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.

Religion and State in Israel - February 18, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

February 18, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Rabbinical courts' authority to be upgraded

By Tova Tzimuki, February 18, 2008

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation decided Monday to support a bill extending the authorities of rabbinical courts over all matters regarding marriage and divorce.

Should the bill pass its Knesset readings, it would serve to upgrade the rabbinical courts' judicial authority over seemingly civil matters, such as property settlements; and would allow them to issue subpoenas and warrants – just like the civil courts.

According to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima) initiated the bill contrary to Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann's stand on the matter.

"The (committee's) decision will change the status-quo regarding marriage and divorce," said Friedmann. "The bill gives (rabbinical) courts absolute authority and we must make sure this change doesn't benefit just one side."

The Justice Ministry further said that the bill presents a radical change in the rabbinical courts' authority, by giving them rule over issues which have nothing to do with their original mission.

Labor Knesset Members Ophir Pines-Paz and Shelly Yacimovich slammed the new bill, saying it harms women's status. The two called for an emergency Labor session on the matter:

"It is inconceivable that one of Labor's ministers would bring forwards a bill which goes against the coalition agreement and violates the status-quo," they said.

Bill to expand Rabbinical Courts jurisdiction

By Tomer Zarchin, Haaretz February 18, 2008

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill yesterday expanding the authority of rabbinical courts in property cases, over the objection of Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann.

According to the bill, a couple that signed a monetary agreement approved in a rabbinical divorce court have the right to agree to allow the rabbinical court to decide property issues after the divorce goes through.

The bill also gives rabbinical courts jurisdiction in civil matters as long as the parties approve and at least one of the parties is Jewish.

Metzger to remain chief rabbi despite Mazuz report

By Neta Sela, February 18, 2008

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger would be allowed to continue serving in his post despite a report by the attorney general that harshly criticized Metzger's conduct and called on him to resign, the committee on appointing rabbinical judges ruled Monday.

Following the decision, Metzger would also be permitted to assume the post of president of the supreme rabbinical court in place of current president, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Moshe Amar, as required by law.

Knesset votes against civil marriage

By Amnon Meranda, February 13, 2008

The Knesset on Wednesday rejected two bills calling for the recognition of couples not wed by an Orthodox rabbi.

The bills were submitted by Knesset Members David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Moshe Sharoni (Pensioners Party).

Fifty-nine MKs voted against Rotem's bill while 20 opposed it, and 48 voted against MK Sharoni's similar proposal while only 19 supported it.

Attorney Gilad Kariv of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) said in response that:

"the Israeli Knesset and government continue to abandon hundreds of thousands of citizens who cannot get married in Israel, while surrendering in a disrespectable manner to the Orthodox monopoly and its emissaries in the Knesset.
"The lawmakers' indifference will not prevent thousands of young couples from voting against this predatory monopoly, and marry overseas in foreign countries, until its fortified and corrupt walls collapse on [them]."
Civil Union legislative bill

By Amnon Meranda, February 12, 2008

"If the Knesset fails to approve this civil union, the attorney general will do so in two-three years, just like he did with the adoption by same-sex couples," warned the bill's initiator, Knesset Member David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu).

MK Rotem explained that "the bill allows interested couples to be registered as a married couple with all the implications and be eligible to all the rights and duties of a married man.

This will make life easier for many citizens forced to travel abroad to get married in a non-religious manner instead of doing it here in an organized way."

Will new Israeli agency bring solution for would-be converts?

By Dina Kraft, JTA February 11, 2008

A senior official in the Absorption Ministry told JTA the authority would only be a success if all its recommendations were implemented.

He said he was concerned that the recommendation for the appointment of so-called "friendly rabbis” who might make the process more welcoming and accepting had not yet been approved.

"If everything we recommended will be accepted, it will be nothing short of a revolution, but if they are not implemented the situation will be worse in the future than it is today," said the official, who insisted on anonymity.

Staunch Opposition Following Plan to Set Up Government Conversion Authority

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

When the Chalfon Committee was set up six months ago, the Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur, founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l, warned against the danger underlying ties with various government ministries, which are driven solely by a desire to increase the conversion rate.

According to the Vaad, one of the committee members, who wears a knitted kippah, tried in the past to set up a conversion system together with Reform and Conservative entities, claiming it was in accordance with halochoh, though gedolei Yisroel shlita have unanimously opposed it in clear-cut terms.

With the recent government decision, the Vaad reiterates that conversion cannot be used as a solution to deal with problems caused by bringing in hundreds of thousands of non-Jews in the last wave of immigration.

"People severed from any trace of Judaism cannot be expected to change their way of life and observe mitzvas fully, which is an unequivocal prerequisite for conversion and the lack of which invalidates conversions under all circumstances," says the Vaad Spokesman.

"The Chief Rabbinate must make this clear to government officials once and for all. No rabbi may agree to sit with any government official to discuss the issue of conversion, which is a purely halachic matter, with no room for outside interference."

Merely participating in committees whose sole intention is to introduce conversion leniencies is liable to create major stumbling blocks in the present and future, inundating Eretz Yisroel with hundreds of thousands of non-Jews possessing conversion certificates that are not worth the paper they're printed on, notes the Vaad.

At most there are only a few hundred non-Jews genuinely prepared to undergo conversions that are valid according to halochoh, i.e. by accepting all mitzvas in full. Therefore, says the Vaad, not only should the conversion system not be expanded, but it should even by reduced to a handful of fixed, reputable botei din.

The Vaad is calling on the Chief Rabbinate to openly sever all ties with various officials whose declared intent is solely to increase the number of highly questionable converts in Israel.

JA envoy to Venezuela charged over fake conversions

By Ruth Sinai and Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz February 14, 2008

Police said the rabbi was not recognized by the Israeli Rabbinate, and they have expanded inquiries to find out how officials from the Absorption and Interior ministries did not realize that the immigrants' conversions were fake.

Yair Redl, acting director of the Jewish Agency's Immigration and Absorption division, said the allegations against Architecter were unclear.

"The Interior Ministry officials are the ones who decide who can authorize a potential immigrant's conversion," he said. "Jewish Agency envoys act according to their instructions and all the permits are brought to Israel anyway."

Family in every respect

Haaretz Editorial, February 12, 2008

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz' decision to allow homosexuals to adopt children

Shas is not pleased, predictably, by the attorney general's decision, but it is hard to understand the conditioning that causes them to react with slander and curses every time homosexuals and lesbians are mentioned.

The chairman of Shas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai, has been quoted as having said that Mazuz's decision is "nauseating."

However, the only nauseating thing in the public discussion of homosexuals and lesbians is the remarks by religious public figures.

Taking on Halacha

Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz's decision this week to recognize same-sex couples as legitimate, normative families that are eligible to serve as adoptive parents sparked the requisite ranting from haredi and religious politicians.

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a senior member of Tzohar, an association of liberal Orthodox rabbis, said that he and other rabbis who field halachic questions via the Internet are beginning to grapple with a myriad of issues relating to homosexuality

According to Rabbi "Ron" - perhaps Israel's only outwardly gay Orthodox rabbi - gay Orthodox men are nowhere near the stage of setting up same-sex families and adopting children.

"Our battles are at a much more elementary level," he said. "We are trying to convince rabbis, educators, lay leaders and even the general public that homosexuality is not a mental illness."

Rabbi Ron said that one of the goals of the Internet site is to break down stereotypes and foster dialogue. "We want religious people to know that we want to adhere to Halacha. But we also want them to understand that a homosexual is born the way he is and has no choice."

He differentiates between the homosexual's identity and his or her actions.

"Judaism's main emphasis is on actions. We understand that, and we are not asking rabbis to permit anal sex or to make any changes in Halacha. We just want basic understanding."

Gay Orthodox group emerges on Web

Hod issued a 10-point letter to rabbis and educators in the Orthodox community asking for understanding and recognition of homosexuals' plight.

Some of the points include refraining from forcing homosexuals to marry the opposite sex, instead permitting homosexuals to be "married to the community" by devoting themselves to social activism; and differentiating between the prohibited act of anal sex and the permitted feelings of love that one man has for his male partner.

Reform Jews discuss aliya

At the recent biennial meeting of Reform Jews in San Diego, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, told more than 5,000 attendees that "Israel is the only place where a Jew can be a Jew in a completely unselfconscious manner."

But for panelists who spoke at this week's conference, including two female rabbis, Yoffie's remark wasn't persuasive.

After four years in Israel, one rabbi contemplated making aliya, but decided against it.

"Why, when I can live a full Jewish existence here, [the US] would I move to a place that doesn't recognize me as a rabbi?" she asked. "My congregants don't have an ethnic connection, and say: 'Why should I go somewhere where I can't practice?'"

Preview the Faces of Reform Aliyah

By Resa Davids. When Rabbi Stanely and Resa Davids retired, they bought a second home in Jerusalem and spend 6 months of the year there.

By Debra Sagan Massey. Debra, Oren and their two children live in the Reform community of Har Halutz in the Galilee.

By Gili Kirschen. Gili Kirschen lives in Jerusalem with her parents, Rich and Cara, sister Liron (10), brother Ayal (7) and her dog Michigan. She is an Eighth Grade student at the Beit Chinuch School.

By Aaron Press Taylor. Aaron is a student at Brandies University, a former Meitav Fellow, and an alumnus of the Reform Movement's long-term Israel programs.

U.S. Reform leader says supports concessions on Jerusalem

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz February 17, 2008

The president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, promised Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week that his movement would support the government if a peace treaty with the Palestinians is reached, including concessions in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Yoffie told Haaretz that if the Israeli right wing mobilizes its supporters in the United States against such an agreement, the Reform Movement would respond in kind.

Israel needs a more idealistic society

By Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, Jonathan Sacks, February 8, 2008

What if the leaders of the Charedi community were to rule that every yeshiva student must spend 10 per cent of his time working with secular Israelis among the poor, or in hospitals?

What if secular universities required their students to do social work within the Charedi community?

What if a new secular-religious synthesis were to emerge, built on shared humanitarian principles and a strong sense of Jewish heritage?

What if rabbis were to lead the way in promoting citizenship, parenthood, neighbourliness, civility, community service and our responsibilities to the vulnerable and disadvantaged?

What if secularists were to insist that familiarity with our religious classics is an essential part of Jewish literacy?

What if the focus of Zionism was to turn from statehood to society-building, from contract to covenant?

“Ramat Gan school forbids prayer”

Click here for Arutz 7 Video

Interview with Dr. Yitzhak Klein, Director of the Israel Policy Center

See also:

Education Ministry Allows Students at Government Schools to Pray

Hard talk - A. B. Yehoshua

By Gidi Weitz and Dror Mishani, Haaretz February 15, 2008

Writer A. B. Yehoshua:

"The Jew in the disapora is essentially a free Jew, he's free from another Jew, while here we are ruled by Jews.

Jews can send us to prison, and Jews send us to war, impose taxes on us, Jews evict us from our homes. All of these things that are completely new elements in the 2,000 years since the destruction of the Temple.

I'm just saying: You are partial Jews on this level in which I contend with the totality of the reality and I am in a binding relationship among Jews, while you - no Jew can touch you, no Jew can impose anything on you, can compel you to do anything. It's all basically up to you. That's the point."

Aliyah is no longer main focus of Jewish Agency

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz February 13, 2008

"They sent me here to bring Jews to Israel, and now the agency chairman comes along and talks to us about the need to work on preserving existing communities. And what about Zionism?

JAFI Chairman Zeev Bielski said that the agency would continue to view encouraging immigration as its "primary mission," but that a shaliach should also see himself as "an emissary of Jewish identity."

Have Stethoscope, Will Travel

By Stewart Ain, The Jewish Week February 13, 2008

Rosner, 34, is one of several dozen doctors to show interest in the fellowship, being offered by the Legacy Heritage Foundation through Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization dedicated to revitalizing aliyah from North America and the United Kingdom.

The grant, in the form of an initial fellowship upon arrival in Israel and monthly supplemental income for the first two years, totals about $60,000. It is available to doctors under the age of 45 who are willing to practice at least nine months a year in Israel.

Bans are not Chinuch

By Jonathan Rosenblum, Mishpacha February 13, 2008

Separate seating for men and women on buses serving chareidi neighborhoods is a fine thing, especially during the early afternoon hours when the buses are full both of avreichim and seminary students finishing their school day.

But I wonder whether one yeshiva bochur ever went off-the-derech because of the absence of such a separation or will be saved by their existence.

Given the proliferation of temptations all around, such separations cannot substitute for learning to keep our eyes in our Gemara and our thoughts where they should be.

Beitar Illit Introduces Mehadrin Bus Arrangement

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

Beitar Illit's new bus company, Illit, recently began operating 12 of the interurban lines with a total of some 400 runs per day according to arrangements to have women board and step off the bus using the back door.

Known as the Mehadrin arrangement, it has the backing of gedolei Yisroel shlita as well as the local rabbonim, who encouraged the move to reinforce the bounds of modesty and holiness in the city.

Last week the city's Mehadrin Committee met with local rabbonim and leaders to make final arrangements for the change.

February 18, 2008 (Section 1) (Continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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