Monday, February 7, 2011

Religion and State in Israel - February 7, 2011 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

February 7, 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.

Love the convert

By Tamar Rotem February 4, 2011

Some day, many years from now, Alina Roise and Maxim Sardikov will perhaps look back at their petition to the High Court of Justice against the Chief Rabbinate and marriage registrars in four cities as a turning point.

But when they agreed a few months ago to join a petition by ITIM - The Jewish Life Information Center (which provides advice in conversion and other religious matters ) against four municipal rabbis who refuse to allow converts to marry, and against the Chief Rabbinate, which chose not to take any action against the rabbis, the couple was motivated to act simply because of a sense of injustice.

Meretz MK demands Streisand's cousin be allowed to make aliyah

By Nir Hasson February 6, 2011

The Interior Ministry and Jewish Agency must reconsider their decision not to allow Dale Streisand, a cousin of American singer Barbra Streisand, to immigrate to Israel, MK Ilan Ghilon (Meretz ) demanded over the weekend.

Nicky Maor, director of the immigrant assistance center for the Reform Jewish movement in Israel, said aliyah applications are being dealt with more rigorously out of concern that the Law of Return is being exploited by missionaries, particularly from the United States.

She mentioned that this is not the first time Internet has been used in these more -rigorous background checks.

State nixes aliyah for Streisand cousin over 'Christian link'

By Nir Hasson February 3, 2011

The Interior Ministry and the Jewish Agency rejected a request from singer Barbra Streisand's cousin to come and live in Israel.

Dale Streisand, 57, was reportedly refused new immigrant status on the grounds that his Facebook profile indicated he had been involved in Christian missionary activity in the past.

...He said he is a Jew and has a right to live in Israel.

Streisand also told Haaretz that he is a newly Orthodox Jew, is studying Torah and that he wants to live in Israel and raise his children here.

An Unusual Alliance: Reform Movement Saves a Seat for Orthodox Women on Israeli Buses

By Rachel Canar Opinion February 4, 2011

Many Orthodox Jews are discreetly celebrating the most recent victory for pluralism in Israel. No longer can there be forced or even suggested gender segregation on Israeli public buses.

Ironically, who are they calling to thank? The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel.

The first group to petition against the Mehadrin (Kosher) bus lines, IRAC brought the case to the Supreme Court in early 2007, representing five women who were abused on these buses.

The Black Bus

By Symi Rom-Rymer February 4, 2011

Anat Zuria has made her career exploring the stories of religious women on the margins of their world. Her latest work, The Black Bus, a selection at the recent New York Jewish Film Festival, is no exception.

...In interviews, Zuria has said that she made this movie to give Haredi women a voice. To tell the stories that are overshadowed by the men who traditionally speak for them.

Click here for VIDEO

VIDEO: Women of the Wall Rosh Chodesh Adar I 2011

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Click here for PHOTOS

Saving Orthodox Judaism in Israel

By Rabbi Eric Yoffie Opinion February 3, 2011

When Yaakov Epstein became Chief Rabbi of Haifa in 2052, neither the press nor the public took special notice.

True, he was the first Reform rabbi elected to the highest rabbinical position in a major metropolis, but he had already served as Chief Rabbi of Netanya. In fact, six Conservative and four Reform rabbis were then serving as Chief Rabbis of medium-sized Israeli cities.

By then, the “Rebellion of 2022” had been largely forgotten.

Our state of diminished freedom

Time to Step Up for Democracy

By Dr. Arye Carmon, Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern Opinion February 2, 2011

Dr. Arye Carmon is president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a think tank based in Jerusalem. Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern are IDI’s vice presidents of research.

The haredi rabbinate has radicalized its positions on issues of religion and state. One example is its attitudes toward the national judicial system; important rabbis have ruled that anyone who turns to state courts “has no portion in the world to come.”

The rabbinate has also hardened its control over conversions, attempting to disqualify retroactively the conversions of thousands within the army or other frameworks.

...The Zionist center – religious and secular alike – must take responsibility for the Jewish character of the state, and not leave this task in the hands of radicals.

There’s no such thing as a Jewish democracy

By Ezra Resnick Opinion February 4, 2011

Photo: Ben McLeod

What Israel most desperately needs is complete separation between religion and the state.

The government must not be allowed to pass any law privileging one religion over another, or privileging religion over non-religion.

Tax money should not be used to support religious institutions. The government must not be in the business of determining a person’s religion or adjudicating religious questions. Such actions are inherently discriminatory, and they are the source of many of our never-ending political problems.

AJC Statement on Religious Pluralism in Israel January 31, 2011

We are concerned that the office of the Chief Rabbinate has become politicized and appears directed toward enforcing political positions endorsed by ultra-Orthodox political parties within the context of Israeli coalition politics.

In recent months otherwise well-intentioned efforts to facilitate conversion to Judaism have been linked for political reasons with efforts to expand the power of the Chief Rabbinate to determine who qualifies as a convert.

Its monopoly on issues affecting the actual status of Jews not only within Israel but also of those seeking to immigrate to Israel damages both the unity of the Jewish people internationally and risks the alienation of American Jewry from the Jewish state.

VIDEO: God in Government

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The State of Israel began with a 'religious status quo' agreement balancing the demands of secular Zionists with Orthodox religious requirements.

Fifty years later, a changing demographic and widening gap between Orthodox and secular Israelis have led to a national identity crisis and public protests over attempts to redefine the character of the State.

Adam Ferziger on non-Jews in Conservative synagogues

Interview by Shmuel Rosner February 2, 2011

Dr. Adam S. Ferziger is senior lecturer, Gwendolyn and Joseph Straus Fellow, and vice chairman of the Graduate Program in Contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University.

Unlike in the Diaspora, Israel's concern with intermarriage is not due to fear of assimilation into a majority non-Jewish society.

Rather, it is primarily an issue of societal unity. The emergence of a significant minority of what my colleague Professor Asher Cohen refers to as "Non-Jewish Jews" within Israel, may lead – if it has not already done so – to increased hesitation among Religious-Zionists regarding participation of their children in activities (such as army and university education) that engender social interaction with secular Jews whose lineage is less clear.

California rabbis bring show of unity

By Gil Shefler January 31, 2011

The diversity of Jewish religious practice was on display when an eclectic group of 37 male and female rabbis visiting from Northern California shuffled into the Bina Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture seminary in grimy south Tel Aviv last Thursday.

Some were affiliated with Chabad Hassidut and sported bushy beards and tallit fringes sticking out from their shirts. Others were Reform and Conservative rabbis wearing little or no visible Jewish garb, and at least one female rabbi was wearing a kippa.

Seeds of Subversion

Book review: Not in the Heavens: The Tradition of Jewish Secular Thought

By Allan Arkush Jewish Review of Books Number 4 Winter 2011

Biale also focuses on David Ben-Gurion, who, "like Spinoza," saw the Bible as "primarily a nationalist book," one "that gave a political identity to the ancient nation of Israel, an identity that transcended mere religion."

He shows how Israel's first prime minister fostered "a kind of ‘bibliomania,'" and thereby "played a major role in the elevation of the Bible to the status of national myth" in the new State of Israel.

...Since the 1990s, increasing numbers of young Israelis, he tells us, have been engaging in the study of traditional texts in secular houses of study.

Although this is "a relatively small phenomenon," it is evidence that not everyone is ready to cede the Bible and the rest of Jewish tradition to the rabbis.

Nefesh B'Nefesh sends out pink slips, cuts salaries

By Raphael Ahren February 3, 2011

Nefesh B'Nefesh, a nonprofit that helps North American and British Jews immigrate to Israel, fired 18 percent of its staff last week, or about 15 employees, Haaretz has learned.

But a spokeswoman insisted services to new and potential immigrants would be untouched by the cuts.

World Council of Israelis Abroad gets down to business

By Rhonda Spivak January 31, 2011

The World Council of Israelis Abroad held it's first-ever conference in Toronto this month, under the theme “Building Bridges to World Jewry and the State of Israel.”

The three-day meeting was sponsored by the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and the Mishelanu Organization for Israelis Abroad.

The changing winds of Israeli philanthropy

By Ruth Eglash January 31, 2011

Does this mean that Israeli organizations such as the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund, which traditionally served a conduit for international donors, no longer have a place?

As an Israeli I really value these organizations and I want them to remain strong, but I really think they need to reevaluate their roles in the Jewish world and in Israeli life. Perhaps they could become a platform for other areas of involvement that are more specific?

I do, however, think it’s important for them to remain strong and for all of us to be united, maybe even creating a round table for world Jewry to change its ideas and work together to build a common vision for the next generation of Jews and Israel.

Jewish philanthropists help people with disabilities

By Ruth Eglash February 1, 2011

A new initiative aimed at uniting philanthropic efforts to improve the treatment of people with disabilities in theJewish community and to raise awareness of their needs was announced Friday by the Jewish Funders Network (JFN), an international umbrella organization for Jewish philanthropy.

Birthright Rejects J Street Trip: Cohen's Comments

Click here for VIDEO comment

Birthright rejects J Street effort to co-sponsor trip

J Street U Responds to Birthright’s Decision to Cancel Trip

Statement from Taglit-Birthright Israel: Clarification regarding JStreet

University tuition hike in Britain undercuts gap year programs in Israel

By Raphael Ahren February 4, 2011

The British government’s recent decision to increase university tuition is causing a dramatic drop in Israel gap year program participants from this country, organizers of such programs lamented this week.

Birthright Israel launches campaign to 'Take Back Zionism'

By Riva Gold February 4, 2011

This winter, the Birthright Israel Alumni community is launching an international "Take Back Zionism" campaign to inspire young Jews to redefine the word "Zionism" in light of their own ideals.

Giving Israel’s image a good rap

By Raphael Ahren February 4, 2011

Israeli politicians have recruited rap star Shyne to improve Israel’s image, though some have criticized the initiative, saying that the 34-year-old who became an Orthodox Jew while serving time in prison for a shooting incident is not a suitable advocate for the country.

An official dealing with Israel-Diaspora relations speaking anonymously told Anglo File said he couldn’t believe why high-ranking politicians would want to affiliate themselves with Shyne.

“I just can’t understand how Ayalon and Edelstein have their picture taken with a gangsta rapper who sat in jail for trying to shoot people.”

Havruta: A Journal of Jewish Conversation Number 6 / Winter 2011

Ikkarim: Searching for the Core of Judaism

The voice of a woman

By Viva Hammer Opinion February 4, 2011

The writer is a Washington lawyer and a research associate at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, Brandeis University.

Shira Hadasha is a medley, wading in a civilization deluged with history, rising to gasp the air of a radical present. It invites women to leyn and honors them with aliyot but permits only men to lead services.

I conferred with an American rabbi regarding my plan to read Torah. The Mishna discusses women receiving aliyot; how could he condemn the practice?

Seasons greetings

By Rabbi Marc Rosenstein Opinion January 31, 2011

We have gone to a lot of trouble over the past century to create a place that, finally, would be "just Jewish," where our culture would be the culture of the land, where we wouldn't have to wonder if our kids should be singing Christmas carols.

And here we are, wearing (or not) Santa Claus hats in the Jewish state, trying to work out just what should be our relationship to the other cultures around us.

Christian leader pivotal to Herzl’s work recognized

By Jonny Paul February 2, 2011

The contribution of a Christian chaplain to Theodor Herzl’s work and to the Zionist cause was commemorated in London this week with a tombstone dedication at his unmarked grave.

Rev. William Henry Hechler was pivotal to Herzl’s diplomatic successes, allying himself with the emerging Zionist movement and providing Herzl with key introductions to German royal society.

Religion and State in Israel

February 7, 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.

Religion and State in Israel - February 7, 2011 (Section 2)

February 7, 2011 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

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.

Tel Aviv District Court sets precedent by upholding right of 'aguna'

By Ruth Eglash February 3, 2011

A woman’s bid to sue her recalcitrant husband for NIS 700,000 in damages after he consistently refused her a get (Jewish divorce) for more than 16 years was upheld this week in a precedent-setting decision by the Tel Aviv District Court.

“This is indeed an important precedent,” commented attorney Susan Weiss, founder of the Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ), which has represented the women since her first attempt to seek damages in Family Court through this appeal hearing in the district court.

“This is the first time a court of appeals has ruled on such a case and its decision – barring a contrary ruling by the Supreme Court – is binding on all family courts in Israel.”

She added, “This is also an important ruling for CWJ, for Israeli women, as well as for Jewish women in the Diaspora.

Divorce recalcitrant to pay NIS 700,000

By Kobi Nahshoni February 4, 2011

Judges Esther Covo, Michal Rubinstein and Ofra Czerniak wrote that the woman was take captive by her husband, who set up a prison for her from the moment she agreed to marry him.

"The wife was entitled to a divorce from the moment she sought it, all the more so when she married the appellant at the age of 24, lived with him for only three months, and was not content with him," the judges wrote.

"Today she is close to 40 and continues to suffer from the appellant's cruel behavior towards her… The state of events described is immoral and contradicts the basic law of man's dignity and freedom."

Haredi world mulls acceptance of civil unions

By Jonah Mandel February 3, 2011

As the Ashkenazi haredi establishment grapples with senior Sephardi adjudicator Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s recent endorsement of the military conversions, a new initiative is reportedly seeking to galvanize the haredi rabbinic leadership in favor of expanding the option of civil unions in Israel.

According to Mishpacha, a widely read haredi weekly, a group of unnamed but prominent rabbis and Halacha adjudicators are this weekly beginning to present their proposal to the haredi rabbinic leadership for its scrutiny and decision.

Letter to the Editor

In response to the article "Rabbis claim new powers in divorces of couples married in civil unions," January 14, 2011

By Nadia Zeldes February 2, 2011

...I assume that the witnesses who were present during the civil unions were not religious Jews, meaning that these marriages do not have halakhic validity.

Israel Supreme Court hears arguments for and against overturning Tal Law

By Dan Izenberg January 29, 2011

The Supreme Court strenuously questioned the statistics which the state presented on Sunday to try to prove that it had made great strides in implementing the Tal Law since a previous hearing in June 2007.

“There has been a significant change in the number of people who have enlisted in the army or volunteered for public service,” the state’s representative, Osnat Mandel, head of the High Court Section of the State Attorney’s Office, told the court.

The Red Beret and the Rabbis

By Shmuel Rosner Jewish Review of Books Number 4, Winter 2011

The product of a Religious Zionist upbringing, Stern grew up in Tel Aviv, joined the paratroopers, became the commanding officer of a platoon, and rose through the ranks to become the commander of the IDF officer school, the Chief Education Officer, and, in his last post, the IDF Manpower Chief.

He has written a book in which he tells us just how much better he has always understood things than have many generals, most rabbis, and all politicians.

Israeli Army Battles New Dangers Within

By Pierre Klochendler February 3, 2011

Demography is the key. Their constituency growing, religious parties have over the years become influential.

It's no wonder then that politics is stronger than Israel's military might, coalitions more powerful than the great national unifier – especially when coalitions, such as that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, depend heavily on its ultra-orthodox component.

Haredi rabbi’s feminist daughter joining Kadima

By Jonathan Lis February 4, 2011

The daughter of Rabbi Menachem Eliezer Moses, chairman of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) United Torah Judaism faction, is planning to contend for a place on Kadima’s Knesset list and advance a feminist agenda.

Heidi Moses abandoned the ultra-Orthodox world about five years ago, after many years in which she felt it was no longer suitable for her.

Survey: Haredim prefer kosher businesses

By Nati Tucker January 31, 2011

Ultra-Orthodox favor religiously observant businesses: 78% of Haredim said they would not patronize a company that operates on Shabbat, according to a survey by the Dahaf Institute for the Haredi newspaper Hamevasser.

New start-up: Kosher clothing stores

By Ari Galahar January 31, 2011

An extreme ultra-Orthodox body has established a kashrut department supervising clothing stores in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim and Geula neighborhoods.

Haredi women have begun supervising businesses in the neighborhoods on behalf of the new department, checking whether the clothes sold in the stores meet the requirements of Jewish Law. The department's findings will be published across the neighborhoods.

Haredi man convicted of sexually assaulting minors in Jerusalem January 31, 2011

In Kahalani's verdict, Judges Tzvi Segal, Moshe Drori and Moshe Cohen wrote that the children who were victims "grew up in a religious environment, in a conservative and closed society.

They trusted the defendant and believed he was their friend, and he took advantage of their innocence and abused them behind closed doors."

Photo Gallery Slideshow: At the Hassidic courtyards

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Gil Cohen-Magen, Photographer

90% of Hareidi Women Succeed in Payroll Management Course

By Elad Benari February 1, 2011

New and suitable employment opportunities are opening up to Hareidi women, in addition to the traditional education and secretarial fields which were almost their only options in the past.

A payroll management course is concluding these days in the Modi’in Illit branch of the Hareidi Center for Vocational Training and, as the results of the official examination by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants indicate, 90 percent of the Hareidi women who took the course passed the exam.

'Taliban women': A cover story

By Akiva Novick February 6, 2011

The ultra-Orthodox "Jewish Taliban" cult is one of the most extreme groups ever established in Israel. Established over six years ago, when haredi women tried to fight immodesty in Israel, the group's members decided to wear a robe covering their bodies from the shoulders down.

This cult now has hundreds of members all over the country. Their motto is clear: Cover up as much as you can in the name of modesty.

Film director Anat Zuria ("Purity", "Sentenced to Marriage") has encountered these "Taliban women" while working on one of her films. "Many of them were newly-religious," she said. "They talked about returning to our modest roots, dressing like our mothers from past generations."

VIDEO: "360" TV Investigative Report on Ultra-Orthodox Cult of Veil-Wearers (Hebrew)

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UTJ Dep. Educ. Minister Porush to quit Knesset as a part of rotation agreement

By Gil Hoffman and Rebecca Anna Stoil February 2, 2011

Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush intends to submit his resignation to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Thursday, due to an agreement between the Lithuanian and hassidic parties that make up the United Torah Judaism faction.

Hundreds protest 'neglect' at Cave of Patriarchs

By Kobi Nahshoni February 2, 2011

According to the worshippers, the collapse of the roof at the site's "Chatzer" hall is indicative of deficient maintenance, which, according to them, goes against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to include the Cave of Patriarchs in his national heritage plan.

A haredi rabbi’s journey into the lion’s den

By Jonah Mandel February 4, 2011

Rabbi Israel Meir Gabbai returned to Israel last Tuesday after over a week in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where he visited and prayed at the sites believed to be the burial places of biblical figures such as prophets Daniel and Habakkuk, Daniel’s contemporaries Hanania, Mishael and Azaria, and local Jewish heroes Mordechai and Esther.

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Israeli organ donations soar after soccer star dies

By Maayan Lubell February 4, 2011

Dvora Szerer, spokeswoman for the Transplant Center said transplants suddenly increased by 150 percent in the weeks after the highly emotional moment when Cohen's son announced on national television that his father had been pronounced brain dead "which is to say, he has died."

"Avi Cohen's death came up in every conversation with the donors' families," Szerer said. Awareness was raised and readiness to donate jumped.

Case for Organ Donation Remains Solid

By Baruch A. Brody and Shlomo M. Brody Opinion February 2, 2011

Baruch A. Brody is the Leon Jaworski Professor of Biomedical Ethics and director of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine. Rabbi Shlomo M. Brody, a member of the RCA, teaches at Yeshivat Hakotel in Jerusalem and writes the “Ask the Rabbi” column for The Jerusalem Post. They are father and son.

Does Jewish law allow the donation of organs from brain-dead patients in order to save lives? The recent report by the Rabbinical Council of America’s Vaad Halacha, or committee on Jewish law, suggests that new medical information should cause us to answer “no.”

The Chief Rabbi is being disingenuous

By Robert Berman February 2, 2011

The writer is founder and director, Halachic Organ Donor Society

Symposium on the Ethics of Brain Death and Organ Donation I

Symposium on the Ethics of Brain Death and Organ Donation II

Brain Death Is Final

(may require subscription)

By Robert Berman

Classic authors bumped from religious curriculum

By Tomer Velmer February 3, 2011

During a recent conference of the High School Principals' Association, Dr. Zvi Zameret, the head of the Education Ministry's Pedagogical Secretariat, has expressed concern that 40% of last year's national religious high school graduates were not tested on literature.

Rightists seek to reward firms that don't hire gentiles February 2, 2011

The extremist right-wing Lehava organization, which has the stated goal of combating Jewish assimilation in Israel, will begin providing special certification to dozens of businesses in the coming weeks that commit to employing only Jews, several activists from the organization said yesterday.

NIF Grantees Attack “Jews Only” Kosher Certificates for Employers February 3, 2011

NIF grantee 12 Heshvan: Promoting Tolerance in an Orthodox Context Executive Director Dr. Gadi Gvaryahu said that his organization will consider issuing certificates of merit to businesses if they employ minorities and foreign workers.

He said, “We will remind the Jewish people that the Torah warns us in 36 places to treat the stranger well.”

Interview: Religious group aims for yet another Jewish settlement, in Jaffa

By Gili Cohen January 31, 2011

Itai Granek is 25 years old and the director of the Garin Torani - religious Zionists who try to help underdeveloped communities. Granek's group in Jaffa, which was set up about three years ago, includes about 50 families.

There has been tension with local people who characterize the group's activities as an attempt to put up "a Jewish settlement in Jaffa."

How to promote stability

By Merav Michaeli Opinion January 31, 2011

The growing religious fundamentalism in Israel is actually Jewish, not Muslim. While the Arab population here becomes more secular, the religious Jewish public is getting stronger.

Instead of fearing Muslims in power in Egypt and Israel, it is worth setting our sights on Jewish fundamentalism and the latest law that it is promoting.

Yigal Amir rejects Torah study offer

By Naama Cohen-Friedman February 6, 2011

Yigal Amir, the assassin of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, rejected a State Prosecution offer which would allow him to hold a one hour bi-weekly torah study session with a fellow prisoner.

Rabin's killer: High Court ruling ignored

By Naama Cohen-Friedman February 6, 2011

In December, the High Court of Justice rejected Amir's appeal to alter the terms of his imprisonment. The court ruled that he is to be held in solitary confinement for an additional six months.

However, the justices wrote that they might consider allowing Amir to spend limited time with other prisoners, under supervision, for purposes such as a prayer quorum.

Yigal Amir's solitary confinement to be relaxed for Torah study sessions

By Ofra Edelman February 2, 2011

After 15 years in solitary confinement, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir, will be allowed to meet every other week with another prisoner for Torah study sessions of up to an hour.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: Jews may not say 'Oh My God' or 'Ya Allah' January 31, 2011

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef expanded on the Biblical commandment "Thou shalt not take God's name in vain" on Monday, declaring that Jews may not do so in other languages as well.

This makes saying "Oh my God" or the Arabic "Ya Allah," both popular Israeli slang terms, halachically forbidden.

PHOTO Gallery: Ethiopian Jews

By Nir Alon

Click here for PHOTOS

Celebrating bar mitzvah after 72 years

By David Regev February 2, 2011

Yosef Kineshtlich, 85, of Haifa has been dreaming about completing his bar mitzvah ceremony for 72 years. Last week, he finally got to lay Tefillin and deliver his sermon in an excited voice.

Religion and State in Israel

February 7, 2011 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

All rights reserved.