Monday, June 30, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - June 30, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

June 30, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Zealots in the Public Sphere

By Susan Weiss, Opinion June 23, 2008

Susan Weiss is Executive Director of the Center for Women's Justice, which petitioned the High Court of Justice on behalf of the woman whose conversion was effectively annulled by the Supreme Rabbinic Court.

The latest ruling by the Supreme Rabbinic Court, which challenges the status of an Orthodox institution, goes beyond the perennial questioning of Reform and Conservative conversions.

…The rabbis are not an independent, private arbitration panel.

They sit under the Seal of the State of Israel, which, incidentally, also pays their not insignificant salaries.

They cannot casually dismiss the state-sanctioned, Orthodox conversions by Rabbi Druckman.

Nor can they impose their standards of "Who is a Jew?" on all the rest of us Israelis, neither for the purposes of citizenship nor for setting the parameters for state-authorized conversion.

The Jewish Agency to the Government of Israel: Bring Druckman Back

By Neta Sela, (Hebrew) June 24, 2008

In a conversation with Ynet, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, [Associate Director of the Israel Religious Action Center], said that, to his dismay, "despite the shakeups that have taken place in terms of conversion, it seems that in the end, there are still people within the Jewish Agency that think everything can go ahead as normal and that all that is needed is to tell the government to bring Rabbi Druckman back and add volunteer rabbis and the problem will be solved."

According to Kariv, this viewpoint is absurd.

"The heads of the Jewish Agency continue to speak about Rabbi Amar as someone who will solve the problem of conversion in Israel, when it is clear that Rabbi Amar, even if he doesn't mean to be, is part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Rabbi Sherman's decision proved that the link between the conversion process and the rabbinical courts is a disaster. The rabbinical courts are controlled by the ultra-Orthodox establishment which is not interested in conversion of the new immigrants and which refuses to adopt a policy of leniency regarding conversion.

As long as the Jewish Agency is not prepared to take far-reaching steps, such as supporting an intra-stream independent conversion court, the problem will not be solved.

In order to solve the problem of conversion, the ultra-Orthodox monopoly on conversion must be broken", Kariv said and added that "the last ten years have shown that not only has the government's involvement not helped the conversion process, it has even damaged it."

Justice Minister: Integrate women into rabbinical courts

By Kobi Nahshoni, June 30, 2008

Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann has called for the integration of women into rabbinical courts.

"The rabbinical courts are controlled and run by a certain group. I would be happy to see women there as well, even if they belong to the same group," Friedmann said during a meeting of the Knesset's State Control Committee.

Court stymies Shas over J’lem rabbi post

By Yair Ettinger, June 27, 2008

A High Court of Justice ruling this week is likely to undermine Shas' efforts to ensure the appointment of the son of movement spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, as Jerusalem municipal rabbi. Shas has cited control over city rabbi appointments as a key reason the party stays in the Olmert coalition.

In a response to a petition by Jerusalem opposition council members Nir Barkat and Uri Ariel, the court ordered Minister for Religious Services Yitzhak Cohen to "abstain from any measure to appoint municipal rabbis according to new regulations" which Cohen published six months ago.

Barkat and Ariel argued that despite changes, the new regulations are still unconstitutional, and they demanded the rabbi appointments not be made until after November city elections. They also demand that army service be a prerequisite to serving in the position.

One Couple, Two Weddings

By Michele Chabin, June 25, 2008

A media campaign by the Masorti/Conservative movement in Israel promoting non-Orthodox weddings appears to be attracting young engaged couples who might otherwise forgo a religious wedding.

The campaign is aimed at the nearly 20 percent of Israeli couples who, though they are eligible to marry under the auspices of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate (which has sole jurisdiction over Jewish marriages), opt for a civil wedding performed overseas, usually in nearby Cyprus.

The Wedding Game Web site, which is in Hebrew only, encourages prospective brides and grooms to choose between some eclectic wedding venues before getting down to the nitty-gritty.

'Metzger rumors ruin morale at work'

By Matthew Wagner, June 29, 2008

Rabbis and employees within the Chief Rabbinate said Sunday that the latest allegations published in the local news media against Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger have dealt a serious blow to worker motivation.

…After he won in court, annulling Mazuz's recommendation, Metzger requested to be reinstated as a rabbinical judge. The council for the appointment of judges granted his request.

Ometz, a legal watchdog organization, is now contesting his reinstatement. In two weeks, the High Court is due to hear the group's petition against Metzger.

No religious bloc in sight

By Nadav Shragai, Opinion June 27, 2008

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, who heads the Petah Tikva hesder yeshiva:

"Those who are not willing to allow a woman into the Knesset cannot unite with us," said Cherlow. "We will not sell off 51 percent of religious Zionism in the name of unity."

Rabbi Hagai Gross - the former director of the Tzohar organization:

Gross suggested considering the option of boycotting the family celebrations of ultra-Orthodox relatives "if the kashrut there does not meet our demands," or explaining to people collecting money for the ultra-Orthodox community, "who knock on our doors from time to time," that given the spiritual war the ultra-Orthodox have declared on the religious Zionist Torah world, "we will not be able to help you this time."

Save us from Shas's narrow interests

By Jeff Barak, Opinion June 24, 2008

The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post

As the main political parties gear up tomorrow in the Knesset for what seems increasingly like elections in November, Labor would do well to consider the potential of the anti-haredi vote.

The Rabbinical Court of Appeals' recent despicable decision to nullify the thousands of conversions carried out under the auspices of the state-sponsored Conversion Authority provides yet another example of the pernicious influence of haredi leaders on Israeli life, in which the values of an extreme minority are placed over and above the interests of the wider public.

Messianics to protest 'discrimination'

By Matthew Wagner, June 26, 2008

A contingent of about 300 Messianic Jews from the US will protest this weekend against what they call Israel's discriminatory immigration policy against Jews who believe that Jesus is the messiah.

The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, an umbrella body for about 80 US congregations, is holding a three-day conference in Jerusalem that starts Thursday

"We are planning to call on the Israeli government to address the problem of discrimination against Messianic Jews who wish to make aliya," said Rabbi Russ Resnik, executive director of the US-based Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations.

Knesset gives ultra-Orthodox high schools green light to ignore core curriculum

By Or Kashti, June 25, 2008

The ultra-Orthodox MKs advanced the legislation in the wake of a High Court petition submitted by the Secondary School Teachers Association and the Israel Religious Action Center, the Israeli Reform movement's legal advocacy arm, in an effort to compel the Education Ministry to implement a 2004 High Court verdict stating that the government should stop funding schools that do not teach the core curriculum.

Israel Religious Action Center associate director Rabbi Gilad Kariv called the bill "wanton and dangerous" and said allowing the ultra-Orthodox schools to refuse to teach the core curriculum ultimately perpetuates poverty among the ultra-Orthodox.

"The bill sentences tens of thousands of young people to a life of poverty, and perpetuates their hostility to democratic values," he said.

Haredi rally celebrating independent education draws thousands

By Matthew Wagner, June 23, 2008

Thousands of pale-skinned yeshiva boys smeared with sunscreen lotion gathered Monday in the hot Jerusalem sun to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of an educational system belonging to the most anti-Zionist stream of Orthodox Judaism in the world.

The school system, funded primarily by the Satmar Hassidic communities in New York, Antwerp and a few other cities, teaches in Yiddish and says it refuses to receive money from the State of Israel for theological and ideological reasons.

However, sources told The Jerusalem Post that the "independent" school system does receive state funds indirectly.

Schools that belong to the system, which is run by the Edah Haredit, an umbrella organization of Hassidic sects and fanatic Lithuanian streams of Judaism, register their students in schools that do receive money from the state.

These students, who are registered but do not attend, are known as nefashot ("souls") or malachim ("angels").

The state funds received for these souls, or angels, is then transferred to the Edah Haredit schools.

Yeshivos Ketanos Funding Bill Passed in First Reading

By Eliezer Rauchberger, June 26, 2008

Chareidi MKs scored a major achievement: on Tuesday the Knesset plenum unanimously passed in a first reading the Educational Institutions for Special Cultures bill, which is designed to provide budget arrangements for the yeshivos ketanos. The wording of the bill was approved by the Rabbinical Committee that has been closely following the issue.

Twenty-three MKs from UTJ, Shas, Likud, Kadima, Labor and HaIchud HaLeumi-NRP voted in favor of the bill.

According to the bill, the yeshivos ketanos would receive 60 percent of the per-student funding given to comparable government schools. Although the nature of the education is similar, in that both institutions aim at producing comparable academic development in their students, the per student cost is generally lower at yeshivas since they have fewer expensive non-core activities than a regular high school.

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, who presented the bill for UTJ, said, “This is a bill we didn't want to have to pass, but which was made necessary following the High Court petition [by the Israeli Reform movement] and because without this law the yeshivos ketanos would not have been able to receive funding in the coming academic year.”

Critical dialogue

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 27, 2008

Israel already subsidizes one main non-Zionist group to the tune of billions of shekels annually, the ultra-Orthodox education system.

It could be argued of course that this money goes to Israeli citizens, who have a right to an education according to their beliefs, but the state-funded Haredi yeshivot and seminars also serve tens of thousands of students from abroad.

The Haredim don't need Zionism for their connection with the Holy Land, but thanks to the power of the non-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox parties, taxpayers' money has gone a long way to bolster that contact. The left-wing, secular non-Zionists have no such political clout.

Playing his cards right?

By Peggy Cidor, June 30, 2008

Even though Lupolianski is not technically a mayoral candidate, it's no secret he wants the job.

As such, his strategy has been to prove to the haredi rabbis that he is the only "acceptable" haredi around to represent the city's non-haredim.

But here Lupolianski walks a fine line, since his acceptability in the eyes of part of the non-haredi sector makes him suspect among his constituency.

Jewish Agency, facing budget crunch, is buoyed by Olmert's ideas

By Dina Kraft, June 24, 2008

Nobody said it would be easy. The Jewish Agency is running a deficit this year of roughly $25 million, and expects a budget shortfall of $45 million in 2009.

…Members approved a resolution that called for addressing the anticipated $45 million deficit in the '09 budget by working on raising another $8.5 million and cutting administrative and overhead costs by $7.5 million. The latter would include a hiring freeze and perhaps firing of staff.

Another $29 million in cutbacks was recommended for programming in various departments. The Aliyah and Absorption Department would suffer the steepest cuts, $6.2 million, according to the recommendations adopted.

The cuts reflect a significant downturn in aliyah in recent years, as mass immigration movements, like those from the former Soviet Union, have dried up.

Israel-Diaspora relations in the post-Olmert era: Uncertainty abounds

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 25, 2008

The plan is to be presented in eight months, but while members of the board of governors were queuing up to pay tribute to Olmert and his speech, some more experienced Jewish Agency veterans were less complimentary off-record.

"The speech and the idea behind it are both wonderful," said one of them, "but it will take at least an extra NIS 500 million per year and I don't believe that the treasury will come up with the money, with Olmert in his current political situation."

Agency: Gov't funds for Diaspora likely won't come till '10

By Haviv Rettig, June 25, 2008

Israel will only begin investing massively in Diaspora Jewish education - a new initiative announced by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday - in 2010, said Alan Hoffman, director-general of the Jewish Agency Department for Jewish-Zionist Education and one of the senior planners of the initiative.

Ideas the committee will examine include a birthright-like program for teachers, a "reverse birthright" for Israeli youth, an on-line Jewish university and Israel cultural centers in cities with large Jewish populations.

JDC-Jewish Agency Deal Falls Through

By Jacob Berkman, June 25, 2008

A deal between the two overseas arms of the North American federation system over how to split the money they receive from the federations apparently has fallen through over a disagreement over which should fund World ORT.

The Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee have been negotiating since November over how to divide the approximate $180 million per year for their core budgets from the federations.

Olmert Calls for New Israel-Diaspora Ties

One day after Olmert’s speech, but independently from it, Yehezkel Dror, founding president of Israel’s Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, made a similar proposal.

Dror, acting as an individual, proposed a coordination group consisting of Diaspora Jewish organizations and religious streams and also Israeli government representatives.

The head of the group would participate in government deliberations to represent the interests of world Jewry. Dror suggested that the body be funded to the tune of $1 billion.

Half would come from Diaspora Jews and half from the Israeli government, and $100 million would go to non-Jews in Israel.

Israel's leaders awaken to a new Jewish world

By Haviv Rettig, Opinion June 24, 2008

There must be a restructuring of the approach to the Diaspora that seeks to make the relationship a vehicle of meaning, of culture, a means of translating between the two major surviving Jewish experiences of the 20th century.

Now that the intellectual breakthrough has been made, will Israel's leadership, together with the old leviathan of classical Zionism, the Jewish Agency (here representing the Diaspora), have the wisdom to do it right?

Top Orthodox New York personalities set to make aliya

By Michal Lando, June 26, 2008

Rabbi Ari Berman had until June 1 to decide whether he would make Israel his permanent home. That's the deadline his synagogue, The Jewish Center, one of the largest modern Orthodox synagogues in the US, gave him when he took a sabbatical last year and advised them he might never come back.

He did come back, but only to say good-bye.

Other Orthodox rabbis who are making aliya this year include:

Rabbi Shalom Rosner, Rabbi of Woodmere Congregation in Long Island, who heads the Beit Midrash program at Yeshiva University, who is moving to Nofe Hashemesh, a new part of Beit Shemesh where he will be a rabbi of a new synagogue;

Rabbi Dovid Wadler, principal at Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School in Highland Park, NJ;

and Rabbi David Silverstein, a teacher at SAR, a yeshiva school in Riverdale, NY and assistant rabbi at Riverdale Jewish Center, who will be joining Yeshivat Hesder in Petah Tikva.

Jenny Rosenfeld, 27, who has worked to break the taboos on talking about sexuality in the Orthodox world, will also be among this year's olim, with her husband Pinchas Roth, who made aliya at 10, and their three-month-old daughter, Neshama.

Rosenfeld will be a research fellow at the Hartman Institute, and Roth will pursue a doctorate at Hebrew University.

Religion and State in Israel

June 30, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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