Monday, August 23, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - August 23, 2010 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

August 23, 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.

Interview with Eli Yishai: The Rabbi's dutiful deputy PM

By David Horowitz August 20, 2010

Interior Minister MK Eli Yishai (Shas):

“To my sorrow, those who convert through the Reform abroad are registered here as Jews. To my sorrow. But if you want to convert here, it must be through the laws of Israel. If you want to be Jewish, welcome, but convert via the Halacha.”

"This is a real struggle over the Jewish nature of the state. And we ask the Reform to respect this most important demand, to respect the principle that has preserved the Jewish people for thousands of years. If we don’t maintain the principle of conversion by Halacha, we will disappear.”

Your People, My People

By Jan Jaben-Eilon August 17, 2010

[Rabbi Seth Farber, founder and director of the Israeli non-profit organization Itim: The Jewish Life Information Center] says that the federations “should get involved in the Jewish peoplehood issue and focus less on the security part.”

When Federation missions come to Israel, he complains, they look “at the sexy part, they come see an army base. I think the American Jewish leadership should come together to Israel and I’ll show them a rabbinical or a conversion court.”

Now he says that he would have preferred that there was no six-month hiatus on the conversion issue.

“I would have let the fight continue. I would have let it upset people more. I would have preferred that the rabbinate take responsibility for alienating the North American Jewish community and that Rotem would have understood the importance of the North American Jews.”

Conversion Politics

By Lawrence Rifkin August 17, 2010

In mid-July, the [IMPJ] hired Mina Tzemach, one of the country’s most respected pollsters, to conduct a telephone survey of attitudes toward the Rotem bill.

One of the questions was whether it would help or hinder the conversion process. According to Kotlyar, 32 percent of the Jewish population said it would help, while 42 percent said it would hinder.

But among Russian-speaking olim who arrived since the beginning of the 1990s – the very people targeted by the legislation – only 20 percent said it would help, while almost half (46 percent) said it would hinder.

Charedi Rebel

By David Suissa August 17, 2010

If you’re not part of the Charedim, it’s easy to be outraged by their rigidity. But what if you’re a Charedi scholar who is highly respected in the Charedi world? Can you also be outraged?

Yes, if your name is Rabbi Chaim Amsellem.

Amsellem is an MK from the Charedi Shas party, and he has been making waves. One reason is that he has written a serious book of halachah that supports a more lenient view of conversions.

The book is based on the concept of Zera Yisrael, or progeny — someone who, while not halachically Jewish, is very close to Jews and has even risked his or her life to defend the Jewish nation.

Abuse of Power

By Rabbi Avi Shafran Opinion August 10, 2010

Rabbi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.

The Jewish world reportedly has six months before the Rotem Bill (or some facsimile thereof) returns to the Knesset for further consideration.

That should allow us all to more leisurely — and hopefully more reasonably — not only assess the bill's strengths and weaknesses but ponder a troubling issue peripheral to the legislation, but which was engendered by it.

Reform Movement asks Peres to intervene against Amar

By Kobi Nahshoni August 16, 2010

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar's message against the Reform Movement is not going unanswered. Leaders of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism sent an urgent letter on Sunday to President Shimon Peres demanded that he intervene immediately against the inflammatory statements Amar wrote in a message to Israel's rabbis.

According to the Reform leaders, the chief rabbi is abusing his position to express ideas bordering on incitement against Jewish communities throughout the world and is doing so in an extremist and crass manner.

"Such a move is clear proof that the leadership of the Chief Rabbinate has lost the capacity to serve as a unifying force that represents the traditions of Israel in Israeli society and the Diaspora of the Jewish people."

The red-tape two-step

By Vered Lee August 20, 2010

All I'm asking for is basic rights. Accept her legally as my wife. She converted. She married in a Jewish ceremony. Why isn't she considered a new immigrant? Why doesn't she receive citizenship under the Law of Return? Why isn't she being recognized as my wife?"

The Law of Return at Sixty Years: History, Ideology, Justification August 15, 2010

Prof. Ruth Gavison points to difficulties arising in 3 basic areas:

  • The quasi-halachic definition of a “Jew” established by the 1970 amendment to law, according to which a “Jew” is one who was born to a Jewish mother or who converted to Judaism and is not a member of another religion;
  • The extension of Aliyah eligibility to include the family members of a Jew up to the third generation even if they themselves have no connection to the Jewish people;
  • The fact that individuals who are eligible for Aliyah acquire citizenship immediately and automatically upon making Aliyah.

Perfect harmony

By Elana Sztokman August 20, 2010

The fact that leaders of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaism pray together in a regular pluralistic women’s service is virtually unparalleled in the Jewish world.

“Critics should learn the history,” counters Shira Pruce, WOW publicity coordinator. “We have been meeting every Rosh Hodesh since 1988, and our prayers have stayed exactly the same. We are not challenging the status quo. Jerusalem is just becoming more extreme.”

Elevator proposed to ease access to Western Wall

By Melanie Lidman August 17, 2010

The elevator, proposed by the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter, would start at Misgav Ledach Street and descend 21 meters to a new pedestrian tunnel.

It would greatly improve access for visitors in wheelchairs or those with other disabilities, who now have to contend with several flights of stairs. The pedestrian tunnel would be 60-70 meters in length and pass underneath the stairs near the Aish HaTorah Yeshiva.

VIDEO: Anat Hoffman, Israel Religious Action Center, Women of the Wall

August 9, 2010

Click here for VIDEO Part 1

Click here for VIDEO Part 2

Can a non-Jew be buried within a Jewish cemetery?

By Rabbi Shlomo Brody August 20, 2010

In modern times, the separate burial of Jews has become complicated by greater social intermingling and “hyphenated identities” with competing cultural affiliations. Since the rabbinate controls funeral rites, Israel has faced this challenge with regard to the burial of non-Jewish soldiers and citizens, such as Amos Yarkoni.

With some controversy, subtle special separations are sometimes created, with the non- Jewish graves on cemetery outskirts or separated from their neighbors by decorative bushes.

A Different Kind of Israeli Magazine

Bambi Sheleg’s Eretz Acheret Is Making Waves

By Elana Maryles Sztokman August 18, 2010

Bambi Sheleg, 52, a mother of three who is married to writer Yair Sheleg, was born in Chile and moved to Israel at age 12.

Her family is Religious Zionist, and she began her journalism career as a writer and editor at Nekuda, the magazine of the settler movement. At a certain point, though, she started having doubts about her ideological home.

“I was in the religious ‘camp’,” she said, “but sometimes I felt that I connected more with people outside my camp.”

With the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, she wrote a controversial essay titled “Friends, We Were Wrong,” in which she decried what she considers the moral failings of Religious Zionist leadership and its overemphasis on land settlement at the expense of moral values.

“Some of my friends haven’t spoken to me since I wrote that,” she said. “But I have no regrets.”

VIDEO Panel Discussion Influencing Israel - From a Global Jewish Perspective

Click here for VIDEO Panel Discussion August 16, 2010

INSIDE-OUT: INFLUENCING ISRAEL From a Global Jewish Perspective from Leadel dot Net on Vimeo.

Are Diaspora relations indeed helping the Jewish people living in Israel? Are Jews and Israelis living in their homeland condemning or supporting their Diaspora brothers and sisters' assistance? Is it assistance at all?


  • Dr. Einat Wilf, Member of Knesset
  • Jeff Kaye, Chief Development Officer for World ORT
  • Dr. Edward Rettig, Director of American Jewish Committee, Jerusalem

Students get closer dialogue with Judaism August 22, 2010

The level of response surprised even the Ein Prat organizers when university students of all stripes competed to attend this year’s five-week Elul program.

...Fad or phenomenon, the Ein Prat Elul experience is surpassing all expectations and revealing what may be a promising trend at a time when many are bemoaning the loss of Jewish identity among Israel’s young people. Equally popular among religious and secular, Elul provides new perspectives for all.

Ein Prat Academy for Leadership

The Hakhel Festival of Jewish Learning

Israel’s Major Annual Event of Jewish Pluralistic Culture - September 26, 2010

Panim organizes and produces the Hakhel Festival of Jewish identity and Israeli culture held every year during Sukkot.

Since the first Hakhel in 1997, this happening of Jewish pluralistic culture has been bringing together people from Israel’s entire religious and political spectrum.

The ever-expanding program includes over 100 parallel study sessions, panel discussions, lectures, and creative workshops, as well as performances – music, plays, dance, and film – with the accent on Jewish pluralism, Israeli society and culture, and the multi-cultural outlook.

Rolling with the Punches

By Gitit Ginat August 20, 2010

Sometimes religious observance and spirituality empower a woman who dares to enter the boxing ring, and sometimes they present major obstacles.

Sharon Friedman, who was born in 1960 to an ultra-Orthodox family in Brooklyn and immigrated to Israel 12 years ago, is also a former boxer for whom religious beliefs and spirituality are paramount.

Israeli Gay Couple's Twin Delight

By Aaron Passman August 19, 2010

The native Israeli explained that the law is so restrictive because "the rabbinical concerns over surrogacy were very clear," including that the surrogate must be an unmarried woman of the same faith as the parents, unrelated to either parent, and that only heterosexual couples could hire surrogates.

...Despite all the steps they've taken and plan to take, however, it's not clear whether the twins' conversion through a Reform congregation will be valid in the eyes of the Israeli religious establishment.

Misguided Mitzvahs

By Ariel Hirchfeld Opinion August 20, 2010

Gay people who live in the Orthodox world threaten it because they do not merely submit for its consideration a theory about the secrets of Creation, but rather represent something at the very heart of the forces of life - forces which cannot be soft-pedaled in a traditional manner by vapid appeals for the "strengthening" of faith, or for "general reform."

Acceptance of homosexuality means nothing less than a conceptual overhaul in the religious world's conception of human existence.

I’m not a bigot, it’s nature!

Response to: Keep gay pride in the bedroom

By Ezra Resnick Opinion August 20, 2010

[T]he fact that something is natural doesn’t automatically make it morally good. As far as evolution is concerned, all means justify the end of maximizing progeny, but evolution is a mindless process with no foresight or intention.

We, as conscious, thinking beings, are in no way obligated to value something just because it’s a product of natural selection.

Program raises Jewish identification

By Jonah Mandel August 16, 2010

A novel program aimed at enhancing Jewish identity in public schools is showing significant success after a two-year pilot in Holon, ahead of expansion to additional cities.

The Hitchadshut program, established by the Panim non-profit organization and the Legacy Heritage Foundation, has set out to rectify what is considered by many to be one of the most troubling shortcomings of the Israeli educational system.

Advancing the Status and Rights of Women in the Orthodox Community

Chana Kehat of Kolech – The Religious Women’s Forum August 17, 2010

Chana Kehat, daughter of one of Me’a She’arim’s foremost rabbis, is one of the most prominent feminist activists in the religious community. A mother of 6, she has a Ph.D. in Jewish Philosophy, and was awarded the President’s Volunteer Award.

With NIF’s support, Chana founded Kolech in 1998 to promote the rights and status of women through a consensual process of change from within Orthodoxy.

22 Young Poles with Jewish Roots Visit Israel August 19, 2010

A group of 22 young Poles who recently discovered their Jewish roots arrived in Israel on Sunday for a special three-week educational seminar organized by the Shavei Israel non-profit organization.

The participants, most of whom were raised Catholic and are now in their 20s, came from an array of cities throughout Poland, primarily Krakow, Katowice, Warsaw, Tychy, Gdansk and Cieszyn. For some of the participants, this marks their first time visiting Israel.

New Conservative Israeli siddur aimed at all Israelis

By Sue Fishkoff August 9, 2010

When Israel’s new Masorti prayer book hit No. 4 on the country's best-seller list for non-fiction last January, no one was more surprised than members of the country’s still-tiny Conservative movement.

The prayer book, “Va'ani Tfillati: An Israeli Siddur,” enjoyed an aggressive ad campaign from co-publisher Yediot Achronot, which also puts out Israel's largest-circulation newspaper.

Jesus lives on in Jerusalem

By Yoaz Hendel August 19, 2010

Some 15,000 Messianic Jews currently live in Israel, but if you saw one on the street you would almost certainly fail to recognize any difference. They honor Jewish circumcision, bar-mitzvah, and wedding ceremonies, but believe Jesus is the messiah.

...For a community living under the perpetual wrath of the haredim, who for the most part alienate and discriminate against them, Messianic Jews remain inexplicably optimistic.

Religion and State in Israel

August 23, 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.