Monday, August 1, 2011

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

Religion and State in Israel

August 1, 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.

Likud MK Elkin: Conversion bill delays are good for country, coalition

By Jonah Mandel July 28, 2011

The country is profiting from the fact that no real progress is being made in legislating the so-called conversion bill, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said on Tuesday.

“I’m one of those who isn’t exactly crying over the fact that the bill is being delayed, since Israel is benefitting in another sphere.”

“The solution,” he said, “will come – but in the next generation. The Israeli demography is very clear, and in a few decades most of the Jews in Israel will be religious. Today's majority sector – secular and traditional Jews – will become a mere 30 percent. So to really join the Israeli society will entail real conversion,” he said in reference to Orthodox conversion.

Only in the future will there be no longer a need for the converting rabbis or conversion candidates to pretend that the future lifestyle of those undergoing the process will entail the observance professed. “Till then, someone will be lying – either the rabbinic establishment, or the converts,” said Elkin.

Rabbi Haim Amsalem: We need to embrace ‘Zera Yisrael’

By Haim Amsalem Opinion July 27, 2011

The writer is founder and chairman of the Am Shalem political movement.

At least 300,000 non-Jewish Russian immigrants of Jewish descent currently reside in Israel. They serve in our army, study in our schools, speak our language and socialize with our children. A high percentage seek to convert to Judaism but have met resistance from the Israeli Rabbinate, which questions their level of commitment to religious observance, a prerequisite for conversion.

Let me state in the clearest of terms that according to traditional Jewish law, not only can we convert these immigrants, we must convert them.

Knesset votes down civil marriage, divorce option

By Jonah Mandel July 27, 2011

The Knesset voted down an attempt on Wednesday to open the option of civil marriage and divorce to Jews in Israel.

“Israel is the only democracy in the world where Jews don’t have freedom of religion,” declared MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who led the list of legislators behind the initiative.

Wednesday’s vote is part of a larger campaign to enable freedom of choice in marriage led by the Forum for Freedom in Marriage, Be Free Israel, the Israel Religious Action Center, and Shatil.

Earlier in the day, and ahead of the vote, they held a conference in the Knesset for which women supporters and lawmakers donned bridal garb, while the male MKs in their suits passed for casually dressed grooms.

Knesset votes down bill to allow civil marriage in Israel

By Jonathan Lis and Gili Cohen July 28, 2011

Even as the Knesset was voting down the bill, two researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev were unveiling the results of their recent research on the issue of civil marriage.
Two thirds of the Israeli public supports allowing civil marriage, the study found, but only one third of Israelis want to be married in that fashion.

When asked if they would marry in a civil ceremony if it were possible in Israel, 31 percent of the respondents said they either were sure they would or thought they would. But 63 percent said they either were sure they would not or thought they would not.

Among Kadima, Yisrael Beiteinu and Labor voters, a large majority, over 80 percent, support civil marriage. But slightly less than half of Likud voters said they supported civil marriage in Israel.

Knesset rejects civil marriage bill

By Moran Azulay July 28, 2011

The bill was aimed at allowing Israelis to choose between civil or religious marriage. Divorce would have been performed in accordance with the type of marriage, unless the couple agreed in writing to divorce in a different way.

During the discussion, MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) took the podium wearing a head cover. She claimed that in the current reality she was being forced to be religious in order to marry. Zuaretz was asked to remove the head cover.

Rabbinical court wants woman jailed for refusing to accept divorce

By Tomer Zarchin July 26, 2011

In a rare move, the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court ordered a 59-year-old woman jailed this week for refusing for 15 years to accept a ritual divorce from her husband and release him from their marriage.

Batia Kahana-Dror, who heads the organization Mevoi Satum, which helps and advocates for women being denied a divorce, said she had never heard of a woman being jailed for refusing to accept a get. Nevertheless, she backed the court’s action.

“A get should not be a blackmailing tool for a man or a woman,” she said.

Israeli Woman May Be Jailed for Refusing Divorce

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen Opinion July 26, 2011

...this case is another illustrating why religion and state should be disentangled in Israel on matters of personal status, as they are in the United States.

If they were, a civil court judge could grant the man in this case a divorce even without the wife’s permission. And judges could also free the many women whose husbands refuse to liberate them from their status as agunot.

Where will 'mixed' couple's child study?

By Kobi Nahshoni July 31, 2011

The Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court ruled recently that the son of a divorced ultra-Orthodox father and secular mother would study in a state-religious kindergarten and school.

The Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court accepted the husband's stance, ruling that the child would be educated in the state religious school system. Moreover, the court decided that the child's religious education would begin as early as the next school year, at the age of three.

Rabbis, Justice Minister in new spat over divorce proceedings

By Yehuda Shlezinger July 29, 2011

A war of words has broken out between the religious and civilian court systems in Israel over the issue of divorce. Rumors reached the rabbinical establishment this week that steps were being taken to "castrate" the rabbinical court system and render it obsolete.

Director of the Rabbinical Courts Rabbi Shlomo Duchovsky, head of a committee established to investigate the judicial tug-of-war between civil and religious courts, has resigned from the panel following these rumors.

Ethiopian Dreams, Israeli Realities

By Kamoun Ben Shimon July 31, 2011

Accepting that in order to be a religious leader he would have to study to become a rabbi, he applied and was accepted to a prestigious Orthodox yeshiva. “The head rabbi told me that he was happy to see me among his students, and then he added, ‘You’ll see, we’ll make good Jews out of you.’ As if my fellow Ethiopians and I were not good Jews.

I felt I had always been a good Jew, and the rabbi’s comments were crude and rude. And oh, how that hurt me.”

He left the yeshiva. “I was willing to accept that I had to fill in the gap between my traditions and developments over the centuries. But I wasn’t willing to accept their malicious arrogance.”

...By chance, he met a group of Conservative rabbis at a demonstration for Ethiopians’ rights. “I had no idea that such a movement existed. These people said they were observant, religious Jews, but they didn’t look like any of the religious Jews I had met. I discovered another type of Israeli Jew and I felt an irresistible attraction to who they are and what they offer.”

What he found irresistible, he explains, was the inclusiveness of the Conservative movement.

1 down, 100 to go - Court orders Netanya to help build Reform synagogue

By Orly Erez-Likhovski Opinion July 25, 2011

Being a Reform Jew in Israel is by definition being an activist. While Reform Judaism is not illegal here, it can sometimes feel that way because we face so much opposition.

This case is a huge victory because it is the first time a court has forced a municipality to give a Reform congregation a synagogue.

There are still many hurdles in this battle, but the Netanya congregation will hopefully have a synagogue within a few months. Hopefully this case will set a precedent that will make it easier for Reform Jews to build congregations in Israel.

Gay Pride Parade held in Jerusalem

Haredim hold demonstration against march in capital

By Abe Selig July 29, 2011

While the city’s haredi sector generally refrained from arriving at the parade itself, a demonstration against the march was held in Shabbat Square in the capital’s Mea Shearim neighborhood, where participants read prayers aloud and decried the pride parade as an “abomination” and likened it to “the burning of a Torah.”

And as the parade arrived at the Wohl Rose Garden around 7pm, a third protest, led by deputy mayor Yitzhak Pindrus, carried cardboard cut-outs of donkeys, to symbolize what they labeled the “beastial nature” of the pride parade.

Religious gay community participate in Jerusalem Gay Pride March

Click here for PHOTO July 28, 2011

The holy city hosted the 10th annual Gay Pride march combining the colorful LGBT community's struggle for human rights with a statement of solidarity with social struggles currently sweeping the country.

PHOTO Gallery: Ultra-Orthodox protest against Gay Parade

July 28, 2011

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men wearing brown sacks pray during a protest in the Mea Shearim neighbourhood of Jerusalem against a nearby annual gay pride parade.

J'lem pride parade to mark 2nd anniversary of TA attack; Haredi counter-protest expected

By Melanie Lidman July 28, 2011

Meanwhile, some 1,000 ultra-Orthodox are expected to attend a legal counter-protest in Kikar Shabbat in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of the capital, similar to last year, said Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby. There are no legal counter-protests planned for the parade route.

The man who would be Israeli

By Ilan Lior July 26, 2011

Glastian, 29, was born in Armenia. He arrived in Israel at the age of 16 to study at the seminar of the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem, with the intention of becoming a priest. He studied there for three years until one day he decided to escape. He had understood he was a homosexual and wanted to come out of the closet.

Anat Hoffman - Women Off the Wall

By Emily Perper July 29, 2011

Click here for AUDIO interview (may need free sign-up)

Click here to Download interview

Thomas Jefferson’s belief that religions are strong when they are disparate, not united, is modeled by Chautauqua Institution in its sundry denominational houses and represented faith traditions, Hoffman said. Israel does not model this.

“There is corruption, and there is a rigidness, and there is no pluralism in Judaism in Israel, or not enough pluralism,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman believes Orthodox Judaism, the state religion of Israel, has been tainted by government involvement.

“When you have state funding of such an extent behind one type of religion, it does become corrupt,” she said. “And if Reform Judaism, which I belong to, had that much funding and that much of a monopoly, then we would’ve been no less corrupt.”

There is no modern Hebrew word for “pluralism.” The word for “integrity” in modern Hebrew is four years old; the word “accountability,” just nine months.

Securing the right of all Jews to pray in this sacred place July 31, 2011

My 12 year old daughter Sarah joined the Women of the Wall for Rosh Chodesh Tammuz 5770. She was lovingly enveloped in their strength and commitment as I watched from afar as before my eyes my daughter became a woman…

Rabbi Rick Jacobs

President Elect Union for Reform Judaism

Progressive Jews should not give up on Israel

By Adam Chandler Opinion July 29, 2011

Adam Chandler is a writer who lives in New York. He is currently working on a book about the Second Lebanon War.

The need for a democratic counterweight in Israel has never been more dire. We have it in our power - and it is our responsibility - to help strengthen Israeli democracy and ensure its survival.

This work cannot be done without its Sieradskis here in America and across the Diaspora. And without concentrated pushback, the madness leading Israel off its rational course will only deepen.

VIDEO: Relationships, Israel and American Jewry

July 12, 2011

Click here for embedded VIDEO

How would you define the relationship between Israelis and American Jewry? Would it surprise you that it's really not as simple as it used to be? What use to be the big brother/ small brother, now seems to be more of a love / hate relationship. These are the voices of the elephants in the room, as they were called at Siach.

Can a Polish Priest Be a Jew? Not According to the Law of Return

By Renee Ghert-Zand July 28, 2011

Israel’s Interior Ministry may not be ready to bend in Weksler-Waszkinel’s favor, but his calm presence and unshakeable belief have made an impression not only on Kertsner, but also on some of the religious kibbutzniks with whom the former priest lived and prayed for the good part of a year.

The filmmaker recounted: “One of them spoke at the Jerusalem screening of the film and said what he learned from Yaakov was the power of faith — and although he knew this was not the place to say this he felt that he learned from Yaakov that it doesn’t matter which God you believe in, as long as you believe.”

Adelsons Announce $5m. Gift to Taglit-Birthright Israel July 25, 2011

Philanthropists Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson announced a new $5 million 2011 challenge gift to the Birthright Israel Foundation, as part of their ongoing commitment to fund the educational trips of Taglit-Birthright Israel for Jewish young adults.

In all, the Adelson Family Foundation has contributed over $100 million to Birthright Israel since 2007.

Li-Heyot Am Hofshi beArtseinu: The As-Yet Unrealized Dream

By Jolene S. Kellner Opinion July 29, 2011

Jolene S. Kellner is a reference and periodicals librarian at the University of Haifa; previously she was a public health nurse in an impoverished suburb of Haifa. Menachem Kellner is a professor of Jewish Thought at the University of Haifa and Senior Fellow, Institute for Philosophy, Political Theory, and Religion at the Shalem Center, Jerusalem.

This article appears in issue 10 of Conversations, the journal of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.

We very much enjoyed living in a Jewish State that was Jewish not only by virtue of the majority of its populace, but also because traditional Jewish holidays were national holidays and the public square used to be recognizably Jewish.

It is not important in this context to point fingers of blame for this, but in our 30 years here the public square in Israel has grown ever more secular, ever more distanced from its Jewish roots, just as the religiously observant have largely retreated into self-made ghettos.

From our perspective, attempts to force Judaism down the throats of Israelis have boomeranged.

Whether that is indeed the cause or not is less important than the fact that the public face of Israel has changed beyond recognition in our years here.

Continuing a Peoplehood Debate

Cross-posted at

By Misha Galperin Opinion July 25, 2011

Misha Galperin is the new CEO and President of Jewish Agency International Development and the co-author of “The Case for Jewish Peoplehood: Can We Be One?” (Jewish Lights).

This op-ed is a response to a previous article by Daniel Septimus, which can be found here.

Conversations about peoplehood need to go beyond rhetoric and defining the terms. We also need more people to join this conversation about our future, to cry and to celebrate together.

The Jewish Agency, perhaps the only truly global Jewish forum where all streams of Judaism and political persuasions come together, may just be the ideal platform to promote that conversation.

U.S.-Israeli Basketball Players Embrace Heritage and Opportunity

AP July 30, 2011

The Israeli basketball league has long been a refuge for second-tier players in the twilight of their careers, but it is now increasingly recruiting top-notch Jewish talent.

“It’s good for the league, it’s good for the players and it’s good for the country,” Avner Koppel, the Israeli league’s commissioner, said. “Everybody gains.”

With the league recently imposing a new limit of four foreigners per team, the search for Jewish talent has intensified. And with a lockout in place in the N.B.A., a move to Israel appears especially well-timed.

Giving Back is Sexier Than Ever

By Dan Brown July 26, 2011

Every summer, Sandy Cardin, President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, addresses the PresenTense Global Fellowship Program on the state of philanthropy. This looked forward to, standing room only event, examines the philanthropic world through the eyes of one of the most knowledgeable players in the field. And as always, Sandy did not disappoint.

Click here for embedded VIDEOS: Part 1 and Part 2

Sandy Cardin - Future of Jewish Philanthropy - part 1 from Presentense on Vimeo.

Sandy Cardin - Future of Jewish Philanthropy - part 2 from Presentense on Vimeo.

Absorption Ministry passes on private absorption expo

By Raphael Ahren July 29, 2011

The organizer of a private exhibition for immigrants slammed the Absorption Ministry for failing to participate in or even endorse the event, despite the active participation of other government agencies.

Israel's Identity Crisis

By Yonatan Touval July 29, 2011

Yonatan Touval is a foreign policy analyst based in Tel Aviv.

Rather than asking the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, therefore, Israel has its own job cut out for itself. And while it is tempting to pass on the burden to others, it remains Israel’s duty — first and foremost to itself — to discover what it means when it says it is Jewish, and to make sure that such a definition be accepted, and recognized, by its own citizens.

Once it does so, Israel might be able to make a more coherent request to its neighbors — or more likely, feel secure enough in its own identity to move on.


By Simone Gorrindo July 18, 2011

Started by Holocaust survivors shortly after World War II, Efrat is founded on the belief that no Jewish woman should have to abort a child because of money troubles.

The organization will help a needy mother like Aharon financially for the first year of her child’s life. To many Israelis, Efrat’s mission sounds suspiciously pro-life, but Efrat likes to see itself as “pro-choice,” more an instrument of education than coercion.


While Schussheim argues that what Efrat offers is education, Irit Rosenblum, the head of an Israeli family-rights organization called New Family, thinks the group’s agenda is a lot more insidious.

...According to her, Efrat is invading women’s privacy and cajoling them into a decision. In 2004, a member of the Knesset attempted to outlaw Efrat’s existence, calling its work equal to harassment.

“They are trying to tempt [the woman], to pay her,” Rosenblum says. “The temptation around it is very ugly, I think.”

Orthodox Women Overcome Barriers at Kolech Conference

By Elana Sztokman July 25, 2011

This year’s conference of Kolech, Israel’s Orthodox feminist forum, grappled with cutting-edge issues around homosexuality, the place of transgender women in Orthodoxy and the shared lifestyles of Muslim and Jewish religious women.

...Religious women creating a new discourse about religion, state, and gender have the potential to cut across borders and realign conflicts and alliances.

It requires women to be able to take a very broad view of their experience and understand that what guides us is perhaps less about a strict, unbending obedience to Jewish legal precepts and more about a deep, profound commitment to living a spiritual life.

This is a brand new direction for Orthodox women, and can, in my opinion, change the world.


By Benjamin Kerstein July 29, 2011

It is time to acknowledge, without shame and without undue pride, that Israel is not a miracle nor the result of divine fiat, not a mere shadow of some perfection in the mind of an unknowable deity but the result of the sacrifices, the contributions, and, above all, the unglamorous, quotidian labor of many individual human beings, all of whom, to one degree or another, rebelled against the same pleasing but empty messianic illusions so many of their progeny have now embraced.

Religion and State in Israel

August 1, 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.