Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Religion and State in Israel - February 20, 2012 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

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

By Itamar Eichner www.ynetnews.com February 17, 2012

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the International Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis:
“Israel must have civil marriage. It must allow people to get married according to their own choice. 
This is a civil society. In a democratic state you must allow for the right to chose how to marry. 
We believe that if you give Israelis the right to chose, they will choose a Jewish wedding. But give them the right to choose, without coercion, because this makes Judaism meaningful.”

By Yizhar Hess Opinion www.ynetnews.com February 8, 2012
Yizhar Hess is the Executive Director & CEO of the Masorti Movement in Israel

Some of the people they met admitted unequivocally – although they did not want to be quoted – that the Orthodox monopoly in Israel has long since changed from an unpleasant annoyance to a strategic threat to the strength of the State of Israel, both because of its growing impact on relations between the Jews of the Diaspora and Israel, and because of the alienation of hundreds of thousands of Israelis, including many who are not halakhically Jewish, and for whom the Orthodox establishment, in all of its variations, has managed to make Judaism odious.

By Gili Cohen www.haaretz.com February 20, 2012

The Israel Defense Forces is planning to draft more ultra-Orthodox recruits as part of a plan to counter the steady decline in the number of conscripts since 2005, according to IDF personnel directorate officials
Personnel directorate officials say the two main factors influencing the number of new conscripts are the drop in new immigrants and the rise in the population groups that don’t, as a rule, serve in the IDF: the ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Arabs.
Nineteen percent of first graders were part of the ultra-Orthodox educational system in 2000, and the proportion is expected to reach 30 percent in 2014, according to the IDF.

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com February 18, 2012

The IDF is advancing a new initiative intended to better incorporate ultra-Orthodox youths serving in the army.

The plan aims to enable yeshiva soldiers to study in a kollel (an institute for full-time advanced study of the Talmud and rabbinic literature) in the evenings, in addition to receiving financial grants from the government.

By Rabbi Eric Yoffie Opinion www.jpost.com February 16, 2012
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie is the outgoing president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

As painful as it is for me to say this, I find myself agreeing with proposals such as those by General Elazar Stern, who has called for a blanket 10-year exemption from army service for haredim. This is unfair, and indeed outrageous, but Israel’s well-being makes it necessary.

On the other hand, it only makes sense if steps will be taken to draw—in fact, to push—these men into the work force. And the only way to do that is to significantly reduce the subsidies that the haredim receive from the government for their yeshiva studies. Without this funding, young men will have no choice but to get training and find work to support their families.

By Jeremy Sharon www.jpost.com February 21, 2012

According to Rivlin, the Tal Law needs to be passed to one of the Knesset committees for debate, following which the committee’s recommendations will be brought for a final vote in the Knesset plenum.
The law will expire in August if not renewed by the Knesset before that time.

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com February 15, 2012

As the dispute about women singing in the Israel Defense Forces refuses to die down, both sides are citing Shlomo Goren, the late chief military rabbi who famously blew the shofar at the Western Wall captured during the Six-Day War.

...Without saying so explicitly, the letter is aimed mostly at claims by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed of the Har Bracha Yeshiva, who has accused [Chief Military Rabbi Rafi] Peretz of approving "an order against rabbinical law."

By Dr. William Kolbrener Opinion http://blogs.timesofisrael.com February 5, 2012
William Kolbrener, professor of English Literature in Israel, is author of Open Minded Torah: Of Irony, Fundamentalism and Love (Continuum 2011).

But now, the army and the government need to find further ways to accommodate the growing ultra-Orthodox population that will pursue army service.

This cannot be done by catering to religious fanatics who are looking for ways to discredit the whole enterprise, but rather through sensitivity to the genuine requirements of the ultra-Orthodox community, making army service, in the process, a more acceptable option.

By Revital Blumenfeld and Daniel Schmil www.haaretz.com February 21, 2012

City buses should be allowed to operate on Shabbat, the Tel Aviv city council decided on Monday - a move that would make the town Israel's second metropolis after Haifa to offer extensive bus service on Saturdays.

By Ahuva Mamus www.ynetnews.com February 16, 2012

Yair Lapid: "Shas, with its 11 mandates, had the entire country wrapped around its little finger… Why? Because they know what they want. If you want it enough there is always something to be done."

By Lahav Harkov www.jpost.com February 17, 2012

If Yair Lapid visits the City of David, he will become religious and join Shas, Interior Minister Eli Yishai joked at an Israeli Zionist Council and World Zionist Organization event on Friday.

By Gil Hoffman www.jpost.com February 16, 2012

Lapid outlined a four-step plan for “changing the operating system of the country.” He called for changing the political system, repealing laws that help the haredim avoid secular studies and army service, fighting corruption, and encouraging economic growth.

By Patrick Martin www.theglobeandmail.com February 17, 2012

At a presentation to a Haredi teachers college last fall, Yair Lapid addressed an audience of 100 ultra-Orthodox Israelis, and surprised people by admitting defeat.

“We [secular Jews] used to think your community would just disappear,” he said. “We saw you as a living museum of the way Jews used to be.”

“But you have flourished and Israel is yours as much as mine.”

“But since you are full citizens,” he told them, no longer can they forego military service. Now, he said, they must join the work-force and pay taxes; they must now become tolerant of others.

By Lior Zeno and Zvi Zrahiya www.haaretz.com February 16, 2012

..."this year crossed the red line: 50% of first grade students were haredi or Arab. If we wait 12 years, the Zionist state will crumble."

...Secondly, to cancel the Tal Law and the Nahari Law, so that all Israelis learn core subjects. "We are not against them [Orthodox Jews], but we can't keep carrying them on our backs," he said, adding that no-one should try to convince him that there is something insulting about work. "Judaism sanctifies the value of work."

By Rabbi Seth Farber Opinion www.jpost.com February 15, 2012

Rabbi Haim Druckman resigned last week from his post as the director of Israel’s Conversion Authority in the Prime Minister’s Office, almost four years after he was unceremoniously dismissed following the annulment of conversions performed under his auspices.

...One can only hope that Rabbi Druckman’s successor will be able to revitalize conversion in Israel, and address meaningfully and responsibly the demographic time bomb that is facing the Jewish state. 

And if he isn’t able to address it in any significant way, hopefully he’ll have the character to shut down the Conversion Authority, and find a new method of dealing with the challenges that we all face.

By Rabbi Seth Farber Opinion www.jpost.com February 16, 2012

Israel’s Supreme Rabbinical Court has ceased to function.  The reason this week is that one of the four judges presently on the court is sick (and two of them – the two chief rabbis – are not supposed to sit on the same bench).

But why, you may ask, are there only four judges on a court that is supposed to be made up of nine judges.

By Isi Leiber Opinion www.jpost.com February 14, 2012

Overall, it is clear that prior to the haredi hijacking of the chief rabbinate and state rabbinical institutions, the approach to conversion in Israel was far more accommodating.

...There are organizations like Bet Morasha and ITIM, supported by a handful of courageous rabbis like Rabbis Haim Amsalem, Benny Lau, Shlomo Riskin and Seth Farber, whose observance and level of learning is beyond reproach, that are resisting the extremists.

They should unite and encourage other rabbis to join them to save Judaism from the control of a haredi minority which exploits its excessive political leverage to coerce the people and in so doing alienates and marginalizes Judaism from the nation.

By Rachel Levmore Opinion www.jpost.com February 18, 2012
The writer has a PhD in Jewish Law from Bar-Ilan University; is a rabbinical court advocate, coordinator of the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel and the Jewish Agency.

Lest one think non-Orthodox Jews are immune to these problems, the impact of the get issue on non- Orthodox Jews is clearly explained by Rabbi Seth Farber, who notes that if new olim want “to open a marriage file in Israel, they will have to provide certification from a recognized Orthodox rabbi.”

A woman who’s been divorced will have to produce a get, and in the case of the daughter of a woman who’s been divorced, “the rabbinate will insist on seeing an Orthodox get from the mother before they allow the daughter to open a marriage file.”

By Esther Macner Opinion www.jewishjournal.com February 15, 2012

I am often asked: “Why are you so preoccupied with the problem of get refusal. Have you ever been an agunah?”

For the past two decades, the International Coalition for Agunah Rights (ICAR) has declared the Fast of Esther as International Agunah Day, and it is observed throughout the world with communal education programs.

In February 2010, a bill, which did not pass, was presented to the Knesset to officially declare Agunah Day to mark the annual Fast of Esther, on the eve of Purim.

The bill provided for an annual Knesset hearing on the state of the abuse of get refusal, and to sponsor educational curricula in all schools, youth groups, Israel Defense Forces, and on the media.

By Uri Misgav Opinion www.haaretz.com February 21, 2012

Quietly, over the past few decades, something startling has been happening in Israel. We might call it "shrinking Israeliness."
...In Israel's case, the most prominent of these forces is Jewishness.

By Shmuel Rosner Opinion http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com February 16, 2012

But the people who tend to see tensions between Jewish and democratic values as inescapable typically are either those most pleased with Israel’s growing religiosity or those most concerned about it. Illiberal rabbis believe that the truly religious cannot always adhere to democratic values, and secularists believe that the religious can’t be trusted to protect them.

In fact, Judaism can be inclusive, democratic and liberal as much as it can be prohibitive, illiberal and undemocratic.

By Jeremy Sharon www.jpost.com February 19, 2012

The Tzohar association of rabbis conducted a modernized version of one of the more obscure ceremonies of the Torah on Thursday, following the commandant known as the decapitated calf.

By Deborah Dahan www.jpost.com February 19, 2012

Tel Aviv is humming with Torah activity. This comes as a surprise to many who come here armed with preconceived notions that they picked up from their last visit to Tel Aviv in the seventies.

By Akiva Novick www.ynetnews.com February 14, 2012

Genesis Land, a Biblical farm in the Judean Desert, will hold an "Amazing Race" style competition for young men and women from the national-religious sector who have yet to find the love of their life.

By Dr. Samuel Lebens Opinion www.haaretz.com February 20, 2012

If you want to be a progressive political activist or commentator in Israel, fighting for justice for Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, and fighting for the separation of religion and state, then you still need to know how to speak the language of the people.

The language of the Jewish people is still to a great extent the language of Judaism. What this survey does tell us, more than anything else, is that only if you are "Jewishly literate" will you be able to capture the imagination of the Jewish people.

By Elana Sztokman Opinion http://blogs.forward.com February 15, 2012

It’s not just that female body cover in Orthodoxy has evolved, but that it has become more and more extreme to the point of obsessiveness and even violence (see: Beit Shemesh).

What we are witnessing in the Orthodox community is not the process of more people becoming more devout but rather more and more people becoming a bit crazy about the issue of female body cover.

All this raises the important question of why? Why is female body cover seen as the be-all-and-end-all of Jewish observance in so many circles?

www.ynetnews.com February 21, 2012

Religious Zionism leader Rabbi Shlomo Aviner is arguing that Akiva and Anhel Shmuli's participation in a popular reality TV show goes against Jewish values and may be considered a violation of Jewish law.

By Rabbi Jack Riemer www.sun-sentinel.com February 14, 2012

Elana Sztokman's book made me realize that we may both be suffering from the same ambivalence between justice for women and the needs of men as Orthodox Jews do, although the ambivalence takes different forms within the two groups. 

At any rate, keep your eye out for anything that she writes because Sztokman has much to teach us about the natures of both women and men in this fast changing world.

Editorial www.thejewishweek.com February 14, 2012

One of the outcomes of the controversy over Rav Aharon Bina and his Netiv Aryeh yeshiva in Jerusalem is the increased attention focused on the fact that teens who spend a year in Israel are to a large degree on their own, with their parents often in the dark about the policies and intellectual and emotional environment of the institutions where they have sent their children.

By Anshel Pfeffer www.haaretz.com February 19, 2012

Shortly after he started work, JAFI set up Jewish Agency International Development (JAID ), with Galperin as its president and CEO.

JAID, which was to become the agency's main fundraising channel, recruited dozens of new employees who work alongside the existing staff of JAFI North America; among them two new vice-presidents, Arthur Sandman and Nirit French, who make around $250,000 each.

"JAID is a monstrous and wasteful structure built by Galperin," says a veteran agency employee, "while all around the organization is cutting back and people are getting fired."

By Haviv Gur Opinion www.haaretz.com February 17, 2012
Haviv Gur is the director of communications for the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Organizations like ours compete in a professional marketplace. We don’t compete with the government for our senior staff, but with other Jewish nonprofits.

Compare our salaries to any large organization doing comparable work – -even to organizations half our size –- and you’ll find that we are among the most frugal of the major Jewish organizations when it comes to executive compensation.

By Dan Brown Opinion http://ejewishphilanthropy.com February 17, 2012

Perhaps what is most striking about the article is why is Haaretz picking on the Jewish Agency alone? Is their compensation out-of-line with what other comparable organizations are paying? If so, fair game. Let’s take a look at just two, both – like JAFI – with a significant Jerusalem presence [information culled from public records]...

By Rabbi Jeff Cymet Opinion www.haaretz.com February 15, 2012
Rabbi Jeff Cymet is the rabbi of Tiferet Shalom—The Masorti Congregation of Ramat Aviv.

We must once again have the courage to remind Jews worldwide that if they choose to live outside of Israel, they risk exiling themselves from their own heritage and from sharing in their national destiny.
Many cultures, religions and peoples share our universal values.

None share our particular history.
Only in Israel can we live not only according to our universal values but also immersed in our unique Jewish culture as it has been shaped by our own heritage.

By Gil Shefler www.jpost.com February 14, 2012

Phillip and Dorothy Grossman, ages 95 and 93, respectively, are probably the oldest married couple ever to immigrate to Israel.

By Shmuel Rosner Opinion www.jewishjournal.com February 14, 2012

That is why one needs to be an optimist or a fool to believe that another study can finally put to rest the talk of “distancing”, or at least help us rid of “political distancing” brouhaha. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m an optimist. Not when it comes to this public debate.

By Yuval Saar www.haaretz.com February 15, 2012

Eli Valley’s comics may be crude and direct, but beneath that rebellious exterior lurks a “nice Jewish boy.”

Do you feel like you’re a part of the young generation of Jewish-American writers like Jonathan Safran Foer or Nathan Englander? Is there such a thing as contemporary Jewish literature?

“In the past, it was common for Jewish writers to not want to be called Jewish writers. They were just writers, capital W. I think that’s changing, though. I like the term Jewish writer, I have no problem with it. I’m proud of my culture and heritage. See, maybe that’s a sign I’m not so self-hating after all,” he laughs.

High on the agenda – funding (or specifically lack of) for Lapid, and why children who go on Lapid are denied eligibility to participate on Taglit. There was strong consensus that the high school programs have been neglected and more attention needs to be given to the need to support them in the future.

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