Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Religion and State in Israel - May 28, 2012 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

By Mati Wagner www.jta.org May 22, 2012

"This isn't just a victory for the Reform Movement," Lisitsa said. "This is a victory for democracy in Israel."

"All members of the religious council sign off on an affidavit that states that everyone is subordinate to the directives of the [Orthodox] Chief Rabbinate," Shas Religious Affairs Minister Margi said in a written statement responding to questions provided to JTA. 

His ministry, he added, would continue to provide budgets "in an egalitarian and accessible manner" to all.

By Renee Ghert-Zand http://blogs.forward.com May 28, 2012

It took a while, but Rabbi Alona Lisitsa has finally taken her rightful seat on Mevasseret Zion’s religious council.

Lisitsa, a 41-year-old, Kiev-born Reform rabbi, was named to the council three years ago, but the Religious Affairs Ministry delayed approving her appointment until Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered it to do so.

Although she contended, “I’m not a fighter,” she did say she was going to work to oppose a Shas-backed proposal to appoint a chief rabbi for the town. 

“Our budget is too small for that, and with each local congregation having its own rabbi, we have enough rabbis in town,” Lisitsa, who works at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Talmud at Tel Aviv University, told The Sisterhood.

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com May 26, 2012

Rabbi Sherman granted Haaretz an interview on the occasion of his retirement from the High Rabbinical Court, after 32 years on the bench.

His April 2008 Rabbinical Court of Appeals verdict, in which he in essence cast doubt on the Jewishness of thousands of converts, and tore into the Zionist rabbi Haim Druckman - then head of another state religious court - threatened to undermine the state's role in Israel's religious courts and instigated a serious crisis in the conversion system.

...Sherman likens Druckman to Reform and Conservative Jews, who "do not fear the loss of Jewish identity, it isn't painful to them.

Historically, they are the bridge to the terrible process - the bridge on which tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of Jews have crossed and assimilated and drowned in the sea of gentiles and lost their identity, and there is no longer a Jewish people. It is a silent Holocaust that the High Court is abetting."

By Gary Rosenblatt Opinion www.thejewishweek.com May 22, 2012
The writer is Editor and Publisher, The Jewish Week

Potential converts are told that they must accept each and all of the hundreds of mitzvot of Jewish life when a more liberal approach would enable tens of thousands of Russians in Israel to join the Jewish people, potentially transforming the society in positive ways. 

Further, many recent conversions have been revoked by the Chief Rabbinate, and the chilling effect of such actions, and their negative message, has caused ripples of frustration and anger across the Jewish world.

At a time when we need the spirit of Hillel, who accepted the man who wanted to learn about Judaism while standing on one foot, we have the reaction of Shammai, who shooed him away.

JPost Editorial www.jpost.com May 24, 2012

Unfortunately many of the converts who come to the modern State of Israel encounter not the loving kindness and warmth of modern-day Boazs and Naomis but the passion for red tape, the thickskulled callousness and the xenophobic fears of bureaucrats, religious functionaries and other assorted government lackeys, close-minded rabbis and uncaring politicians.

This fact was evident from a new report released ahead of Shavuot by ITIM: Resources and Advocacy for Jewish Life.

By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Opinion www.jpost.com May 24, 2012

Despite the conventional wisdom that Judaism attempts to “push away” converts, and despite the many horror stories about aspiring converts who were alienated, discouraged and even “turned off” by the roadblocks they experienced at the hands of a bureaucratic and insensitive Orthodox rabbinate, Judaism as depicted in the Book of Ruth, which we read on Shavuot, truly welcomes those who desire to enter the fold. It shows that Jews by choice are worthy of much praise.

www.jta.org May 21, 2012

Orthodox conversions in Israel are down by 31 percent over the past two years, according to a new report.

There were 4,293 Orthodox conversions in 2011, compared with 8,008 in 2007. From 2008 to 2010, the number of Orthodox conversions fell from 6,221 to 4,645.

By Rabbi Marc Angel Opinion www.haaretz.com May 23, 2012
Rabbi Marc D. Angel is Director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

For the Haredim, and the Haredi-dominated Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the walls are built to exclude and disenfranchise would-be converts, unless they wish to fully adopt an Orthodox lifestyle.
...For the non-Orthodox, the walls are generally set at a much lower level.

By Dianna Cahn www.jta.org May 21, 2012

Rabbi Seth Farber, founder of the Jerusalem-based ITIM, an organization that helps Israelis navigate issues involving the Chief Rabbinate, argues that the Israeli Rabbinate has a responsibility to help bring Eastern European Jews back into the fold.

“Israel right now is not interested in taking on those kinds of responsibilities,” Farber said. “And I think that is a squandered historic opportunity that is only going to exist for one generation.”

By Jeremy Sharon www.jpost.com May 23, 2012

A marriage registration reform bill that would allow couples to register for marriage in the jurisdiction of their choice – regardless of where they reside – passed its first reading in the Knesset late Monday night.

MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) proposed the bill, while MK Faina Kirschenbaum’s (Yisrael Beytenu) separate bill addressing similar issues was passed concurrently.

The two pieces of legislation have been nicknamed the “Tzohar Bills,” because they are largely designed to allow the national-religious Tzohar rabbinical association to register couples for marriage without being subject to restrictions placed on it by the Chief Rabbinate and the Ministry of Religious Services.

By Yori Yanover www.jewishpress.com May 22, 2012

“The big change ushered by this law is in regard to registration for marriage,” said Rabbi Chaim Navon, a congregation Rav in Modiin and member of the Tzohar organization, who also spoke to the Jewish Press about the new bill.

“Even before a couple chooses which rabbi would officiate at their wedding, they must register to marry at the Rabbinate office in their home town. To date, that same rabbinate also has the power to approve or disqualify the officiating rabbi. The new law will allow the couple to register anywhere they want in the country.”

This means that if their local rabbinate is too strict in the couple’s opinion, they are free to register elsewhere.

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com May 24, 2012

Under the new rules, the group of rabbis who are given carte blanche to officiate at all Israeli weddings would be broadened to include the heads of several types of religious Zionist institutions: hesder yeshivot that combine Torah study with army service, mechinot where Orthodox men study before they enter the army, and yeshiva high schools for either boys or girls.

Like their Haredi counterparts, these rabbis will still need to obtain official certification from the rabbinate.

In order to get this they must have served a minimum number of years in their position, and must produce recommendations from other rabbis.

By Jeremy Sharon www.jpost.com May 22, 2012

Three members of the Women of the Wall organization were briefly detained by police Tuesday morning, the group said, for wearing tallitot (prayer shawls) at the Western Wall plaza.

Sarit Horwitz, 26, one of the women stopped by the police, said that a policewoman approached her during the group’s prayer service and told her to adjust her tallit because she was wearing it as a man does. A male officer then adjusted it without her permission.

By Dov Lipman Opinion www.jpost.com May 21, 2012
The writer is an ordained rabbi, educator, author and community activist in Beit Shemesh. He is the director of the English-speakers’ division of the Am Shalem movement.www.rabbilipman.com

[S]ince according to Jewish law there is nothing wrong with a woman wearing a tallit, why are women not permitted to wear a tallit at the Kotel?

It is correct that traditionally women have not worn them, but a woman violates no Jewish law when she does.

Creating legislation forbidding women to wear a tallit simply because it rubs certain individuals the wrong way is not valid.

By Ariella Rosen Opinion http://jtsrabbinicalschoolinisrael.wordpress.com May 22, 2012

I don’t know what will happen next. I may be called in for further questioning, but have no legal obligation to show up, and do not yet know what I will do. 

My rabbinical school year in Israel ends in just 2.5 weeks. I worry that this incident might leave a stain on my year, but am hopeful that I can transform it into an opportunity to leave a different kind of mark: a positive, lasting impression on this place that I’ve called my home for 8 months and my homeland for nearly 26 years.

By Sarah Casey Pollack Opinion http://gingertakesisrael.wordpress.com May 23, 2012

I’m not standing anywhere near a place of certainty. Interestingly enough, injustice is a fluid term. 

Years ago, when segregated bathrooms were the norm, it was rare for people to see a light at the end of the tunnel and to know how to get to the light. 

Here we stand, at the beginning of a long road with many obstacles on it, unsure of where to even begin. I’m glad that WoW is presenting a proposed route.

By Rabbi Daniel R. Allen Opinion http://ejewishphilanthropy.com May 24, 2012
Rabbi Daniel R. Allen is Executive Director of ARZA, The Reform Israel Fund.

In the photos of the Western Wall before the State of Israel men and women davened at the wall intermingled. 

There was no mechitza, no boundaries by gender. The Kotel is public Jewish space. It should be available to any and all Jews however they choose to express themselves Jewishly in that spot. 

If we, as American Jews, have a lesson to share with Israeli Jews, it is that separate is never equal.

See also: Women of the Wall videos herehere & here

By Lahav Harkov and Gil Hoffman www.jpost.com May 25, 2012

“I am in favor of opening the widest possible range of alternatives that fit people in Israel and the wider world,” she explained, “whether that is Conservative or Reform marriages, civil marriages, same-sex marriages.

“Minorities that are small in Israel, but larger in the rest of the world, need to be entirely equal on every ritual in the life cycle, from birth to burial,” Yacimovich added.

By Rabbi Jeffrey Falick Opinion www.theatheistrabbi.com May 23, 2012

Rather than fighting to receive all of the privileges of Orthodox Judaism, the liberal movements should be working to sever religion from the state.  

They seek equity with Orthodoxy because they are incapable of apprehending that the real problem is not Orthodoxy’s monopoly.  The real problem is that the state prefers ANY expression of Jewish belief.

...The state should remain completely neutral in all matters of faith.  No religious councils. No state funding of synagogues.  No state rabbis.  

By Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie Opinion www.jpost.com May 22, 2012

I am committed to religious freedom in Israel and to civil and human rights for all her citizens; and I am deeply distressed by the coercive nature of Israel’s religious bureaucracy. 

Nonetheless, while these problems are being addressed, Israel cannot cease to be what it was created to be: a state intended to promote the religion, civilization, and culture of the Jewish people and its dominant majority.

By Jeremy Sharon www.jpost.com May 24, 2012

The Rabbinical Assembly, an international association of Conservative rabbis, announced last week at its annual conference in Atlanta that it would be advising all Conservative and Masorti Jewish groups to patronize only those hotels that make their Torah scrolls available for them to use.

www.ynetnews.com May 21, 2012

“Conservative rabbis bring Jews to Israel from around the world to celebrate Judaism and support the State of Israel,” said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly.

“Israeli hotels should be seeking ways to support the Jews who do so much for the Jewish country we love rather than preventing our worship and study.”

By Haim Amsalem Opinion www.jpost.com May 28, 2012

The author is a member of Knesset, an ordained rabbi and the chairman of the Am Shalem movement.

The Haredi political and rabbinic leadership are completely out of touch with the haredi street.
While only 16 percent of haredi males currently enlist in the army, a recent poll indicated that 41% would like to serve!

As a haredi, I can say with certainty that haredim feel uncomfortable with the concept of others risking their lives while they do not contribute to the country.

By J.J. Goldberg http://forward.com May 22, 2012

Education Corps officers have complained to their superiors several times in recent years about rabbinic encroachment, but to little avail, the report says.

Atop the command chain, the army’s deputy chief of staff and chief of personnel have studiously avoided taking sides.

Whether because they dismiss the dispute as a petty turf battle or because they’re reluctant to confront the Orthodox lobby, they’ve ordered the squabbling units to work things out by themselves.

www.jpost.com May 24, 2012
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger:
When synagogue attendance is lagging, as is the case on holiday evenings or prior to the Sabbath, more IDF soldiers are injured and killed."
"Just as there is an Air Force and a navy, there must also be a God Force."

By Lahav Harkov and Gil Hoffman www.jpost.com May 25, 2012

On the Tal Law, we have our own approach – we call it the Ben-Gurion Outline. It maintains the custom of Torato Umanuto [Torah is his occupation], but in proportions similar to what David Ben-Gurion decided. [Ben-Gurion allowed 400 full-time yeshiva students to be exempt from military service, which would bring us to about 4,000 in proportion to modern Israel.

There are currently 60,000.] I know it’s trendy to talk about this subject, but drafting yeshiva students is not what will determine Israeli society’s fate.

By Jodi Rudoren www.nytimes.com May 19, 2012

One Haredi rabbi, Shmuel Jacobovits of the Torah Institute of Contemporary Issues, acknowledged that the current situation was “unnatural.”

But he said that widespread yeshiva study among Haredim was essential because other Jews were not committed enough to Torah study, which he sees as “the primary function, purpose, raison d’être of the Jewish people.”

“This is national service no less than anything else,” he said. “In our minds, it’s more so.”

By Lahav Harkov www.jpost.com May 19, 2012

The Keshev Committee is an acronym of the Hebrew phrase “promoting equality in the burden.” 

Its mandate is to integrate haredim and Israeli Arabs in army or civilian service, and deal with any related topics that may influence the integration, directly or indirectly.

By Dina Kraft www.haaretz.com May 26, 2012

The idea of giving young Diaspora Jews free ten-day trips to Israel was born as a radical and moneyed attempt to stave off assimilation. But over a decade later it’s also young Israelis who feel more Jewishly identified after taking part in Taglit-Birthright Israel, researchers say.

“Taglit is important for Israelis too,” said Philip Wexler a professor of the sociology of education at Hebrew University’s school of education.

AP www.haaretz.com May 23, 2012

Thanks to WBC tournament rules that allow countries to field players who are eligible for citizenship - even if they are not actual citizens - Israel can tap into the formidable pool of Jewish-American baseball talent that includes about 15 major leaguers. Anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent is granted automatic citizenship under the Law of Return.

Moishe House, in partnership with the Carlsbad, CA based Leichtag Foundation, is set to open a house in Jerusalem. This visionary funding plays a key role in enabling the first Moishe House house in Israel.

By Nathan Jeffay www.thejc.com May 24, 2012

When it comes to Jewish learning, the Diaspora normally looks to Jerusalem for inspiration. But, Jerusalem residents have taken their lead from Britain, and run their own Limmud conference.
Speakers spanned the religious spectrum from the Charedi politician Rabbi Haim Amsalem to Reform activist Rabbi Uri Regev, head of the Hiddush movement that critiques the Charedi community.

By Steve Linde www.jpost.com May 23, 2012

Q: What motivates your philanthropy, especially giving to Jewish causes and Israel?
First of all, it is grounded in Jewish ethics and Jewish morals that we need to take care of each other. I think that’s the basis.

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Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.