Monday, January 18, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - January 18, 2010 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

January 18, 2010 (Section 2) (see also 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.

Rabbi Drukman dismissed from conversions court

By Kobi Nahshoni January 14, 2010

Ynet sources at the PM's Office said former Great Rabbinical Court Judge Rabbi Shlomo Deichowsky is the lead candidate to take Drukman's place.

Deichowsky is considered a moderate rabbi, which may go a long way towards solving several controversial conversion issues. So far, however, Deichowsky has not agreed to the appointment.

PMO urged to fire Rabbi Haim Druckman

By Matthew Wagner January 14, 2010

The Civil Service Authority wrote a letter this week calling on the Prime Minister's Office to terminate Rabbi Haim Druckman as head of the National Conversion Authority, following the expiration of his contract at the end of 2009.

However, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar asked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to lengthen Druckman's term for an additional six months.

Israeli Rabbinate: we can annul conversions

By Leon Symons January 14, 2010

Commenting in London on the document, Federation of Synagogues’ Beth Din head Dayan Yisroel Lichtenstein said that it meant that any Beth Din could annul a conversion retroactively. On that basis, the London Beth Din would be “justified” in reviewing every Orthodox conversion carried out in Israel.

The document, he said, could be used to demonstrate the incompatibility of religion and state in Israel and could lead to their separation, “a situation I deplore.

Women ‘devastated’ by conversion annulment fears

By Robyn Rosen January 14, 2010

Three converts have spoken about how the controversy is affecting them.

Mrs. B converted in America and has a six-year-old daughter. “This throws up a lot of questions,” she said. “It’s awful to know that someone could rethink my conversion.

“What could it mean for my daughter? To feel that the rug could be pulled from beneath her at some point, I think it’s outrageous."

Rabbi: Conversion annulment 'illegal'

By Anshel Pfeffer January 14, 2010

A rabbi is causing an uproar in Israel’s strictly Orthodox community with a new book in which he insists that there is no Halachic basis for the annulment of conversions.

Rabbi Haim Amsalem, a Shas MK, has been told by his party’s leaders in the past to rein in his zeal to publish Halachic rulings.

One of the party’s ministers even said recently: “He has to decide whether he’s a politician or a rabbi.”

But Rabbi Amsalem is undeterred and his latest book, soon to be published, contains a bombshell.

Jerusalem rabbis to reopen Jewish status case

By James Martin January 14, 2010

An Israeli whose Jewish status was put in question by the Jerusalem Beth Din is to have his case reheard after the Higher Rabbinical Court acknowledged a procedural error in the first hearing.

The case involves London-based actor Yossi Fackenheim, 30, the son of the noted Reform theologian Emil Fackenheim, who died in 2003. Because his mother was a convert, the two-year-old Yossi, like his siblings, underwent an Orthodox conversion in Canada.

So… You Think You’re Really Jewish?

By Harry Maryles Opinion January 11, 2010

Whatever the Rabbinate does that is deemed vital to the State or its citizens – like establishing national Kashrus standards or supervisions should be channeled into other institutions. Or let there be a new independent Kashrus authority created.

Rabbis in various communities should be retained but independent of the Chief Rabbinate. Perhaps a new agency should be set up to maintain standards for their service. The same thing is true for any other vital activity currently under their jurisdiction.

Con Game

By Allison Hoffman January 13, 2010

How a New York rabbi tried to remake the rules on converting to Judaism, until a sex tape—and a family feud between his wealthy backers—brought him down

December was a very bad month for Rabbi Leib Tropper, a powerful ultra-Orthodox rabbi who has been seeking to determine the standards for conversion in Israel and throughout the world through his little-known yet influential organization, Eternal Jewish Family.


By Marissa Brostoff January 14, 2010

How did a young single mother—who wasn’t even officially Jewish until a few weeks ago—get mixed up with a powerful ultra-Orthodox rabbi and his wealthy and influential associates?

The short answer, according to Orand, is that she was in the process of converting to Judaism, and Tropper was her supervising rabbi and took gross liberties with his position. But, of course, the long answer is much more interesting.

Tale of the Tapes January 14, 2010

It’s not clear when Shannon Orand—a mother of two from Houston—began having an alleged sexual relationship with Leib Tropper, the ultra-Orthodox rabbi from the upstate New York enclave of Monsey who was helping her work toward her conversion to Judaism.

VIDEO: Guma Aguiar describes his entry into Gaza

January 14, 2010

Click here for VIDEO

Click here for more VIDEOS on Guma Aguiar

Prodigal Son

By Allison Hoffman January 15, 2010

A look at Guma Aguiar, who with his uncle bankrolled a New York rabbi trying to control the standards for conversion to Judaism.

Betar sponsor in psychiatric hospital

By Allon Sinai January 15, 2010

Betar Jerusalem sponsor Guma Aguiar is expected to remain in the Abarbanel Psychiatric Hospital for the next two weeks after being forcibly admitted to the mental health center on Wednesday night following a court order taken out by his wife, Jamie.

The improbable twists of the Aguiar saga

By Jeremy Last January 15, 2010

Guma Aguiar may have said some strange things over the last few months, but it was still a surprise to wake up on Thursday morning and hear that he has been sent to a psychiatric institution.

Israeli soccer club sponsor [admitted] after claiming to free Shalit January 14, 2010

"He is at one of my properties," the billionaire energy industrialist told the newspaper Kol Ha'ir.

"I wanted to prove that I could enter Gaza and come out alive and that Shalit could come out alive as well," Aguiar continued.

VIDEO: The Never Ending ‘Get’ Story

Savta Bikorta is a fictional character created by the Center for Women's Justice to help the public understand just what happens behind the closed doors of the Rabbinic courts.

Click here for VIDEO

MKs decry Chief Rabbinate's attempts to discourage a woman's right to choose

By Rebecca Anna Stoil January 15, 2010

MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima):

"The chief rabbis of Israel who receive their salaries from the country are trying through statements and scare tactics to force women not to have abortions," said Zuaretz.

"The rabbis are demanding the establishment of a committee against abortions that has no place in a democratic society, in which women are not allowed to decide regarding their own bodies.

Holding Responsible the Parents of Recalcitrant Husbands

By Elana Sztokman Opinion January 11, 2010

Mavoi Satum, and mesorevet get “L”, have been celebrating a major victory following the ruling of the Jerusalem Family Court in which the parents of the recalcitrant husband were forced to pay for child support of their grandchildren.

IDF removes insubordinate soldiers from hesder unit

By Hanan Greenberg January 13, 2010

Colonel Gadi Agmon, commander of the Meitav Induction Base, has instructed the army to remove two combat soldiers serving in the Shimshon battalion of the Kfir brigade from the hesder project.

His decision came after the two waved a sign last November that read "Nachshon doesn't evict (Jews) either."

LIBI Fund Increases Support to Judaism in IDF

By Gil Ronen January 14, 2010

The LIBI Fund, a philanthropic fund that supports the IDF, increased its support of Judaism within the military in 2009, according to the Voice of Israel government radio station.

The investments were made at the request of donors who asked that their contributions go to these causes.

Zionism just ain't what it used to be

By Anshel Pfeffer Opinion January 15, 2010

Picture this: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who in recent years has caused headlines mainly by issuing inflammatory rulings and statements against Arabs and Reform Jews, invited to bestow his blessing, wearing his turban and brocade gown, on the staid and civilized proceedings of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem.

It is not as incongruous as it may seem.

Gov't set to designate 2010 to honor Herzl's 150th birthday

By Haviv Rettig Gur January 12, 2010

The Ministerial Committee for State symbols and Ceremonies is expected to officially designate 2010 as the year commemorating the 150th birthday of the founder of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl.

Budget shortfall forces World Zionist Organization officials to cancel elections

By Cnaan Liphshiz January 15, 2010

A crippling financial shortfall prompted World Zionist Organization officials this week to cancel the body's elections for the first time since 1980, Anglo File has learned. Leading officials of the world's oldest Zionist body said the move "severely compromises" democratic values, but others disagreed.

…Rabbi Michael Melchior, who is endorsed by Kadima, which holds the chairmanship under the previous WZO congressional election. The World Mizrachi Movement oppose his nomination.

Melchior says he is not "in the loop" as far as WZO politics go. "I sometimes can't believe the mean-spirited, petty politics that go on inside that body," he said.

Obsessive Segregation Is About Misogyny — Not Modesty

By Elana Sztokman Opinion January 11, 2010

I would like to see the media and others stop referring to gender segregation as an act “for purposes of religious modesty”, as the Jerusalem Post did this week, for example.

The idea that a woman sitting at the front bus is “immodest” implies that a woman who dares to be seen in public is acting sexually, intentionally trying to arouse the men around her. This issue is not about “modesty,” but about misogyny.

Obsessive segregation is an agenda created by men who see all women — young or old, rich or poor, fat or thin, educated or uneducated — as ineligible for a place in the front of the bus by virtue of their sex. This obsession is not religiousness. It is, in fact, an abomination.

Jewish philanthropy weathers the financial storm, but at what price?

By Sara Miller January 14, 2010

Philanthropist Irina Nevzlin sees the twin crises as having more of a "psychological" impact than anything else.

Nevzlin heads the Nadav Fund, created by her father, Russian-Israeli businessman Leonid Nevzlin, which contributes to a wide range of Jewish organizations - among them Taglit-Birthright and the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv.

Nevzlin says that her family and the fund did not fall prey to Madoff, nor were they directly affected by the crash, but these events have made both traditional and new Jewish donors think twice before handing over their cash, and that has caused them some problems.

The Year of Living Fulfillingly

By Tamar Snyder January 15, 2010

As gap year programs in Israel are becoming more popular, particularly among the non-Orthodox, organizers are increasingly appealing to high school seniors’ distinct interests and career aspirations — be it a head for business, a desire to volunteer in a third-world country, or love of art.

Educators Going Viral

By Michele Chabin January 12, 2010

Conference organizers usually frown on participants who Facebook, Tweet or Google during a seminar, but no one objected when some of the 14 participants in a new fellowship program for Jewish educators did just that during a lively lecture.

Hand-picked for their expertise as educators and their eagerness to utilize Web technology in their work, the participants — the first batch of fellows in the new Jim Joseph Foundation Fellowship Program directed by the Lookstein Center at Bar-Ilan University — are actually being encouraged to get online in the name of education.

Educational park moving to U.S. after owners say kibbutz ran center out of town

By Raphael Ahren January 15, 2010

The owners of a Jewish-themed educational park in central Israel are relocating the popular attraction to Kansas City.

Pinat Shorashim, located in Kibbutz Gezer, closed its doors last month after taking in more than 100,000 visitors from all over the world.

Created in 1991, Pinat Shorashim had run into trouble with the kibbutz administration more than a decade ago, according to David Leichman, the park's founder and director.

Breaking funding stereotypes to meet today’s challenges

By Sanford R. Cardin, Ariel Beery and Aharon Horwitz Opinion January 14, 2010

Sanford R. Cardin is president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and Schusterman Foundation-Israel. Ariel Beery and Aharon Horwitz are co-founders and directors of the Jerusalem-based PresenTense Group.

The time has come to end this simplistic, unhealthy and unproductive thinking.

We must move at once to an “open source” approach to Jewish communal life, one in which opportunity and competence dictate the flow of human and financial resources.

75% of lone soldiers see future in Israel

By Elad Benari January 11, 2010

A poll conducted by the Jewish Agency finds that approximately 75% of lone soldiers see their future in Israel.

The poll was conducted among 113 lone soldiers who have made aliyah and are about to conclude their service in the army.

The poll found that 75% of lone soldiers believe that the native Israelis’ sympathetic attitude towards them constitutes an important factor of their desire to stay in Israel and integrate into the Israeli community.

ZAKA mission to Haiti 'proudly desecrating Shabbat'

By Amit Levy January 17, 2010

ZAKA, a rescue team made up of religious volunteers, has been working overtime in the quake-stricken Haitian capital of Port au-Prince. Late Friday night they found a few minutes to conduct Kabbalat Shabbat.

When religion and health meet, answers may not be black and white

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich January 17, 2010

The 10th annual conference of the Puah Institute for Fertility According to Halacha, held at the capital's Ulamei Nof with over 1,300 men and women strictly separated by a cloth divider, always centers on subjects related to reproductive health from the viewpoints of medicine and Jewish law

Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Halperin - an Orthodox rabbi and trained gynecologist as well as a leading medical ethics expert in the Health Ministry - disclosed that many of the country's most influential arbiters have gradually changed their minds from recognizing a woman who undergoes IVF with donor eggs as the baby's halachic mother, to regarding the donor of the ova - even if she is not Jewish - as the real mother. This about-face from two decades ago has developed recently.


By Michael Z. Wise January 14, 2010

After years of protests and an unsuccessful legal challenge, architect Frank Gehry has pulled out of a project to build a Jerusalem counterpart to the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance that is slated to stand on a site that was once part of an ancient Muslim cemetery.

Frank Gehry steps down from Museum of Tolerance project

By Akiva Eldar January 14, 2010

Haaretz has also learned that Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch decided yesterday to cancel plans to set up a compound of judicial institutions in the area. The new buildings were meant to house the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court and the Jerusalem District Court.

Thought-controlled gadgets pose new Halacha challenges

By Matthew Wagner January 15, 2010

These were some of many questions raised by a group of halachic scholars and scientists Wednesday at Bar-Ilan University's Nitzotzot ["sparks"] lecture series, held at the Ludwig and Erica Jesselson Institute of Advanced Jewish Studies Beit Midrash.

As technological advances move ahead at a mind-boggling pace, ethicists as well as halachic authorities have been confronted with a slew of new moral and religious dilemmas that need to be addressed.

Torah for the masses

By Rabbi Marc Rosenstein January 12, 2010

Limmud is part of the larger trend in Israeli society in the past 15 years, of people from non-traditional communities seeking to reconnect to the Jewish texts from which they were alienated by the polarized nature of Jewish life here.

It is certainly possible to question the value of one-shot festivals as opposed to ongoing, committed, study.

But it's also possible to see in this phenomenon a welcome fulfillment of a Zionist vision of Judaism becoming the popular culture of a modern state, separated from its manifestation in the synagogue, but not from its roots in the classical texts.

Israeli Pop Star Revs Up Religious-Zionist Youth – Spiritually

By Hillel Fendel January 17, 2010

Dozens of youths crowed into a Jerusalem yeshiva to hear Shuli Rand sing – and talk about repentance and outreach.

The event took place in the "Torah B'Tzion" yeshiva in the Katamon neighborhood on Saturday night, Jan. 16.

Rand, a popular musician/actor who became religiously observant and adapted his compositions and performances accordingly, sang songs and answered questions from the young students.

Interfaith wedding? Biblical Hebrew meets the Internet,

By Dorit Ofek January 14, 2010

According to eTeacher (, an on-line language school whose biblical Hebrew course was recently accredited by the Hebrew University, thousands of students from all over the world click their way into Internet-based language classes every year.

Rabbi calls Israel's treatment of Vatican 'outrageous'

By Cnaan Liphshiz January 17, 2010

Israel's behavior toward the Vatican over the past 15 years has been "outrageous," one of the figures behind the 1994 establishment of diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Vatican City told Haaretz last week.

"Any [other] country would have threatened to withdraw its ambassador long ago over Israel's failure to honor agreements," Rabbi David Rosen said.

Rabbi Lau asks pope to halt Pius' beatification

AP January 15, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI should be welcomed when he visits Rome's main synagogue, but he should halt moves to beatify wartime pontiff Pius XII, criticized for not doing enough to stop the Holocaust, a former chief rabbi of Israel said earlier this week.

We shouldn't be afraid of saying 'Rabbi Jesus'

By Ed Kessler January 14, 2010

Dr. Kessler is executive director of the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths. His forthcoming book, ‘An Introduction to Jewish-Christian Relations’, is published by Cambridge University Press next month.

In a recent YouTube video, the Chief Rabbi of Efrat in the West Bank, Shlomo Riskin, praised Jesus and referred to him as “Rabbi Jesus”.

…Not only Christians but Jews, Orthodox and Progressive, religious and secular, would benefit from realising that Jesus lived his life not as a Christian but as a Jew.

The Christian rediscovery of the Jewishness of Jesus has been a significant factor in the development in modern times of a Christian respect for Jews and Judaism.

Riskin’s centre in Efrat should be commended for its aim to strengthen relations between Christians and Orthodox Jews.

A forbidden visit to the Temple Mount

By David Kirshenbaum Opinion January 17, 2010

The day before the recent wedding of my daughter, Sharona, I had the awesome privilege of accompanying her, together with my son, Elie, to the Temple Mount.

In addition to that much-anticipated visit, we had planned on spending the morning together, strolling the streets of Jerusalem, enjoying a father-daughter brunch and tending to last-minute preparations for the wedding.

Instead, our visit to the Temple Mount was abruptly cut short and Sharona and I were detained until noon in a Jerusalem police station for actions deemed dangerous to the safety of the public and state.

Double Joy: Prayer at Temple Mount Before Daughter Weds

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu January 11, 2010

Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick won a seven-month battle on Sunday and prayed at the holy site with his 19-year-old daughter, just hours before she married in a ceremony in Bnei Brak.

He told Israel National News they prayed at the site and were escorted by two policemen and another guard.

The Other Side of the Wall - Praying at the Western Wall, First as a Man, Then as a Woman

By Joy Ladin Opinion January/February 2010

Joy Ladin is the David and Ruth Gottesman Professor of English at Stern College of Yeshiva University. Her most recent book, a collection of 21st century psalms, will appear this year. This essay is drawn from an unpublished collection of autobiographical reflections entitled Inside Out: Confessions of a Woman Caught in the Act of Becoming.

Click here for a radio interview with Joy Ladin on Interfaith Voices, and here to listen to Ladin read from her memoir.

...It’s 2002. I still have a family; I’m still a man, and am sure I always will be. We’re in Israel together, in the middle of a semester in which I’m teaching at Tel Aviv University on a Fulbright.

…There, ahead of us, is the Wailing Wall, the last remnant of the ancient Temple, symbol of unimaginable suffering and inexplicable survival.

And there, at the Wall, is gender.

…I’m back in Jerusalem. It’s October 2008, the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

…The Wall is straight ahead. There’s the mechitza, the little wall dividing the men from the women.

Cartoon: The Odd Couple January 13, 2010

Eli Valley is finishing his first novel. His column, “Comics Rescued From a Burning Synagogue in Bialystok and Hidden in a Salt Mine Until After the War,” appears monthly in the Forward. His Web site is

Eli Valley takes a satirical look at ultra-Orthodox Judaism, outreach to young, secular Jews, and perceptions and misconceptions of authentic Jewish life.

Religion and State in Israel

January 18, 2010 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.