Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Religion and State in Israel - December 12, 2011 (Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

By Shlomi Diaz and The Associated Press www.israelhayom.com December 8, 2011

A Rishon Lezion small claims court on Wednesday instructed Israel's largest bus company to compensate a religious Rehovot woman for being asked to sit at the back of the bus "far from the men."

The Egged bus company was slapped with a NIS 4,000 fine for what the court defined as gender discrimination, a violation of the High Court of Justice ruling preventing the forced segregation of men and women on public buses.

By Yanir Yagna www.haaretz.com December 12, 2011

Dozens of Sderot businesses, include the retail SuperPharm and Optica Halperin retail chains, signed a modesty agreement over the past few months under which they guarantee that their workers will make sure to dress modestly.

The agreement is the initiative of the Mimaamakim organization, which is supported by the Torah-oriented garin (core group) there.

A business owner who signs the agreement receives a modesty certificate asserting that the premises is "kosher."

By Noga Tarnopolsky www.salon.com December 9, 2011

[A]n incident involving Chany Ma’ayan, a professor of pediatric medicine at Hadassah University Hospital, made headlines when it was revealed that last September she was awarded a prize by the Ministry of Health but, following the directives of Deputy Minister of Health Ya’akov Litzman, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, and unlike the male winners of the same prize, was not invited to the stage to receive the award.

“This was a public event involving a deputy minister of state,” said Dr. Hanna Kehat, the director of Kolekh, an organization of professional religious women, in an interview with Israel Radio. “This is an incidence of gross discrimination, which is prohibited by law and it is difficult to believe actually took place.”

By Sapa-AFP www.pretorianews.co.za December 12, 2011

Rachel Azaria … says she feels the tide is turning in Israel against concessions on sex-separation, citing Jerusalem's recent decision to reintroduce adverts featuring women's faces.

“I think now, people are against it. In the past everybody said there's nothing you can do because of the ultra-Orthodox, but now finally they realise it is something that has to be fought against.”

By Harriet Sherwood www.guardian.co.uk December 9, 2011

"We won't stop singing or showing women's faces or dancing until this ugly phenomenon which is foreign to Judaism or to any democratic society has vanished," said Micky Gidzin, of Be Free Israel, the organisers of the musical protest. "This issue is a symbol of what kind of society we want to be."

Religious and secular Jews opposed to the extremist Haredim are becoming more vocal, according to Shira Ben Sasson Furstenberg, of the New Israel Fund, which has helped finance campaigns and projects.

The issue here is about choice, and the need to enable and respect choice," she said. Things were getting a little better, she said, but there was a long way to go. "We're starting to see the flowers that come before the fruits."

By Yair Lapid Opinion www.ynetnews.com December 6, 2011

On this issue, we shall not see the usual game where each side pulls in a different direction, and eventually we compromise somewhere in the middle. This time there will be no negotiations. There will be no intermediate solution and there is no third way.

The haredim must know that they are playing with fire. The equality of women is a holy Jewish value, and nobody messes with that.

By Michele Chabin www.washingtonpost.com December 7, 2011

“In the past few years, women have been segregated and eliminated from the public sphere by religious extremists,” said Rachel Azaria, a modern-Orthodox Jew and a member of the City Council, as she watched the dancers, dressed in tight costumes, rehearse a contemporary piece.
“Now,” she said, “the public is finally out here campaigning.”

Seth Farber, a modern-Orthodox rabbi and director of Itim, an organization that helps Israelis deal with the religious establishment, places much of the blame on politicians.
“To a large extent, nonreligious politicians have handed over religious issues to fundamentalists to acquire ‘yes’ votes on other issues,” he said. “As a result, a small minority are controlling Jewish life in this country.”

By Rabbi Uri Regev Opinion www.jewishjournal.com December 7, 2011

The exclusion of women is one symptom of a deeper and more dangerous problem in Israel. Women’s rights cannot be divorced from the system that denies of right of marriage to hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens for religious reasons only, including all Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist converts to Judaism; forces women to divorce through an anachronistic and discriminatory religious court system; and includes government policies that consistently discriminate against both non-Orthodox Jewish movements and non-Jews.

www.ynetnews.com December 6, 2011

Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar responded Monday to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's harsh criticism against the exclusion of women in Israel.

"She has no real knowledge of a Jewish woman's modesty," he said. "The Jewish people respect women and treat them like queens and princesses."

www.ynetnews.com December 6, 2011

As for "kosher" buses, separating between men and women, the rabbi explained that some people choose to be stricter but that this is not part of Jewish religious laws. He mentioned Rabbi Moshe Feinstein's ruling that there is no problem for men and women to use public transportation together.

By Gili Cohen www.haaretz.com December 7, 2011

In the video released by the media Barak asks Gantz whether there are any female soldiers present. The Chief of Staff replies: "They are on a break, singing...During the break they start to sing."

By Omri Efraim www.ynetnews.com December 8, 2011

Hundreds of people gathered in Jerusalem Wednesday in protest of religious elements' demands to limit women's role in the public life in Israel.

Mickey Gitzin, head of Be Free Israel movement, which organized the event, told Ynet:: "We plan to continue singing every time and every place until this ugly phenomenon of shunning women stops.

By Zvi Bar'el Opinion www.haaretz.com December 7, 2011

Israel isn't Iran. Iran officially and openly separates unmarried men and women in public venues. In Israel, such segregation is against the law, but in practice, it is alive and well and sneering at the law. 

In the army, on buses that serve the ultra-Orthodox community and in state religious schools financed by the government, segregation flourishes.

Rabbi David Golinkin http://www.schechter.edu Volume 6, Number 2, November 2011

We have seen above that there is no general prohibition against women singing in classic Jewish law based on the Talmud and subsequent codes and commentaries until the early nineteenth century.

...Thus, there is therefore no halakhic justification for anyone walking out when women sing. But even if one accepts the very strict ruling of the Hatam Sofer, it is forbidden to walk out in order not to insult the female performers.

By Rabbi Daniel R. Allen Opinion http://ejewishphilanthropy.com December 11, 2011
Rabbi Daniel R. Allen is Executive Director of ARZA.

One of the gifts of America to the world is the separation of religion and the state. We must share that gift with Israel. One of the Reform movements gifts to American Jewish culture has been music. We must share this with Israel as well. 

Debbie Friedman was a pioneer of modern Jewish music. Today Cantors, song leaders and Rabbis with guitars are part of her legacy in the ruach of our davening. She exemplified the best of what Kol Isha – the voice of a woman – can add to our very souls.

By Sefi Rachlevsky Opinion www.haaretz.com December 12, 2011

Many of those who protest against silencing the singing of secular women act out of hypocrisy. Israel sends most first-graders whom the state identifies as Jews to religious schools. 

Whether they are part of the public school system or run by the ultra-Orthodox, these schools receive state subsidies yet are responsible for unconstitutional sex segregation.

By Gil Shefler www.jpost.com December 10, 2011

A Masorti (Conservative) rabbi has quit the The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem in acrimony allegedly over the exclusion of openly gay students from its rabbinical studies program, The Jerusalem Post learned on Thursday Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, former associate dean at the seminary, serving the Masorti/Conservative movement in Israel and abroad, resigned this week because, according to a source, it allegedly reneged on a promise to ordain homosexual students.

“She was promised two years ago when she entered the position that they will ordain LGBT students,” the source said. “She learned this was not going to be the case two weeks ago and quit.”

By Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Chair Bay Area Masorti Opinion http://bamasorti.blogspot.com December 9, 2011

Now is the time to push - wherever possible - to make a change in Schechter for our Masorti Youth (NOAM and elsewhere) to learn religious leadership.  

If this moment passes with no significant change at Schechter, there will be a great weakening of our Movement in Israel, with severe ramifications in the political pursuit of Israeli Jewish Pluralism.  
Israeli would-be Masorti rabbis are going to HUC, and Conservative/Masorti rabbis from outside of Israel are, simply speaking, not Israeli Masorti leaders. We can learn, adapt, but each cultural translation is one more example of what Bialik called "kissing through a veil."  

Machon Schechter brought in Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, a revered spiritual and academic leader, to change the appeal and culture of Machon Schechter, it knew there was a problem. With her departure, we all do.

"I'm not sure I would choose to respond, except to say that I am of course saddened by Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum's leaving the Schechter Rabbinical School. 

Many of us from the Masorti Movement see in Rabbi Tamar a spiritual leader and inspiring thinker.
She will continue to be a leader in the Masorti Movement, even if not in the Schechter Rabbinical School itself, which is a separate institution from the Masorti Movement institutionally, and perhaps halachically as well. We, in the Masorti Movement, embrace her warmly.

I have no doubt that her departure will obligate Schechter to consider afresh its direction."

http://amichai.me December 9, 2011

I think that the greater Masorti movement in Israel, as well as the larger Israeli public is yearning for a religious voice that embraces diversity and takes a strong stand against intolerance and discrimination of all kinds. 

In the wake of recent escalation in fundamentalist views and behaviors in Israel – esp. towards women, Tamar’s leadership shines strongly, her voice needs to be heard louder, and her stand will help all of us make Israel and the Jewish community a better place for all.

...It's time for Shechter to ordain gays, but even before that, it's time for Shechter to be part of the Masorati movement in Israel, and to train its leadership. 

Without doing that, as it is now, it's time for the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel to initiate a real Conservative seminary in here, and let Golinkin's Shechter to be the modern-orthodox seminary it is. Without our students, and yes, without our money.
Shavua Tov U'Mvorah

www.jpost.com December 11, 2011
Sir, – The article about Jerusalem’s Schechter rabbinical school (“Rabbi quits Schechter seminary over exclusion of gays,” December 9) was unfortunate.
The writer has served as treasurer of the Schechter Institute

Jpost.com Editorial www.jpost.com December 9, 2011

Wary of offending the religious sensibilities of the rabbis and potentially endangering a steady supply of a highly motivated group of soldiers, many generals, who are already predisposed to male chauvinism, have shown a willingness to accommodate religious demands, even if by doing so they restrict the advancement of women in the IDF.

Women, in contrast, do not enjoy such an impressive lobbying mechanism.

...The standoff between women and religious men in the IDF should not be seen as a zero sum game. Religious sensibilities and female aspirations can live side-by-side, provided there is goodwill, mutual respect and the taming of religious fanaticism.

www.jpost.com December 12, 2011

The poll was taken in preparation for a conference to be held next week on IDF-Israeli society relations.

By Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz Opinion www.haaretz.com November 27, 2011
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz is Dean of HaOhel Institutions in Jerusalem, now launching a new venture, Threshold, fostering Jewish educational entrepreneurship.

I would also like to express some disappointment at the declarations coming out of the army's high command. Compromise has to move two ways, and be driven by a desire to maintain a healthy relationship.

I am sad that the conversation seems to be playing out through a confrontational dynamic in the public sphere, where intimate, private meetings between the heads of the Hesder Yeshivas and the military would better serve any constructive goal.

Letter to the Editor www.haaretz.com December 12, 2011

The soldiers who, because of their beliefs, do not want to listen to women's singing are the same soldiers who risk their lives for the Jewish people even on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, even when they're fasting and it's hard for them…
Shulamit Zitron
Bnei Brak

By Yaakov Katz www.jpost.com December 5, 2011

The number of religious women at the IDF Bahd 1 Officer Training School is growing, with the figure climbing by nearly 100 percent in the past year alone.

According to the latest statistics, 46 religiously observant women soldiers are currently studying to become IDF officers at Bahd 1, which is located near Mitzpe Ramon. In 2010, only 25 religious women were studying at the school.

By Nir Hasson www.haaretz.com December 9, 2011

In some kosher Jerusalem restaurants, even male employees who are not observant Jews must wear a kippa. In some cases restaurant managers cite a desire to show respect for their customers, while in others the request or directive apparently comes from the on-site kashrut inspector, or mashgiah.

“I asked and the cashier admitted they all had to wear them because of kashrut," Bassa said. "It's very annoying, I see it as an insult. I have no problem with the kashrut certification, but I don't understand; is the food more pure if it's prepared by someone with a kippa? The place serves the entire population, and when you force a religious facade on such a place it's infuriating," [attorney Ran] Bassa said.

By Rabbi Eric Yoffie Opinion www.jpost.com December 11, 2011
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie is the outgoing president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

How did we get from there to here?  How did we go from an Orthodox youth movement where boys and girls interacted regularly and easily to today’s very different reality:  schools and youth activities separated by sex;  separate busses; separate sidewalks; restrictions on the right of women to give eulogies for their loved ones at the cemetery; proposed limitations on women singing in the army; limitations on billboard advertising in Jerusalem; incidents of women being excluded from Simhat Torah celebrations in the IDF; and on and on.

By Uri Misgav www.ynetnews.com December 12, 2011

Interview with Rabbi David Hartman
From a halachic perspective, is there a problem with women standing up to sing?
“No. The Gemara talks only a loss of concentration while reciting the Shema. If women are singing when you are in the middle of reciting the Shema, it will hinder your intent. That’s it. No more. A rabbi in Israel saying that it’s better to die than to hear a woman singing is crazy.”

We discussed the polemics around the Tzohar rabbis’ complex marriage ceremonies. 
“I am happy for them that they have come to an arrangement, but this should be just the beginning,” Rabbi Hartman said. “We have to advance much further. What is this? Is the Torah private property? It’s terrible. Judaism and marriage ceremonies are not private property."

By Jack Khoury www.haaretz.com December 11, 2011

Residents of Karmiel's Meyasdim neighborhood are furious over the transfer of an abandoned school compound to the Keren Or Yeshiva, which they see as a sign of ultra-Orthodox gaining a foothold in the area.

Eight months ago, an ad-hoc committee formed in the neighborhood, to coordinate activities to counter the yeshiva and Haredi encroachment in Karmiel. The group is currently circulating a petition, and is considering an application to join the Secular Cities Forum, which promotes cities maintaining a non-religious character.

By Ilana Hammerman www.haaretz.com December 6, 2011
Book Review: Eretz, Brit (A State of Mind: Why Israel Must Become Secular and Democratic. A Memoir), by Ofra Yeshua-Lyth, Maariv Books (Hebrew)

...And we too should be left alone to respect and develop our ancient cultural traditions as we see fit, to celebrate holidays as we wish, to marry whom we want and how we want, to bury our loved ones according to our beliefs and feelings, to respect the stranger and those who are different, and not to be aloof from the other nations who live among us.

By Jonathan Lis www.haaretz.com December 12, 2011

Opposition parties Kadima, Labor and Meretz are expected to support a bill sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu for the establishment of regions for marriage registration, should the law be brought to the Knesset for a vote on Wednesday.

...Under the law, soldiers who are converted in disputed IDF procedures would be able to register to be married by moderate rabbinical authorities who accept them as Jews.

By Yaron London Opinion www.ynetnews.com December 9, 2011

Distance yourself from the Orthodox establishment: Don't get married through the rabbinate, but opt for a domestic partnership contract.

You can have a traditional marriage ceremony, even a halachic one, but don’t seek the Chief Rabbinate of Israel's validation for your marriage.

...People who are not considered Jews according to the Halacha and do not wish to live by its rules should not perjure themselves by converting to Judaism.

Israel's tolerant sectors do not differentiate between those carrying the "kosher Jew" seal and those who do not. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union are full fledged Israelis – in their language, in the culture that they have embraced and in their contribution to this country.

By David Breakstone Opinion www.jpost.com December 9, 2011
The writer is vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of the executive of The Jewish Agency. The opinions expressed here are his own.

Those Vegas weddings you’ve seen in the movies? Turns out they’re as outrageous in reality as they are on the silver screen. I know because one of our kids just had one.

Loyal readers may recall that when Yair proposed to Veronica some 18 months ago she divulged to him that she wasn’t 100 percent one of us. Born of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, she instead was one of the more than 300,000 Israelis from the Former Soviet Union locked in limbo.

Arriving here at the age of 12, she was educated in our public schools, served in our army, celebrates our holidays, is passionately patriotic and feels fully Jewish. Still, as she is unwilling to commit to an Orthodox lifestyle, our state-sanctioned rabbinate would have nothing to do with her.

By Francine Klagsbrun Opinion www.thejewishweek.com December 6, 2011

No remedies, however, can take away from the basic fact of the fervently Orthodox control over marital matters in Israel.

Golda Meir once said that she had never been as ashamed of anything as she was of signing the law of marriage and divorce that Ben-Gurion negotiated to gain the support of the religious parties.
But that was long ago. Isn’t it time to undo that control and remove marriage and divorce in Israel from the domain of any one religious group?

By Gershom Gorenberg Opinion www.hadassahmagazine.org December 2011

The bottom line is that you should be working for a better, more progressive Israel and for a more open discussion of Israel among American Jews—a discussion in which supporting Israel includes supporting peace and social change. And the dissonance that makes you want to give up on Israel is a result of two assumptions that I think you will reject once you examine them.

The first is that a Jewish country will automatically be progressive, because that’s how Jews naturally act.

...The second flawed assumption is that you should feel tied to Israel only if it is already a progressive country. 

Think about that word: Progressives are people who work for progress. To your good fortune, Israel is rich with organizations working for change— groups promoting human rights, women’s rights, gay rights, religious freedom, Jewish-Arab dialogue and, of course, peace. In the last several years, American Jewry has seen a flowering of organizations supporting those efforts.
My old friend, don’t give up. Get involved.

By Misha Galperin Opinion http://ejewishphilanthropy.com December 11, 2011
Misha Galperin is President, International Development Jewish Agency for Israel.

The underlying assumption in this campaign was that if you live in America, you are likely to lose your Jewish identity and connection to Israel. The assumption is incorrect as there clearly has been and is vibrant Jewish life outside of Israel.

...In North America, there has no doubt been a very worrisome, steady decline in terms of the connection of Jews to Israel and to Jewish people.

...This phenomenon is not limited to North America. The fraying of the delicate fabric of the Jewish collective is happening all over the world. Including Israel. There too, there is a similar distancing from Jewish roots by many Israelis. There is a lack of feeling part of a single Jewish global collective. There is not enough of an understanding of how the Jewish communities function in the Diaspora. That was reflected, albeit unintentionally, in the ad campaign.

www.ynetnews.com December 7, 2011

Nearly 500 guests from around New York City and the world gathered last Thursday night at a gala fundraising dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manhattan to support the creation of the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv.

By Uri Blau www.haaretz.com December 9, 2011

Hundreds of pages of court records, a flood of correspondence between lawyers and arguments involving JNF board members have been devoted in the last two years to deciding who will control this body, which oversees 13 percent of state lands ‏(2.5 million dunams, or 625,000 acres) and is not subject to oversight by the state comptroller or the treasury.

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Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
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