Sunday, June 12, 2011

Religion and State in Israel - June 13, 2011 (Section 1)

June 13, 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.

Reform rabbi criticizes IDF conversion program

By Avraham Zuroff June 7, 2011

At a recent Knesset plenum dedicated to conversions in Israel, Rabbi Uri Regev, founder of the Hiddush religious pluralism group, said that the majority of IDF converts don’t remain religious after their conversions.

“According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, if a convert doesn’t intend to keep the commandments, his conversion is invalid,” he said. He castigated the Israeli rabbinate for “putting its head in the sand” by endorsing IDF conversions. “If these would be cars, we’d make a recall,” he told the Knesset Committee.

Nevertheless, the Hiddush leader doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Rabbi Eisenstein. While Regev is against the Supreme Court’s demanding that Israeli religious judges accept all conversions, he is a proponent of civil marriage, something that most Israeli Orthodox rabbis are against.

IDF conversions and the Book of Ruth

By JJ Gross Opinion June 6, 2011

The writer is an advertising creative director who made aliya in March. His son, who preceded him, is a lieutenant in the IDF.

These young men and women who are defending the State of Israel (and its masses of haredim) both meet and exceed the criteria set by Ruth herself – not only because these soldiers would qualify as Jews under the Nuremberg laws, but because they prove their Jewish identity through their actions, their uniforms, their sacrifices, their language and their adopted culture.

Israel dares not cynically exclude them as a way to feed a haredi craving power. Israel dares not exclude them, for the sake of its own soul.

Anti-conversion group to soldiers: Don't convert

By Kobi Nahshoni June 11, 2011

A group challenging the legitimacy of State-controlled conversions circulated thousands of flyers in synagogues across Israel this week, urging non-Jewish soldiers not to convert and to demand that military clergymen be installed according to their various denominations.

"Jews against Conversion" believe that State conversions are not halachic-based but rather "a political invention… and a concoction that endangers the future existence of the Jewish people."

According to the group, the rabbis controlling the process are "fraudulent," and "any conversion presided over by such rabbis will no more turn you into Jews than it would turn a rabbit into a rooster."

Rabbi Naftali Shriver [sic], who is active within the group, said the flyer was the group's response to a recent "conversion campaign" among immigrants. He said the group is comprised of Israelis from all walks of life – religious and secular, Jews and non-Jews and immigrant who do not wish to convert.

For more on Rabbi Naftali Schreiber, see Conversion - or genocide? April 8, 2008

Israel deports Biblical hero! June 7, 2011

This week we celebrate Shavuot, the holiday on which we read the Book of Ruth.

The following is a simulated correspondence between IRAC and the Ministry of Interior if the Biblical Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David and Judaism’s first convert, were to be seeking legal status in Israel today.

Chag sameach!

Eternal Rest

Tikun Olam on Shavuot Erev Shavuot 5771 / 2011 June 6, 2011 The New Israel Fund

"Where are they going to bury him? Do they know about his mother? Will they allow him to attain eternal rest in the military cemetery, or will they perhaps try to create some secluded plot for him, on one pretext or another?"

"News of his death reached us late at night and plunged us all into deep pain. Then - we tensed. Uriel’s mother had undergone a Conservative conversion: according to the fundamentalists who are in charge of most cemeteries in Israel, Uriel was not considered Jewish."

A good wife

By Pamela Peled Opinion June 6, 2011

The writer, a PhD, is a lecturer in English Literature at Beit Berl and IDC in Herzliya.

We want Jews to join us; we offer tax breaks and lessons in easy Hebrew. So it seems a little crazy to me that we make it so hard for people who are knocking on our door. Shouldn’t we be opening our arms wide and saying, “Shalom aleichem, welcome; good luck”?

PHOTOS: Protesting the Orthodox Rabbinate monopoly over marriage in Israel June 9, 2011

The Israel Religious Action Center of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, represented by Motti Bebchuk, and Free Israel, represented by Eyal Akerman, joined hands today to demonstrate in Jerusalem against the monopoly the Rabbinate has over matrimonial law in Israel.

Dressed up as brides and grooms and carrying a Chuppah - a canopy under which a Jewish couples stand during their wedding ceremony, activists chained themselves to each other and to Rabbinical Court doors symbolizing the tight grip of the Rabbinate. Their slogan is "We Are Being Squeezed Into One Frame" emphasizing the absence of choice.

Click here for VIDEO

Still members of the tribe

By Shoham Smith Opinion June 7, 2011

Both my husband and I are secular. Heretics. We loathe religious coercion. And yet we are much closer to Judaism than are our children.

...Many secular people feel as we do. In recent years, the more energetic among them have not been satisfied with bemoaning the current generation, which is gradually dwindling, assimilating and becoming diluted, cut off from its roots:

They went and established a series of initiatives: the TALI schools for reinforcing Jewish studies; secular batei midrash like Alma and Bina, and mixed ones like Elul; pluralistic houses of worship; initiatives in the field of studying piyyutim; and tikkun leil Shavuot for a secular audience.

Shavuot 2011: Obscenities as words of Torah

By Yossi Sarid Opinion June 7, 2011

That's all we need: For a complete goy - a Moabite, on top of all her other problems - to marry Mahlon, who, even though he has fallen low, is still a Jew.

By what right did she cleave to Naomi - a healthy woman, after all, who doesn't need a Filipina in constant attendance - so that she could later seduce another wealthy Jewish man, thus enabling her to remain without a permit from the rabbis and without even a pro forma conversion? And how did it happen that "all the people" were happy and supportive, without a single opponent?

After all, even back then, they could have deported her as a foreign agricultural worker who had infiltrated into Israel by means of dubious paperwork.

And they would have left her great-grandson, David, without a chance of even being born, much less later being anointed as Israel's king.

Being the Chosen People, while caring for human rights

By Jonah Mandel June 7, 2011

Religious members of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, known primarily for its Friday marches in the east Jerusalem neighborhood, for the first time will hold a Shavuot learning session Tuesday- night at Kol Haneshama, a Reform synagogue in the capital’s Baka neighborhood, called “The tension between the Jewish discourse and that of human rights.”

The event, which is being held in conjunction with Rabbis for Human Rights, is supported by the New Israel Fund, which has spent some NIS 100,000 on Shavuot learning events that hold true to the NIF’s values of “liberal and pluralistic thought,” as the organization’s Israeli executive director Rachel Liel said in a statement. The events will be held in 40 different communities.

Religious pluralism on Shavuot

By David Newman Opinion June 6, 2011

The writer is dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ben-Gurion University.

No longer the exclusive domain of the Orthodox, Shavuot night has become a night-long learn-in for the religious and secular, the Conservative and the Reform, the youth movements and the neighborhood study groups.

The pluralism that is so sorely lacking in many areas of Jewish and religious life in Israel has homed in on the night of Shavuot as a demonstration of the rich diversity of Jewish ideas and alternatives.

Shavuot Torah Study for Religious & Secular together in Tel Aviv June 7, 2011

A Bnei Akiva coordinator told Arutz Sheva's Hebrew service that the Torah-based groups will be joined by the Scouts and Hashomer Hatza'ir movements, young children and adults. She added that a learning program has been developed to suit everyone, including secular Israelis, noting, "This creates a bond among the people of Israel."

Shavuot celebrated with a taste of both old and new

By Gili Cohen June 9, 2011

As soon as the sign was given, the children stopped splashing each other on the lawn and climbed onto the tractors decorated with flowers and posters. One energetic grandmother whipped out her iPhone to photograph the event - celebrating Shavuot holiday in Moshav Ben Shemen.

Knesset aide nudged by early morning tefillin SMS

By Lahav Harkov June 9, 2011

Photo: Lior Finkel (courtesy to

For the past three weeks, Lior Finkel hasn’t needed to set an alarm clock – she’s gotten a wake-up SMS at 7 a.m. each day. Finkel, an aide to MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz), and many other parliamentary aides have been receiving daily text messages from an organization whose goal is to encourage Jews to put on tefillin in the morning.

...“I decided that I’d had enough, and I sent a message saying: ‘I put on tefillin, now leave me alone,’ along with a picture of myself, a woman, wearing tefillin,” Finkel said.

“The next day, the harassment stopped,” she said. “I guess they were right – I put on tefillin, and redemption came.”

Rabbi Richard Jacobs' Remarks to Board of Trustees Upon His Election as President of the URJ June 12, 2011

Rabbi Richard Jacobs:

Aleinu -"it is up to us" to foster a deep love for and engagement with Israel among Reform Jews of North America, young and old.

With Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, ARZA and the World Union for Progressive Judaism, we can be builders and supporters of Medinat Yisrael and will continue to do so. Israel is not only a bundle of pressing issues and challenges, but more importantly our dynamic and inspiring Jewish homeland.

When Israel gets into our hearts then I know that we will never stop fighting for an Israel that is secure, religiously free, guided by justice and dwelling in peace.

A movement of change

By Rabbi Michael Marmur Opinion June 6, 2011

The writer is vice president for academic affairs of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. He lives in Jerusalem.

Many liberal Jews are struggling to recalibrate their relationship to Israel. In this process, [Rabbi Richard] Jacobs is not part of the problem, but part of the solution. In the way he leads his own life, he models deep commitment to Israel, just as he insists on promoting the liberal values he holds dear.

Wanted: A pro-Israel leader

By Karin McQuillan Opinion June 6, 2011

The writer is part of Congregation Beth Israel in Carmel, California

I don’t want to be told by Rabbi Jacobs that it’s okay to lobby Congress against Israel. It’s not okay. It’s not okay to selectively boycott Israel. None of that is the least bit okay with me and with thousands of other Reform Zionists.

Rabbi Jacobs, the New Israel Fund and J Street represent maybe 5% of American Jews.

Rabbi Jacobs does not represent me.

Tending the Relationship between North American Jews and Israel June 9, 2011

Cross-posted: From the Place Where We are Right Flowers Will Never Grow: Tending the Relationship between North American Jews and Israel

By Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld Opinion June 9, 2011

Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld is Dean, Rabbinical School of Hebrew College.

It saddens me that Rabbi Daniel Gordis has chosen to misrepresent our educational work and our community in such an egregious way, particularly by taking out of context and sharing – without permission – private and personal communications.

Over the last two years, we have worked hard at the Rabbinical School not only to create opportunities for sustained learning and dialogue here in the U.S., but also to develop a more robust study-in-Israel program, under the excellent educational leadership of Rabbi Peretz Rodman.

Beyond Survival

By Dr. Tal Becker Opinion June 5, 2011

Unlike the political Zionism that underpins the crisis model, a values-based narrative is inspired on what may be called "aspirational Zionism." Political Zionism was primarily concerned with Jewish survival and it promotes a State that defines its Jewishness in minimalistic and, largely if not exclusively, survivalist terms.

Israel is Jewish in the sense that it has a Jewish majority to maintain Jewish political self-determination; that the Law of Return enables all Jews to find refuge here; that the State feels an obligation to protect Jews worldwide, and that the State's public symbols and days of rest have Jewish origins.

Future of Jewish people to be discussed at J'lem summit

By Gil Shefler June 12, 2011

In the future, Korda said ROI will launch a new platform where ideas for Jewish innovations could compete against one another “in a friendly way.”

He also said he hoped the ROI community would grow to include 1,000 members in its fold.

“We’re the glass half-full people,” Korda said. “A lot of the Jewish world does a lot of work on things like negative trends and assimilation work, but we like to focus on the optimistic side.”

The Jewish leaders of the future?

By Gil Shefler June 7, 2011

We chose 10 people – media moguls, political activists, diplomats, artists and speechwriters – under the age of 32 who are doing interesting things in the Jewish sphere.

Job losses as the Jewish Agency shrinks in Israel

By Nathan Jeffay June 10, 2011

The Jewish Agency for Israel is to close for a fortnight in the summer as a money-saving measure, docking pay from employees.

Leonid Nevzlin acquires 20 percent of Haaretz shares June 12, 2011

Leonid Nevzlin, chairman of the board of trustees at Beit Hatfutsot - the Museum of the Jewish People - is joining Haaretz as a partner and will acquire 20 percent of the company's share capital valued at NIS 700 million. All the funds will go into the company.

Patrick Gallagher to design the new Beit Hatfutsot Museum of the Jewish People May 18, 2011

Patrick Gallagher, President and Founder of Gallagher & Associates, a leading, international professional design firm, has been chosen by Beit Hatfutsot's Board of Directors and International Steering Committee to lead the planning and the renovation of Beit Hatfutsot's core exhibition covering approximately 4,000 square meters (45,000 square feet).

The development costs for the entire project are estimated at approximately NIS 210 million. The Government of Israel has promised NIS 40 million for this project and Beit Hatfutsot has already secured a major commitment from the NADAV Foundation. Other large commitments have been made by the Claims Conference and private donors.

Israel is among nations invited into 16-team qualifying round for 2013 World Baseball Classic June 2, 2011

Israel has been invited to participate in a new 16-team Qualifying Round for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

“We are very grateful to MLB and the MLBPA for allowing Israel to participate in prestigious tournament,” said Haim Katz, President of the IAB.

“It is a tribute to our efforts and progress in promoting the great game of baseball in Israel. Participation in the World Baseball Classic is particularly exciting to us as it enables us to create a team of not just Israeli citizens but of all those of Jewish heritage.

We look at this mission as a partnership between the North American Jewish community and Israel and as a vehicle to strengthen the ties between us.”

Here Comes the Arava Sun at Kibbutz Ketura

By Bracha Arnold June 7, 2011

And indeed, there was a large emphasis on “tikkun olam,” the Jewish concept of fixing the world. “This is the world’s first solar field with a neshama (soul),” said co-founder of APC David Rosenblatt. One such example is the tithing of the solar field.

According to the traditional Jewish law of “pe’ah“, the owners of a field must leave the four corners of his field unharvested so that the poor may take from his field.

Similarly, the corners of Ketura Sun’s solar field have been dedicated to four different non-profit organizations, who will, over the next twenty years, benefit from the funds earned by each corner. The organizations are Jewish Heart for Africa, Bustan, the Elie Weisel Foundation for Humanity, and the Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center.

Aside from that, Ketura Sun is committed to working with the local Bedouin communities, who hope to build the next solar field on their land.

Religion and State in Israel

June 13, 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.