Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - February 23, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and StatBolde in Israel

February 23, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Lieberman: Civil marriages not my 1st priority

By Attila Somfalvi www.ynetnews.com February 23, 2009

The issue of civil marriages is not a top priority for Yisrael Beiteinu, party leader Avigdor Lieberman said in closed-door sessions Monday, paving the way for joining forces with Shas in a Netanyahu-led government.

Lieberman reportedly stressed that his party's top priority is the granting of legislative and financial preference to discharged soldiers, followed by efforts to change Israel's system of government, Ynet learned, with the issue of civil marriages only coming next.

The Yisrael Beiteinu leader is apparently preparing to reach a compromise on the issue of civil marriages in order to enable his party and Shas to join the next government. 

Lieberman reportedly made it clear that such compromises may materialize in allowing roughly 100,000 Israelis who are not defined as Jews to marry amongst themselves.

Shas May be Flexible on Marriage Issue

www.theyeshivaworld.com February 18, 2009

In an apparent move towards building a right-wing coalition under the Likud’s wing, Shas leader Rav Eli Yishai offered a ‘compromise’ regarding Yisrael Beitenu’s demands to permit civil weddings.

Yishai states that Shas can live with an arrangement that addresses those deemed “posul” by the Chief Rabbinate, namely non-Jews, explaining this would permit Yisrael Beitenu to claim a victory, while preserving the integrity of Jewish marriage and permitting the formation of a coalition.

Orthodox Jews should support civil marriage in Israel

By Rabbi Seth (Shaul) Farber www.jpost.com February 18, 2009

Rabbi Seth (Shaul) Farber received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University and his rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University. He is the founder of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center and rabbi of Kehillat Netivot in Ra'anana.

After years of working within the rabbinate, I'm convinced that Orthodox Jews should support some form civil marriage in Israel. In fact, Orthodox Jews should probably be at the lead of such an initiative.

…I think there are good reasons to adopt some form of civil marriage now. First of all, it is an absurdity that thousands of citizens (who don't meet the halachic criteria of Jewishness) cannot marry in Israel.

I don't think of myself as being permissive in family law, but rather as being particularly strict in kavod habriyot. Individuals who don't meet the rabbinate's bar should be given basic rights to marry, in a civil court, just as they can - at present- be divorced in a civil court.

I certainly don't want to advocate inter-marriage, but if two non-Jews who are citizens of Israel want to be married, they should be able to.

Moreover, I think allowing for an option of civil union will enhance the prestige of the rabbinate, and hopefully, will encourage it to provide more user-friendly services. 

Meretz MK to sponsor alternative bill for civil marriage

By Shelly Paz www.jpost.com February 18, 2009

While it remains unclear whether Israel Beiteinu's demand for civil union legislation will be adopted by the next government, newly elected MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said on Tuesday he plans to submit a bill allowing all Israelis to have civil marriages - including homosexuals.

In his blog, Horowitz explained that Israel Beiteinu's proposed legislation only addressed the concerns of those who couldn't marry in Israel because they were not recognized as Jewish under Halacha.

"It [the Israel Beiteinu bill] will deny couples who choose not to get married in accordance with Jewish Halacha the legal recognition they have strived to achieve, and will push them back to the arms of the rabbinate," Horowitz wrote in his post.

Horowitz also said Israel Beiteinu's bill referred solely to heterosexual couples.

New Hotline Provides Alternative Marriage Proposals

www.nif.org February 18, 2009

In Israel, the Orthodox rabbinate holds a monopoly over Jewish marriage.  There are 300,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not considered halachically Jewish due to lack of documentation, or who are only Jewish on their father’s side and are therefore unable to have a legally recognized marriage in the country.  

In order to assist these immigrants like Lilia, NIF and SHATIL launched an information hotline this week. 

“The State of Israel prevents many couples from expressing their love in a formal way by not recognizing civil weddings,” explains Yuval Yavneh, Director of the Hotline and NIF's Jewish Pluralism Program. 

“There is a lack of information regarding the options available and this is where we come in and help.”

Many Israelis Walk down Wedding Aisle Less Traveled

By Meredith Price Levitt www.jewishjournal.com February 18, 2009

According to Shulamit Reinharz, Jacob Potofsky professor of sociology at Brandeis University and founder of the Women’s Studies Research Center and the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, a large percentage of Israel’s young population sees the current marriage laws as religious coercion.

The Israel Religious Action Center claims that 25 percent of all Israeli couples look for alternative ways to celebrate their union, which includes going abroad for a civil marriage or creating their own unrecognized religious ceremony.

However, aside from those who could legally be married by the rabbinate but choose not to, there are also many couples, like new immigrants and interfaith couples, who do not have an option to legally marry in Israel.

All of these factors have led to the popularization of alternative wedding ceremonies over the last decade.

The Cummings Foundation reports that “the number of wedding ceremonies conducted outside the established system by Reform and Conservative rabbis, as well as secular educational leaders, has exploded.”

Despite the fact that they have no legal standing, hundreds of young couples in Israel prefer to wed in their own fashion.

Israel Elections 2009 - Marriage and Conversion

By Jonathan Rosenblum www.cross-currents.com February 21, 2009

It should be noted that civil marriage and reduced standards for conversion are entirely distinct matters.

The former does not have an immediate impact on the ability of religious Jews to lead their lives. And it might even have one benefit: a reduction in the number of mamzerim.

Altering the standards for conversions to fill specific numerical quotas is an entirely different matter.

For there cannot be a greater falsification of the halachic process than for halachic procedures, such as geirus, to be dictated by politicians, possessing neither knowledge of or respect for halacha, with the goal of attaining specific results.

It would be far better for Israel to give up any pretense to being a “Jewish state” or making any legal distinctions between Jews and non-Jews – e.g., for purposes of the Law of Return – than to permit such a falsification.

One on One: Of clouds and silver linings

Interview with Bobby Brown

By Ruthie Blum Leibowitz www.jpost.com February 19, 2009

“Today, from my understanding, at least half of the young couples in this country are getting married in ways other than the traditional path of going to the rabbinate, having a ketuba and going under a huppa.

If half the young people are rejecting the existing requirements, there's something very wrong - particularly in a country with a million Russians, many not halachically Jewish, and who want to become Jews, but not necessarily ultra-Orthodox.”

“…One of the directions of the Ne'eman Commission was that all conversions would be Orthodox, and that Conservative and Reform rabbis would be allowed to be masters of ceremony at weddings.

According to Jewish law, you don't have to have a rabbi at a wedding, and if you don't have to have a rabbi, what difference does it make if he's Orthodox? The only thing that counts is whether the witnesses are Orthodox.

Furthermore, according to Jewish law, a couple who lives together for a certain amount of time, even without being officially married, is recognized as a common-law couple.

So by being a little innovative and a little open, we could have solved two problems simultaneously. But often the two sides don't want to be logical. They like their fights better than they like solutions.”

Law of Return to be revised

By Nurit Felter www.ynetnews.com February 23, 2009

Hundreds of thousands of non-Jews have received Israeli citizenship over the past decade under the Law of Return, which has led Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit and his colleagues to believe the law should either be revised or abolished.

A special committee, headed by Professor Yaakov Ne'eman has been appointed to discuss the sensitive issue on how to possibly amend the law, that allows all offspring of a Jew, including a grandchild, automatic Israeli citizenship.

On Sunday the interior minister told members of the committee, "The Law of Return is an anachronistic law through which people that have nothing to do with Judaism receive citizenship."

Masorti Matters: Black Hat Politics

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks www.jpost.com February 23, 2009

The writer is Director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.

In simpler words, [the Interior Ministry] determines who can make aliyah, who is recognized Jewish, who can be registered as "Jewish" in the population registry, which conversions are recognized as valid, and who will suffer the frustration and agony of proving that under the Law of Return they are entitled to make aliyah and be granted citizenship.

…While the Supreme Court has decided (in a 2005 ruling) that converts need not wait the now-required year, subsequent to conversion, in order to make aliyah, our Interior Ministry continues to enforce this waiting rule. 

Current Interior Ministry policy bars those without citizenship or residency from converting in Israel.

The logic presented by the authorities in government is the fear that "some Reform rabbi will line up thousands of Filipino workers about to leave for Israel and do a quickie conversion ceremony which would entitle them to all the rights of a new immigrant."

The reality is that where corruption exists in the conversion system, it is not within the non-Orthodox denominations.

Beyond this, both the Masorti/Conservative Movement and the Reform Movement are willing to agree to conversion standards to be determined in cooperation with the government (such efforts have been in progress but have dragged on for nearly five years with little sign of a fair outcome).

Aliya expert: Q & A

The expert is Maurice Singer, an Independent Consultant and former Senior Aliyah Consultant at the Jewish Agency.

www.jpost.com February 4, 2009

Q: We would like to make aliyah this year but have heard that conservative conversions are not being accepted. Is this true? What can we do to ensure a successful aliyah?

A: If the conversion is performed by a Rabbi who is affiliated to the official Conservative Movement and if you have been active in a Jewish Community for at least a year prior to your Aliyah, then there should be no problem. Whether they will be considered Jewish by the Rabbinate here is a different matter.

Q: I have recently converted to Judaism within the Conservative / Masorti movement. Do I qualify to make aliyah to Israel?

A: Yes after one year of being active in your community following your conversion.

Q: I am in my late 30s and my father's mother was Jewish. Her sister, sister's children and grandchildren all live in Israel. Am I eligible for aliyah?

A: Yes if you have/had a Jewish Grandparent and you haven't adopted a different religion

The Politics of Pig - How swine may have swayed Israel's elections

By February 20, 2009

The writer blogs at http://www.jeffyosko.blogspot.com/ and www.jcarrot.org

When Lieberman visited the Western Wall, the Israeli equivalent to kissing babies, sources in Shas told the Jerusalem Post

"We suggest the note Lieberman stuffs in between the Western Wall's stones include a supplication to be forgiven for his sin of intending to open stores that sell pork meat and institutionalize civil marriage."

Amos Oz: Shut down shopping centers on Shabbat

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com February 18, 2009

"The Shabbat shouldn't become a national day of shopping. Malls and shopping centers should remain closed on that day," Israel Prize laureate author Amos Oz stated during a conference in Caesarea this weekend.

Oz spoke at a conference organized by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tzohar Rabbis organization that was dedicated to discussing and formulating understandings between religious and secular Israelis on state and religion issues, most notably the matters of Shabbat and conversions.

…However, Oz called to allow public transportation on Shabbat, saying that there shouldn't be discrimination between those who own a car and those who don’t.

High Proportion of Religious New IDF Officers

By Hillel Fendel www.israelnationalnews.com February 18, 2009

Nearly a fifth of the graduates in the just-ended IDF ground officers’ course are religious-Zionists – lower than other years, but higher than their proportion in the population.

The fact that the religious comprise a high proportion of IDF officers is not new.  Between 30-40% of graduates in recent officers’ courses have been religious - well more than twice as much as their proportion in the general population.

Eleven soldiers were killed during the recent war in Gaza – and four of them were of the religious-Zionist sector. 

Each of them entered the army via a different route: Nitai Stern enlisted immediately after high school; 

Dvir Imanuelov studied in the Netivot hesder yeshiva, combining army service with Torah studies; 

Capt. Yoni Netanel enlisted after studying for three years at the pre-military yeshiva academy in Eli; 

Maj. Dagan Vartman joined the army after several years of intense Torah study at Yeshivat Har HaMor in Jerusalem.

A losing battle

By Yair Lapid www.ynetnews.com Opinion February 21, 2009

Out of curiosity and in order to pass the time, I asked how many guest lecturers arrived at the [IDF Officer’s] course thus far.

“Seven or eight,” Lt. Col. Avi replied. Who were the speakers? I asked. The commander and his deputy traded uncomfortable glances. “They were all rabbis,” Avi said.

…“Make no mistake about it,” Colonel Haliwa told me. “This is not what we wanted, yet with the rabbis it’s the easiest. They are always happy to come here. You call them, and they just ask when would be a convenient time for us and arrive immediately.”

Army Life: Religion in the IDF

By D.B. www.jpost.com February 22, 2009

The writer was born and raised in Virginia, USA, and graduated from The College of William & Mary in Virginia in '07 with a degree in Government (Political Science). In September of 2007, D.B. made aliyah and is currently serving as a combat soldier in the Israeli Army, Golani infantry brigade.

…In fact, the army is such a good place for religious people that I have actually wondered if the secular soldiers are often uncomfortable or offended.

We say prayers together, we have to listen to a religious sermon from a rabbi, there is a large synagogue in the middle of the base, the meals are mandatory, and the commanders made it very clear to not disturb the Shabbat observant crowd - i.e., electronics playing music, excessive use of the lights, and so on.

I'm constantly surprised at the religiosity of this organization.

The next big thing: Orthodox women rabbis

By Dr. Elana Sztokman http://blog.elanasztokman.com February 23, 2009

I received a message last week congratulating Sara Hurwitz on the “historic event” in which she is being conferred the title “spiritual leader” of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, following her completion of the “required course of study in Yoreh Deah.” 

In other words, the synagogue is making her a rabbi without the title.

…Orthodoxy is a strange beast. Like a massive dustball rolling in the streets, Orthodoxy has no choice but to go with the wind, wherever broad social trends take it. 

Yet, its “leaders” continue to pretend that they have control over these processes. They try to grab onto that ball with force, as if such a thing is possible.

…Well, folks, the dustball is moving, and it’s not about to stop. I imagine one day, HIR will stop calling these women “spiritual leaders” and will confer upon them the title that they deserve — Rabbi. And the future of Orthodoxy? 

It seems to me that those who know how to run with the wind will survive, and the rest — well, they will be left holding dust.

Religious hockey players form league of their own

By Oshrat Nagar-Levitt www.ynetnews.com February 22, 2009

They are 300 religious and ultra-Orthodox men from across Israel who decided to establish an ice hockey league of their own, after discovering that the national league holds its games only on Fridays.

Danny Spodak, who made aliyah to Israel from Canada several years ago, was hoping to be able to continue playing his favorite sport in the Holy Land.

"I'm an ice hockey fanatic. Unfortunately, when I started inquiring about ice hockey in the country I found out that the local league hold its games on Friday," he said. "Because we're religious, we couldn't participate."

The untiring liberal

By Shimshon Arad www.jpost.com February 19, 2009

Book Review: Israel: Democracy or Ethnocracy (In Hebrew) By Shulamit Aloni, Am Oved

Her fundamental complaint is that by insisting on maintaining a "Jewish and democratic" state, we have introduced a built-in conflict. In practice, she claims that we have always treated the Jewish interest as the preferred obligation. 

There is also the case of the Orthodox rabbinate in Israel, whose authority often seems contrary to some basic human rights.

How do we reconcile this with the obligation to observe both the Jewish and democratic rights granted to all?

…Over the years, the Orthodox parties have gained much more power than anticipated. Aloni realizes there is no way to easily reverse the political clock.

Her counsel is clear: Block any attempt to undermine the power and prestige of the High Court of Justice - an objective shared by many other politicians.

Yemenite family makes aliya in secret op

By Abe Selig www.jpost.com February 19, 2009

Eli Cohen, the director-general of the Jewish Agency's Aliya and Absorption Department, said that his agency was constantly working to help the Yemenite Jewish community and hoped to bring to Israel most of the Jews in Yemen who wished to immigrate.

…Dozens of Yemenite Jews have moved to the US and London in recent years, brought there by Satmar Chassidim who object to their immigration to Israel due to concerns that they might abandon their religious observance.

The Satmar are ideologically opposed to the formation of a Jewish state before the Messiah's arrival. When representatives of the sect initially entered Yemen, their message was welcomed by the anti-Israel Yemenite government.

The Satmar sect has expressed its concern for preserving the ancient Jewish community, and recently its leader, the Satmar Rebbe, wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama asking for assistance to enable Yemenite Jews to emigrate to the United States.

Study Free at Pardes Institute

By Raphael Ahren www.haaretz.com February 20, 2009

In the upcoming academic year, young men and women from North America will have the chance to study for free at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, the non-denominational coed yeshiva announced this week.

Intended to counterbalance the impact of the current economic crisis, the offer is open to students who qualify for a MASA grant, offered by the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Those who do not qualify for the grant will receive at tuition reduction of 40 percent, Pardes added, and can get additional funding.

Religion and State in Israel

February 23, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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