Monday, March 15, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - March 15, 2010 (Section 1)

March 15, 2010 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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

Why nobody's happy with conversion bill

By Dan Izenberg March 9, 2010

Today, in accordance with a High Court ruling, a person who converts to Judaism abroad and moves to Israel will be granted automatic citizenship according to the Law of Return.

But what if such a convert had visited Israel before his conversion? Would he retroactively lose his status as an Israeli citizen if the law were passed?

And, looking toward the future, what if a non-Jew visited Israel as a tourist, returned to his home country and then decided to convert and return to Israel after his conversion? Would he still be eligible for citizenship according to the Law of Return?

What’s Wrong with Israel’s Proposed Conversion Bill

By Rabbi Seth Farber Opinion March 9, 2010

Rabbi Seth Farber is the director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center and rabbi of Kehilat Netivot in Ra’anana

Even if the conversion law passes with some modifications, there is serious need for conversion reform in Israel and around the world.

There needs to be more consensus, greater access, and less politics, money and influence regarding this issue.

In Israel, expanding the number and type of rabbis who can convert is an important first step in changing what has become a conversion process characterized by chaos.

But serious improvements need to be made in the registration process, the courses of study, the rabbinical courts and the issuance of certificates.

Greater accountability and transparency should be put in place in our conversion courts, and there ought to be increased responsiveness to the “needs of the hour,” particularly reaching out to couples who may otherwise intermarry.

Only in Israel can conversion bring down a government. But only in Israel can these issues be resolved for now, for the future, for ourselves and for our children.

A mess no ritual bath could cleanse

By Anshel Pfeffer Opinion March 12, 2010

But after reading the new conversion law proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem and seeing the bickering between his party and the ultra-Orthodox parties, now joined by the Reform movement and its allies, the only sensible conclusion is to wish a plague on all their houses.

...The conversion issue is a godawful mess because it is not just about the religious definition of "who is a Jew?" New laws may alleviate the sufferings of a few individuals or even of an entire group, they will not solve the most fundamental flaw, which is a total lack of any clear description, even a vision, of what Israeli citizenship means.

Peres asks leading rabbi to compromise on conversion bill

By Gil Hoffman, Ron Friedman and Rebecca Anna Stoil March 11, 2010

President Shimon Peres visited 98-year-old Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman at the Ponovezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak Wednesday in an effort to resolve the crisis over proposed conversion legislation.

United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni had asked Peres to intervene after Shteinman had pressed UTJ to resign from the coalition to protest attempts by Israel Beiteinu to enable municipal rabbis to authorize conversions, which currently must go through the Chief Rabbinate.

Bill Making Many Converts Ineligible under ‘Law of Return’ Faces Backlash

By Gal Beckerman March 12, 2010

What has offended American Jews, however, is a paragraph that would invalidate the citizenship of people who arrived in Israel as non-Jews and then converted. Meant ostensibly to keep non-Jewish immigrants to Israel from taking advantage of the Law of Return, it would also effectively bar a group of legitimate converts already in Israel from gaining full citizenship.

Conversion does need to be changed. But not like this

By Rabbi Seth Farber Opinion March 11, 2010

Rabbi Seth Farber is the director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center and rabbi of Kehilat Netivot in Ra’anana

There is a genuine need to upgrade the conversion process in Israel.

Conversion needs to be transparent, accessible and meaningful. There needs to be clarity and coherence. And, ultimately, there needs to be an embracing environment which welcomes converts who seek to tie their fate to that of our people.

Gulf remains between parties on proposed Knesset conversion bill

By Yair Ettinger and Mazal Mualem March 11, 2010

The efforts to end the coalition crisis over proposed conversion regulation reforms continued yesterday, as attorney Jacob Weinroth introduced an initial document containing amendments to the proposed bill.

The document was passed on to Shas, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael Beiteinu, and the Prime Minister's Bureau. Sources involved in the negotiations confined their comments on the document to saying there were still considerable gaps between the parties.

Sharansky blasts ‘sneaky’ additions to conversion bill

By Haviv Rettig Gur March 10, 2010

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky on Tuesday joined the chorus of concern and criticism over an Israel Beiteinu conversion bill currently before the Knesset Law Committee.

“The fact that changes entered [the bill] through the back door is worrying, especially since there’s no doubt someone did this on purpose. We’re invited to talk about the role of municipal rabbis [on conversion courts], and suddenly we find [the right to] citizenship up for discussion,” Sharansky complained.

“For this reason, it’s important to have an open discussion. As of now, I don’t know where this stands, because there’s a new version of the bill every few hours. We must not let such important issues be decided in such sneaky ways.”

Deal sought on conversion law as ultra-Orthodox dig in heels

By Mazal Mualem and Yair Ettinger March 10, 2010

The emerging deal will apparently preserve the Chief Rabbinate's authority over conversions.

However, the parties are still at odds over who will be empowered to perform them: Yisrael Beiteinu wants all municipal rabbis so empowered, while Shas wants restrictions on which rabbis can do so

Controversial clause holds up conversion bill in Law C'tee

By Rebecca Anna Stoil March 9, 2010

“This is a legislative terror attack that is trying to hide serious damage behind the cover of dissembling verbiage,” said Rabbi Uri Regev, the head of Hiddush, an organization that supports religious freedom and equality.

“The bill emasculates the Law of Return, harms the courts’ authority, harms non-Orthodox converts and does not help other converts.

The only way to solve the challenge of conversion is to eliminate the rabbinic monopoly. It would have been better for Rotem’s bill never to have been written.”

'A precedent for discrimination'

By Haviv Rettig Gur March 9, 2010

“American Jews ought to be concerned, but they shouldn’t be panicked. The bigger panic should be around how the state is still impinging on the authority of overseas communities to perform conversions,”
[Rabbi Seth] Farber added, a reference to Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar’s efforts to limit the number of overseas Orthodox rabbis permitted to perform conversions.

Sephardi chief rabbi feels 'deceived' over amendment to change conversion rules

By Yair Ettinger March 10, 2010

"The rabbi was asked to sign a document that had undergone changes from what was agreed on in the negotiations," one of Rabbi Amar's associates said.

"The rabbi didn't notice that Rotem had altered the language, and he feels deeply hurt. He is in great pain, but he doesn't want to sever ties with Yisrael Beiteinu," he said.

Shas: Conversion bill crisis solvable

By Gil Hoffman and Rebecca Ann Stoil March 8, 2010

Shas officials emphasized that they are still working to reach an agreement that will better “prevent allowing Reform conversion under the law” and advocated that municipal rabbis who want to be permitted to oversee conversions get special authority to do so from the Chief Rabbinate.

Reform Jewish Movement Calls on Knesset to Reject Conversion Legislation March 9, 2010

This legislation will certainly reopen one of the most divisive battles in the Jewish community. The proposed legislation will lead to a situation in which Jews-by-choice would be treated differently and denied recognition as Jews under the Law of Return, in direct contradiction of Israeli Supreme Court rulings. Additionally, it may lead to the delegitimization of all non-orthodox conversions performed outside of the State of Israel.

WUPJ on Proposed Amendment to the Chief Rabbinate Law March 7, 2010 [pdf]

This amendment would not only affect those who chose to convert to Judaism in the State of Israel, but also those who convert outside of Israel, who either studied in Israel before their conversion or even visited Israel in order to strengthen their knowledge of Judaism and the Jewish people.

US Jewish leaders concerned over conversion bill

By Haviv Rettig Gur March 14, 2010

The bill is problematic not only because of its third paragraph on citizenship rights for converts, but because “it grants legal authority to the Chief Rabbinate for conversions... and would possibly make it impossible for conversions to be performed by Conservative and Masorti rabbis, by some Orthodox rabbis, and by Reform rabbis,” Rabbi Julie Schonfeld said in a statement released Thursday.

Jewish Federations of North America urges Government of Israel to dialogue with Diaspora Jews before Law of Return changes March 10, 2010

We implore the Israeli government to seriously consider the concerns and sensitivities of Diaspora Jews before acting on such proposals.

Changes to the Law of Return could adversely affect many members of our community by preventing them from making aliyah and becoming Israeli citizens. Any action of this type would be an affront to world Jewry.

Rav Ovadia Yosef: A Masorti/Conservative Jew?

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion March 14, 2010

Rabbi Sacks is Director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel

So why ask if the learned but eccentric rabbi is a Masorti Jew?

Well it seems that just last week a rabbinic responsum was published where Rav Ovadia determined that the daughter born to a convert of a Conservative Beit Din was to be considered fully Jewish.

He heaped praise of the standards of the Beit Din and the demands they made of the convert. He pointed out that these Conservative rabbis were as serious as the Orthodox rabbis in the standards they held.

Well, too often Rav Ovadia has gone over the edge in degrading the other. For that he ought be condemned. But when he shows insight, as he has done here, he must be praised.

Rav Ovadia may not be a member of the Masorti Movement, but we welcome his recognition of our converts.

Special section set aside for burial of boy killed in crash

By Yanir Yagna, Jack Khoury, Yaniv Kubovich and Chaim Levinson March 12, 2010

A 12-year-old boy who was run over by a taxi this week will be buried today in a section of the Ofakim cemetery that the city's religious authorities have set aside for him and any others who are not officially recognized as Jewish.

...The religious authorities asked the principal of Arik's school about his Jewish status, and the family was asked the name of the mohel who circumcised him.

Ofer's adoptive father, Eitan, insisted that the boy be buried in the city.

Closure order against school for Ashkenazi girls only

By Yaheli Moran Zelikovich March 14, 2010

Ministry of Education Director-General Shimshon Shoshani issued a closure order Sunday against a temporary institution used as a school for Ashkenazi girls who have refused to study together with Sephardi girls.

The decision to act against the temporary "school" was welcomed by Yoav Laloum, chairman of Noar C'Halacha, an organization fighting discrimination against Mizrahim in haredi institutions.

"I am happy that the Education Ministry is acting against those who do not respect the law," he said.

Teaching Civics the Jewish Way

By Hillel Fendel March 14, 2010

The Orot College, together with Yeshivat Hesder Petach Tikvah, has come up with a new teachers-training civics program, based on Torah sources and the full legitimacy of the religious-national camp.

The teachers will study the current Education Ministry program, but at the same time will also receive tools to deal with conflicts that arise between the religious public and the state institutions.

Peres shows religious side in rare visit to ultra-Orthodox heartland

By Yair Ettinger March 12, 2010

President Shimon Peres said yesterday that if it were up to him, all Jews would observe the Sabbath and work only six days a week - "as the Torah commands."

Speaking on an official visit to the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, Peres said he was proud that the state and the IDF released yeshiva students from military service so they could devote their life to Torah study.

President makes official visit to Bnei Brak

By Ron Friedman March 11, 2010

The next stop was a visit to I-Rox, a hi-tech outsourcing company managed and staffed completely by haredi women from Bnei Brak. Peres toured the office and spoke to the employees, asking them about their experience at the job and the difficulty of balancing a career with a traditional haredi lifestyle.

“The secular society in Israel must create the conditions to enable more haredim to work, both women and men, that means the ability to have men and women work separately and during reasonable hours that will allow them to continue their traditional lifestyle.
We must put a stop to the isolation. It is necessary for the future of the nation and the economy,” said Peres.

If they ask the president

By Nehemia Shtrasler Opinion March 12, 2010

Despite the disgraceful self-disparagement, we should remember that the State of Israel was established by secular Jews, contrary to the propaganda of the Haredim who wanted to wait for the Messiah.

The economy was built by secular Israelis contrary to Ponovezh wheeler-dealers, who sanctified idleness. Our culture and literature were also promoted by the secular community, as was the IDF that protects everyone, including the draft-dodging Haredim.

Getting Charedim to work

By Nathan Jeffay March 11, 2010

Israel's fast-growing Charedi community is traditionally characterised by low employment, high poverty and dependence on charity and benefits. How to change this has become a perennial question of Israeli politics.

Israel's leading sociologist on the Charedi community, Menachem Friedman of Bar Ilan University, described rising employment in Modiin Illit as a "very optimistic development".

But he said there is a glass ceiling on what the Modiin Illit approach can achieve without the Charedi community reconsidering its reluctance to teach secular subjects in schools. Many Modiin Illit workers have unskilled and low-paid jobs.

"Without a change in attitudes towards education the main problem remains - they can't access the mainstream Israeli job market," said Dr Friedman.

Arabs are too young - but ultra-Orthodox are just right

By Jack Khoury March 10, 2010

"The program in question, which was initiated at the request of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education, is intended for the ultra-Orthodox community and is a unique program that offers students homogeneous classes (the classes are held at the university extension in Bnai Brak). Therefore only this program could be suited to students who are 19."

Haifa City Hall Wins Appeal against Local Belzer Chassidic Community

By Yechiel Spira March 10, 2010

Haifa City Hall appealed the decision of the city’s magistrate’s court, and emerged from the district court with a victory, overturning the lower court’s decision granting the local Belz community rights to the shul in question.

VIDEO: First Ever "Kosher" Mobile Internet in Israel

By Yoni Kempinski March 10, 2010

Cellcom-Israel, one of Israel's biggest mobile providers and Internet-Rimon, a company which provides "clean" internet, have released a new development in the field of mobile-internet.

Haredi Lithuanian community heads back cult leader Chen March 12, 2010

Leaders of the haredi Lithuanian community have expressed their support for cult leader Elior Chen, who has been charged with ordering his followers to beat and abuse eight siblings whose mother belonged to his sect.

Channel 10 documentary shows X-ray rabbi's influence radiating to business sector

By Ophir Bar-Zohar March 14, 2010

Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Ifergan, who has been nicknamed the X-ray rabbi, is the subject of a documentary to be aired on Channel 10 this evening, which will report the rabbi is an adviser to numerous Israeli business people.

Secular locals protest planned building of city for up to 150,000 haredim March 14, 2010

Dozens of secular residents of the community of Harish were demonstrating on Highway 65 (Wadi Ara) on Sunday in protest of a government plan to build a large haredi city in the area.

Katzir-Harish is a municipality near Haifa bordering on the mostly Arab Wadi Ara area.

Its residents claim a recently drafted plan to build the new city does not take into account a decision by the National Building and Planning Committee to build a city for only 50,000-60,000 inhabitants, as opposed to 150,000 as is specified in the draft.

Jews and Arabs protest against planned Haredi city

By Ben Hartman March 14, 2010

The plan to build the large haredi community in Harish has received heavy support from Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Housing Minister Ariel Atias.

In December, following similar protests, the National Building and Planning Council approved the haredi development in Harish, but clarified that it must be limited to only 50,000 residents.

In early December, the Menashe Regional Council held a partial strike to protest the Harish construction plans, out of fears that a city of 150,000 would change the rural nature of their area, whose Jewish communities are largely secular, while Wadi Ara region in general is heavily Arab.

H&M hysteria, Haredi style

By Ofer Petersburg March 14, 2010

Photo courtesy of Miriam Wolke

A commotion broke out when Neturei Karta members arrived with loudspeakers and called out to the crowd: "Modesty, gentlemen, modesty. We don't want any mix up here. Women must not be with men."

The ice cream chain's owner, Yaakov Halperin, immediately organized two queues, one for men and one for women. Iron barriers were dispatched to the area and the men and women were separated. Each time, eight men were allowed to enter the store, followed by eight women.

Shas spiritual leader: Don't mourn Jews who give bodies to science

By Yair Ettinger March 14, 2010

The spiritual leader of the Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has declared in latest set of religious rulings that Jews who donate their bodies to science or commit suicide do not deserve to be mourned in the traditional Jewish way.

From Israel, a radical way to boost organ donation

By Aron Heller, The Associated Press March 14, 2010

Israel is launching a potentially trailblazing experiment in organ donation: Sign a donor card, and you and your family move up in line for a transplant if one is needed.

The new law is the first of its kind in the world, and international medical authorities are eager to see if it boosts organ supply. But it has also raised resistance from within Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish minority.

Litzman: I'll Resign Before I Move Graves March 14, 2010

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said Sunday he would rather resign than move graves located on a lot where a missile-proof emergency room is set to be built for Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.

Health Ministry staffers, MK Adatto oppose threat to D-G

By Judy Siegel March 14, 2010

[The Israel Antiquities Authority] said that the site is comprised of “two burial systems,” including a central room with graves emanating in three directions. They have colored plaster and stucco, and the site was the victim of grave robbers, the authority added.

…The authority added that the style of the Barzilai graves is similar to that of 70 other graves dug up in the Coastal Plain, including elsewhere in Ashkelon, and in none of them was any sign of a Jewish connection found. Some of these graves had frescoes, which “testify to those buried being pagans or Christians.”

A 'baba' is born

By Tamar Rotem March 12, 2010

Anthropologist Yoram Bilu’s new book "Shoshvinei hakdoshim" ("The Saints' Impresarios: Dreamers, Healers and Holy Men in Israel's Urban Periphery," the University of Haifa; in Hebrew)

Dr. Boaz Huss of the Jewish philosophy department at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who studies new kabbalistic groups, proposes that these new tzaddikim not be regarded as tricksters or as suppliers of opium to the masses, but rather as a type of agents of the New Age, who faithfully reflect culture in the post-modern era.

"The mass following of tzaddikim today is not a matter of turning to tradition," explains Huss, "but a new creation with elements of traditional culture.

Rabbinate Meat Supervisors to be Investigated March 14, 2010

The Comptroller's Office has informed the Ometz Good Government organization that it intends to investigate meat production abroad conducted under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate.

Rav Pinto Elected as Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Ashdod

By Yechiel Spira March 10, 2010

HaGaon HaRav Chaim Pinto Shlita has been elected as the Sephardi chief rabbi of Ashdod after the city has had only an Ashkenazi rav for about nine years. Rav Pinto received 46 of the 48 votes.

Rising from the ruins

By Gil Zohar March 12, 2010

Turning to discuss the operation of the rebuilt Hurva, Arazi explains that though built by the JQDC in accordance with the decision of the government, the synagogue will be jointly operated by the company and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

Rehovot’s Chief Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook has been appointed as rabbi for the 200-seat synagogue.

The Hurva’s symbolism Editorial March 14, 2010

Twice destroyed and twice rebuilt, the Hurva synagogue is a symbol of the Jewish people’s tenacious insistence on returning to its rightful land against all odds.

VIDEO: First Visit to the Rebuilt Hurva Synagogue

By Yoni Kempinski March 18, 2010

The restoration and construction of the Hurva Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem nears completion, with the dedication of the synagogue scheduled for Monday, March 15.

The Hurva Synagogue will be dedicated on the eve of Rosh Chodesh (first day of the Hebrew month) Nissan, 5770 (the day construction of the Biblical Tabernacle was completed), in the presence of ministers, Members of Knesset, rabbis and other dignitaries.

The synagogue will host regular prayer services, visitors and tours. During the opening week, the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter will conduct free tours during the day and will show a sound and light presentation during evening hours.

Religion and State in Israel

March 15, 2010 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.