Monday, August 11, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - August 11, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

August 11, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Chief Rabbi agrees to new conversion committee

By Matthew Wagner, August 6, 2008

After fighting the move for over a month, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar finally caved in Monday night and approved the appointment of two independent-minded members to a five-person committee tasked with the job of choosing a new head for the Conversion Authority.

The two additional members will be law Prof. Yedidya Stern of Bar-Ilan University and Mirla Gal, former director-general of the Absorption Ministry.

The other members of the committee include Amar, who is also the chairman, Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yehezkel and Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander.

Amar had hoped to choose two people of his own liking, thus giving him the majority in the committee.

Conversion crisis turns physical

By Yair Ettinger, August 6, 2008

The conversion crisis that has set the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox camps at odds spilled over into a fistfight yesterday at Mossad Harav Kook in Jerusalem, an institution identified with Orthodox Zionism.

The brawl broke out during a conference speech by a Rabbinic High Court judge, Rabbi Avraham Sherman, who had been invited to speak about his controversial ruling that conversions performed by Rabbi Haim Druckman's special conversion court are null and void.

Druckman supporters waved placards and heckled Sherman, prompting an uproar that escalated to violence.

Judge urges haredi conversion primacy

By Matthew Wagner, August 7, 2008

"On questions that deal with the future of the entire Jewish people, the great halachic sages of the generation must be consulted," Rabbi Avraham Sherman said.

"I call on religious Zionist rabbis to meet with the great rabbis of our day to reach an agreement on the issue of conversions."

"In the modern era the great rabbis see converts as a potential danger to the spiritual purity of the Jewish people," he said.

"Too often in the rabbinical courts we come across supposed converts who never had the intention of observing an Orthodox way of life. This should concern all Jews, haredi and religious Zionist alike. We must unite and make sure that no considerations foreign to Halacha taint the conversion process."

Yosef's blessing of Bibi stirs up Shas supporters

By Matthew Wagner, August 4, 2008

One day after Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef publicly blessed Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu for his "secret gestures" to strengthen Torah study, sources close to Shas were split on how to interpret Yosef's comments.

“Paying his dues”

Haaretz cartoon by Amos Biderman August 5, 2008

Proposed ketubah addendum would annul marriage if you refuse divorce

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 5, 2008

A select group of rabbis and Jewish theologians attended a clandestine gathering at Britain's Manchester University some 10 days ago, to begin formulating solutions to the phenomenon of women denied a Jewish bill of divorce.

Participants included Rabbi Shlomo Daichovsky, the most veteran judge at the rabbinic High Court in Jerusalem, and Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen, chief rabbi of Haifa and a member of the Rabbinate's supreme council.

Besides rabbis Daichovsky and Cohen, veteran senior members of the rabbinic establishment in Israel, the meeting was attended by Efrat's Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi Michael J. Broyde, a member of the Rabbinical Council of America, and others.

The preferred proposal at the meeting was to draft an addendum to the ketubah, or Jewish marriage contract, that would make it possible to annul the marriage if a spouse is refused a divorce.

'The rabbis treated me like I was air'

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 5, 2008

A possible solution in the offing to the problem of get denial could help women who marry in the future, but will come too late for Bat Sheva Gabai and other women like her.

"The rabbinic courts administration does not include in these figures thousands of women who are in negotiations over distribution of assets, and are forced to forgo enormous sums to win a get," says Susan Weiss, who heads The Center for Women's Justice.

"In practice every woman is potentially get-denied because the man has unlimited bargaining power, since under Jewish law he does not need a get to live with another woman, and any children born to them would not be considered mamzers," a form of illegitimacy.

Video: Israelis mark Tisha B'Av

IBA News August 10, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

Poll: What will cause Jerusalem’s 3rd destruction? August 10, 2008

A survey conducted for Ynet’s Jewish section and the Gesher Organization for Tisha B'Av.

Seventeen percent believe that designating the city solely for religious and ultra-Orthodox populations is more worrisome.

…Amongst the secular participants, however, the issue of splitting Jerusalem received first place in a narrow victory since 29% believe that the transformation of Jerusalem into a completely haredi and religious city is more dangerous.

Poll: Secular candidate would crush Haredi MK in Jerusalem mayoral elections

By Yair Ettinger, August 6, 2008

Secular candidate Nir Barkat would defeat the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) MK Meir Porush by more than 20 percent if Jerusalem were to hold mayoral elections today, two recent surveys show.

Haredi MK tapped as candidate for Jerusalem mayor poses 'real test' for secular

By Yair Ettinger, August 6, 2008

MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) appears to be the ultra-Orthodox candidate for Jerusalem mayor, replacing the previous ultra-Orthodox choice of Uri Lupolianski, the incumbent mayor.

The ultra-Orthodox are well aware that Porush is totally different from the smiling Lupolianski.

"Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox pet is going home, and now comes the real thing," said ultra-Orthodox journalist Yossi Elituv.

"Now the secular public in the city is facing a real test: Will it be able to accept a Haredi with a beard to the floor and all the stereotypes? Porush is not a pet.

He will hold the reins in his hand, transfer empty secular schools to the ultra-Orthodox. He has the motivation to conquer the city, not just on paper."

Musical seats

By Peggy Cidor, August 7, 2008

"Lupolianski didn't bring us [haredim] jobs or any benefits," a prominent haredi businessman said this week.

Indeed, Lupolianski steered clear of cronyism, but that's expected to change with Porush.

"The only thing that could save Porush is the usual mistake by the secular public: to field more than one candidate. As far as I can see, I think Porush can rely on the secular Jerusalemites [to do so]; we have already heard of three different candidates."

NRP, NU step up efforts to create new broad traditional list

By Matthew Wagner, August 10, 2008

The National Religious Party and the National Union have stepped up efforts to create a unified electoral list that would represent the broadest possible constituency of religious and traditional voters, as an early election becomes increasingly likely, sources close to the negotiations said Sunday.

…Some of those mentioned as possible committee members include singer Yehoram Gaon; Rabbi Shmuel Zafrani, an adviser to former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu; and Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, one of the heads of the Petah Tikva Yeshiva.

Cabinet Approves Incentive to Above-Ground Burial

By Yechiel Spira, August 8, 2008

The cabinet this week approved giving a NIS 1,000 incentive to families agreeing to above-ground burial, a reality that began a number of years ago, a result of the critical shortage of in-ground burial plots.

The weekly HaShavua chareidi newspaper reports that 87% of the population is willing to accept above-ground burial.

The Chief Rabbinate Religious Council and other rabbonim have ruled there is no halachic reason against multi-level burials.

Past Perfect: Legislating or persuading

By Rabbi Berel Wein, Opinion August 7, 2008

The writer is a noted scholar, historian, speaker and educator.

But just as religious coercion is futile and harmful, secular coercion is also futile and harmful.

These issues are not a matter of legislation, decrees and governmental fiat. They are a matter of reasoned discussion and persuasion.

It may be that the haredi school system is unchangeable by any means. If so, that is really their choice in life.

The Haredim Want to Learn

By Dan Kaufman, (Hebrew) August 7, 2008

The writer is a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and a lecturer at Sapir College

Columns (from rt. to left): Level of Interest; Computers; Math; English

Rows: Interested/Very Interested in Studying; Somewhat Interested; Not Interested

Israel's greatest untapped source of brainpower

I agree that democratic theory does not mandate government funding of private education.

Nevertheless, there are compelling public policy grounds to justify the continual funding of haredi post-elementary education.

…The fastest way to halt the growing trend of haredi men following haredi women into the workforce would be a frontal attack on the haredi education system. That, as much as her multiculturalism, explains Yuli Tamir's surprising defense of the yeshiva ketana system.

Exclusively inclusive: The divisive education law

The writer is a senior research fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

Instead of demanding that the law be more thoroughly implemented, MKs Esterina Tartman and Rabbi Michael Melchior, joined by members of all factions, pushed through a bill that will weaken the system, enervate the periphery, and direct more state resources to groups already blessed with cultural and economic capital.

The sponsors’ declared intention is admirable: to bolster Jewish studies and promote a rapprochement between the religious and the secular.

But not only will the law fail to achieve its sponsors' goals, it will curtail Jewish studies in much of the state system and increase the polarization between sectors of Israeli society.

Little Bat-El aims for taekwondo gold

By Haaretz Staff and Reuters August 5, 2008

While most top Israeli athletes are largely secular, Gatterer is an observant Jew who does not travel by car on the Sabbath and often has to walk long distances to her competition venue. At Beijing, Gatterer will compete on a Thursday.

Kashruth has been an issue, and Gatterer has become accustomed to taking a suitcase full of kosher food with her. In Beijing, she plans to take some of her own food although kosher fare will also be provided by the organizers, an Israeli Olympic official said.

Peres to participate in Tisha B'Av services in Beijing

President Shimon Peres, who will be in the Chinese capital as guest of the Chinese Government for the opening of the 2008 Olympics, will be joined by Chabad Rabbi Shimon Freundlich at a reading of the Book of Lamentations on Saturday night.

Aside from that, there will be no kashrut problems for the president or any other visitors to Beijing who observe the Jewish dietary laws.

Dini's Kosher Restaurant which is under Freundlich's certification and across the road from the American Embassy has a complete selection of Jewish, Chinese and Western food which it can serve in its large dining area or send vacuum packed to hotels not only in Beijing but anywhere in China.

Israeli Olympic athlete kicks boys but keeps kosher

By Moriah Zeltser Volshtein, August 5, 2008

What about practice or competitions held on Saturday?

“There’s no practice on Saturday. And my Olympic matches don’t fall on Saturdays. We checked it.”

But if they were holding Saturday competitions, would you have given up on Beijing?

“I compete on Saturdays,” Gaterer answered frankly. “I don’t see a contradiction. I don’t drive to the competitions, they’re no a monetary prizes, the referees are gentiles. The only issue is food and I bring hot (instant) cups because there’s no kosher food.”

Religion and State in Israel

August 11, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Religion and State in Israel - August 11, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

August 11, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

US Reform launches a new Israel 'family experience'

By Haviv Rettig, August 8, 2008

"Reform Family Experience: Move Beyond the Tour Bus"

According to Rabbi Andrew Davids, executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), the trip is part of a four-year-old initiative to strengthen the Reform connection to Israel.

"We believe Reform Jewish life has a set of values that can contribute to the Zionist dream," he says, particularly in Israel's grappling with social issues such as growing economic disparities and the difficulties faced by new immigrants.

Paula Edelstein, who serves as co-chair of the Immigration and Absorption Committee of the Jewish Agency and is a representative of the Reform movement on the agency's Zionist Executive, agrees.

"Over the years we've seen a new leadership in the Reform movement, people who lived here [in Israel]," she notes.

Now, she says, "there is a real commitment in the movement to exposing [Reform Jews] to the possibility of aliya."

Local haredi boycott on supermarket chain

By Neta Sela, August 10, 2008

Following an announcement made to the entire Shabbat-keeping public to ban all businesses owned by businessman Dudi Weissman, haredi rabbis are now beginning to institute local boycotts.

…All of Ashdod’s ultra-Orthodox rabbis signed the notice which stated that the entire population should avoid buying products from this business group and especially from the Alon company which runs AM:PM, the Dor Alon petrol company, and the Blue Square, Shefa Shuk and Mega supermarkets.

State saves NIS 19 billion due to cut in child allowances since 2002

By Shahar Ilan, August 10, 2008

The cost of going back to the situation before the Halpert law would be around NIS 2.3 billion.

Shas presents restoring the cuts as an effort on behalf of all of Israel's children. But a study by Michal Ophir of the NII published last year reveals that all communities where there are a high number of families of five children or more are Bedouin or ultra-Orthodox.

These include ultra-Orthodox Beitar Illit, where 42.5 percent of families have five or more children; the Bedouin town of Rahat, where the figure is 40.5 percent, the Arab community of Arara, with 47.4 percent of families in that category, and the ultra-Orthodox Modi'in Illit, with 34 percent of families with five or more children.

Big Brother in Beitar

By Daniel Eidensohn, August 8, 2008

[Please note that the translations posted are copyrighted material by Daniel Eidensohn]

Important Announcement to Landlords and Sellers

[Translation of flier]

“As everyone knows a committee has been established in Beitar under the auspices of the rabbinical authorities to supervise the quality of life in our community and to monitor all events in the city in order to maintain its holiness.

We know that there are families who rent out their apartments without our approval and as a result undesirable families move into our community.

We are putting everyone on notice that these landlords and sellers must be revealed and publicized as disobeying the rabbis of the city. Furthermore all the expenses for canceling the contract or lease is their sole responsibility.”

[Translation of flier]

“Do you know about a spiritual hazard?

Please put our special number 580-0777 in your cell phone and any problematic occurrences that you are aware of should be reported immediately to us - 24 hours a day.”

Let the Sun Shine

Issue 9, August 18, 2008 The Jerusalem Report

The actions of a small group of religious zealots have caused tremors in the tranquil homes and gardens of the upmarket suburb of Ramat Beit Shemesh.

Tel Aviv University Jewish history professor David Assaf:

Mainstream ultra-Orthodox silence in Beit Shemesh over zealot aggression, he says, may be part of a wider strategy on that group to "flush out the modern Orthodox like they did in Har Nof," an ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem suburb largely cleansed of moderate Orthodox and secular residents

Last year, Nofei Aviv resident Ra'anan co-founded with Catriel Lev and others an Action Committee Against Violence in Beit Shemesh.

"The purpose of the rally was to protest against mainstream ultra-Orthodox silence against the violence."

'Modesty policeman' arrested on suspicion of beating woman

Highlighting what may be a growing trend in fanaticism, a 28-year-old resident of Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood has been arrested for attacking a woman as part of his activity in the "tznius patrol" or modesty police.

Elhanan Buzaglo appeared in Jerusalem District Court on Sunday to answer charges stemming from a June 2008 home invasion in which a young woman was reportedly beaten by a group of ultra-Orthodox young men.

The woman had apparently been seen in the company of married men from the community.

Details of the investigation, which began a month and a half ago, reveal that members of the tznius patrol entered the woman's home and demanded that she move out, telling her that residents of the neighborhood had complained about her.

After the woman refused to do so, Buzaglo and two other men from the patrol allegedly attacked her. In addition, a third member of the patrol is suspected of stealing two cell phones from the woman's apartment during the fray.

Ultra-Orthodox 'Modesty Guard' suspected in beating of J'lem woman

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 August 7, 2008

Click here for VIDEO (interview with victim)

Charish Marked as the Next Chareidi City

By Yechiel Spira, August 11, 2008

Charish residents are planning to fight a government decision to build 10,000 units for the chareidi sector in their municipality, marked to become the next major chareidi city.

Residents are angered over what they view as a unilateral decision of the Housing Ministry, one that does not consider their way of life or future plans.

Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim is working closely with UTJ MK Rabbi Meir Porush, and they hope to soon begin selling the first 3,000 units. Charish is located near Nachal Iron (Wadi Ara), in proximity to Highway 6 (Yitzchak Rabin Highway).

Excellence Nessuah wins ultra-Orthodox Badatz approval for five mutual funds

By Nati Toker, August 6, 2008

Investment house Excellence Nessuah has received a stamp of approval from the ultra-Orthodox Badatz organization for five of its mutual funds that invest according to Jewish law.

Excellence Nessuah is the first investment house to receive approval from Badatz's committee for regulating investments and finance. Excellence now plans to launch a broad marketing campaign targeting the haredi community.

Redeem Ethiopian captives

By Rabbi Jerome Epstein Opinion August 7, 2008

Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein is executive vice-president of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the association of Conservative congregations in North America

In bringing the rest of the Ethiopian Jewish community waiting in misery in Gondar to rejoin their immediate families and the rest of the Jewish world in Israel, we are doing God’s work. It is a tragic irony that we must be reminded to do that work.

Major phase of Ethiopian aliyah ends, but advocates push for more

By Uriel Heilman, August 5, 2008

For now, it’s not clear when Israel will begin reviewing the 1,400 petitioners for their eligibility to make aliyah. And though Israeli officials have no obligation to bring the remainder of the 8,700 people said to be left in Gondar, advocates insist they will not give up their fight.

Falash Mura masquerading as Jews

By Danny Adeno Abebe, Opinion August 7, 2008

Danny Adeno Abebe, a journalist for Israel's daily Yedioth Ahronoth, made aliyah to Israel in Operation Moses in 1984

There is no greater tragedy than bringing people to Israel whose connection to Judaism is merely incidental at best, and at worst are non-Jews taking advantage of the ignorance of American Jews to better their lives.

Bringing masses of Christian Ethiopians to Israel impugns our Jewishness.

Aliyah from Ethiopia must continue

By Barbara Ribakove Gordon, Opinion August 7, 2008

Barbara Ribakove Gordon is the founder and executive director of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry

Israel has announced the end of the Ethiopian aliyah five times, but always has been overruled by the better angels of history, conscience and Zionism.

But Israel was born to be a haven for Jews, including the Ethiopians, and the gates will open again.

It will be Diaspora Jewry’s job to keep them alive in the meantime.

Last official airlift of Ethiopian Jews lands in Tel Aviv

IBA News August 10, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

'Last' Falash Mura arrive, group slams gov't for leaving behind thousands of Jews

By Haviv Rettig, August 6, 2008

65 Falashmura families arrive in Israel; quota filled

By Yael Branovsky, August 5, 2008

Minor presence of Jewish Agency in Ethiopia may signal Falashmura aliyah

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 6, 2008

The Jewish Agency has left a skeleton infrastructure in Ethiopia, even though the mass immigration of Falashmura has been halted - which means it could start bringing in large groups again.

Despite the reports in yesterday's newspapers, the 61 Falashmura who arrived yesterday from Addis Ababa were not the last immigrants from Ethiopia, but merely the last large group to arrive in Israel under the 2003 cabinet resolution setting immigration criteria for the Falashmura.

Conservative Movement Tisha b’Av Appeal for Ethiopians

By Stewart Ain, August 6, 2008

In an unprecedented emergency appeal, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is calling upon its congregants to donate money to help the 8,700 Ethiopians of Jewish descent, or Falash Mura, who are going hungry there now that all food programs have ended.

The UJC had been providing $68,000 a month for food programs in Ethiopia until funding ran out June 30

Edah Haredit promotes 'anti-donor' card

By Matthew Wagner, August 6, 2008

In the coming days, the Edah Haredit, an umbrella organization for some of the most zealous ultra-Orthodox rabbis, will launch a campaign against organ transplants.

What some religious circles see as a mitzva to save the life of an organ recipient, the Edah Haredit sees as murder.

"Our rabbis believe that removing a person's vital organs before pulmonary failure, even after brain death, is tantamount to manslaughter," said Shmuel Poppenheim, a spokesman for the Edah.

A membership card called "The Card of Life" will be distributed to Edah Haredit followers, and is to be carried at all times. The card contains a declaration that the holder refuses to donate any organs.

Poppenheim said the card included a stipulation that any questions regarding the determination of the death of the cardholder must be decided by Edah rabbis.

Halachic disqualifications

By Matthew Wagner, August 6, 2008

Orthodox Jews who commit traffic violations or who smoke are just as ineligible to serve as witnesses in rabbinical courts or in Jewish weddings as pork-eating, Shabbat-desecrating secular Jews, according to a leading religious Zionist rabbi.

Anyone who blatantly and intentionally commits traffic violations, thus endangering human lives, is also purposely transgressing Halacha, says Hacohen.

In a halachic opinion made public ahead of a conference on road safety, Rabbi Re'em Hacohen, head of the Hesder Yeshiva in Otniel, near Hebron, said that reckless drivers and smokers show a callous disregard for human life - whether their own or others - and are therefore considered invalid witnesses.

"Anyone who blatantly and intentionally commits traffic violations, thus endangering human lives, is also purposely transgressing Halacha (Jewish law)," said Hacohen in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post, "and this disqualifies him to serve as a witness."

Hacohen said that smoking also constituted disregard for human life.

Tzohar rabbis say ‘no’ to sperm donations to single women

By Kobi Nahshoni, August 7, 2008

Last year, Ynet reported on Petah Tikva Hesder Yeshiva Rabbi Yuval Sherlow’s ruling that allowed single women 37 and older to bring children into the world and claimed that the child’s welfare should not be considered.

In light of the public stir caused by this ruling, Rabbi Sherlow committed to consult with his rabbi [colleagues] before announcing similar rulings in the future.

In an unprecedented attack on this phenomenon, Rabbi Rabinowitz added that “bringing an orphaned child into the world is an unimaginable act.

Rabbis offer professional sexual, marital advice

By Nissan Strauchler, August 6, 2008

“The objective is to provide rabbis with information that is beyond the Halachic aspect,” said Rabbi Daniel Nikritin, who was trained to conduct couples' workshops.

Israeli Food Company: We won't sell produce grown by Arabs

By Amiram Cohen, August 4, 2008

Israeli produce marketing company Otzar Ha'aretz announced on Monday that it will not market produce grown by Arab farmers, and will from now on only sell only Jewish-grown products.

The company, which has been marketing fruits and vegetables to the ultra-Orthodox community during the shmita (sabbatical) year, announced that it will continue to operate once the year is over in effort to "support Jewish agriculture in Israel."

A new 770 building goes up in Zichron Yaakov August 7, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

A new building replica of 770 is being erected in the northern town of Zichron Yaakov.

The Chabad shaliach in Zichron Yaakov, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Freiman said this is a dream come true. He said he has been dreaming about it for 3 years and recently building went into high gear and the chanukas habayis is expected to take place Chai Elul.

Religion and State in Israel

August 11, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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