Monday, June 15, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - June 15, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

June 15, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Controlling the Haredi agenda

By Yair Ettinger June 14, 2009

Eda Haredit spokesmen, Shmuel Pappenheim:

"The Haredi politicians are surprised and shocked at the great power of the Eda Haredit. They thought we were a dead item, only a few 'sicarii' [fanatics], but they saw how the declaration of one rabbi, Rabbi Weiss, brings thousands into the streets.

The Eda Haredit shocked the secular Jerusalem public last Shabbat, but it considers its greatest achievement the embarrassment it caused its ultra-Orthodox partners in the coalition of the secular mayor, Nir Barkat.

The relatively moderate United Torah Judaism knew about the plans to open parking lots on Shabbat, and upon its request, Barkat decided to open only one parking lot, the Safra lot, to have it operated by a non-Jewish worker, and to charge no money for parking."

Jerusalem: Seculars protest decision to close parking lot on Shabbat

By Ronen Medzini June 13, 2009

Protestors held signs saying:

'Barkat don't give in', 'Nir has no balls – he is afraid of the haredim', and 'Don't give in to haredi violence'.

Hundreds protest Shabbat closure of J'lem parking lot

By Nir Hasson June 14, 2009

One possible alternative is to open a private parking garage near Jaffa Gate that belongs to Alfred Akirov.

However, Akirov is expected to ask the city for assurances that the ultra-Orthodox will not damage his business if he agrees to open his garage.

Return of the Shabbat wars

By Peggy Cidor June 11, 2009

Haredi affairs specialist Shahar Ilan writes in his blog that the agitation should be regarded as a result of the economic crisis.

According to Ilan, the outburst is the only way available for the Eda Haredit to prepare for its annual fund-raising campaign.

Since this community doesn't accept any money from the state, their financial situation is difficult and the poverty among the families in the community is unbearable.

In order to get the expected financial support from their communities abroad, they need to present some achievements, such as media images of their members ready to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the sanctity of Shabbat.

Jerusalemites protest car park closure June 14, 2009

Following Barkat's reversal Friday, rabbis from the Eda Haredit, the haredi sect that organized last weekend's protests, called off a protest prayer that had been planned for Friday evening.

Spokesmen for the Eda Haredit and other haredi activists have vowed that there will be "no surrender" over the issue.

The quiet organizer behind the new haredi riots vows: We won't surrender

By Abe Selig June 12, 2009

[Yoel "Yoelish" Kraus'] unofficial, yet widely accepted role is the kambatz, or operations director, for the Eda Haharedit.

While he shies from the title, the slender, 36-year-old father of 11 is indeed the man behind the men - the coordinator of the Eda's meticulously coordinated protests and behind-the-scenes deal-brokering that brings leading rabbis into its fold on various issues.

He can set the haredi street on fire, often literally, with a telephone call or even a word.

…A member of the anti-Zionist Toldot Aharon Hassidic sect, Kraus refuses to buy government-subsidized bread, has never set foot on an Egged bus, and avoids taking part in anything that bears even the fingerprints of "the state."

The Eda Haredit is also quite scrupulous when it comes to refraining from connections with the state, but Kraus explains the seeming contradiction quite simply.

"When it comes to preserving the sanctity of Jerusalem, and especially with regards to the holy Shabbat, we will fight the state when it endorses its desecration in such a public manner."

Haredim plan more Shabbat protests

By Abe Selig June 11, 2009

"For the Haredim it's not about the parking lot, this has become a general battle over Shabbat in Jerusalem," Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, a member of the Eda Haharedit who heads the Zaka rescue and recovery organization told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

"Barkat has been in office for half a year now, and after the elections, which were really a referendum on the character of the city, and in which [ultra-Orthodox candidate Meir] Porush lost, the haredi street has been quietly brewing. The parking lot is simply what has set it off."

Meshi-Zahav explained that while numerous private businesses operate on Shabbat in Jerusalem, the fact that it was the municipality operating the parking lot - essentially lending it an official stamp - had caused members of the ultra-Orthodox community to break their silence.

"And Barkat is between a rock and a hard place," he said. "The Haredim are not going to back down, and the secular [residents] won't let Barkat back down."

Zebra Shabbat

By Haim Be'er Opinion June 10, 2009

As someone who reported on Haredi affairs in Jerusalem in the 1980s, I believe I can contribute some insights to the discourse that will clarify the underlying motives for the regular outbreak of summer protests.

First, in the summer Shabbat is almost unbearably long, ending only at 8:30 P.M.

…Second, the admorim, the yeshiva heads, the rabbis and the operators are worried about the erosion of their communities' commitment to the Haredi isolationist ideology. The bonds holding together Shlomei Emunei Yisrael have loosened, creating an excellent opportunity to restore social cohesion.

The most important reason of all - the dwindling coffers of Haredi institutions.

…One picture is worth a thousand words, a legendary Haredi "operations officers" told me once in a moment of great candor. The real product of the protests are the news photos.

Pashkevil vs. Pashkevil

By Abe Selig June 11, 2009

A group of students and other young people decided to respond to the inflammatory posters and subsequent rioting with pashkevilim of their own - a "secular pashkevil" the likes of which have not graced the walls of Mea She'arim, or anywhere else for that matter, in recent memory.

"The message is that Barkat should not break or surrender," one of the "secular pashkevil" participants told reporters.

"It's not just that we're secular, we're Zionist residents of Jerusalem who pay taxes, and we chose Barkat and the secular parties to work for us.

We want them to keep the promises they made during their campaign and not fold under this pressure."

Five gay couples tie the knot at Tel Aviv Pride 2009

By Ricky Ben-David June 14, 2009

Five gay couples exchanged wedding vow and rings in front of thousands of people at Gordon Beach during the Tel Aviv Pride Parade 2009 on Friday.

Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai was also on hand to show his support for the gay community in their pursuit for marriage rights.

"I am so honored to be here," he said. "I want to stress that a solution must be found for people who wish to get married in Israel outside the bounds of the Orthodox framework" which controls all Jewish wedding ceremonies.

Each bride/groom received a "Certificate of Union" prepared and signed by Israeli advocate, human rights activist and founder of New Family Organization, Irit Rosenblum, a champion of civil marriage rights in Israel.

The certificates look like photo ID cards and contain the name of the cardholder, the partner's name, ID number and a short declaration signed by the owner of the card and Irit Rosenblum herself.

The certificates, according to the New Family Organization, are an expression of the commitment made by the couple and testify that they "have the same rights as any other married couple. The card… provides for legal and public recognition of the union."

The certificates are recognized by Tel Aviv, Lod and Mevasseret Zion, according to the New Family Organization.

TA mayor: Pride Parade is example of tolerance

By Eli Senyor June 11, 2009

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai stressed Thursday that he would not let any outsiders break the city's tradition of holding an annual Pride Parade. He said this in response to Shas Chairman Eli Yishai's demands to have the parade, scheduled for Friday, cancelled.

"The values of tolerance and pluralism, that have been engraved in the first Hebrew city's banner for many years now, are not just nice words to boast of, but are a true belief that every group and community in the city should be given the place, space and option of expressing itself."

Yishai urges Netanyahu to cancel Tel Aviv gay parade June 10, 2009

Interior Minister Eli Yishai has called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai to cancel the city's upcoming Gay Pride Parade, Channel 10 reported on Wednesday.

The Shas Chairman sent a letter, signed by a number of Tel Aviv rabbis and religious members of Knesset, urging the city to rethink its decision to hold the parade on Friday.

The day Shas let secular mayor pick a rabbi

By Yair Ettinger June 11, 2009

The race to become one of Jerusalem's two chief rabbis is shifting into high gear, with the parties in various sectors of the community working to have their favored candidate installed.

The Shas party, which is directing the process, is determined to have Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (the son of the party's spiritual leader, Ovadia Yosef) named chief Sephardi rabbi in the capital.

His appointment is a high priority for Religious Affairs Minister Yaakov Margi of Shas. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is trying to come to an agreement with Shas in which the mayor would support the candidacy of Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who is a significant figure in the religious world in his own right, on the condition that Shas agree to the appointment of a religious Zionist candidate as the city's Ashkenazi chief rabbi.

Jerusalem’s Rabbinical Race in Full Swing

By Yechiel Spira June 15, 2009

It appears the race for Jerusalem’s new chief rabbi is far from over, and in the Ashkenazi camp, the candidates appear to be Rav Moshe Chaim Lau, Rav Eliyahu Schlesinger, Rav Yaakov Shapira and Rav Yosef Carmel. It was believed that Rav Schlesinger was not in the race, but there are now signs to the contrary.

Dozens of Policemen Charged With Falsifying Yeshiva Studies

By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz June 9, 2009

The national police force's Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) filed charges Tuesday against 47 policemen or former policemen accused of taking part in a scheme to falsify records indicating extensive yeshiva studies that never took place.

The allegedly illegally-obtained certificates of higher education in Jewish studies cost the State hundreds of thousands of shekels in additional pay benefits.

…Charges in the case have already been filed against the leading conspirators, including the "college" directors, members of the Chief Rabbinate and even a high-ranking police rabbi. Had the plot not been interrupted by the arrests, the total monies obtained illegally could have reached hundreds of millions of shekels over the course of the officers' regular service on the police force.

Social workers, psychologists to aid religious courts in divorce

By Ruth Eglash June 14, 2009

Social workers and psychologists could soon become an integral part of the country's religious legal system, with the goal of streamlining and improving the divorce process.

Susan Weiss, founding director of the Center for Women's Justice, which is an advocate for change within the religious legal system, said that if such a unit is formed it would be essential for "the state to insist that the professionals are appointed on merit and to ensure that women and secular professionals were not discriminated against.

"It is also important to make sure that any psychiatric opinions or interventions are not prejudiced by religious doctrine," she said.

Tel Aviv denies refugee request to operate store on Shabbat

By Noah Kosharek June 11, 2009

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa city council on Sunday ruled against granting a permit to a Sudanese refugee seeking to operate a clothing store during Shabbat. Although city bylaws allow the council to grant such authorization, members present at the hearing said they ruled to withhold permission to avoid setting a precedent for other shopkeepers, and to preserve the city's "status quo."

…In response to the ruling, Duka told Haaretz,

"All of my buyers are foreign workers who come during days off on Fridays and Saturdays. On Sunday they return to work and the street is empty."

Shabbos Comes to the Mini-Market

Source: June 14, 2009

Over the past four years, Rabbi Shimon Eisenbach, Chief Rabbi and shliach of the Shachmon neighborhood in Eilat, has been trying to persuade Avraham Abergel, owner of the local mini-market, to close his store on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

We, the normal ones

By Eliezer Hayon Opinion June 11, 2009

For a long time, more than 50 years, haredim traveled in buses where men and women sat at the same section of the bus.

The only strict rule, which did not need to be explicitly uttered, was the tendency of a man not to sit next to a woman.

This sane arrangement was maintained for years. During those long years, distinguished religious students and today’s leading religious figures traveled by public transportation, yet none of them ever thought that being in the same radius as members of the opposite sex could undermine their sanctity or purity.

Yet in recent months, all of us, the haredim, have become a bunch of lustful people who are unable to see a woman sitting at the front of the bus, as though only complete separation may save us from hell.

How did that happen?...

God bless the child

By Yehudit Rotem Opinion June 12, 2009

As a self-appointed sociologist of the Haredi community, I discern two contradictory but parallel trends:

On the one hand, you have the "new balabatim" ["landlords"] (as I called them in my book "Ahot Rehoka" ["Distant Sister"] some 18 years ago).

The term refers to a gradually growing social strata that, while belonging to the religious-Haredi society, is rooted in the general world, engages in a wide array of professions, uses the media, has a high standard of living, makes frequent trips abroad and seeks entertainment.

Yet, on the other hand, there is a central strata of Haredim who cling to traditional ultra-Orthodox characteristics, sharpening and making them more extreme.

Think Again: Those primitive haredim - yet again

By Jonathan Rosenblum Opinion June 14, 2009

The story fit a little too neatly into familiar stereotypes of the haredi world.

First, the portrayal of the community and its rabbinic leaders as hopelessly backward, with no knowledge of psychology or awareness of the darker side of human nature.

Second, the idea of a community so insular that it would rather let its children be traumatized for life than address its problems or seek outside help.

The skewed portrayal of the rabbinic leadership of Ramat Beit Shemesh provides one more example of how much more complicated is the reality of the haredi community than the stereotypes which abound.

Hotel Ads Require ‘Vaad’ Approval

By Yechiel Spira June 14, 2009

The Vaad L’Shmiras Tzivion Yehuda (The Committee to Preserve the Jewish Character) has scored a victory, announcing both Yated Ne’eman and Hamodia will refrain from publishing ads for hotels and resorts that have not obtained the stamp of approval from the Vaad. At present, the new arrangement applies only to hotels in Eretz Yisrael.

Shtreimels Exempt from Fur Law

By Yechiel Spira June 15, 2009

Chassidim can breathe a sigh of relief since the new Fur Bill introduced by MK (Kadima) Ronit Tirosh, seeking to prevent the importation of certain furs, does not apply to shtreimalach.

A Knesset ministerial committee approved the ban on importing fur, news that definitely was not greeted with a smile among the manufacturers and distributors of shtreimalach.

Interestingly, the law is not at all related to shtreimalach, and not intended to target the frum population, but it is intended to prevent importing rabbit, dog and cat fur/skins from eastern Asia including China due to reports of cruelty to those animals.

The bill has yet to be voted upon in Knesset.

Rising age of religious singles 'cause for concern'

By Tzofia Hirschfeld June 10, 2009

As the average age of unmarried people in Israel is rising, both in the religious and secular sectors, concern among religious leaders is growing. They warn that this phenomenon could have a devastating effect on the national-religious society.

"The national religious society is plagued with late marriages just like the secular society," Ze'ira told Ynet.

"This has a dramatic effect on the national religious society as a whole. Late marriages lead to secularization, because Western life is riddled with temptations. How long can you ask a bachelor to keep his purity for?"

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Takes Time with Chabad on his Birthday

By Zalman Nelson June 10, 2009

Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, met with U.S. envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, on Tuesday.

It was also Lieberman's birthday, so despite his intense schedule, he took time out to visit with Chabad Rabbi Levy Edry, a personal friend, and ponder the spiritual meaning of a birthday.

Lieberman wrapped tefillin and accepted a leather bound chitas book embossed with his name, as a gift from the Chabad rabbi which will now remain in his office.

Who goes to holy men's graves in Israel?

By Alon Hilu Opinion June 10, 2009

Playwright and novelist Alon Hilu was born in Jaffa in 1972. His first novel "Death of a Monk" (2004), published in English in 2006, is a retelling of the Damascus Blood Libel of 1840. The most recent book by Hilu, who is also a lawyer, "The House of Dajani," a saga of the First Aliyah from the Palestinian perspective published in 2008, has been shortlisted for the 2009 Sapir Prize for Literature.

The stories full of inner conviction about dreams and holy men, about vows and prohibitions, about prophecy and destruction, in the end do their work on my irresolute soul, and I submit wholly to Ami's exhortations and ask to perform the ritual of prostrating myself on the grave in the worker's housing project apartment at number 172 Canaan neighborhood, Safed.

Returning to Joshua and Caleb June 15, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

One of the handful of government authorized ascents to the tombs of Yehoshua and Calev (Joshua and Caleb) that take place each year happened just before the reading of the Torah portion, "Shlach" last Sabbath, with Jews ascending to visit holy places.

Religion and State in Israel

June 15, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.

Religion and State in Israel - June 15, 2009 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

June 15, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Chief Rabbinate: New regulation doesn't complicate conversion

By Dan Izenberg June 11, 2009

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has increased the bureaucratic difficulties facing converts in special conversion courts, Rabbi Shaul Farber, head of the Itim Institute, charged on Thursday.

According to the regulation, if a non-Jew seeks to convert in order to marry a Jew whose parents were married in Israel, the Jewish partner must prove to an authorized dayan, or religious court judge, of the special conversion court that he or she is Jewish.

According to a section of it referring to the Jewish partner whose parents married in Israel, the regulation states,

"If the parents of the [Jewish] partner were married in Israel by a rabbi authorized to register marriages, the candidate for conversion will provide documents as requested to a dayan of the special conversion court who has been especially authorized by the chief rabbi, to prove the Jewishness of the partner."

Farber was particularly concerned about the regulation calling for the provision of "documents" to prove the Jewishness of the convert's partner when the partner's parents were married in Israel.

In the past, he said, it was enough for a Jewish Israeli to provide the parents' marriage certificate issued by the Chief Rabbinate as proof of his Jewishness.

"The fundamental assumption of the regulation is that the Jewishness of anyone involved in a serious relationship with a non-Jew who wants to convert is questionable," said Farber.

He added that by asking for additional documents, it appears that "a marriage certificate issued by the Chief Rabbinate is not recognized by the Chief Rabbinate itself."

Farber was also upset by the provision in the regulation whereby the chief rabbi would authorize only certain rabbis to examine the partner's documents. He charged that this was one more bureaucratic obstacle on the way to conversion.

Right of Reply: Conversion as Halacha knows it

By Rabbi Avi Shafran Opinion June 10, 2009

The writer is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America and the author of a biography of a convert to Judaism, Migrant Soul: The Story of an American Ger.

In response to Conservative Rabbi Reuven Hammer "In praise of conversion" June 1, 2009

[Rabbi Reuven Hammer] is correct that a properly conducted conversion cannot be "retroactively cancel[led]." If a convert decides to abandon his or her previous acceptance of mitzvot, he or she is a lapsed Jew like any other.

If, however, it is demonstrated, even at some later date, that there never was kabbalat hamitzvot at the time of the conversion ceremony (or that some other required element of conversion was missing), then there was, simply put, no conversion to begin with.

Yisrael Beiteinu opposes civil marriage bill in about-face

By Yuval Azoulay June 11, 2009

After the Yisrael Beiteinu party regularly declared during the last Knesset election campaign that it would work to pass legislation allowing for civil marriage in Israel, yesterday, one after another, the party's MKs voted against such a bill.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the executive director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, which represents the Reform Jewish movement in the country, rejected any government civil marriage bill which would only provide for marriages among non-Jews.

Voters: Yisrael Beiteinu failed us

By Yael Levy June 11, 2009

“We were all waiting for this vote, it was a chance we believed in, but Yisrael Beiteinu has failed yet again, and continues to play its games in the Knesset," said Dr. Ludmilla Oigenblick, head of the Association for the Rights of Mixed Families told Ynet.

According to Dr. Oigenblick, who voted for Yisrael Beiteinu in the February elections, thousands of couples were waiting for this vote, since many of the cannot afford to travel to Cyprus for a civil marriage.

"I am very sad, because they did not just vote against the law, but actually voted against mixed families. I supported them in the elections, but they have made it clear that they seek to perpetuate the struggles between parties over whose name is on the law," Oigenblick said.

Rabbinic judges revoke alimony after husband proves wife cheated, too

By Ruth Eglash June 10, 2009

A post-divorce settlement in which a man was ordered to pay his ex-wife alimony was revoked this week by a Rabbinic Court judge after the man presented videotaped evidence of his wife having sex with another man prior to the divorce, the Rabbinic Court Administration (RCA) announced Wednesday.

Susan Weiss, founding director of the Center for Women's Justice, condemned the ruling, however, calling it archaic and typical of the current patriarchal legal system.

"The whole issue of whose fault the break-up of a marriage is has gone out of favor in most other legal systems," said Weiss, a lawyer by training and a pioneer in challenging the rulings of the RCA in divorce cases.
"It's really hard to prove whose fault it is that a marriage has broken up, but to creep into people's bedrooms and spy on them is certainly not moving in the right direction."

Plight of 'chained' women to be exposed via YouTube

By Ruth Eglash June 11, 2009

Five short video clips portraying the unfair treatment of women in the religious judicial system are set to hit video sharing Web site YouTube in the coming weeks, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The videos are an attempt to raise public awareness to the plight of agunot (chained women), whose husbands refuse to grant them a get (a divorce under Jewish law).

"They are presented in the form of bed-time stories, but really they are true horror stories," said a spokeswoman for the Jerusalem-based non-profit Center for Women's Justice (CWJ), which filmed the clips - four in Hebrew and one in English - earlier this week.

Bill would make it harder for women to avoid draft

By Rebecca Anna Stoil June 11, 2009

MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) bill would require that applicants state that in addition to being religious, they studied for at least two of the last three years in a religious educational establishment, and that they provide documentation to back up the statements.

Even in those cases in which the exemption-requester did not study in a religious institution, Hasson proposes that she be granted an interview with a draft board official in which she can try to convince him that there are special conditions that justify her being exempted.

A kashrut conundrum

By Yael Brygel June 11, 2009

[Restaurant owner Noam] Frankforter believes that in general there is no need for a teudah.

But if restaurant owners choose to acquire one, it should be administered by an organization with trustworthy workers, who do not give in to self-interest and corruption.

He says that this is a significant consideration in his decision not to acquire a teudah from the rabbinate.

"I don't want to pay the rabbinate money," he says. "In my opinion, the rabbinate does not do a good job. They are detached from reality. They have their own self-interests and are not faithful agents of kashrut."

Most Israelis support non-Orthodox

By Haviv Rettig June 15, 2009

Fully 54 percent of those polled support granting equal status and funding to the liberal Jewish streams and their rabbinic leadership, according to the fourth annual Survey of Contemporary Israeli Attitudes toward World Jewry, a poll of 500 Israeli Jews over 18 that was conducted early this month. Just 36% opposed giving equal status to the liberal streams.

Israelis still prefer, by a margin of 49% to 44%, to have conversions remain in the hands of the state's Orthodox-controlled Chief Rabbinate, suggesting that some 10% support religious pluralism but want to maintain the Rabbinate's stricter conversion standards.

That support drops slightly once again on the question of patrilineal descent. Whereas Jewish law dictates that one must have a Jewish mother, or convert, to be a Jew (57% agreed with this), some 39% said Jewish identity could also come from the father.

A song for many voices: The soul of secular Israel

By Rani Jaeger Opinion June 15, 2009

Though this may not make headlines, Israeli society is engaged today in a fervent search for spirituality.

For the larger public, the phenomenon is understandably eclipsed by politics, security and the economy.

But for its many and diverse practitioners, the quest is a rich and vibrant experience.

The Israeli relationship with spirituality, like the concept itself, has been complex and fluid.

…Israelis have come a long way in their understanding of spirituality. From an either-or society of secular pragmatism versus religious spiritualism, with very few shades in between, Israel has come to accept spirituality as an important social and cultural element.

Orthodox Jews Launch "Kosher" Search Engine June 14, 2009

Religiously devout Jews barred by rabbis from surfing the Internet may now "Koogle" it on a new "kosher" search engine, the site manager said on Sunday.

The site, at, omits religiously objectionable material, such as most photographs of women which Orthodox rabbis view as immodest, Altman said.

Its links to Israeli news and shopping sites also filter out items most ultra-Orthodox Israelis are forbidden by rabbis to have in their homes, such aS television sets.

Nothing can be posted on the Jewish Sabbath, when religious law bans all types of work and business, Altman said.

"If you try to buy something on the Sabbath, it gets stuck and won't let you."

An egalitarian synagogue, on both sides of the mechitza

By Liza Schwartz June 8, 2009

On any given Shabbat in Jerusalem, minyans around the city wait for ten men to begin praying. Only Shira Hadasha has to wait longer. Not because no one shows up, but because they require both ten men and ten women.

"We take upon ourselves an extra requirement," said Elie Holzer, a founder of the minyan, noting that it's not a halachic statement but a social one.
Halacha does guide the minyan's decision to let women lead certain parts of services while still using a mechitza.

Outsiders, particularly those from North America, see the minyan's feminist face and categorize it with the pluralistic communities they know from home - some of which have been inspired by Shira Hadasha.

But for Shira Hadasha members, these revised gender rules are only the most visible manifestation of a philosophy that transcends feminism.

'Israel ready to detach itself from Jewish Agency'

By Haviv Rettig Gur June 12, 2009

The escalating political feud between the Israeli government and American donors over the leadership of the Jewish Agency has grown so acrimonious it may threaten the agency's very existence, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

"If the Jewish Agency wants to become just another NGO, cutting its connections with the Israeli government, that's their right.
The immediate result will be to find more efficient partners to advance our programs and interests in the Diaspora," Minister for Diaspora Affairs and Information Yuli Edelstein told the Post on Tuesday.

Edelstein was reacting to plans by the UJC, the umbrella American federation body which provides the majority of the JA's funding, to free the agency's top spots from Israeli political control by disconnecting it from the World Zionist Organization.

That reform plan would harm the chances of Edelstein's mentor and fellow anti-Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky becoming the agency's next chairman.

The failure behind the success

By Yochi Brandes Opinion June 10, 2009

Yochi Brandes, born in Haifa in 1959, comes from a Hasidic background and earned an MA from the Shechter Institute of Jewish Studies, and derives much of her inspiration from the Bible and rabbinic literature.

I asked my students at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, who study Bible as an elective, why they chose this course even though they remembered Bible as a boring subject.

…No student said the Bible was the source of our identity and culture. No student said he wanted to study the Bible because it is a work that relates to our lives, here and now.

When I expressed surprise over what they did not say, there was silence. Why are you surprised, they finally asked.

In all the years we studied it, they always gave us the message that the Bible is not connected to our lives, that is far from our world and does not belong to our culture.

They taught us that the Bible belongs to religious people, not to us; that it is theirs, not ours.

The principals of pluralism

By Gail Lichtman June 11, 2009

In what could definitely be described as better late than never, more than 100 school principals and teachers, who completed the two-year TALI Educational Leadership Program between 2003 and 2008, were finally honored in a formal graduation ceremony at the Kibbutz Ramat Rahel Congress Hall on June 3.

The TALI Educational Leadership Program is a course of study for principals and teaching staff from TALI schools all over the country. Now in its ninth year, its aim is to create leaders who can bring Jewish studies, in the TALI spirit of pluralism and non-coercion, into their schools.

TALI, the Hebrew acronym for "enriched Jewish studies," is a nationwide network of more than 120 schools and preschools, with some 32,000 students, committed to providing Jewish education to the non-observant in the secular state school system.

Established in 1976, TALI is sponsored by the TALI Education Fund (TEF), a part of the Masorti Movement's Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, and is fully recognized and supported by the Ministry of Education.

"This program developed and strengthened my connection to Jewish history and Judaism in a pluralistic way. It broadened my Jewish horizons and enriched my repertoire. It gave me a means to transmit the values and richness of Judaism in our school."

Extended Interviews: American Jews and Israel June 12, 2009

Interviews include:

  • Rabbi Avi Weiss, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale;
  • Rabbi Michael Paley, scholar-in-residence and director of the Jewish Resource Center of the UJA-Federation of NY;
  • Abby Bellows, Jewish activist and community organizer;
  • Professor Steven Cohen, HUC;
  • Philip Weiss, writer and blogger.

Tax reforms, Jewish Agency drive contributing to rise in UK aliya

By Jonny Paul, London June 10, 2009

The Jewish Agency is predicting that 2009 will be a historic year for aliya from Britain, with the number set to increase to 800 new immigrants, the most since 1984.

According to figures released last week, 201 people moved to Israel from the UK between January and April, a 53 percent increase from last year.

Catering to Christians

By Carl Hoffman June 10, 2009, an online travel and information-sharing network for Christians around the world, featuring Israel as the Christian Holy Land.

The company Web site invites its clients to "journey into the Land of the Bible with Travelujah, a vibrant Christian social community where you can learn from experts, share experiences, upload your pictures, 'Search the Bible,' and book that unforgettable journey of a lifetime to the Holy Land." offers Christians the opportunity to have a portion of their cremated ashes scattered at, over, on, or into the New Testament biblical site of their choice.

Religion and State in Israel

June 15, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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