Monday, November 2, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - November 2, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

November 2, 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.

Naomi Ragen on battle against segregated buses October 28, 2009

Naomi Ragen, whose bestselling novels often deal with Haredi society and the tensions between strict social restrictions and the desire for freedom, said that speaking as a religious woman, there was no halachic problem with mixed seating of men and women on buses.

"That was the opinion of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, may his memory be a blessing, who is considered one of the most important rabbis in the US in recent decades," she said.

Moving Backward: A Look at "Mehadrin" Bus Lines

By Naomi Ragen Opinion November 3, 2009

If, then, there is clearly no halakhic problem, what is really behind the sudden rise of Hareidi demands that public buses in Israel be sex-segregated, women banished to the back door and the back seats?

…When did this status quo suddenly become unacceptable? And more importantly, why?

Is this really a battle over religious observance? Or is it a battle over something far less holy, and far more prosaic?

'Bus segregation is legal if voluntary'

By Dan Izenberg and Matthew Wagner October 28, 2009

A special committee appointed by the Transportation Ministry recommended on Tuesday conducting a yearlong trial during which passengers on "mehadrin" public bus lines would be allowed to enter from either the front or the rear doors, so those who wished to maintain gender separation could do so.

However, the committee stressed that the separation of the genders must be solely on a voluntary basis, that the passengers riding on these buses may not impose it coercively and that bus drivers would be responsible for intervening to prevent coercion if it arose.

Transport Ministry: 'Kosher' bus lines illegal

By Kobi Nahshoni October 28, 2009

The High Court panel, composed of Justice Elyakim Rubenstein, Justice Salem Jubran, and Justice Yoram Dantziger debated the report after it was handed to them Tuesday morning.

The judges ordered that each side deliver its response to the report to the minister of transportation, and that the state would be required to deliver its own response within 30 days. At this point the court will give its verdict.

Haaretz Cartoon by Erin Wolkowski October 28, 2009

"Jews, Save Us!"

Labor MK Hopes to Ban Gender Separation on 'Mehadrin' Buses

By Hana Levi Julian October 27, 2009

Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz has called on Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to end the separation between men and women on the hareidi-religious bus lines, citing findings by a ministry committee investigating the issue.

"I intend to bring my bill to the Ministerial Committee [on legislation] next week," Pines-Paz announced. "Such separation is an outrage; there is nothing similar in any proper country."

Transport Ministry to release report on segregated bus lines

By Dan Izenberg October 27, 2009

"Travel in Security - Travel with Egged"

In its response to the petition, the Transportation Ministry informed the court that there were 90 bus lines serving the Haredi community.

The permits granted by Egged for these lines did not oblige the women to sit in the back of the bus. Thus, the seating arrangement was voluntary. The ministry did not subsidize the fares on the segregated buses. It was the bus companies that offered lower prices than those charged on the integrated lines.

Egged told the court that it had begun to offer segregated buses to the haredi community to compete with "pirate" buses that were already offering that service. Most of the routes were new, the company said; it had not converted existing integrated routes into segregated ones. There were reasonable alternatives for non-haredi customers on integrated routes, Egged added.

Egged said it could not run segregated and integrated buses on the same routes because there was insufficient demand. Finally, it said the bus lines were not discriminatory because there was an inherent difference between haredi and non-haredi society.

Poll: Majority Oppose Gender-Segregated Bus-Lines

By Matthew Wagner October 26, 2009

According to the survey, even among haredi Israelis 29 percent are in favor of doing away with or limiting the use of gender segregation.

Among Shas voters 48% supported abolishing or limiting the segregation, while among United Torah Judaism opposition was lower, at 20%.

Meanwhile, among religious Zionists a total of 88% expressed varying degrees of opposition to the use of gender segregation.

Separate but equal: Can 'Mehadrin' buses be OK?

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion October 29, 2009

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

I believe that a public bus company may seek to meet the needs of a specific segment of its customers - as long as it does not come at a significant cost to others. This means that there may be room for segregated buses.

The preferred solution, I believe, is a private bus line that would serve the specific religious demands of the user.

Ma’ariv Editorial on Mehadrin bus issue

By Rubik Rosenthal October 29, 2009

Ma'ariv calls on Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to accept the recommendations of a committee he appointed and bar the Egged and Dan bus companies from operating lines to and from ultra-Orthodox areas in which women are obliged to sit at the back of the bus.

If the Minister does not, the author believes, "he will lose more of whatever prestige as he has left."

FOX capitulates to Haredim, removes billboards

By Kobi Nahshoni October 27, 2009

The FOX clothing chain announced Monday it would remove billboard ads depicting a young man and woman with only a blanket covering their upper bodies due to pressure from the ultra-Orthodox sector.

The ads, starring Bar Refaeli and Noam Tor, have been replaced by more modest advertisements of their winter line.

"FOX has decided to replace the pictures due to a number of appeals received by the chain over recent days. Despite the limited number of the appeals, the chain has decided to consider them because it is a fashion chain that appeals to the general public and all its sectors," a statement from the clothing chain said.

The chain's managers also apologized to the haredi public, claiming that no harm was intended.

Haredim oppose Bar Refaeli billboards

By Kobi Nahshoni October 26, 2009

The Haredi media is all abuzz after the "vain pictures" of model Bar Refaeli appeared on advertisements for FOX along the highway. The "modesty lobbyists" have already declared war against the popular clothing chain: "We will fight them with all our might."

The Holiness and Education Watch Chairman Rabbi Mordechai Balloy even hinted that he would initiate a boycott of FOX when he noted that "thousands of haredim buy at the chain."

FOX said in response that "the said advertising is part of FOX's winter campaign and the pictures shown representing day-to-day situations familiar to everyone. They are within the bounds of good taste.

This advertising had no intention of hurting the feelings of any sector, especially not those of the haredi public. The FOX chain serves, and will continue to serve loyally all of its customers from the various sectors."

Op-Ed: Israel must break growing stranglehold of religion

By Uri Regev and Stanley Gold Opinon October 28, 2009

The increased stranglehold of religion on the state has a dire impact on Israel today.

…Israelis want change. Israeli pollster Rafi Smith recently completed a large-scale public opinion survey commissioned by Hiddush showing that 83 percent of Israelis maintained that freedom of religion and conscience should be upheld in the State of Israel. But change will not occur by itself.

Israel: Jewish State or Orthodox State?

By Josh Rubin Opinion October 27, 2009

Josh Rubin is a senior at Solomon Schechter High School of Long Island.

Standing at the Western Wall this past summer, I felt profoundly uncomfortable.

As American Jews we too often place Israel on a pedestal rather than examine it critically and objectively.

In my opinion we, a large majority of North American Jews, are failing to be true Israel supporters. True supporters are there when Israel is right, but they should also be there to offer constructive criticism when there are unresolved issues in Israel.

I consider myself a strong supporter of Israel, which is why I am writing this article: to magnify the fine print so many of us overlook when we discuss the Jewish state.

Isn’t it time that Israel recognizes the fact that the vast majority of the Jewish community in and out of Israel is non-Orthodox?

Isn’t it time that Israel respects and accepts all Jewish beliefs? As supporters of Israel who are not afraid to offer constructive criticism, we must insist that Israel reflect and respect all Jewish beliefs regardless of denomination.

Poll: Which religious law would we add to books? October 27, 2009

Ynet-Gesher Foundation poll on religion-state issues

  • Secular & traditional populations would cancel the IDF exemption for yeshiva students (55% & 54% respectively).

Are you for or against closing malls and commercial centers on Shabbat?

  • 86% of the secular population came out in opposition;
  • 50% of the traditional voted against;
  • Religious and Haredi populations voted for closing malls on Shabbat (89% and 100% respectively).

US: Israel favorites Orthodox

By Matthew Wagner October 29, 2009

"Israeli government policy continued to support the generally free practice of religion, although government discrimination against non-Jews and non-Orthodox streams of Judaism continued," stated the 12,000-word report.

The Orthodox monopoly over marriage, burial and conversion was criticized by US State Department officials.

"Approximately 310,000 citizens who immigrated under the Law of Return but are not considered Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinate cannot be married, divorced, or buried in Jewish cemeteries within the country," said the report.

"As in previous periods," the report continued, "the Religious Affairs Ministry failed to implement the 1996 Alternative Burial Law that established the right of any individual to be buried in a civil ceremony and did not utilize any of the money allocated in the 2008 budget for the development of civil/secular burial plots."

The report even went into surprising detail about the mandatory marriage counseling demanded by the Chief Rabbinate of all Jews - Reform, Conservative or Orthodox - before being married.

U.S. State Dept. International Religious Freedom Report 2009 - Israel

Israeli press and NGO's make State Dept.'s work easier

By Matthew Wagner Opinion October 29, 2009

Why would the US State Department go into so much detail about one brochure used by a marriage counselor? In a report on the infringement of religious rights in the Middle East it seems hardly worth mentioning the fact that some Israeli couples have the bad luck of being exposed to a little chauvinism.

The second half of the report, which scrutinizes the level of religious freedom provided by the Palestinian Authority, lacks such detailed accounts.

But of course the reason for the discrepancy is obvious: Israel has a robust, self-critical network of NGOs, news media and watchdogs that make the US State Department's job a heck of a lot easier.

Haredi activist teargases woman for using 'men only' sidewalk

By Yair Ettinger and Liel Kyzer October 29, 2009

An activist in Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Eda Haredit community was conditionally released from prison Monday, a day after his arrest for allegedly spraying an ultra-Orthodox woman with tear gas in the capital's Mea She'arim neighborhood.

Yoel Kraus was arrested after the woman filed a police complaint. The alleged attack occurred about two weeks ago, during the Sukkot holiday, as the woman was walking on a "men only" sidewalk, and refused Kraus' demand that she move to the women's side.

Eda Haredit: Organ donation is murder

By Kobi Nahshoni November 1, 2009

Following a Ynet report on the Chief Rabbinate's decision to recognize brain-respiratory death, thus allowing organ donations in accordance with Jewish religious laws, the Badatz, the Eda Haredit's high court, ruled that taking organs from a person in such a condition or removing him or her from life support is murder.

Hoop dreams

By Yair Ettinger October 27, 2009

Yitzhak David Grossman, a rabbi who is traveling across North America with the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team for a series of exhibition games with U.S. teams and for several conferences and dinners whose proceeds will benefit his charity, has hit a snag.

…What may be a problem for Grossman are the troubles awaiting him upon his return to Israel at the end of his North American travels. Lying in wait for him are rivals who are attempting not only to affect the financial future of his charity, Migdal Ohr, but also to besmirch the rabbi's reputation. They are also taking steps intended to keep the rabbi of Migdal Ha'emek from realizing his dream of winning a heated race for chief rabbi of Jerusalem.

That dream may go unrealized because of a surprising step taken by Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who recently added his signature to a letter prohibiting charities from accepting donations from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

Accepting Gentile Charity October 25, 2009

Last week it was reported that Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ruled that Jewish organizations in Israel may not accept funding from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Presumably, this is because it is essentially accepting donations from Gentiles. I would, therefore, like to discuss the halakhic issues surrounding this and what room there is to be lenient.

Evangelical Funding Heats Up: Rival Groups to Reveal Names

By Hillel Fendel October 25, 2009

Following the recent ban by hareidi-religious authority Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv on receiving evangelical Christian funding, the Christian organization in question threatens to reveal the names of hareidi-religious organizations that receive such funding. In response, the website “Jewish Israel” says it will publicize the Jewish charity organizations and public institutions that do not.

Keep religion out of IDF

By Dror Ze’evi Opinion October 30, 2009

The defense minister and top defense officials must embark on an in-depth examination of the slow process whereby the army’s character is changing. They need to reexamine the way religious figures are integrated in the establishment in general, and in swear-in ceremonies in particular.

The New Jewish Convert

By Joan Alpert November/December 2009

A Muslim, a Mormon, a Baptist, a Protestant, a Chinese American, an African American, a Mexican American and the great-granddaughter of a Nazi officer tell their stories.

Yitzhak Jordan, aka Y-Love: A black Orthodox Jew and hip-hop artist creates rhymes from the Talmud

In Israel, I also became a rapper. Everything musical was from becoming Jewish. At the yeshiva, my first study partner, David, a white Jewish MC from Long Island, and I would freestyle as a way to learn Talmud better.

In 2001, when I returned to the U.S., David and I happened to be in Manhattan at the Orange Bear, and we took the open mike for two hours. Our only rhymes were the stuff we made up during yeshiva; they were in Aramaic about Torah and Talmud.

Nobody understood us, but they loved it. The club owner asked us to play every Thursday night. That’s how my hip-hop career started.

Tinamarie Bernard: The great-granddaughter of a high-ranking Nazi officer, she recently made aliyah

My second husband, an Israeli, and I each had been married for nine years to non-Jews before we met three years ago.

My father-in-law is a Holocaust survivor, and my beloved and I now have a young daughter, so imagine this: In two generations, two families inextricably linked by horror are now linked by marriage, love and a baby.

Each day I affirm my connections to Judaism. Our family made aliyah in August. It certainly feels like coming full circle, like finding the home I never knew I’d left.

VIDEO: A Green Chariot

Click here for VIDEO

Director: Gilad Goldschmidt

22-year-old Sasha has immersed himself in a religious community in Israel. He changes his name to Yair, speaks only Hebrew and has all but forgotten his Russian roots. When he receives a box filled with his late mother's belongings, his religious identity is shattered.

Netanyahu Cuts a Third from Religious-Zionist Education Budget

By Hillel Fendel November 1, 2009

The cuts affect yeshiva high schools, ulpanot (girls’ high schools), hesder yeshivot, girls’ midrashot, post-high school yeshivot, Torah core groups in development towns, seminars for Judaism and Land of Israel studies, centers for basic Jewish-Zionist education, and more.

'Woman refusing to walk on other street side attacked'

By Abe Selig October 27, 2009

Kraus is known to police most recently for his organizational role in the haredi riots that rocked the capital over the summer after the municipality decided to open a public parking lot near the Jaffa Gate on Shabbat.

Scores of police and rioters were injured during the months of unrest, which saw weekly confrontations between the two sides in front of the Karta parking lot, opposite the Old City.

Rabbinical ruling causes havoc on elevators

AP October 26, 2009

The ruling last month by one of Israel's leading rabbis (Rabbi Elyashiv), calling the elevators a no-go, has reignited a vigorous debate over the lifts, forcing Orthodox Jews living on top floors to decide if they're up for the steep hike home from synagogue on Saturdays.

The decision stretches far beyond Israel's borders.

Proponents of the lifts say followers need not change their habits.

"I think people understand nothing has changed technologically," said Rabbi Israel Rozen, head of the Zomet Institute, which specializes in Sabbath-appropriate electrical equipment. He supports the use of Sabbath elevators.

Haredi father blocks burned toddler from Hadassah

By Ronen Medzini October 30, 2009

A 16-month-old toddler, who was severely burned when boiling water spilled on her, was hospitalized Friday morning in Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, which does not have a burn unit, because her father opposed her hospitalization in Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.

The father justified his insistent refusal, claiming that "the rabbi advised otherwise."

i-rox to train Haredi women as software engineers

By Shmulik Shelah October 25, 2009

i-rox Software Products Ltd. will train 20 haredi women as software engineers. 100 Haredim applied for the three-month course.

i-rox CEO Yehudit Suissa said that demand for the course has soared, requiring the company to hire a large number of personnel.

Remembering Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz

By Jonathan Rosenblum Opinion October 29, 2009

I am convinced that if we could just clone 40 more like Lorincz, it would be possible to bring about a mass return-to-religion movement in this country, so great was the kiddush Hashem in his every word and deed.

Behind-the-Scene Discussions about Carta Parking Lot Proposal

By Yair Alpert November 1, 2009

Protests against the opening of the Karta parking lot in Yerushalayim have lessened somewhat and it has now been learned that negotiations are ongoing behind the scenes between representatives of the Eidah Hachareidis and the Yerushalayim Municipality in an attempt to find a solution to the satisfaction of both parties.

The arrangement being discussed would have the parking lot being transferred each Shabbos to an Arab businessman. The parking lot would be operated by a Shabbos goy and chillul Shabbos would thus be avoided, at least from that standpoint.

Skverer Rebbe to Gerrer Rebbe: Cell Phone is ‘Yeitzer Hara of the Generation’

By Dovid Bernstein October 31, 2009

Calling the cell phone “the yeitzer harah of this generation,” the Skverer Rebbe told the Gerrer Rebbe that shortly, his kehillah would be releasing a new kosher phone that would have several security features, including the inability to send text messages.

A Look at Badatz Beit Yosef

By Yechiel Spira October 27, 2009

A look at Badatz Beit Yosef organization, launched by HaGaon HaRav Ovadia Yosef Shlita, and run today by one of his sons, HaGaon HaRav David Yosef.

The Badatz Beit Yosef began about 20 years ago, with R’ Ovadia Yosef deciding it was time to actualize a kashrut organization that adheres to the rulings of “Maran”, the Beit Yosef, the halachic authority for Sephardim.

From Judaism to Islam and back again

By Matthew Wagner October 27, 2009

This week X arrived at the rabbinical court in Jerusalem and asked to declare her faith to Judaism. Although Judaism does not recognize conversions to other religions and someone born a Jew remains Jew for life, X nevertheless wanted to be sure no doubts would be cast on her status.

Religion and State in Israel

November 2, 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 - November 2, 2009 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

November 2, 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.

The 'Third Templars' Editorial October 27, 2009

Now a diverse group of mostly post-Zionist settler rabbis, messianic followers of the late Lubavitcher rebbe and practicing "Third Templars" - abetted by a smattering of ultra-right-wing Knesset members - have banded together to force the "hand of God."

Ostensibly, they are calling upon the Jewish masses to ascend the Mount and assert a Jewish presence there; we suspect that what many of them really want is to make the Muslim shrines "disappear”, put up a Jewish Temple and recommence animal sacrifices.

Where's the compromise over the Temple Mount?

By David Kirshenbaum Opinion November 1, 2009

The characterization of those who seek to change the status quo on the Temple Mount as "post-Zionists," "messianic followers" of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and "Third Templars" is false.

Dare to dream of a rebuilt Temple

By Michael Freund Opinion October 28, 2009

So let's stop bad-mouthing those who want to visit or pray where our forefathers once stood. And let's bear in mind one very important rule: The real extremism is not to dream of a Temple, but to attempt to silence those who do.

What would Maimonides say about Temple Mt riots?

By Matthew Wagner October 27, 2009

In the year 1165, on the sixth of the Jewish month of Heshvan, which fell 844 years ago this past Sunday, Maimonides, arguably the single most important rabbinic authority in Jewish history, visited Jerusalem and may have gone onto the Temple Mount.

…Jewish spiritual leaders who belong to the Zionist stream of Orthodoxy such as Rabbi Israel Ariel of the Temple Institute and Rabbi Nahum Rabinovitch, head of the Birkat Moshe Hesder Yeshiva in Ma'aleh Adumim, see this account as clear proof that Jews are permitted to go up to the Temple Mount.

Educ. Min. Agrees: Temple Mount in School Trips

By Hillel Fendel October 27, 2009

A top official in the Education Ministry on a tour of the City of David in Jerusalem said his office would approve and even pay for school trips to the Temple Mount if there is a demand for such.

Yechezkel Azrieli, head of the Youth and Society Department in the Education Ministry, added that the Defense Ministry must approve such trips from a security standpoint

Rabbi Cherlow: 'Human Rights' Includes Jews Worshipping on Mount

By David Lev October 27, 2009

Jews have a right to worship freely on the Temple Mount, says Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, head of the Yeshivat Hesder in Petach Tikvah.

But they have more than a right to worship there, he says: They have a need to do so, because the Temple Mount – where the Holy Temple stood – is so much a part of Jewish tradition.

And as such, preventing Jews from doing so is not just a matter of religion, but of basic human rights.

Religious Zionism confronts Rabin legacy

By Matthew Wagner October 30, 2009

How should religious Zionists mark the anniversary of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination?

This question stood at the center of debate among rabbis and educators Thursday as a large portion of media air time, public school activity and politicians' speeches were devoted to remembering Rabin, the only Israeli prime minister to be murdered and whose death poses the most extreme example of the dangers of an internecine clash between religious and secular, Right and Left.

In contrast to haredim, who have no desire to form strong bonds with secular Israeli society and therefore completely ignore the day of remembrance for Rabin, religious Zionists see themselves as full participants in all aspects of the modern Jewish state.

New prayer book adds religious context to Rabin memorial October 29, 2009

Israel will mark Thursday the anniversary of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. The Amit religious school system felt that the memorial for Rabin is not sufficiently rooted in the religious world and decided to publish a special prayer book for the 14th of Heshvan (the Hebrew date of Rabin's death).

The prayer book, called "K'tov Zot Zikaron" (Write This as a Memory), includes passages of psalms, including specific passages ascribed to the letters of the late statesman's name, sections of Mishna to be learned for the transcendence of the soul, a prayer for the peace of Israel, and a prayer for the love the Israel.

In addition, the prayer book brings forth verses condemning murder, such as: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed."

Female Orthodox scholars helping women talk about sex

By Dina Kraft October 29, 2009

Lau is the coordinator of an accreditation course for these consultants at Nishmat, an Orthodox seminary for women. It is the only one of its kind in the Orthodox world, and most of its graduates live in Israel.

Lau and the 60 other certified ‘yoatzot’, as the consultants are known in Hebrew, have been become accustomed to women stopping them without notice, often with a whispered, urgent question about Jewish law.

Whether on their doorstep, in the synagogue or at the supermarket, women have questions for which they ache for answers but are hesitant to ask a male rabbi, especially when it comes to family purity laws -- the laws relating to sex.

Generation Birthright Israel: The Impact of an Israel Experience on Jewish Identity and Choices

Click here for Study [pdf]

Jewish Marriage Tied to Birthright Israel Trip

Birthright Israel Experience Significantly Lowers Rate of Intermarriage

Birthright strengthening Jewish identity abroad, research shows

Birthright funders look to upbeat study to boost fund raising

Study finds Birthright alumni less likely to marry out

It's hip to be Jewish

Op-Ed: Growing Birthright Israel should be a no-brainer

Birthright: A tonic for the Jewish world

Is Natan Sharansky Jewish Agency’s last, best hope?

By Dina Kraft October 26, 2009

Sharansky first must meet another challenge: the drastic downturn in funding from the Jewish Federations of North America (formerly the United Jewish Communities), which has had an especially crippling effect on the agency’s work in the former Soviet Union.

His main effort on that front, Sharansky told JTA, would be fund raising intensively among Russian-speaking Jews.

"The time has come for the Jewish community there to take responsibility for their own Jewish institutions," Sharansky said in a brief interview following his opening address to the agency’s board of governors meeting Sunday.

Sharansky vows not to cut Jewish Agency budget

By Haviv Rettig Gur October 26, 2009

This week's Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting in Jerusalem is the first in many years that won't be discussing significant cuts to the organization's budget.

In an effort to refocus the organization away from its shrinking financial base and to bolster the sense of mission among its educators and activists, agency chairman Natan Sharansky has vowed not to make any new budget cuts in 2010.

Jewish Agency to send 100 advocates to U.S. College campuses

By Raphael Ahren October 27, 2009

The Jewish Agency plans to send more than 100 well-trained emissaries to North American college campuses within the next two years, Chairman Natan Sharansky announced yesterday. Currently, about 20 JAFI emissaries work on American universities.

The new JAFI representatives will be tasked with explaining to students the "realities of the Middle East, and to show what Hamas and Hezbollah are doing and what Israel is doing to bring some justice and democracy to Palestinians." The plan is mentioned in a proposed resolution of JAFI's task force on anti-Semitism, which is expected to pass.

'Israel has distorted view of Diaspora'

By Haviv Rettig Gur October 28, 2009

"The government of Israel has a very distorted and shallow view of Diaspora Jewry, and this is the result of far too many gatekeepers blocking a genuine dialogue between Israeli Jews and the Diaspora," according to Toronto Jewish Federation President Ted Sokolsky.

Pushing the envelope

By Haviv Rettig Gur October 30, 2009

Interview with the new leaders of the Jewish Federations of North America, chief executive Jerry Silverman and incoming top lay leader Kathy Manning.

The federations also look outside themselves for inspiration, says Silverman.

"One of the most up-and-coming organizations, based here in Israel, is PresenTense. In Boston, they're doing PresenTense innovation training that will lead to programs in the community," he notes.

Multi-denominational LA rabbis find their unity - in Israel

By Tali Minsberg and Rebecca Baskin October 28, 2009

They also believe that they have something to teach Israelis about pluralism - that Judaism is much broader than just Orthodox and secular. The rabbis hope that they can serve as a model of the need for a pluralistic environment.

"We can send a powerful message to Israelis. As an Israeli I know that we [Israelis] think in black and white. Yet we [the group of 18 rabbis] stand together as one and confront all challenges. This is a message that all Israelis should hear again and again and again," said Dayan.

Kligfeld believes that liberal Judaism in Israel is "vitally important. It's sad to me that I come as a rabbi to Israel and can't perform a wedding."

"A large number of Jews don't want to describe themselves as 'religious' or 'secular,'" he said. "There are many in Israel who won't be turned on to Orthodoxy but who want to live as Jews, and could be drawn to a moderate balance of both."

L.A. rabbis in Israel seek to model tolerance

By Richard Boudreaux October 31, 2009

The Western Wall is a unifying spiritual magnet for Jews the world over. It is also a place of contention over a rule by its Orthodox custodians that forbids women from standing beside men while praying there.

So how to worship was a sensitive question for 17 leading Los Angeles rabbis, including two women, as they strolled toward the sacred site one evening this week.

…"Thank God L.A. is not run by a reactionary rabbinate, like the one that exists here," said Rabbi David Hartman, an Israeli philosopher of contemporary Judaism.

Roadmap for a just society

By Raphael Ahren October 30, 2009

Rabbi Jill Jacobs - the rabbi-in-residence at Jewish Funds for Justice in New York

Speaking this week in Jerusalem, Jacobs, who is currently on sabbatical at the Mandel Leadership Institute, said that rather than focusing exclusively on ritual law, Jews and the State of Israel should revive aspects of the civil law.

Does Eli Yishai understand American Jews?

By Matthew Wagner Opinion October 27, 2009

Yishai's perspective is that of a Jew who has never known what it's like to live as a minority in a non-Jewish country.

Obviously the ideal situation, if one's main concern is Jewish continuity, is to maintain a strict adherence to Orthodoxy, something which the vast majority of Jews have failed to do in the US.

He probably does not fully understand the dynamics of living in a place like the US where there are endless possibilities for self-expression and self-identity.

He probably does not appreciate the fact that in a situation where most Jews are not only totally alienated from an Orthodox way of life, they're also totally unfamiliar with many of its basic demands.

In this environment it's probably better, at least from the point of view of Jewish continuity, that there is Reform Judaism around.

Leviev's King City in Eilat may open on Shabbat

By Dotan Levi, Calcalist October 26, 2009

Will religious businessman Lev Leviev be forced to allow one of his businesses to be open on Shabbat? Elran Real Estate Ltd., which is owned by the Dankner family, recently announced in a presentation to its investors that it is looking into opening the King City in Eilat – which it co-owns with Leviev's Africa Israel company – on weekends and Jewish holidays.

The announcement was made in light of the project's financial difficulties, which are making it difficult for the companies to pay back their bank debts. The company wrote in the presentation that it would work to open the park to visitors on Shabbat and on holidays.

The original contract signed between the park's founders states that the park would not be opened on Jewish days of rest, following a request made by Africa Israel (whose subsidiary controls 37% of the project).

In the spirit of culture

By Peggy Cidor October 29, 2009

The Eighth Jewish Music and Theater Festival of Gush Etzion caused a great deal of dissonance within the religious Zionist community.

"We're talking about a revolution," says poet and Kibbutz Kfar Etzion resident Eliaz Cohen, artistic director of the festival in the Gush and co-founder and head of the poetry review Meshiv Haruah and its annual poetry festival.

Study finds sharp decline in 'Jewish' Internet searches

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By Tali Minsberg October 29, 2009

August 2009 release of 4Wall LLC's Jewish Internet Metric Study, a project to help the Jewish community understand the hurdles and opportunities presented by the Internet.

The top five declining terms over the past for years include "Judaica"(-54%), "Reform Judaism" (-66%), "Anti-Semitism" (-74%), "Jewish Dating" (-85%) and "Kabbalah" (-87%).

The top five searches found were "Jewish," "Israel," "Holocaust," "Jerusalem" and "Kosher." Nevertheless, these terms now generate significantly less traffic than they did in the past four years.

Some 150,000 take their prayers to Rachel's Tomb

By Tovah Lazaroff October 30, 2009

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Close to 150,000 people who arrived from all over the country to mark the anniversary of the biblical matriarch's death by praying for her help at her tomb during a 24-hour period that started on Wednesday night and ended Thursday.

New Tram to Connect Jewish Quarter with Kotel Plaza

By David Lev November 1, 2009

Visitors to the Western Wall could have an easier time getting to the holy site soon. A new tram will visitors to reach to the Kotel Plaza from the Jewish Quarter, enabling visitors who have difficulty walking up and down the many steps between the two sites to more easily visit the Kotel.

New Archaeological Excavations near Western Wall October 22, 2009

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State ceremony to honor Ethiopian Jewry

By Ruth Eglash November 1, 2009

After 30 years of Jewish immigration from Ethiopia, the State of Israel will finally mark the community's flagship festival, Sig'd, in an official ceremony at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on Monday.

Religion and State in Israel

November 2, 2009 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

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