Thursday, September 18, 2014

Religion and State in Israel - September 18, 2014

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

By Rabbi Seth Farber

I believe that the multiple attempts over the past six months to placate the right wing of the religious-Zionist community were misplaced at best and probably undermined much of the original effort. MK Elazar Stern and his partners (including me) continued to believe that the chief rabbinate would “come around” if only a nuance here and a comma there were changed.

Regions of conversion were created to placate the chief rabbis, as were exams for every municipal rabbi. And yet, they never really came around.

Perhaps it is time to learn that the religious-Zionist moderates no longer share a fundamental set of values with their nationalist-haredi counterparts, even if they wear the same color kippa.

By Tomer Persico  

So here we have another example, one of many, of self-centered patronizing by the State of Israel’s Orthodox establishment.

Its members are fighting among themselves for the right to convert people who aren’t interest in converting, to make them eligible to marry people who even now see nothing wrong with them, and all this just so that they themselves will find it easier in the future to see large parts of the Israeli people as Jews – even though Israelis themselves have long ignored the halakhic categories that this group considers so important. 

Tzohar chairman Rabbi David Stav: 
“There is no communal rabbi in history who has not dealt with conversion, and the idea that in the Jewish state there are municipal rabbis who have received rabbinical ordination but who have had the ability to deal with conversion taken away from them, and that just a small group of rabbis appointed by politicians and [other rabbis] can do conversions, is unrealistic historically and in terms of Jewish law.” 

Senior rabbis in Britain are warning that they will not recognize conversions performed in Israel, if the state gives every city rabbi the authority to convert people to Judaism. 


Why has it has been such a hard-fought battle? Why do you think there has been such resistance to this cause? Why are lawmakers so reluctant to make changes that would allow women to pray where and how they choose? 

We were challenging some of the biggest forces in Israel. The rabbinic establishment… hold the keys to the holiest site of the Jewish people for one minority faction of the Jewish people. We were the only ones getting up to challenge them and since they wield quite a bit of power, both economic, political, social, religious power – why give it up? No one likes to give up power.  

At every turn… it’s clear that we’re looking at power. We’re demanding territory and we’re demanding recognition and that requires the powers that be to give up some of their power, give up some of their territory and you can see [from] the kind of opposition that we’ve had that this is a power struggle. 


His decision, he says, had nothing to do with his sexuality, which he describes as “irrevelant.” It came instead from what he sees as a dire need to bring non-Orthodox Israelis back into the fold of congregational Jewish life, and create an environment within the nation’s synagogues that is welcoming, warm and, most of all, inclusive.

“I’m not interested in the ultra-Orthodox, who don’t think our way of Judaism is the right way anyway,” he says.

“I’m interested in the millions of Israelis who are turned off completely from Judaism. I want to make sure they at least have the chance to feel at home inside a synagogue, be it in the shul or in the library. I don’t want people to feel threatened to cross that threshold, and right now many people do.”



After a 
happy ending last week to 14 years of a husband's refusal to grant a 'get', Attorney Batya Kahane-Dror says she welcomes the "new spirit" that Rabbi David Lau has brought to the Chief Rabbinate. 


Ultra-Orthodox schools will continue to be exempt from meeting national standards on basic subjects like math, Hebrew and science, the High Court of Justice ruled Wednesday. 

Upholding an education law passed in 2008 that exempted Haredi schools from teaching the core curriculum mandated in other schools, the court said in a 7-2 ruling that changing the education requirements would be a paternalistic blow to the rights of others. 

Déjà vu in Beit Shemesh as a battle over a school highlights tension between haredi and secular residents. 

Book Review: The War on Women in Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting for Freedom 

I can only conclude that this is a book that should be required reading for anyone – male or female, in every country across the globe. Because despite the many frustrating and even depressing examples that Sztokman describes here, it is also a wake-up call to action. 


An American-Israeli woman is fighting for her daughter’s right to leave Israel after her ex-husband filed a case in the Rabbinical Court on September 4 demanding visitation rights. The child in question, a 13-year-old named Inbar, or Amber Hope Layman, cannot leave Israel during the legal proceedings, and her mother promises to “raise hell” in order to bring her home. 

“Jerusalem is in need of tolerant and welcoming rabbinic leadership that does not belong to any particular sector or is available to one particular gender, but rather a rabbi of all Jerusalem’s citizens who can unite people and draw them close regardless of whether they wear a yarmulke, a shtreimel or nothing at all.” 

Most haredim don’t use the services of the ‘Zionist’ Chief Rabbinate, but their leaders are nonetheless trying to control the outcome of the first election in the city in 15 years. 


“I just got this today, and I’m pleased, but a little sad,” he says. 

His sadness stems from receiving the identity card after going through a five-year naturalization process. Instead of granting him automatic citizenship as a Jew, the Israeli government refused to apply the provisions of the Law of Return to him, despite the fact that he, the son of two Jews, is indisputably Jewish according to halacha, or Jewish law. 

The Agency has brought millions of Jews to Israel, but there is no evidence its actions were ever the impetus for them doing so. And in the four years since the Aliya Department’s shutdown was announced, there have been no discernible changes in aliya figures (which are publicly available in Hebrew on the website of Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics) that do not follow precisely the rise or fall of the economic and political conditions in the immigrants’ countries of origin. 

The Israeli government has launched a new, humorous campaign in an attempt to persuade young Diaspora Jews to move to Israel, as these efforts become increasingly difficult. 

Allison Kaplan Sommer, blogger for Haaretz newspaper and fellow TLV1 broadcaster, explains how Israel has fallen yet again into the trap of patronizing and antagonizing potential olim. 




"Potential partners and investors don't want to work with Charedim and they looked at me as if I was an alien," he said. So he shelved his start-up and instead created a non-profit with an even more ambitious aim: to revolutionise the relationship between high-tech and the Charedi community. 


The Israel Defense Forces kept former IDF Chief Rabbi Brig. Gen. (res.) Avichai Ronsky away from the border with the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge, amid suspicions that he was illegally passing along secret operational intelligence to cabinet minister Naftali Bennett. 


If Ruth Calderon did not exist, it would be necessary to dream of someone like her. ... Calderon has indeed distinguished herself as a bridge builder in all these ways and more.

She has continued to advocate for Jewish culture, while opposing the Haredi draft exemption. ... 

And, to the consternation of civil society activists, she is insistent on both equality for women and the “thick” Jewishness of the Jewish state. In short, Calderon is a transformative figure, even if the transformation is still very much a work in progress. 

By Dr. Ruchama Weiss  

I decided to study Torah with Benzi Gopstein, CEO of the Lehava organization, which seeks to prevent assimilation through intermarriage in Israel. To my surprise, Gopstein accepted my invitation to meet at my office at the Hebrew Union College's academic-Reform center in Jerusalem. 


The world’s biggest supply of rams’ horns for the Jewish New Year comes from a tiny hole-in-the-wall in Tel Aviv. But one of Israel’s main competitors in the shofar business is China.



JOFA is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Sharon Weiss-Greenberg as Executive Director. 


It should come as no surprise that among progressive-minded Jews – those who make a point of buying locally grown produce and composting their leftovers – this particular commandment would resonate strongly. At its core, after all, it’s about treating the earth well. 

Baruch Adiri recounted how he will be observing Shmittah for the fifth time this coming year, willingly abandoning a great percentage of his livelihood for the sake of keeping the mitzvah. Baruch cultivates olive groves, wheat and barley, and raises goat and sheep. 

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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Religion and State in Israel - September 11, 2014

Religion and State in Israel          

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


Conversion reform proposals made by MK Elazar Stern of Hatnua are likely to be brought to a vote and approved in a cabinet meeting on Sunday following an agreement with Bayit Yehudi on the matter. 

The reforms were originally proposed by Stern as legislation, but they evinced the ire of hard-line national-religious rabbis, the haredi political establishment and the chief rabbis for what they claimed was an attempt to reduce the authority of the Chief Rabbinate. 

"They expressed their shock to me over the expropriation of responsibility for conversion from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate," said Chief Rabbi Lau.

He added they "always believed the state of Israel would guard more than all other countries this important and delicate issue of conversion, and they didn't believe they would ever need to consider whether to recognize conversion documents from Israel." 

The Sephardic chief rabbi of Petah Tikva has reportedly been refusing to sanction the marriages of Ethiopian Jews seeking to tie the knot in his city on the grounds that their Jewishness is in doubt. 

The rabbi, Benjamin Atias, was accused by members of the city’s 10,000-strong Ethiopian community of consistently refusing to grant them permission to get married, according to an Army Radio report, which featured quotes from several Ethiopian residents saying that they had been forced to marry elsewhere. 

Rabbis of the religious-Zionist Tzohar organization decried the refusal of city rabbis in Petah Tikvah to register members of the Ethiopian community for marriage. According to reports, Ethiopian community members who seek to get married in the city are sent elsewhere. 

Converts to Judaism seeking to register for marriage in Petah Tikva are frequently rejected by the local rabbinate in the city, it was claimed on Sunday, seemingly due to the policy of Sephardi chief municipal rabbi Binyamin Atias. 

There have been a number of complaints in recent months, specifically but not exclusively from the Ethiopian community in Petah Tikva, about converts who have not been allowed to register for marriage because the local rabbinate refuses to recognize their conversion. 

Believe it or not, ultra-Orthodox conversions performed in Israel are not always considered kosher.

That could change in the near future, though, if the High Court of Justice rules in favor of several individuals born outside of Israel who were converted by prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis here, but whose requests to be recognized as citizens under the Law of Return were rejected by the Interior Ministry. 

The reason cited for the rejection was that the conversions were performed by private rabbinical courts rather than state-sanctioned ones. 

The converts’ cases will be heard by a nine-justice panel scheduled to convene on November 4 and announce a landmark decision on the matter. At this point, only three cases will be heard, but dozens more could be affected by the judicial ruling that is handed down. 


The Jerusalem District Court recommended that the Ministry of Education and the Beit Shemesh Municipal Council enter into dialogue over the use of the Safot VeTarbuyot school in the city that the local authority unilaterally partitioned last week to make room for a haredi girls school that required premises for 100 pupils. 

Judge Arnon Darel rejected however the ministry’s request for an interim injunction against the municipal council which requested that the haredi girls school, Mishkenot Daat, be prevented from using Safot VeTarbuyot’s premises. 

This will allow the haredi girls school to operate from the newly established premises until a final decision is made by the court, should the Ministry of Education insist on a full hearing. 

The Beit Shemesh municipality began dismantling the controversial partition separating the ultra-Orthodox and secular students in the Safot V’Tarbuyot school on Thursday, hours after the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court shot down an injunction to remove the Haredi students from the facilities due to lack of jurisdiction. 

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court said on Thursday that it is not within its authority to prevent the Beit Shemesh Municipality from using a section of a secular school it partitioned without the consent of the Ministry of Education earlier this week. 

Judge Gad Arenberg said in his opinion that the school is legally owned by the Beit Shemesh Municipality and that the claims by the ministry were administrative in nature and should be addressed to an administrative court. 

A school for ultra-Orthodox girls is to remain, for the time being, in a wing of a nonreligious school in Beit Shemesh, after the Jerusalem District Court yesterday rejected the Education Ministry’s request to issue an interim injunction against the continued use by the girls’ school of the campus. 

Yesh Atid MK and Beit Shemesh resident Rabbi Dov Lipman said the figures “further demonstrate that the issue at hand here is not haredi versus secular, it’s not a culture war between citizens, but rather a complete lack of responsible management from the city’s leadership,” adding that he would investigate the failure to utilize the money through the Knesset. 

Daniel Goldman, local activist and Chairman of Gesher, says that the incident reflects the mayor’s indifference to the needs and wants of the non-Haredi population. 

By Rabbi Dr. Samuel Lebens  

... But, whatever the arguments in its favour, the segregation of children into these different streams contributes to a segregated society in Israel at large.  

Prof. Aviad HaCohen, legal expert and Dean of the Sha’arei Mishpat Academic College, describes how some Ashkenazi parents in Eldad are refusing to register their daughters at Beit Yaakov HaHadash Seminary, in order to prevent them from sharing a classroom with Sephardi girls. 

He also explains why this problem is exclusive to girls schools and seminaries in the Haredi sector, rather than boys schools or yeshivot. 


British-born Mikie Goldstein this week became the Israeli Conservative movement’s first openly gay congregational rabbi with his installation as spiritual leader of its synagogue in Rehovot. 

“From my point of view, gender identity is not an issue,” Goldstein said. “What was important for our congregation was a rabbi who could teach and do outreach, and I believe that’s why they chose me. Being gay wasn’t an issue.” 

The Conservative movement in Israel has appointed its first openly-gay rabbi, British-born Mikie Goldstein, who will serve as rabbi at Congregation Adat Shalom-Emanuel in Rehovot.

Rabbi Andy Sacks, the director of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, says it’s time LGBT kids had role models in the community.

Yeshiva blesses gay couple — by mistake 

“Without getting into nuances, since we got actually got married and not engaged, I take off my hat to them! It is really exciting to see something like this on an official website of a yeshiva,” Jonas wrote on Facebook on Sunday. 

Yizhar Hess, the executive director of the movement in Israel, issued the following response to the meeting:
“The warm and jovial meeting with President Rivlin did not surprise me. As a true democrat, a Jew with deep roots and a leader who was always committed to human and civil rights, the president understands well that in his current role he functions also at the president of the entire Jewish people, and there is, obviously, more than one way to be a Jew.”


In a hearing that lasted for five hours, Chief Rabbi Lau convinced the husband to drop his claims for 18 percent of the apartment and to grant the bill of divorce, in return for which the woman dropped her claim against him in the family court. 

Mavoi Satum diretor Attorney Batya Kehana-Dror praised Lau for his efforts saying that he adopted their position that it is unacceptable to make a woman pay in order to receive her divorce. 

In one hearing, Rabbi Lau understood the absurdity of demanding that this woman pay for her get,” said Kehana-Dror. 

By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin 

It may now behoove the Israeli religious establishment to welcome civil marriages. The fewer women who require religious divorces mean fewer cases of women chained to impossible marital situations that the Israeli courts will have to adjudicate. 

He is not extorting her financially – as so many men do – but simply exerting the great power the system gives him.

He is an otherwise unimportant man who finds himself wielding huge power over his wife, and he can’t let give it up.

The judges push him, even imprison him, but they and the system are always against the Vivianes of this world because they accept the injustice inherent in the divorce laws. 


“If the Israeli government can’t provide for the religious well-being of its own citizens in an open pluralistic and egalitarian manner as so many Israelis report they desire, what makes anyone think they can adequately address those of the Diaspora,” asked Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

Rabbi Andrew Sacks, director of the Masorti movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in Israel: “As long as our congregants in North America see that the marriages, conversions and other matters of personal status performed by their own rabbis are ignored by the State, even derided, funding new programs will not succeed.” 

By Haviv Rettig Gur

How, then, to bridge the gap between the deep-seated Jewish ideological call to aliya and the stark social and economic realities of a Jewish world comfortably ensconced in free, tolerant and prosperous open societies?
One answer may lie in studying what actually makes Diaspora Jews move.

Opinion: Assimilation? Not in Israel’s backyard (or so Israelis think)
By Shmuel Rosner 

The only reason there is no problem of intermarriage in Israel is the shortage in candidates for intermarriage.

As you can see in this survey, Arab Israelis are not good candidates even in the opinion of many Israelis who don't really oppose intermarriage. Other candidates need to be imported – a difficult task – or have to be the cause for emigration – which would make the marriage an assimilation problem but not "in Israel". 


The Prime Minister’s Office ordered the dismantling of a foot bridge under construction from the Western Wall Plaza to the Temple Mount to supplement the Mugrabi Bridge, government officials confirmed on Wednesday. 

The move came at the request of the Jordanian government, the officials said. 
According to the officials, the PMO has ultimate jurisdiction – because of the volatility of the area – for the site. 

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), praised the decision and urged the government to quickly build the plaza “which provides a place and expression of all the factions in Israel,” Haaretz reported. 


The Israeli Rabbinate has a monopoly on Kosher certification in Israel.  Mottle Wolfe talks with Grass Roots Alternative Kashrut activist Aaron Leibowitz about his effort to break the strangle hold of the Jerusalem Rabbinate and kashrut certification. 

For the first time, I was moved to tears because I felt the power behind the prayers not just from my own heart, but from the hearts of all of those Jews who have recited and continue to recite the same prayers every day. 

Following the complaint filed with the police by the Western Wall rabbi on Sunday, the page's operator posted the following statement on the controversial Facebook page Monday: 

"I am not Amos and I am not from Holon. We started this page a year ago as a satirical page for all intents and purposes, and its entire content – the notes – are fabricated and were written by us. At first the page accumulated likes, but recently it became increasingly viral from day to day. 


Despite claims by Science Minister Yaakov Peri on Sunday that haredi conscription has risen over the past year, statistics reported by IDF officials to the Knesset oversight committee for the recently approved law for haredi conscription showed an opposite trend in the sector in 2014. 

According to Hiddush, the claims of a dramatic increase are "as accurate as Hamas's declaration of a decisive victory in Gaza" during Operation Protective Edge. 

The Knesset committee tasked with tracking the Enlistment Law, which is headed by Science Minister Ya'akov Peri (Yesh Atid), announced a 39% hareidi enlistment increase through the 2013-2014 draft year on Sunday. 

Hiddush Vice President of Research and Information Shahar Ilan's analysis of IDF draft numbers reveals that that there are some figures that Minister Peri did not bother to share with the Israeli public. 


The proposed law would also allow municipal-run community centers to be kept open by the local authority for “cultural, social and spiritual activities,” and also allow local authorities to operate reduced public transport services. 

Attorney Ivri Feingold represents the small business owners who initiated the case against the city; he argues that it’s unfair to small businesses for chains to open on Saturdays, even if Tel Aviv’s residents prefer keeping them open. 


The recent Kfar Sava Magistrate’s Court ruling ordering the state to reimburse two individuals for the cost of the nonreligious burial of their respective spouses reveals the state’s unease when such services are provided by anything other than the religious establishment.

The ruling also reveals the fact that the State of Israel regularly violates the Alternative Burial Law. 

A Glimmer of Hope for Religious Women in Israel

In her book The War on Women in Israel: How Religious Radicalism is Smothering the Voice of a Nation, Elana Maryles Sztokman exposes many gendered issues within Israel, delivers a spot-on analysis of the underlying reasons for the inequalities, and proposes creative solutions to build a more inclusive society. 


Twenty years after the death of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Chabad-Lubavitch Hassidic movement’s seventh and final leader, two well-known rabbis — Joseph Telushkin and Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz — have come out with new books on “the rebbe.” 


If the government intends to eliminate one of the offices of the Chief Rabbi, it should be that of the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, said Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef. Speaking to yeshiva students in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yosef pointed out that his office – that of the Rishon LeZion, the head of the Sephardic community in the Holy Land – was there first, and had seniority. 

By Rabbi Naamah Kelman 

Something has indeed happened in his war weary, politically torn, combustible country. Under the radar, with no official help — or, God-forbid, government money — Israeli Jews want a Shabbat that belongs to more people, that sings in multiple voices, that yearns for peace and co-existence. 


A new academic nursing program for religious Jewish men will launch this fall in Jerusalem in an effort to bring more Haredim in to the Israeli workforce, and to address a serious shortage in qualified nurses, 

The Jerusalem College of Technology program will be the first to train Orthodox men to enter the female-dominated field, and it will do so in accordance with halacha, or Jewish law. 

The first-ever Women’s Health Expo for the ultra-Orthodox and religious population attracted hundreds of women in Jerusalem

The group’s leader, Helbrans was born in 1962 as Erez Shlomo Elbarnes. He was raised by secular parents in Jerusalem, but "found religion" during his teens and left to study at yeshiva. 
After moving between different ultra-Orthodox schools, he found himself in the Satmar sect.  



Religious Zionist schools were overrepresented among the country’s 208 most improved secondary schools, though not to the same extent as last year, according to an Education Ministry ranking released yesterday. 

The Jewish Home: MK's Bennett and Ariel

Israeli Muslims finally able to reach Mecca by air for hajj

Israeli Muslims traveling to the Saudi city of Mecca to fulfill their religious obligation of making the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime will now be able to fly in organized groups to the nearby Saudi city of Jeddah, via the Jordanian capital Amman, rather than making the journey by bus. 

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