Thursday, March 7, 2013

Religion and State in Israel - March 7, 2013 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

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

According to Yesh Atid sources quoted in a Maariv report, the party demands that the government enable public transportation to operate far more widely on weekends, albeit at a lesser scale than during the week.

Further demands are that the state establish civil marriage for those forbidden or unwilling to wed under Jewish law, the easing of conversion requirements and changes in the country’s Chief Rabbinate.

Rabbi Seth Farber, director of ITIM, an organization that promotes improved relations between religious and secular Jews in Israel, said Tuesday that he has met with many Knesset members and came away “cautiously optimistic.

“There is a lot of opportunity to move items on my group’s agenda forward,” he said. Shas, a haredi party, currently controls Israel’s Interior Ministry, which oversees immigration policy and rules on the contentious “Who is a Jew” issue.

By Rabbi Uri Regev

Dear Yair, [...]
As first step, we need to know that Yesh Atid is demanding that freedom of marriage is realized, bringing Israel in line with all other world democracies, and responding to the yearning of the clear majority of Israelis and all of Yesh Atid supporters!

By Rabbi Alvin Berkun

While a new Israeli government is being put together, I would urge those who see the current power in the hands of the ultra-Orthodox as untenable to make their voices heard, and to make their position known.
If not now, when?

By Rabbi Heidi Hoover

These issues hit me viscerally, because while I have devoted my life to Judaism, I studied for conversion with a Reform rabbi, and was examined and taken to the mikveh by a Reform beit din. That is how I became a Jew.
Israel doesn’t want me.

A religious school cannot fire an unmarried female teacher who becomes pregnant through in-vitro fertilization, even though the law allows such schools to take religious values into account when making personnel decisions, the Tel Aviv Labor Court ruled Monday.

The court ruled that “the right to be a parent, the freedom to work, and human dignity and liberty” supersede the right of a religious school to refuse to expose its students to alternative family models.

The desire of the school's leadership to protect its students from what it deems a teacher's improper behavior was outweighed by more fundamental rights deriving from the Basic Law on Freedom of Occupation and the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty. 

It must be hoped that other communities that enjoy broad autonomy in determining their lifestyle will take the court's message to heart.

By Nili Philipp

The perpetrators are no more than a band of amateur terrorists whose arsenal consists of rocks, sticks, and smelly fish oil — dangerous to private citizens but hardly a threat that any competent police force cannot handle. Thus, a clear message from the municipality to target this bullying is key in solving the problem. It's not rocket science. ...

The Beit Shemesh municipality has failed in its job of upholding the law. Now it's our turn, as private citizens, to do our job by challenging our elected leaders in court and publicly exposing their ineptitude. By taking the Beit Shemesh municipality to court and engaging the press, we hope to begin the process of restoring civility to our streets.

Four religious Jewish women from the city of Beit Shemesh have filedsuit against the city for failing to prevent an extremist sect’s pressure on women to dress according to its own strict rules of modesty.

MKs Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and Shuli Muallem (Bayit Yehudi) proposed legislation requiring at least four women to be on the panel that selects religious judges, or dayanim, which currently has no female members.

Transportation Ministry director-general Uzi Yitzhaki ordered an investigation of the incident. In addition, he said the ministry would increase supervision by female inspectors and reestablish a hotline for complaints about women being sent to the back of buses.

By Uri Regev

It was just announced that Yesh Atid decided to support Rabbi David Stav, chairman of Tzohar rabbis, as the candidate for chief Ashkenazi rabbi and demanded his appointment as part of your coalition negotiations. This raises a major question: Is Yesh Atid just as determined to demand freedom of marriage in Israel as it is to support Rabbi Stav?

Parliamentary support will not suffice for Stav. The majority of the selection committee — 90 members — are rabbis currently serving in official rabbinate posts around the country, most of them ultra-Orthodox.

Less than 30 of the committee members are subject, directly or indirectly, to government appointment. Most of the rest are mayors, some of them with ties to the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party Shas, and thus unlikely to back Stav.

The ultra-Orthodox are confident that the final results will favor a candidate acceptable to them, said Yossi Elituv, editor of the influential ultra-Orthodox weekly Mishpachameaning someone other than Stav.

By Aluf Benn

The rabbinate should be privatized. Those who wish to observe halakha can choose their rabbis and go on their way. That is what the Haredim do. The state doesn’t need to engage in religious guidance, certainly not in enforcing it by law. 

Israel will continue to exist and prosper even if all couples marry at City Hall or with the justice of the peace, and when the majority chooses this way, halakha will change too. But this doesn’t interest Rabbi Stav.

By Tomer Persico

If the Rabbinate were not an institution which is forced on all of Israel’s Jewish citizens, there would be no need to offer consolation to anyone. 

Who knows? Maybe if the Rabbinate does not receive so much power from civil law, halakhic problems will be more quickly resolved. 

For in that case, the rabbis, like rabbis in Jewish communities throughout the generations that preceded Israel’s establishment, will have to adapt themselves to the demands of the public. 

But in the meantime, as a powerful monopoly, the Rabbinate has no interest in making things more difficult for itself. Its interest lies in making things difficult for the public.

Last Thursday, a group of around 30 leading conservative national religious rabbis convened a meeting in Jerusalem to discuss the issue of candidacy. A vote was taken in which Rabbi Eliezer Igra, a rabbinical judge on the Supreme Rabbinical Court, was selected as the preferred candidate.

Now, with Shas headed to opposition, the deal makers are concerned for the significant change in the political map may upset his and other deals in the works. This will significantly diminish the chances of the dati leumi candidate.

The Chief Rabbinical Council will hold on Monday the last meeting of its current term to make a series of decisions about kashrut supervision, the ordination of rabbis and rabbinical court judges, burials and more.

[After the case], people became ecstatic and started saying, ‘Now we are going to tackle neighborhood rabbis, and we want weddings and conversions.’ It is good to dream, but this will be a very slow, slow process. … And with the new elections [that happened in January] we have no idea who will be next minister of culture and sport, and that could make a difference.

Encouraging Israeli PM Netanyahu to respond to American Jewish anger over Israel's discrimination of non-Orthodox Judaism, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, immediate past president of the Union for Reform Judaism, explains why he sent the PM a letter.

I'm not sure we will manage to immediately solve all these issues, but we do wish to propose changes to the current status quo in which the default definitions and criteria for Jewish identity are always the orthodox-Haredi ones. We want more equality when it comes to the holy places, Kashrut, conversion and Marriages.  

Calderon, for her part, hopes her approach can bridge over these gaps. She said Yesh Atid is drafting a new status quo for secular-religious relations, including yeshiva study, army service, and the rules of holy places. 

“I respect [Women of the Wall] greatly, and I feel pain when they are hurt, but it’s not my way,” she said. “I want to try to build a coalition with the different communities of Jews that will enable us to live our lives the way we want to, but then to also feel respected, and to live together.”

By Rav Yosef Kanefsky

With the emergence of people like Ruth Calderon however, and with the emergence of self-described “secular” institutions of classical Jewish learning such as Alma, and Elul, and Bina, we are seeing a development that just might step into the breach. 

A new way of thinking and learning and behaving as a Jew in the modern world  which can actually serve as a vital partner and ally of traditional Orthodoxy, living in dynamic intellectual and spiritual interchange with it, and with it weaving a net of Jewish life that will capture so many who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

By Uri Misgav

Ruth Calderon’s maiden speech in the Knesset, which won plaudits from every direction, melted hearts and has already chalked up 190,000 views on YouTube. The emotional paean of praise, delivered in a trembling voice, amounts to the same-old capitulation.

Secular politicians, with their ideological cart empty, fall back on self-deprecation and feelings of inferiority.

… But the fawning and the embracing are always one sided.

By MK Aliza Lavie

This is an opportunity to replace the idea of “either/or” with “this and that at the same time” – Jewish, religious and democratic, too. The religious person within me is the connection to the past and its traditions. The democratic person within me is the bridge to all the people who are different from me, but with whom I still have a great deal in common.

By Rabbi Yehoshua Looks

Yitzhak Vaknin is a member of Shas, a party that opposes mandatory conscription of yeshiva students - a position being championed by the Yesh Atid party - and that has never in its history had a female party member. 

And yet, in this exchange, two members of Knesset from diametrically opposed worldviews on the future of Israel and how to get there found a mutual language from our shared tradition. At that moment, the Knesset became a beit midrash.

By Daniel Gordis

So why does Limmud usually leave me so conflicted? Because I’m invariably headed back to Israel, where the silos stand tall, where more often than not, we manage not to meet people who construct meaningful Jewish lives differently than we do, where policy is made top-down and not bottom-up, where authority is derived from politics and not from knowledge, creativity and the passion of one’s convictions.

By Fania Oz-Salzberger

Amos Oz: Present-day Israel, including Tel Aviv, where myriads just voted for the secularist and future-oriented party Yesh Atid, is at the same time enjoying a veritable renaissance of age-old Jewish culture. Musicians and novelists are delving into the ancient and medieval texts with great panache. In this sense, Jews and Words is a very contemporary Israeli book.

By Elisheva Goldberg
There was a great deal about Rav Froman that was sensational, in every sense of the word. He would often kiss the earth of Israel; at night, he would say the shema prayer for hours. He was often prone to joke about all things—religious and otherwise. But that’s what my friend found so compelling about him. Rav Froman was important because he broke the rules.

By Yossi Klein Halevi
There was nothing quite like the funeral of Rabbi Menachem Froman, just as there was no one quite like Rav Menachem, as we called him. For hours the thousands of mourners who gathered in the synagogue of his settlement, Tekoa, wept as we sang the songs he loved – songs of devotion and longing for God, songs against fear, songs of the land of Israel.

He was born to a secular family in Kfar Hasidim in northern Israel and studied in the prestigious Hebrew Reali School in Haifa before serving in the military as a paratrooper and participating in the liberation (or capture) of the Western Wall. After his army service he found religion. He attended Mercaz HaRav and Yeshivat Hakotel and was ordained by famous rabbis Shlomo Goren and Avraham Shapira, both hugely influential in the blossoming religious Zionist movement.

By Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie

Israel in 2029 was not a religious utopia. It could not escape the hedonism and secularism so endemic to Western culture. 

But it was a country in which an end to Orthodox hegemony had produced a revived Orthodoxy, an active and growing progressive Judaism, broad pockets of deep religious commitment, serious Jewish education, and a major challenge to the spiritual emptiness that had so long characterized Israeli society.

It was a country to which Jews of the Diaspora looked for inspiration and spiritual sustenance. 

It was a Jewish state which, by divesting itself of authority over Judaism, had revived Judaism, and, for many of its grateful citizens, had transformed Torah from a political slogan into an 'ets hayyim'.

The Smith Research Institute and Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel conducted a poll which found that 57% of the Jewish population in Israel (80% of secular Jews) do not object to a family member marrying a partner who comes from an immigrant family and whose father is Jewish, but mother is not.

“They want to yank me out to intimidate us,” she says in accented English to the growing crowd, mostly women but also a sprinkling of men, who have come to support the group. 

“But we are doing the right thing. We are fighting for a voice and a place at the holiest site.” 

Later she tells me: “If Israel claims to be the state of the Jews, with Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish world and the Western Wall the holiest site of the Jewish people, then Israel has to adopt practices that reflect the realities of the larger Jewish world.”

By Tal Becker

The “religious/secular” divide never really reflected the diversity of Jewish expression in Israel. Today, it should be declared dead.

And David Hartman, years before the idea was popular, led the effort to bury it. Yes, the inadequate language of “religious and secular” still exists and permeates the discourse, but it does not reflect reality.

It obscures more than it reveals about what Jewish Israelis feel about the role of Judaism in the state and in their lives. It confuses both what is agreed and what is disputed about the place of Jewish identity in Israeli society.

By Shlomo Cohen

Jews around the world, most of whom are not Orthodox, will largely continue to love Israel, to fear for its future, to work on its behalf, and even to sacrifice themselves or put themselves at risk for us. They are fulfilling the obligation, ingrained in Jewish culture, to look out for one's fellow Jew. They will do so because that's what Jews do. They will do so despite the fact that, as it has in the past, Israel will continue to treat them selfishly and cynically.

While there is much to be gained from aliyah, to suggest that the potential sacrifices involved will only make one more Jewish is to grossly equate Israeliness with Jewishness. That equation is just too easy, and allows for sidestepping of “the question Yehoshua desperately wants us not to ask: what is the Judaic significance of the Jewish State?” as Rabbi Shai Held of Mechon Hadar succinctly put it.

In our community’s search for a way to secure Jewish continuity, there’s one type of program that has gotten short changed. In January, Repair the World and The Jewish Agency for Israel released a report about service-learning. Don’t know what this is? You’re probably not alone. But everyone soon will need to know because its success in attracting today’s young adults is unparalleled.

By Zavid B. Starr

At a Shabbat dinner not too long ago, I referred to the excitement caused by “Sadat's trip to Jerusalem” in 1977.  "Who's Sadat?" asked my neighbor--a rabbinical student.  I was shocked.

On Sunday, Chairman of Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky officially opened the organization's offices, which will also house the Agency-supported Janusz Korczak Academy.  

Among the fastest growing post-college programs to Israel today, says Rubel, is the genre of so-called Jewish service learning trips. This is where participants come to Israel, dig in their heels in one, usually less-than-glamorous-location, and try and do some good – while at the same time rooting their experience within the context of social change and Jewish values.

Brazilian Judo World Championship bronze medalist, 21-year-old Camila Minakawa, made Israel her home on Wednesday.

By Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz

There is a role reversal here, is it not from Zion that the Torah will emerge? I believe and hope that Israel should function as the cultural center of the Jewish people, yet high political stakes continue to hold us back.

[article from January 2011]
The Jerusalem-based Jewish Peoplehood Hub recently closed down, just 13 months after its creation was announced amid great fanfare at the Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly in November 2009.

Today, MK Dr. Aliza Lavie sponsored an event in the Knesset together with ICAR (the International Coalition for Agunah Rights) in honor of International Agunah Day, marked every year on Taanit Esther.

CWJ announces a new online initiative, "You, Me and the Rabbinic Court,” that will enable women to gain knowledge, insight and support from one another. 

We invite women to share their personal stories relating to rabbinic challenges: lines of questioning that have no relevance to the case in hand, cases that dragged on interminably or that were rejected out of hand, cases where women suffered contemptuous treatment.

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