Monday, May 9, 2011

Religion and State in Israel - May 9, 2011 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

May 9, 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.

At last, a new deal on mechanism for converts to marry

By Jonah Mandel May 6, 2011

After over a year of an impassioned court debate, the state and ITIM – The Jewish Life Information Center have agreed on a mechanism set to ensure converts are registered for marriage by city rabbis in a way that is nearly identical to the procedure other Israeli Jews go through.

…earlier this week the state announced that there would be a limit of two weeks for passing on the request from the initial registrar to the next, and another two-week limit to have the wedding certificate approved after the wedding.

Founder and head of ITIM Rabbi Seth Farber:

"From now on, converts will again be able to feel as an inseparable part of the Jewish people, without any inferiority.”

Yet at the same time, Farber stressed that “we still must be careful that such instances do not recur. ITIM will have to be the watchdog to make sure that this arrangement is implemented.”

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate agrees to recognize all [Orthodox] conversions May 5, 2011

"I am a little skeptical whether the local rabbis will follow as directed because they have already demonstrated that they have no respect for the Chief Rabbinate," Rabbi Seth Farber, founder and director of ITIM, told JTA.

Farber said ITIM is set to respond positively to the state's offer on May 8 -- the deadline for the organization to respond.

He said the organization will not withdraw the complaint, only freeze it, giving the Chief Rabbinate one month to implement the new system and six months to see how it works. If it is not successful, the group can unfreeze the complaint.

A long road home: One woman’s journey through Israel’s conversion laws

By Heather M. Higgins May 6, 2011

Fanny Smith underwent an Orthodox conversion to Judaism in January 2001 under the supervision of Rabbi Herschel Solnica, with the assistance of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens.

...The Smiths married in a religious ceremony a short time after Fanny converted and have been living an observant Orthodox life in the Flatbush community, where two of their three young children attend Jewish day school. Last year, when they began preparing to return to Israel, they expected no problem: Israel’s Law of Return gives Jews the right to immigrate.

So Fanny and Bruce were in shock when a letter arrived from the Interior Ministry last August denying her application for aliyah. Fanny’s conversion had been ruled invalid, and the ministry did not regard her as Jewish.

The amazing case of Louis Shapiro

By Jonah Mandel April 26, 2011

Shapiro, a native of Wallingford, Pennsylvania, who was brought up as a Conservative Jew and attended Hebrew school, never doubted he was Jewish, nor was he or any of his foremothers a convert.

But as an oleh who wanted to marry in Israel as a Jew through the Chief Rabbinate, he had to undergo an inquiry into his Jewishness at the Haifa Rabbinic Court.

Is being Jewish amazing?

By Rabbi Seth Farber Opinion May 1, 2011

The writer is the founder of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center and rabbi of Kehillat Netivot in Ra'anana.

Why should everyone be considered guilty until proven innocent? Why should the burden of “proof of Jewishness” be placed on young couples who seek to be married in Israel?

The halacha – until recently – never addresses how one can prove he or she is Jewish. In fact, the Shulchan Aruch is very clear that we trust someone who comes forward and says they are Jewish, unless they have a rancorous personality.

Well, there is a better way. And it involves trust.

What Kind of Jewish State? The Formative Decisions at Israel’s Birth

By Don Waxman Sh'ma - A Journal of Jewish Responsibility: Inside Israel's History May 2011

The Status Quo Agreement that David Ben-Gurion (then the leader of the Jewish Agency in Palestine) reached with the Orthodox Agudat Yisrael party sketched out the basic relationship between the future state and the Jewish religion.

It promised that the Jewish Sabbath would be the official day of rest; that the state would serve only kosher food in its institutions; and that the Orthodox religious establishment would have exclusive authority over all Jewish marriages, divorces, and burials.

Celebrating Tzedek/Justice: A Conversation with Changemakers from Israel and America

Sixty-three years after the signing of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the New Israel Fund invites you to celebrate the social justice values enshrined in that document.

In partnership with Hazon, Repair the World, and Pursue we will host members of the newly-launched Siach network, an international network of Jewish social justice and environmental professionals, and explore the important work progressive activists are doing in Israel and the U.S.

Emceed by Ami Dar, founder of, followed by in-depth learning with:

Religious pluralism with Noga Brener-Samia (BINA) and Sarra Alpert (AVODAH) ...

Zionism: More than just a Jewish State

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion May 8, 2011

Rabbi Andrew Sacks is the Director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel

MK Yithak “Buji” Herzog (Labor) articulated a clear position for the State of Israel that put religious pluralism front and center. He posited that no single group holds a monopoly on Jewish tradition and on truth.

Minister Miki Eitan (Likud) also articulated a position. Sadly, his approach was that Israel, as both a Jewish and a democratic state, must preserve THE true religious traditions. His mistake was in thinking that the Orthodoxy he votes to fund (while denying funding to the non-Orthodox streams) holds some sort of monopoly on truth.

Celebrating Israel Independence Day: A Roundtable Sh'ma - A Journal of Jewish Responsibility: Inside Israel's History May 2011

Roundtable: Gary Rosenblatt, Ariel Beery, Rabbi Jarah Greenfield, Shaul Kelner, and Sh’ma editor, Susan Berrin.

Ariel Beery:
The Diaspora still looks at Yom Ha’atzmaut as the celebration of a political state rather than a celebration of Israel as a platform for the collective action of the Jewish people and an opportunity for the Jewish people to impact the world as we’ve not been able to do over the course of the past thousands of years. Yom Ha’atzmaut could be seen as a way to celebrate the independence of the Jewish people to act as a people in the world.

Haredi schools ignore Independence Day

By Tomer Velmer May 6, 2011

Close to 50,000 students in haredi schools will be studying even though the State declared Independence Day as a national holiday, a day even the Arab sector's schools and institutions are closed.

The criticism isn't aimed at Shas' Ma'ayan HaChinuch HaTorani haredi schools which will not hold classes on Independence Day.

The Director of Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel, Rabbi Uri Regev, called on the Education Ministry to make the necessity of a national holiday clear to the haredi education institutions and stop funding to those institutions which do not respect the national holiday.

Chief Rabbi calls for special study for yeshiva students on Memorial Day May 6, 2011

The chief rabbi yesterday sent a letter to the ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, asking them not to sit around idly on the Memorial Day for the fallen IDF soldiers, and to consecrate a special study session in their memory.

"Our beloved IDF soldiers who fell in the wars are seen as martyrs," he wrote. "Their holiness and privilege are great, we all owe them our gratitude, should lower our head, contribute our time for them."

Metzger called on the yeshiva students to study Mishnah (oral Jewish laws ) chapters on Memorial Day and "consecrate your studies throughout that day for the transcendence of their souls."

Hiddush - Alternative Independence Day Torch Lighting Ceremony (Hebrew)

Celebrating together

By Rabbi Reuven Hammer Opinion May 6, 2011

The writer, former president of the International Rabbinical Assembly, was the founding director of the Schechter Rabbinical School. His latest book is Entering Torah.

Israel’s potential for not only returning Judaism to the realm of history but for bringing about a true renaissance of Judaism is enormous.

It has not been realized as yet for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the mixture of religion and politics that makes pluralism so limited.

From slave to IDF officer: A Guinean's story

By Smadar Shir May 3, 2011

Avi Be'eri's life story could have easily become a successful soap opera. It started with the death of his parents in Guinea, continued with slave traders smuggling him into Israel and through to the IDF officers course, which he is due to complete on Tuesday.

My next challenge is to convert, marry and start a family. I want to go to university...

Shalem Center gets major grant for college

By Melanie Lidman May 4, 2011

The Jerusalem-based Shalem Center think tank got a step closer to realizing its dream of establishing Israel’s first liberal arts college, thanks to a $12.5 million [matching] grant from the Tikva Fund, the center announced on Tuesday.

Video: Building a Passionate Religious Middle Ground May 6, 2011

In a video interview, Dr. Micha Goodman of Ein Prat tells BJPA Director Prof. Steven M. Cohen that religious Israelis are too closed, and secular Israelis are too disconnected from tradition. We need a passionate middle ground, he says.

VIDEO: The Third Generation May 8, 2011

Orit Yaakobi’s film, The Third Generation, is about a 30-year-old woman named Galia who is irritated by her mother and grandmother who constantly nag her about getting married. In an attempt to solve her “problem,” they force her to participate in religious and superstitious customs.

Click here for VIDEO

An Israeli and Zionist Passover Seder

Letters to the Editor May 4, 2011

The time has come for the largest Jewish sector in Israel, the secular majority, to discard the feelings of inferiority vis-a-vis the various religious sectors.

Alongside the fight against attempts at an ultra-Orthodox takeover of our agenda (and not only on questions of how we marry, what we eat and how we are buried), seder night is an appropriate opportunity to remind ourselves and to tell our children that Passover is the festival of freedom and that the state of Israel belongs to and is for all Jews.

Attorney Ilan Shalgi

The Melody of the Heart

By Rabbi Marc Rosenstein May 3, 2011

Over the past twenty years or so, with a particular boost after the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin, there has been a small but growing tendency for Israelis who define themselves as "secular" to seek ways to reconnect with their roots in Jewish texts and traditions.

MK Amsallem: 'Shas perpetuates poverty' April 26, 2011

MK Chaim Amsallem (Shas), who has announced his intention to establish a new political party, explained in an interview with the Knesset channel why he plans to leave Shas.

Amsallem accused Shas of betraying Sephardi tradition by encouraging a lifestyle in which men do not work for pay, and thus become poor.

AUDIO: Rav Amsalem: 'Daas Torah' A Notion Invented by Ashkenazi Power Mongers May 8, 2011

Click here to listen to AUDIO Interview

(Click gray arrow; advance audio-slide to 48:40 mark)

Saying that Shas is teaching people to become a burden on society by discouraging them from getting jobs, Amsalem called for an end to government stipends for yeshiva students.

Rav Amsalem scoffed at the notion that his extremist views would result in his being put in cheirem, saying that in today’s world banning him would only increase his popularity.

Double whammy

By Yossi Verter May 6, 2011

(See section 3 of article)

In the past few days an echo has been reverberating from the home of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party.

It is saying that the rabbi will soon invite Aryeh Deri and make him an offer he can't refuse: second place on the Shas list for the next Knesset, immediately after Eli Yishai and before Housing Minister Ariel Atias.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef calls on faithful to quit smoking

By Jonah Mandel May 8, 2011

“Doctors are against smoking; they say it causes lung cancer. Whoever can refrain from it, all the better; he should take every effort to keep away from it,” the senior Sephardi adjudicator said in his Saturday night televised sermon, which dealt with the laws of Jewish holidays.

VIDEO: Haredim ascend to Temple Mount

Click here for VIDEO

Medical honesty is the new best policy

By Jonah Mandel May 6, 2011

The Haredi world has undergone a change in recent years regarding when it is appropriate to inform someone of a medical condition.

While in the past, leading rabbis would say that if a condition was under control, there was not necessarily a need to inform the other side, the leading authorities today, in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, are more inclined to encourage people to be totally up-front – though a rabbi approached with a specific case would rule according to the circumstances at hand.

Gender Separation on Buses in Ultra-Orthodox Community in Israel: View from the Liberal Cathedral

By A. Yehuda Warburg

(Please contact us if you have reviewed this article.)

VIDEO: The Rabbis’ Letter

Click here for VIDEO

Study: Jews leaving mixed cities May 4, 2011

A decline is being recorded in the number of Jews in mixed cities, while the number of Arabs is on the rise, according to a study conducted ahead of the Ramla Conference: Between Israel and the Nations.

The "Rabbis' Letter" and Halakhah

By Dr. Eliezer Haddad January 24, 2011

Dr. Eliezer Haddad is a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute and an instructor of Bible and Jewish Philosophy at Lifshitz College and Herzog College.

The "Rabbis' Letter", signed by dozens of community rabbis in Israel in December 2010, asserts that Jewish law forbids the rental and sale of homes in Israel to non-Jews.

Is the rental of property to non-Jews indeed forbidden by halakha? What is the status of non-Jews living as a minority among Jews? Are the Biblical prohibitions cited in the Rabbis' Letter applicable to Arabs in Israel today?

J'lem DA closes file on Haifa chief rabbi corruption case

By Jonah Mandel and Ron Friedman May 2, 2011

The Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office informed Haifa’s Chief Rabbi She’ar- Yashuv Cohen on Sunday that they were closing the file against him, after the rabbi announced that he would cease from holding a public position.

Rabbis: Regain control of Joseph's Tomb

By Kobi Nahshoni May 5, 2011

Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, head of the Petah Tikvah hesder yeshiva, addressed the issue of Jews infiltrating Joseph's Tomb in an article which will be published this weekend.

According to Sherlo, Hasidim entering Nablus at night, without coordinating their visit with the army, are violating orders and risking their lives.

Bratslav Hasidim & right-wing Israelis barricade themselves in West Bank Jewish holy site

By Chaim Levinson May 4, 2011

The operation was planned by Bratslav Hasidim - students of Rabbi Eliezer Berland from Jerusalem - and right-wing activists from an organization called Garin He'arim Ha'ivriot, which seeks an Israeli return to Nablus, Jericho and the section of Hebron under Palestinian control.

Coordinated Joseph Tomb visit ends in riots, stoning

By Yair Altman May 3, 2011

Hundreds visited Joseph's Tomb in Nablus overnight under heavy IDF escort. Among those taking part in the coordinated visit –were members of the Fogel family whose relatives were murdered in Itamar.

VIDEO: Another 770 in Israel May 1, 2011

Although there are over half a dozen 770 replicas scattered throughout the Holy Land, some just feel there's not enough.

"Just because another city has one, doesn't mean ours shouldn't," a Chabad rabbi in Israel's city of Rishon Letzion.

Mormons in Israel feel close to religious roots

By Kelly Boyce May 6, 2011

It is permissible under Israeli law to proselytize except in the case where a person is offered a monetary incentive to change his or her religion.

A financial incentive has never been a part of LDS missionary practice, but Mormons in Israel do not engage in any kind of proselytizing.

“Only the students and faculty have to actually sign the form,” Hansen said, “but all members who live here permanently or temporarily, or are even visiting, have been asked by Church Headquarters to abide by what is written in the agreement.”

Religion and State in Israel

May 9, 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.