Monday, April 4, 2011

Religion and State in Israel - April 4, 2011 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

April 4, 2011 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

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.

Shas Religious Affairs Minister Margi slammed for seeking bill against non-Orthodox streams

By Jonah Mandel March 28, 2011

“We were saddened to read reports suggesting that some MKs and at least one minister have called for outlawing the non-Orthodox streams in Israel and transforming the Israeli rabbinate through Knesset legislation into the “supreme” authority for the Jewish people everywhere,” spokesman for the [Jewish Agency] Haviv Gur said on Sunday.

Sa’ar, Livni object to notion that Judaism has no streams

By Jonah Mandel March 30, 2011

“There is no one Jewish stream, and there shouldn’t be one Jewish way of life that monopolizes Judaism,” [Education Minister Gideon] Sa’ar told the Rabbinical Assembly, the umbrella organization for the Conservative movement representing 1,600 Conservative rabbis serving some 1.5 million Jews worldwide.

“When I heard these voices saying that there is a need to take some of the movements or streams outside the law, this is not acceptable to me or the State of Israel,” as such a notion goes against the very values of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, [Tzipi Livni] said.

Kadima's Tzipi Livni: "a Jewish state is not a Halachic state"

By Lahav Harkov March 28, 2011

"For me," Livni explained, "a Jewish state is not a Halachic state, but also not just one of a Jewish majority.

For me, a Jewish state is the homeland of a Jewish people. It is a Jewish society formed from national perspectives together with our history, culture and tradition."

'Israel faces threat of becoming a religious state'

By Ben Hartman April 3, 2011

Israel is on its way to becoming a religious state – a reality that would pose a threat to its survival, according to a report released by the University of Haifa on Sunday.

The report, entitled “Israel 2010-2030, on the Path to a Religious State,” examines the demographic factors set to change Israel in the coming years, through a comparison of the religious, haredi, secular and Arab birthrates in the country.

Jewish nationalism is top priority for Israeli youth

By Ruth Eglash April 3, 2011

Jewish nationalism – and not democracy – emerged as the most important objective for Israel’s youth in 2010, according to research featured in a new book by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, published last week.

Fighting for Religious Freedom

By Jonah Newman Opinion March 28, 2011

“The State of Israel recognizes the Archbishop of Cyprus as someone who can perform marriages, but not Rabbi Allen,” Anat Hoffman said, referring to my rabbi, the head of my hometown synagogue, Beth Jacob, which is affiliated with the Conservative movement.

“In Israel, the government has decided that there’s only one way to practice Judaism,” Hoffman says.

IDF Chief Chaplain to have seat on Chief Rabbinic Council

By Rebecca Anna Stoil March 29, 2011

The IDF’s Chief Chaplain will now serve as an active member of the Chief Rabbinate Council, MKs ruled Tuesday by approving into law a bill sponsored by a coalition of religious and secular MKs.

In a vote of 10-1, the Knesset easily approved the law, which had met obstacles in earlier committee hearings after MKs discovered that technically, the IDF’s top religious officer did not have to undergo any kind of official ordination.

What are we celebrating? The Rabbinate?

By Rabbi Reuven Hammer Opinion March 28, 2011

The writer is former president of the International Rabbinical Assembly and the representative of the Masorti/Conservative Movement on the Neeman Commission.

Last Tuesday, the Knesset celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Chief Rabbinate, as if the institution was a positive factor in Israeli life. Considering its accomplishments, one wonders why.

...The celebration of the Chief Rabbinate is a celebration of a backward march, one in which Israel becomes more like a religious autocracy than a modern, democratic state.

Group petitions court to halt vote on Jerusalem Chief Rabbi

By Jonah Mandel March 30, 2011

A liberal religious Zionist organization is asking the High Court of Justice to put a freeze on the process of electing a chief rabbi for Jerusalem until the regulations governing the process are altered to better represent the public and prevent political deals.

Ne’emanei Torah Ve’avoda on Monday filed a petition asking the court to basically reduce the weight of the religious services minister in the process.

Faina Kirschenbaum: Lieberman’s organizer re conversion issue

By Rebecca Anna Stoil April 2, 2011

The 55-year-old resident of Nili, in Binyamin, has spent most of her almost 25- year political career working in the background of the system.

For almost 10 years now, she has worked closely with chairman Avigdor Lieberman, building Israel Beiteinu from a tiny niche party to a movement that some believe could threaten the Likud for dominance of the right-wing.

"On the topic of conversion, I think that the legislation wouldn’t have hurt what happened overseas, but would actually have helped those who had converted Reform there to come here and be recognized. I know of many people who come here and then don’t find themselves afterward."

Hanging by a Thread: Conversion Corruption in Israel

By Joshua גדליה חיים Reback Opinion April 1, 2011

A Rabbinical figure that has the guts to both organize [and articulate] a coherent opposition could save Jews the world over further embarrassment and division.

In so doing, he would rescue Jews from the spiritual ramifications of this conversion crisis. And all the more likely, he would not only reverse the trend of people running away from Judaism, but cause a reverse movement of people flocking toward Jewish observance.

The New Middle East: A view from Jerusalem

By Rabbi Naamah Kelman Opinion March 28, 2011

Rabbi Naamah Kelman is Dean of HUC-JIR's Jerusalem School

Many of our students are bewildered by the religious coercion in Israel; too many Israelis reject the coercion but also reject Judaism in the process. And often reject our form of Judaism too. Yet thousands attended Reform Purim events throughout Israel.

...The life of Israelis and Diaspora Jews will remain 2 parallel tracks for sure. It is our responsibility to build bridges, connect, exchange, argue, and keep the bonds between us alive and updated.

As Reform Jews, we might be able to model a Judaism that lives in and with democracy. Israelis face issues of sovereignty and governance that are still very new for this emerging modern state.

Despite successes, Yisrael Beiteinu fails to pass several controversial bills

By Jonathan Lis March 31, 2011

Also stalled until the Knesset reconvenes after the spring holidays are changes to the conversion law sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman.

Similarly, proposed measures to benefit mixed-religion couples have yet to win support of the government coalition.

VIDEO: Jessica Fain: A Girl Converts in Israel

Take 5 - Jess F - Conversion in Israel April 2, 2011

Click here for VIDEO

Click here for Pardes website, Pardes student blog, Pardes YouTube channel

Jerusalem rugby team denied funding from City Hall for playing on Shabbat

By Nir Hasson March 31, 2011

A committee responsible for appropriations in the Jerusalem municipality has decided not to fund the local rugby team after religious city council members discovered the team plays on Shabbat.

In considering the funding request from the rugby team at a meeting on Monday, committee chairman Shlomo Rosenstein, who is United Torah Judaism city councilman, and Deputy Mayor David Hadari of the National Religious Party both asked what day of the week the rugby team plays.

Women Get the Front Seat

By Naomi Ragen Opinion March/April 2011

What will the Court’s landmark decision mean in practice? We don’t yet know. The harassment may continue unabated, or it may stop completely.

What do I hope it will mean? That all of those boarding public buses whose religious beliefs prohibit them from sitting next to the opposite gender can still choose not to, as long as a seat is available. If not, they can stand.

And for those like myself, I hope it means never having to worry about getting on a bus and accidentally sitting in a “hot seat” where I will be raked over the coals for being a woman, or for being uppity enough to sit in a place reserved solely for males because someone’s rebbe said so.

Rabbinic courts: Lift the anchor!

By Rivkah Lubitch Opinion March 30, 2011

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

The text of the ruling reveals that there is nothing less than a "world war" going on between the Rabbinic Courts and the Family Courts regarding the definition of recalcitrance.

...We believe that the husband who refuses to give his wife a get is the one anchoring his wife, and that the Rabbinic Courts who legitimize the husband’s recalcitrance are the ones causing women to remain imprisoned.

Let the public decide.

'Reality is changing'

By Tamar Rotem April 1, 2011

As someone who stood by Orthodox women who complained about sexual harassment by prominent rabbis, Dr. Chana Kahat, the founder of Kolech, is also intimately familiar with the gap between women who fight to expose the blight, and rabbis and yeshiva boys who are still living in total denial and take the abusers' side. She thinks there is a connection between the rabbis' letter from February and the refusal of rabbis to report to the police for questioning.

Shin Bet’s Cohen latest religious man appointed to top post

By Yaakov Katz March 29, 2011

Yoram Cohen will make history as the first head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) to wear a kippa – serving as another example of the increasing presence of national religious officers within Israel’s security and intelligence organizations.

So what if he’s religious?

By Uri Orbach March 30, 2011

Uri Orbach is the chairman of HaBayit HaYehudi faction

For more than 20 years now, Israeli society is undergoing fascinating processes. We see a natural process of changing of the guard and religious individuals, immigrants and women are reaching senior posts in all areas.

Soon we’ll see the haredim there too. This isn’t happening fast enough, but it’s happening, and the waning reservations we’re hearing are a rearguard battle, not an all-out war.

The struggle for the soul of Religious Zionism

By Yosef Blau Opinion April 2, 2011

The writer is president of the Religious Zionists of America and the mashgiah ruhani of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and Yeshiva University.

The plethora of dueling public rabbinic letters in recent months highlights a fundamental split in religious Zionism in Israel.

While there are often political implications, the impact on the education of future generations and on the relationship between religious and secular Israelis is ultimately more significant.

Who is "Orthodox"? Who is "Religious"? Who is Just "Observant"?

By Jonathan Kolatch Opinion April 1, 2011

This article appears in issue 9 of Conversations, the journal of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.

Is a man with an untrimmed, straggly beard more Orthodox than one who keeps his beard well groomed? What about a woman who doesn’t cover her head, who wears pants, who exposes her shoulders? Can she still be considered “Orthodox”?

Over the past winter, I spent a few days at Kibbutz S’de Eliyahu, an established Orthodox kibbutz in Israel’s Jordan Valley.

Confused by the menagerie of women’s attire at the kibbutz, put this question to Beni Gavrieli, a transplanted American, with Conservative roots, who has lived at the kibbutz for two decades and has adapted to the Orthodox way of life. He proved sensitive to the question.

Where is Modern Orthodoxy going? Is there a future? Will there be a next generation? March 22, 2011 (See also

Rabbi David Bigman, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Rabbi Yehoshua Engelman, Rabbi Shlomo Fischer, Rabbi Gilad, Avraham Stein, and more.

Conference in English. Pesach 5771, Thursday 21/04/11 Hechal Shlomo, Jerusalem. 8:00 am - 1:30 pm.

Our brothers, ourselves

By Noam Sheizaf April 1, 2011

Many women in the U.S. Jewish community have joined the protest against the treatment of the Women of the Wall.

In the Reform Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains, New York, for example, women were photographed with a Torah scroll and they posted the pictures on a special page on the Internet.

"There's a feeling that Israel is moving in the direction of very ultra-Orthodox, very limited Judaism," says the rabbi of the synagogue, Shira Milgrom. "This is an Israel with which it is very difficult for us to identify."

Israeli lawmakers to study U.S. Jewish community

AP April 2, 2011

The six-day program aims to give the legislators a detailed understanding of the structure and history of the American Jewish community.

The six lawmakers include Eitan Cabel and Daniel Ben Simon from Labor, Dichter and Ronit Tirosh from Kadima, and Tzipi Hotovely and Carmel Shama from Likud.

Tzipi Livni on a Jewish State

Livni: To keep a Jewish majority, we must promote two states for two people

By Natasha Mozgovaya March 29, 2011

Click here for VIDEO: Tzipi Livni

Young Israelis, Young American Jews

By Bernard Avishai Opinion April 2, 2011

In fact, however, the ways young people in Israel experience Jewish identity diverge so fundamentally from the ways of American Jews do, it is hard to see what comparisons prove.

For most secular (including traditional but non-Orthodox) Israelis, about 60% of young people, Jewishness is more or less coterminous with Israeliness, though Israeli nationality is not even recognized in the Registry of Populations.

Click here for full article (pdf)

Tunisia decries Israeli call for Jews to emigrate

AP March 30, 2011

Tunisia's government on Monday condemned an effort by Israeli officials to entice Tunisian Jews to emigrate to Israel over concerns about possible economic hardship in the North African country.

A billionaire in stormy waters March 29, 2011

In 1991, Alexander Mashkevich immigrated to Israel and received an Israeli nationality, but chose to return to Kazakhstan. He currently divides his time between Asian Russia, Belgium and London, where his wife and two daughters live.

When it comes to charity, Mashkevich is very generous. Knesset Member Zeev Bielski, former head of the Jewish Agency, says: "In my very first days on the job, I heard of a Jewish man with a big heart who invests a lot in the Jewish life of Asian Russia. I made an effort to meet him, and when he came to Israel we were introduced.

In the haredi world, Mashkevich is called "Hanagid", a title used for the greatest philanthropists. The Braslev Jews dub him "Redeemer of the holy grave", since he redeemed the debts and foreclosure from the Ukrainian grave of the Rabi Nachman from Braslev. Recently, he donated a large sum of money for the establishment of "Zaka" branches throughout the world.

Israeli Cabinet approves special assistance for Tunisian Olim Initiative joint effort of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and the Jewish Agency March 27, 2011

The Government of Israel today approved a special program offering financial assistance to new immigrants from Tunisia.

The program was formulated by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and the Jewish Agency following the protests against the Tunisian regime that broke out in December 2010 and the resulting revolution. The program is aimed at assisting the Jews of Tunisia to make aliyah and help to ease their absorption in Israel.

Jewish Agency cuts deal to keep immigration emissary Down Under

By Raphael Ahren April 1, 2011

Australia will be the only Western country where the Jewish Agency will retain a full time Israel immigration emissary, despite the organization’s recent decision to replace all such employees with officials dealing with a broad spectrum of issues.

Shut down Israel Bonds

Haaretz Editorial April 1, 2011

Israel is seen today as a state with a growing, stable economy, so has no difficulty raising funds in overseas’ markets at good prices. Therefore it is time to shut the Bonds’ down and save several tens of millions of dollars a year.

MK Meir Sheetrit proposes: Shut down Israel Bonds

By Zvi Zrahiya March 31, 2011

MK Meir Sheetrit has submitted a draft bill that would do away with Israel Bonds, after an expose in the Hebrew version of TheMarker yesterday revealed that the organization sends MKs abroad in what is considered a job perk.

Interview with Michael Steinhardt

‘We have lost our values”

By Micha Odenheimer March 31, 2011

As things are going, broadly speaking, excluding the possibility, say, that Birthright will create the revolution that I dream of, I think that the non-Orthodox diaspora is in a period of unavoidable decline.

And that is true not only because Jewishly what they are exposed to is the less attractive parts of what is available in America, by that I mean materialism and secularity that prizes comfort and rarely seeks surprises, and whose spirituality continues to decline.

New President for the World Union for Progressive Judaism: Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs April 1, 2011

Rabbi Fuchs has served as the senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford Connecticut since 1997. He has also served as Adjunct Professor at the Hartford Seminary, Connecticut. Prior positions include Senior Rabbi at Congregation Ohabai Shalom in Nashville, Tennessee and Rabbi at Temple Isaiah, Columbia, Maryland.

Rabbi Fuchs will take up his appointment in early July and will divide his time equally between North America and Israel, as well as visiting World Union communities around the world.

Jewish Studies in Decline?

By Alex Joffe Opinion March 28, 2011

In part, though, the decline of Jewish studies in Israel represents another, more complicated trend.

Israeli national identity—those "deep spiritual and cultural structures" of which the report speaks—is already nominally Jewish: Hebrew is spoken, the Jewish holidays are celebrated nationwide, most marriages take place under a huppah, and so forth. Why then, a student might well ask, do I need to seek reinforcement at the university level? (This is to put aside the issue of how much the average Israeli high-school graduate really knows about Judaism or even Zionism.)

The Divine Firsts - Meir Shalev Unpacks the Secular Tanakh

By Todd Hasak-Lowy March 30, 2011

Book Review - Beginnings: Reflections on the Bible’s Intriguing Firsts

By Meir Shalev, translated by Stuart Schoffman

...the Bible remains a vital text in secular Israeli culture, giving rise to such books as Meir Shalev’s “Beginnings: Reflections on the Bible’s Intriguing Firsts.” Shalev — who was raised on the iconic moshav Nahalal and is one of Israel’s best-known novelists — is a high priest of his country’s secular Hebrew culture. And if nothing else, this book illustrates both his command of and passion for the biblical text.

Religion and State in Israel

April 4, 2011 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

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.