Monday, September 6, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - September 6, 2010 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

September 6, 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.

My petition against the Chief Rabbinate

By Rabbi Seth Farber Opinion September 5, 2010

The writer is founder and director of ITIM, the Jewish Life Information Center and rabbi of Kehillat Netivot in Ra’anana

If it is forbidden to remind a convert of his or her past, shouldn’t it be forbidden to make them (proverbially speaking) register for marriage on the back of the bus?

The solution suggested by the chief rabbi puts the onus on the convert, as if he did something wrong, rather than on those marriage registrars who, in my mind, are blatantly violating principles of Halacha.

If a marriage registrar took a bus on Shabbat, I can’t imagine it would take more than a few hours to have him replaced. But when he persecutes a convert, he is rewarded.

Rabbinate provides address for couples whose Judaism is contested

By Ari Galahar August 30, 2010

The Council of the Chief Rabbinate ruled on Monday that the two chief rabbis will appoint marriage registrars to address the issues confronting couples who encounter problems registering their marriages with the typically more stringent municipal rabbis who may have brought the couple's Judaism under question.

The newly appointed marriage registrars will be directly responsible to Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and will tackle problems faced by couples whose Judaism is being doubted, and thus are having difficulties registering their marriage.

Why Israel's Conversion Bill Is Bad For The Jewish People

By Rabbi Uri Regev Opinion September 3, 2010

Rabbi Uri Regev is president of Hiddush - Freedom of Religion for Israel.

To sum up, the proposed bill will not fulfill the aims it was meant to advance.

It will not resolve the challenge of conversion for the new immigrants.

It is aimed at expanding the control of the Chief Rabbinate over conversion in Israel and to hurt non-Orthodox Judaism.

Undoubtedly, a different approach is needed to address the challenge of conversion: to fulfill the promise of Israel's Declaration of Independence for freedom of religion and conscience; to recognize equally and fully conversions of all the major streams in Judaism; to ensure that converts of all streams (and new immigrants who have not converted) will be able to legally marry in Israel.

Conversion Crisis or Marriage Problem? — An Exchange September 1, 2010

In a July 30 opinion article for the Forward, “How To Fix a Broken System,” Rabbi Seth Farber, director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center, wrote that the Rotem bill’s reforms were not “worth alienating Diaspora Jews.”

But Farber, whose organization helps prospective converts navigate Israel’s rabbinic courts and conversion bureaucracy, also insisted that “Israel’s conversion process is badly in need of reform.”

In an August 6 Forward opinion article, “Israel’s Marital Woes,” Rabbi Uri Regev, director of Hiddush-Freedom of Religion for Israel, also criticized the Rotem bill.

But he went further. “Israel’s major problem isn’t conversion — it’s marriage,” Regev wrote. He argued that it was “incredibly na├»ve” to believe that the various Jewish religious streams could reach a consensus on conversion. Instead, Regev called for ending the Orthodox monopoly on marriage: “Israel needs to recognize the right of all of its citizens to marry, whether the ceremony is religious or civil. This is not just a matter of religious pluralism — it is an issue of basic civil rights.”

[The Forward] invited Farber and Regev to participate in an exchange of views on conversion and marriage in Israel.

Israel’s Conversion Crisis

By Mati Wagner September 2010

There are in Israel approximately 350,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union who, like Y, were eligible for automatic citizenship under the Law of Return because they are closely related to a Jew but are not considered Jewish according to halacha—Jewish religious law—because it recognizes only persons born of a Jewish mother.

These newcomers have for the most part integrated into Israeli society, but due to the Orthodox monopoly over religious services and marriage rites, they cannot wed in Israel, where there is no civil marriage.

Rabbinate to debate conversion solution

By Jonah Mandel August 30, 2010

The Council of the Chief Rabbinate is convening on Monday to debate a proposal that could solve the problem of marriage registrars who refuse to recognize state-certified converts and allow them to marry, ahead of a High Court of Justice sitting on the topic.

According to the State Attorney Office’s preliminary response to the High Court, issued on behalf of the rabbinate on Sunday, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar will propose to turn the entire State of Israel into one zone, as far as marriage registration is concerned.

This way, converts won’t be bound to undergo the process of registration with their city rabbis – who also function as marriage registrars and might be stringent and prone to annul conversions – but will be able to choose from a variety of registrars nationwide.

Rabbi Seth Farber, head of one of the petitioners, ITIM:

“In effect, this response empowers those fundamentalist rabbis who refuse to recognize the conversions of the state, and ultimately discriminates against converts who have made great sacrifices to join the Jewish people.”

Good idea, lousy law

By Rivkah Lubitch Opinion August 31, 2010

The writer is a rabbinical court pleader and works for The Center for Women’s Justice

The proposed Conversion Law that was approved on its first reading in July is very bad. Even if the idea to allow the rabbis of cities and of local councils to perform conversions is an excellent idea – the law, in its current version, is terrible.

...It’s not enough to say that this law sells out the Reform and Conservative in a pathetic deal with Yisrael Beiteinu. In effect, the law also sells out Religious Zionism, and turns us into a State governed by ultra-Orthodox halacha.

Additionally, and most disturbingly, those converting in what they thought was a simplified procedure will find themselves, in the final analysis, faced with the threat of annulments of their conversions by the rabbinic court.

A Conversation with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

By David Green September 3, 2010

You deal extensively in the book with the subject of conversion, about which Hillel had a far more liberal and accepting attitude than his rival, Rabbi Shammai. Is this as charged a topic in the U.S. today as it is in Israel?

In Israel, it’s more charged, because you don’t have a division there between religion and state. I would like to see Hillel’s arguments and his openness to would-be converts brought into the discussion there. Today, his teachings on this subject are ignored.

The most famous of rabbinic sages, with an open approach to conversion, and yet you don’t see his position cited. If Israel has 400,000 people from Russia who are not halakhically Jewish, it’s in Israel’s pressing interest to find a way to integrate them into the Jewish homeland.

Group: Education Ministry perpetuates religious ghettos

By Aviad Glickman September 5, 2010

A non-profit group promoting basic rights for young haredim submitted a harsh statement to the High Court of Justice on Thursday over the Education Ministry's approval for an independent religious school in Emmanuel.

State defends exemption of haredi boys from core curriculum

By Dan Izenberg September 3, 2010

A law exempting haredi male high school-age students from studying the core curriculum, which is mandatory in all parallel state-financed schools, does not violate the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom or the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation, the state wrote on Thursday in a brief to the High Court of Justice.

Petitioners: 2nd Emmanuel school rewards ethnic separation

By Dan Izenberg September 3, 2010

The petitioners against the segregated girls’ primary school in Emmanuel told the High Court of Justice on Thursday that the Education Ministry’s decision to establish a separate school for the “Hassidic stream” only served to increase the fragmentation of Israeli society and rewarded those who practiced discrimination.

Reality is No Obstacle

By Jonathan Rosenblum Opinion September 2, 2010

The recent Emmanuel litigation revealed a major flaw in Israel’s judicial system. In most suits against governmental authorities, the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice (BaGaTZ), is a court of original jurisdiction.

Yet the petitions to BaGaTZ often turn on complex factual issues, which the Supreme Court is unequipped to weigh or evaluate. The Supreme Court is not a trial court, and has no means at its disposal to examine witnesses or properly evaluate evidence.

High Court: Semi-private religious schools discriminatory in rejecting Ethiopians

By Tomer Zarchin September 1, 2010

The semi-private religious schools in Petah Tikva that rejected 24 students of Ethiopian descent two years ago are guilty of illegal ethnic discrimination, even though they are not wholly state-run institutions, the High Court of Justice ruled yesterday.

The court said the authorities should use all the means at their disposal, including cutting government funding, to fight any discrimination they encounter in the schools.

Israeli schools' civics funding cut, transferred to Jewish studies

By Or Kashti September 5, 2010

The Education Ministry has cut most of its budget for the intensive civics classes for 11th and 12th grades, and the regular civics classes for 10th grade, and will invest the sum in the teaching of Jewish studies.

Segregated train cars - a celebration of diversity

By Adam Rossano Opinion August 31, 2010

The recent proposal of separate-sex cars for Jerusalem's new light rail, received by some with negativity and resentment, could actually be a positive step towards a pluralist setting in Jerusalem.

...The only extra effort that would be required of the secular passengers would be the need to pay slightly more attention to which car they board. They may need to walk an extra 10 or 20 meters down the platform in order to do this.

Pity is not Equality

By Haviva Ner-David August 30, 2010

Rabbi Dr. Haviva Ner-David is a rabbi, teacher, and writer living on Kibbutz Hannaton in the Lower Galilee in Israel.

If one truly believes that all human beings were created in the Image of God, then there are many theological questions that need be addressed that this document does not seem ready to tackle.

It is simple to use halakhah as an excuse not to ask these challenging questions about ethics, human dignity, and how we relate to those who are different than us.

But those of us who know that halakhah is not stagnant and is always open to reinterpretation can see that this statement has a way to go before it actually treats gay and lesbian people as human beings who are truly created in the Image of God.

Time To End The Reform-Orthodox Wars

By Rabbi Naftali Rothenberg August 31, 2010

Rabbi Naftali Rothenberg is the town rabbi of Har Adar, Israel, and a senior research fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

For 200 years we Orthodox fought back against the "innovators" and "religious reformers," but now the time has come for a spiritual reckoning: is there any modern idea or novelty that Orthodoxy itself, or at least broad segments thereof, has not managed to deal with?

In an age of endless variations among modern Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities, is there any meaning to the fights against the Reform?

Nofrat Frenkel of Women of the Wall for Jewels of Elul

By Nofrat Frenkel September 2, 2010

Nofrat Frenkel is a fifth-year medical student at Ben-Gurion University.

Photo: Women of the Wall

Israeli law claims that the punishment for a Jewish female, who prays at the Kotel while fulfilling a mitzvah from the Torah – (wearing a talith, putting on teffilin, reading from the Torah) is six months in jail.

Besides the severe discrimination among males and females, this ruling has strengthened the unshakable Haredi control over Jewish life in Israel, and denies the freedom of worship.

Meretz demands pluralism and equality at the Western Wall September 3, 2010

New Movement-Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz has presented a new bill that would amend the "Holy Places Law" and allow for tolerance and pluralism at the Kotel, the Western Wall, among all streams of Jewish practice.

Horowitz warned that, "without pluralism and mutual respect, the Kotel's status as a worldwide Jewish spiritual center will be compromised," and promised that his bill, "will guarantee that the Kotel is for everyone, in the spirit of the founding principles of Israel's Declaration of Independence".

Who counts in Judaism?

By Stewart Weiss August 31, 2010

The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana

[I]t is particularly distressing to hear of rabbis who brand secular judges and others as being “disqualified as prayer leaders and even as being counted as members of a minyan,” as reportedly did the chief Rabbi of Holon.

...From a strictly halachic point of view, these remarks are outrageous.

Rabbis can apparently say whatever they want

By Anshel Pfeffer Opinion September 3, 2010

Rabbi Metzger wrote to all 120 members of the Knesset this week proposing new legislation that would "institutionalize rabbinical freedom, thus making rabbis' status equal to that of academics...

Metzger is wrong. There is no lack of legislation. Rabbis can say whatever they like, and are rarely if ever prosecuted, even when they actually incite murder. What is lacking is the public and political will to enforce existing regulations against civil servants saying whatever is on their mind on the public's dime.

Reform rabbi takes on Orthodox establishment in Israel September 4, 2010

Interview with Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism

"It starts with the basic fact that in Israel there is no constitutional separation between religious institutions and the government. There are many religious institutions that are fully integrated into the executive branch and they are all Orthodox. The only Jewish denomination that enjoys formal legislated recognition by the state is the Orthodox denomination.

The Israeli government refuses to recognize the validity of marriage ceremonies conducted by non-Orthodox rabbis. All the public burial services are handed to the Orthodox monopoly. The state is funding the salaries of almost 3,000 rabbis, and all of them are Orthodox.

In each municipality there is a special executive body that is responsible for supplying religious services, and all of those local units are controlled by the Orthodox.

The state of Israel invests billions of Israeli shekels in religious institutions. More than 98% of that budget goes to Orthodox institutions and services."

Using private eyes to fight the problem of ‘chained wives’

By Dina Kraft September 2, 2010

Mavoi Satum, which provides legal and practical assistance to women like Dadon, as well as general advocacy and lobbying on the issue, decided several years ago to start using private investigators to help put pressure on recalcitrant husbands to grant divorces.

Often the task of a private investigator is simply to find the husband and bring him to the Beit Din Ha'Rabbanim, the religious court overseen by the haredi Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate that oversees matters of marriage and divorce in Israel. Even if there are orders for a husband's arrest, the police often do not manage to find him.

Woman in chains: Will anything change for Agunot

By Michael Orbach September 1, 2010

The Aug. 18 rally was called by the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, known by its initials as ORA, to protest the fate of a 27-year-old woman named Tamar.

Despite being separated for two years and civilly divorced since April, Tamar’s husband, 34, an attorney on the staff of a high-profile Congressional committee who lives in Silver Spring, MD, is refusing to give her a get, a religious divorce. Without the get, Tamar is an Agunah, a “chained” woman, bound to her husband by Jewish law and unable to marry again.

The longest case ORA has is an Israeli man by the name of Danny Zadok who fled Israel and now lives in L.A. He demanded $20 million in exchange for a get. ORA sued him for intentional infliction of damage and child support and won a default judgment against him.

Lynn Schusterman: Unintimidated Philanthropist

By Eetta Prince-Gibson August 31, 2010

ROI is for young Jewish innovators. It is our way to think out of the box and encourage others to do so. Our focus is on creating community rather than the individual and on building partnerships and collaborations between organizations.

These were ideas that were always important to Charlie and this is an important way to build strong Jewish communities in Israel, America and around the world. I may not have the same interests as these young people – and I don’t watch YouTube – but I want to encourage young people and to provide them with opportunities that resonate for them. I want to encourage them to be innovative.”

Immigrating out of fear

By Danny Adino Ababa August 30, 2010

The Jewish Agency and the Israeli government have tried for decades to convince the Jews of Turkey to move to Israel. However, they felt safe in Turkey and few immigrated.

Ever since the flotilla incident and the anti-Israeli statements made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, the situation has changed.

New Jewish Agency Program for Absorption of Russian Immigrant Doctors September 1, 2010

The Jewish Agency for Israel has embarked on a program to encourage Jewish doctors from the Former Soviet Union to immigrate to Israel in conjunction with the Ministries of Absorption, Health and Education. At the completion of this one year program these doctors will receive Israeli accreditation.

Brandeis study disputes perception that U.S. Jews are disenchanted with Israel

By Raphael Ahren September 3, 2010

Authors of a new study on American Jews argue that the community is more attached to Israel than many pundits assume. Based on a survey conducted in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, the study finds "overall stability in American Jewish attachment to Israel over the past quarter-century."

Yet some Jewish sociologists counter that the research clearly showed young American Jews are increasingly disenchanted with the Jewish state.

Survey: American Jews ‘still connected’ to Israel

By Ron Friedman September 5, 2010

Three quarters of the respondents identified caring about Israel as an important element of their Jewish identity. Seventy- five percent agreed with the statement “Caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.”

OTZMA Israel Embarks on 25th Year

“We are excited to send our 25th year of strong young adults to Israel and are eager to see what they learn, how they grow, what connections they make to the Federation’s partnership, and what they do when they return back home to their respective communities,” Strom said.

Interrogating Jewish Peoplehood: Where do we go from here? August 30, 2010

The author summarizes, and reflects on the content, conclusions, and questions provoked by the joint Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner and Commission on the Jewish People of UJA Federation of New York's 2010 seminar on "Jewish Peoplehood."

Seminar leaders included Sylvia Barack Fishman, Sarah Benor, Jay Michaelson, and Jacob ("Jack") Ukeles. The discussion covered much ground, but focused on inter-generational issues, especially with regard to Israel politics and the notion of Jewish particularism.

After 8-year downturn, aliyah up for second consecutive year

By Nir Hasson September 5, 2010

The number of immigrants to Israel rose during the Jewish year 5770 for the second successive year, reaching 17,880, an increase of 18 percent over last year's figures collated by the Jewish Agency.

Jewish visitors now to get three-year visas to Israel

By Jonathan Lis September 5, 2010

Interior Minister Eli Yishai has devised a plan to exempt Jews who come to Israel with their families to work or study from renewing their visas annually. Instead, they will only have to renew them once every three years.

The exemption would apply to those with the right to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return.

320 Diaspora youngsters kick off Young Judaea year program

By Melanie Lidman September 5, 2010

“You come from different homes and backgrounds, and you each have a different voice,” former deputy minister of social and Diaspora affairs Rabbi Michael Melchior told the enthusiastic youngsters.

“What I want you to do this year is two things: listen to the voices... You’re coming to a new country, here there are a lot of different voices. Then make up your own mind, make up your own Torah, make up your own Zionism.

Religion and State in Israel

September 6, 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.