Sunday, September 18, 2011

Religion and State in Israel - September 19, 2011 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

September 19, 2011 (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.

Rabbis differ over women singing in army

By Jeremy Sharon September 16, 2011

Photo: IDF Spokespersons Office (IDF Chief of Staff, Chief Rabbis)

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, head of a hesder yeshiva in Petah Tikva:

“It is incredibly important that the IDF is a Jewish army acting according to Jewish law as part of the Jewish democratic state,” he stressed in a statement on the issue, saying soldiers should also struggle for their rights not to be present at cultural events involving women singing.

“At the same time, when we’re talking about a military ceremony involving the whole unit, there is nothing more correct from a halachic perspective than to be there with everyone else.

This should be the a priori position of the army and the military rabbinate,” Cherlow stated.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed: IDF degrading religious public

By Kobi Nahshoni September 14, 2011

A senior right-wing rabbi has called for the dismissal of Colonel Eran Niv, commander of the officers' school at an IDF training base, and Gefen Regiment Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Uzi Kileger, in light of their decision to dismiss four cadets who walked out of a military ceremony in order to avoid listening to a female solider sing.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, head of the Har Bracha Yeshiva, wrote in his column in religious weekly "Besheva" that the "unfortunate and humiliating incident", in which the four cadets were dismissed and five other were forced to apologize, could only be repaired through a "firm demand" for the two commanders' dismissal.

IDF: Soldiers cannot skip ceremonies with women singing

By Amos Harel September 14, 2011

The army does not intend to change its rules on women singing at military ceremonies or to exempt religious soldiers from attending these ceremonies, despite pleas to the chief of staff from both of Israel's chief rabbis and the public storm that erupted last week after four religious cadets were ousted from officer candidate school (Bahad 1) over this issue.

However, the army does intend to issue new guidelines aimed at clarifying the rules and will also make much greater efforts to explain them to soldiers, in the hope of preventing future such incidents.

Religion in the IDF: Army needs consistent policy to avoid offending sensibilities

By Amos Harel September 9, 2011

After several religious cadets were ousted last November for refusing to listen to women sing at a ceremony, the IDF Rabbinate, the Education Corps and Bahad 1 tried to forge a compromise to prevent further such incidents.

The agreement, approved by IDF Chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz, adopted the view that the religious prohibition on men listening to women sing applies only to all-women troupes and not to music sung by men and women together. Hence religious cadets may not boycott the latter.

No women, no rabbis

By Yair Lapid Opinion September 13, 2011

In two weeks or so, the IDF Rabbinate will embark on “Operation Elul” ahead of Rosh Hashana. This is a religious revival campaign mostly based on lectures delivered by rabbis to tens of thousands of secular soldiers.

It would be proper to allow a secular soldier who is not interested in hearing the lectures to skip them. Why? For the same reason religious soldiers demand to skip performances by female singers.

IDF Chief: Religious soldiers not exempt from events where women perform

By Anshel Pfeffer and Yair Ettinger September 12, 2011

Photo: IDF Spokespersons Office (IDF Chief of Staff, Chief Rabbis)

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Amar told the Chief of Staff that soldiers must be permitted to leave “in a dignified manner” events in which women perform, without it being considered the refusal of a military order.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz meets with Chief Rabbis

By Yaakov Katz and Jeremy Sharon September 11, 2011

Following Sunday’s meeting, the social freedom organization Yisrael Hofshit criticized the chief rabbis’ request and called on the Military Rabbinate to ensure that the army does not promote the “degradation and exclusion of women.”

“IDF commanders fail to understand that giving legitimacy to the silencing of women is another step in the attempts of religious extremists to turn the State of Israel and the army into dark places in which women do not enjoy equal rights,” the organization said in a statement, adding that the chief rabbis’ demand was part of a broader radicalization of religious life in the country.

Chief Rabbis to IDF: Solve women's singing issue

By Kobi Nahshoni September 12, 2011

The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel threatened to petition the High Court of Justice following the dismissal.

The Forum's representative, Attorney Yitzhak Bam, sent a letter to Gantz and to Chief Military Advocate General Avichai Mandelblit, claiming that "the right of every soldier, cadet and officer to maintain his religious belief is one of the foundations of a democratic society."

The letter also claimed that the commander's response to the cadets' conduct 'cause unbearable damage to the soldiers' faith which has a disastrous meaning."

Keep our army Jewish

By Cori Widen Opinion September 13, 2011

The IDF, in general, goes out of its way to make certain that soldiers have the ability to serve in the army and to live halachically, should they so choose. If you’ve served in the IDF, you could rattle off a list of examples without much effort...

This is only a partial list, but even just these examples show that it is most certainly acknowledged by the IDF’s leadership that making it possible to be a soldier and keep Jewish law is far from catering to the whims of whiny 18 year olds.

For an army whose purpose is to protect the Jewish State and the Jewish People, this is quite serious.

The Old Man's regret: Ben Gurion on army exemptions for yeshiva students

Getting in a state over the UN vote

By Akiva Eldar Opinion September 13, 2011 (See 2nd story)

david ben-gurion

Photo: Oren Fait, Gal Mamalya

The arrangement to defer service for yeshiva students made by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion in 1949 stated that a larger number of yeshiva students would be exempt from service, on the condition that they dedicate all their time to religious studies and nothing else - not even other types of education or volunteer work.

At that time, yeshiva students numbered 400. In 2010, that number had grown to 62,500, an increase of 15,500 percent.

Ben-Gurion wrote (referring to the violent demonstrations by the ultra-Orthodox on Saturdays in Jerusalem):

“I am of the opinion that I am responsible for this to some extent: I released yeshiva students from army service. I did so when their number was small, but now they are increasing. When they run amok, they represent a danger to the honor of the state...”

See original letter here (Hebrew)

See also: Hiddush article

Ditching Equivalence

By Jonathan Rosenblum Opinion

Mishpacha Magazine August 27, 2011

No issue so enrages secular Israelis about the chareidi community as the draft deferment for yeshiva students. Chareidi support for generous benefits for those who serve in the IDF is one means of mitigating that animosity.

As Rabbi Grylak frequently reminds us, we are a minority in Israeli society, and as such should not go out of our way to irritate our secular brethren, especially at a time when Prime Minister Netanyahu has already vowed to review internal social priorities in light of the "social justice" protests.

Who Doesn't Believe That Kollel Students Are As Good As Soldiers?

By Rabbi Natan Slifkin Opinion September 14, 2011

In an otherwise excellent article in Mishpachah arguing that the charedi community should accept that those who serve in the IDF should receive certain benefits not granted to kollel students, Jonathan Rosenblum writes as follows:

"We will not convince secular Israelis that kollel students protect Israeli society no less than IDF soldiers."

Never mind secular Israelis - you won't convince anyone of that. On a theoretical level, it has a very shaky foundation. On a practical level, nobody really believes it - not even charedim.

Beyond religious and secular, some Israeli schools are forging a third way

By Linda Gradstein September 11, 2011

Human Magen David!

Photo: Jewish Agency for Israel

Reut, a Jerusalem middle school and high school, defies the usual Israeli dichotomy of “secular” or “religious.”

The school calls itself a pluralistic community, and it is part of a third stream of education that tries to bridge the gaps between secular and religious Israelis.

“Israeli society is becoming more and more polarized,” said Rabbi Michael Melchior, the initiator of the push for pluralistic schools and a former Knesset member.

“The secular schools have disconnected themselves from any kind of Judaism, and the religious schools have become more and more closed.”

Melchior, who served as the chairman of the Knesset's Education Committee, says that the Ministry of Education’s division of schools into “state” schools (i.e., non-religious) and “state religious schools” is outdated.

The Harry Oscar Triguboff Israel Institute for Conversion Policy launched in Jerusalem September 12, 2011

Meriton chief Harry Triguboff has inaugurated the Harry Oscar Triguboff Institute in Jerusalem, a project to aid the authentication of immigrants’ religious status.

The Institute will support spectrum of activities that will promote legislative and regulative efforts that will enable to establish a solid Jewish lineage and identity amongst FSU and Latin America immigrants within the Israeli society.

The initiatives operated in cooperation with the Tzhohar Rabbis Organization and with the support of the Toronto based Dov Friedberg Foundation, and the Jewish conversion team at the Prime Minister’s Office, include, among others, Project “Shorashim”, whose purpose is to assist thousands of emigrants from the former Soviet Union who are, to date, required to prove their Judaism when registering at the Israeli Rabbinate, prior to their marriage.

AUDIO: Women Against the Law: Interview with Anat Hoffman September 18, 2011

Anat Hoffman is the chairwoman of Women of the Wall (Nashot Hakotel), a group of Jewish women of all nations who are seeking the right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem, Israel.

Anat is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel, and has held a seat on the Jerusalem City Council. She follows the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, repairing the world.

Rethinking the Orthodox embargo

By Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz Opinion September 16, 2011

Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz is Founder and Dean of HaOhel Institutions (Sulam Yaakov, Ashrei, Shirat Devorah, and Threshold) in Nachlaot, Jerusalem.

Photo: Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism

The Israeli establishment's embargo against the Conservative and Reform movements has outlived its usefulness, as well as its relevance, and it is time to rethink this approach.

...A defensive embargo is a strategy whose days are numbered, and one that will further marginalize the Orthodox message for many Israelis for whom Torah is alien.

U.S. Dept. State 2010 International Religious Freedom Report - Israel September 13, 2011

While there is no constitution, government policy contributed to the generally free practice of religion, although governmental and legal discrimination against non-Jews and non-Orthodox streams of Judaism continued.

For example government allocations of state resources favored Orthodox (including Modern Orthodox and religious Zionist) and ultra-Orthodox (sometimes referred to as "Haredi") Jewish religious groups and institutions.

62%: The social protest belongs to religious sector too September 11, 2011

Asked why the religious public stayed away from the protest, the respondents were required to select at least one answer from a variety of options.

According to the results, 43% of the public believe that the religious and haredi Jews were concerned that the governmental budgets they receive today would be cut following the protest.

Thirty-three percent believe it was because the religious public had no representation among the struggle's leadership, 29.5% said the religious sector feared that the protest's real goal was to bring down the government, 19% think the religious viewed it as a populist struggle, and 2% are convinced that the religious and haredi public simply "doesn't have any financial difficulties".

1,000 Israelis ‘connect with nature’ at Dead Sea

By Anne Grant Special to September 17, 2011

Despite some fairly muted opposition at the last minute from the religious camp – including a condemnation from Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and another from MK Zevulon Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) that this was “Sodom and Gomorroh,” and a last-minute withdrawal of funding from the Megilot Regional Council – the event went on as planned with no major incidents.

Jewish life in Sicily reborn

By Michael Freund September 15, 2011

The writer is Chairman of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based organization that assists lost tribes and hidden Jewish communities to return to the Jewish people.

Last week, Shavei Israel, the organization I chair, ran a seminar in Syracuse together with the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. Dozens of Italian Bnei Anusim (“children of the forced [ones],” whom historians refer to as Neofiti or by the derogatory term Marranos) from Sicily and the southern Italian regions of Calabria and Puglia were in attendance.

Their Jewish ancestors had been compelled to convert to Catholicism half a millennia ago, but they had somehow managed to preserve their identity despite the Inquisition’s attempts to crush it.

And now, after so many generations, a growing number of them are looking to reconnect with our people.

The Piyyut Festival, Jerusalem September 19-21, 2011

Dani Danieli, Festival director and director of Beit Avi Chai:

The Jerusalem Piyyut Festival, now in its fourth consecutive year, excites us each time.

Our excitement stems from the opportunity to open up a window onto piyyut traditions that have not received sufficient exposure, from the enriching encounter with top artists and performers, and from the connection we forge with the large and varied audience, whose presence and love of piyyut testify to the great importance of the festival and of the values that underlie it.

Taglit-Birthright Israel brought 10,500 students from over 700 North American colleges an universities to Israel this summer September 12, 2011

By the year 2013, Taglit-Birthright Israel would like to send 51,000 young Jewish adults annually on the free, 10-day educational trip.

This would mean that, at this participation rate, within a decade one in every two Jewish young adults worldwide would participate in a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip.

In January, the Government of Israel announced it would contribute $100 million in funding over the next three years to achieve the 51,000 goal, contingent on funds raised in North America and worldwide.

PMO drags its feet on funding programs for Diaspora High School students in Israel

By Chaim Levinson September 16, 2011

Photo: Lapid Israel

Lapid co-chair Gideon Shavit told Anglo File he was disappointed and frustrated by the government's foot-dragging.

"It's very important to bring high school students to Israel and the last 10 years the budget that the government allocates for this mission is basically nothing compared to other programs that are getting at least around $30-40 million a year," he said.

"For the last two years we are in discussions, sometimes it's good and sometimes the process is not moving forward. He added about 10,000 high school students come to Israel each year."

Survey Finds Strong Israel-Related Attitudes among Both JTS-Ordained Rabbis and JTS Rabbinical Students

See also: JTSA press release September 16, 2011

Professor Cohen concluded, “In short, younger rabbis and students do indeed differ from their elders and predecessors in their attitudes about Israel.

But the differences are not at all about declining connections or attachment to Israel.

Rather, they signal the advance of a more ‘liberal Zionism,’ one that bears many parallels with that advanced by classic Labor Zionists of the past, or many of Israel’s opposition parties today.

This move may cause some anxiety among some right-wing Zionists or supporters of the current Israeli government, but it does not constitute any diminution in attachment to Israel – at least not by rabbis recently trained, or now studying, at JTS.”

Memo to Gordis: Conservative rabbis still care for Israel

By Shmuel Rosner Opinion September 16, 2011

Whatever one might think about Gordis' assertions - and I'm sure this will hardly be the last word on this very-hot topic - Steven Cohen's new study on "JTS rabbis and Israel" should be now taken into account (Cohen does mention Gordis, more than once).

...Game over, then? Not really. This study also contains some chapters from which one can draw more nuanced conclusions. I'll try to write about this study some more in the coming days. In the meantime, you can spend your weekend thinking about the differences between reality and hype in all recent "distancing" debates.

New initiatives channel Masa alumni into activism and leadership roles September 16, 2011

To create leadership opportunities for its alumni, Masa Israel is partnering with Jewish organizations, including Birthright Israel NEXT, Jewish Federations of North America, PresenTense, American Society for Yad Vashem, 3GNY and Florence Melton Adult Mini-School.

Mother with terminal illness achieves dream

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich September 16, 2011

Twenty-eight-year-old Meira Riemer was overjoyed to receive her Israeli identity card in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, even though she knows she won’t live long enough to hold it for long.

Religion and State in Israel

September 19, 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.