Monday, September 13, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - September 13, 2010 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

September 13, 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.

Knesset to hold hearings on validity of IDF conversions

By Rebecca Anna Stoil and Gil Shefler September 12, 2010

The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will hold a hearing later this month to discuss the petition being heard in the High Court of Justice questioning whether marriage authorities can reject the legitimacy of IDF conversions.

Rabbi Uri Regev, the head of Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality:

"[T]he solution is not to force, through the court system, modern Orthodox judges and haredi municipal rabbis to accept conversions they view as unacceptable. The solution is to eliminate the monopoly that the state affords the Orthodox rabbinate, which is increasingly more extreme.”

MK Schneller: Govt, Rabbinate must clarify IDF conversions are valid

By Roni Sofer September 12, 2010

"Conversions carried out in a military framework are according to the halacha and are recognized," Schneller said.

"In order to prevent this unnecessary uproar… the three should announce immediately that they recognize IDF conversions."

'IDF conversions invalid from religious point of view'

By Dan Izenberg and Gil Shefler September 7, 2010

An attorney representing the state dropped a bombshell in the High Court of Justice on Monday when she told the court that soldiers who converted to Judaism in the IDF could not register in the rabbinate to be married because their conversions were incomplete.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Elazar Stern, a prominent member of the national religious movement and a supporter of the petition from ITIM – The Jewish Life Information Center, told The Jerusalem Post the situation described by Gnessin was intolerable.

“How is it that rabbis working for the state are being paid to invalidate conversions by other rabbis in the IDF?” he asked. “The notion that they can annul conversions and keep people in limbo – who gave them that right?

State shuns IDF conversions

By Elad Tene September 6, 2010

The statements uttered at court also prompted a harsh response by Knesset Member Zevulun Orlev.

Serving in the IDF in order to defend the State of Israel - and joining the Jewish people via a Military Rabbinate conversion - are the noblest Jews acts," he said.

IDF rabbi: Soldiers who converted during army service are real Jews

By Yair Ettinger and Haaretz Service September 6, 2010

Rabbi Haim Druckman:

"The conversions are implemented precisely according to all the rules of Halakha, and the rabbinic judges in the IDF are fully authorized to carry out conversions," said Druckman.
"All of the soldiers who converted to Judaism in the IDF are real Jews."

Challenge The Chief Rabbinate

NY Jewish Week Editorial September 7, 2010

Major-General Elazar Stern, a leader in both the IDF and national religious movement, expressed outrage at the Chief Rabbinate for questioning the authenticity of the IDF conversions.

“If there’s no other choice, there will be two separate religious systems,” he told The Jerusalem Post.

“It’s a shame the State of Israel has given the keys to a group of people [Chief Rabbinate officials], many of whom don’t even recognize the state.”

And it is more than a shame that an institution charged with fostering Judaism in the Jewish state has been the single greatest factor in alienating the majority of Israelis from their religion. The time for change is now.

Jewish Agency Chairman, Natan Sharansky's Response to Issue on Conversion of IDF Soldiers September 7, 2010

“The conversion of IDF soldiers in the framework of the “Nativ” program of the IDF Chaplaincy is a completely valid conversion, approved by Rabbi Haim Druckman, head of the State Conversion Authority and by the Chief Rabbi of Israel”, said Sharansky.

Israeli Chief Rabbinate is thwarting religious expression, democratic principles

By Rabbi Eric Yoffie and Rabbi Steven Wernick Opinion September 7, 2010

Rabbi Eric Yoffie is president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Rabbi Steven Wernick is executive vice president and CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

If the Chief Rabbinate were given total authority over conversions, we know what would happen:

The Rabbinate would use this authority to change the definition of conversion under the Law of Return, overturning the status quo by rejecting Reform and Conservative conversions done in the Diaspora. Some Israeli rabbinical courts already have begun to do this. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in cases related to the rights of our converts also would be greatly limited.

In opposing conversion bill, U.S. Jews practice hypocrisy, hurt Israel

By Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar Opinion September 7, 2010

Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar is the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel.

Very few non-Jewish Russian Israelis are interested in a Reform or Conservative conversion, regarding them as inauthentic. They are Diaspora transplants that have withered in Israel’s Jewish soil and failed in Israel’s free marketplace of ideas.

Rather than recognizing that their lack of significant progress over the past 62 years of Israeli statehood is due to a flawed product, Conservative and Reform leaders have chosen to blame the Chief Rabbinate. Ignoring democratic principles, they have improperly intervened on the Rotem bill, a matter that affects only Israelis and not American Jews. The bill has no impact outside of Israel.

The Others

By Dina Markon September 5, 2010

"'In Russia, I felt like an outsider, and here I feel like an outsider,' is how Israelis who are not halakhically considered Jews (mainly the children of Jewish fathers) and caught in a vacuum of identity in Israeli life –– commonly characterize their situation."

Dina Markon trailed the speakers at a conference at the Efal Seminar Center initiated by "PANIM –for Jewish Renaissance in Israel," which opened the hearts of people whom the State brought to Israel on its initiative but fails to work to fully integrate them into its society.

United State

By Dr. Jonathan D. Sarna Opinion September 8, 2010

Jonathan D. Sarna is Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History.

[T]he Israeli chief rabbinate, whom the conversion bill would have empowered, has become deeply unpopular in American Jewish circles, even among many Orthodox rabbis.

The politicization of the chief rabbinate, its unwholesome ties to Israeli politics, and its unwelcome intrusion into American Jewish religious life, granting recognition to some rabbis and denying it to others, has cost the chief rabbinate dearly.

Jewish Federations opposed conversion bill with eye toward peoplehood

By Jerry Silverman Opinion September 8, 2010

Jerry Silverman is president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America

For the first time in Israel’s history, the bill would have given the haredi Orthodox-controlled Rabbinate authority over all conversions...

The Jewish Federations and our partners maintain this would have been unacceptable to the large majority of Jews in North America and to most Jewish Federation supporters.

Not only would these changes have potentially affected the standing of non-Orthodox Jews in Israel, but such a law would have sent a larger, destructive message: that the Jewish state is home to only certain Jews and not all Jews.

If Naomi Is a Secular Jew, Ruth the Moabite - Does Not Have To Be a Religious Jew

By Dimitri Slivniak September 5, 2010

Dimitri Slivniak has some scores to settle with Israel's Chief Rabbinate and with Israeli society in general over the hypocrisy that we customarily exercise, in his opinion, toward immigrants from the former Soviet Union. He suggests that we should be creative.

Judaism’s gatekeepers

By Prof. Yedidia Stern Opinion September 6, 2010

The writer is vice president of the Israel Democracy Institute and a professor of law at Bar-Ilan University.

The Zionist majority, both here and in the Diaspora, must demand that authority for conversion be transferred from stringent, haredi rabbis to moderate rabbis willing to implement a halacha that embraces converts.

...Lastly, the vast majority of candidates for conversion are “from the seed of Israel”; that is, they are of Jewish descent, even if their mothers are not Jewish. These considerations should motivate the adoption of a more open and welcoming conversion policy.

The Reform movement is not the enemy

By Rabbi Shmuel Reich Opinion September 7, 2010

Rabbi Shmuel Reich is a Chabad Shliach in Clearwater, Florida

Today the biggest and worst assimilations is actually occurring within Israel itself.

There are 2.5 million non-Jews living in Israel, who speak Hebrew, go to university, are dating Jews and marrying Jews. If Israelis don’t assimilate in Israel, then they assimilate outside of Israel – in America, Europe, and the Far East. Almost every Israeli that travels outside of Israel gets involved with non-Jews.

A Rosh HaShannah Message from Bay Area Masorti Visiting Scholar, Rabbi Avi Novis Deutsch

By Rabbi Avi Novis-Deutsch Opinion September 7, 2010

I would like to end this letter by sharing with you two things that are happening in the Masorti movement in Israel on the month of Tishrey.

The first is the large amount of visitors the Masorti congregations will be attracting during this month. Many non-religious Israeli Jews search for an accessible synagogue for the High Holidays and find this place at a Masorti congregation near their home, where they feel welcomed and accepted for who they are.

The second is a special initiative called Sukkat Shalom (the Tabernacle of peace). This is a large Sukkah erected in the Upper Galilee where dialogue, learning, joint meals and cultural events take place between Jews, Druze and Moslem Arabs.

Let women sing at Wailing Wall: On High Holy Days, a plea to open Israel's holiest site to all Jews

By Anat Hoffman Opinion September 12, 2010

Those who give up on Jewish pluralism at the Kotel are giving up on pluralism in Israel at large. They will regret not speaking up when strict religious laws become a reality in their communities.

The time has arrived to reclaim the Kotel, to liberate it as a national landmark where all Jews are allowed to practice Judaism freely and people of the world can celebrate the ancient history of the Jewish people.

Ruling: Torah in Kotel Only With Permission September 3, 2010

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbinical authority in charge of the Kotel (Western Wall), made public a new procedure Thursday regarding bringing Torah scrolls into the Kotel.

Under the new guidelines, individuals who wish to bring in a Torah scroll to the Kotel will require a permit from the Kotel Rabbi.

The guidelines were put in place due to concerns over thefts of Torah scrolls, as well to try to prevent attempts by individuals or groups to bring in Torah scrolls for the purposes of conducting prayer services that are not in conjunction with local customs.

Western Wall development 'illegal', opponents claim

By Nir Hasson September 6, 2010

A controversial construction project for the Western Wall Plaza was approved illegally, opponents claim. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Waqf Muslim religious trust and Jewish Quarter residents, together with others who oppose the plan, say the state failed to obtain approval from the Israel National Commission for UNESCO, as required, before authorizing the plans.

VIDEO: Clearing notes from cracks of Jerusalem’s Western Wall before Rosh Hashanah

Click here for VIDEO September 6, 2010

Police Recommend Pressing Charges Against Anat Hoffman of Women of the Wall September 6, 2010

The Jerusalem Police recommended this week that the Ministry of Justice press charges against Anat Hoffman for the felony of "gravely obstructing a police officer in the performance of his duties", in regards to her July arrest while holding a Torah at the Western Wall.

Holy Sites Rabbi Rabinowitz Tightens Torah Regulations at Western Wall September 6, 2010

Rabbi Rabinowitz issued a new regulation, giving him sole and complete control over who is permitted to enter the Western Wall Plaza with a Torah.

Adv. Nira Azriel is preparing a statement on behalf of Women of the Wall to the authorities regarding the unreasonable strictness of the new regulations...

Sadducees Among Us

By Rabbi Jeffrey Woolf Opinion September 7, 2010

Ironically, I have come to the conclusion that in the present constellation of factors it is impossible to man the rabbinate with rabbis and judges who care about the whole Jewish People, and really care about the Torah. I wish that were possible.

The alternative is to abolish the rabbinate, or to set up a parallel system that will create facts on the ground that the Sadducees will be unable to ignore.

Elul Study Program Combines a University’s Diversity With a Yeshiva’s Passion

By Nathan Jeffay September 8, 2010

When the Israeli Academy for Leadership launched its “Elul Program” three years ago, it received a good-as-expected 27 applications. But in the summer of 2010, after no advertising whatsoever, about 400 students registered to take part. The organization had to expand to four sites instead of operating just one, and still had to turn away 260 applicants.

...In the context of a highly polarized Jewish society in Israel, Goodman regards the program, with its diverse student body, as a microcosm of what an ideal Israeli-Jewish society would look like, with Jews of different shades in conversation about their heritage.

“It’s showing the real Israel what it could look like by showing it a better version of itself,” he said.

CBS Poll: Israelis More Religious September 12, 2010

A poll of Israel's Jewish population by the Central Bureau of Statistics shows that 58% of Israeli Jews classify themselves as traditional or religious, to varying degrees.

42% called themselves “secular,” while 25% said they were traditional, but not necessarily religious. Another 13% termed themselves traditional religious, while 12% used the term "religious" alone. Another 8% said they were hareidi-religious.

Social Survey 2009: Jewish Tradition Observance and Changes in Religiosity of the Jewish population in Israel (Hebrew)

Communes counter Haredi influence in J'lem's Kiryat Yovel

By Nir Hasson September 8, 2010

Kiryat Yovel has become the center of a new concept, that of "southwest Jerusalem," which secular community leaders and senior city officials hope to turn into the capital of the city's "free" population.

Israel Needs a Separation Wall

By Leonard Fein Opinion September 7, 2010

My own view is that Judaism is fully able to compete for the loyalty of the Jews on a flat playing field. It is not an accident that America, with its relatively strict separation of church and state, is also, and by far, the most pious of the Western nations. Israelis deserve, and Judaism deserves, the same kind of religious freedom, the same strict separation.

Rosh HaShanah 5771: The Liberty Bell in Jerusalem

By Rabbi Matthew Soffer Opinion September 10, 2010

The writer is a rabbi at Temple Israel of Boston (, where he directs the Riverway Project, which engages Jews in their 20's and 30's, and organizes in the context of Ohel Tzedek, the congregation's social justice arm.

Reform and Conservative Israeli citizens are wrestling, in their synagogues, in the Knesset, the halls of the Supreme Court, to strengthen Israel from the inside. They send their children to fight for the Defense of Israel.

They are doing this out of a love for Israel, a dream for Zion, and like the founders of Zionism themselves, they believe that something is missing. But for them it’s not the breach of Liberalism and Zionism. Rather, it’s the gap between the state of the Jews as it is, and the Jewish State as it could be. This is “what’s missing.”

Judge Tal on Emmanuel school case

By Uzi Baruch September 12, 2010

Regarding the issue of the girls' school in the town of Emmanuel, [Retired Supreme Court Judge Zvi] Tal said, "I am relying on what I have heard from the radio and read in the paper, but in my opinion the court overstepped its bounds when it ordered each parent on how to act.

Beinisch refuses to listen to Shas Interior Minister Yishai at hearing on schools September 6, 2010

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch forbade Interior Minister Eli Yishai from speaking at a High Court hearing regarding the implementation of Israel's core curriculum in haredi schools on Monday, telling the minister to address the court in writing.

Supreme Ct. Pres. Beinish: Obligation to teach core subjects already in place September 6, 2010

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish said during a High Court hearing of the appeals regarding teaching core secular subjects in haredi schools submitted by the Israel Religious Action Center along with other organizations, "We have already passed this stage. It has been ruled that core subjects must be taught."

Incorporating Judaism and Zionism into Israeli public schools

By Tamar Rotem September 7, 2010

Dr. Na'ama Carmi, an expert on human rights and a lecturer at Haifa University:

"When referring to the state as a shaper of identity - this is problematic. The state is not supposed to do this. Society is supposed to influence the formulation of identity."

Prof. Eyal Naveh of the history department at Tel Aviv University:

"It is impossible to bequeath a legacy via artificial means. If the legacy does not stem organically and naturally from the community in which a person lives, this is education by indoctrination, which is likely to be perceived as coercion, and it won't work."

Boy to receive religious education after legal battle

By Zvi Singer September 8, 2010

At the end of a long legal battle, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a child whose mother left the religious lifestyle and father is haredi will receive a state-religious education.

In the past, the child's parents – who lived in Bnei Brak – displayed a modest haredi lifestyle in public, but acted in a completely secular manner within their home. Recently, the woman decided to stop living a double life, and the couple filed for divorce.

The times they are A-Changin'

By Lawrence Rifkin Opinion September 6, 2010

The road toward acceptance of gays in the religious Jewish world has been, and continues to be, long and arduous.

Daniel Jonas thinks that several issues have helped change attitudes toward homosexuals in the national religious sector.

One is the way Israel’s general gay community has raised its profile through active advocacy and interest groups, clubs and special publications, and annual gay pride parades. Another is the way its rights have gained traction through the country’s relatively liberal human-rights laws, and through the army’s laissez-faire attitude toward homosexuals.

IDF Rabbinate Brings 17,000 Soldiers to Jerusalem September 6, 2010

The IDF Rabbinate revealed that it has brought some 17,000 Soldiers to Jerusalem and the Western Wall during the month of Elul to witness the penitential prayers said before the upcoming High Holidays.

A look back at the many faces who brought joy to the Jewish Year 5770 September 9, 2010

As we approach Rosh Hashanah 5771 (תשע"א), the Jewish Agency pays tribute to the many faces across the globe who make up our global Jewish community.

Whether it is the young woman who will set sail this Fall from Mexico to Israel, where she will make her home, to the Swiss philanthropist who has devoted himself to Jewish Peoplehood, we continue to be inspired by the Jews throughout the world who are connecting to our people, heritage and Land, and who are empowered to build a thriving Jewish future and a strong Israel.

David Yaari to Head Israel Hillel September 2, 2010

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life is pleased to announce the appointment of David Ya’ari as CEO of Hillel Israel.

Ya’ari, formerly David Borowich before Hebraicizing his name, assumes his new post following a successful career in the private sector and a history of social entrepreneurship in the Jewish and pro-Israel communities.

Rosh Hashanah message from President Shimon Peres September 1, 2010

With a common and better future in mind, the Jewish people in the Diaspora and Israel must work together for the benefit of the generations to come and a brighter tomorrow.

In this context, it is imperative that a spirit of brotherhood and a close bond with Israel continue to be a part of the Jewish and Zionist education of Jewish youth in the Diaspora. I believe the first hand experience provided by visits to Israel plays a significant role in achieving this objective.

Religion and State in Israel

September 13, 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.