Thursday, February 14, 2013

Religion and State in Israel - February 14, 2013 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
Special Women of the Wall edition coming soon

Speaking in Jerusalem to the annual mission of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, he declared, “I will do everything in my power to ensure the equality of all streams of Judaism in Israel, in terms of conversion, marriage, funding and in the eyes of the law.”

He added that he would “ensure that there will be civil marriage here, too.”

Director of the Reform Movement in Israel Rabbi Gilad Kariv pointed out as an example one condition stipulating that Reform rabbis for small communities numbering a maximum of 250 members are to be funded as part-time employees entitled to half the salary of full-time rabbis.

Orthodox rabbis are considered to be full-time employees and receive a full- time salary regardless of the size of their community.

Kariv said his objection was that the state was asking for the Reform Movement to pay the rabbi of such a community as a full-time employee and only then would the state pay half of his or her salary.

"After seven years of litigation, the state accepted – albeit with clenched teeth – the proposal of this esteemed court and agreed to fund the salaries of non-Orthodox rabbis by way of support tests," the petition states.

"These tests were meant to create a mechanism for employing Orthodox rabbis in a way that non-Orthodox rabbis could receive similar conditions. 

But rather than properly implementing the ruling, the state has used foot-dragging tactics ... and in the end published tests that blatantly discriminate against non-Orthodox rabbis."

The High Court of Justice ordered the Interior Ministry on Thursday to explain within four months why the same criteria do not apply to student dormitories and yeshivas for receiving a municipal tax exemption.

The order was given in a petition filed about a year ago by eight student associations and four universities. The petitioners asserted that the criteria set a year ago for receiving a municipal tax exemption was formulated in such a way that it favored yeshivas over student dorms.

By Rabbi Marc Angel

When religion slips into power politics, it is religion itself that becomes sullied. It is not surprising that a high percentage of the Israeli population has little respect for the Rabbinate. 

It is not surprising that a very high percentage of Jews in the Diaspora view the Rabbinate negatively. As symbols of religion, the Rabbinate and its allies have been remarkable failures. Instead of inspiring respect and admiration for Judaism and halakha, the “religious establishment” has generated disdain for—even hatred of—Judaism and halakha. 

The further it slips away from the spiritual and compassionate ideals of religion, the further it removes itself from the goodwill of the Jewish world.

The Israel Religious Action Center has petitioned the High Court of Justice to grant citizenship to a 62-year-old African-American convert to Judaism who is being threatened with deportation by the Interior Ministry.

In recent years, African-American converts have come under intense scrutiny by Interior Ministry official. According to sources who have been present at meetings held between the two sides, the converts are frequently questioned by ministry officials about their possible connections to the Hebrew Israelites, a community of African-Americans in Dimona, most of them originally from Chicago, who maintain they are descendants of the Tribe of Judah but are not recognized as Jews by the state.

Maxfield told Haaretz he had absolutely no connection to the community, commonly known as the Black Hebrews.

The case Har-Shalom was working that night had bedeviled him for some time. Back in Jerusalem, he'd been hired by a Russian émigrée who was planning for her daughter's eventual wedding and needed Har-Shalom for a crucial ingredient -- proof that her child was Jewish.

… Har-Shalom, who runs a nonprofit detective agency that specializes in sniffing out long-lost Jewish ancestry. His agency, called Shorashim (Hebrew for "roots"), is funded in part by the Israeli government. 

Each year he takes on roughly 1200 cases that test his fluency in Yiddish and Russian dialects, his familiarity with czarist and Soviet history, and his patience for combing through old Soviet archives. He then presents his findings to a rabbinic court, which almost always accepts his expert opinion about a citizen's Jewish identity.

Israel’s Mavoi Satum director, attorney Batya Kahane-Dror, says that “thousands of women are in captivity [in Israel] and cannot continue their lives, establish new families or have children.”

According to Kahane-Dror, Mavoi Satum has been promoting a similar document which, she says, is recognized by the Israeli legal system.

She advises couples to sign such agreements before getting married.

“It is important to know that in Israel we encourage making prenuptial agreements.”
There are several options available in terms of legal agreements, Kahane-Dror said, and even if a husband “runs away, disappears or goes crazy, the wedding expires retroactively without a get.”

“Our experience confirms that courts approve [the terms] of these agreements,” she said.

MK Meir Porush of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party on Tuesday said that any Haredi teen who does not study in yeshiva after high school must enlist in the Israel Defense Forces.

“Whoever doesn’t sit and learn [in yeshiva] must enlist,” he said.

“There will not be a civil war here; 10% of the population cannot threaten 90%,” Lapid said, referencing threats made by ultra-Orthodox leaders against the possibility of conscripting yeshiva students into the army.

Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the spiritual leader in the ultra-Orthodox world, is reportedly not opposed to a proposal for increasing haredi enlistment drafted by Professor Yedidya Stern, a former member of the Knesset’s Plesner Committee, which deliberated on the issue last summer.

Stern’s proposal would not impose quotas on the number of ultra-Orthodox men turning 18 who are able to gain an exemption from military service, but contains both positive and negative incentives to increase haredi enlistment that the professor believes would be effective.

The leading haredi rabbis are unwaveringly opposed to a quota system since it would automatically prevent men who wish to study in yeshiva from doing so, a point of principle for the leading rabbis that they will not abandon.

UTJ MK Menahem Eliezer Moses: “Do you really think you could force 100,000 yeshiva students to serve in the army?” Moses asked. 

“Where is there land to build all the prisons for them? There isn’t even enough land for homes for young couples.” 

The UTJ MK also pointed out that government funding for yeshiva students is lower than the amount spent on prisoners.

"We have not come here to drive a wedge, but to unite. The rift is already here, we're being torn apart from each other in schools, in the army, in the work force. It's time to admit there's a gaping wound in the heart of Israel's society and now is the time for healing."

By Sami Peretz

Equalizing the burden is about values. It's about giving Israel's heterogeneous society a common base that will reduce its polarization and strengthen its fabric. This will also reduce racism and discrimination in the workforce. 

National and military service brings diverse sectors of society closer together, increases integration, provides professional training and gives those who complete it a sense of worth.

“The model presented by Yesh Atid is a model that can’t be implemented by consensus and without coercing the Haredi population, which is why we cannot adopt it,” he said. “By contrast, the Kandel outline is one that can be implemented and that can be promoted to the various factions.”

(Yesh Atid Yair Lapid, new ultra-Orthodox IDF recruits)
Haaretz cartoon by Eran Wolkowski - February 10, 2013

At the end of the emergency conference, during which Torah studies were praised and IDF enlistment was cursed, the Council issued a joint statement: "(The Council) is shaken, scared and deeply depressed by the wave of incitement by the residents of Israel against the haredim."

By Professor Naomi Chazan

The 2013 elections may have been determined by one single slogan: “equality of burden” (or, in its less accurate English rendition, “sharing the burden”). 

Both Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett spearheaded this rallying cry (subsequently echoed with vigor by the Likud, Labor, Kadima and the Movement), which calls for the full realization of the principle of universal military or civilian service for all groups in society. 

The implementation of this promise is now a key consideration in the construction of the next government and may very well determine its composition and direction. 

This popular cry, however, is populist rather than substantive: it is misguided, misdirected and fundamentally mistaken.

By Seth Frantzman

If a haredi person joins the army, he still won’t have an equal place in secular society. If he applies for a position at one of our top universities he will come up against attitudes such as those mentioned above, and will be judged solely based on the style of his clothing and his beard. 

Equality is demanded of the haredi man in army service, but equality is denied him in many other walks of life in Israel.

By Rabbi Shalom Hammer

While the Chief Rabbinate must uphold the proper standards of the Halacha,  it must also recognize that it is a people’s institution and that the people in Israel thirst for tolerance, patience, understanding and diplomacy, particularly from their religious leadership. Once this is accomplished I believe the rabbinate will be surprised to find how thirsty the secular population in Israel is for knowledge, and for enlightenment as well.

Rabbi David Stav: “There must be zero tolerance for any compromise in Halacha accompanied by 100 percent tolerance for dealing with people politely and respectfully, reaching out to those who do not know how to turn to rabbis and representing the rabbinate in a different light.”

[Rabbi David Stav] would encourage couples to sign prenuptial agreements to ensure wives can request a divorce, a right not granted to them in the traditional Jewish marriage contract. 

He would privatize the kosher certification industry and make the chief rabbinate its regulator, lowering the soaring prices of kosher supervision for the food industry. 

He would make ritual baths more handicapped accessible, and require ritual circumcisers to refresh their skills in training classes every two years.

“It’s not about public relations and niceness,” Rabbi David Stav told the Associated Press. “There is a critical problem—it’s not cosmetic—in the rabbinic system. It needs dramatic changes.”

By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

[W]hen I study many of the recent responsa of the rabbinical courts of the Chief Rabbinate, when I see how many of the Israeli rabbinical judges rule in accordance with the stringencies of Rav Elyashiv and refuse to obligate recalcitrant husbands to grant divorces to their suffering wives, when I watch the emotional torture (yes, torture) many sincere converts must undergo at the hands of some insensitive judges blind to the biblical command of loving the stranger, my heart weeps to think that there might be more compassion on the part of the secular courts. 

I write these words with sighs and sobs; and I believe that God and the Torah are sighing and sobbing as well.

In an op-ed originally published in Yedioth Ahronoth, IDI Vice President Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern hails the incoming Knesset as a unique opportunity to change the nature of the State of Israel so that it is both more Jewish and more democratic at the same time.

Q: What are the first three bills you plan to propose?

Putting two women in the committee to appoint judges to religious courts; redefining the Western Wall’s status under the law; making it accessible to the entire public; and transparency in the state budget.

Q: Do you think haredim and Arabs should do military or national service, and if so, how should the state enforce it?

Everyone must carry the burden equally.
I don’t see [service] as a burden; rather, it is a privilege to contribute to Israeli society. Every citizen of the State of Israel must contribute his part. As someone who sees the Torah as important, it is sad for me to find that many use Torah studies as an excuse to get out of serving.

Q: Do you support a religious-Zionist chief candidate, such as Rabbi David Stav, for the chief rabbinate?

Haredi parties control the Chief Rabbinate and Jewish institutions of the state and make the general public sick of Judaism.
We need to bring Judaism back to Israelis, and only a Zionist rabbi who is connected to the entire society should be chosen. Rabbi Stav is a worthy candidate, and I would be happy to see him as chief rabbi.

By Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

The time has come to deal with the issue of the Jewish character of the State of Israel, and to regulate the fundamental principles underlying the status-quo in legislation, now that close to 40 MK's are religiously observant.

Recent surveys conducted by Hiddush, an organization committed to freedom of religion for Israel, show clearly that the vast majority of Israelis want “freedom of religion and equality in shouldering civic burdens, equal military service for all, the implementation of core curricular studies, civil marriage, public transportation on Shabbat, a decrease in subsidies for yeshiva students, and action against public discrimination of women. Instead the public suffers from the government’s repeated surrender to the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.” (Rabbi Uri Regev, President of Hiddush).

Ruth Calderon, founder of Alma – Home for Hebrew Culture was sworn in as a member of the 19th Knesset. She posted a really beautiful prayer for the occasion which I have shared below in Hebrew and with my informal translation beneath it.

Q: In the same way that you are promoting women’s worship at the Wall, can you identify with and support, say, Moshe Feiglin and the others who visit the Temple Mount?

Anat Hoffman: Feiglin and I are in the same business of freedom of conscience and freedom of worship. That’s all we have in common. But you know what? If all this gets sorted out and Jews will be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, I will fight along with Feiglin for the right of women to pray on the Temple Mount.

Residents of the mixed religious/secular neighborhood of Ramat Sharett in Jerusalem are furious over the municipality’s approval of three yeshivas on the edge of their neighborhood at last week’s city council meeting.

On Thursday, the residents will hold a planning meeting with City Councilor Rachel Azaria (Yerushalmim) to try and submit a petition to the city’s Administrative Court to stop the yeshiva’s creation.

Fledgling MK Ruth Calderon of the Yesh Atid party was attacked by Shas chairman Eli Yishai on Sunday after asking on Facebook if there were efforts under way to change Israel’s national anthem to make it more inclusive to Arab-Israelis.

Sharansky: “In order to encourage aliya you must make Diaspora Jews feel closer to Israel. If you want to stop assimilation you must make people less indifferent to their Jewish identity and more passionate about their belonging to the Jewish family.”

As a testament to his multidenominational approach, students of David Hartman from different movements of Judaism spoke at the funeral about his power and passion as a teacher and the generation of Jewish leaders he inspired.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, spoke about the first class he took with Hartman at Hebrew University in 1975 – a course on philosophers Baruch Spinoza, Maimonides and Judah Halevy – that was actually about basketball.

By Rabbi Rick Jacobs

I told David that he was the reason I decided to become a Reform rabbi. Many orthodox rabbis would consider this a failure, but not David.

… I’m proud that in 2004, at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Rabbi David Ellenson bestowed an honorary doctorate upon Rabbi Hartman. We wanted him to know, then and always, how much we could not imagine our Reform Jewish world without him.

Hartman's name is identified with the Orthodox renewal movement in the past generation: He adhered to halakha (Jewish religious law) while also promoting pluralistic and liberal values. 

He supported the revolution of Torah studies for women and encouraged joint study and debate among people of ranging outlooks who were affiliated with various denominations both in and outside of Judaism.

By Gil Troy

His zeal embraced life in all its messiness, revealing his love of the ongoing Jewish tradition rooted in the Bible and Talmud, consecrated in the shtetl, now alive at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and many other venues of Jewish disputation, wherein we confront the text, each other, ourselves, and our God.

Hartman established the Shalom Hartman Institute in 1976, named after his father, and developed an approach that departed from more traditionally conservative Orthodoxy.
Through the educational institutions he founded, Hartman sought to create a pluralistic Jewish outlook designed to provide answers for the challenges facing contemporary Judaism.

The Shalom Hartman Institute – where Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis of both genders can collaborate and cross-fertilize – embodies the post-modernist, post-denominational era in which we live. It is reflected in phenomena such as Shira Hadasha, a synagogue that Hartman supported that defines itself as Orthodox while striving for gender equality, including women leading prayers and reading from the Torah.

News articles about David Hartman
Essays and Appreciations of David Hartman

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