Monday, January 11, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - January 11, 2010 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

January 11, 2010 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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

Religious advocates decry rabbinate statement calling conversions reversible

By Cnaan Liphshiz January 8, 2010

A precedent-setting statement this week by the Chief Rabbinate, which said all conversions may be retroactively annulled at any time, is adding fuel to a legal battle over the status of state-sponsored conversions in Israel.

"This is an immoral, inhumane and anti-Halakhic assertion," said Rivkah Lubitch, a Rabbinic Court advocate from the Center for Women's Justice. "Let us hope that the High Court of Justice finds it is also illegal."

"This is a significant blow to converts," said Seth Farber, who heads the Jerusalem-based nonprofit ITIM. "We are slowly splintering into two peoples." An American-born rabbi, Farber is a key opponent of the controversial phenomenon.

On Tuesday, Shas MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem, formerly chief Sephardic rabbi in Geneva, spoke out against retroactive nullifications when he launched a book he had penned, detailing his research of the attitudes of great past Jewish sages to conversion.

MK Rabbi Amsallem: Old-New Conversion Solution

By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz January 4, 2010

Knesset Member and Rabbi Chaim Amsallem (Shas) will present a book he wrote on the subject of conversion to the Knesset Speaker on Tuesday.

In the book, Rabbi Amsallem puts forth an encompassing solution to the conversion of non-Jewish descendants of Jewish forebears, specifically designed for implementation in the State of Israel.

Entitled Zera Yisrael ("The Seed of Israel"), Rabbi Amsalllem's book offers a carefully researched halachic (Jewish law) position that he believes should serve the needs of most of Israel's non-Jewish immigrant population.

Houston woman in sex scandal undergoes conversion in Israel

By Matthew Wagner January 8, 2010

A woman from Houston who got mixed up in a sex scandal with a prominent haredi rabbi from Monsey, New York, arrived in Israel clandestinely and was converted to Judaism on Sunday in Alon Shvut by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Hebron-Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior and a third rabbi who preferred to remain anonymous.

The decision by Eliyahu, Lior and the third rabbi to convert Orand after they were convinced of her sincerity is seen by some Zionist rabbis as part of a larger battle between warring camps in the Orthodox rabbinical world.

The fact that these three rabbis, who in recent years have not been involved with conversions, went out of their way to help Orand is seen both as a strong stamp of approval for Orand's pure intentions as well as a clear message to the haredi rabbinic world.

"This is an answer to Haredi rabbis' stringent approach to conversions," said Rabbi Israel Rosen, former head of the National Conversion Courts and a serving conversion court judge, who helped facilitate Orand's conversion.

…Eliyahu said that as a member of the Chief Rabbinate's government body, he was operating within the framework of the local rabbinic establishment.

Orthodoxy and scandal

By Rabbi Seth Farber Opinion January 7, 2010

The writer is the founder of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center and rabbi of Kehillat Netivot in Ra'anana

I believe that Orthodoxy needs to rethink the particular issue of conversion - particularly regarding the vulnerability of candidates and the possible abuses of centralization and delegitimization.

But at the same time, we also need to recognize the bigger picture and develop tools that properly balance the prohibition of lashon hara and chillul hashem with the responsibility of being honest and candid both in and to the modern world. I don't believe God expects any less from Jacob's children.

Advocates for 'agunot' find new voice on YouTube

By Ruth Eglash January 8, 2010

Bubbe Bikorta's "Never Ending Story," which is replete with bedtime lullabies, is one of five short video clips - one in English and four in Hebrew with English subtitles - aimed at highlighting the horrors of a marriage gone wrong and the unfair treatment of women in the religious judicial system in Israel that were launched on YouTube this week by the Center for Women's Justice.

Created to raise public awareness of the plight of the estimated hundreds of agunot‚ "chained women" whose husbands refuse to grant them divorces, each clip is based on a true story, Susan Weiss, the center's founding director, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Jewish grandmothers and the Israeli Rabbinate

By Sarah Breger January 6, 2010

Grandma is fighting back.

The Center for Women’s Justice, the Israeli non-profit organization dedicated to upholding a woman’s right to just treatment in the Rabbinical Courts in Israel has created a series of web clips highlighting the injustices and injuries that result from the very workings of the courts.

Preventing mamzerut - at what cost?

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion January 10, 2010

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

In general, our rabbis have searched for leniencies to avoid stigmatizing a person as a mamzer. But they have not done as well as they should.

They could also do more to reduce the number of Agunot ("chained women" who are unable to remarry because their gets aren't granted), or the blackmail by husbands withholding a get.

In the Masorti Movement, using the rabbinic tools that have been employed for generations - at least until a wave of fear washed over too many of today’s rabbis, who back away from creative solutions - we ask that couples about to be married sign a pre-nuptial agreement that may vastly reduce the danger of a women becoming an Aguna.

An end to evasion

By Shahar Ilan Opinion January 10, 2010

The writer is vice president of research and information for Hiddush - For Religious Freedom and Equality.

Reports heard by the Knesset subcommittee overseeing the implementation of the Tal Law indicate that, for the first time, there may actually be a light at the end of the tunnel of evasions.

And yet, the situation is far from satisfactory. The number of ultra-Orthodox who serve is equal to just one third of the yeshiva students receiving army exemptions annually (5,500). Graver still, those serving represent just 3.5 percent of the 55,000 yeshiva students registered to indefinitely defer their service. In other words, though progress is being made, it remains just a drop in the sea of draft evasion.

The subcommittee discovered another problem: 80 percent of those committed to civilian service serve in Haredi welfare agencies, not in emergency or security-related organizations. National service was not intended as yet another way to fund ultra-Orthodox groups; in this respect urgent change is needed.

Sharp rise in Haredi IDF enlistment in 2009

By Matthew Wagner January 7, 2010

Deputy Head of IDF Manpower Brig. Gen. Amir Rogovsky told a Knesset team responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Tal Law that about 700 haredi men joined the IDF's various "Shahar" programs. Shahar stands for haredi service (sheirut haredim) and targets married haredi men.

Shahar programs focus on training haredi men for non-combat roles such as computer programmers, technicians and mechanics.

According to data provided by Head of IDF Manpower Avi Zamir to a sub-committee of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, about 300 soldiers are inducted into the Nahal Haredi, a battalion designated for haredi soldiers.

There are differences of opinion regarding how many of these soldiers are actually haredi. Many come from quasi-haredi backgrounds while others are more zealous Orthodox Zionists.

2,000 yeshiva students served in 2009 January 6, 2010

Hiddush CEO Uri Regev praised the development and said it proved that yeshiva students can certainly do military service like everyone else. The data, he said, also showed how important it is to teach general studies like mathematics and English in haredi institutions, which would assist their students to integrate into good employment positions.

'Understanding with yeshivot will prevent rift'

By Roni Sofer January 10, 2010

"The instance of Har Bracha Yeshiva must be isolated from the rest of the hesder yeshivot.
Reaching an understanding with the hesder yeshivot is meant to prevent the threat presented by the phenomenon of spreading insubordination in the case of clashes with settlers in Judea and Samaria," Prime Minister's Office Director-General Eyal Gabai said over the weekend in closed talks.

West Bank rabbi: Religious IDF soldiers shouldn't refuse orders

By Jonathan Lis January 6, 2010

Rabbi Haim Druckman, who heads the committee of hesder yeshivas, on Wednesday, told an aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he strongly objects to insubordination among Israel Defense Forces soldiers serving in the West Bank.

Druckman added that there are cases in which a soldier cannot execute orders that are contrary to his conscience, in the same way that "a person with a broken hand cannot carry a heavy load."

He clarified that he does not view this as insubordination.

Druckman hopes for PM's support on Har Bracha

By Matthew Wagner January 7, 2010

Rabbi Haim Druckman, Chairman of the Union of Hesder Yeshivot, attempted Wednesday to garner Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's support against Defense Minister Ehud Barak's decision to remove the Har Bracha Yeshiva from the hesder framework.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post Wednesday, Druckman said that he was opposed to insubordination.

"But I also believe that a religious soldier whose conscience does not allow him to carry out such an order is just like a soldier with a broken leg who is physically unable to serve," said Druckman.

"The officer should understand this and proceed accordingly." Druckman said that according to his understanding of Halacha, it is prohibited to evacuate settlements with the intention of ceding the land to Palestinians.

"However, there are different opinions among rabbis. It is not a clear-cut situation."

Study: 25% of Religious Girls Serve in IDF January 7, 2010

A study by the Orot Israel Seminary shows that a substantial number of religious girls serve in the IDF.

In an interview with Arutz 7, one of the study's authors, Dr. Moshe Stofel, says that despite the lack of cooperation between the IDF and religious girls' high schools – which encourage girls to perform National Service, in line with the Halachic stance of the Chief Rabbinate – between 20% and 25% of girls serve in the IDF.

The figures are based on draft statistics from before the 2005 disengagement. Stofel said it was not clear if fewer religious girls chose to serve as a result of the disengagement.

IDF Cancels Raises for Religious Continuing Education January 10, 2010

Israel's government radio, Reshet Bet, reports this evening that the IDF is refusing to recognize and pay compensation for continuing education to career soldiers, particularly NCO's (Non-commissioned officers), who studied Jewish studies with the approval of the IDF's Chief Rabbi.

Chief Rabbis in call against abortions

By Nathan Jeffay January 7, 2010

Irit Rosenblum, executive director of New Family, a non-profit organisation that opposes rabbinic involvement family affairs, was particularly angry about Rabbi Metzger’s comments to the local media following the release of the letter, in which he indicated that he views confronting abortion to be part of Zionists’ demographic battle to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel.

This is a “cynical use of women’s bodies under the umbrella of Judaism”, she said.

'Financial crisis drives Haredi women to seek abortions'

By Kobi Nahshoni January 9, 2010

"Since the beginning of the financial crisis there has been an increase in the number of women opting for abortions, including religious and haredi women who can't bear the costs of raising another child," said Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Schussheim, chairman of the Efrat foundation for the prevention of abortions.

Schussheim made the statements following the announcement of Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar to fight the phenomenon, which he commended.

Once failing kibbutz pins hopes for revival on Conservative Judaism

By Ben Harris January 5, 2010

While some of Israel's kibbutzim are in steady decline, 10 mostly young families have arrived at Hannaton since the summer. They are part of a larger group of 20 families aiming to revitalize the country's only official Conservative kibbutz.

"My vision is to have here a religious, pluralistic, Conservative community that will be on one hand very religious, very connected to its Judaism, and on the other hand very much connected to its society," Rabbi Yoav Ende said.

"We're here to build a model that if it can be replicated, it can make a statement to Israeli society."

Life after Madoff

By Haviva Ner-David Opinion January 8, 2010

My plan was to bring my work as a rabbi up north. Another rabbi who joined the kibbutz with our group had been hired by the Masorti movement to revive the educational center located on the kibbutz.

In fact, he was the one who initiated the revival, since he felt that the educational center could flourish only in the midst of a flourishing Masorti-minded community.

He was also looking for people with innovative ideas for educational programming and was excited for me to do my seminars and work with couples out of the center, in addition to other life cycle programming.

The aliyah mindset

By Yoel Meltzer Opinion January 3, 2010

I was asked by several people to relate to some of the potential difficulties that making aliyah entail.

Chief among them were the concern for finding a sustainable livelihood, the fear of not finding a spouse, the difficulty of having to adjust to a different standard of living and the general difficulty in dealing with what is occasionally a very different mentality.

More communication, cultural exchanges in 2010

By Haviv Rettig Gur January 8, 2010

The government will take a more active role in expanding the contacts between Israeli society and Diaspora communities, and will strive to create shared educational and cultural activities, according to a working plan presented to the Knesset on Wednesday by the Ministry for Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs

…Another program slated to be launched together with Taglit-birthright Israel is termed "11th day" by the ministry, a reference to the day after birthright's 10-day tours, when many participants choose to extend their free visit to Israel to see family or continue touring on their own.

Other projects include helping to train Jewish school principals in the former Soviet Union, and ambitious plans for a "Diaspora Week" to be held in conjunction with Tel Aviv's Beit Hatefutsoth Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, a research and educational institute focused on Jewish peoplehood and identity.

Independent 10-day Israel trip launched

By Haviv Rettig Gur January 6, 2010

Photo courtesy of Jewlicious

A private Israeli company is bringing 120 North American Jewish youth to Israel on a free 10-day trip aimed at strengthening their Jewish identity.

The Kfar Saba-based Oranim was once a major operator for trips funded by Taglit-Birthright Israel, but broke with the famous program last year.

Funding In-Marriage Out Of His Own Pocket

By Sharon Udasin January 5, 2010

Birthright officials admitted at the time that they had received criticism from a number of participants who expressed dismay over Lifshitz’s hard-hitting drive to quell intermarriage, in particular his tagline — “make Jewish babies.”

But they denied trying to squelch his message of marrying within the faith. Momo’s tagline has now morphed to “raise your children Jewish.”

“I said shalom to Birthright, and I wished them the best of luck,” Lifshitz told his new Israel arrivals during their opening session. “I cannot do that anymore; I have to do it my own way.”

Key directors resign from Young Judaea

By Ruth Eglash January 7, 2010

American Jewish youth movement Young Judaea and its long-running sponsor, Hadassah Women's Organization, suffered another blow Wednesday following the resignation of key staff member, YJ/FZY Year Course Director Keith Berman.

Berman's decision to leave Young Judaea after more than 20 years with the movement closely follows the resignation of its director, Rabbi Ramie Arian, who is scheduled to step down in the coming weeks.

It also comes after a slew of staff firings in Israel and cutbacks to key aspects of the Year Course program.

Over the past year, Young Judaea has also seen its funding from Hadassah slashed as the woman's organization reports undergoing a process of refocusing its resources and restructuring.

Young Judaea Loses One of Its Best

By Danny Reed Opinion January 5, 2010

Keith Berman, the director of Year Course resigned from his position after 10 years at the helm. He had dedicated 25 years of his life to working for Young Judaea in various positions.

An idealist, an expert Jewish informal educator and somebody who can run a professional, exciting, and stimulating year program with one hand tied behind his back--which is essentially what he has done for the last few years.

Writing the Limmud theme song

By Robbie Gringras Opinion January 8, 2010

Limmudniks - that strange new denomination of Jews who pay more than $800 to spend their Christmas break surrounded by Jewish pluralism and tolerance - have been following our religious problems in Israel with a concern verging on heartbreak.

…Into this chasm of disappointment stepped Kobi Oz.

The Israeli Judaism of Kobi Oz seemed to be a cultural resource, a smiling companion, a call to social action: much like the kind of Judaism that comes to life during the week of Limmud.

Michael Steinhardt: Non-Orthodox Jewish Education is a Shandah January 8, 2010

In a rare personal television interview, Michael Steinhardt, one of world Jewry’s most philanthropic benefactors and a co-founder of Birthright Israel, expresses scathing criticism of non-Orthodox Jewish life in the Diaspora (though Steinhardt sees himself as anything but an Orthodox Jew).

Zionist youth movements say they face financial ruin

By Cnaan Liphshiz January 8, 2010

World Zionist youth movements are facing a financial crisis which could lead to their imminent collapse, leaders of all major such movements told the Knesset this week in a plea for government intervention.

If this happens, "hundreds of thousands of Jewish youth will lose their only significant link to the State of Israel and to their Jewish identity," a coalition of chairpersons from Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, World Bnei Akiva, Maccabi World Union and other movements wrote to the Knesset.

Yemen's Jews fear for their lives, yet refuse to make aliyah

By Daniel Edelson January 7, 2010

According to (President of the Israeli Federation of Yemenite Jews Dr. Moshe Nachum), one of the main factors deterring Yemenite Jews from making aliyah is the financial aid provided by members of the Jewish Satmar community in the United State, which is known for its radical stance against Zionism and the State of Israel.

Are the remaining Jews stuck in Yemen?

By Haviv Rettig Gur January 6, 2010

The trickle to Israel is likely to continue, though Jewish Agency officials, including Aliya Department director-general Eli Cohen, remained mum this week on the possibility.

"It makes sense from a security perspective to take them out in a trickle so they don't raise suspicion," said Rickman.

"When we were talking about this [in the US State Department], the fear was that you'd have them all show up at the airport in one day. These people don't look like everybody else in Yemen."

Caught in Strife, Yemen’s Jews Cling Fiercely to Their Ancient Heritage

By Josh Berer January 6, 2010

They are the ones who have stayed when almost all their brethren left, for the most part for Israel. And most remain determined to stay: Yemen is their home, and the thought of having to reinvent themselves in America or Israel is daunting and unappealing to them.

...In fact, nearly 10 of them have studied in Israel, some for two years or longer, and have chosen to return to Yemen rather than stay in Israel.

Members of Bnei Menashe to make aliyah

By Itamar Eichner January 8, 2010

Some 7,200 members of Bnei Menashe, a group of people hailing from north-eastern India who claim lineage to one of the Lost Tribes of Israel, will make aliyah after converting to Judaism in Nepal.

According to the plan, members of Bnei Menashe will travel to Nepal in groups of 200-300 people and then undergo conversion by teams from the Rabbinical Court who will be sent specially for the task.

After the conversion process is complete, they will be allowed to immigrate to Israel with an immigrant visa. The government estimated that within one to two years, the entire community can be brought to Israel.

Rally: Not authorizing Falashmura aliyah crime against Zionism

By Yael Branovsky January 10, 2010

Some 500 Ethiopian-Israelis demonstrated outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on Sunday and demanded that the government approve the aliyah of 8,700 members of the Falashmura denomination.

During the rally, Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said, "I am determined to lead the struggle and conclude the deliberations by the relevant government offices. We'll have to convince the Treasury, which opposed the (Falashmura aliyah) in the past."

A Jewish Blogger Finds a Following by Digging in the Dirt

By Samuel G. Freedman January 8, 2010

Blogging on the site, Mr. Rosenberg, 51, has transmuted a combination of muckraking reporting and personal grudge into a must-read digest of the actual and alleged misdeeds of the ultra-Orthodox world.

He has broken news about sexual misconduct, smear campaigns and dubious business practices conducted by or on behalf of stringently religious Jews.

“Shmarya often reminds me of journalism in the old days — when editors would sometimes go at one another physically in the street,” Jonathan D. Sarna, a historian of American Jewry at Brandeis University with expertise in Jewish journalism, wrote in an e-mail message.

“I know that he is fiercely hated in some Orthodox circles, but he has had many a scoop, and is certainly THE destination for those who want dirt about Orthodoxy exposed to the world.”

See also: Radio Interview January 10, 2010

Swamped with singles

By Yael Brygel January 9, 2010

One of the key religious issues faced by the characters in Srugim is the conflict between Halacha and sexuality, an issue that Shapira suggests applies in particular to Yifat, one of the five main characters.

Watch Srugim ch. 3 in Family | View More Free Videos Online at

Politicians rally with Jewish and Christian clerics against clergy abuse

By Yair Ettinger and Nir Hasson January 4, 2010

A rare meeting between clerics from various churches, representatives of the Foreign Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality, and a rabbi belonging to the Eda Haredit anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox stream gathered last week in Jerusalem in an effort to stave off a diplomatic crisis between Israel and a number of foreign states.

The meeting was spurred by the growing number of complaints from churches in the vicinity of Jerusalem's Mea She'arim quarter about violence and harassment toward them on the part of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Film Review: Self-fulfilling prophecies

By David Alexander Nahmod January 3, 2010

A fascinating collaboration between filmmakers Kate Davis, Franco Sacchi and David Heilbroner, Waiting for Armageddon focuses on the intense passion that American Evangelical Christians have for the State of Israel.

A lone voice in the wilderness

By Gail Lichtman January 10, 2010

As a Muslim who accepts this premise of the Koran, Palazzi has no problem with Jewish sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel - including Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

During his visit here, he repeatedly urged Israel to assert its sovereignty by building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and wresting political control of the Wakf (the Supreme Muslim Authority) and the Temple Mount from the Palestinian Authority.

Kitchen Nightmare? Pork on the Menu in Israel

By Dominic Waghorn January 2, 2010

The "Other White Meat" is Not Welcome in Jaffa January 3, 2010

A retired Jewish cardiologist is set to make history -- and generate a bit of controversy -- with Israel's first ever cookery book devoted to pork.

Religion and State in Israel

January 11, 2010 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.