Monday, March 8, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - March 8, 2010 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

March 8, 2010 (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.

Signs hung overnight against 'kosher' buses

By Kobi Nahshoni March 3, 2010

Dozens of young people protesting the separation between men and women on public transportation in Jerusalem toured a number of cities Tuesday night where they hung signs in protest of the "mehadrin lines" that stipulate such a separation.

In a nighttime campaign, called "A Stop in Time," the protesters hung posters that sought to demonstrate to the public what public transportation could look like in the future if the mehadrin lines are authorized and expanded. The signs were hung in hundreds of bus stops in Jerusalem, Ra’anana, Holon, Tel Aviv, Beersheba, and Tiberias.

"This is bus stop is mehadrin kosher. Thus, men enter and sit down in the front; women and all the rest – to the back," the posters read.

Underneath the headline is an illustration showing that "women, blacks, and minorities" belong in the back along with a "kashrut stamp" showing that the line has been deemed kosher "with the oversight of the transportation minister and subsidized by the State."

Segregated Bus Lines Coming to You Soon!

By Kobi Nahshoni March 3, 2010

[On March 3, 2010], the Forum of Organizations for a Free Jerusalem will hold a rally in from of the prime minister's residence in a call for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to get involved in the issue. They will also call for Minister Katz's resignation.

Where are the Mehadrin buses taking us – On gender separation on buses

By Professor Avi Sagi, Professor Adi Ophir, Dr. Iris Brown Opinion March 2, 2010

Is the approval of bus lines, on which men sit in the front and women in the back, an expression of cultural tolerance or perhaps a hechsher (permit) to oppress and exclude women?

Does the obligation of a democratic society to protect the culture of a minority override the responsibility to maintain basic values?

And does the issue of Mehadrin buses constitute a self-righteous attack on the Ultra-Orthodox sector?

Does it distract attention from other types of segregation, or does it touch on the core ethical questions that should be of concern to Israeli citizens?

Opposition Mounts to Gender Segregation in Public Places March 4, 2010

Jerusalem Counsel Member Rachel Azaria, who is herself Orthodox and is an outspoken opponent of gender segregation in public places, said, "There has been a clear change in Israeli public opinion over the past year.

At first secular Israelis would say this does not affect me and leave the ultra-Orthodox to live how they want.

But discourse has changed. People now realize that there are gender-segregated buses in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Ashdod as well as Jerusalem and B'nei Brak. People now realize that these public buses contravene Israeli democratic values."

A possible truce to our bus wars

By Nathan Jeffay Opinion March 7, 2010

"Travel in Safety - Travel with Egged"

What if Haredi men got to exercise their market power and travel in a female-free environment without chipping away at Israel's liberal values?

What if they segregated themselves instead of expecting others to be segregated from them? What if they - not women - were the ones tucking themselves out of the way?

…the privilege of restricted-usage seating would have to come at a price, and tickets for the special section would need to be more expensive than normal tickets, to make up for the inevitably lower turnover of this area.

Interview with Film Director Anat Zuria

By Ayelet Dekel March 5, 2010

Click here for FILM Trailer

Anat Yuta Zuria has created a trilogy of films exploring the lives of women in the context of Halakhah (Jewish religious law) and the religious community in Israel: Purity (Tehora 2002), Sentenced to Marriage (Mekudeshet 2004), and the most recent, Black Bus (Soreret 2009), which will be shown at the Jerusalem Theatre on Monday, March 8, International Women’s Day.

Midnight East’s Ayelet Dekel spoke to the filmmaker, who reflected on this body of work, its origins, processes and vision.

For the movie Black Bus, I looked for women who are rebelling and that are like us, dealing with documentation. In a way the movie is about me, about women who are involved in documentation and are looking at this world with an outsider/insider perspective.

Sex segregation continues in Jerusalem Municipality

By Tzipi Malchov March 2, 2010

The Jerusalem Municipality's sex segregation policy appears to be steadily growing. After the report of a women's-only tour of the Underground Prisoners Museum the city is now organizing an "Andalusian soiree" to include performances from liturgical poets - for men only.

A statement issued by the Jerusalem Municipality stated, "Due to the fact that many men in the haredi public do not attend concerts designated for both sexes, even if separation exists, it is the department's obligation to allow them to enjoy such an event."

The narrowing of the Israeli mindset

By Rabbi Menachem Creditor Opinion March 4, 2010

Rabbi Menachem Creditor is the spiritual leader of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, CA.

I asked the following question of Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, during his whirlwind trip through the Bay Area two weeks ago: Given the mandate for Israel, from both a geopolitical and traditional Jewish framework, to ensure the physical survival (pikuach nefesh) of its people, when is the right time to fight for Israeli religious pluralism for Jews?

…Judaism is more complicated than one form. May the place we all face become a welcoming meeting point for all forms of Judaism. May the distinction of holding Torah be a point of dignity and pride for Jewish women and men, at the Kotel and everywhere else.

Religious freedom — don’t take it for granted

By William Lipsey Opinion March 3, 2010

William Lipsey of Livingston, NJ is immediate past president of Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex in Caldwell and a member of the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism board.

We also visited 13 Masorti communities led by passionate, intense young Israelis seeking to make a difference.

…These communities face a daunting obstacle in the form of their government. There is a national religion in Israel, and I am sorry to report that few of us fit comfortably under its umbrella.

…Religious freedom is our gift. Let’s make sure we pass this on to our kids here and in Israel.

Religious Pluralism in Israel February 27, 2010

A Response to Marc Rosenstein's Galilee Diary “Perspective”, delivered by Rabbi/Cantor Rhoda JH Silverman on Shabbat Zachor

If the Women of the Wall cannot expect to be treated with dignity and respect, than how on earth can the majority of Israelis be expected to treat anyone viewed as ‘the other’ with any level of dignity and respect?

The recognition of religious pluralism, the full acceptance of non-Orthodox Jews in Israel, is equally important as the sundry of other issues this young nation faces and more importantly, sets a standard of humanitarian treatment for all.

We are all brethren

By Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz Opinion March 1, 2010

The writer is the rabbi of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

Women of the Wall - Anat Hoffman

At the Western Wall, the home of every Jew, no one is completely satisfied – neither the zealots of Jerusalem nor the fighters for equality; neither those wishing to conduct Torah lessons on the plaza, nor those wishing to conduct a women’s minyan.

…Therefore, the Western Wall is not a place for ceremonies or demonstrations, proclamations or tongue-lashings. The Wall is the place where all of us, as individuals, join our nation and heritage.

Women's Rights at the Western Wall March 2010

Why aren’t women permitted to engage in certain Jewish practices at Jerusalem's Western Wall?

Interview with Rabbi Avraham Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America

Click here for VIDEO

Unholy Matrimony

By Amy Beth Oppenheimer March 1, 2010

Amy Beth Oppenheimer, a JHU graduate and past Masa Israel participant, is the director of the newly released film Faces of Israel.

True or False?

1. Interfaith marriage of all kinds is illegal in Israel today. A Christian man and a Muslim woman, for example, would not be allowed to wed.

2. Israel only provides state funding to Orthodox religious institutions. In other words, the Reform and Conservative movements are out of institutional luck when seeking government support for their conversion programs.

3. A Conservative rabbi could be arrested for performing a wedding ceremony in Israel today.

The answers are perhaps surprising.

Filming Israeli Marriage

By Beth Zalcman March 1, 2010

How Jewish should the State of Israel be? Who gets to determine what “Jewish” means?Faces of Israel,” a documentary by Amy Beth Oppenheimer, frames the state’s Jewish-identity questions around the current debate over Israel’s marriage laws—which the ultra-Orthodox now control.

New Voices reporter Beth Zalcman spoke with Oppenheimer to discuss how the film came about and what the chuppah means for Israel’s future as a Jewish democracy.

Religious Revolution and Counterrevolution in Israel

By Joshua Stanton Opinion March 1, 2010

A religious revolution is in progress in Israel.

It will either upend or extend the reach of the ultra-Orthodox religious establishment, which presides over the institutions of marriage, divorce, and conversion in Israel, siphons off public funding for yeshivas, and worst of all has prevented the state from enacting a constitution that could provide significant protections for religious minorities.

Women's rabbinical rights Editorial March 1, 2010

At first glance, Orthodoxy’s extreme reaction to Rabbah Hurwitz is difficult to understand, considering the fact that technically, there is no clear halachic prohibition against the ordination of female rabbis.

For instance, at Nishmat, a Jerusalem institute of higher Torah education for women, which is fully accepted in mainstream Orthodox circles, women already serve a quasi-rabbinic position. To avoid arousing the rancor of the men, these women are careful to call themselves halachic advisers (yo’atzot halacha).

But in practice these scholars of Halacha function as rabbis, fielding questions from fellow women involving intimate matters of menstruation, sexual relations and reproduction.

A call for fairness in Kiryat Hayovel

By Peggy Cidor March 5, 2010

Last week, the tensions between the secular and haredi residents of Kiryat Hayovel reached a new high, but this time the anger was directed at the mayor.

…The secular residents are angry at Barkat because they expected him to take down the eruv (symbolic fence that allows Orthodox Jews to carry objects on Shabbat) posts installed by the new haredi residents, while he instead appointed a committee that set up new posts.

HMO withdraws sponsorship for Shabbat race under Haredi pressure

By Yair Ettinger March 7, 2010

The Maccabi health maintenance organization has withdrawn sponsorship from tomorrow's 10-kilometer race in Kfar Sava amid demands by the city's Haredi leaders to reschedule the event to a day other than the Sabbath.

A Maccabi spokesman said the HMO had agreed to the municipality's request months ago to provide funding for the race.

It was only after Maccabi officials realized that the event was taking place on a Saturday that the HMO sought to sponsor another event on a different day "to be involved with events that are within the consensus."

Israel by Israelis, Part I: My Homeland, My Self Spring 2010

Participants' biographies are available here.

Israeli Reform Jews—some born in Israel, some via aliyah—share their stories about the agony and the ecstasy of living in this still young and struggling Jewish state

What does it mean to you to be a Jew living in the State of Israel?

What does it mean to you to be a Reform Jew living in Israel?

Has Reform Judaism become more accepted among Israelis?

How is the experience of living as a Jew different in Israel than in your former country?

Are there aspects of Jewish life in your former country you wish you had now in Israel, as well as aspects of Jewish life in Israel you wish your former country would emulate?

What do you like most and/or least about living in Israel?

Reforming Reform Judaism in Israel

By Jenny Merkin March 5, 2010

Dr. David Ellenson, HUC President, at an event sponsored by the Columbia Current, predicted that Reform Judaism would be able to grow in Israel despite stifling political and economic structures.

Specifically, Ellenson predicted that in the next decade, the number of Israeli Reform rabbis will increase from 60 to 130 or more.

“What an Israeli expression is going to require is Israelis who are alive to the culture of what Israeli society is,” Ellenson said: a future brand of Israeli Progressive Judaism will not “progress very far at all” if the movement consists solely of Americans.

However, he acknowledged that many of the Israelis studying at HUC’s campus in Israel were influenced by a trip to the Diaspora, where they gain “a broader sense of what the possibilities are.”

$336,000 to programs run by the major Jewish streams in Israel

By Jacob Berkman March 5, 2010

The Jewish United Fund in Chicago has allocated $336,000 to programs run by the major Jewish streams in Israel, supporting projects of the Progressive (Reform), Masorti (Conservative) and Modern Orthodox movements, as well as inter- and non-denominational projects.

Most focus on reaching Israeli youth and do not typically qualify for Israeli government support. The grants include:

  • $116,000 to programs run by the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism: Partnership for Pluralism, Olim Outreach and Panim-Pluralistic Beit Midrash.
  • $116,000 to programs run by the Masorti movement in Israel and the Schechter Institute for Judaic Studies: Jewish Enrichment at NOAM, NOAM Garinim, Hannaton Education Center, Niggunim music programs in TALI Schools, Developing Parental Leadership -- TALI Schools, Masorti Learning Communities, Masorti Women's Study Days.
  • $74,000 to programs run by the Yaacov Herzog Center and Ohr Torah Stone: Tzahali: Pre-Army Mechina for Women, Youth Building a Better Society-Project Atid and Yachad: Leadership for Jewish Unity
  • $30,000 to inter- and non-denominational programs run by the Shalom Hartman Institute, Meitarim and BINA.

SHATIL Capacity Building Enables Bat Kol to give Voice to Orthodox Lesbian Women in Israel March 4, 2010

Talya Lev grew up in the U.S. and Germany, made Aliyah to Israel at age 18, served in the Liaison unit of the Israeli Defense Force intelligence, and studied at Bar Ilan University.

During her studies she became more exposed to the religious world and decided to adopt an Orthodox lifestyle.

A few years later she came out to friends and family, and joined the Orthodox lesbian organization Bat Kol, whose goal is to enable women to fulfill both their religious and lesbian identities.

Supreme Court to decide if there is an ‘Israeli nation'

By Dan Izenberg March 7, 2010

The Supreme Court is due to rule on an appeal by 21 Israelis, Jews and non-Jews, who are demanding that the Interior Ministry register all of them as belonging to the Israeli nation.

“The nationality entry does not appear in Israeli identity cards,” Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch pointed out. “The question is how important the Population Registry is. You are granting it exaggerated importance.”

Justice Uzi Fogelman added: “The question is whether or not the court is the right place to solve this problem.”

Israel as a Jewish State March 7-8, 2010

Click here for Conference Program [pdf]

Ever since Theodore Herzl’s time, argument has raged over the meaning of the “Jewish State”. Much of it has focused on the appropriate role of religion in the state’s laws and practices.

With the growth of religiosity in the state and the sharp increase in the number of religious citizens – neither development foreseen by Israel’s founders – the arguments have become fiercer. Different streams of Jewish practice – Haredi, Modern Orthodox, conservative, Reform, and “secular” compete either for recognition or to delegitimize their rivals.

Meanwhile, many citizens define themselves as simply “Israeli” rather than “Jewish”.

This conference will address the provocative themes of the nature and role of democracy, identity and Jewish religion in the Israeli context.

How can Israel balance the competing claims of its Jewish self-definition with a commitment to democratic pluralism?

Moreover, how can it best choose among frequently contradictory religious and social values, a path that all its citizens can live with?

Not just Zionism: Lousy economy pushes more U.S. Jews to move to Israel

By Beth Schwartzapfel, The Forward March 2, 2010

With unemployment rates hovering at around 10 percent (more than double what they were two years ago), one ripple effect of America's recession is increased immigration to Israel. It is no panacea.

But unemployment there is hovering at around 8 percent, while the economy overall has contracted less than in the United States and now appears on the way back to growth.

"Israel has proved to be resilient to this particular global shock," the International Monetary Fund noted admiringly in a January report.

The Agency’s New Agenda

Editorial March 3, 2010

The Jewish Agency for Israel is embarking on a bold and necessary attempt to create a new mission for itself, downplaying its historic role in promoting immigration to Israel and emphasizing instead an intriguing but still amorphous notion of Jewish “peoplehood.”

Embattled Jewish Agency to Promote Identity over Aliyah

By Gal Beckerman March 3, 2010

Natan Sharansky knows he’s disturbing the status quo. Days before the most recent meeting of the Board of Governors, the body that oversees the Jewish Agency for Israel, Sharansky, its relatively new chairman, declared that the agency’s traditional mission had outlived its usefulness.

Alan Hoffmann named Jewish Agency director-general March 3, 2010

Alan Hoffmann, director-general of the Department of Education of the Jewish Agency, has been named director-general of the Jewish Agency by a special committee of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors.

Hoffmann, who made aliyah to Israel from South Africa in 1967, is the first oleh to hold this position.

The Case for Change: A Challenge to the Jewish Agency

By Gil Troy Opinion March 7, 2010

To effect change, the leaders of the Jewish Agency, this College of Cardinals of the Jewish people, will need the discipline of the Congress during Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the fluidity of the British parliament under Thatcher, the courage of Ben Gurion and this very agency on the eve of independence in 1948 and the wisdom of our ancient Sanhedrin.

Future Shock?

By Stewart Ain March 2, 2010

The study, “2030: Alternative Futures for the Jewish People,” was presented for the first time in Jerusalem on Feb. 17 to members of a visiting delegation from the Conference of Jewish Organizations of Major American Organizations.

It recommends steps to avoid the worst-case scenarios, including increasing the Jewish birthrate, bringing more young Jews to Israel for at least one year, developing new forms of aliyah and, most importantly, attracting the best and brightest to positions of leadership.

One Million Russian Immigrants - The frictions in Israeli society are different today

By Avi Pikar March 4, 2010

The mass immigration to Israel from the former Soviet Union has realigned Israeli society.

The large number of immigrants has brought about far-reaching demographic and cultural changes. Avi Pikar analyzes the impact of this massive immigration on Israel's development town

With America conquered, Nefesh B'Nefesh sets sights on U.K.

By Raphael Ahren March 5, 2010

Having taken over the process to bring Jewish immigrants from North America to Israel, Nefesh B'Nefesh is now pressing the Jewish Agency for Israel to cede to the private immigration assistance group its aliyah operations in Great Britain.

Nefesh B’Nefesh to stage ‘mega’ events in 8 US cities

By E.B. Solomont March 7, 2010

Hoping to encourage 5,000 new olim this year, Nefesh B’Nefesh is holding eight “mega” aliya events in cities across North America this week.

8 aliyah fairs to be held in North America

By Shalom Life news staff March 6, 2010

Nefesh B'Nefesh has decided to accelerate and deepen its activities in North America, in order to realize the potential increase in the number of immigrants to Israel during 2010.

Taking from absorption to pay for aliyah

By Raphael Ahren March 5, 2010

North American immigrants will no longer be able join the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption's popular Community Absorption program unless they move to Jerusalem, Anglo File has learned.

The move follows a recent cabinet decision to increase government subsidies to private immigration assistance group Nefesh B'Nefesh, part of which is paid for by the ministry's budget. NBN is responsible for bringing North American immigrants to Israel.

Shas Not Budging from WZO Membership

By Yechiel Sever March 4, 2010

Local rabbonim in Eretz Yisroel and the Diaspora have expressed dismay and outrage over Shas' ongoing ties with the World Zionist Organization. At a WZO meeting held last week 20 Shas delegates were appointed to the Zionist Congress.

At the meeting, which was attended by Shas representative Yigal Bibi, a former National Religious Party MK, it was decided that Shas would receive 20 of the 190 delegates chosen according to their political alignments and would be free to choose its representatives to fill the 20 slots.

Capital Anglos mobilize against practice of spitting at Christians

By Raphael Ahren March 5, 2010

Shocked by growing reports about Ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting at Christians in Jerusalem's Old City, a group of Anglo residents is now mobilizing against this ugly practice.

Although such incidents reportedly have decreased since a council of Haredi rabbis issued an official condemnation in January in response to the public outcry, Christian and Jewish activists agree the problem is unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

Fervently opposed

By Peggy Cidor March 5, 2010

One of his fiercest campaigns was that launched against Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which collects donations from evangelicals to help needy Jews in Israel.

The Eda Haredit doesn’t accept outside funding anyway, but that didn’t prevent Shternbuch from declaring that accepting even a shekel from that foundation was no less than “raising a hand against God and His holy Torah.”

The radical haredi sect considers evangelicals to be missionaries and fears that accepting money from the foundation may lead to conversion.

Religion and State in Israel

March 8, 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.