Sunday, August 8, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - August 9, 2010 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

August 9, 2010 (Section 1) (see also 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.

Conversions in Israel: The Chief Rabbi’s View August 6, 2010

Letter to the Editor, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar

...Since the establishment of the State of Israel, conversions to Judaism have been governed by the Chief Rabbinate. As you noted in your article, this status quo has been challenged by a petition to Israel’s Supreme Court, backed by members of the Reform and Conservative movements. Yet fewer than 1 percent of the Jews living in Israel are members of these movements.

The bill provision you discuss seeks no changes; it seeks only to retain the situation as it has existed for 62 years. If these non-Israeli movements believe in democratic principles, why have they intervened in a matter that affects only Israelis and does not affect American Jews at all?

Parasha Re'eh: Conversion, not division

By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Opinion August 6, 2010

The writer is the founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs, and chief rabbi of Efrat.

The Conservative and Reform leadership in America objected vociferously to the “Rotem Bill” because it would place within the corpus of Israeli law the fact that conversions within the State of Israel are to be conducted under the aegis of the Chief Rabbinate.

Here, however, nothing has changed; the chief rabbinate has been the de-facto imprimatur for conversions since the founding of the state. This was done to ensure the ability of every Jew to marry any other Jew within the State of Israel.

When Chelsea Clinton met David Rotem

By Amotz Asa-El Opinion August 6, 2010

The way America’s Reform and Conservative movements see it, the battle over conversion in Israel is between Orthodoxy and non-Orthodoxy. Well it isn’t.

Rather, it’s between ultra-Orthodoxy and modern Orthodoxy, and to join this battle, American Jewry must set aside its longer-term agendas and help Israel’s modern-Orthodoxy win this battle.

No Progress Yet in Attempt To Mend Rift Over Conversion Bill

By Gal Beckerman August 4, 2010

Rabbi Steve Wernick, executive vice president and CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism:

“Whatever comes out of these negotiations by its very nature is designed to be something that is acceptable to all sides,” Wernick said, “and that is my preference.
I don’t expect the Haredi to be less Haredi. I don’t expect them to accept me. But I don’t want them to be able to define for the whole what is Jewish identity and who gets to be considered a Jew.”

Rabbi Schonfeld on how Rotem's Conversion Bill contradicts Judaism and Zionism

By Shmuel Rosner August 5, 2010

In fact, the issue underlying "who is a Jew" is really better described as "What Is A Jew?" Is a Jew the personification of the worldview embodied by the page of Talmud where divergent views, even those that don't prevail, are respected and preserved?

...If the question of "What Is A Jew" is defined as the personification not of the idea embodied by the Talmud, but of an extremely narrow definition of Jewish practice and life, heretofore not accepted by normative Judaism, then the "crisis" shall continue at the fever pitch it now, sadly, but appropriately, deserves.

On Rotem Conversion Bill, Focus Should Be On Israel

By Gary Rosenblatt Opinion August 4, 2010

The writer is Editor and Publisher of The Jewish Week

I’m having second — and third — thoughts about the wisdom of rejecting outright the controversial conversion bill in Israel.

Before you get too worked up about that statement, please hear me out.

...It’s not that I’ve changed my mind as much as shifted my perspective. I’ve come to better appreciate that the primary issue here is not about us, it’s not about diaspora Jewry.

Rather, it’s about the up to 400,000 Russian immigrants and their children who are Israeli citizens but not Jewish, according to Jewish law.

And while the diaspora objection, passionate as it is, essentially is emotional and theoretical (more on that later), the impulse and motivation driving the conversion bill is pragmatic. And immediate.

Adventures in Pluralism, Part 1: The Other Israeli Conversion Crisis

By Seth Chalmer Opinion August 2, 2010

Personally, I share Daniel J. Elazar’s enthusiasm for the Neeman Committee’s solution, and the wish that such a system could be established for the entire Jewish world. I also believe, however, that the chances of such a system being established, inside or outside Israel, are virtually nil.

...The Neeman Committee model of cooperation, then, asks two significant positions on the Jewish denominational spectrum – one of which dominates the Israeli religious establishment, and the other of which dominates the American religious establishment – simply to abandon their core principles.

Beneath the Rotem Bill on Conversion

By Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis Opinion August 4, 2010

It’s not just politics. It’s not just religious gerrymandering or denominational tactics. Why is so much Jewish energy being spent on the Rotem conversion bill in the Knesset? Why does so much of the Jewish agenda — in Israel and in the Diaspora — center around the convert?

The two strains within one tradition I identify as “Ezra and Ruth” schools of thought and predilection. Both biblical attitudes are evident in the contemporary Jewish debate over the legal and moral posture of Judaism toward the 'ger'.

Israel's Conversion Row in Context July 27, 2010

In recent years, Israeli High Court rulings have granted increasing legitimacy to non-Orthodox streams of Judaism and their conversions in Israel.

Leaders of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism fear the bill threatens to reverse that process by enshrining in law the sole authority of the Chief Rabbinate over conversions.

Reform and Conservative communities feel that the special status of Orthodox Judaism in Israel is divisive and that their streams of Judaism are being delegitimized. They want to see Israel more open to a diverse range of Jewish practices and beliefs.

The ultra-Orthodox parties argue that they are preserving the unity of the Jewish people, by establishing a single authority that determines Jewish religious status in Israel.

Women Take On the Orthodox

By Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler August 2, 2010

"Today they say women cannot hold the Torah," says Anat Hoffman, "Tomorrow it will be, women cannot look at the Torah. Then it will be, women cannot be at the Wall at all. Before you know it, all Jerusalem will be segregated. That's where we're headed."

Women holding Torahs to send photos to Israeli leaders August 4, 2010

Women of the Wall has launched a global campaign to support their right to pray with Torah scrolls at the Western Wall.

The Jerusalem-based group wants 10,000 Jewish women around the world to send photos of themselves holding Torah scrolls to key Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.

The campaign is to show that Jewish women are free to hold Torah scrolls everywhere except at the Wall, Judaism’s most holy site.

Parasha Re-eh: Wailing at the Wall

By Larry Kaufman Opinion August 5, 2010

[T]he Women of the Wall, have focused on the Temple Wall to capitalize on the attention it commands, and to force people to see what they don't want to hear.

Re-eh, See, elements in the Jewish enterprise have not accepted women as full players, entitled to fill the same roles as men, wear the same worship garments, read from the same Torah scroll, and do it all where they can be seen.

Nashei HaKotel have co-opted the Wall because one picture is worth a thousand words, and this picture makes their struggle visible rather than abstract, dramatizing the idea that all are equal in the Divine presence. This is a fight about the women, not about the Wall.

Rabbi Schonfeld on the Kotel

By Shmuel Rosner Opinion August 5, 2010

The question in my mind is why a national historical site should be administered as an Orthodox synagogue?

...The Jewish Agency has had to stop using the Kotel as a site for presenting the teudat zehut to new immigrants. The army choir can no longer appear at the Kotel on Yom HaZikaron because of the voices of women soldiers.

The number of army induction ceremonies has also been reduced because Rabbi Rabinovich finds civil ceremonies to be out of place since he views the Kotel primarily as an Orthodox synagogue. This unilateral, unauthorized appropriation of a central Zionist symbol must not be tolerated and deprives all of world Jewry of the strength the Kotel offers us.

Where in the world can carrying a Torah lead to arrest? For many young people, this challenges their ability to feel at home in the country that is supposed to be their homeland.

Shas getting payoff for its school system, says NGO

By Jonah Mandel August 6, 2010

A clause in the economic arrangements bill for 2011- 2012 reinstating the allocation of millions of shekels to large educational campuses is being tabbed by a pro-religious- freedom group as a payoff to Shas’s haredi electorate.

According to the Hiddush Organization for Equality and Freedom, the NIS 30 million recently approved by the government to be distributed by the Interior Ministry to educational campuses over three years is primarily intended for large haredi and religious institutions.

Such a clause would have to be approved by the Knesset.

Shas gains additional NIS 30 million in yeshiva funding

By Lilach Weissman August 5, 2010

Sources inform ''Globes'' that the Netanyahu government has decided to renew the budget for "education campuses", which are mainly designated for especially large institutions for haredi (ultra-orthodox) and religious groups.

The decision overturns the elimination of this item achieved by the Shinui party when it was a member of the government.

Shas schools ran up NIS 11m deficit in 2008

By Zvi Zrahiya August 4, 2010

The Shas party's educational system, Ma'ayan Hahinuch Hatorani, ran up a NIS 10.8 a million deficit in 2008.

Israel Has More Than 240 Chabad Non-Profits

Source: August 5, 2010

[Guidestar Israel] reveals that there are 195 non-profits that contain the word “Chabad” in their official name. Around 40 more non-profits use the word “Lubavitch.” And this does not include various Chabad non-profits that do not use either word in their names.

Most of the non-profits that run the 270 Chabad Houses in Israel are run under the auspices of the Chabad Youth Organization.

Specially designated buildings for haredim in Tel Aviv?

By Ofer Petersburg August 8, 2010

A group of haredi entrepreneurs is working on a plan to build apartment buildings in Tel Aviv as an affordable housing option for young ultra-Orthodox families, the haredi Mishpacha weekly reported.

According to the plan, these structures will be demolished and replaced by new buildings adjusted for ultra-Orthodox needs with the aim of turning them into cheap housing projects of a minimal construction standard.

Haredi press praises kids' deportation

By Kobi Nahshoni August 3, 2010

Many members of the ultra-Orthodox community praised a government decision made Sunday on the deportation of hundreds of foreign workers' children.

United Torah Judaism's three magazines published articles on the issue Monday, some of them relating to new conversion laws and hatred of haredim.


"The Zionist movement has been pursued by a rolling stone for some time, and now it has been buried without a coffin," it adds. "Even the most delusional Zionists never dreamt of a state in which Sudanese, Russian, Thai, Ukrainian, Eritrean, and Romanian people get citizenship."

Haredi newspaper editorial: 'Chelsea's marriage a spiritual Shoah'

By Kobi Nahshoni August 4, 2010

The haredi Lithuanian newspaper Yated Ne'eman has chosen to devote his editorial piece to a subject wholly ignored by all its competitors – Chelsea Clinton's wedding - dubbing the marriage a "spiritual Holocaust.'

...The editorial also claimed that the groom and his family belong to the Reform movement – "One that views the annihilation of the Jewish people in uprooting its unique identity and heritage as its main objective."

August offers much strictly kosher fun for Haredim

By Yair Ettinger August 5, 2010

Vacationing Haredim enjoy hotels without TVs and gender-separated kayaking on the Jordan River; some rabbis, however, are unhappy that yeshiva students are getting a summer break.

Israel: A not very secular shift

By Tobias Buck (free registration) August 4, 2010

Prof Ben-David warns that the proportion of Israelis who contribute most to the state in financial, economic and military terms is shrinking.

“These are the guys who defend Israel. These are the guys who pay taxes. These are the guys who are doctors and engineers. Who is going to do it in 30 years?”

...Analysts agree that the shifting demographics require a bold policy response, and most argue that change is needed sooner rather than later.

As Prof Ben-David says:

“There is a point of no return, and when we cross it we will not be able to change things democratically – and maybe not at all.”

Haredi modesty patrol catches violators on camera

By Ari Galahar August 6, 2010

The next hot item in the haredi fight against immodesty is debuting this summer – professional photographers hired by the Committee for Preserving Sanctity and Education to catch yeshiva students on film at "immodest" concerts.

A victim in every home

By Tamar Rotem August 6, 2010

Six years after the abuse apparently ended, residents of a Haredi moshav have finally begun to testify about the alleged sexual attacks of two male residents on the community's children. Those who complain are being shunned.

Suspected child molester in south can now go out during day, evening

By Tamar Rotem August 6, 2010

Prosecutors have submitted to the Be'er Sheva District Court an amendment to the indictment against one of the men suspected of sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community of Moshav Komemiyut.

The Southern District Prosecutor's Office has thus agreed to ease the conditions of the suspect's house arrest, allowing him outside for most of the day and evening.

Gender identity sought between pages of Gemara

By Danny Adino Ababa August 4, 2010

G. was born to a religious family. For years, just like everyone else, he went to synagogue, attended a religious youth group, and studied in a religious school. However, deep inside him, the feeling that he is really a woman, and not a man, nagged at him.

Religion and State in Israel

August 9, 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.

Religion and State in Israel - August 9, 2010 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

August 9, 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.

A hasty decision on draft-dodging

Haaretz Editorial August 4, 2010

The decision to eliminate the requirement of army service for Haredi yeshiva students aged 22 and older looks like another hasty, opportunistic move perpetrated by the current government with the goal of preventing thorough discussion of and decisions on controversial issues that threaten the coalition's stability.

Henceforth, it will be even easier for some 60,000 yeshiva students who declare that "Torah is their profession" to evade service in the Israel Defense Forces.

A wrongheaded change on IDF exemptions for Haredim Editorial August 3, 2010

Ironically, the cabinet’s decision comes at a time when more haredim are being integrated into the IDF thanks to special programs tailored to the needs of the community. Many of these new IDF tracks also provide the haredi soldier with invaluable occupational training.

As long as mandatory conscription remains in place, wholesale exemption of an entire segment of society is not fair. It’s not too smart, either.

IDF blasts decision exempting Yeshiva students from army duty

By Anshel Pfeffer, Jonathan Lis and Yair Ettinger August 3, 2010

The Israel Defense Forces on Monday slammed the cabinet's decision to cancel compulsory military service for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students aged 22 and up, despite the IDF's objections.

The Reform Movement said replacing military service with a year of national service would give a legal stamp of approval to an entire community's evasion of its duties. Nothing is more destructive to society than the sense you're being discriminated against, a representative said.

Move to exempt younger haredi men from army

By Jonah Mandel August 3, 2010

A clandestine cabinet decision made over two weeks ago to expand the Tal Law to exempt 22-year-old haredi men from military service and thereby promote their swifter entry into the workforce, was slammed this week by the Hiddush Organization for Equality and Freedom.

...While much of the economic arrangements bill needs to pass three readings on the Knesset floor, this clause is being put forth as an expansion of the defense minister’s authorities, rather than as a change to the Tal Law, which would necessitate a parliamentary vote, according to Hiddush.

Knesset to discuss draft exemption

By Rebecca Anna Stoil August 5, 2010

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin announced late Wednesday that he had agreed to an opposition move to call the Knesset plenum into special session [this] week.

Evidence supports Elon abuse case

By staff and Ben Hartman August 8, 2010

Police finished their investigation into Rabbi Mordechai "Motti" Elon Sunday, accused of child molestation several months ago, and found that there was sufficient evidence to connect him to the allegations.

The police submitted the case file to the Jerusalem District Prosecutor's office, and a hearing is expected before any indictment would be issued.

Evidence was found alleging Elon committed indecent acts with two minors, one of them by force.

Police recommend trying Rabbi Moti Elon for sex crimes

By Tomer Zarchin August 8, 2010

After additional investigation revealed evidence bolstering the boy's claims, Weinstein recommended opening a criminal investigation against Elon. During the criminal investigation, police located another boy who also claimed that Elon allegedly sexually assaulted him when he was a minor.

Police: Charge Rabbi Elon with sexual abuse

By Eli Senyor August 8, 2010

A team working under the auspices of the police's Lahav Unit succeeded in reaching a number of complainants, young boys who had allegedly been sexually assaulted by Elon. During the investigation, one of the witnesses agreed to give a full detailed testimony incriminating Rabbi Elon of committing indecent acts on him when he was a minor.

Rabbi Elon to face criminal probe after alleged victim comes forward

By Tomer Zarchin August 5, 2010

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has ordered the police to open a criminal investigation against Rabbi Mordechai Elon, one of Israel's leading religious Zionist rabbis, on suspicion of sexual offenses against minors who consulted with him.

The decision was kept under wraps, but Haaretz has learned that Elon was questioned under caution by the police about a month ago.

Report: Police probing Rabbi Elon August 4, 2010

Police recently reopened criminal investigations based on sexual abuse allegations made against Rabbi Mordechai “Motti” Elon, it was reported Wednesday.

A former student of the charismatic rabbi accused him of sexual abuse, which sparked the new scrutiny. Police expect to present their findings to the state attorney within a few weeks.

IDF refuses to recruit intersexed haredi man

By Aviad Glickman August 2, 2010

A 30-year-old ultra-Orthodox man who was born with both female and male sex organs and was denied a request to join the Israel Defense Forces said Monday that the army was discriminating against him.

The man, who recently made aliyah and settled in Jerusalem after having surgery to remove his female genitalia overseas was born with a uterus, breasts, ovaries but no testicle sack.

Hesder Recruits Enlist, are Told 'Be Torah Students in Combat'

By Maayana Miskin August 1, 2010

450 students in the IDF's Hesder program, which combines active service and Torah study, enlisted this past week in their military service units. The majority – 260 – joined ground forces combat units.

Torn-up Judaism

By Rivka Lubitch Opinion August 5, 2010

Rivka Lubitch is a rabbinic pleader who works at the Center for Women’s Justice

According to Yitzchak, the couple then presented the [pre-nuptial] agreement with its copies to the rabbi who was registering the marriage and asked him to certify it.

The rabbi started to read and sign the agreement and then stopped and asked: “Who drafted this agreement?”

Apparently, he did not like the couple’s answer and he said to them angrily, “I’m not signing this agreement. We don’t accept this agreement. It’s not in accordance with the halacha.” He then tore the agreement up in front of the eyes of the astonished couple and asked them to leave the room.

Rabbis: Call police even on Shabbat August 3, 2010

On Thursday, the rabbis of the Tzohar organization issued a clarification emphasizing the halachic aspect which allows, and even compels, the calling of the police on Shabbat.

The signatories include a long and distinguished list of rabbis, such as Yaacov Ariel, Aharon Lichtenstein, Haim Druckman, Shlomo Aviner, Ram Hacohen, Haim Navon, David Stav, Rafi Feyerstein, Shai Piron and Israel Rozen.

The Masculinization of All Things Religious

By Elana Maryles Sztokman Opinion August 4, 2010

Eleven women’s groups got together last week to challenge gender discrimination that is written into Israeli law. As it stands, the Law for Appointing Judges bans women from applying for the position of Executive Director of the Rabbinical Court.

Although such a law would have no doubt have been thrown out long ago from the American legal system, in Israel Version 2010, getting this law revoked is harder, it seems, than bringing the mountain to Moses, so to speak.

Last Wednesday, a group of women’s organizations, including the Israel Women’s Network, the Center for Women’s Justice, Naamat, WIZO, Kolech, ICAR, and several others, appealed to the Supreme Court in a suit against Justice Minister Ya’akov Ne’eman, to repeal the law on the grounds that it violates the basic human rights of women and women’s freedom of employment.

Sa’ar, They Made You a Red-Riding Hood

By Roni Yavin August 4, 2010

Roni Yavin is the Director General of Beit Midrash Elul, a member of the Israeli network of Batei Midrash.

Originally published in YNet; translation provided to by the author.

A new morning, a new Minister of Education, and once again, a new Jewish heritage curriculum. Jewish heritage, paradoxically, turns out to be the most flexible and unstable subject in the public education system.

The Shenhar Commission delivered its recommendations on the subject over a decade ago (1994), yet the clause regarding “balanced criteria for the subject of modern education regarding Jewish culture in the framework of the core curriculum,” has been long forgotten.

Rabbinic group advocating for Israel

By Jonah Mandel August 3, 2010

A new grassroots movement of rabbis from all denominations in Israel and the Diaspora is voicing its concern over “the drift in much of world opinion that has made it legitimate to single out Israel for blame and censure in respect to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

Behind the initiative is Rabbi Michael Boyden, the English born head of Kehilat Yonatan Reform Congregation in Hod Hasharon and director of the National Rabbinic Court of the Israel Council of Progressive Rabbis.

Change the organ donation default

By Amalia Rosenblum August 5, 2010

A national plan was launched this week to reimburse living organ donors, with the goal of encouraging Israelis to donate a kidney or liver lobe.

Obviously, part of the reason for the high response in European countries is that not many of their citizens obey the Chief Rabbinate's edicts, which demand adding a rabbi to the team determining brain death.

But even in Israel, changing the organ donation default from refusal to agreement would dramatically alter the situation of those waiting for an organ transplant. The benefits of such a change would certainly outweigh a plan to fund five meetings with a psychologist.

The problem is constitutional

By Dahlia Scheindlin Opinion August 6, 2010

The constitution can, however, determine that the Jewish identity of Israel resides in its spirit, not in its laws; in our national symbols, our anthem, our calendar. Jewish tradition and religion may be publicly embraced but not legislated and certainly not imposed.

This would require a great compromise on the part of the religious communities.

VIDEO: Rabbi Dances and Sings after Police Questioning

By Yoni Kempinski and Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu August 2, 2010

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg, head of the Od Yosef Chai (Joseph Still Lives) yeshiva in Samaria, danced and sang with his students Monday after he was questioned by police in central Israel over a book in which he wrote a preface.

Nefesh B'Nefesh brings largest number of future soldiers

By Bracha Kurtzer August 4, 2010

Two-hundred thirty-four new Israeli immigrants – including a record-breaking 85 young adults who have committed to joining the IDF – were welcomed at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday by Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency.

Many of the young adults aboard the plane who plan to serve in the IDF are participating in Garin Tzabar, a course that provides a platform for lone soldiers to connect with their peers and serve their country in the most effective way possible.

Ahad Ha’Am At Last

By Wayne Firestone Opinion August 2, 2010

Wayne L. Firestone is the President and CEO of Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Life.

This article originally appeared in The Peoplehood Papers, vol.5, Jewish Peoplehood and Zionism.

Reprinted by with permission.

The new era of Israel-Diaspora relations isn’t a rejection of classical Zionism. Rather, it is the acceptance of a different model of classical Zionism, the one propounded by “cultural Zionist” Ahad Ha’Am.

And it is uniquely suited for the today’s generation of college-age Jews, the so-called Millennials that are the focus of the work of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

Social entrepreneurs make a difference in Israel

By Tamar Zmora August 8, 2010

Through grassroots initiatives and small business models, 16 fellows from the PresenTense organization presented their projects in a Launch Night in Jerusalem recently.

A budding organization founded in 2007, PresenTense promotes community outreach and fosters innovation in today's youth. The organization hosts a six-week summer institute geared towards endorsing small business models in Jewish communities both in Israel and abroad.

Why Christian Zionists Love Jews and Other Notes from the End-Times

By Rachel Tabachnick August 4, 2010

The campaign for Jews to partner with Christian Zionists has intensified since the formation of Christians United for Israel in 2006, a powerful political entity which now claims 426,000 members, 40 events per month, a growing network on college campuses, and Hispanic and African American outreach.

African interfaith clergy in Israel to learn

By Jonah Mandel August 5, 2010

An interfaith mission of African clergy is in Israel to learn from one another and local experts about ways religion can contribute to and inspire community development projects.

The Foreign Ministry teamed up with the American Jewish Committee to bring together two Muslim imams, seven Christian clergy members and one rabbi from Angola, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and South Africa.

Religion and State in Israel

August 9, 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.