Thursday, February 7, 2013

Religion and State in Israel - February 7, 2013 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

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

Rabbi Seth Farber said the unwillingness by both the Interior Ministry and Chief Rabbinate to trust Nina’s three converting rabbis is a harbinger of worse things to come.

“It makes it clear that the Rabbinate,” which the ministry consulted in this case, “plans to review almost every Orthodox conversion ever performed in the U.S.” — should the convert wish to live or be married in Israel.

American Orthodox rabbis “ought to be up in arms over this latest development and formulating a strategy for how to address this latest round of disenfranchisement,” Farber said.

The agencies’ refusals are especially galling, Farber said, given that ITIM sued the Interior Ministry in Israel’s High Court in 2011 and ultimately extracted a written commitment from the ministry that it would not to consult the Rabbinate on issues relating to aliyah except in “rare circumstances.”

This isn’t one of those circumstances, Farber said.

“They committed to the courts and to the Knesset that the Rabbinate wouldn’t be involved, and now they’ve backed out of their agreement,” Farber noted.

Dear Rabbi Gold,

I’m writing you today to beg for more of your patience. I know you and your congregation, Birkat Shalom, believed that winning an unprecedented verdict in May 2012 meant that you would receive a state salary like all male Orthodox rabbis in the Gezer region. 

Our whole movement in Israel and abroad celebrated this achievement; however it is now clear to me that the celebrations were premature.

We have just learned that the state decided NOT to award you a salary for 2012 because you worked only part time as Birkat Shalom’s rabbi.  This is spectacular chutzpa.  The only reason you worked part time was that there were no financial means to pay you for a full-time position.

But I know, as everyone does, that you give much more than full-time; you give your all.  The rule that only full-time rabbis will be compensated by the state is an invention by government bureaucrats wishing to circumvent the court’s verdict.

The High Court of Justice demanded on Thursday that Rishon Lezion Chief Rabbi Yehuda David Wolpe explain why he sends couples seeking to register for marriage to a private company for clarifications about their Jewish ancestry.

ITIM, a religious rights lobbying group, filed a petition with the court against Wolpe and the Am Levadad company earlier this week. They have till March 10 to respond.

“It is unconscionable for a municipal rabbi not to accept the authority of a rabbinical court,” said ITIM director and Orthodox rabbi Seth Farber. “It’s an outrage that municipal and state taxes go to pay his salary, and the State of Israel needs to have normal marriage registration bureaus which are not controlled by renegade rabbis.

By Shalom Hammer
Rabbi David Stav: “What Halacha dictates that a young couple seeking to get married must be treated harshly?
What Halacha compels a resident of Beersheva studying in Tel Aviv University to register with the Rabbinate in Beersheva when Tel Aviv is infinitely more convenient for him/her?
What Halacha prohibits accommodating the schedule of young people seeking to register for marriage?
What Halacha compels a young couple to open their file exactly 90 days before the wedding instead of six months if that better suits them?
Why can’t we assist the immigrants from the Former Soviet Union? Yes, many of them must prove their Jewish roots but instead of throwing a list of demands at them, why not use the Chief Rabbinate’s vast resources and connections around the world to facilitate that process? It would be in the interest of all”.

Rabbi Dov Halbertal: I am speaking about the representatives of the different groups. Bennett has nothing to do with being religious, just like Lapid. He is the same. We are not dealing here with the individuals however, but the groups they represent.

The issue is the Chief Rabbinate and religion and state. Rav Stav comes to ‘repair Yiddishkheit’ with new ideas regarding giyur and what to do before marriage. He speaks about Rav Ovadia and ‘those’ who do not permit Rav Ovadia to speak out. “Those sources” was Maran Rav Elyashiv, the leading posek of the generation. Like I said, Rav Stav seeks to change Halacha.

We hear the jingles supporting Rabbi Stav’s candidacy. Why are there jingles for him and not Rav Lau for example? Because Tzohar rabbis are liberal, modern and reform, and they belong to the State of Tel Aviv, not here with us, in Yerushalayim.

“I definitely see an opportunity for change, as the balance on issues of religion has changed,”said Mickey Gitzin, a pro-pluralism activist who was deputy director of the election campaign for the left-wing Meretz party. “Yair Lapid has taken away the balancing position of Shas. This buys an opportunity.”

Anat Hoffman said that she is “positive and optimistic” about the cause of civil marriage. And despite her tense relationship with the Haredi community, she described the Yesh Atid’s Haredi lawmaker, Dov Lipman, as “amazing” and “one very rare ultra-Orthodox rabbi.”

When it comes to increasing state funding for Reform and Conservative synagogues and religious movements … Netanyahu’s Likud party, however, is expected to approve the money. “This is going to be the easiest bone for Netanyahu to throw,” predicted Uri Regev, president and CEO of Hiddush, an organization that pushes for pluralism.

According to Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev, the fact that an overwhelming majority among Likud Beiteinu voters supports a government that will advance freedom of religion and an equal share of the burden shows that "the era in which haredi parties were perceived as natural coalition partners is over."

Interview with Rachel Azaria

Q: What do you think is really behind the suspension?

Rachel Azaria: People want ulpana [religious public girls’ high school] girls not to be out there. They want them to be segregated and to stay within their own tribe, so to speak. Someone who wants to cross boundaries and share and collaborate with another tribe can be considered a threat. People get scared and punish this person to try to bring things back to the way they were.

Ophir is crossing boundaries and trying to be part of something larger, more pluralistic and collaborative. Young people like her don’t want to live with these fences anymore.

By Rabbi Jason Miller

I understand the need for modesty laws in religion and I appreciate any interpretation of any religion that strives for modesty. 

However, these modesty laws must be kept in check. In Judaism we run the risk of taking these laws too far and then in an effort to be modest, the misinterpretation of the laws cause immoral acts. 

Banning a female high school student from singing on a reality TV show is certainly an example of this. Ben-Shetreet is a talented young girl with a beautiful voice. 

Suspending her from school for two weeks in the name of her religion for doing nothing wrong will have negative effects for her and countless other young woman who want to embrace Judaism; not be shunned because of it.

By Avram Mlotek

The seemingly brave rabbis in the Modern Orthodox community say the prohibition applies to sexualized singing only. There are those who even say the law causes such emotional pain it alienates women from religiosity altogether. All of these positions are made by male rabbis and intended for male listeners. Where are women voices in this conversation today?

A halt to haredi exemption from national service should not be motivated by hatred, prejudice or a desire to take revenge. Shas and UTJ should be made partners in the decision-making process.

But if their leaders are unwilling to rise to the occasion, a more egalitarian approach to sharing in civic duties should be worked out and implemented without them.

If Naftali Bennett fails to consult the rabbinic leadership before deciding his position on military conscription for yeshiva students, the chairman of Habayit Hayehudi can say goodbye to his political career, a senior rabbi in the religious-Zionist community said Monday.

Rabbi Tzefania Drori, the municipal rabbi of Kiryat Shmona, was speaking to Galei Israel, a regional radio station that serves the West Bank settlements. Speaking on behalf of the rabbis Drori said the leaders of Habayit Hayehudi "know full well that we have to back them because without our support there’s no politics. That’s why they have to listen. There’s no way any of them can make [their own] agreements."

The Haredim waived the benefits inherent in army service, but grew from a small minority to a major social and political force with the help of government funding for yeshivas and child allowances, while also joining the settlement project to benefit from subsidized housing.

By Giora Eiland

The State has two interests: The first and most important interest is to increase the ultra-Orthodox community's participation in the job market.

… The second interest is to reduce inequality. This can be achieved only if the State significantly shortens reserve duty for combat soldiers, which would necessitate the creation of additional regular army combat units.

Enlisting all haredim just for the "principle of the matter" may create expensive recruitment tracks, and the benefit of these tracks would not outweigh their cost. This would also do nothing to ease the real burden.

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has urged President Shimon Peres to find a solution to the law requiring yeshiva students to be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, warning it would cause a rift in the nation.

Comparing it to “the unraveling of a ball of wool,” Efraim Halevy said the concept of sharing the burden is profound and touches on many “interconnected” aspects of Israeli society, like “the economy, the demand for gainful employment, the role of women in society, rules of conduct in the public domain” and how to resolve the Jewish status crisis for hundreds of thousands of Russian immigrants who live in Israel but are not Jewish according to halacha, or religious law.

He said “it is no longer possible to put off” issues affecting so many citizens living in limbo in terms of their Jewishness, and that Jerusalem, however reluctant to deal with these delicate religious and political matters, must make “courageous decisions.”

It is not tolerable, he said, for Russian-speaking IDF soldiers to be denied burial in military cemeteries in Israel or for would-be converts to be prevented from joining the Jewish people because of the increasingly stringent standards of the Chief Rabbinate.

By Rabbi Moshe Grylak

In my humble opinion -- and, I believe, in the opinion of gedolei Yisrael -- what we have here is no less than an existential threat to the chareidi community in particular and the State of Israel in general. This is predicated on the deeply-held belief, rooted in the Torah, the Gemara, and the assurances of great Torah leaders of all generations, that Torah study literally shields the Jewish People from harm.

"Religious and traditional Jews will be able to watch soccer games, go shopping, see shows and take part in Israeli leisure culture," he said. "The fact that the religious population, which is generally busy with housework [to prepare for Shabbat], would be able to go shopping on Sunday is important."

Jewish Home officials said that the request was a “social initiative” that would benefit Sabbath-observant families, who would have a day off to do non-Shabbat activities together like traveling or visiting museums. Moreover, “such an initiative may also lead to a longer school day during the week, and thus help women return to the workplace.”

The source further said that "the initiative is likely to lead to an extended school day during the rest of the week, in a desire to facilities women integration into the workforce; as well as foster religious publics' integration into Israeli leisure cultural and activities," which had been unavailable to those who observe Shabbat."

The number of unwed Israeli couples living together is growing, according to a Central Bureau of Statistics report released yesterday, although they still constitute only 5 percent of all couples sharing a household.

According to Dyonna Ginsburg, the Jewish Agency’s director of Jewish service learning, “there’s no need for program providers and funders to present a rose-colored version of Israel to our young people.

“Quite the contrary, we should be looking for additional ways to present Israel as it really is. Immersive Jewish Service-learning (IJSL) participants have not been shying away from Israel based on their time there. They are clearly strengthening their connections to [the country], their heritage and the Jewish people,” she said.

LIVE WEBINAR: Us and Them: Intersections In Israeli Society, with Dr. Tal Becker, Dr. Einat Wilf, Former Member, Israeli Knesset, Tomer Persico, Tel Aviv University, Feb. 6, 2012.

From Shalom Hartman Institute Conference on a Jewish-Democratic Israel. 
This is raw video. The session begins about 30:00 into the program. An edited version will be posted soon.

82.9% of Israeli teenagers define themselves as Zionist, while only 15.8% define themselves as non-Zionist, according to a new MarketWatch poll conducted for the Zionist Council of Israel.

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