Monday, March 14, 2011

Religion and State in Israel - March 14, 2011 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

March 14, 2011 (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.

Chief Rabbi Amar's c'tee on IDF conversions calls for end of course

By Jonah Mandel March 9, 2011

The rabbinic committee appointed by Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar recommended that he terminate the Nativ course held for potential IDF converts, since Reform and Conservative teachers are part of its staff, Israel Radio reported on Tuesday.

“In this [Nativ] course about 10 of the staff of 170 teachers are Reform or Conservative. We perceive this as a severe problem, that casts a heavy shadow on all of the military conversions, and every effort should be made to cancel this course and/or to not have it as a precondition to the IDF process,” the report quoted from a letter the three-man advisory committee wrote.

Chief Rabbi Amar failing to protect converts, says army official

By Raphael Ahren March 11, 2011

The chairman of Nativ, a program through which Israel Defense Forces soldiers convert to Judaism, this week slammed Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar for allowing the program's opponents to continue spreading doubts regarding the validity of its conversions as irresponsible.

Rabbi Seth Farber, whose Itim organization fights for converts' rights, said the committee's recommendations had no legal standing. "This is an informal committee, which was asked to make a recommendation to the Chief Rabbinate. But it doesn't obligate anybody," he said.

Plan to register converts for marriage bypasses rabbis

By Jonah Mandel March 11, 2011

The state is proposing solutions for converts who wish to marry but are rejected by stringent marriage registrars, by circumventing, but not removing, such rabbis.

In the updated solution proposed by the state, converts may register in the city of their residence.

However, if the city rabbi, in his capacity as marriage registrar, refused to register the convert, he would have to transfer the request to one of the four rabbis appointed by the Chief Rabbinate. These rabbis, as experts on conversion, would be able to approve the request and return it to the convert’s local rabbinate.

11 Orthodox converts barred from aliyah

By Larry Yudelson March 11, 2011

This time it’s an Orthodox problem.

The latest round in the never-ending battle over “who is a Jew” pits diaspora Orthodox rabbis, including one from Teaneck, against the Israeli Interior Ministry and the office of the chief rabbi.

At immediate issue is the immigration status of 11 North American Jews who underwent Orthodox conversion and whose petition to make aliyah has been denied in recent weeks by Interior Ministry immigration authorities.

“Certain forces in Israel are trying to export their version of Orthodoxy over the whole world. There are two opposite approaches, one that sees Israel as relevant to the entire Jewish people, and another ideological position that klal Yisrael — Jewish peoplehood — is only for the type of Orthodoxy that the chief rabbinate identifies with,” said [ITIM Rabbi Seth] Farber.

Much work to do for Reform in Israel March 7, 2011

To the Editor:

...On a personal level, I have experienced some of the difficulties of Reform Judaism in Israel. While most Israeli citizens and government offices have treated with me with simple curiosity and often acceptance, I have been consistently denied, as a Reform Jewish convert rabbinical student, a visa to participate in the Year in Israel program, in spite of my many visits to the Interior Ministry and the provision of every document it has requested.

With the help of the Israel Religious Action Center, which is affiliated with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, I have been pursuing the recognition that I need to study in this country legally. This struggle has been both frustrating and eye opening as to the range of the acceptance of the Reform movement in Israel.


April Peters, Jerusalem

A form of torture

By Ruth Halperin-Kaddari Opinion March 7, 2011

The writer is chair of the Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan University

With the introduction of civil marriages in late 19th-century Europe, Jewish men discovered the option of civilly divorcing and remarrying, knowing that their wives would suffer severe halachic repercussions if they did the same. Thus the ugly abuse of the power to withhold a get started.

...Modern-day attempts and proposed legislation to deal with the question have similarly failed. The present rabbinical establishment bars any attempt to think – not to mention act – outside the conventional halachic “box.”

International Women’s Day goes to the movies

By Jonah Mandel and Lahav Harkov March 8, 2011

The two-day event, the sixth of its kind, is organized by the Mavoi Satum organization, which works for the rights of women who have been refused divorces by their husbands. It marks International Women’s Day and the upcoming Yom Ha’aguna, a day devoted to women “chained” to a marriage by recalcitrant husbands.

As in past years, the films, accompanied by lectures and discussions, will deal with the complex relationship between women, religion and state. Wednesday’s panel debating whether private rabbinic courts have a place in today’s reality comes in the wake of the growing problem of rabbinic courts’ inaction toward recalcitrant husbands.

Another happy day like that...

By Neri Livneh Opinion March 10, 2011

The feminist struggle will never end - especially not in a country like our own, where there is no separation between religion and state - until there is such a separation.

So long as religion rules our lives, our status as women will be regarded as inferior, and not just on issues of personal status.

Keep God on the right side

JPost Editorial March 7, 2011

Religious leaders tend to enlist God on their side when their hegemony is threatened. Rabbis are no exception. the case of the religious councils, when the rabbis were forced to choose between either recognizing the opposite sex’s right to representation in religious matters or relinquishing control over religious services, the rabbinic establishment duly backed down, tacitly admitting that the whole matter had more to do with power than with God’s will as expressed in Halacha.

The terrorism of Torah

By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Opinion March 11, 2011

The writer is the founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs, and chief rabbi of Efrat.

We must free our Holy Torah from the petty politics of Torarism – the terrorism of Torah. We must understand that politics corrupts, and religious politics corrupts absolutely. We did not sanctify the political; we have politicized the sacred.

Rosh Hodesh Adar II: The Saddest Month

By Emily Shapiro Katz Opinion March 8, 2011

Photo: Women of the Wall

These women come to pray in a community of women, at the Kotel, to God. Is our presence at the Kotel a political act?

Yes, but only because of the rules that have been created to prevent us from doing so. The prayers of the women who join Women of the Wall are not spiteful or hateful. They are sweet and joyous. And, they are – even after 22 years – hopeful. Hopeful that one day equality, cooperation, and acceptance will prevail in Israel and in Jerusalem.

Not a “Shanda” – A “Kiddush Hashem”

By Rabbi Elan Adler Opinion March 9, 2011

What do you call women who pray as a group on Rosh Chodesh at the Kotel?

It depends who you ask.

Some would say a “Shanda”. I would say a “Kiddush Hashem”. Can’t be much farther apart than that.

Over the years, I can’t say I’ve been particularly attuned to Women of the Wall, except to say that I’ve read about the prayer groups at the Kotel and the legal battles and protests. Even as an Orthodox rabbi, I always reacted sympathetically to the cause, feeling that sincere women praying together and lifting their voices to God at the Kotel have at least as much right to be there as men.

PHOTOS: Women of the Wall celebrate International Women's Day at Kotel

Bill would let Chief Rabbis serve a second 10-year term

By Yair Ettinger March 10, 2011

MK Eli Aflalo (Kadima) introduced legislation on Tuesday that would allow the country's two chief rabbis to serve a second 10-year term.

The Kadima MK wants the amendment to apply retroactively, so that the current Sephardi chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, and his Ashkenazi counterpart, Yona Metzger, would be able to serve a total of 20 years each. Both rabbis' current terms are due to expire in two years.

'Out of 450 religious council members, only 22 are women'

By Jonah Mandel March 7, 2011

Only 22 women currently serve as members of local religious councils out of the approximately 450 people on 133 councils nationwide, a new report compiled ahead of International Women’s Day reveals.

The NGO Hiddush: For Religious Freedom and Equality will be presenting members of the government and the Knesset with the data indicating that – despite a High Court of Justice ruling in the case of Leah Shakdiel from 23 years ago that women cannot be prevented from serving on religious councils – only one out of every twenty members is a woman. In addition, no council is headed by women.

State company trying to evict Evangelical Christian from Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter

By Nir Hasson March 9, 2011

The government-owned Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem is trying to evict a resident because he isn't Jewish.

The resident, an evangelical Christian, works with former minister Benny Elon on forging closer ties between Evangelical Christians and right-wing organizations in Israel. He is renting an apartment from Lorena Sokolovsky, the mother-in-law of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

Peres at inauguration ceremony of new judges to the rabbinical courts

By Greer Fay Cashman March 8, 2011

Peres made it clear that the rabbinical courts exist to uphold the tenets of Judaism and not to distort them.

Peres cited as an example some of the radical discrimination against non-Jews, and reminded the rabbis that all human beings are created equal. He also expressed concern at the growing rift between religiously observant and secular sectors of society and their mutual suspicions.

Ben-Gurion University honors UK Chief Rabbi Sacks March 10, 2011

In a speech titled “The Challenge of Religious Difference in a Desecularizing Age,” Sacks declared “there is no such thing as a ‘postsecular age’” – explaining that since Alexis de Tocqueville’s seminal 1831 work, Democracy in America, “intellectuals” have been sure that enlightenment and democracy would spell the end of religion.

Chief Rabbi Metzger slams recent trend of 'rabbi letters'

By Jonah Mandel March 10, 2011

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger spoke out sharply on Wednesday night against the trend of rabbis’ letters addressing various social or political causes, declaring that such letters led to disparagement of religious leaders.

Rabbis for Human Rights petition raps rabbis who support Katsav March 9, 2011

Hundreds of rabbis and Jewish leaders have signed on to an online petition by Rabbis for Human Rights denouncing rabbinical defenders of former Israeli President Moshe Katsav.

Sundays Off For Israel?

By Michele Chabin March 8, 2011

What [Deputy Foreign Minister Silvan] Shalom is proposing would change the way Israelis work, rest and play. Instead of the current Sunday through Thursday work week (with banks, post offices, shops and schools open till at least noon on Fridays), the minister wants to introduce a Monday through Friday workweek “that would put Israel in sync” with the Western world.

To accomplish this, people would need to work an extra half hour each workday and until two or three hours before the start of Shabbat on Friday.

VIDEO: Zomet Institute Finds Ways to Use Technology on Shabbat

By Elad Benari March 11, 2011

Click here for VIDEO

For 30 years, Machon Zomet (Zomet Institute) has been working to make modern technology compatible with Jewish law, especially on the Sabbath.

The institution’s staff, comprised of 25 rabbis, researchers and engineers have devised practical and pragmatic halakhic solutions for institutions, businesses and private citizens. Its engineers have developed and implemented technologies that enable products such as metal detectors, security jeeps, elevators, electric wheelchairs, and coffee machines to be used on the Sabbath in certain cases through specific techniques.

Jewish Futures Project - The Impact of Taglit-Birthright Israel: 2010 Update

Identity = ?

By Yehudah Mirsky Opinion March 10, 2011

Through the Law of Return, Israel, for better or worse, links Jewishness to citizenship; and through its (deeply dysfunctional) coalition politics it also links the conferral of citizenship to the most reactionary elements of the Orthodox rabbinate.

This does not mean that Jewishness in Israel is not chosen (though the choices are more limited, and dramatically more so for haredim).

But it is chosen differently, and the results of that choice look different—less ambient, "hybrid," and open-ended—than is the case with its American cousin.

Do American Jews still like Israel?

By Shmuel Rosner Opinion March 10, 2011

An excerpt from JPost blogger's new Hebrew book, "Shtetl, Bagel, Baseball."

And no, they didn’t think this reflected the convention-goers hostility toward Israel – just indifference.

They also cited the polls: 91% of Orthodox Jews feel a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people, 74% of Conservatives and only 56% of Reform Jews. The same goes for the connection with Israel; 68% of Orthodox Jews say that they feel strongly, as opposed to only 21% of Reform Jews.

Former African-American IDF Soldier Wrestles with Distinguishing Between God and Israel

By Rosalina Nieves, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student March 5, 2011

Moshe Hillel Eytan, born Marcus Hardie, is a Long Beach, California native who converted to Judaism at the age of 22.

Marcus, who was raised Baptist and belonged to one of Southern California’s most notorious gangs, the Eight Ball Crips, says he found what he had searched for all his life. He found refuge in a religion that offered him a home and an identity that, he says, connected him to God.

British Chief Rabbi Sacks receives Ben Gurion University award

By Raphael Ahren March 11, 2011

Rabbi Sacks said in a lecture at the university after receiving the award.

Speaking of the Jews' "long and successful experience" with separation of powers - as the "only real power is the king of kings [God] and not the pharaoh or other leader who ruled as a god," he could not resist taking a swipe at Israeli politics, which critics say often blurs the boundaries between church and state.

"We did learn to separate religion from power - the state of Israel has temporarily unlearned it but we'll get over that," the Chief Rabbi said.

WZO sets its sights on aliyah promotion

By Raphael Ahren March 11, 2011

The World Zionist Organization intends to fill the void left by the Jewish Agency for Israel's recent organizational restructuring in the realm of promoting immigration to Israel, Anglo File has learned. Plans are in the early stages for seminars and pilot trips to Israel for professionals from Latin America, Scandinavia, France and the U.K. considering immigrating are, WZO officials say.

Why do we need a Jewish state anyway?

By Gil Troy Opinion March 8, 2011

The writer is professor of history at McGill University in Montreal, a Shalom Hartman research fellow in Jerusalem

Belonging to a people, not just a religion, fills our identity. It roots us in the sweep of history, binds us to a community, connects us to a rich values conversation, ties us to national moments, making us a part of something bigger than our selves.

Temple Mount Mughrabi Bridge renovation gets municipal nod

By Melanie Lidman March 8, 2011

A plan for the renovation of the Mughrabi Gate bridge, which leads from the Western Wall plaza to the Al-Aksa Mosque and the Temple Mount, received final approval from the Jerusalem Municipality last week, enabling construction to begin at any time.

...The new bridge is a scaled-down version of the original project, which proposed a massive 95-meter bridge leading from an archeological garden.

Religion and State in Israel

March 14, 2011 (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.