Religion & State in Israel – January 14, 2008 (Section 1)

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Religion & State in Israel

January 14, 2008 (Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

Photo credit: Jewish Chronicle

Court to hear petition against segregation of sexes on buses

By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz

Orthodox American-Israeli novelist Naomi Ragen and the Israel Religious Action Center, the advocacy arm of Israel’s Reform movement, brought the petition a year ago in a bid to sharply reduce the operation of sex-segregated buses and prevent men and women from being forced to sit separately.

“This phenomenon [of sex segregation] impinges upon equality and causes degradation and damage to human dignity,” said IRAC attorney Einat Hurvitz.

“Since the government is not prepared to settle the matter, the court must intervene.”

Reform Movement Challenges Mehadrin Bus Service in Court

By Hana Levi Julian,

“There is no reason for a woman to sit in a men’s section on a bus clearly intended to cater to those who observe Torah law,” he said, “other than for the purpose of deliberate provocation.”

See also past articles:

July 2006 Reform movement: Sex-segregated Egged buses are illegal

December 2006 Like the Taliban

Egged appoints Haredi advisor for national traffic branch

Egged attaches great importance to the Haredi passenger community

By Yerucham Shmuelivitch, (Hebrew) January 10, 2008

Wrong kind of modesty

By Uri Orbach, January 14, 2008

The silent majority that up until a moment ago traveled in mixed-gender buses easily gave in, and started obeying the “religious edicts” elicited from the leading rabbis (they too, you will be surprised to hear, do not have the courage and strength to stand up to their fanatic students.)

Religious Ministry harms religion

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, (Hebrew) January 10, 2008

The writer is an attorney and Israel Religious Action Center (Reform Movement) Associate Director

After the present fiasco of resurrecting the Religious Ministry, it’s doubtful whether it can be dismantled in the future and the necessary reform of the religious services system advanced – including the dismantling the Religious Councils and transferring the responsibility of religious services to local authorities and relevant local religious communities.

Shas optimistic about Religious Affairs vote

By MATTHEW WAGNER, January 14, 2008

Meir Spiegler, director-general of the National Authority for Religious Services described corruption in the areas of kosher supervision and the running of mikvaot.

“Workers used to live in fear of being fired suddenly,” he said.

“They were afraid to open their mouths. They knew they would be fired if they did not go along with the game.

There was no one who could come along and say, ‘You can’t do that,’ Now there is.”

Hadar Lipschitz, a senior member of Ne’emanei Torah Ve’avodah (The Torah and Labor Faithful) – a group of liberal-minded, modern Orthodox activists – said that four years devoid of policy vision had been wasted since the dismantling of the Religious Affairs Ministry.

They have no God

By Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz

If Olmert cared about the taxpayers’ money, he would put into practice a government decision from the Sharon era that would turn the religious councils into religious services departments within the local councils, just like municipal welfare and education departments.

Such a move would save a tremendous amount of money and improve religious services.

The Ministry of Corruption

By Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, (Hebrew) January 9, 2008

Now, funds will be transferred with just the signature of Yitzhak Cohen – the difference is worth tens, if not hundreds, of millions of shekels to the followers of Shas.

Taking the extortion out of divorce, if the rabbi permits it

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz January 14, 2008

Under the proposal, the civil and rabbinical courts will be able to divide property between the couple before they divorce.

As a result, the economic situation of women who are requesting a divorce and their children will improve considerably.

Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Menachem Ben-Sasson (Kadima) says the amendment’s aim is “to disassociate entirely the money issue from divorce,” thereby denying the man the ability to extort his wife.

Under the formulation approved by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, the family court or rabbinical court can balance assets prior to divorce in several cases: one year after the suit for divorce or the request for the division of property is filed; when the man and the woman have been living apart for at least nine months; in a situation where there is proven violence.

Knesset Committee: Division of property before divorce

By Neta Sela,

The new bill, proposed by Knesset Members Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) and Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party), conversely, can do much to aid women on their way to the Rabbinical court.

The current Property Relations Law does not intentionally discriminate against women, however “it is unfortunately the men in our society that not only have the power to grant or refuse a divorce according to Jewish law, but also hold the upper hand financially as well,” said MK Melchior.

Knesset Committee: Division of property before divorce

By Neta Sela, January 10, 2008

“I sincerely hope that political considerations won’t torpedo this bill… it somewhat corrects the balance of power between husbands and wives and amends a grievous wrong,” said Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror of the ‘Dead End’ (Mavoi Satum), part of the ICAR [International Coalition for Agunah Rights]

New initiative gives recognition to unrecognized couples

In a victory for the concept of civil marriage, three Israeli municipalities now officially recognize the “Partnership Cards” issued by NIF grantee New Family, Organization for Family Rights.

The cards, which detail the rights and responsibilities of a shared life, are signed by both partners and a lawyer.

The cards have been issued to hundreds of couples including some of the 300,000 Russian speaking immigrants who are not entitled to marry in Israel because they are not recognized as halachically Jewish, to same-sex couples, and to Israelis protesting the Orthodox rabbinical monopoly on Jewish marriage in Israel.

Tel Aviv, Mevasseret Zion and Lod already recognize these cards and offer a range of rights to partners of city homeowners such as parking permits and discounts for municipal activities.

“The partnership card transforms a relationship,” said New Family Chair Irit Rosenblum, from a normative common law relationship to a contractual one.

Municipalities cannot afford to ignore the card because it is a legal document signed by a lawyer that affirms a contract.”

Justice Barak and Chief Rabbi Bakshi-Doron agree on solution to marriage issue

By Ruti Avraham, (Hebrew) January 14, 2008′”.

Couples choose alternative routes to the Rabbinate

Tali Heruti-Sover, The Marker (Hebrew) January 11, 2008

Behind Bars: 2 prisoners release agunot

By Raanan Ben-Zur, (Hebrew) January 10, 2008

By any other name

The writer is editor in chief of the New Jersey Jewish News.

By ANDREW SILOW-CARROLL, January 13, 2008

“A hyphenated last name for women undermines family values,” declared Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, according to Ynet.

The hyphen is indeed a dangerous symbol, because it has the ability to yoke together two different, sometimes contradictory sensibilities, and make something wonderful and new. Try it: Jewish-American, liberal-Orthodox, religious-Zionist, traditional-Reform. It’s a miracle of union and compromise – just like marriage.

His father was Jewish. His adoptive family is Catholic. Can he make aliya?

By RUTH EGLASH, January 11, 2008

A US citizen of Jewish descent, who was adopted as a baby by a devout Catholic family with some anti-Semitic leanings, is posing a tough challenge to the Law of Return.

Two years ago, Timothy Nicholas Steger, 37, discovered that his biological father, Robert J. Kates, was a Jew who had been a member of Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo, New York.

But attempting to make aliya last August, Steger was turned down by the Interior Ministry, which deemed that the connection with his biological parents had been severed as a result of the adoption and that he was therefore not eligible for citizenship.

Cabinet Secretary: We’ll fire rabbis who refuse to recognize legitimate converts

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

The cabinet secretary said that he had learned of this issue through meetings with Reform and Conservative leaders.

“It is unthinkable that rabbis who receive their salaries and draw authority from the state should refuse to recognize that same state’s formal conversion certificate. They will not be allowed to carry on in this manner,” Yehezkel said.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Progressive (Reform) movement said he believed that Yehezkel was acting with the best of intentions.

“The problem is that he is hoping for the assistance of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar. But Amar has had five years to take care of matters, and so to date, matters have only gotten worse,” Kariv said.

Source: Conversion judges making extreme demands

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Contrary to popular belief, most of the rabbis taking the hard-line stance on conversions are from the national-religious camp, not the ultra-Orthodox community.

“These judges want to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the Haredim, in part because they know it’s the only way they have of advancing as judges in the system,” a senior official in the Chief Rabbinate said “and they also belong to the Haredi-nationalist wing of the national-religious camp, which feels increasing alienation toward the state.”

Gentile Lubavitcher refused conversion

By MATTHEW WAGNER, Jan 3, 2008

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar will be asked to decide this weighty theological question and in the process pass judgment on thousands of members of the messianic stream within Chabad Hassidism who believe that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who passed away in 1994, is the messiah.

A source in the State Conversion Authority said that at least two leading religious Zionist rabbis ruled that messianic Chabad was beyond the pale of normative Jewish belief.

‘Who Is A Messiah?’ New Twist On Conversions

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen, The Jewish Week

“I think it could be agreed upon that someone who was observant but continued to deny the singularity of God or God’s omnipresence ought be denied entry through the gates,”

said Rabbi Seth Farber, director of Itim, an Israeli organization that helps converts deal with the rabbinic establishment there.

“Given the consensus among the Orthodox community regarding the fact that messianic deliverance has not yet occurred,” Rabbi Farber continued, “it seems reasonable that someone who assumed [and acted upon this belief] this could be denied.”

Jerusalem rabbis indicted for racist incitement


Attorney Einat Hurvitz, who represents The Israel Religious Action Center, which filed the original complaint against Yitzhak and David Batzri and several other rabbis, including Beersheba Chief Rabbi Yehuda Deri, said she was pleased with the decision.

“In the past few years we have been witness to a worrisome increase in racist expressions by rabbis and Jewish religious leaders, who make distorted use of Jewish tradition,” she said in a statement.

“This phenomenon obliges the law enforcement authorities to make use of all legal tools at their disposal to eradicate it.

The prosecution’s decision, although belated, is a step in the right direction and we hope that it is the harbinger of an increasing severity in the law enforcement policy against racist manifestations.”

Hartman Institute to ordain women rabbis


Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, founded by Rabbi David Hartman, himself a modern Orthodox rabbi, will open a four-year program next year to prepare women and men of all denominations – Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and also Orthodox – for rabbinic ordination.

The Hartman program will be the first rabbinic ordination program to bring together students from all the streams of Judaism. Each graduate will receive ordination in accordance with the stream of Judaism to which he or she belongs.

Rabbi Dr. Haviva Ner-David, perhaps the first woman ever to receive Orthodox ordination (from a private rabbi, Aryeh Strikovsky, on Pessah eve 2006), said she hoped what she termed Hartman’s rabbi-educator program would be “the first step toward full rabbinic ordination for Orthodox women.”

She asserted that the Hartman Institute was “stopping short” of “calling them rabbis” and said this was “annoying.” But, she added, “perhaps it is a political decision to start off with a half-title so as not to be too controversial and only later to give women the full title of rabbi.

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