Monday, November 1, 2010

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

Religion and State in Israel

November 1, 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.

Bill granting Rabbinate monopoly on conversions sparks fiery debate

By Raphael Ahren October 29, 2010

"I am in favor of one Judaism. In my opinion, there's only one Judaism. There are no three Judaisms," MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) said during a fierce debate Monday at the Jewish Agency's board of governors meeting in Jerusalem.

"The only way we can [improve the current conversion system] is if conversion is done according to Orthodox halakha and not according to Reform or Conservative halakha, if there is such a thing," Rotem said, speaking in English.

"If you are telling somebody that he can convert in a Reform or Conservative way and then to come to Israel and be a part of the Jewish nation you are cheating him," he added, referring to the fact that the Rabbinate will not serve those converts in the areas of weddings and divorce, and might not recognize a convert's children as Jewish.

Israeli Conversion Crisis Escalates: All Conversions Now Under Review

By Nathan Jeffay October 29, 2010

“It seems that the procedure any time an issue is raised is to form a panel to look into the issue rather than [senior rabbis] dealing with it,” Andrew Sacks, director of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, told the Forward. He accused the Chief Rabbinate of seeking to evade its responsibilities.

In a worst-case scenario for converts, the committee could conclude that every convert should be checked to evaluate whether he or she is traditionally observant, as the convert was required to pledge when he or she converted.

For some time now, hard-line individual marriage registrars have been probing the level of traditional observance held to by converts and refusing marriage certificates when they are dissatisfied. A similar decision by the special committee could make this scrutiny national policy across the rabbinate and cast doubt on all conversions performed by the state-run Conversion Authority.

Jewish Agency Set to Battle Chief Rabbinate October 29, 2010

Now Therefore the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel hereby:

Calls upon the Chairman of the Executive to convene an emergency meeting of roundtable and other relevant parties to reverse the establishment of the commission authorized by the Chief Rabbinate Council to examine conversions in the Israel Defense Forces;

Supports the taking of any and all appropriate measures necessary to reverse the establishment of the committee created by the Chief Rabbinate Council, including, if necessary, legal measures to seek the invalidation of the decision.

Panel for examining IDF conversions slow to convene

By Yair Ettinger October 27, 2010

A committee established to issue a recommendation on whether the chief rabbi should approve conversions performed in the military has yet to convene. The panel was set up by the Chief Rabbinical Council last week.

One of the committee's five rabbis quit the panel this week, and there is no indication of when the first meeting might take place.

Decision to check Army converts raises protest

By Kobi Nahshoni October 25, 2010

Members of the ultra-Orthodox community involved in conversions to Judaism are calling for an immediate freeze on all military conversions following the Chief Rabbinate's decision to set up a committee to investigate the military conversion process.

The organization Tzohar said the decision will cause suffering to thousands of kosher Jews who will have to wait to hear their legal and religious status, and goes against the Torah injunction to avoid paining the convert.

Rabbinate: 'Prove your grandma survived Shoah'

By Yoav Zitun October 27, 2010

Being Jewish can be difficult, but it appears that marrying as a Jew – is even harder. For Slava Klatzkin, a 27-year-old Kfar Saba resident, the race to make it down the aisle in time for his wedding in a month, has been going on for three months.

Preparations are at their height, but a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the ceremony itself because the Chief Rabbinate just doesn't believe Slava is Jewish. Among other requests, the Rabbinate demanded that he seek proof from Yad Vashem.

Bill legislating all IDF conversions could undermine rabbis

By Jonah Mandel October 25, 2010

MK Rotem declared on Thursday he intended to both cement the status of military conversions and dissolve the Chief Rabbinical Council by law, though Sunday’s bill does not deal with the latter.

Now the Chief Rabbinate probes army conversions

By Anshel Pfeffer October 28, 2010

The IDF Chief Rabbi, Brigadier General Rafi Peretz, said he was "ashamed that the Jewishness of a soldier who has converted could be questioned".

A number of Knesset members are planning to propose a law granting inviolable validity to all conversions performed in the IDF.

PODCAST Interview: Rabbi Seth Farber on RustyMike radio program

Click here for AUDIO interview

September 28, 2010

Yes! Dissolve the Chief Rabbinate

By Isi Leibler Opinion October 27, 2010

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger

We desperately need a system in which religious Zionist rabbis can operate without hindrance. The first step toward achieving this is by substituting or bypassing the Chief Rabbinate with an institution controlled by Zionist rabbis.

If we fail to resolve this issue soon, we will bequeath our children an intolerable crisis that could tear the nation asunder.

The Chief Rabbinate Is Over

By Rabbi Yehuda Gilad Opinion October 29, 2010

Rabbi Yehuda Gilad is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Maale Gilboa and Rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi.

If there is to remain any meaning to the terms state Rabbinate and religious Zionism, then the recent decision casting aspersions on IDF conversions, should be "last straw" in our relationship with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

As a religious Zionist who believes that Israel is the beginning of our redemption, it is not easy for me to come to terms with this realization, but it seems to me that that the time has come to say honestly, sincerely, and painfully, that the Chief Rabbinate as it stands today has run its course.

Jewish world embraces family reportedly beaten by Oz immigration unit

By Ron Friedman October 26, 2010

The Woodcox family, comprising seven people, is waiting for their petition for citizenship under the Law of Return to be authorized by the Interior Ministry. A ministry spokeswoman said the family’s legal status is being investigated by to see if their conversion is valid.

[The family’s lawyer, Nicole Maor of the Israel Religious Action Center] asked that the family’s immigration process be expedited in light of the incident and given the family’s difficult financial state, but had received no response to that request, either.

People of color - get out!

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion October 22, 2010

The writer is the Director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel

There are dozens of African-American Jews by Choice living in Israel who have been harassed by the government. This despite being in possession of all the requisite papers.

There are several dozen such Jews living in Ashkelon who participate regularly in the prayers at the Masorti congregation. They attend and participate in Jewish religious life in our Jewish state.

Former B’nai Jehudah members subjected to abuse in Israel

By Barbara Bayer, Contributing Editor October 29, 2010

Michael and Trina Woodcox, their children Loddie and Shawn Garrett, and their families moved to Israel from Kansas City in July. Garrett told the Jerusalem Post they moved to Israel in order to live a full Jewish life after completing their conversion. Members of the family are currently awaiting a decision on their citizenship request.

Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff explained that the Garretts were married in a Jewish ceremony in Israel in 2008. But neither their marriage nor their conversion is recognized by the Orthodox rabbinate and, subsequently, the state of Israel. Thus, the family is facing problems gaining citizenship through Israel’s law of return, which gives every Jew the right to immigrate to the country.

Ella finally feels at home

By Yael Branovsky October 26, 2010

Two and a half years after immigrating to Israel, Ella Elisha finds it hard to believe that her 13-year travels across India ended in the Jewish state of all places.

...In Israel, Ella went through a conversion process, and grew closer to her husband's traditional family. "My mentality was different than that of his family. Although my father is Jewish, I wasn’t considered a Jew at the time, so I converted. It helped me connect to Hagai's family, and I also enjoy observing Shabbat."

Thanks to the Tel Aviv Rabbinic Court

By Rivkah Lubitch October 31, 2010

Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinic court pleader who works at The Center for Women’s Justice

Six years ago, detectives had also located the same husband and brought him to court, handcuffed and escorted by the police.

But in 2004, the court released the man after he succeeded in persuading the judges that he needed time to think about whether or not to give his wife a get – at home and without handcuffs. The husband promised to return after the weekend, but, predictably, did not.

This time the judges acted decisively in order to guarantee that the husband would give the get without terms, without demands, without deliberation, and, of course, without disappearing again.

It's Time to Educate Federations About Religious Pluralism in Israel October 29, 2010

Alan Silverstein, Chair of the Masorti Foundation and Gordon Tucker, Past Chair of the Masorti Foundation

Why is religious pluralism being omitted from discussion? We are told that JFNA is not persuaded that this issue is a priority either to major donors or to the grassroots of American Conservative Jews. In short, they do not think that our rabbis and lay leaders truly care.

Whose Wall is it anyways?

By Kamoun Ben-Shimon October 25, 2010

Thus, for the first time, there will be an official distinction between ultra-Orthodox men and everyone else, including women of all denominations, secular men and women, tourists, Jews and non-Jews.

...The new plan was prepared by the Western Wall Heritage Fund, in cooperation and consultation with the Jerusalem Municipality, the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Israel Police, the Ministry of Tourism, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Prime Minister’s Office.

A source in the Prime Minister’s Office, who spoke with The Report on condition of anonymity...acknowledges that “the Western Wall Heritage Fund is promoting its own interests, which are not always in line with the interests of the state, including the exclusion of the non-Orthodox denominations from the Kotel.”

First Israeli woman rabbi laments religious divide

By Janet Silver Ghent October 28, 2010

Rabby Maya Leibovich:

If Ben-Gurion “woke up in his grave, he would be in shock,” Leibovich said. “Israel has raised a generation of students who won’t go into the army and won’t be working,” because their schools are not teaching core subjects mandated by the Ministry of Education.

Who's overseeing Haredi draft exemptions? (Nobody)

By Meirav Arlosoroff October 28, 2010

What have we here? A voluntary Torah body, the Council of Yeshivas, which is not subordinate to the state or supervised by the state, issues permits every year for 60,000 Haredi men to study Torah instead of serving in the army, without even checking into their status.

Is this absence of supervision an invitation for fraud by Haredi men who both dodge the draft and work (presumably, without paying taxes )? Almost certainly it is.

Are hesder yeshivot accomplishing what they should?

By Rabbi Shalom Hammer Opinion October 25, 2010

The writer teaches at Hesder Kiryat Gat and serves as a guest lecturer for the IDF Rabbinate.

Ideologically speaking the yeshivat hesder should be facilitating the steps its students have to take from its study halls to those of the university.

The yeshiva should emphasize the need for students to benefit from a wholesome and well-rounded education for the sake of becoming productive citizens.

Religious Soldiers March Forward in Officers’ Course

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu October 27, 2010

Religious soldiers once again make up a disproportionately high number of the graduating IDF officers' course, with good education being cited as one of the reasons.

Although the national religious community makes up far less than 10 percent of Israel’s Jewish population, 22 percent of the officers are religious.

Fundamentalists & Us

By Rabbi Eric Yoffie Opinion Winter 2010

Rashi, the great medieval biblical commentator, points out that before dispatching the spies to the Land of Canaan, Moses said: If the inhabitants of the land live in walled cities, it is proof that they are weak. If they live in open cities, they are strong.

Reform Jews do not retreat behind ghetto walls. Our differences with ultra-Orthodox Jewry are vast. Still, it is my hope that we and they can embrace the best of what “the other” has to offer.

A secular Jew is no less Jewish than any other

By Eran Baruch Opinion October 27, 2010

The writer is CEO of The Bina Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture.

The promise of a truly pluralistic society, one that reflects the richness of a diverse Jewish population, hinges on the secular community’s success in strengthening its Jewish identity, in recognizing the strength in asking questions.

As in any leadership process, the most important aspect is self-image. A secular Jew is no less Jewish than any other. We need to strengthen secular public education, establish more secular yeshivot, be proud of our Zionist heritage. In the words of our national anthem, we must strive to be “a free nation in its own land... our hope is not lost.”

Make for yourself a (new) rabbi

By Moshe Kaveh October 25, 2010

The writer is president of Bar-Ilan University.

It is worth noting a new initiative at Bar-Ilan University, one aimed at training rabbis unfazed by the aforementioned dangers.

Indeed, the intention is to produce rabbis whose feet are firmly planted on the ground and in the reality of contemporary Israeli society, and who are resolutely persuaded that secular “Japhetic” wisdom has a place in the tents of Shem – the beit midrash – that such wisdom is capable of enriching the world of the religious believer.

Name and Shame?

By David Morris Opinion October 31, 2010

The ongoing scandal of the Takana Forum vs Rav Motty Elon has intensified with the publication by the Yediot Achronot newspaper of some graphic testimonies to the Takana Forum from Rav Elon’s alleged victims.

Jewish Agency Board of Governors to vote on mission change

By Gil Shefler October 25, 2010

The strategic plan cited five key components: cultivating activities for Jewish youth; connecting Israel and Diaspora Jewry; bringing youth to Israel on trips and extended stays through programs like Masa; strengthening Jewish identity in the Diaspora; and aliya, the organization’s historical mainstay.

The Jewish Agency Moves the Needle Forward

By Dan Brown Opinion October 25, 2010

In fact, despite many valid concerns – and honest differences of opinion – surrounding JAFI’s new strategic plan, in the six years I have been attending JAFI meetings, never before have I witnessed such an open, honest, and respectful discussion among the different parties, regardless of issue. Amazing what can be accomplished when the will is there – and in only a year.

Official: Jewish Agency Has Not 'Abandoned Aliyah'

By David Lev October 28, 2010

“Let's face it, what we had until now just wasn't working,” a source close to Sharansky told Israel National News.

“Even with the best efforts of Nefesh B'Nefesh – which is doing fantastic work - no more than 4,000 Jews have made Aliyah from the U.S. in any single year. And it’s not the fault of NBN, the Jewish Agency, or anyone else.

We are spending millions, even tens of millions, and Aliyah has been, and continues to be, statistically next to zero. In 2009, the number went up from 3,000 to 4,000 – and that was at the height of the financial crisis in the U.S.”

Poll: Birthright, MASA boost interest in Judaism, Israel

By Gil Shefler October 25, 2010

About 70 percent of those who took part in Masa’s six- to 12-month programs were non- Orthodox. However, that proportion was higher among at Birthright alumni, as some 91% of those who discovered Masa via Birthright were not Orthodox.

Researchers said the data indicates that a combination of a short-term programs by way of Birthright and then longer term ones such as Masa is an effective way to move Jews of all backgrounds, even the non- Orthodox, who tend to be less connected with Judaism and Israel, researchers said.

Changing the world - Lynn Schusterman and Sandy Cardin

Click here for VIDEO October 17, 2010

Israeli migration in long term decline

By Tobias Buck (free registration) October 24, 2010

Mr Sharansky argues this demographic trend alone is no reason for a Jew to make aliyah: “I believe that for those who want to actually influence Jewish history, the best place is Israel. The future of the Jewish people depends on what happens in Israel.”

“Our aim should not be to convince [Jews living outside Israel] to make aliyah by all means, but to strengthen their feeling about being part of the same family. And some of them, as a result of this, will make aliyah, and others will not.”

Talking peace and the Diaspora, do Jews outside of Israel have a role?

By Dina Kraft October 25, 2010

Cloistered away in a snug meeting room with stone-faced walls and arched doorways across from Jerusalem's Old City, some of the most important Jewish communal leaders in the world came together recently to wrestle with a question: Is there a role for the Diaspora in Israel's decision making on peace?

The Jewish Agency @ the GA

Egged Tours’ new division to offer special trips to Jews

By Ron Friedman October 26, 2010

Egged Tours, a subsidiary of the Egged bus cooperative, announced Monday that it is expanding its operations and forming a new department to specialize in Jewish travel to Israel.

Running the new department will be Danny Mor, the former CEO of the Israel Experience, a subsidiary of the Jewish Agency.

I am more feminist than religious

By Shlomit Naor Opinion October 28, 2010

I am more feminist than religious.

My seat was 41K. Perfect. Near the window. I seated myself, put all my belongings in the compartments above, got myself cozy, and then 5 minutes before take-off two Haredi boys around 16 approach my row (41 rocks!), and tell me I am in the wrong seat.

No, I said. I am in the right seat.

Jewish Agency allocates funds to bring remaining Ethiopians

By Gil Shefler October 27, 2010

The Jewish Agency for Israel on Tuesday allocated $4.7 million to help bring the remaining 8,700 Ethiopians claiming Jewish ancestry and seeking to make aliya from the African country to Israel.

The vote at the organization’s Board of Governors meeting in Jerusalem was held in anticipation of a cabinet meeting set to take place early next week, in which the government is expected to approve the absorption of the would-be olim waiting in transit camps.

Israel's Chief Rabbi: ‘The Vatican doesn't have to teach us how to interpret the Bible’

By Yossi Lempkowicz October 25, 2010

“The priest doesn't have to teach us about interpreting the Bible. We don’t teach them how to interpret the New Testament,” Rabbi Metzger told EJP Monday in Berlin where he is attending a conference of the European Council of Jewish Communities (ECJC).

Synod's Rough Landing

By Michele Chabin October 27, 2010

Vatican-Israeli relations, which were already strained in recent years over property-tax issues, the Palestinians and the Holocaust, may have received a further blow at the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops meeting this past week at the Vatican.

Religion and State in Israel

November 1, 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.