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.