Monday, February 25, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - February 25, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

February 25, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Learning the ‘Language’ of Reform Zionists

By Doug Chandler, The Jewish Week February 20, 2008

One participant called it an “eye-opener” — a two-day conference aimed at introducing aliyah shlichim, or emissaries, to Reform Judaism and how the movement views immigration to Israel.

But on that score — the priority that Reform Jews place on Israel and aliyah — the event presented a decidedly mixed picture.

For the emissaries, the conference represented an opportunity to learn about “the language of Reform Zionism,” said Yoram Black, director of JAFI’s North American delegation.

Like most Israelis, he added, the majority of emissaries know little or nothing about Reform Judaism and, therefore, how to promote aliyah among Reform Jews.

Veterans: From America to Kibbutz Gezer - Rabbi Miri Gold and David Leichman

Miri Gold became the third female Reform rabbi in Israel. This accomplishment had its roots in her determination to continue what Rabbi Levi Kelman had started.

From learning how to lead services and give bar and bat mitzva lessons, she made the logical leap and enrolled in rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem in 1994.

The kibbutz gave its blessing. "We agreed that I could be a better breadwinner for the kibbutz as a rabbi," she says.

Since her 1999 ordination, she has been overseeing religious life at the kibbutz - everything from securing paper goods for its recent Tu Bishvat seder to visiting the sick and teaching classes.

The Gezer synagogue became Kehilat Birkat Shalom, a regional Reform congregation.

For Gold, the hardest obstacle has been political. "Israel is not the democracy it's supposed to be," she says. "There clearly isn't separation of church and state."

Religious kibbutz movement strives to stem the crisis in its yeshivas

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz February 25, 2008

The two yeshivas established by the religious kibbutz movement - one on Kibbutz Ein Tzurim in the south and the other on Kibbutz Ma'aleh Gilboa in the north - have been a source of pride for the movement and a symbol of its educational philosophy

But after 22 years, Yeshivat Ein Tzurim, which has only a few students left, is due to officially shut its doors at the end of the year - though it does have vague hopes of reopening a year later).

And while the Ma'aleh Gilboa yeshiva, founded 15 years ago, has no registration crisis (its most recent first-year class had 50 students), up to 40 percent of its students drop out of the demanding program every year.

Thus officials are girding for the possibility that the Ein Tzurim crisis will spread northward.

The last secular holdout

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz February 20, 2008

It took about a decade for the small north-Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamivtar to change its skin. Now, after most of its well-to-do secular households have been replaced with ultra-Orthodox families, the metamorphosis seems almost complete.

Unlike so many Jerusalem secular families in their situation, the Bar-Ons and their four children did not move to the coast, to the greater Tel Aviv area, although they had considered the possibility.

Instead they moved to Beit Hakerem - the neighborhood on Jerusalem's western side that so many secular residents have come to regard as the city's "last secular island," as Bar-On calls it.

She and other people living there say Beit Hakerem is the only thing keeping them in the capital, which is becoming increasingly ultra-Orthodox each year.

Donors seek unpolitical Jewish Agency

Discussions taking place in the Jewish Agency look set to dramatically change the Zionist movement.

Among the most distressed over these developments are the Reform and Conservative movements, who, as it is, have just single-digit representation among the 120-member Board of Governors.

With their Jewish Agency representation, the American streams work to provide funding to their sister movements in Israel, the Progressive and Masorti movements.

These funds, which amount to around $1.8m. annually to each movement out of a Jewish Agency budget of about $377m., are meant to offset the lack of government funds for non-Orthodox institutions in Israel.

"The movements are very worried," said one Jewish Agency Board of Governors member. "They can defend that funding only as long as they have a seat at the table."

PM aims to remake Israel-Diaspora ties

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has established an unprecedented high-level government task force charged with fundamentally altering the Israel-Diaspora relationship.

The new task force heralds a revolutionary change, officials in the Prime Minister's Office said, in that it will seek ways in which Israel can begin to invest in the Diaspora, rather than remaining merely the recipient of Diaspora aid.

Prime Minister’s Office considering new initiatives to strengthen bonds between Israel, Diaspora Jewry

By Itamar Eichner, February 23, 2008

Professor Shenhar also proposed establishing an International Jewish University in Israel that can attract Jewish students from across the globe.

Building a shared Jewish culture Editorial February 21, 2008

The new initiative will only succeed if it is the beginning of a generation-long project that engages American Jews in building a shared transnational Jewish culture.

What is required on both sides is a massive investment in education about each other at all levels …and massive support for creating the artifacts of culture - literature, painting, sculpture, cinema.

Both communities must engage in prolific translation of each other's literature, comedy, scientific research and the like, far beyond the fractional and half-hearted translation that takes place today dictated only by market forces.

If we do not develop this shared culture, the centrifugal forces at work in the Jewish world will drive us farther apart.

WZO council: Israel's Arab citizens must be loyal, condemn terror

By Yoav Stern, Haaretz February 19, 2008

The document he drafted states: "The Jewish character of the State of Israel shall not contradict it's being a democratic state for all its citizens."

The document, which offers a format for discussion and has yet to be finalized, raises 13 points for discussion regarding relations between the state and its Arab public.

It says Israel is the state of the Jewish people and it must demand complete loyalty from Arab citizens.

South African community here readies for immigration surge

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz February 22, 2008

Jewish Agency emissary in Johannesburg, Ofer Dahan, has conservatively predicted at least 300 immigrants from South Africa in 2008, compared to 178 last year and 157 the year before that. But, he believes the numbers could become spike even more.

Most new olim in Jerusalem from western countries

By Yael Branovsky, February 25, 2008

Some 68% of the new immigrants who arrived in Jerusalem in the last four years came from western countries, data presented by the Immigration Absorption Ministry revealed Sunday evening.

According to the ministry's statistics, most of these new olim define themselves as religious. Some 25% of the immigrants from France define themselves as haredim, 65% as religious and about 10% as observant or secular.

Among those who emigrated from North America, 17% define themselves as haredim, 72% as religious, and 11% as secular.

AMPM Stores Continue to Desecrate Shabbos in Central Region

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur February 21, 2008

Vaadas HaRabbonim LeKedushas HaShabbos met last week and decided to launch an open protest against the Alon Group, which heads chains like Dor Gaz, Blue Square, Shefa Shuk and more, in light of announcements by the executive board that it plans to open dozens of additional AMPM stores in Gush Dan and other parts of the country.

Since being purchased by David Weissman, chairman of the Alon Group, AMPM has opened new stores in Tel Aviv, Bat Yam, near Be'er Yaakov and elsewhere that operate 24 hours a day, including Shabbos and Jewish holidays.

A delegation of rabbonim and activists from Tel Aviv appeared before Vaadas HaRabbonim, warning them that AMPM stores continue to open, including one on Rechov Echad Ha'am near the Belz shul.

The delegation said that according to the mainstream press, local food markets banded together and announced that if the Alon Group is allowed to open on Shabbos, they would have no choice other than to open their doors as well.

Israel’s Biggest Concern Is Overlooked

By Gary Rosenblatt, The Jewish Week Editorial Opinion February 20, 2008

Moshe Kaveh, president of Bar-Ilan, bemoaned the level of Jewish ignorance among Israeli youth and pointed out the critical gap filled by Bar-Ilan, the only Israeli university that requires students to take courses in Jewish-related studies, in a society increasingly split between religious and secular Jews.

Sixty-five percent of Bar-Ilan students are secular, but Kaveh asserted that advancing Judaism and democracy would continue to be a primary goal of the school.

Religious MKs vs. Education Minister

By Hillel Fendel, February 18, 2008

Director of the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva organization Elchanan Glatt announced that Education Minister Yuli Tamir has established a new committee to find new ways of utilizing the funds of the budgetary clause entitled "strengthening Jewish Studies."

Without this clause, the number of hours that could be devoted to Talmud, Mishna, Bible and Jewish philosophy would be the same as in a normal public high school.

Tamir's purpose in establishing a committee to allocate the Jewish Studies funds differently, Glatt said, "is to enable these funds to be given not only to yeshivot, but to public secular schools as well.

Jerusalem Municipality Authorizes Funding for Chareidi Schools

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur February 21, 2008

The City of Jerusalem has authorized the transfer of millions of shekels in budget funding for exempt and recognized-but- unofficial institutions in the chareidi education system earmarked for major renovations, equipment purchases, educational programs and safety activities.

The new support criteria were drawn up following a court decision in a case against the City of Petach Tikva.

Following the ruling the Justice Ministry instructed local authorities to stop supporting exempt and recognized-but- unofficial institutions, which are not classified as full municipal institutions.

The recent move solved the problem by funding them as non-municipal institutions.

Coming soon: Halachic Electricity

By Levi Ashkenazi, (Hebrew) February 20, 2008

A bill will be presented shortly that will introduce electricity without desecrating the Shabbat.

According to the bill, 60 turbines will be made automated and 150 non-Jewish workers introduced.

Demand to close Shabbat traffic in Jerusalem’s Romema neighborhood

By Y. Bender, (Hebrew) February 18, 2008

Downhill at Har Nof

By Guy Leshem, Haaretz February 19, 2008

The neighborhood of Har Nof lies on Jerusalem's western boundaries. It has about 20,000 residents and is considered a stunning success, attracting the middle and upper classes, mostly from among the observant and ultra-Orthodox communities.

Three years ago, Jerusalem's Planning and Building Committee was presented with a plan that managed to create an uproar even among the Haredi residents of Har Nof - a group not known for keen awareness of its surroundings.

A twist on the 'Who's a Jew' question

The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana

The moment we lay eyes on someone, before we get to know them at all, we are already drawing a box around them and sticking on all kinds of isolating labels: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, leftist, rightist, secular, observant or Orthodox.

And not just Orthodox: We subdivide them into haredi, dati, dati-leumi, dosi or hardal. We have neatly judged, packaged and labeled a stranger before we know the first thing about him.

Instead of judging others too quickly, we should be more open-minded and less clothes-minded.

Marriage can wait

By Yael, February 19, 2008

The writer requested that her full name not be revealed

Wake up before it’s too late. Don’t get married because everyone is like that.

Don’t trust two months of dating, it isn’t enough. Can you get to know yourself in such a short period?

Take a breath for another year or two before you get married.

I know this is not customary, but Jewish law certainly doesn’t want me to be so miserable. The Halacha is not against me.

Group works with Israeli youth to promote Jewish social justice

By Dina Kraft, JTA February 24, 2008

[Ahava Katzin, 17] is part of a network of youth volunteers organized by Bema'aglei Tzedek, a group that seeks to bring a sense of Jewish values to social issues in Israel.

The organization brings together both secular and religious. Among their volunteer activists are students from religiously and politically conservative yeshivas to the furthest left-leaning youth movements.

Encyclopedia sheds lights on achievements of Jewish women

Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia

Edited by Prof. Paula Hyman from Yale University and Prof. Dalia Ofer from Hebrew University.

A recently-released encyclopedia, the work of Moshe Shalvi and his wife, Israel Prize winner Prof. Alice Shalvi, tries to correct this injustice by giving Jewish women the attention they have been denied.

Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia is a wide-ranging information bank on noteworthy Jewish women and their relatives throughout history.

Ramat Gan chief rabbi slams 'radical feminist' egalitarian minyanim

Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel said Tuesday that it is prohibited according to Jewish law to take part in an "egalitarian" or "partnership" minyan that permits women to read from the Torah or lead the congregation in prayer.

Ariel was reacting to the publication of The Guide for the Halachic Minyan by Michal and Elitzur Bar-Asher. The guide is a compilation of halachic sources on how to integrate women into prayer while at the same time purportedly adhering to all Orthodox strictures.

ZOA opens first Jerusalem office

The ZOA also wants to give some 200,000 US citizens living in Israel a feeling of involvement. Too many of them feel disenfranchised, said Daube, who hopes to enlist them in ZOA activities.

ZOA does not yet have a permanent address in Jerusalem. For the time being, it operates out of Daube's apartment in the city's Katamon neighborhood.

Asked why it took so long for ZOA, established in 1897 as one of the pioneer Zionist organizations in America, to open an office in Israel, Klein answered, "We didn't have the money."

Religion and State in Israel

February 25, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Religion and State in Israel - February 25, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

February 25, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Cabinet cancels rabbinic courts bill deliberation

By Haaretz staff February 25, 2008

The cabinet canceled a planned deliberation of a bill calling for expanded authority for rabbinic courts because Labor ministers opposed to it asked to initiate renewed discussion on the idea.

Fearing a confrontation with coalition partner, the ultra-Orthodox Shas, a decision was made to cancel the discussion on the bill which was confirmed by the cabinet committee on legislation last week as being ready to be brought before the government.

Deliberation on rabbinical court bill delayed

By Attila Somfalvi and Neta Sela, Haaretz February 24, 2008

Herzog has acknowledged that the bill ought to be amended; mainly in order to limit the rabbinical court's authority on matters that do not relate to spousal relations.

Senior Labor officials stated that “[Ehud] Barak must not allow the State of Israel to be run by religious halacha law.”

Legislators to check thorny parts of rabbinical court bill

Knesset Law Committee chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson: There are two problematic elements in the bill.

The first is that a couple which has drawn up a financial agreement will be able to include a provision stating that any disputes about the agreement after the divorce has been granted must be heard by a rabbinical court, on condition that both partners agree to it.

However, it is the other key element in the bill that creates a "revolution," continued Ben-Sasson. According to it, any two people who have a dispute regarding a financial matter may, if they both agree, and if at least one is Jewish, bring the matter to a rabbinical court, which will adjudicate in accordance with halachic law.

A law contrived in secret

Haaretz Editorial February 21, 2008

Following 60 years since the historic error of not separating religion from the state, the government is now expanding the authority of religion in the judiciary.

Instead of heading the opposite way and taking away from the rabbinical courts their monopoly in matters of marriage and divorce, the state is now granting them further decision making powers in civil matters.

Labor minister appeals bill 'empowering' rabbinical courts

By Tomer Zarchin and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz February 20, 2008

Attorney Gilad Kariv of the Reform Movement argued that not only would it greatly expand the rabbinical courts' involvement in civil affairs, but there was no way to guarantee that litigants had in fact consented freely.

"For instance, if an employer drags his worker into a decision on a financial matter before the rabbinical court, is the worker in a position in which he can refuse his employer? We are creating a system here that threatens small claimants," Kariv argued.

Professor Michael Corinaldi, an expert in family law … charged that it essentially creates two parallel legal systems, one religious and one secular.

Rabbinical Courts Can Hear Monetary Cases

By Hillel Fendel. February 22, 2008

"Whoever does not want to see a Halakhic state founded here had better wake up right now, before it is too late," wrote Rivka Luvitch, of the…religious women's movement Kolekh (Your Voice).

Others complained that the requirement that both sides must agree to be judged before a rabbinical court is insufficient.

"Given the political social situation in Israel, who can guarantee that the 'consent' given by the weaker side will be a true consent?" asks another Kolekh member, Atty. Batya Cohen-Dror, writing in Ynet.

An open letter to the rabbinate

By Sarah Breger, Haaretz February 22, 2008

The writer is a 2007-2008 Dorot Fellow living in Jerusalem

Dear chief rabbis:

My suggestion: If you want to retain the bureaucratic as well as legal authority you still have, you need to institute systematic changes in the rabbinate's structure that will increase its accountability and transparency.

You must become a rabbinate that is sensitive to the people you lead.

In Shi'ite Islam, the clerics state that for their religious system to work, there must be some accountability to the people.

I never thought I would be suggesting that the Chief Rabbinate take lessons from the ayatollahs.

Metzger to resume position despite AG's accusation of graft

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz February 19, 2008

Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger will end his suspension and return next month to his position as both a member of the Supreme Rabbinical Court and a member of the committee that appoints religious court judges, the Justice Ministry decided yesterday.

The Justice Ministry's appointments committee, headed by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, decided to ignore Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's advice and unanimously endorsed Metzger's decision to end his voluntary suspension.

Metzger is expected to succeed Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court in six weeks.

Israel-US conversion authority crisis resolved

In a move that ends a central dispute between the two largest Orthodox rabbinic organizations in the world, the Chief Rabbinate has agreed to recognize conversions performed by the Rabbinic Council of America

In a move that ends a central dispute between the two largest Orthodox rabbinic organizations in the world, the Chief Rabbinate has agreed to recognize conversions performed by the Rabbinic Council of America.

Rabbi Marc Angel, a former president of the RCA, who together with Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of the liberal Orthodox Chovevei Torah rabbinic seminary, plans to set up an alternative rabbinic organization called Rabbinic Fellowship, blamed the RCA for "capitulating" to pressure from the Chief Rabbinate.

In an e-mail message from New York, Angel said, "The Chief Rabbinate has taken narrow and extreme views on the question of conversion, and is now demanding that all rabbis comply with these 'standards.'

"The RCA has, very unfortunately, capitulated to the demands of the Chief Rabbinate. This not only undermines the authority of individual Orthodox rabbis, but creates a climate of stringency, rabbinic bureaucracy and authoritarianism."

Rabbi Seth Farber, head of ITIM, an organization that helps converts navigate the Israeli Rabbinate, voiced concern that American converts and their offspring would have difficulty proving their Jewishness if they were to immigrate to Israel.

"The overwhelming majority of American Orthodox converts over the years have not had their conversion certified by Schwartz. Children or grandchildren are going to wind up in Israel and their Jewishness will be questioned," he said.

Homosexual activity cause of earthquake, Shas MK says

By Amnon Meranda, February 20, 2008

The recent earthquake that was felt across Israel was the result of the "homosexual activity practiced in the country", Knesset Member Shlomo Benizri said Wednesday.

During a special Knesset session on Israel's preparedness for the possibility of another earthquake hitting the region, the Shas member said "the Gemara refers to earthquakes as disasters, but you are searching only for the practical solutions how to prevent and repair.

"But I know of another way to prevent earthquakes; the Gemara mentions a number of causes of earthquakes, one of which is homosexuality, which the Knesset legitimizes," Benizri said.

Reform Reflections: Shas - all shook up

Rabbi Michael Marmur, February 24, 2008

Behind the smokescreen of outrage, something else is going on here.

These religio-politicians are presenting a picture of Judaism and its place in the world which goes like this: the Talmud is the source of our values, and it provides us with the Truth. All we need to do is to quote it as it is - if you don't agree with it, the problem is all yours.

So blaming homosexuals for earthquakes is really about how we want to live our lives as moral and faithful human beings.

Using the excuse that it says so in the Talmud is no excuse: it represents a denial of the notion that Judaism grows and evolves through time and in culture.

The God in whom I believe wants me to grapple and grow, not to mock and shrink.

Benizri's gay earthquake

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz February 21, 2008

Benizri's defense can be described as: "It wasn't me, it was the Gemara!"

He was referring to a discussion in the Jerusalem Talmud about the causes of earthquakes and which, in one passage, makes a link between gay sex, God's wrath and earthquakes.

In which case, Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) wittily replied: "Then change the Gemara."

Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv said that the "only organ that shook the Knesset was Benizri's unrestrained tongue."

A gay kid? No problem

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz February 25, 2008

[It's] not only in the Knesset that there's a feeling that people can say whatever they want about gays and lesbians.

Two years ago, one of the heads of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rabbi Yaakov Medan, published an article calling for a halt to the "abomination parade," as he referred to the World Pride parade that was supposed to take place in Jerusalem.

Medan compared the pride parade to the idolatrous infernos in the Hinnom Valley.

Medan is also the rabbi who compiled the Gavison-Medan Covenant with Prof. Ruth Gavison, an important attempt at discussion between the religious and the secular.

In other words, Medan is convinced he can talk about fraternity with his secular brothers out of one side of his mouth while verbally abusing his gay brothers out of the other side.

Chief Rabbis Repeat Promise to End Slaughter Method

(See: an article in the Forward that detailed a controversial kosher slaughtering method)

In the letter from December 25, [Chief Rabbi] Metzger wrote that “the chief rabbinate will consult with experts and invest considerable energy in finding additional appropriate practical solutions which will reduce the claims regarding cruelty to animals.”

“[The Chief Rabbinate] made a conceptual decision to do this, but the implementation is something different, something that is going to take a long time,” Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union’s Kashrus Division said.

The spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate told The Jerusalem Post this week, “We plan to meet soon with importers and slaughterhouse owners who use the method in an attempt to reach an agreement.”

Rabbinate: Import meat only if ‘morally slaughtered’

By Neta Sela, February 20, 2008

PETA and the Torah?

Following the lead of The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to animals, which has long protested against cruel “lift and bind” slaughter techniques practiced in many United States and South American slaughterhouses, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate has also decided to work to eliminate such techniques.

Jerusalem to Allow Secular Burials

Non-Orthodox synagogue movements will be permitted to run their own ceremonies.

“This is much needed for us,” said Anat Hoffman, who directs the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center.

“In Orthodoxy there is just one way of doing things, which does not suit our members, or many other Israelis.”

“We will be able to allow people to create the funerals they want. If people want Mozart instead of El Malei Rachamim,” she said, referring to the traditional mourning prayer, “that is fine.”

“We believe that everyone who feels and acts as a Jew should be buried as a Jew, and that everyone should be buried in the manner they want,” said Ze’ev Kunda, who runs the organization [Menucha Nechona].

Yossi Beilin, recently drew a parallel with the Orthodox monopoly over marriage, which leads some citizens to travel to nearby countries to wed under civil law. But, he noted, “secular Israelis can’t just go to Cyprus to be buried.”

Local Authorities petition school funding policy

By Or Kashti, Haaretz February 24, 2008

The Union of Local Authorities petitioned the High Court of Justice on Thursday, asking it to cancel Education Ministry regulations requiring local authorities to participate in funding schools "whose status is not officially recognized."

Most such schools belong to the ultra-Orthodox education system. Education Minister Yuli Tamir recently signed the order, titled "the Nahari Regulations."

The petitioners say Tamir signed the regulations because of external considerations that "have to do more with coalition deals than with education."

Supreme Court gives parties month to confer on core curriculum requirement

By Or Kashti, (Hebrew) February 25, 2008

The Education Ministry and Haredi education heads received a month extension in an attempt to reach an agreement on the requirement to teach core curriculum in Haredi secondary institutions.

According to petitioner Israel Religious Action Center Attorney Einat Hurvitz, the judges criticized the arrangement suggested by the Ministry and said that “the Ministry’s interpretation of the first ruling is not legitimate”.

Rabbis back soldiers who boycotted female teachers

The arrest last week of four hesder yeshiva soldiers who refused to participate in a lecture given by female IDF instructors has sparked a sharp reaction by a group of leading religious Zionist rabbis.

A spokesman for the soldiers' Har Bracha Yeshiva warned that should the military insist on ignoring the religious public's halachic needs, "many may decide to take more radical action and follow their haredi brethren in not joining the army at all."

Delay in approval of Secular Yeshiva/IDF track

By Yair Sheleg, (Hebrew) February 25, 2008

The Tel Aviv Secular Yeshiva was established a year and half ago as a track for secular youth, combining Jewish and Zionist studies with social action and full army service.

The track was approved by the IDF Personnel head Elazar Stern, but it appears that in order to receive recognition as a “shiluv” track, they will need the approval of the Defense Minister in conjunction with the recommendation of the Hesder Yeshivot association.

Four months ago, “Bina” received a negative reply from the association. They are now asking the Defense Minister to make an independent decision; otherwise the students will not be able to return to the Yeshiva during their military service.

Mikvehs in Israel – for Orthodox women only

By Anna Borred, (Hebrew) February 21, 2008

IDF Radio “Galei Tzahal” reports that brides intending to be married in Reform or Conservative weddings and wish to immerse themselves in mikvehs before the ceremony are asked to present an authorization from the Rabbinate. Without such confirmation, they cannot enter the mikvehs.

Attorney Einat Hurvitz from the Israel Religious Action Center:

“The mikvehs are public places, financed by public funds and maintained by religious councils that are funded by the public. Each and every (Jewish) woman that wishes to is entitled to the use of the mikveh.”

Religion and State in Israel

February 25, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Monday, February 18, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - February 18, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

February 18, 2008 (Section 2) (Continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Rabbis call against forced integration in military service

By Kobi Nahshoni, February 18, 2008

The manifest, signed by 32 prominent religious figures of the likes of former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, Rabbi Dov Lior, Rabbi Zalman Malmad, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Rabbi Israel Ariel, Rabbi Abraham Zukerman and Rabbi Israel Rosen, to name a few, calls on the IDF to refrain from imposing such classes on religious soldiers.

Israel's soldiers must keep the mitzvah of observing modesty, said the manifest, adding that "over the past few years, the military has demonstrated a lapse in morals, by allowing more and more classes to be given by female instructors, and endorsing male and female integration in more of its units."

Such moves, continues the manifest, along with the soldiers young age and their being away from home for long periods of time, pose "a grave problem", since their daily – and nightly – encounters with women in the service "go well beyond the norms of civil life."

The rabbis end the manifest by calling on IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak "to refrain from forcing any soldier to take part in activities involving women or attending classes given by female instructors."

Talmud studies credited for sniper excellence

While members of the Nahal Haredi Battalion have decided to abandon the yeshiva benches in exchange for an M-16 rifle in the IDF, their past study of intricate Talmudic passages is assisting them today in turning into top-of-the-line combat soldiers.

Last week, soldiers from the battalion - also known as Netzah Yehuda - came in first place in a sharp-shooting course at the Adam Training Facility near Modi'in.

"Since the soldiers are haredi, they never really studied advanced math," the source said. "The course trainers broke their heads trying to figure out how the soldiers caught on so quickly until they realized that due to their experience studying Talmud it was a piece of cake for them to understand how to solve the complicated equations."

Widespread Slaughter Method Scrutinized for Alleged Cruelty

Rabbi Menachem Genack, the CEO of the Orthodox Union’s Kosher Division:

“This will not succeed unless we have the support of the Israeli companies, and that requires a push from the chief rabbis there,” Genack said.

Over the last year, Genack said, he has had numerous private talks about this issue with both Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, and Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi.

In late 2007, Metzger and Amar convened a meeting of rabbis in Israel to discuss the issue, according to people involved.

Afterwards, Genack said he received a letter in which he was assured that the Israeli chief rabbis were looking to change the practice. Just last week, Genack said he spoke with Metzger on the phone about pushing for change.

The Israeli animal rights group, Concern for Helping Animals in Israel, has recently written to both chief rabbis questioning whether the South American practice could be compatible with Jewish law.

The letter, which was written by Rabbi Adam Frank, an activist with the organization, asked: “Since less painful and more humane methods of animal restraint and treatment exist and are used in the kosher slaughter process, is the Shackling & Hoisting of a conscious animal an unnecessarily cruel practice, thus defining it as prohibited under Jewish law?”

Why do the OU and Israel's rabbinate condone barbarity?

By Rabbi Adam Frank, February 14, 2008

The writer is rabbi of Congregation Moreshet Yisrael in Jerusalem, Israel's flagship Masorti synagogue.

What does Jewish law have to say about animal welfare?

The law against unnecessary infliction of pain to animals applies not only to the animals' physical well being, but also to the animals' emotional well being.

If better systems exist for protecting the welfare of workers and animals, why do the Israeli and US kashrut authorities condone their continued systematic abuse in South America?

Judaism is prideful of the fact that Jewish law protects the rights of workers and protects against the unnecessary infliction of pain to an animal.

It is for these reasons that the exploitation of worker and animal welfare by current rabbinic leadership is so disappointing, and enraging.

The Jewish laity places its trust in rabbinic authority. Not only is a halachic cut assumed, but a kosher leadership is expected.

For its part, the Conservative movement in America is in the process of creating the Hehhsher Tzedek - a seal of approval of worker rights and animal welfare that will accompany kosher supervision stamps for qualifying kosher meat producers.

Still, the ability and responsibility to implement caring changes in kosher meat production is in the hands of the Israeli rabbinate and the OU - the two authorities who support the import of South American kosher meat for sale in their respective countries.

UTJ Opposes Bill to Disconnect Brain-Dead Patients from Life Support

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur February 14, 2008

During a rabbinical conference held at a Dead Sea hotel MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni delivered a speech in which he addressed the bill regarding brain-dead patients on respirators proposed by Otniel Schneller (Kadima), who was in attendance.

Rabbi Gafni objected to the position espoused by Schneller, who claimed that all gedolei Torah support the proposal.

Rabbi Gafni said that in fact the opposite is true.

Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita issued instructions to oppose the law, saying that according to halochoh as long as the heart continues to beat the patient is considered alive in every respect and it is strictly forbidden to deny medical treatment, and as such UTJ has decided to oppose the bill.

Rabbi Gafni even called on every family who faces such situations, chas vesholom, to demand full treatment for the patient based on legal rights.

Letter from HaRav Eliashiv shlita about Brain Death

I hereby reiterate my opinion, which I put on record on the eighteenth of Menachem Av 5751, that according to our holy Torah, as long as the heart beats, even though the patient has suffered brain death, there is no license whatsoever to remove any organ from his body.

May Hashem yisborach repair our nation's breaches.

(signed) Yosef Sholom Eliashiv

Ask the Rabbi: Organ donation

The writer, editor of, teaches at Yeshivat Hakotel and is pursuing a doctorate in Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe YD III:132) ruled in 1976 that "brain-stem death" fulfills the halachic criterion of death, even if the heart continues to beat from artificial respiration.

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel (1987) subsequently endorsed this position, and like Feinstein, called standard and non-experimental organ transplants a great mitzva. The Conservative and Reform movements also encourage organ donation.

One should settle in advance matters regarding life-and-death decisions, including signing an organ donor card, in careful consultation with family members and competent rabbinic authorities.

While I myself am a strong advocate of the "brain-stem death" criteria and organ donation, I encourage everyone to find out more information about this sensitive and important topic.

One good resource is the Halachic Organ Donor Society,

The rabbi lights the fuse

By Avshalom Vilan and Maurice Stroun, Haaretz February 18, 2008

Member of Knesset Avshalom Vilan is a member of Meretz-Yahad; Maurice Stroun is a researcher in biochemistry at the University of Geneva.

Ben-Gurion understood what Metzger, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and religious extremists down the line refuse to understand: In Jerusalem, only a political compromise that is completely separated from the religious conflict will work.

Israel's extremist rabbis and nationalist leaders who refuse to accept this fact will lead us to the edge of the abyss.

Keep the faith in Sderot

Sderot's population is overwhelmingly Sephardi and tends, therefore, to be more traditional and faith-oriented than average. As a result, it is natural that many turn to prayer even if observance of Orthodox practice is weak.

Surprisingly, despite the challenges it faces, Sderot does not have an active chief rabbi. Rabbi David Bar-Chen, a housebound octogenarian, is the town's official rabbi, but he is ill and inactive.

The appointment of new rabbis, both in Sderot and elsewhere, has been frozen since the dismantling of the Religious Affairs Ministry in 2003. Although the ministry was recently reestablished, Minister Yitzhak Cohen has yet to appoint rabbis.

Bible rapper infuses Jewish education with his rhymes

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz February 15, 2008

Matt Bar, 28, was born and raised in Iowa to a Reform family. He's taught at Reform and Conservative Hebrew schools, but at this point in his life, he says he's reluctant to identify with any particular movement.

"A movement doesn't grab me the way that Judaism grabs me," he explains.

Bar's next album-his fifth, but the first to deal exclusively with biblical themes-is due out this summer, and much of it has been underwritten by Kehillot B'Yachad, an organization that encourages Conservative and Reform congregations abroad to support non-Orthodox congregations in Israel.

He's also heading to the U.S. for a summer tour of Jewish camps and says hardly a day goes by when a Hebrew school in North America doesn't contact him.

El Al may offer recorded Torah lectures for fervently Orthodox passengers on its flights.

Though Israel's premier airline has long had an audio channel with music by religious Jewish artists, this has fallen short of demands by fervently Orthodox clients for educational content, Ma'ariv reported Monday.

“The company is certainly thinking of operating a special channel for the ultra-Orthodox sector on the VOD services on our planes. It is expected that establishment of the channel will take a few months,” the newspaper quoted El Al as saying in a statement.

The new channel, if instituted, would likely include the traditional "Daf Yomi" lesson covering a page of the Talmud each day.

Hillary news is fit to print in haredi paper, but not her photo

By Jacob Berkman, JTA February 12, 2008

[Hamodia] is attracting younger generations of Orthodox Jews who are moving to the right of their Modern Orthodox parents.

They became more fervently Orthodox after spending time studying in Israeli yeshivas, according to sociologist Samuel Heilman.

"These are people who are relatively new to this haredi outlook, and they need to know how to think and they need to know what" the haredi worldview includes, Heilman said in a phone interview from Israel, where he is on sabbatical.

"This is the kind of thing that in a different culture and society, they would learn on the street.

The decision by the haredi-oriented Web site to erase the face of distinguished law professor Ruth Gavison from its photo coverage of the Winograd Commission report typifies a regrettable trend toward using the religious concept of "modesty" as a cudgel in holding back the advancement of women.

But why are women's photos really banned? Is it really because women's photos are always salacious, or because acting in a way in which a media outlet would want to print your photo is in itself a violation of the code?

That is, seeing the photo of Ruth Gavison might inspire a young browser to intensify her studies and grow up to become a woman of distinction in the public sphere. Boys would also grow up recognizing that sometimes there are important women in government, in courts of law and in academia.

An Orthodox Revolution?

"Internal Popular Discourse in Israeli Haredi Society" Zalman Shazar Center, 2007, 346 pages.


He takes as his premise the idea that important parts of the Haredi community “are undergoing a selective process of Israelization, that is to say, an internalization of cultural values and patterns of behavior, the source of which is the surrounding society.”

According to Caplan, “this process is at odds with the separatist and isolationist goals that continue to characterize official Haredi rhetoric.” In other words, Caplan believes that there is a gap between the day-to-day life of Haredim and the ideology that purports to represent and define it.

In a rumination that appears at the end of the book, he asks whether “the hard core of Haredi society is showing any sense of commitment to Israeli society and a willingness to share the national burden?”

New religious party bids for Anglo support

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz February 15, 2008

A splinter religious party is luring Anglos with the prospects of influencing national politics.

Achi (My Brother) has launched registration drive to recruit English-speakers into its ranks. Prof. Israel Aumann, the U.S.-born Nobel Peace Prize winning game theorist, has already joined, according to the party.

"Via Achi we hope to have an Anglo in a serious position on a national level," said Beit Shemesh deputy mayor Shalom Lerner, who chairs the party's Anglo division.

MKs Effie Eitam and Yitzchak Levy formed the party in 2006 after quitting the National Religious Party-National Union Knesset bloc.

The drive is part of a larger attempt to "rejuvenate and unify the ranks of the nationalist camp," according to Achi.

New Player Calls for Unity in Religious-Zionist Political Camp

By Hillel Fendel, February 12, 2008

The new Achi Party has set itself a goal of revitalizing the religious-Zionist political camp, and is holding a national registration drive to this end.

Though the party is headed by veteran Knesset Members Effie Eitam and Yitzchak Levy, the two say they will support any leader chosen by the public in a primaries election.

Yitzchak Yosef: Rabbis encouraging Sephardic Jews to 'turn Ashkenazi'

By Neta Sela, February 14, 2008

Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef is fighting back. After taking fire from Ashkenazi rabbis on his rulings regarding the shmita year, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s son is waging a war of his own.

In a newsletter distributed by the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, Rabbi Yosef condemned Ashkenazi heads of yeshivas who are encouraging their Sephardic pupils to follow their customs and are ‘turning them Ashkenazi’ in their practices.

Haaretz Cartoon February 12, 2008 Daniella London-Dekel

“I need a new red line”

Just get out, now!

By Uzi Benziman, Haaretz February 13, 2008

Shas is an opposition party in practice, although it has sufficient audacity to continue benefiting from its place in government without accepting the collective responsibility that the position requires.

This approach is evident not only in its attitude to the question of the Gaza Strip and negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, but also in its demand for the restoration of stipends for children to the high levels they were at five years ago.

Such a move would constitute an abandonment of the economic policy that encouraged people to join the work force.

Shas also supports the initiative of United Torah Judaism that has called for an exemption for the Haredi education system from the requirement to include in its curriculum core subjects like math and English.

Haaretz cartoon February 18, 2008 Biderman
Now the adagio
Play some Zohar Argov!

Zionism`s New Challenge


Israel is home to three Jewish nations:1 The secular, the Haredi, and the national religious, all of whom are called “Israelis.”

Zionism has failed to mold them into one people.

The fashionable response to this failure is to dismiss the melting pot idea in favor of “multi-culturalism.” This is the liberal model, the “live and let live” approach.

In theory, it is wonderfully enlightened. In reality, it is lethal to Zionism.

ZOA to promote agenda with capital office

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz February 15, 2008

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has announced it will open a Jerusalem office later this month, in an attempt to promote legislation and lobby Knesset members that further ZOA's ideological mission.

The office, which Jeffrey Daube will head, plans to work closely with North American expatriates "to help empower this often politically underrepresented group of steadfast Zionists," stated the ZOA.

The New York based ZOA will also track the activities of "hostile NGOs and other like-minded anti-Israel agitators," as well as "develop proactive measures to mitigate their impact," the organization announced.

U.S.-born Daube, a professional educator, has been active pro-Israel bodies such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Palestinian Media Watch.

The Jerusalem Conference

February 19-20, 2008

Jerusalem: Eternal Undivided Capital City - Definition of the Jewish State & Nation

Aliya – Is It Still Vital To Israel?

Jerusalem: The Temple Mount and the Future of Jerusalem

Biblical hero Joseph 'was really a Muslim'

By Aaron Klein, WorldNetDailyFebruary 14, 2008

In the wake of an attempt by Palestinians to burn down Joseph's Tomb – Judaism's third holiest site – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction issued a statement denying it will help restore the shrine, referring to both the shrine and the biblical patriarch as "Muslim."

"Pay no attention to the rumors that we will work with Israel to restore the burial site of the holy Muslim Joseph," said the statement, issued from Nablus, the biblical city of Shechem. "We are going to guard this holy Muslim site."

New Yeshiva to Strengthen Jewish Presence in Yafo

By Baruch Gordon, February 12, 2008

A new Yeshiva of Higher Torah Learning for post-high school students will open in the ancient city of Yafo (Jaffa) in September 2008. Rabbi Eliyahu Mali of Bet El is leading the initiative alongside the existing Rosh Yehudi Jewish Outreach core group in the seaside southern neighborhood of Tel Aviv.

Once a flourishing spiritual center with over 100 worshippers, the Ohr Yisrael Synagogue now holds prayers only on the Sabbath and holidays with just over ten regular attendees.

The synagogue members, plagued with maintenance costs, reduced the size of the main sanctuary by building a wall down the middle of it.

Earthquake and the Temple Mount

By Zafrir Rinat and Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz February 16, 2008

Friday's earthquake shook open a large hole on the Temple Mount plaza, near the Dome of the Rock.

Al-Aqsa mosque officials belonging to the Islamic Movement's Northern Branch covered the hole with wooden planks following afternoon prayers.

The officials, who also said the quake caused cracks in several local residential buildings, said the hole was a meter deep, two meters long and meter and a half wide.

The Islamic Movement blamed Israel for the hole, saying Israel is digging tunnels in the area that undermine the stability in the area of the Al-Aqsa mosque. The organization urged Islamic states to take action to stop Israeli excavations in the area.

Photo: Maariv

The Moskowitz Prize for Zionism

The Moskowitz Prize for Zionism was established in recognition of the people who put Zionism into action in today's Israeli society – at times risking their own personal security, placing the collective before personal needs, and doing what it takes to ensure a strong, secure Jewish homeland.

The Moskowitz Prize for Zionism fund will grant an annual award to persons who best personify the essence of modern Zionism in Israel, providing innovative or exceptional activity that reflects the values and challenges that face Zionism today - in education, culture, settlement, social action and other spheres.

The Lion of Zion award - $100,000

Religion and State in Israel

February 18, 2008 (Section 2) (Continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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