Monday, September 27, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - September 27, 2010 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

September 27, 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.

The dangerous misconceptions of Rabbi Amar

By Rabbi Eric Yoffie Opinion September 26, 2010

Rabbi Yoffie is the President of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, has no understanding of American politics, and his misconceptions are dangerous to the well-being of the State of Israel.

...I happen to agree that the involvement of Congressmen in Israel's religious affairs is troubling at any time and particularly now.

I suggest, however, that instead of issuing blistering attacks on Reform and Conservative Jews, Rabbi Amar should do two things: endorse the efforts of Natan Sharansky to find a compromise on the conversion bill acceptable to all, and consider promoting a democratic, "free-market" religious system that will restore the honor of Torah in the Jewish state and lead to a true flowering of Jewish life.

Good intentions, wrong solution

By Rabbi Uri Regev Opinion September 24, 2010

The writer is a rabbi, and attorney and the executive director of Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality.

The state should be supporting religious services and choices of all Jews (and non-Jews), just as it supports cultural and educational services, but should not impose one religious school of thought over others, so long as they comply with the civil law and public order.

Israel should fully and equally recognize all conversions and marriages performed by the major religious streams as well as allow for civil marriage. There is no other worthy solution, and the sooner we recognize that, the better.

‘Yated Ne’eman’ slams Amar for accepting IDF conversions

By Jonah Mandel September 21, 2010

The mouthpiece for the Lithuanian-Ashkenazi-haredi rabbinic leadership slammed Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar on Monday for his recent statement that conversions conducted in the IDF are halachically valid.

“Rabbis and senior rabbinical judges in the Holy Land and Diaspora are openly and firmly protesting the severe breach in maintaining the pedigree and sanctity of the people of Israel, following the chief Sephardi rabbi’s declaration” on the validity of the military conversions, Yated Ne’eman’s Page 2 read.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein on Conversion Bill

By Gil Hoffman September 22, 2010

Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein:

I will bring specific proposals to the committee that is working on reaching a compromise, in an effort to enable Russian immigrants and other potential converts to have more possibilities for Orthodox conversions without antagonizing and excluding non- Orthodox Jews.

Time for a new Jewish conversation

Tzipi Livni Opinion September 21, 2010

The writer is leader of the opposition and head of the Kadima party.

First, if Israel is to realize its mission as the national home of the Jewish people, it must act like one. It must find ways to welcome rather than alienate Jews regardless of their opinions or the stream of Judaism with which they are affiliated.

It must embrace an inclusive and pluralistic Jewish agenda that respects our traditions without denying the legitimacy of difference.

Police call for pressing charges against Torah-carrying activist at Western Wall

By Raphael Ahren September 24, 2010

"Not that I'm looking forward to having my freedom curtailed, but oftentimes you have to pay a personal price for your beliefs," said Anat Hoffman, who is also executive director of the Reform movement's Israel Religious Action Center, about the prospect of a prison sentence.

"I will find it extremely surprising if someone in the [prosecutor's office] will actually pursue this. But if they will pursue it, I am willing to pay the price," she added.

Hoffman insists her actions are anything but a provocation.

"We've been doing this for 22 years," she said about Women of the Wall's monthly prayer group. "We're there all the time. What has changed is not us, what changed is the powers that be, the power of the state behind the most fanatic Orthodoxy," she said, adding that over the last half decade many changes occurred at the Wall that seem to cement an Orthodox grip on the site. "It became an Ultra-Orthodox synagogue."

Atara Kenigsberg, could you become director of the Rabbinical Courts?

By Chaim Levinson September 21, 2010

Women are demanding the right to serve as director of the rabbinical courts. One of the would-be candidates is Atara Kenigsberg, executive director of the Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan University.

"The office is administrative - just as they would accept any new administrator. There's no reason to refuse to work for one who is a woman. They are employed by the civil service, and there's no excuse for inequality in the civil service."

Women demand right to serve as director of Israel's rabbinical courts

By Yair Ettinger September 20, 2010

Three women are threatening to ask the High Court of Justice to declare unconstitutional a law requiring the director general of the rabbinical courts to be able to serve as a municipal rabbi or rabbinical court judge - titles awarded only to men.

Alternatively, the High Court petitioners want Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to seriously consider their candidacy for the director general job in spite of the law.

A woman’s place Editorial September 21, 2010

In the coming days, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, in consultation with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, will choose a new administrative head for the rabbinical court system.

A qualified woman should be given a fair chance at the job. But due to Israel’s problematic mixture of religion and politics, which often leads to appointments guided more by political efficacy than the better good, there is little hope of this happening.

High Court reveals anonymous donor paid men to grant bills of divorce

By Tomer Zarchin September 21, 2010

The rabbinical courts' administration already has an arrangement to pay men who refuse to divorce their wives in certain cases, as an incentive to grant the divorce. The money is budgeted by the state. However, the verdict shows that in 2004-2005 an anonymous donor gave the rabbinical courts money to pay off dozens of men and even a few women, to divorce their spouses.

CWJ attorney Aviad Hacohen:

"They refuse to tell us who the donor is. We don't know the exact sums he donated in every case. Is it conceivable that a private donor give the courts' administration - the equivalent to the rabbinical courts' administration - funds to pay civil litigators with no supervision or follow-up?"

The emperor has no clothes

By Rivkah Lubitch Opinion September 26, 2010

Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinic court pleader who works at The Center for Women’s Justice

For the past 13 years all sorts of figures in the Jewish world have been trying to convince Zevulun Siman Tov from Afghanistan, who refuses to divorce his wife, to give her a get.

Rivkah Lubitch thinks that the story reflects the powerlessness of the wife and the rabbinic court against a man who married a woman and refuses to divorce her. And when will we understand that this situation cannot be allowed to continue?

To Remarry, Jewish Widow First Kneels to Custom

By Michele Chabin September 22, 2010

When Sarah presented the registrar with her late husband's death certificate, he asked if her deceased husband had any children. When she said no, he asked whether her late husband had any brothers. Sarah said yes.

"Then you need to do the halitza ceremony," the registrar told her, she said. "Otherwise you won't be able to marry, ever."

Petition slams Yishai's Shabbat payment shut down decision

By Jonah Mandel September 24, 2010

A petition against the planned disabling of online payments to the Interior Ministry on Shabbat and holidays is slowly gaining steam.

“Of course it is not hard to guess where this prohibition will lead: If you can’t make transactions on Shabbat, in the future we won’t be able to surf the Internet on Yom Kippur or enter Facebook on Shabbat – and I thought that we should at least protest. This is the only means [of action] I have, unlike Yishai,” Omer Barak added.

Religious party puts up Shabbat pay-wall

By Anshel Pfeffer September 21, 2010

Interior Minister Eli Yishai has opened a new front in the battle between state and religion by ordering his ministry's website to close down its payment facilities on Shabbat.

Meanwhile Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism has also decided to close his ministry's online payment facilities on Shabbat, though it is unclear yet whether other ministries controlled by religious politicians will follow suit.

Army Radio head: Soldiers will not work on Shabbat

By Kobi Nahshoni September 21, 2010

Head of Army Radio Yitzhak Tunik announced he would stop the formulation of a General Staff order which is to determine regulations for Shabbat and holiday broadcasting.

He also intends to gradually reduce the work of soldiers serving with the radio station so that eventually only civilians will be working on Shabbat.

Guide for the perplexed ex-soldier

By Anshel Pfeffer September 24, 2010

Inside the beit midrash - study hall - at the Israeli Academy for Leadership, Ein Prat, women and men sit hunched over rows of rectangular tables loaded with volumes of Talmud, Bibles and philosophy texts.

...There is one substantial aspect that sets the Ein Prat academy apart from other Jewish spiritual study programs. Despite the human diversity in the small study hall, everyone is between the ages of 22 and 28, a social stratum of "post-army, post-India, pre-university."

Click here for VIDEO

Judaism without labels

By Anshel Pfeffer Opinion September 24, 2010

You have by now probably reached the same conclusion I have, that all this business of labeling a person's religious persuasion is a mug's game. I don't have a survey to back me up on this but there are growing numbers of Israelis who simply will not be tied down to one category and in recent months it seems almost as if I have been meeting people like this every day.

Secular, thank God

By Alexander Yakobson Opinion September 20, 2010

How good that there is a large secular public in Israel and a strong, well-developed and confident secular culture.

With all its faults and weaknesses, it is a free society - not always free enough, but free compared to the alternative. Israel is a free country first and foremost because of this public and this culture. To appreciate freedom, one must only look at what happens when it is absent.

Working in Jerusalem: Seal of approval

By Mark Rebacz September 17, 2010

“When I started my involvement in Bema’aglei Tzedek, I didn’t know that Judaism could be pluralistic and humanistic and strive for justice.
I grew up thinking of Judaism as mostly restrictions. So I feel that what we are doing here is more than just workers’ rights, etc. It’s also about emphasizing the importance of justice within the Jewish tradition, which is something that I felt was absent while I was growing up.”

Wiesenthal Center unveils new J'lem museum design

By Gil Shefler September 21, 2010

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has unveiled a new design by Chyutin Architects for its planned Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, which will be built at an estimated cost of $100 million.

The Chyutin design replaces an earlier one by renowned architect Frank Gehry, whose estimated cost of $250m. dollars made it too expensive to build.

New designs revealed for Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem

By David Ng September 21, 2010

The new design, which was created by the Israeli firm Chyutin Architects, calls for a six-story structure -- three stories below ground and three above -- with approximately 150,000 to 160,000 square feet of space. By comparison, the Center's main facilities in Los Angeles total about 110,000 square feet of space.

The front of the new museum will face a commercial area while the back faces Independence Park in Jerusalem. The Center said the back features glass walls from top to bottom, seen below, to create a warmer and more inviting atmosphere.

Frank Gehry responds to our post on Jerusalem museum

By Christopher Hawthorne September 22, 2010

Gehry added that he also produced a design for a smaller version for the museum -- one closer to the 150,000-square-foot proposal released Tuesday -- but that ultimately he and the Wiesenthal Center couldn't see eye to eye. "I'm glad I got out of it," he said.

Shir Hadash: A new community center in Jerusalem

By Greer Fay Cashman September 22, 2010

Rabbi Ian Pear's dream is to have a community center that encompasses a kindergarten, a synagogue and other religious facilities with educational and cultural programs that are dedicated to bringing Jews closer to Judaism and closer to one another.

The laying of the [Shir Hadash] cornerstone is due to be held on September 27, with Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky as guest speaker.

No room for improvement

By Gail Lichtman September 26, 2010

The absence of a statutory building plan has Jewish Quarter residents battling extensive fines and even prison sentences for violations.

The land on which the Jewish Quarter lies is state land administered by the ILA. The land was leased en masse to the company in 1968 for restoring and developing the Jewish Quarter.

I couldn't have said it better myself

By Raphael Ahren September 24, 2010

Through her website,, the 36-year-old offers to write talks for all Jewish lifecycle events, from naming ceremonies for girls through house warming parties to award speeches and eulogies.

Poll: 21% of Jews 'more religious' September 24, 2010

Some 72% of Israeli Jews over the age of 20 reported visiting a synagogue in 2009, while 21% said that they are now more religious than before, according to a survey conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Meanwhile, 14% of poll respondents said they are now less religious than they were before.

10 years from aliyah: An immigrant family marks a decade in Israel

By Marcy Oster September 21, 2010

It wasn't easy to pack up and leave our family and friends to come here, though we were greeted by both family and friends when we arrived. It was not easy to adjust to a new culture, a new language, a new way of life.

But we knew Israel would be the best place to raise our Jewish children, where they would learn about their Jewish past, participate in their Jewish present and prepare for their Jewish future, and where we would have a front-row seat to Jewish history.

Jewish Federations and overseas partners reach funding deal

By Jacob Berkman September 22, 2010

The Jewish Federations of North America and its two primary overseas partners have reached an agreement in principle over how to divide the money raised by local federations.

The Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee have been struggling with the JFNA for nearly two years over how to split the more than $100 million raised by the federation system for overseas needs.

The two overseas partners have traditionally split the money using a formula that gives 75 percent of the funds to the Jewish Agency and 25 percent to JDC.

VIDEO Interview with Jerry Silverman, president & CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America September 24, 2010

Click here for VIDEO

Jerry Silverman, president & CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America,
discusses his own Jewish background and shares his vision for the Jewish future.

Throngs of Christian pilgrims to be in Jerusalem for Succot

By Ron Friedman September 21, 2010

Thousands of Christian pilgrims will visit Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles celebration later this week.

According to the Tourism Ministry, roughly 7,000 Christian from 100 countries will participate in the event, which is sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

Israel's best foreign ambassadors

By Akiva Novick September 19, 2010

They're Israel's best unofficial spokespeople around the world, creating monuments for Jews, aiding in bringing Jews to Israel and campaigning to defend Israel's international reputation after such events as the deadly raid on Gaza-bound flotilla.

They are some 600 million evangelical Christians who believe salvation will come only after the Jewish people return to their homeland – Greater Israel.

Religion and State in Israel

September 27, 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.