Sunday, August 15, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - August 16, 2010 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

August 16, 2010 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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

Sephardi Chief Rabbi: Non-Orthodox Jews are 'digging their claws' into Israel

By Yair Ettinger August 13, 2010

The Reform Movement said it would ask President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to object openly to Chief Rabbi Amar's letter and his "outrageous use of his public and state position to incite against Jewish communities."

The head of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, said:

Amar's statements "prove why Israeli society needs a wide variety of Jewish voices, including the important voice of Reform and Conservative Judaism, which would take the place of the ultra-Orthodox attempt to take over religion in Israel and turn it into one bullying, intolerant Judaism."

Click here for original letter (Hebrew) via

'Reform Jews have their claws in Zion' August 12, 2010

Yizhar Hess, Director of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement, said:

"Rabbi Amar is correct. Non-Orthodox Judaism - Conservative and Reform - have a real place in Israeli society. Hundreds of communities throughout Israel are learning that the Orthodox monopoly will crash...because it became irrelevant for a growing public."

Rabbi Amar: Stop Reform Jews

By Kobi Nahshoni August 12, 2010

According to Chief Rabbi Amar, the representatives of these movements are "spreading fear in various and diverse ways and have established legions of fighters within the Land of Israel with the sole purpose of uprooting the Torah from Israel and undermining the religious courts and anything holy, in any way and with all measures, by threatening and influencing the ministers and the Knesset members and through the courts, etc, going from bad to worse."

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar: Diaspora Jews 'coercing the Israeli government'

By Jonah Mandel August 9, 2010

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar slammed Diaspora Jews for “coercing the Israeli government” to drop the conversion bill, which is not justified and “causing great damage.”

Natan Sharansky, Jewish Agency

The Jewish Agency, meanwhile, reiterated its call for across-the-board unity on the issue.

“Israel belongs to all the Jews of the world,” the agency said in a statement on Sunday.

“The moment the law of Israel, not just the opinion of the chief rabbi, but Israeli legislation itself starts grading the legitimacy of Jewish communities, we have a problem. This is not a debate about the position of the Chief Rabbinate in the conversion issue, but over whether the State of Israel sees itself as the home of all Jewish communities.”

"Off the Mark" on Rotem Conversion Bill

By Rabbi Alan Silverstein and David H. Lissy Opinion August 11, 2010

Rabbi Alan Silverstein and David H. Lissy are Chair and CEO/ Executive Director of the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel

Gary Rosenblatt does not hesitate to tackle difficult matters, but his latest column about the Rotem Conversion Bill is off the mark.

...However much we might want to address the core question of the status of olim from the former Soviet Union, the price ought not to be the acceptance of tangential provisions which are harmful to the pluralistic and democratic future of Israel and which augment the role of the haredi Chief Rabbinate.

Conversion wars: Why Rosenblatt was convinced and I wasn't

By Shmuel Rosner Opinion August 13, 2010

There's something refreshing about Rosenblatt's measured and rational tone, and I highly recommend reading it. But there are also a couple of things with which I do not agree, and that I think need some clarifying.

...I agree with Gary: It is all a matter of priorities. He was convinced that conversion Russian immigrants is the highest priority.

And he is willing to pay a price for achieving this goal. But others might argue that the highest priority is to weaken the rabbinate and make it less significant and less relevant and less influential. If it becomes less powerful, the problem of conversion will be much easier to solve.

The wars of the Jews

By Eitan Haber Opinion August 13, 2010

The question of conversion is like a landmine that awaits any government virtually since Israel’s establishment.

Almost all prime ministers in Israel are very cautious about stepping on this landmine, which could prompt a split and schism within the Jewish people. What Israeli PM would like to be remembered in history as the one who ripped apart the Jewish nation?

Faces and Faiths

By Leon Wieseltier Opinion August 10, 2010

Leon Wieseltier is the literary editor of The New Republic, where this essay originally appeared.

But the thwarting of Rotem is not the end of the matter. There is a larger problem for my Reform and Conservative brothers and sisters. The problem is the very existence of the Chief Rabbinate.

...It has become the most powerful instrument of the takeover of Orthodoxy by the ultra-Orthodox, who grow wilder and more insular all the time.

Conversion crisis

By Charles Bybelezer Opinion August 10, 2010

Charles Bybelezer is a writer on Chabad TMR’s blog in Montreal

The conversion crisis is the reflection of a singular reality: non-halachic conversions will never gain equal status in Israel.

The reason needs to be overtly stated: under no circumstances can the Jewish state of Israel become an ‘enlightened quasi-Jew’ state. To approximate the effects of uniformly recognizing all forms of conversion, Israel needs only to refer to the evolution of North-American Jewry.

Relative to this, only one truth emerges: Israel can never fully validate non-halachic conversions because the prospect of complete assimilation within the only Jewish state in the world resides totally outside the realm of possibility.

No black-and-white solution to conversion issue

Intermountain Jewish News Editorial July 29, 2010

Rotem is living in a dream world if he thinks that by decentralizing conversions he will dramatically increase their number.

Conversion is a spiritual path, not a political one. Local rabbis might more readily guide potential converts, but it is entirely unrealistic to think that this will alter the status of hundreds of thousands of people. Just do some simple math.

A path back to Judaism Editorial August 9, 2010

In a fascinating legal decision that touches on the very core of Jewish/Israeli identity, the country’s supreme legal authority ruled last week that a woman who converted to Christianity and immigrated to Germany could not regain her Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, even though two Orthodox rabbinical courts – in London and in Tel Aviv – had determined that she was Jewish.

However, in their precedent-making decision, the three justices – Neal Hendel, Elyakim Rubinstein and Hanan Meltzer – gave the woman the option of regaining citizenship if she could prove to the Interior Ministry her renewed commitment to the Jewish people.

For First Time Since Leader's Arrest, Women of the Wall Gather Amid Angry Protests

By Elana Maryles Sztokman August 11, 2010

Anat Hoffman, who was under a restraining order barring her from the main Kotel, stood outside the security gates with her friend Rabbi Naama Kelman Dean of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Jerusalem campus, holding the Torah.

“People would pass by and actually kiss the Torah,” Kelman said. “They didn’t even notice that a woman was holding the Torah. That was everything for me.” VIDEO: Women of the Wall won't be kept away from the Kotel

Interview with Anat Hoffman

Click on "Women of the Wall" video image; click PLAY; click FULL-SCREEN icon.

(Note: Video remains on Homepage only for approximately 2 weeks)

Women of the Wall hold Kotel services

By Abe Selig August 11, 2010

Responding to a past decision by the Supreme Court – which in 2003 reversed its own previous ruling and stated that the group was not allowed to wear prayer shawls or tefillin or read from the Torah at the Western Wall as it posed a threat to “public safety and order”– Hoffman said,

“aside from the pain and regret we feel over the latest Supreme Court decision, we have no intention of giving up on such an important and accepted Jewish symbol as the Torah.”

An open letter to the woman who screamed at me at the Kotel this morning

By Rabbi Nina H. Mandel Opinion August 12, 2010

Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5770

Dear Madam:

This morning, both you and I went to the Kotel in Jerusalem– one of the holiest sites of the Jewish people– for the same reason: we wanted to say the morning prayers and welcome in the new month in a place that has inspired the sacred dreams of our people for many centuries...

VIDEO: Women of The Wall, Rosh Chodesh Elul 5770

Click here for VIDEO

Rosh Chodesh Elul and Women of the Wall

By Brian August 13, 2010

There was no major violent outburst, no arrests nothing horrible that happened during the services. I was just completely disgusted at the reactions of the men on our side of the wall.

Rosh Chodesh Elul

By Rachel Antonoff Opinion August 11, 2010

I will wholly admit that I think the Kotel is overrated...

However, the Kotel remains a powerful symbol in Israel and in Judaism all around the world. It’s a connection to our past. It’s a place with a strong meaning for many Jews, and it belongs to all Jews of the world.

Not just the Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the world: all Jews. Including Reform Jews. And Conservative Jews. And Progressive Jews. And Reconstructionist Jews. And women.

In Israel, A Fight to Make the Wall More Inclusive

By Hillary Brenhouse August 12, 2010

Nitzan Horowitz, a liberal member of the parliament, who intends on introducing a bill that would amend the Holy Places Law and advance more inclusive solutions at the country's sacred sites.

It will propose that the Kotel plaza be divided into three sections, the largest of them a non-segregated space, recognizing the Wall as a national place of pilgrimage rather than a religious site where worship must follow strict Orthodox practice.

Anat Hoffman of Women of the Wall:

"We are going to take back what most Israelis have given up for lost," Hoffman says. "If we can get pluralism at the Kotel, we can get it anywhere. This is where we're going to win our liberation."

Olim from UK, Holland and Australia Receive Israel ID Cards at Jewish Agency Ceremony by the Kotel August 11, 2010

Click here for photos

Even the dead and buried enter the conflict

By Nir Hasson August 15, 2010

Jerusalem and its dead are unlucky. The large and ancient Jewish cemetery lies on the Mount of Olives in a Muslim neighborhood in East Jerusalem, and the large and ancient Muslim cemetery stands in the Western part of the city, in the Jewish Mamilla area.

Fake graves cleared from J'lem cemetery

By Abe Selig August 15, 2010

In what city officials are calling “one of the largest acts of deception in recent years,” Jerusalem municipal employees last week cleared away some 300 “fictitious tombstones” from a historic Muslim cemetery located in the heart of the capital. The cemetery abuts the planned site of a future “Museum of Tolerance.”

Feud in Jerusalem Over Work at Cemetery’s Edge

By Ethan Bronner August 13, 2010

The latest skirmish in the war for every inch of this coveted city focused this week on the dead. Did Israeli government bulldozers, working in the middle of the night, destroy hundreds of historic Muslim graves? Or were the removed tombstones outrageous fakes placed on parkland in a ruse?

Keep gay pride in the bedroom

By Yair Sheleg Opinion August 9, 2010

Yes to respect for gay people as human beings and to equal rights for gay people. But a definite no to equal moral status for same-sex couples, and certainly to respect for taking sexuality - whether gay or straight - out of the bedroom and into the street.

Orthodox attitudes to gay people shift

By Mordechai Beck Opinion August 9, 2010

Rabbi Ron Yosef, who is not only a community rabbi, but also a religious judge, would like his fellow gay people to be accepted within the framework of Orthodox law. This has not happened yet but, as Rabbi Lau observes this bold declaration, which allows for individual communities to decide on their own policy towards gay people, "has started the discussion."

How young can a rabbi be?

By Rhonda Spivak August 13, 2010

Nisan Sharify says that if Amar does not alter his instruction not to check his son’s test and not to consider it like any other test taken by the other contestants, he will be forced to petition against him at the High Court of Justice.

“I will petition to have the court require Rabbi Amar to consider the results of the examination and then grant him the smicha,” he says.

Sharify told the Post that in his view Rabbi Amar does not have any discretion to negate his son’s test results, once the Chief Rabbinate invited him to appear on the required date and time to take the exams.

Young rabbi-wannabe struggles for recognition August 12, 2010

At the tender age of 14, Moshe Raziel Sharify has managed to stir up a righteous controversy inside the Chief Rabbinate.

Sharify, considered by many to be a child prodigy, desperately wants to become a rabbi and doesn’t see the need to wait another eight years to reach the minimum age set by the Chief Rabbinate for a man to take the ordination exam.

Shlomo Dichovsky chosen to head rabbinical courts, temporarily

By Yair Ettinger August 15, 2010

Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky was unanimously chosen on Friday to be the temporary director of the rabbinical courts after two Ashkenazi members of the appointments committee walked out in protest.

The two were MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism ) and a rabbinical judge, Rabbi Haggai Izrir. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, who also initially opposed Dichovsky's candidacy, voted in his favor, so approval would be unanimous.

Who wants modesty in capital’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood?

By Abe Selig August 12, 2010

While strange twists and turns in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah are nothing new for the often tense and tumultuous enclave, the appearance of a series of “modesty signs” in the neighborhood over recent days have apparently left all residents of the community – Arab and Jewish alike – scratching their heads.

Modesty signs posted in Sheikh Jarrah

By Ronen Medzini August 10, 2010

Residents of east Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood were surprised to discover in recent days dozens of signs posted throughout the neighborhood streets, which urge women to dress modestly.

"Do not enter our neighborhood with immodest clothing," the signs, which no one has yet taken credit for, read.

A Jerusalem neighborhood's line in the sky

By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times August 9, 2010

Ultra-Orthodox Jews clash with secular and Palestinian neighbors over wires used as symbolic boundaries during the Sabbath.

Turning obligation into opportunity

By Raphael Ahren August 13, 2010

Naomi Grumet, a Jerusalem resident whose doctoral thesis analyzed women's feelings toward mikvehs, found that in her hometown they are often run-down and neglected, negating any desire women might otherwise have to spend more time there than necessary.

Perhaps even worse, a Jerusalem mikveh experience "is often uninspiring and even degrading," she says.

That's why the 37-year-old last year initiated the creation of the Eden Center, a state-of-the-art mikveh with spa and gym facilities to be built there.

In addition to "a welcoming and respectful environment," the center promises the services of halakhic guidance counselors, dietitians and psychologists providing couples therapy.

VIDEO: Kabbalat Shabbat services Bet Tfila at Tel Aviv Port

Click here for VIDEO

Click here for more info on Bet Tfila

Beit Tefilah Israeli is a young and fast-growing, liberal and independent community in Tel Aviv, which offers a meaningful context and venue for Shabbat and holiday services, lifecycle events, and Jewish-Israeli Identity exploration for a broad range of Israelis who seek a place for spiritual quest in prayer and activism in a communal and friendly environment. In its first two years of operation Beit Tefilah Israeli has gradually become a prominent feature in the world of Jewish culture in Tel Aviv, and in the everyday lives of its members.

Lod: Christians and Jews distributes Ramadan food baskets

By Gil Shefler August 12, 2010

Representatives of around 250 Muslim families in need gathered in Lod on Wednesday to receive food donations courtesy of a Jewish organization funded by Evangelical Christians.

...Rabbi Eckstein’s group, which receives 95 percent of its donations from Evangelical Protestants, has often been criticized.

Haredi rabbis have forbidden followers to receive its donations because of the non-Jewish source of its funds.

Religion and State in Israel

August 16, 2010 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.