jewish Women Maintaining a Healthy Soul."

Phyllis Glazer:

"The food we have today is a result of life in exile, a life of cold and suffering. But this is not true Judaism," clarifies Miriam in a conversation with Ynet.

"After we lived for years in the dark, cold cities in Europe, we lost touch with nature and its produce.

"Life in the ghettos of Europe brought us away from the source.

Cheap Glatt at stake in kosher game of chicken

By Matthew Wagner July 3, 2009

Concerned that exacting kosher stringencies have pushed meat and poultry prices beyond the reach of many poor haredi families, a group of rabbis is out to prove that a cheap, Glatt kosher chicken is not a contradiction of terms.

But these rabbis might be headed for a kosher meat war, complete with mudslinging by competitors fearful of being cut out of the market.

Unholy battle ends in victory for religious council

By Miriam Bulwar-Hay July 1, 2009

After a long legal battle, the Tel Aviv District Court has vindicated the struggles by the Kfar Saba Religious Council to oust a rabbi appointed to the city by the national rabbinate, reports

The court ruled that Rabbi Nahum Shir was not authorized to provide religious services to residents in the city or to work in the Religious Council's offices, and ordered him to pay NIS 20,000 in legal costs.

Sacred sells for Israeli musicians

By Nathan Jeffay July 2, 2009

Given that she is one of Israel’s most popular musicians, Etti Ankri’s latest album may seem a little esoteric: it consists entirely of poems by the 12th-century philosopher, Rabbi Yehuda Halevy.

But Ms. Ankri is not taking a gamble. In mainstream Israeli music today, sacred means sales.

Prayer ala carte?

By Raphael Ahren July 3, 2009

Aharon Varady always dreamed of putting together his own prayer book. Realizing that many people - including himself - often see prayer as a dull and robotic exercise in the fulfillment of a religious duty, he thought for years about ways to enable people to create their own prayer book, or siddur, in order to make the most of their experience.

A fellow at this year's PresenTense Institute, Varady earlier this month finally embarked on a daring project, creating a tool for "individuals and groups to build the siddur they've always wanted," as his Web site explains.

Varady is one of sixteen fellows currently participating in the Jerusalem-based PresenTense Institute, which for the third consecutive summer invited Jewish social entrepreneurs mostly from English-speaking countries into its headquarters on Emek Refaim Street to assist them in launching their various projects.

Sharansky Inherits a House Divided

By J.J. Goldberg July 1, 2009 Opinion

It looks like a turf war, but it’s more.

The two big communities are divided by a yawning gap in basic Jewish self-understanding. In America, being Jewish is about personal identity and voluntary engagement. In Israel it’s about membership in a Jewish polity.

Both sides want a relationship, a concrete expression of Jewish solidarity, but they can’t agree on what that means. American Jews keep looking for Israeli partners who share their independent, volunteer spirit, and they keep on bumping into politicians.

Israelis keep looking for an authoritative American Jewish institution with which to partner, and they keep finding — well, free spirits.

The Jewish Agency is where these differing perspectives collide. Its Diaspora leaders can’t see how a philanthropy can legitimately entangle itself in politics.

The Israeli leaders can’t imagine a national institution that isn’t political. Year by year the two communities’ self-understandings diverge further, defining common ground becomes harder and the Jewish Agency’s standing becomes more tenuous.

Whither goest PresenTense projects?

By Raphael Ahren July 3, 2009

During its first two years, the PresenTense Institute hosted nearly 30 fellows who launched various projects aiming to "equip the next generation of social entrepreneurs with the tools and ideas they need to go out into the world and make a difference," as CEO Ariel Beery put it.

Religion and State in Israel

July 6, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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