Thursday, November 22, 2012

Religion and State in Israel - November 22, 2012

Religion and State in Israel

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

*Special edition on Women of the Wall & Anat Hoffman's arrest coming soon

Children in Town Under Fire by Rockets from Gaza

Yoni, a local resident recently returned from reserve duty, gave a ride to a “Yerushalmi” Jew from the hassidic enclave of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet and was shocked to hear that his passenger did not even not know that his country was at war.

“Vos?” he asked Yoni in Yiddish.

“We are at war?” There are those among the Israeli-born haredim who do not listen to the radio, read newspapers or own a television.

Young Americans who served in the IDF but live in the States are arriving in Israel to join their combat units.

Twenty-four-year old Shmulik Lazaroff, one of 11 children in his family, grew up in Houston, Texas, where his parents serve as Chabad emissaries. Five years ago, he immigrated to Israel and began rabbinical school studies. Soon, he was drafted into an infantry unit, and got to know Aud and others at the Michael Levine Center.

“The Lubavitch rebbe said that 'whoever serves in the IDF gets his place reserved in the world to come.'” And he definitely wants to serve. “God willing. I will return to my unit,” he says.

Shalom Lakein, 21, from Brooklyn, was having the same thoughts. Lakein is also a Chabadnik, and one of six brothers, three of whom have served in the Israeli army. Lakein, who served in Golani, was released from the army four months ago. Now he wants back in.

Amid all the Facebook posts about the heart-rending violence taking place at this moment in Israel and Gaza, this photo of a bomb shelter door in Ashdod leapt out. It says that the bomb shelter is only for men and boys.

New immigrants from Ethiopia get a severe reality check mere days after their arrival in Israel as bombs fall around their absorption center. Despite the shock, they're adapting quickly and looking to pitch in.

Chief Rabbi Amar: “Just like the People of Israel did not travel while the pillar of cloud was in the encampment and rested above the Tabernacle, so too today the People of Israel feel safe because of your presence here, and will not wander or escape while you are guard the people dwelling in Zion.”

By Rabbi Michael Boyden 
The writer is director of the Rabbinical Court of the Israel Council of Progressive Rabbis

My own experience on the municipal front in Israel is that there is nothing like concerted pressure from our friends in North American when it comes to forcing city officials to respect the rights and needs of all religious streams.

In an entirely different context, the European Central Bank has forced the Greek government to take unpalatable steps to bring about economic reforms as the price for a bailout. Is it too much to hope that North American Jewry will employ similar tactics when it comes to coercing Israel to live up to the ideals upon which it was founded?

By Rabbi Naftali Rothenberg
The writer is the rabbi of Har Adar and a senior research fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

In an era characterized by an endless variety of modern and haredi Orthodox communities, do the wars against Reform Jews mean anything? Is it possible that inciting statements are made in order to serve the battle between Orthodox groups for internal needs of de-legitimization?

In this era of empowerment, is it not time for Orthodoxy to forsake the expressions of weakness which it was characterized by up to 40 or 50 years ago, and stop responding out of unjustified fear?

The Orthodox activists' struggle against Reform Jews' right to be recognized by the State is wrong or hypocritical, or both. It also contradicts Israel's essence as the Jewish nation state and a democratic state, which must make room for all factions, communities and streams.

"I've learned that there are 50 shades of black," Anat Hoffman said, speaking of her attempts to assert her religious rights with Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox religious establishment. "Most ultra-Orthodox can tolerate a group of women praying once a month at the Kotel. If you can't, don't come between 7 and 8 in the morning 11 times a year."

Like Hoffman, Rabbi Uri Ayalon, CEO of the pro-pluralism Hatnua Yerushalmit, said the growing ultra-Orthodox population in Jerusalem is not forcing a liberal retreat from the city. His organization bought space for 140 outdoor ads depicting female activists, to prove there would not be a backlash from ultra-Orthodox Jews for displaying pictures of women.

"Only four were damaged," he said. "What's happening in Jerusalem is not being done by the ultra-Orthodox, but by what we think they will say and do."

Hoffman, who also leads the Reform Movement's Israel Religious Action Center, said she wished Israel reflected the diversity of her GA audience.

"This is how Israel should be - a supermarket. All forms of Judaism legal. All state funded, or all not state funded. May the best rabbi win."

By Anshel Pfeffer

So where is the discrimination? 

[Reform President Rabbi Richard] Jacobs is presumably referring to the fact that only Orthodox marriages, divorces, burials and conversions are officially recognized by the central government, and outside a small handful of municipalities and local councils, only the Orthodox streams receive public funding. 

This is discrimination, but not against non-Orthodox Jews. Rather, it's in favor of a bloated and corrupt Orthodox establishment. Some may see this as semantic hairsplitting, but I think there's a fundamental difference.

By Gusti Yehoshua Braverman

I have no guarantee that my tax money which is distributed among clerics will be transferred, at least in part, to the Reform congregation to which I belong;

... the only rabbi who can preside as the rabbi of a locality - whose salary is paid from my tax money - is an Orthodox rabbi, who for the most part will want to keep me out of the public space;

... my children, when they marry, will not be able to have their nuptials performed by a Reform rabbi - male or female - and be recognized by the state as married.

By Rabbi Uri Regev

I don’t believe that there can be a serious and responsible grappling with the challenge of Jewish Peoplehood without confronting the reality that Israel stops this plurality at its borders, let alone celebrating it.

From the fact that no non-Orthodox rabbi can officiate at a legal wedding in Israel to the arrest of Anat Hoffman for wearing a talit and reciting the Sh’ma at the Kotel – how can we speak of affirming Jewish Peoplehood without strongly confronting Israel's partial function as an antidote to this goal. 

By Elan Ezrachi, PhD

Instead of focusing on the centrality of Israel and the impulse of cheering everything that Israel does, Jewish Peoplehood celebrates the plurality and dynamism of Jewish life around the world with Israel as a major hub of Jewish cultural creativity, a hub that is in constant interaction with Jews around the world.

Instead of a model that displays actors on the stage vs. spectators, Jewish Peoplehood talks about partnership, engagement and dialogue as organizing principles of contemporary Jewish life.

The state does not accept the Egged bus cooperative's decision to bar all advertisements with pictures of people from its buses in Jerusalem, the government told the High Court of Justice last week.

"The companies thought that by not publishing ads with men, either, they solved the problem,"[Yerushalmim attorney] said. "The state is telling them they haven't solved the problem. But now I want to understand what the state is doing about it. Does it intend to revoke the license, or impose sanctions to enforce its decision?"

Yerushalmim director Uri Ayalon agreed. "We'll continue to fight until it's possible to publish ads with women," he said.

"People realize that my kitchen is Glatt kosher, only I don't have a certificate from the rabbinate. Yet the fears that I would be harmed by the lack of a certificate proved unfounded. I have kippa-wearing diners who tell me they come because I display a kashrut certificate from conscience, and not that of the rabbinate."

Rabbi David Stav, chair of Tzohar: "Without a chief rabbinate, the rabbi believes the Jewish People would “have been split into two to three nations,” because of the issue of Jewish identity. “Nobody would have recognized the [other group’s] Jewish identity.”

The upcoming end of current Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger’s term provides “a real window of opportunity that is open now, and will be closed for 10 years if we don’t take it today, and if it will be closed for 10 years, I guess it will be closed forever.”

The prenuptial “Agreement for Mutual Respect” [which] obligates, under Halacha and general Israeli law, a recalcitrant spouse to pay additional support payments once the other spouse has initiated the divorce process and efforts toward marital reconciliation (if so desired) have failed.

What needs to be prevented is yet another “creative formula” that will leave the inequity undented. Gradually increasing the numbers of conscripted ultra-orthodox youths is likely the best available option, which could also be imposed at random. A net could be cast unpredictably and whoever is caught in it must serve or face personal consequences.

The deterrent value of possible punishment cannot be underestimated and might facilitate the conscription of greater numbers of eligible haredim.

A consumer boycott of the group's Shefa Shuk outlets by their target market, the ultra-Orthodox community, since the start of 2008 led to more trouble for the company.

Through no fault of Vurembrand, the boycott was called against David Wiessman in reaction to Dor Alon's acquisition of the 24/7 chain AM:PM which, as the name indicates, operates on Shabbat.

The target chosen from among Wiessman's operations was Shefa Shuk, where sales and profits began plummeting. Only 10 of its original 40 outlets remained viable when, in September 2011, they were renamed Zol B'Shefa. They currently include 17 stores.

By Haviv Rettig Gur

And finally, the GPT suffers from JFNA’s own lack of clarity about its purpose.

Is JFNA a trade association that offers services to constituent federations? A Jewish “government” or representative that lobbies in Washington and Jerusalem? A professional advisory (or even decision making) body where federation dollars are divvied up and shipped to projects and organizations?

This program is designed for Israeli educators seeking to implement pluralistic Jewish education in Israeli educational institutions and is organized in conjunction with a M.A. degree in Jewish Education from the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

A renovated cinema is the centrepiece of the controversial church's attempt to rebrand its image internationally, writes Matthew Kalman in Jaffa, Israel

November 22, 2012
Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.