Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - April 27, 2009 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

April 27, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Sharansky, the Jewish Agency's worst nightmare and best hope

By Anshel Pfeffer www.haaretz.com April 26, 2009

This could be the big opportunity for Sharansky, and the Agency. Get out of the immigration business; leave it to the government and the private organizations. 

Transform into the biggest foundation in the Jewish world, working with grassroots movements on educational programs. 

Jettison the hierarchy, close down departments, buy out the pen pushers and bean counters. 

All of a sudden, you will have a budget of hundreds of millions, with which to enable local networks and initiatives. 

Sharansky's Agency could be a lean outfit, offering guidance, coordination, money and an overall strategy. 

Sharansky nomination shines light on debate over reforms at Jewish Agency

By Jacob Berkman www.jta.org April 21, 2009

But some of the Jewish Agency’s leaders in North America are quietly voicing concerns that Netanyahu’s announcement could undercut their plan to de-politicize the chairman position and keep this key decision in the hands of the organization.

Sharansky’s backers see him as a potential rainmaker who could attract new sources of financial support to make up for the cuts from increasingly cash-strapped federations. 

But several of the key proponents of reform at the Jewish Agency fear that the perception of an overly political selection process will hurt efforts to boost support from federations and raise funds from other Diaspora sources.

Several North American philanthropists -- notably Charles Bronfman and Bobby Goldberg -- have long complained that in past decades the Israeli prime minister seemed free to reserve the chairmanship for political allies. 

Jewish Agency officials have acknowledged that the perception has been a stumbling block in terms of attracting new donors and, as a result, are in the end stages of a five-year process of revamping the agency's governance structure.

New absorption minister proposes breaks to firms hiring immigrants

By Raphael Ahren www.haaretz.com April 24,2009

Instead of spending money on unemployment benefits, the state should subsidize companies hiring immigrants, incoming Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver told Anglo File this week. 

…Besides employment, Landver says she wants to focus her work on housing and the integration of immigrant children.

Concretely, she says she intends to meet with university representatives to try to improve the current system of degree equivalencies, so that immigrant academics and physicians might face less red tape before being able to start working.

Lastly, the 59-year-old plans to strengthen her ministry's cooperation with immigrant assistance groups such as Nefesh B'Nefesh and others.

Lieberman to Take Charge of Russian-Jewish Immigration

By Yehudah Lev Kay www.israelnationalnews.com April 26,2009

On Sunday, the government is expected to transfer some of the responsibility for the "Nativ" Russian-Jewish immigration agency to Avigdor Lieberman’s Foreign Ministry. Until now, Nativ fell under the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s office.

As part of the current Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition agreement, Lieberman will head an immigration committee which will incorporate Nativ. 

The cabinet budgeted a NIS 82 million discretionary fund to be used towards immigration. In addition, the government committed itself to spending an additional NIS 3 million on immigrant rent assistance.

Nativ officials testified at a Knesset committee in 2008 that there remain 880,000 people in Russia and the Ukraine who are eligible to make Aliyah [immigration to Israel].

Southern Africa immigrants welcomed at Western Wall

By Raphael Ahren www.haaretz.com April 24, 2009

Eighty new immigrants from southern Africa received their Israeli identity cards at a welcoming ceremony at the Western Wall. They were the first immigrants to do so, in a special gesture by the Interior Ministry. 

'We're all Jewish - it's where we're supposed to be'

By Sam Greenberg www.jpost.com April 24, 2009

The Jewish Agency has made increasing South African aliya one of its big projects over the past two years. This has led to a large percentage of those leaving South Africa to choose Israel over the English-speaking countries where many used to go.

The immigrants spoke highly about their reception in Israel, a process the officials have dubbed aliya "on a red carpet." 

The aliya approval process is handled back in South Africa, and the immigrants have much less to take care of upon arriving.

Ritual Baths: Single women and converts stay away

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks www.jpost.com Opinion April 21, 2009

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

Most Mikvehs in Israel are publicly funded. They are, in that sense, the equivalent of the public libraries. They ought, by law, be open to all. They are not the personal province of any one group. Yet that is what has become the reality in nearly all of Israel's Mikvehs.

When I lived in the US there were Mikvehs built by Orthodox shuls. In many cases those shuls barred Conservative and Reform converts from using the Mikveh. I never cared for this slap at Klal Yisrael but since the funding for the Mikveh was private, it was the right of the Mikveh owners to take a parochial approach.

In Israel it is the tax-payers who fund the Mikvehs. They do not belong to the Ultra-Orthodox, though the keys are most often in the hands of those on the payroll of the religious (read: Orthodox) councils.

More than words

By Ze'ev Segal www.haaretz.com Opinion April 27, 2009

…discrimination for reasons of religion - against the Reform movement, for instance - is part of the fabric of life in Israel.

The freedom of religion promised in the declaration is also supposed to be freedom from religion, but all the promises to pass a domestic partnership law, which would allow for an alternative to religiously sanctioned marriage, are still no more than words. 

Why the Orthodox make aliyah - the true story

[in response to:Israel Masorti Movement Executive Director's essay "Why do the Orthodox make aliya?"]

By Lahav Harkov www.jpost.com Opinion April 26, 2009

…Sure, being Orthodox is easier in Israel, because being Jewish in general is easier here, but Israel isn't a halachic state, and is far from being a religious paradise. Therefore, Hess's argument on this front is not really valid.

…Hess said that if the Conservative\Masorti movement's campaign to encourage aliyah fails, the lack of a "warm embrace" and "pluralistic" Judaism will be to blame. I say: Stop blaming "The Orthodox" for your movement's shortcomings. 

The campaign won't be effective, unless the movement rethinks its priorities. Start working from the foundations; teach your children to put Torah first, and then they will understand why they need to live in Israel. If Judaism isn't the top priority in their lives, what reason is there to make aliyah?

So Yizhar Hess, next time you want to encourage aliyah, don't accuse "The Orthodox" of making it difficult. These movements are causing their own problems. We didn't make aliyah because we have better institutions than Conservative and Reform Jews in Israel. 

To paraphrase my friend, anyone who made aliyah did it despite whatever problems he or she had with Israel, because at the end of the day, olim put Zionism and Judaism above all.

HUC may close two of its US campuses

By Eran Lubliner www.jpost.com April 22, 2009

No matter the outcome, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion President Ellenson made it clear that the Jerusalem campus would not be affected if any others were eliminated.

Rabbi Michael Marmur, dean of the Jerusalem branch, told the Post on Tuesday that "each campus is part of an integrated institution, and we are all being affected by the budget cuts in the short term. Rabbi Ellenson and I agree, though, that Jerusalem's campus is still very strong."

Ellenson made it clear that closing any of the campuses would be a terrible blow to the Reform movement.

"I wish with all my heart and soul that this were not so," he said. "Yet all the wishing in the world cannot alter the reality we face."

Criticizing Israel is hard work

By Rabbi Shaul Farber www.jpost.com Opinion April 27, 2009

I have recently come under serious criticism for my outspokenness against abuses in the Israeli rabbinate.

I have not hesitated to raise my voice against what I perceive to be the injustices being meted out to converts, or the fact that burial authorities capitalize on the vulnerability of mourners in their darkest hour to impose upon them either financial or religious burdens.

I am vocal about the way in which new immigrants (and those seeking to emigrate) are treated by the Ministry of Interior and I do not tolerate the inability of the Orthodox community to open its doors to the non-Orthodox.

I find it hard to be silent to the cry of the widow or the agunah or the plight of the convert. I have been told a number of times that in my outspokenness, I am undermining the image of Israel and discouraging Jews from around the world from believing in its future.

Fond farewells

By Efrat Nechushtai www.haaretz.com April 23, 2009

By law, every Israeli citizen is eligible for free burial near his or her place of residence, and the local hevra kadisha (burial society) provides a rabbi to conducts the funeral; its expenses are reimbursed by the National Insurance Institute. 

But like the event on the other side of the continuum - birth - and many other parts of our lives, death is no longer the exclusive domain of state services. 

…People who wish to secure a different kind of resting place for their loved ones have two alternatives to the municipal cemetery: private burial on kibbutzim and cremation. 

About 10 kibbutzim offer such services, which are not overseen by the burial society and are thus unrestricted by religious tradition.

Feiglin: If I were PM, I'd rebuild the Temple

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com April 20, 2009

Moshe Feiglin, head of Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership Movement) said last week that if he was elected prime minister, he would try to rebuild the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem.

"I don't know if I will have the merit of doing something that is the aspiration of every Jew," said Feiglin. 

"But if I become prime minister I will take away control over the Temple Mount from the Wakf [the Islamic trust] and reinstate Jewish sovereignty over the entire mount and, hopefully, rebuild the Temple."

Feiglin said that rebuilding the Temple and all that it symbolized was the essence of a Jewish state.

Hopes for the Pope

By Akiva Eldar www.haaretz.com April 27, 2009

Father David Neuhaus, one of 15 members of the planning committee appointed by the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, is trying to avoid political minefields. 

The Israeli liaison with the Vatican ahead of the Pope's visit is a 53-year-old Druze from Isfiya. Bahij Mansour exchanged a military career (deputy brigade commander with the rank of lieutenant colonel) for a diplomatic one (the first Druze ambassador to Angola).

As head of the Foreign Ministry's religious affairs section he spends a significant part of his time negotiating with Vatican representatives over the status of the Church's many assets in Israel. 

The negotiations began with the 2002 Arrangements Bill, supplementary to the state budget, which requires Church institutions to pay taxes. 

Tourism Minister: Israel unprepared for papal visit

By Roni Sofer www.ynetnews.com April 25, 2009

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov plans to announce Sunday during the weekly government meeting that the NIS 43 million ($10.1 million) budget set aside for Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel has not yet been put to use, and that this could wreak havoc on the tour scheduled to take May 11.

The minister also warns that construction of infrastructure and renovations have not been completed on the holy sites the pope plans on visiting.

Israel-Vatican negotiations over Mt. Zion

By Hillel Fendel www.israelnationalnews.com April 26, 2009

Ten-year-long negotiations between Israel and the Vatican appear to be drawing to a close, with concerns rising that Israel will cede control of the building housing King David’s Tomb in Jerusalem.

The Bilateral Permanent Working Commission – a team of negotiators representing Israel and the Vatican – released an upbeat press release at the end of last week, speaking of "meaningful progress," "great cordiality," and a mutual commitment to reaching a final agreement "as soon as possible.”

Tellingly, a plenary meeting has been announced for this Thursday, April 30, at the Foreign Ministry. 

The meeting will be chaired by the two states’ deputy foreign ministers, Danny Ayalon and Monsignor Pietro Parolin. It is widely believed that the agreement will be signed then.

Religion and State in Israel

April 27, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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