Sunday, October 25, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - October 26, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

October 26, 2009 (Section 1) (see also 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.

Rabbis: Privatize marriage registration

By Matthew Wagner October 22, 2009

A group of religious Zionist rabbis are calling to privatize the marriage registration process to stop what they call the Chief Rabbinate's inefficient, unfriendly and overly stringent bureaucracy from turning off secular Israelis to religion.

Tzohar wants to break the monopoly of local rabbis over marriage registration and open it up to competition.

Tzohar’s Rabbi Stav said he feared that unless Orthodox rabbis began to provide secular Israelis with better, more efficient religious services in a friendlier environment, pressure would build to amend legislation to enable civil marriages.

Religious Zionist Tzohar Rabbis want to Register Marriages, Too October 21, 2009

Rabbi David Stav of Tzohar:

“Today, formally, it is the local rabbinates that are authorized to register marriages, in the marriage departments.

However, you never actually see hareidi-religious Jews going there to register for marriage, because the hareidi Jews can register for marriage at the various Badatz courts, which have deals with local rabbinates that allow them to register marriages and later pass on the paperwork to the rabbinate.”

Civil Unions in Israel - but not for you

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion October 15, 2009

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

Law committee chair David Rotem proposed a law which he, himself, admitted was badly flawed.

He proposed that only those without any religious identity at all would be allowed to join in a civil union, and only to one another. Estimates are that this would benefit, at best, a hundred couples a year- but most likely far fewer.

Even worse, this new law would allow the Interior Ministry and the Orthodox Rabbinical Courts to determine who is not Jewish. Let me remind the readers of this blog that there are hundreds of people who have been stymied in their efforts to make aliya by the Interior Ministry's delays in determining religion.

…There are those who see this very limited law as a crack that will open up the doors to others in the future. I see that as wishful thinking. My view is that this is little more than a bone thrown to the Yisrael Beiteinu party so it can claim to its Russian supporters to have moved the issue of civil unions ahead.

The time has come for real legislation allowing alternative in marriage for all citizens of Israel.

Violence is not Grounds for Divorce!

By Batya Kahana-Dror Opinion October 15, 2009

Batya Kahana-Dror is an attorney at Mavoi Satum.

It is up to the national religious community to publicly break away from the apologetic, defensive, conservative Orthodoxy of today, a break that would mean establishing a new Israeli Orthodox stream that would, among other things, establish its own religious courts.

Modern Orthodoxy must propose and build this alternative in an organized, systematic way. It must propose an alternative that includes broad halakhic thinking, which, while based on halakha, recognizes the greater good and modern-day needs.

It must propose an alternative that incorporates the knowledge acquired through the twenty-first century, including civil rights, changes in women's status, and public consensus, and seek to find solutions (including recognizing civil marriage) for the entire public.

When Divorce is a Reason to Celebrate

By Elana Sztokman Opinion October 22, 2009

The writer blogs at

The divorce system in Israel is in dire need of reform. The religious judges are not held accountable to any body other than their own people, they don’t report to anyone and don’t answer to anyone, and a callous disregard for women’s lives remains entrenched.

…We need to promote systemic reform, a real alternative to the Beit Din system.

Mavoi Satum is leading a campaign, supported by the New Israel Fund, to create an arbitration body that will ultimately function as a viable alternative to the rabbinical courts. There must be another way.

In Mideast, marriage too can be a battlefield

By The Associated Press, Menelaos Hadjicostis (Associated Press Writer) October 14, 2009

Nicosia, Cyprus (AP) — The two couples had never met each other, and probably never would. They had come from opposite sides of a border between longtime enemies.

But Elie Wakim and Nada Ghamloush from Lebanon, and Dimitri Stafeev and Olga Zaytseva from Israel, had a problem in common: Belonging to different religions, neither couple could get married in their home country, and had to fly to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus to tie the knot.

Why the Rabbinate isn't Israel

By Haviv Rettig Gur Opinion October 22, 2009

I don’t like this system. I think the “state church” of Israel has utterly politicized Israeli spirituality and collectivized Israeli religious identity.

Without getting into the real suffering the haredi-controlled rabbinate is causing to agunot and would-be converts, the greatest tragedy is that the politicization of religiosity has had the effect of making Israel a spiritual wasteland.

I yearn for the day – and I teach in a high school program and premilitary academy to bring it closer – when Israelis look to American Jews to discover how to construct authentic personal spiritual journeys.

Civil union bill 'Indecent proposal'

By Rabbi Uri Regev Opinion October 2009

The bill presumes to provide a “solution” for the marriage of some 300,000 immigrants who belong to families of Jews but are not themselves Jewish according to halakha.

This is a baseless presumption. According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the annual number of marriages between two people without any religious affiliation is a mere 200 or so. It stands to reason that many of these would prefer real nuptials abroad to “pseudo marriage” in Israel.

We are therefore left to wonder what exactly is hiding behind this bill: Is it an Israbluff, an attempt to present the initiative as a breakthrough and solution for the many when it really offers dubious and small comfort for the few?

Rabbi Druckman Supports Easing IDF Soldiers' Conversions

By Gil Ronen October 25, 2009

Rabbi Chaim Druckman, Head of Conversions in the Prime Minister's Office and Head of Bnei Akiva Yeshivas, expressed support for the position of MK Rabbi Chaim Amsalem (Shas) on easing conversion of immigrants who have Jewish parentage and served in the IDF.

Jewish law requires that a person be born of a Jewish mother in order to be considered Jewish. Otherwise, the person requires formal conversion in order to become a Jew.

However, non-Jews who have Jewish parentage are considered “Zera Yisrael” – “seed of Israel” – and Rabbis can choose to make their conversion an easier process.

The Magenta Elephant in the Room: When Interfaith People Visit Israel

By Robin Margolis Opinion

The writer is October 20, 2009

Interfaith couples and adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage are not stupid. Many of them lack Jewish knowledge and are unfamiliar with Israeli society, but they are rapidly acquiring this knowledge.

Shouldn't we prepare them for what they will discover about Israel, instead of sending them on "silver bullet" tours?

Won't their feelings for Israel be more likely to remain compassionate and helpful if they are told the truth, than if they are deceived?

Chinese descendants of ancient Jewish community make Aliyah

By Itamar Eichner October 22, 2009

The group's trip to Israel was arranged by Shavei Israel organization, which has been in contact with the Israeli government over the past two years, and recently received authorization from the Ministry of Interior to give the seven a one-year entrance permit, during which they will study Hebrew and go through the conversion process.

Kaifeng Jews make it into country with Interior Min. deal

By Cnaan Liphshiz October 23, 2009

Scholars such as Wang Yisha, the late curator of Kaifeng municipal museum who wrote a book about the community, say there are still hundreds and perhaps a thousand people in Kaifeng who cling to their identity as descendants of the city's Jewish community.

Free-market Yiddishkeit

By Matthew Wagner October 18, 2009

Unlike rabbis representing the chief rabbinate, who receive their salaries from the state, Rabbi Mauricio Balter is supported by his community and by donors abroad. He also receives support from the Culture Department in Kiryat Bialik's municipality.

However, unlike rabbis from the Chief Rabbinate, who are all Orthodox, Balter belongs to the Conservative (Masorti) Movement.

He is one of a handful of Reform and Conservative rabbis who are building communities and providing an alternative to the Orthodox monopoly over religious services.

Without a functioning chief rabbi and boasting a predominantly secular population, Kiryat Bialik has become a testing ground for the success of non-Orthodox Judaism in a country that officially recognizes and funds only Orthodoxy and its representatives.

"I believe in free competition, and I am opposed to monopolies of any kind that stifle this competition," says Balter.

"The state should not be funding religious services, and the Orthodox should not be allowed to monopolize them, either. People should be allowed to go to the rabbi of their choice from one of the recognized streams of Judaism."

Jews urged to visit Temple Mount despite prohibitions

By Kobi Nahshoni October 25, 2009

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, who will be participating in Sunday's conference, listed a number of well-known halachic adjudicators who allow, and even obligate, entry into the Temple Mount.

"This is a weighty halachic issue," said Rabbi Cherlow to Ynet, "and I don't understand how you be opposed to it."

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner is opposed to allowing Jews onto the Temple Mount.

"There are definitely honorable and good things about those enthusiastic about the Temple Mount. However, the very essence of this phenomenon is, in my opinion, an utterly damaging mistake."

Western Wall Rabbi: Arabs will not dictate to us when to go up to the Temple Mount

By Matthew Wagner October 16, 2009

Jewish law, not the Arab world, determines when Jews can go up to the Temple Mount and when they cannot, Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz said Wednesday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

"One thing is clear," said Rabinovitz after explaining that according to Jewish law it is forbidden to go up to the Temple Mount, "Arabs will not dictate to us when to go up to the Temple Mount."

MK: Legislate regulation on kashrut system

By Kobi Nahshoni October 20, 2009

Committee chairman Knesset Member Otniel Schneller (Kadima) opened the meeting by saying that he would work towards mending the impairments the report points to by legislating laws to regularize the Jewish dietary laws system, sorting the kosher inspectors' work, cancelling the conflict of interests between inspectors and places of business under inspection, amplifying enforcement of the prohibition of the kosher fraud law and addressing the problem of rabbis engaging in other lines of unauthorized business in the kosher field.

Do More Hashgahot Make Food More Kasher?

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel Opinion October 15, 2009

The situation borders on the ludicrous when we see products or institutions that boast joint hashgahot by mainstream Orthodox groups and anti-Zionist rabbinic groups such as Satmar, Debrecin, or the Edah Hareidit in Israel.

How ludicrous is it that each time we buy such products, we are putting money into the hands of people who openly oppose the State of Israel.

Several years ago, I saw an ad for a hotel in Jerusalem boasting that it had the hashgaha of the OU and the Badatz of the Edah Hareidit!

How low can modern Orthodoxy sink when it joins hands with those who hate the Jewish State!

EasyJet to offer kosher food on London-Tel Aviv service

By Danny Sadeh October 17, 2009

Last week, EasyJet presented its special kosher menu for the Tel Aviv-London service…The kosher meal will be provided by Hermolis, a local Jewish company based in North West London.

Fundamental differences

By Akin Ajayi October 23, 2009

Ra’anana is a city with a significant immigrant population, olim from North and South America, Europe and South Africa - and of differing religious persuasions, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or none - rubbing shoulders with veterans.

While many residents would argue that the city is a model for diversity, tensions in maintaining an appropriate balance between the needs of the secular and observant populations do sometimes simmer, occasionally erupting noisily.

Shulamit Aloni on Religion and State

By Shulamit Aloni Opinion October 23, 2009

Here we live under religious coercion, there is no civil marriage, and the law forces us to be subject to the Orthodox rabbinate while other streams of Judaism are treated with contempt.

Now they wish to tie us to "the values and symbols" of the Judaism that emanates from the study halls of Shas and the ultra-Orthodox.

Meretz MKs Push Circumcision Bill October 22, 2009

Three Meretz MKs filed a bill to establish a committee to determine criteria for certification for ritual circumcisers (mohelim).

According to the bill, the committee that would define the Circumcision Law would be jointly made up of officials from the Ministry of Health and the Chief Rabbinate. Violators of the law could face up to three years in prison.

Chabad Opposition over Knesset Ban against Underage Drinking

By Benjamin Slobodkin October 20, 2009

Chabad argues that at underage drinking rarely leads to intoxication at its functions. In recent years Chabad educational institutions introduced a prohibition against young people drinking more than a revi’is (less than 3.5 ounces) at farbrengens.

Chabad Spokesman Mendi Brod said the proposed legislation should be changed. “I suggest an exception be made to permit drinking alcohol in limited quantities, in educational or religious frameworks and under the supervision of a responsible adult.”

See original article (Hebrew)

No Haredim at President Conference

Click here for VIDEO

David Landau, Israeli correspondent for The Economist and former Editor-in-Chief of Haaretz regarding the session “Should the Jewish World be Re-Organized?” at the Israel Presidential Conference.

Israel TV Channel 10 Documentary on Hasidic sect ‘Toldot Aharon’

Guarding the 'Starving Mother'

Click here for VIDEO

Integrate Haredim via academia

Haaretz Editorial October 20, 2009

To ensure a fairer distribution of the social and economic burden, the state should revoke the ultra-Orthodox community's privileges and compel their education systems to teach core studies. But when the secular majority and its representatives in the Knesset and cabinet recoil from confronting the Haredi community, preferring instead to buy its political support, other channels are needed to integrate the Haredim into the work force.

Former Haredi MK Shlomo Lorincz dies at 91

By Matthew Wagner October 20, 2009

Lorincz was a staunch fighter for child allowances that benefitted large haredi families, which helped enable fathers to devote themselves to Torah study instead of working.

He also supported complete exemption from military service for haredi men who studied in yeshiva full-time.

Rav Yitzchak Grossman at Madison Square Garden Half-time

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Survey: 53% of Hareidi-Religious Want Degrees October 15, 2009

A full 53 percent of the hareidi-religious public say they are interested in pursuing an academic degree, according to a new survey conducted by the Psychometric Agency for the Religious Public.

Respondents said they were interested in pursuing degrees in the field of medicine, economics, law and others as long as the academic setting was appropriate and could fully meet their needs.

Supreme Court: 'Starving mom' to remain with children

'Starving mother' appeals her banishment from Mea Shearim

Kids of 'Taliban mom' beg court's mercy

No hole in the sheet

By Tali Farkash Opinion October 15, 2009

Last Shabbat, the story of Sarah Einfeld broke through to the "free" world. A woman with whom I have a once-sided love-hate relationship.

…Contrary to the manner in which many who have left the community tend to describe "the inside" to those on "the outside," there are also many excellent reasons for people to be haredi out of choice. Behind the walls and the partitions, there is another kind of life.

Haredi urges: Give a year of your lives to save ailing rabbi

By Yair Ettinger October 21, 2009

An ultra-Orthodox supporter of former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who has been hospitalized in a serious condition for more than a month, has urged the Haredi public to "donate" a year of their lives to spur the rabbi's recovery.

Number of ultra-Orthodox university students swings up

By Ofri Ilani October 20, 2009

As colleges and universities open their doors today, around 2,000 ultra-Orthodox men and women will be among those beginning bachelor's degree programs, at the three institutions designated specifically for them. In addition, this year a program in Jerusalem will be opened to Haredi women for the very first time - psychology.

There are currently two colleges operating in Israel intended solely for ultra-Orthodox men and women: Bnei Brak Haredi College and the Haredi College of Jerusalem, the latter founded by Adina Bar-Shalom, the daughter of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. In addition, some 350 Haredi women study at a Safed branch of the Jerusalem College of Technology.

Bar Refaeli highway billboard roils rabbis

By Nati Toker and Adi Dovrat-Meseritz October 22, 2009

A billboard on the Ayalon highway for the Fox clothing company, featuring model Bar Refaeli, has raised the ire of the ultra-Orthodox.

Rabbi Mordechai Bloi, chairman of the Haredi group Guardians of Sanctity and Education, says the community is considering boycotting Fox.

Prior to the billboard, Fox's provocative ad campaigns featuring Refaeli had been limited to TV and Internet, to which members of the community are not exposed.

Fox has a big Haredi clientele and a large store in the religious community of Bnei Brak, and stands to lose from a boycott.

Jerusalem 'modesty squad' branching out

By Ari Galahar October 22, 2009

Jerusalem's "[modesty] squad" is branching out and has recently begun operating in the capital's Beit Israel neighborhood.

According to local residents, several of the neighborhood's inhabitants have been violently attacked by members of the "modesty guard".

The Beit Israel neighborhood has been changing its nature in recent years, from a traditional Sephardic neighborhood to a neighborhood similar to the haredi Mea Shearim.

Eda Haredit 'officer' suspected of assault

By Efrat Weiss October 25, 2009

The Jerusalem Police on Sunday arrested Yoel Kraus, the "operations officer" of the Eda Haredit, a staunchly anti-Zionist haredi communal organization, for allegedly assaulting a woman in the Meah Shearim neighborhood after she refused to cross the street at his command.

According to initial investigation, Kraus spotted the woman walking on one of the neighborhood's streets and instructed her to cross over to another street.

When she refused, he allegedly assaulted her, spraying her with mace. The woman did not require medical attention and called the police.

Three Rebbes Fly on Same El Al Flight

By Yair Alpert October 24, 2009

The trips are being taken by the respective rebbes to garner support for their institutions and mosdos.

They will meet with their supporters in various kehillos to apprise them of the dire financial situation affecting the mosdos in Eretz Yisroel.

Gur and Neturei Karta Take Part in Civil Defense Drill

By Benjamin Slobodkin October 25, 2009

During last week’s major civil defense drill Charedi kehillos were mobilized to take part in a massive blood drive.

This was the first time it included the Charedi community, including Chassidim from Gur and Neturei Karta taking part in the Central Command exercise.

Religion and State in Israel

October 26, 2009 (Section 1) (see also 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.

All rights reserved.

Religion and State in Israel - October 26, 2009 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

October 26, 2009 (Section 2) (see also 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.

Yishai: Reform Jews to blame for assimilation

By Ronen Medzini October 23, 2009

Interior Minister Eli Yishai referred Thursday evening blamed Reform Judaism for the assimilation among Jews.

"Look what is happening with the Reform Jews because of the assimilation. They are disappearing," Yishai told the Israeli Presidential Conference.

He was booed by the audience, which was mostly comprised of American Jews.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism said,

"Instead of dealing with US Judaism's affairs, Minister Yishai should deal with the huge damage his party is causing to the image of Judaism in Israel ... and to the desire of millions of Israelis to become familiar with their culture and tradition.

Confronting the identity challenge

By Natan Sharansky Opinon October 25, 2009

In seeking to adjust our vision going forward, we need to ask: If building the state and facilitating the aliya of more than 3 million of our brethren from countries of oppression were challenges that defined the last 60 years, what are the challenges that will define the next 60?

And as we move toward that next 60, can the Diaspora and Israel forge a new relationship - a relationship based on something more enduring than mutual charity or patronizing beneficence toward the other?

And finally: On what basis can Israel and the Diaspora develop a shared way of looking at the future, rather than clinging to the bifurcated vision that has defined their respective pasts?

21st Century Aliyah

Click here for VIDEO

A discussion at the Israeli Presidential Conference on aliyah and the connection between Jews in Israel and Jews in the Diaspora.

Matthew Bronfman; Rabbi Michael Melchior; Jay Sarver - Jewish Agency; Alisa Rubin Kurshan - Jewish Federation of NY.

Interior Ministry given 45 days to provide citizenship to man adopted by Catholics

By Ruth Eglash October 22, 2009

After a two-year battle to stay in Israel, the State Attorney's Office finally ruled last week that the Interior Ministry has 45 days to provide a US-born Jewish adoptee with full citizenship according to the Law of Return.

…citing the Law of Return, which states anyone with at least one Jewish parent or grandparent is entitled to immigrate to Israel, and with the help of a recent legal opinion presented to the Supreme Court by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, Steger continued to petition the ministry to become a citizen.

Matthew Bronfman: Am I an Israeli?

By Raphael Ahren October 23, 2009

Matthew Bronfman proposed on Wednesday at the Presidential Conference to update the concept of aliyah - immigrating to Israel.

"It used to mean that people picked up their families and relocated to Israel," said the New York businessman who holds controlling shares of Israel Discount Bank, the Israeli Ikea franchise and the Supersol supermarket chain.

80% of wait-listed birthright applicants never reapply

By Ruth Eglash October 20, 2009

Up to 80 percent of young Diaspora Jews wait-listed for birthright-Israel trips fail to sign up again if they miss out the first time around, Gidi Mark, CEO of Taglit-birthright Israel, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, putting them at higher risk for assimilation.

According to Mark, more than 13,000 young, mostly unaffiliated, Jews from around the world were turned away from the free 10-day trip to Israel this upcoming winter due to lack of space.

Getting Diaspora Jewish youth to 'love Israel'

By Jacob Kanter Opinion October 22, 2009

A sense of urgency permeated the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in the capital this week as experts in the field discussed how to bring more foreign students here, and why birthright-israel is only part of the picture.

Professionals from the Student Forum - a joint project of the WZO Hagshama Department and the Jewish Agency's Education Committee - representing a number of programs for university students in Israel, and others gathered at the daylong convention on "Jewish Youth and Israel: Understanding the Changing Needs of Jewish Youth and Intensifying Israel's Place in Their Lives."

Frankly, says ex-minister, Israel doesn't give a damn about Aliyah

By Raphael Ahren October 23, 2009

Israelis and their government couldn't care less about fostering Jewish identity abroad and encouraging Jews to move here, despite broad support for programs strengthening Israel-Diaspora relations, former MK Rabbi Michael Melchior asserted this week in Jerusalem.

Birthright Israel as an Rx to 'Israel Exhaustion'

By Gil Troy Opinion October 25, 2009

Birthright began as an act of guerilla philanthropy - as Messrs. Bronfman and Steinhardt rushed ahead, before all the proper committees met, before all the Jewish communal protocols were followed - and they succeeded.

This act of guerilla philanthropy should now be rewarded - when the crunch is on - with a massive display of grassroots giving.

People should give what they can, raise more from others, and demand that their Federations increase support. And no one who reads this essay can ever say, "no one ever asked me to help" - I just did.

Take my advice: don't take my advice

By Rabbi Michael Marmur October 18, 2009

Michael Marmur is the Vice-President for Academic Affairs of the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, and is based in Jerusalem.

If there is a future for relations between the Jews of Israel and those living around the world, it will need to be based on fraternalism or sorority, not paternalism and pomposity.

Immigrants: No one here keeps promises

By Yael Branovsky October 25, 2009

Who will uphold the promises made to immigrants in their home countries? The Jewish Agency and the Absorption Ministry know how to boast of successful aliyah campaigns, but families who were convinced to immigrate to Israel from Russia complained in conversations with Ynet of offensive attitudes and indifference

Hadassah opens Young Judaea study center in Baka

By Jamie Romm October 22, 2009

Hadassah's Young Judaea study center, Beit Ar-El, was formally opened Tuesday in Jerusalem's Baka neighborhood, a move that Hadassah hopes will be permanent.

According to Nancy Falchuk, Hadassah's goal in building the center is part of it plans to place its three Jerusalem-based Young Judaea programs: Young Judaea Year Course, Merkaz Hamagshimim-Hadassah and Hadassah-WUJS (World Union of Jewish Students) in a single, central neighborhood.

Gov't not paying for promised retraining of olim

By Haviv Rettig Gur October 20, 2009

Around 4,000 new immigrants and returning expats have discovered in recent weeks that some of the benefits they were promised, particularly professional retraining programs, are not being funded by the government due to budget cuts, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Haredi Parties against Female IDF Recruitment Bill October 21, 2009

Haredi religious parties are furious about the involvement of coalition members in a bill that seeks to increase the number of women recruited to the IDF.

The parties are threatening to dismantle the government if the coalition continues to support the bill.

Get Women Out of the Army

By Maayana Miskin October 23, 2009

Rebbetzin Yehudit Shilat of Takana, a forum which fights sexual harassment, believes that no woman, religiously observant or not, should be required to enlist in the military.

“Let's not get into details... We know that the ties between male commanders and female soldiers, and between male and female soldiers, do not meet the [Biblical] standard of 'Your camp shall be holy.'”

Hareidi-religious Knesset members and community leaders have also expressed support for the idea of removing women from the IDF entirely.

However, Shilat noted that their motives were not always the same as hers or those of other members of the religious Zionist community. “They think the military is not an appropriate environment for men, either,” she said.

Christian donor to out Haredi recipients

By Matthew Wagner October 23, 2009

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, chairman of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, said Thursday that his organization was compiling a list for publication of haredi institutions that receive its donations.

The move comes after Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, considered the most respected and influential halachic authority among Ashkenazi haredi Jews, signed a declaration saying that receiving money from Eckstein's organization was "close to idolatry."

Beth El Christian Zionist community in Zichron Yaakov

By Ora Coren October 22, 2009

Their lifestyle may be old-style kibbutz crossed with the Amish, but the Beth El Christian Zionist community, in Zichron Yaakov, makes not only organic foods but also bomb shelter filtration systems and aviation parts. A rare interview with the man who oversees it all.

"We don't have a strategic plan. We lift our eyes to God and if he opens a new door then we open another business."

Israel Plans Major Excavation at Western Wall

By Samuel Sokol October 23, 2009

Israel is planning a major archaeological dig under the Western Wall (Kotel) plaza, opposite the Temple Mount, officials announced Thursday.

The excavations will create an archaeological park directly underneath the area where worshippers currently stand while praying at the Kotel.

The current prayer area will remain open, supported by pillars, while a new area will be added underneath, at the level at which worshippers at the ancient Temple stood in the past.

Engineer: Dig improving Temple Mount stability

By Abe Selig October 24, 2009

Despite recent accusations to the contrary, the chief site engineer for the Western Wall tunnels declared on Thursday that Israeli archeological excavations were not being done under the Temple Mount, were in no way detrimental to the structural stability of the mount or its surroundings, and were actually improving such stability "tenfold."

Guardians of the underground

By Larry Derfner October 25, 2009

Elia and Gendler work in salvage excavation, the branch of archeology that just about every construction worker, contractor and developer - especially in Jerusalem - is familiar with. The Antiquities Authority inspects most construction sites, public and private, in the country to try to make sure that the treasures of the past are preserved.

To be Jewish, even without God

By Efrat Shapira-Rosenberg Opinion October 25, 2009

Interview with Prof. Ruth Gavison

There is no solution, she says, but to acknowledge the fact that Judaism is a religion + culture + civilization and that, for the sake of the argument, we need to neutralize the element of God from it and in fact develop the cultural aspect - yes, it is possible to disregard the Godly aspect in the bible on the sublime-religious context and remain with the literary, moral, principled, legal, level.

This also applies to the Talmud, the answers and questions literature and the entire Jewish religious world.

Ashkelon film festival to screen musical to women-only audience

By Raphael Ahren October 23, 2009

An American film that was rejected at last year's Jerusalem Film Festival because the Orthodox filmmaker demanded that it be screened exclusively in front of women will make its Israel premiere at next week's Jewish Eye World Jewish Film Festival in Ashkelon.

Male, Female MKs to Exercise Separately October 21, 2009

Knesset officials announced Wednesday that they would approve a request for separate-sex hours in the Knesset's exercise room.

Male and female MKs will exercise separately once a week, in response to a request from MK Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union (Ichud Leumi).

A woman and a scholar

By Matthew Wagner October 22, 2009

Interview with Chana Henkin of Nishmat

Nishmat’s most ambitious program trains women to serve as quasi rabbis. Called yo'atzot Halacha (advisers of Jewish law), these women specialize in an area of Jewish law known as family purity.

…The real success of the program has been Henkin's ability to create a new leadership role for women that challenges the male-only rabbinical hegemony while remaining within mainstream Orthodox circles.

Part of the secret to Nishmat's success is proper marketing. Henkin has insisted on calling the women yo'atzot Halacha and not anything that sounds like rabbi. Nishmat also emphasizes that all halachic decisions made by its women are backed up by male rabbis.

Ask the Rabbi: The heights of Halacha

By Rabbi Shlomo Brody October 22, 2009

The writer, editor of Tradition Online and its Text & Texture blog, teaches at Yeshivat Hakotel

Q: Can you explain the recent controversy over the use of Shabbat elevators?

The written ban by four prominent haredi leaders, including Rabbi Y.S. Elyashiv, just as tourists flooded local hotels for Succot, created much media attention and confusion.

'They'll say I'm a racist'

By Nir Hasson and Anshel Pfeffer October 22, 2009

Ori Konforti, who until last year was the Jewish Agency's representative in Ethiopia, says that American-Jewish groups wish to keep the immigration of the Falashmura going in order to generate more contributions from supporters who want to be involved in tikkun olam, enhance the bringing together of Jews from around the world and improve their own relations with the black community in the United States.

Israel, he says, became entangled in commitments to the Falashmura, a group with an almost infinite potential for immigration, due to pressure by nongovernmental organizations and politicians, especially from the Shas party.

An American-Jewish organization, the North American Conference for Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ), according to Konforti, is also responsible for the false presentations in the Addis Ababa and Gondar camps themselves, in an effort to raise more money.

Jewish environmentalists launch campaign to combat climate change

By Ehud Zion Waldoks October 22, 2009

The Jewish Climate Change Campaign kicked off this week in honor of Jewish Social Action Month. The plan outlines ways in which the Jewish people can capitalize on its unique institutions and rituals to help fight climate change.

The Jewish plan is part of a global initiative to mobilize the world's religions organized by The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), a UK-based organization founded 14 years ago by HRH Prince Philip. The UN has also expressed keen interest in the plans. They will be presented next month at Windsor, England ahead of UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

The Windsor delegation will be comprised of: Sinclair, Arava Power Company President Yosef Abramowitz, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor and holder of the environmental portfolio Naomi Tsur, former MK and honorary president of Teva Ivri Rabbi Michael Melchior, and Jewish Climate Initiative founder Dr. Michael Kagan.

The campaign has been launched to coincide with Jewish Social Action Month and an interactive Web site has been set up

Assembly to Mark 75 Years Since Passing of Rav Kook October 22, 2009

The World Zionist Organization will hold an assembly of hundreds of rabbis from Israel and around the world during the Hebrew month of Tevet (which starts December 18th) to mark 75 years since the passing of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook, who established the Chief Rabbinate and became the first Chief Rabbi of the pre-state Land of Israel.

Face value

By Matthew Wagner October 16, 2009

With more than 20 independent kosher supervision bodies operating in Israel, competition among them is fierce.

A business's decision to choose Badatz Beit Yosef over another kosher supervision might be because of the added value of being able to tap into Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's popularity.

Benizri won't leave prison for grandson's brit

By Vered Luvitch October 20, 2009

The Tel Aviv District Court on Tuesday denied an appeal by former Minister Shlomo Benizri to leave prison in order to attend his grandson's circumcision ceremony in Jerusalem.

Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, will take Benizri's place as the child's godfather during the event.

Shas demands upgraded prison conditions for Benizri

By Ronen Medzini October 20, 2009

Shas chairman Eli Yishai has approached Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch a number of times recently and asked that former Minister Shlomo Benizri's prison conditions be upgraded.

Channel 10 reported Tuesday that Shas MKs have also complained that it can take them over a month to get clearance to visit Benizri in prison. They are demanding unlimited visitation rights.

Religion and State in Israel

October 26, 2009 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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