Monday, January 28, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - January 28, 2008

Religion and State in Israel

January 28, 2008

Editor – Joel Katz

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

MK Cohen: Reform Jews caused the Holocaust (Assimilation)

By Arik Bender, (Hebrew) January 23, 2008

As part of a Knesset event, MK Yaakov Cohen (United Torah Judaism) visited the Alon School in Yavne where he spoke to approximately 200 students, teachers and staff.

MK Cohen did not deny saying that Reform Jews caused the Holocaust – but claims that he was referring to assimilation – a Holocaust for the Jewish People.

High Court suggests compromise on buses segregating men, women

By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz and Reuters January 22, 2008

The High Court of Justice told the Transportation Ministry to look into problems on bus routes in Orthodox areas that separate men and women, following the petition of the religious author Naomi Ragen and the Israel Religious Action Center.

Anat Hoffman, head of the Israel Religious Action Center, the advocacy arm of the Reform Judaism movement which helped bring the lawsuit, said she was glad the high court saw the need to address problems created by the policy.

"We welcome the idea to create a forum that will seriously examine the issue and examine real ways to address the needs of a diverse public without hurting the right of privacy," Hoffman said.

Israel told to end abuse on Orthodox bus routes

Reuters January 23, 2008

The ruling stopped short of ordering bus companies to stop the "mehadrin" lines but asks the transport ministry to form a committee within 30 days to study the problems and recommend changes.

"We think the transportation minister should create such a forum as soon as possible to allow him to hear from the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) public and from the petitioners and their supporters," the court said.

Court urges panel to examine 'mehadrin' buses

Attorney Einat Hurvitz [Israel Religious Action Center], who represents the petitioners, said

"We expect the state to reply to the proposal in the affirmative and to refrain, for the time being, from introducing any more lines until the matter is dealt with properly."

Campaign to Improve Bus Service on Chareidi Lines

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur January 24, 2008

Following an in-depth investigative report in Yated Ne'eman on the conduct of bus companies that run lines for the chareidi public, many public transportation users joined the campaign for decent transportation for chareidi passengers, who are shown a lack of basic respect by the bus companies.

Since the publication of the report last week complaints have been pouring into the Yated Ne'eman hotline.

Damned if She Does, Damned if She Doesn't

The writer is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine.

Why an Orthodox institute's decision to ordain female rabbis isn't as revolutionary as it sounds.

Women who believe so passionately in the divinity of the Torah and its laws that they want to remain in the Orthodox community have to do a difficult dance.

If they get rabbinic ordination through Hartman or other institutions, they are likely to move themselves outside of the norms of their communities and not really be able to influence them as a rabbi would—and if they don't, well, they're still not rabbis.

Ramat Gan School Prayer Issue May End Up in Court

By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, January 22, 2008

The Israel Policy Center lawyer letters, addressed to Mayor Tzvi Bar and Ohel Shem Principal Adam Koenigsberg, emphasized that freedom of religion is a basic right in Israel."

Attorney Bam wrote, "There is no legislation that limits the freedom of religion of students in non-religious public schools.

It is precisely on the grounds of a public school, which is an arm of the state and the Education Ministry, that the religious freedom of students seeking to pray during recess must not be limited beyond what is necessary for the sake of discipline."

The Malefactors

By Dr. Yitzhak Klein, Israel Policy Center January 17, 2008

Ordinary high schools in Israel are termed “state” schools. Nowhere are they defined as secular per se.

Religion is not formally practiced or taught, but nowhere does the law say that liberty of religious conscience can be constrained within their precincts.

Israel has not copied the United States’ silly legal doctrine that church and state are so separate that even private prayer cannot be tolerated in public schools. (To maintain this position consistently, you'd also have to outlaw private prayer in public parks.)

The prejudice against religious observance within these Israeli schools is simply that, a prejudice.

See also: Secular Ramat Gan high school bans pupils from praying

Mazuz: Arab government workers forbidden to work on Shabbat

By Kobi Nahshoni, January 24, 2008

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz determined that government offices must refrain from working or holding events on Shabbat so as not to violate the Hours of Work and Rest Law and prevent the absence of Jewish officials from various activities.

Prior to a seminar that was held by the Science, Culture, and Sport Ministry at the Wingate Institute in Netanya last Saturday for Arab directors of cultural institutions in Israel, National Union–NRP Knesset Member Eliahu Gabbay sent a harsh letter to Minister Raleb Majadele and Mazuz in which he demanded that the event be cancelled.

Unite Israel`s education system

By Dror Yinon, January 21, 2008

Dror Yinon is currently completing his doctorate in philosophy at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Over the past few months, Israel has been so engrossed by the attack on its southern towns, it has failed to notice the rise of a greater strategic threat, one far more dangerous to the future of the state: the Nahari Law.

A unified state school system - where secular and religious children study together, eat lunch together, play basketball and go on field trips together - is the only way to secure our future as one people. Once the children learn to live together in peace, maybe their parents will learn to do so, too.

Education Ministry Imposes New Questionnaires on Talmid Torah Principals in Bid to Curtail Pedagogical Independence

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur January 24, 2008

The Education Ministry recently sent principals of exempt institutions questionnaires and forms that have numerous demands, even more than recognized but unofficial institutions.

The Ministry even threatened that if the principals refuse to fill out the forms the Ministry would stop funding them.

The whole purpose of the change is to undermine the independence of the talmudei Torah.

The forms demand detailed information on the curriculum and ideology of the school.

For firebrand, Herzliya resounds more than Winograd

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz January 25, 2008

Professor Yehezkel Dror, founding president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute

First of all he wants all Israelis, from its leaders and opinion-makers to educators and regular people on the street, to discard basically all the accepted assumptions that they hold about the Diaspora.

He believes many of the assumptions are ostensibly Zionist precepts most Israeli children absorbed from their parents and from their very first years at school.

Israelis, rather, should stop seeing automatically their country as the center of the Jewish people; cease negation of the Diaspora as a legitimate way of life for Jews; discard the self-image of Israel as the safe haven for persecuted Jews around the world; change the role of Diaspora Jews from donors and helpers bereft of rights to an opinion on Israel's internal affairs; and drop the view that Aliyah is a fundamental Zionist duty.

The next stage, according to Dror, would be for the government to form a full-fledged Diaspora Ministry to boost relations with Jews worldwide, upgrading the Jewish Agency to the status of the Jewish People Agency with the role of building a stronger Jewish identity for all Jews.

New consultative forums would give Diaspora Jews a voice in Israeli affairs, while "partial aliyah" by which Jews divide their lives between Israel and other countries would be recognized.

Internally, he calls for a major shake-up of the Israeli education system so that young Israelis could overcome their ignorance of Jewish culture.

Prof. Dror: Israel, world Jewry drifting apart January 23, 2008

Dror pointed out that Israel-Diaspora relations are not infallible, and that there is a growing rift between world Jewry and the State of Israel. By and by, there is a marked wearing-away of Jewish identity among Jewish youths in the Diaspora.

[One of] several key reasons for both of these trends according to Prof. Dror:

Religious Diaspora youths are disappointed by the extent to which Israel is a religious “Jewish “ state, whereas secular youths are vexed by what they view as the prominent role that religious institutions play in Israel.

Not in it for the money

By Daniel Orenstein, Haaretz January 25, 2008

The writer is a postdoctoral fellow at the Technion Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning and a lecturer at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.

By closing the Ministry of Absorption, we could disperse its NIS 1.4-billion budget to benefit Israelis who live here - immigrants and long-time residents alike.

Stop pandering to the Israelis who have decided to seek their fortunes abroad, or to Jews who are happy where they currently live.

We can show them some respect for their decision - and some self-respect as well. By investing in those who live here, we will not only weaken the "push" factors that may cause future generations of Israelis to leave, but we will strengthen the "pull" factors that will bring Israeli ex-pats and other potential immigrants to Israel.

They will come, not for a bribe, but for quality of life, education, social services and a clean environment.

In praise of the Jewish blogosphere

By Richard Silverstein, Haaretz January 25, 2008

In the age before blogs, Jewish leaders were like political bosses.

They ruled their roosts, and anyone who questioned them was easily frozen out of communal discourse.

Blogs have changed that. Now, Jewish "bosses" can be held up to immediate public scrutiny.

See also original, expanded version

High Court nixes gov't plan to stop Falashmura immigration

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz January 28, 2008

The government must reexamine the eligibility for immigration of thousands of Falashmura and allow an additional 1,500 to move to Israel, the High Court of Justice ruled last week.

However, the Interior Ministry downplayed the decision, saying: "The High Court accepted the state position not to open the lists.

Nonetheless, it said the state would do well to determine whether there is room to expand the list of eligibles to 17,000.

It is not an order, and the state was asked to announce within three months what it has decided.

The matter has been transferred to the cabinet secretary for a decision."

Haredi leadership opens men-only driving lessons

Haredi spiritual leadership, concerned that the Transportation Ministry's coed classrooms for teaching mandatory drivers' lessons might lead to lascivious behavior and sexual fantasizing, opened on Thursday their own alternative, men-only classrooms.

The Council for the Purity of the Camp, an organization representing a wide range of Hassidic courts and haredi Lithuanian Jewry, which receives spiritual guidance from Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and leader of the Ger Hassidic sect, Rabbi Ya'acov Aryeh Alter, arranged for the men-only course to be opened in cooperation with the Transportation Ministry.

What would Rav Kook say?

The girls' anti-establishment act, which would most likely have been dismissed as extremist and anti-Zionist in the years before the withdrawal from Gaza, struck deep chords of empathy among the vast majority of post-disengagement religious Zionists.

An educator at Ma'ale Levona asked rhetorically, "How can I teach my girls to respect an institution, when it rules in direct contradiction to the Torah?"

A thundering silence

Haaretz Editorial January 24, 2008

Through this symbolic act of rebellion, and the religious Zionist leadership's overwhelming silence in response to it, religious Zionism has positioned itself as a movement that denies the sovereignty of the state.

The problem is not the silence of the girls, but the silence of the leadership. Religious Zionism is slowly removing itself from the camp that carries the torch of the Zionist enterprise, and one can legitimately ask whether its behavior is not becoming anti-Zionist.

In the past, religious Zionism symbolized the actualization of the state. Today, it symbolizes rebellion against the state. And its leaders bear the responsibility. This is not the passing caprice of a few teens, but the metamorphosis of an entire camp from a center of constructive activity to a center of subversion.

It should have elicited a 'Wow'!

, January 25, 2008

James Charlesworth, a renowned expert on Jesus who is professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary and director of its Dead Sea Scrolls Project.

He is now to set about obtaining permits to reenter both the Talpiot Tomb and an adjacent tomb which has never been properly excavated, and wants to put together the most expert team he can so that, if such access is permitted, it is not wasted.

What is exciting for me is that we have Jews, Roman Catholics and Protestants working on this together, and their faiths are not a factor...

I think the tomb is a window to the past. Let's have the courage to look through it.

When the Rabbinical Court plays with the numbers

By Rivkah Lubitch, (Hebrew) January 24, 2008

The writer is a rabbinic court pleader and staff member with the Center for Women's Justice.

Looking at the statistics of the Rabbinical Court for 2007, one would think that the state of those getting divorced, agunot, and mesorvei-get has never been so good.

In order to truly understand the situation, we need an outside party to examine the Rabbinical Court statistics and publish numbers with actual value. It’s the public’s right to know.

Cameras for Prison Kashrut

By Levi Ashkenazi, (Hebrew) January 27, 2008

The Prison Authority has begun to place cameras into the prison kitchen facilities in order to ease the work of kashrut supervisors.

The project is said to cost NIS 1 million.

As part of the project, screens will be set up in the room of the Prison rabbi that operate 24 hours a day.

Israeli Bat Mitzvahs are becoming increasingly extravagant

Click here for VIDEO

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 January 27, 2008

Bat Mitzvahs, which used to be celebrated in rather modest family gatherings in Israel, have now emerged onto a new scene, and those whose parents can afford it, celebrate no less extravagantly than they would their weddings.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - January 21, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

January 21, 2008 (Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Education Ministry drops Arabic studies from core curriculum to woo ultra-Orthodox schools

By Or Kashti, Haaretz January 18, 2008

"It was clear that this is the price we have to pay so that maybe they will agree to accept a program that includes mathematics and English," he said, adding that "we made painful compromises with regard to other subjects, too."

"The desire to be liked by the Haredim didn't work out," another official said, "while we got stuck with a partial core curriculum that returns like a boomerang to hurt state schools."

Haaretz cartoon January 18, 2008 By Eran Wolkowski

liba, liba” (*core curriculum) – as in “riba” (jam)

School Matters / Desperate times and desperate statements

By Or Kashti, Haaretz January 16, 2008

Last week, Tamir published a new list of regulations schools need to meet to gain "semi-official institution" status.

The list was published ahead of the implementation of the Nahari Law, which obliges local authorities to finance semi-official educational institutions.

State religious schools get more devout in bid to compete

"We don't want that to happen to thousands of kids from traditional families. We are afraid that if this haredization trend does not stop there will be no normal religious Zionist education available. You will have to choose between secular or near-haredi."

The state religious school system, once a paradigm of diversity that incorporated students from moderately traditional to strictly observant, all in a coed environment, has begun to accommodate a much more religiously committed population.

Kesim slam rabbinate over marriage difficulties

"We want Amar to issue an order that every single rabbi employed by the Chief Rabbinate must recognize Ethiopians as Jews and every religious council must supply the same services to Ethiopians that are offered to every other Israeli," said Azariya.

For 12 years, dozens of kesim have been employed by the state to provide spiritual guidance to their communities. These kesim are not recognized as rabbis by the Chief Rabbinate.

Chief rabbi: Bring all of Falash Mura to Israel

By Neta Sela, January 16, 2008

"I call for these Jews to be released and brought here, every Jew who wants to come here should be brought, after inspection of course, but regardless of whether he is from Romania or Ethiopia. We must bring these Jews to the State of Israel," said Amar.

Chabad's critic from within

By Tom Segev, Haaretz January 18, 2008

Yehoshua Mondshein is much greater than what any new historian has ever stirred up in the Zionist establishment.

Mondshein is exposing the commonly accepted fictions of the ultra-Orthodox world, including the stories of wonders and miracles disseminated by Chabad Hasidim.

It's a major scandal, because Mondshein himself is a Chabad Hasid.

It's the budget, stupid

By Nehemia Shtrasler, January 15, 2008

I advocated [the approach that] held that when you increase child allowances (from the fourth or fifth child onward), that encourages Haredim to have larger families.

When you cut the allowances sharply, as was done in 2003, the result will be smaller families.

I also predicted that the change would take time: It would happen only once the public was convinced that the cuts would not be rescinded under pressure from the Haredi parties. Therefore, it would take a few years until evidence emerged of a change in behavior.

Give birth and cry

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz January 20, 2008

The trend of lower birthrates, which is still at an early stage, is part of the drive toward normality becoming evident in ultra-Orthodox society in recent years.

The cutback in child allowances is another factor, in the sense that the ultra-Orthodox are today more aware of their economic situation and reject poverty as a value.

But this is certainly not the whole story.

Bratslavs want more flights to Ukraine

By Zohar Blumenkranz, Haaretz January 17, 2008

With the growing demand of Bratslav Hasids wishing to visit the grave over the course of the rest of the year, the demand for more charter flights has grown.

Israeli authorities have been seeking to increase the number of flights, and to allow the introduction of new charter companies in 2008.

Ex-IDF chaplain: Body parts may be left on battlefield

IDF soldiers' body parts may have been left behind in Lebanon and other theaters of battle despite heroic efforts, including a calculated risk of other soldiers' lives, to bring them to burial, former OC Chaplaincy Corp Brig.-Gen. Yisrael Weiss said.

"In some cases we verified the death of soldiers without having in our possession the soldier's entire body," said Weiss.

Gay marriage is ‘coming closer’ in Israel

By Nathan Jeffay, January 18, 2008

Although the scheme might appear a gimmick, “this is a real revolution, an alternative to religious marriage.

This is the first step to show that society here in Israel accepts the new family, which is not using the existing institutions for recognising partnerships. It will be the first step towards civil marriage.”

Right-wing rabbis: Soldiers must not evacuate settlements

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz January 21, 2008

A group of right-wing rabbis ruled yesterday that soldiers are religiously obligated to refuse Israel Defense Forces orders to evacuate settlements.

"Every person, including soldiers, is prohibited from cooperating with orders that contravene the Torah," ruled the Rabbis for Eretz Yisrael. "Evacuating the Land of Israel is prohibited."

Religious passengers slam racy commercials, threaten railway boycott

By Kobi Nahshoni, January 19, 2008

Promos of an Israeli version of reality powerhouse Survivor depicting the scantily-clad participants have outraged ultra-Orthodox, religious and even some secular train passengers.

"We will have to call for a mass boycott of the trains by the religious public. I was shocked at the impertinence of the content, without being given the choice of whether you wish to see it or not. This is cheap coercion and it does against Jewish principles."

Rabbi Shabazi's bones to be buried in Israel?

By Itamar Eichner, January 12, 2008

Yedioth Ahronoth has uncovered that massive efforts have been made as of late to bring Shabazi’s bones back to Israel, as part of the country’s upcoming 60th anniversary celebration. Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, Jewish organizations, as well as US officials with ties to Yemen are all collaborating in order to retrieve the Rabbi’s bones.

The Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar has furthermore issued a religious ruling allowing for the retrieval of Shabazi’s bones for reburial in Israel.

Rabbinic courts are actually better off under Justice Ministry' , January 16, 2008

There has been a marked improvement in state funding for rabbinic courts since the dismantling of the Religious Affairs Ministry four years ago, the courts' administrative head, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan said.

The possibility that the rabbinic courts might be returned to the Religious Affairs Ministry became real again this week after the Knesset voted to reinstitute the ministry under the leadership of MK Yitzhak Cohen (Shas).

Rabbi Stanley Davids: 'The Zionist Dream Is Unfulfilled' January 11, 2008

Among the 3,000 rabbis paid by the Israeli government, not one of them is a Reform rabbi, and certainly not one of our women Reform rabbis.

There are constant issues of funding, but even more than that, why can't Reform rabbis perform weddings for Reform Jews who want Reform rabbis?

What gives the state a right through its - again - archaic and inappropriate official rabbinate to say, "No, you may not use this rabbi; you can only use that rabbi"?

What gives the rabbinate the right to say, "If you don't convert our way, we won't recognize your conversion"?

And better, and this is something relatively new, what gives the so-called leading Orthodox rabbis attached to the political structure a right to say, "If you convert to Judaism, even under our standards, but then are seen as not living a fully halachic life, we reserve the right to retroactively reverse your conversion"? That is outrageous.

An anniversary celebration that was launched last Friday was the 50th anniversary of the Harel Reform Congregation in Jerusalem, the pioneer congregation of the Reform movement in Israel.

According to Werner Loval, one of the founders of Harel, the jubilee celebrations will continue throughout the year ahead.

J'lem approves controversial Mughrabi project

By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz January 16, 2008

Jerusalem's district planning and construction committee has approved a controversial plan to restore the Mughrabi bridge leading to one of the entrances to the Temple Mount, construction that caused an outcry among Muslims and generated protest from the Jordanian and Turkish governments in June.

The plan, approved two weeks ago, also includes expansion of the women's section of the Western Wall plaza.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - January 21, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

January 21, 2008 (Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Don't sell mezuzahs to Reform Jews

By Neta Sela, January 21, 2008

Rabbi Dov Lior, chief rabbi of the West Bank town Kiryat Arba, continues to take a hard line against Reform Jews.

The rabbi issued an edict mandating that sofrei stam, or Jewish scribes, should not sell Torah scrolls, tefilin or mezuzahs to Reform Jews.

Rabbi Lior issued this edict on an internet forum belonging to the Beit El Yeshiva [Hebrew]. A sofer stam wrote the rabbi and told him that that he was asked to fix a Torah scroll for, and sell mezuzahs and tefilin to, a Reform Jewish congregation.

The scribe asked the rabbi whether he could fix Torah scrolls for Reform Jews, and whether these scrolls were even considered kosher. He also asked the rabbi whether he could sell tefilin and mezuzahs to this congregation according to Jewish law.

Rabbi Lior replied emphatically that the scribe should not get involved with the congregation at all so as not to be “privy to a transgression or sin”. In his reply he takes a very harsh line against the Reform movement, which seeks to amend certain facets of Judaism to bring them in line with modern realities.

“Granted if the tefillin are used by a Jew, then this is a great mitzvah indeed,” stated the Rabbi, “but there is a more public issue at hand, namely adorning the Reform synagogue and giving legitimacy to this movement.”

See also:

"Orthodox Jews forbidden from attending Reform events, entering Reform synagogues"

By Neta Sela, October 25, 2006

Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv hopes that Rabbi Lior still doesn't view Reform Jews are idol worshipers, saying that:

"Rabbi Lior seeks to segregate and hurt families, taint the joys of a Jewish family, out of his hate for a religious stream that doesn't operate like his own does."

U.S. immigrant beaten up in 'pogrom' by ultra-Orthodox gang

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz January 21, 2008

"My attackers thought they won, but there is a procession in my support," said T., who was born in New York.

In recent months, Beit Shemesh residents have banded against what they call growing religious intimidation and coercion by some Haredi residents of the city.

In response, residents of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet, a Haredi stronghold in the city, held a protest Monday night.

This was the first time ultra-Orthodox residents came out strongly against fringe elements from within their own community.

Israel "back of the bus" rule sparks religious row

By Rebecca Harrison, Reuters January 15, 2008

"The partition between men and women is being taken from the synagogue into public spaces,"
said Anat Hoffman, head of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the advocacy arm of the Reform Judaism movement, which helped bring the lawsuit.

Hoffman is worried that "partition" could make further inroads into public life, saying one post office in an Orthodox neighborhood has separate waiting lines for men and women.

Court quizzes state over segregated buses

"It is reasonable to provide bus lines for the haredi community," said Justice Elyakim Rubinstein during the hearing.

"However, one cannot impose separation and demands for modesty on those who oppose it. Solutions must be found. For example, by having the bus driver protect passengers so that when one passenger disturbs another, the driver will order him off the bus. Another idea is to display a sign informing riders that the line is segregated."

Justice Yoram Danziger said that "a voluntary arrangement which harms dozens or hundreds of women is impossible."

"The Transportation Ministry's position is not sufficiently connected to reality," said Rubinstein. "Its policy of 'segregation-blindness' is inadequate."

High Court slams 'kosher' bus lines for ultra-Orthodox

By Aviram Zino, January 14, 2008

The High Court panel, composed of Justice Elyakim Rubenstein, Justice Salem Jubran, and Justice Yoram Dantziger, began its deliberation by noting that

“even if haredi lines are allowed to operate, the clothing and gender-separation restrictions in play on them cannot be imposed on people who object to them.”

Haredim find new ally in the Supreme Court

"Today the Supreme Court gave legitimacy to our claims and backed them up with values such as human dignity,"
said Shlomo Rosenstein, a member of the Jerusalem Municipality and Transportation Coordinator for the Haredi Public in the capital.

Haredim may have entered a new stage of influence: using the Supreme Court, that bastion of liberalism and equality, to support haredi religious freedoms as long as they do not hurt the freedom of others too much. Haredim are learning to defend their democratic rights.

Supreme Court Overturns Rabbinic Court Ruling January 21, 2008

The Supreme Court has overturned a rabbinic court ruling by ordering that two young girls continue to attend secular schools against their father’s wishes.

The Supreme Court ruled that moving the girls to a different school would cause them emotional damage, particularly given that they live with their mother, who is not religiously observant.

A rabbinical court in Israel has refused to convert a man who believes the Lubavitcher Rebbe was the Messiah. Was the decision correct? January 18, 2008

No - by Shmuley Boteach

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s newest book is The Broken American Male and How to Fix Him (St Martin’s Press). He broadcasts a daily radio show on

The news, therefore, that a rabbinical court in Israel refused to allow into Judaism a Chabad-educated conversion candidate because he believes the Rebbe is the Messiah is deeply troubling and constitutes an act of serious contempt for a non-Jew who has made sacrifices to ally himself with the Jews.

Comparing this with a Jew for Jesus wishing to convert is preposterous, given that Jews for Jesus believe in the divinity of Christ (which no one in Chabad would ever, God-forbid, assert about the Rebbe) as well as the irrelevance of the Torah to modern times.

Yes by Seth Farber

Rabbi Seth Farber is the director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Centre (, an Israeli organisation dedicated to transforming the experience of Jewish life

I believe strongly that the messianic posture of some of the Chabad community and the central role it plays for these Jews must be exposed for its unorthodox and un-Orthodox thrust, as it is unprecedented within normative Jewish life. Those who seek a place in our faith community cannot maintain such attitudes.

No more conversion

By Avirama Golan, Haaretz January 16, 2008

As long as Israeli society is not liberated from the religious establishment, it will find it difficult to pave the way for a renewed definition of the meaning of Jewish existence in a sovereign state.

The time has come to give up on conversion, to erase the slot for "nationality" in the ID card and to legalize civil marriage for all.

The key to nationality must finally be expropriated from the ultra-Orthodox nationalist gatekeepers.

Jewish-born adoptee granted temporary residency

The Interior Ministry announced that it was willing to grant temporary resident status to a US citizen of Jewish descent who was adopted by a non-Jewish family as a baby and has been attempting to make aliya for the past year-and-a-half.

The decision came following an article in the Post published Friday that highlighted the shortcomings of the Law of Return for not addressing the rare category of Jewish-born children who are adopted by those of other faiths.

Instilling the fear of God

There are a number of issues high up on the haredi parties' agenda. The real crisis is with the young men's yeshivot.

A petition submitted to the High Court of Justice by the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal arm of the Reform Movement, has resulted in a freeze of all transfers of funds from the Education Ministry to the yeshivot.

In its petition, the Israel Religious Action Center demanded that haredi yeshivot teach a minimum of secular subjects and Zionism as a condition for receiving state funds.

The court ordered the state to either amend the law governing state education funding, or stop transferring money to the yeshivot altogether.

No amendments were passed, so funding was halted at least until the next High Court hearing in mid-February. In the meantime, hundreds of yeshivot are being forced to make ends meet without state aid.

‘Rabbi Is The Highest Title For Teacher’

By Michele Chabin, The Jewish Week January 18, 2008

The venture, which is expected to begin in September, is unprecedented in that it will be the first rabbinical program in Israel to welcome students from all religious streams of Judaism.

Some of these students could be Orthodox women searching for semicha (ordination) from a respected mainstream institution.

See also: The Shalom Hartman Institute’s Melamdim offers an optional Rabbi-Educator track

Orthodox women to be trained as rabbis

By Nathan Jeffay, January 18, 2008

Rabbi Hartman said that the ordination would not be the standard type which qualifies the recipient to make judgements in Jewish law. It would be a qualification demonstrating that the holder is well-versed in Jewish texts, ethics and philosophy.

“Everyone gets panicky about where things will lead to, but that’s not my concern. My concern is filling a need.”

Knesset votes in favor of re-launching Religious Affairs Ministry

By Amnon Meranda, January 14, 2008

Fifty-one MK's voted in favor of the government’s proposal and 37 voted against, with no MK's abstaining.

MK Zahava Gal-On, chairwoman of the Meretz faction, said after the vote that the government is bribing Shas in order to survive, this at the tax-payers’ expense. "Cronies will again be given jobs and money will again be transferred to ultra-Orthodox establishments at the expense of the secular contingent."

Poll: Few Israelis support Diaspora input in what happens with Jerusalem

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz January 21, 2008

Professor Yehezkel Dror, president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, plans to argue that the role of Diaspora Jews in Israel's affairs should be upgraded.

Instead of merely being a source of financial aid, they should become "consultants," his associates said.

Israel must not decide alone

It is easy to be cynical about the lack of recognized leadership among Diaspora Jewry.

But just as in the case of the Ne'eman Commission, the Jews of the Diaspora have the right to participate in such a way that decision makers are required to take their opinion into account.

No more - but also no less - because, otherwise, the only decisive voice that will be heard in discussions of the fate of the Jewish people will be the argument for the survival of the coalition.

Lauder's letter to Olmert roils WJC's Israel office

By Jacob Berkman, JTA January 16, 2008

Shai Hermesh, the chairman of the WJC’s Israel branch:

“We feel that Jews around the world are our brothers and their support is very important to us, but political decisions should be taken only by the Knesset and no one else, including the Israeli branch of the World Jewish Congress. That is totally unacceptable by us. Decisions should be taken only by the elected government and no one else.”

Israel offers Anglo doctors cash for aliya

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz January 15, 2008

Jewish doctors from the U.K., U.S. and Canada who immigrate to Israel will receive an absorption package worth $60,000, the government and the Nefesh B'Nefesh immigration organization announced.

Physicians under 40 who have completed their medical studies in either North America or Britain will receive $25,000 upon arrival in Israel. Over the next few years, they will be paid between $1,000 and $1,500 a month.

Doctors doubt incentive will bring peers to Israel

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz January 18, 2008

"We hope to bring between 1,000 and 2,000 doctors to Israel in the coming years," former Israeli ambassador to Washington and current NBN co-chair Danny Ayalon said.

Sold to the highest bidder

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz January 18, 2008

Unlike Sharansky and Lieberman, who are very minded to the Diaspora, Gaydamak, despite living almost all his life outside Israel, doesn't seem overly concerned about how he's perceived by Russian voters or by Israel's extra constituency, the Jews of the world.

At a relatively early stage in his public campaign, he made some efforts in their direction, but a deal with the Jewish Agency to contribute $40 million in return for major policy involvement fell through amid mutual recriminations.

Best Buy fined NIS 90,300 for employing Jews on Shabbat

Best Buy apparently felt it was economically worth the risk, given the probability of being caught versus the fine the company might have to pay, Judge Ilan Itah continued.

He rejected the company's argument that the workers had been given an alternative day off, stating that the idea of the law was that the family should be able to spend the day of rest together.

Grocery-roots activists

By Ruth Sinai, Haaretz January 17, 2008

Family-run grocery stores like the Bremers' have a hard time competing with the growing number of AM:PM and Tiv Taam outlets that are open 24 hours a day, including Saturdays and holidays, usually in total and blatant violation of the law.

"I can't open on Shabbat even if I wanted to, because I couldn't handle the fines. They tell me to compete, but then they tie my hands. At least they should reduce the municipal tax," says Bremer. "It drives me crazy the way they scoff at the law."

Widow: Archeologist kept 'Jesus tomb' discovery secret for fear of anti-Semitism

By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz January 17, 2008

Last year, the story became widely known with the release of the documentary film "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" by Simcha Jacobovici and Oscar-winning producer James Cameron.

The documentary claimed outright that a cave containing the tomb of Jesus, his wife and a son had been found in south Jerusalem.

Haredim likely to block new excavation at Talpiot tomb

The Talpiot tomb was turned into a geniza (repository for holy texts) before it was sealed, he noted, while the adjacent tomb still contains several inscribed ossuaries. "Haredi objections [to excavation there] would be impossible to overcome."

Gibson, who told this week's symposium on "Evaluating the Talpiot Tomb in Context" that he does not believe the cave is Jesus's burial place, stressed that the adjacent tomb was "definitely worthy of investigation."

The nine lives of the Lorenz Café

By Adi Schwartz, Haaretz January 29, 2008

The Lorenz Cafe will be renovated and restored, and will serve as the Schechter Center for Jewish Culture in Neve Tzedek.

The project will cost an estimated $3 million, and will be funded by donations from abroad raised by the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies; also participating are the Masorti (Conservative) movement, the Iyun Academy for Jewish studies and Kehillat Sinai.

The place will include a kindergarten, a synagogue, study rooms, an art gallery and a cafe.

[Religion and State in Israel - January 21, 2008 continues in Section 2]