Monday, January 31, 2011

Religion and State in Israel - January 31, 2011 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

January 31, 2011 (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.

Ashkenazi Haredi rabbis slam koshering of IDF conversions

By Yair Ettinger January 26, 2011

Seventeen Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox rabbis, including prominent religious leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, signed an open letter protesting rabbinic approval for conversions to Judaism undergone by soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces.

The letter, published in three ultra-Orthodox dailies yesterday, called the ruling a "terrible desecration of God's name."

Ashkenazi Haredi rabbis protest conversion 'breach'

By Jonah Mandel January 26, 2011

A letter signed by top Lithuanian adjudicator Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, senior hassidic rabbinic authority Rabbi Shmuel Wosner and over a dozen other haredi rabbis appeared in the major haredi newspapers – Yated Ne’eman, Hamodia and Hamvaser - and without mentioning them by name, was addressing the military conversions, which were recently declared kosher by President of the Shas Council of Torah Sages Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, after their validity was challenged.

Haredi Rabbi Elyashiv slams Ovadia Yosef's approval of conversion bill

Kfar Chabad's Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi At Odds With All Chabad Rabbis

By David Yisraeli January 28, 2011

In the wake of the controversy, Chabad in Israel was shaken once again when leading Chabad authority Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi voiced his support for the Chief Rabbinate.

Addressing his fellow Chabad rabbis' letter, Rabbi Ashkenazi says he sees the interference of Chabad rabbis in this issues as inappropriate.

Chief Sephardi Rabbi defends IDF conversions decision

By Jonah Mandel January 24, 2011

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar defended on Monday his decision to approve the military conversions that are undertaken according to Jewish law.

The chief rabbi then proceeds to make the distinction between those who never really accepted “Torah and mitzvot at the time of [their] conversion,” and are thus not considered converts, and those who had the right intent at the time of their conversion, but did not remain observant afterward.

The Seed of Israel

By Aryeh Tepper Opinion January 26, 2011

In 2010, [Shas MK Rabbi Haim] Amsalem published a massive Hebrew-language work, Zera Yisrael ("The Seed of Israel"), arguing that, when it comes to the non-Jewish descendants of Jews, things really are notall that cut and dried.

Bringing to bear a host of authoritative sources, Amsalem persuasively demonstrates that such persons may be seen as falling under the little-known but legally valid category that gives his book its title.

They might not yet be Jewish, but through their origins they are still definitely connected to the Jewish people, and this connection has important ramifications.

Soldier’s story highlights plight facing gay would-be converts in Israel

By Dina Kraft January 25, 2011

The young would-be convert to Judaism with a gold Star of David pendant peeking through a buttoned shirt is still baffled by the summer afternoon he says he was called in and dismissed from an Israeli army conversion course for being gay.

Bring the Bnei Menashe home to Israel

By Michael Freund Opinion January 19, 2011

Over the past year, I have been intensively lobbying Israel's government on behalf of the Bnei Menashe, and I am optimistic that a breakthrough is near.

Both the chief rabbi and Interior Minister Eli Yishai have expressed their support for bringing the remaining members of the community to Israel. All that is needed now is for the Israeli government to take the courageous and historic decision to reunite this lost tribe with our people.

On Joining the Covenant

By Rabbi Irving Greenberg Opinion January 14, 2011

Once you have put your life on the line, shabbat, kashrut, and other such obligations, critical as they are, assume proportionately less weight, and an individual's failure to live up to them in full, however disappointing, should not constitute any sort of disqualification. I hold this to be especially true of converts serving in the Israeli army.

Columbus of Hidden Jews

By Itamar Eichner January 25, 2011

Michael Freund, the Christopher Columbus of Jews, smiled with satisfaction. Right then and there he knew his journey was a successful one: Another lost Jewish tribe had been found.

...Freund, an American immigrant, has a mission: Locating remote and hidden Jews and descendants of the Jewish people.

Woman behind the curtain

By Yizhar Hess Opinion January 25, 2011

Yizhar Hess is the Executive Director and CEO of the Masorti Movement in Israel

If we are not vigilant, the public sphere will change. It has already begun to change. We may not have noticed it, but the voice of women is already being heard less, not metaphorically, but in reality. If cadets at the main officers training base, albeit only a handful, left the auditorium when an army entertainment troop (which included women) was singing, then we are facing a new era.

What seems absurd to us today is liable to become a commonplace occurrence tomorrow

"Black Bus" Looks at Women Who Left Hasidic Life

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen January 27, 2011

“Black Bus” is a close look at the price paid by women who leave their Hasidic communities. Weinfeld and Einfeld are unable to have contact with their parents or siblings or friends. Even as they explain — to the filmmaker, to Haredi Jews who come to talk with them in the movie — why staying in the community was impossible, you see how much pain they’re in.

Click here for "Black Bus" TRAILER

Canadian Jews urged to speak on Israeli issues

By Frances Kraft January 27, 2011

Anat Hoffman has a message for Canadian Jews: Israel is “too important to be left to Israelis. The Jews here have a right and a duty to voice their hopes for Israel.”

If they don’t, she warned in a Jan. 17 interview, “they may wake up one day and see an Israel they absolutely cannot relate to… Israel is a state of all the Jews, whether they live there or not, and reflects on all Jews.”

A Good Week for Israel

By Rabbi Eric Yoffie Opinion January 25, 2011

I have just returned from a brief trip to Israel. While we are accustomed lately to reading grim news from Israel, my experience was the opposite.

I also met for several hours with first-year students of the Hebrew Union College.

... My goal was to give them the tools to advocate for Reform values and to help them to understand why love for Israel and promoting Reform Judaism in the Jewish state is an essential component of their Reform identity.

For the Sake of Zion, Reform Zionism: A Personal Mission

By Richard G. Hirsch January 21, 2011

After serving as founding director of the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC, Rabbi Richard Hirsch moved to Israel to lead the World Union for Progressive Judaism and become a tireless advocate for the global Reform Jewish community.

This book traces Rabbi Hirsch's efforts to build and support Progressive Judaism in Israel and to integrate Reform Judaism into the institutions of the Zionist Movement.

Yeshiva, suspected of fraud, returns $410k in stipends to Masa

By Raphael Ahren January 28, 2011

The police recently concluded an extended investigation into the alleged fraud of a local yeshiva accused of defrauding the Masa Israel project, Anglo File has learned.

The yeshiva received $410,000 in stipends from Masa for students who signed up for the program but apparently did not attend the institution. The yeshiva, Tomchei Tmimim in Migdal Ha’emek − which belongs to the global educational network of the Chabad movement − denies any wrongdoing.

Jewish Agency officially proposes closing Aliyah Department

By Raphael Ahren January 28, 2011

Jewish Agency officials last week for the first time explicitly stated their intention to close the institution’s current departments − including the large Aliyah Department − in the wake of a far-reaching overhaul according to the agency’s new strategic plan.

The proposed change strengthens concerns among immigration organizations that the agency might abandon its leading role in promoting and facilitating immigration, contrary to its claims that its new focus on Jewish identity will encourage more Jews to move to Israel.

At the Same Table

By Dr. Misha Galperin Opinion January 24, 2011

My recommendation: let’s create a global summit to bring together every institution that is working on strengthening Jewish identity with the government of Israel.

Let’s agree to sit at the same table. Let’s figure out what is getting in the way and what needs to be done.

Let’s point our oars in the same direction. We need the overarching drive and goal that brought institutions together in the past. We cannot afford to squander the moment with myopic thinking.

Federations launch $5.5 million campaign for Ethiopian aliyah January 24, 2011

The campaign comes at the behest of the Israeli government, which agreed last November to bring up to 7,846 additional Ethiopians to Israel. Like Israel’s commitment, the federation’s campaign comes with an eye toward concluding mass Ethiopian aliyah; it’s called “Completing the Journey.”

Israeli leaders from abroad gather in Toronto January 27, 2011

For the first time ever, leaders of Israeli communities around the world met last week to discuss the unique role of an Israeli community in the Diaspora.

“This is a historic moment, and it is very important to be here. Israel needs help from the Israelis abroad,” said Amir Gissin, the Israeli consul general in Toronto, at the opening of the three-day conference of the World Council of Israelis Abroad, Building Bridges to World Jewry and the State of Israel.

Israel Trips For Jewish Youths Expand, Including For Disabled Teens

By Nicole Neroulias, Religion News Service January 24, 2011

Jewish organizations are aiming to send more North American teens and young adults than ever to Israel this year, focusing on increasing current numbers and reaching out to new groups.

Ain’t no mountain high enough

By Raphael Ahren January 28, 2011

A group of American-Jewish teenagers with severe physical disabilities is scheduled to arrive in Israel this morning for a free 10-day trip that is usually the privilege of their healthier peers.

Sponsored by Chai Lifeline, a U.S.-based nonprofit servicing chronically ill children as well as cancer survivors, the trip takes the mostly Orthodox teenagers (and one parent of each participant) from across the U.S. to Israel for the first time in their lives.

Can Jewish giving weather the transfer from one generation to the next?

By Jacob Berkman January 25, 2011

The San Francisco-based Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, which has given out about $700 million since it was started by Richard Goldman in 1951, with most of the gifts benefiting environmental, health and Jewish causes, will close at the end of 2012, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The Avi Chai Foundation, which donates funds primarily to Jewish education and continuity, is scheduled to give away all of its estimated $700 million by 2020.

The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, a family of foundations that helped to found Taglit-Birthright Israel, is set to close in five years.

Dual-loyalty of Diaspora Jews explored January 26, 2011

The Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future sent 40 select North American undergraduate students to Israel last week for a seven-day service learning and experiential education program entitled “A Place Called Home.

‘Gen-Y’ is hungry

By Kenneth Brander January 26, 2011

Just look at the new phenomenon in Israel where national service was once the sole purview of the religious Zionist community; recent years have seen a rise of new organizations like Ma’ase, Shlomit, Sheirut Leumi Mamlachti empowering young adults of Israel’s secular community to volunteer for a year of service before their obligatory time in the army or enabling those exempt from army service who still wish to impact the destiny of the state of Israel. These organizations are collectively serving thousands.

Health Min. moves to reduce red tape for immigrant docs, paramedics

By Raphael Ahren January 28, 2011

The Health Ministry announced plans this week to ease the licensing process for new immigrants, including allowing doctors to apply for a medical license before they physically relocate and translating into English a licensing exam for paramedical professionals.

The Shelf Life Of Jewish Peoplehood

By Erica Brown Opinion January 25, 2011

Dr. Erica Brown’s most recent book is “Confronting Scandal” (Jewish Lights). She can be reached at

Defining peoplehood forces us away from personal self-definition to a more global, collective statement of affiliation.

“Peoplehood” may be a faddish word in the current language of institutional Judaism; “continuity,” “renaissance” and “solidarity” all enjoyed their philological heyday in taglines and fundraising campaigns.

Shalom: Thousands of olim settled in Negev and Galilee

By Ron Friedman January 27, 2011

Four thousand new immigrants, a quarter of all immigrants who arrived in 2010, settled in the Negev and the Galilee, according to Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom.

2,000-year-old drainage channel cleared under J'lem’s Old City

By Melanie Lidman January 26, 2011

Clearing work was finished on a drainage channel underneath the Western Wall Plaza dating from the Second Temple Period, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Tuesday. The cleared channel, which is over half a kilometer long, was built under the main road of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

New Jerusalem tunnel will damage Temple Mount, Palestinians say

By Yair Ettinger and Nir Hasson January 26, 2011

The rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz

"The system is to the side of the Western Wall, outside of the Temple Mount. The Western Wall itself is surrounded by stone walls weighing tens of thousands of tons and no one is digging through them underneath the Temple Mount, both because of the explicit religious prohibition and because it's simply not possible."

The Politics of Archeology in Israel

By Alieza Salzberg January 2011

Alieza Salzberg is a graduate student at the Hebrew University where she studies Rabbinic Literature.

Today’s archeologists are locked in a fierce debate over whether archeology can confirm biblical stories. The land of Israel has yielded many archeological finds, but what they mean is subject to interpretation: archeology is both influenced by politics and personal belief, and plays a role in shaping political discourse.

From high heels to military drills

By Yaron Sasson January 26, 2011

King was born 20 year ago in Jerusalem. Her grandfather is a member of the ascetic Amish sect, and the deep love for Israel was bestowed on her by her parents, who met during a Christian festival that was held in Israel.

Her father established the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem...

Currently, King is one of some 100 Christians serving in the IDF. After completing her basic training at the southern Zeelim military base, King was given the position of a Hummer operator.

Israel hopes to draw Christian tourists, rep says

By Laura Stricker January 27, 2011

“In the Canadian market, we are going to invest about $350,000 in… advertising. A good portion of our budget is going to be invested in the Christian market. We have found that [a lot of] tourism in the next few years in Israel is going to be from the Christian market.”

Religion and State in Israel

January 31, 2011 (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 - January 31, 2011 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

January 31, 2011 (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.

High Court gives State 30 days to explain continued payment of yeshiva-student allowances

By Lior Dattel January 24, 2011

The High Court of Justice ordered the state to explain why it is continuing to pay married yeshiva students monthly guaranteed income allowances, and has given the state 30 days to respond.

In October, the cabinet approved a new plan for allowances for yeshiva students who do not work, and the Knesset passed the changes. Now the petitioners want to stop implementation of these new rules.

Jerusalem Labor Court: Does rabbinic ordination equal academic degree

By Jonah Mandel January 27, 2011

After a preliminary hearing on Tuesday determined that the issue should be handled in the courts, the Jerusalem Labor Court will be deciding over the next few months whether rabbinic ordination should be recognized as equivalent to a bachelor’s degree, vis-à-vis the Civil Service Commission’s prerequisites for the position of a supervisor in the haredi educational system.

Concern Over Growing Haredi Numbers In Israel

By Stewart Ain January 25, 2011

Rabbi Uri Regev is president and CEO of Hiddush:

A Taub Center study showed that 30 years ago, 21 percent of the haredi males did not work. Today, 65 percent are not working.

A comparative study shows that in the same haredi communities in New York and London, 70 percent of the males were employed compared to 35 percent employed in Israel. That means that they are not working here because they are able to get away with it. They aren’t doing it in New York and London because the government does not subsidize them.

Shas MK Haim Amsalem launches new social movement

By Jonah Mandel January 25, 2011

Maverick Shas MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem on Tuesday launched a new social movement that will strive to return the crown of moderate religious and Sephardi social activism to its former glory, as per the founding principles of Shas that he says are now no longer the spirit of the party.

“If there is no alternative, civilian marriages should take place,” he replied to a question. “Do you want people to be left stranded [without a framework to marry in]? I'd like everyone here to marry in the halachic way I believe in... but I can't force my beliefs on others, and not offer an alternative to those who don't accept it.”

Religious gay teens find safe haven

By Racheli Malek-Boda January 27, 2011

For a little over a year members of the religious Israel Gay Youth program have been holding secret meetings, online and in person.

Established in September of 2009, the youth group has joined dozens of others trying to provide lesbian and gay religious teens with a safe haven.

"Rabbis began receiving a flood of questions (online) and they could no longer ignore the phenomenon. LGBT organizations knocked on doors and demanded a halachic solution,"[Gidi Grunberg] says.

Former Shas Vice Mayor of Hadera suspected of serial rape

By Tomer Zarchin January 27, 2011

The former vice mayor of Hadera, Sami Levy, is suspected of raping, indecently assaulting, and in the case of one, forcibly confining, several women who came to him for aid in the capacity of his work.

Through a lens, darkly

By Nirit Anderman January 24, 2011

"Filling the Void" is the first film written and directed by Rama Burstein for the Israeli mainstream audience.

Burstein is an ultra-Orthodox woman who lives with her husband and children in Tel Aviv, a few streets away from the studio; she is a graduate of the second class of students at the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School, in Jerusalem.

Study: 61% of Haredim prefer separate communities January 24, 2011

Sixty-one percent of the ultra-Orthodox living in Israel prefer to live in towns segregated from the secular population, a new comprehensive study focusing on the haredi sector conducted by Professor Avi Degani, president of the Geocartography Group, reveals.

An Israeli Mobile Phone Provider's Hasidic Blues

By Neal Ungerleider January 24, 2011

An Israeli mobile phone provider is in trouble over an aborted ad campaign aimed at Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Cellcom, the country's most popular mobile carrier, received a rare order from the Israeli Communications Ministry to stop a marketing campaign targeted at haredi Jews.

Rabbi Leib Tropper Given Warm Welcome In Jerusalem (Hebrew)

By Shmuel Klein January 24, 2011

Click here for English translation

Tens of people gathered motzei Shabbos Shira in a bais medrash in the Bucharan section Jerusalem with the founder of yeshiva 'Kol Yaakov' Monsey, Rabbi Leib Tropper from New York.

'Chastity Squad' member sent to prison for store attack

By Aviad Glickman January 25, 2011

A member of Jerusalem's so-called "Chastity Squad" who attacked a store owner and drove away his customers – is going to jail, The Jerusalem District Court decided Tuesday.

Judge Nava Ben-Or sentenced Shmuel Weisfish, 24, to two years in prison following his conviction for several charges of violence against the owner of an electronics store in the ultra-religious Geula neighborhood in Jerusalem.

Haredim cancel boycott against Electra after MOU January 26, 2011

Israeli real estate firm Electra on Monday submitted a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to the haredi court in Bnei Brak, promising to "act with respect and care in the futre" regarding Israeli graves, according to Army Radio.

The haredi community accepted Electra's move and the boycott against the company was canceled.

Wedding blitz

By Tamar Rotem January 28, 2011

According to Prof. Avi Degani, president of the consultancy and applied research Geocartography Knowledge Group, the ultra-Orthodox public celebrates 7,700 weddings annually. Most of the brides and grooms are between the ages of 18 and 22.

Within a year or two they will be embracing their first child. Marriage at an early age, along with the many births, accounts for the impressive increase in the size of the Haredi population.

Kosher version of Youtube hits Web

By Akiva Novick January 29, 2011

Despite the sweeping rabbinical ban on the Internet, haredi use of the web is widespread. A new website offers the ultra-orthodox sector an alternative to the inappropriate content out there: Glatube.

Swearing off the “U” Word

By Rabbi Avi Shafran Opinion January 30, 2011

The word “ultra,” one dictionary informs me, is Latin for “the far side.” Well, there are certainly days when I feel I have wandered into a Gary Larson cartoon. But most of the time, my life, like the lives of most “Ultra-Orthodox” Jews, is pretty unremarkable.

So, isn’t it time the media, which seem so often to focus on traditionally observant Jews, substituted another term like “haredi”—a nonjudgmental word denoting devotion—for the one they currently favor, which other lexicons define as “excessive,” “immoderate” or “extremist”?

Changing of the haredi guard

By Peggy Cidor January 20, 2011

Deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus is going home. Well, not exactly – but according to a rotation agreement signed by his party members (United Torah Judaism), Pindrus clears off in favor of Yossi Deitsch, who will as of next month become the deputy mayor representing the haredi Ashkenazim.

...Meanwhile, city council member Eli Simhayof (Shas) has also been appointed deputy mayor, changing the political equation at Kikar Safra all the more. Simhayof is eager to get things done, partly in order to detract attention from his possible indictment in the Holyland scandal.

Religious mustard and other Hebrew acronyms

By Brian Blum January 25, 2011

In the U.S. and most western countries, Jews tend to identify their religious affiliation through one of the major Jewish movements, be it Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Jewish Renewal, and even Secular Humanistic Judaism.

Not so in Israel, where one’s religious standing is far more nuanced. In a country that loves army-influenced acronyms, a whole school of literary shortcuts and word play have sprung up.

Interview with Gadi Taub

By Michael Weiss January 26, 2011

Q: There’s an ongoing conflict in Israel – you might even call it a civil war – between secularists and the ultra-Orthodox, and not just over settlements or the two-state solution but over endemic issues such as civil marriage. Where do you see Israeli secularism tending in the next decade or so?

Gadi Taub: I would reserve the term civil war for actual use of arms, and I don’t think we’re anywhere near that. But there is a cultural struggle going on, and our bad parliamentary system creates a situation in which a minority can hold the majority hostage.

I don’t believe this can last forever, nor that the Orthodox minority will be able to take over the state and turn it into a theocracy.

Are you sick of being slapped in the face?

VIDEO: Yisrael Hofshit (Be Free Israel)

Click here for VIDEO

Monumental dilemma: Jerusalem rages over statues

By Jonah Mandel December 29, 2010

King David, Winston Churchill and the Japanese Agon Shu Buddhist Association have all been drawn into the raging battle for the face of Jerusalem, in a dispute over statues, traffic circles, idolatry and religious coercion.

David Biale on Jewish secular thought January 24, 2011

David Biale is a historian, and the author of Not in the Heavens: The Tradition of Jewish Secular Thought

Q: Is Jewish secularism the winning concept of Zionism and Israel?

David Biale:

Zionism was originally one product of the tradition of Jewish secularism. Given the resurgence of religion in Israel –both national religious and haredi – it would be a mistake to say that it was a “winning concept.” Secularism, which began as a minority tradition contesting the power of the rabbis in Eastern Europe, finds itself once again embattled in the State of Israel. Whether it will win this battle or not remains very much uncertain.

Waving a Banner for altruism

By Sharon Udasin January 27, 2011

For Asaf Banner, helping other people is simply in his genes. Growing up with a mother in social work and school counseling, he just couldn’t help but head in a similar direction after his army service.

...Anxious to explore this “core” of Judaism, Banner and his friends decided in 2004 to start another new organization – Bema’aglei Tzedek – which serves to engage thousands of young Israelis in social change, in the classroom, youth movements and the army.

To the heights of space

By Hannah Brown January 28, 2011

Daniel Cohen’s moving television documentary, An Article of Hope, which will be broadcast on Channel One on Monday at 9:30 p.m., chronicles Ilan Ramon’s final journey and, at the same time, commemorates a special artifact from the Holocaust.

‘Bring me the Jews of Ethiopia’

By Seth J. Frantzman January 27, 2011

Book review: Jewish Exodus from Ethiopia

Edited by Yuval Arnon-Ohanna and Alec Braizblatt | Ariel University and IIHCC

The story of the journey of the Ethiopian Jews from their homes to Israel via Sudan is one of the great Jewish stories. Although it is widely known in certain circles, the actual story never ceases to amaze.

Religious movement SOS Israel: 'Galant affair punishment for Gaza pullout'

By Kobi Nahshoni January 26, 2011

The far right religious movement SOS Israel claims that the land dealings affair involving designated IDF chief Maj.-Gen.Yoav Galant is a punishment from above for his role in the unilateral disengagement from Gaza.

Religion and State in Israel

January 31, 2011 (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.