Religion and State in Israel – January 21, 2008 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

January 21, 2008 (Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Don’t sell mezuzahs to Reform Jews

By Neta Sela, January 21, 2008

Rabbi Dov Lior, chief rabbi of the West Bank town Kiryat Arba, continues to take a hard line against Reform Jews.

The rabbi issued an edict mandating that sofrei stam, or Jewish scribes, should not sell Torah scrolls, tefilin or mezuzahs to Reform Jews.

Rabbi Lior issued this edict on an internet forum belonging to the Beit El Yeshiva [Hebrew]. A sofer stam wrote the rabbi and told him that that he was asked to fix a Torah scroll for, and sell mezuzahs and tefilin to, a Reform Jewish congregation.

The scribe asked the rabbi whether he could fix Torah scrolls for Reform Jews, and whether these scrolls were even considered kosher. He also asked the rabbi whether he could sell tefilin and mezuzahs to this congregation according to Jewish law.

Rabbi Lior replied emphatically that the scribe should not get involved with the congregation at all so as not to be “privy to a transgression or sin”. In his reply he takes a very harsh line against the Reform movement, which seeks to amend certain facets of Judaism to bring them in line with modern realities.

“Granted if the tefillin are used by a Jew, then this is a great mitzvah indeed,” stated the Rabbi, “but there is a more public issue at hand, namely adorning the Reform synagogue and giving legitimacy to this movement.”

See also:

“Orthodox Jews forbidden from attending Reform events, entering Reform synagogues”

By Neta Sela, October 25, 2006

Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv hopes that Rabbi Lior still doesn’t view Reform Jews are idol worshipers, saying that:

“Rabbi Lior seeks to segregate and hurt families, taint the joys of a Jewish family, out of his hate for a religious stream that doesn’t operate like his own does.”

U.S. immigrant beaten up in ‘pogrom’ by ultra-Orthodox gang

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz January 21, 2008

“My attackers thought they won, but there is a procession in my support,” said T., who was born in New York.

In recent months, Beit Shemesh residents have banded against what they call growing religious intimidation and coercion by some Haredi residents of the city.

In response, residents of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet, a Haredi stronghold in the city, held a protest Monday night.

This was the first time ultra-Orthodox residents came out strongly against fringe elements from within their own community.

Israel “back of the bus” rule sparks religious row

By Rebecca Harrison, Reuters January 15, 2008

“The partition between men and women is being taken from the synagogue into public spaces,”

said Anat Hoffman, head of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the advocacy arm of the Reform Judaism movement, which helped bring the lawsuit.

Hoffman is worried that “partition” could make further inroads into public life, saying one post office in an Orthodox neighborhood has separate waiting lines for men and women.

Court quizzes state over segregated buses

“It is reasonable to provide bus lines for the haredi community,” said Justice Elyakim Rubinstein during the hearing.

“However, one cannot impose separation and demands for modesty on those who oppose it. Solutions must be found. For example, by having the bus driver protect passengers so that when one passenger disturbs another, the driver will order him off the bus. Another idea is to display a sign informing riders that the line is segregated.”

Justice Yoram Danziger said that “a voluntary arrangement which harms dozens or hundreds of women is impossible.”

“The Transportation Ministry’s position is not sufficiently connected to reality,” said Rubinstein. “Its policy of ‘segregation-blindness’ is inadequate.”

High Court slams ‘kosher’ bus lines for ultra-Orthodox

By Aviram Zino, January 14, 2008

The High Court panel, composed of Justice Elyakim Rubenstein, Justice Salem Jubran, and Justice Yoram Dantziger, began its deliberation by noting that

“even if haredi lines are allowed to operate, the clothing and gender-separation restrictions in play on them cannot be imposed on people who object to them.”

Haredim find new ally in the Supreme Court

“Today the Supreme Court gave legitimacy to our claims and backed them up with values such as human dignity,”

said Shlomo Rosenstein, a member of the Jerusalem Municipality and Transportation Coordinator for the Haredi Public in the capital.

Haredim may have entered a new stage of influence: using the Supreme Court, that bastion of liberalism and equality, to support haredi religious freedoms as long as they do not hurt the freedom of others too much. Haredim are learning to defend their democratic rights.

Supreme Court Overturns Rabbinic Court Ruling January 21, 2008

The Supreme Court has overturned a rabbinic court ruling by ordering that two young girls continue to attend secular schools against their father’s wishes.

The Supreme Court ruled that moving the girls to a different school would cause them emotional damage, particularly given that they live with their mother, who is not religiously observant.

A rabbinical court in Israel has refused to convert a man who believes the Lubavitcher Rebbe was the Messiah. Was the decision correct? January 18, 2008

No – by Shmuley Boteach

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s newest book is The Broken American Male and How to Fix Him (St Martin’s Press). He broadcasts a daily radio show on

The news, therefore, that a rabbinical court in Israel refused to allow into Judaism a Chabad-educated conversion candidate because he believes the Rebbe is the Messiah is deeply troubling and constitutes an act of serious contempt for a non-Jew who has made sacrifices to ally himself with the Jews.

Comparing this with a Jew for Jesus wishing to convert is preposterous, given that Jews for Jesus believe in the divinity of Christ (which no one in Chabad would ever, God-forbid, assert about the Rebbe) as well as the irrelevance of the Torah to modern times.

Yes by Seth Farber

Rabbi Seth Farber is the director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Centre (, an Israeli organisation dedicated to transforming the experience of Jewish life

I believe strongly that the messianic posture of some of the Chabad community and the central role it plays for these Jews must be exposed for its unorthodox and un-Orthodox thrust, as it is unprecedented within normative Jewish life. Those who seek a place in our faith community cannot maintain such attitudes.

No more conversion

By Avirama Golan, Haaretz January 16, 2008

As long as Israeli society is not liberated from the religious establishment, it will find it difficult to pave the way for a renewed definition of the meaning of Jewish existence in a sovereign state.

The time has come to give up on conversion, to erase the slot for “nationality” in the ID card and to legalize civil marriage for all.

The key to nationality must finally be expropriated from the ultra-Orthodox nationalist gatekeepers.

Jewish-born adoptee granted temporary residency

The Interior Ministry announced that it was willing to grant temporary resident status to a US citizen of Jewish descent who was adopted by a non-Jewish family as a baby and has been attempting to make aliya for the past year-and-a-half.

The decision came following an article in the Post published Friday that highlighted the shortcomings of the Law of Return for not addressing the rare category of Jewish-born children who are adopted by those of other faiths.

Instilling the fear of God

There are a number of issues high up on the haredi parties’ agenda. The real crisis is with the young men’s yeshivot.

A petition submitted to the High Court of Justice by the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal arm of the Reform Movement, has resulted in a freeze of all transfers of funds from the Education Ministry to the yeshivot.

In its petition, the Israel Religious Action Center demanded that haredi yeshivot teach a minimum of secular subjects and Zionism as a condition for receiving state funds.

The court ordered the state to either amend the law governing state education funding, or stop transferring money to the yeshivot altogether.

No amendments were passed, so funding was halted at least until the next High Court hearing in mid-February. In the meantime, hundreds of yeshivot are being forced to make ends meet without state aid.

‘Rabbi Is The Highest Title For Teacher’

By Michele Chabin, The Jewish Week January 18, 2008

The venture, which is expected to begin in September, is unprecedented in that it will be the first rabbinical program in Israel to welcome students from all religious streams of Judaism.

Some of these students could be Orthodox women searching for semicha (ordination) from a respected mainstream institution.

See also: The Shalom Hartman Institute’s Melamdim offers an optional Rabbi-Educator track

Orthodox women to be trained as rabbis

By Nathan Jeffay, January 18, 2008

Rabbi Hartman said that the ordination would not be the standard type which qualifies the recipient to make judgements in Jewish law. It would be a qualification demonstrating that the holder is well-versed in Jewish texts, ethics and philosophy.

“Everyone gets panicky about where things will lead to, but that’s not my concern. My concern is filling a need.”

Knesset votes in favor of re-launching Religious Affairs Ministry

By Amnon Meranda, January 14, 2008

Fifty-one MK’s voted in favor of the government’s proposal and 37 voted against, with no MK’s abstaining.

MK Zahava Gal-On, chairwoman of the Meretz faction, said after the vote that the government is bribing Shas in order to survive, this at the tax-payers’ expense. “Cronies will again be given jobs and money will again be transferred to ultra-Orthodox establishments at the expense of the secular contingent.”

Poll: Few Israelis support Diaspora input in what happens with Jerusalem

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz January 21, 2008

Professor Yehezkel Dror, president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, plans to argue that the role of Diaspora Jews in Israel’s affairs should be upgraded.

Instead of merely being a source of financial aid, they should become “consultants,” his associates said.

Israel must not decide alone

By NATAN SHARANSKY, January 20, 2008

It is easy to be cynical about the lack of recognized leadership among Diaspora Jewry.

But just as in the case of the Ne’eman Commission, the Jews of the Diaspora have the right to participate in such a way that decision makers are required to take their opinion into account.

No more – but also no less – because, otherwise, the only decisive voice that will be heard in discussions of the fate of the Jewish people will be the argument for the survival of the coalition.

Lauder’s letter to Olmert roils WJC’s Israel office

By Jacob Berkman, JTA January 16, 2008

Shai Hermesh, the chairman of the WJC’s Israel branch:

“We feel that Jews around the world are our brothers and their support is very important to us, but political decisions should be taken only by the Knesset and no one else, including the Israeli branch of the World Jewish Congress. That is totally unacceptable by us. Decisions should be taken only by the elected government and no one else.”

Israel offers Anglo doctors cash for aliya

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz January 15, 2008

Jewish doctors from the U.K., U.S. and Canada who immigrate to Israel will receive an absorption package worth $60,000, the government and the Nefesh B’Nefesh immigration organization announced.

Physicians under 40 who have completed their medical studies in either North America or Britain will receive $25,000 upon arrival in Israel. Over the next few years, they will be paid between $1,000 and $1,500 a month.

Doctors doubt incentive will bring peers to Israel

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz January 18, 2008

“We hope to bring between 1,000 and 2,000 doctors to Israel in the coming years,” former Israeli ambassador to Washington and current NBN co-chair Danny Ayalon said.

Sold to the highest bidder

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz January 18, 2008

Unlike Sharansky and Lieberman, who are very minded to the Diaspora, Gaydamak, despite living almost all his life outside Israel, doesn’t seem overly concerned about how he’s perceived by Russian voters or by Israel’s extra constituency, the Jews of the world.

At a relatively early stage in his public campaign, he made some efforts in their direction, but a deal with the Jewish Agency to contribute $40 million in return for major policy involvement fell through amid mutual recriminations.

Best Buy fined NIS 90,300 for employing Jews on Shabbat

By DAN IZENBERG, January 16, 2008

Best Buy apparently felt it was economically worth the risk, given the probability of being caught versus the fine the company might have to pay, Judge Ilan Itah continued.

He rejected the company’s argument that the workers had been given an alternative day off, stating that the idea of the law was that the family should be able to spend the day of rest together.

Grocery-roots activists

By Ruth Sinai, Haaretz January 17, 2008

Family-run grocery stores like the Bremers’ have a hard time competing with the growing number of AM:PM and Tiv Taam outlets that are open 24 hours a day, including Saturdays and holidays, usually in total and blatant violation of the law.

“I can’t open on Shabbat even if I wanted to, because I couldn’t handle the fines. They tell me to compete, but then they tie my hands. At least they should reduce the municipal tax,” says Bremer. “It drives me crazy the way they scoff at the law.”

Widow: Archeologist kept ‘Jesus tomb’ discovery secret for fear of anti-Semitism

By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz January 17, 2008

Last year, the story became widely known with the release of the documentary film “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” by Simcha Jacobovici and Oscar-winning producer James Cameron.

The documentary claimed outright that a cave containing the tomb of Jesus, his wife and a son had been found in south Jerusalem.

Haredim likely to block new excavation at Talpiot tomb

The Talpiot tomb was turned into a geniza (repository for holy texts) before it was sealed, he noted, while the adjacent tomb still contains several inscribed ossuaries. “Haredi objections [to excavation there] would be impossible to overcome.”

Gibson, who told this week’s symposium on “Evaluating the Talpiot Tomb in Context” that he does not believe the cave is Jesus’s burial place, stressed that the adjacent tomb was “definitely worthy of investigation.”

The nine lives of the Lorenz Café

By Adi Schwartz, Haaretz January 29, 2008

The Lorenz Cafe will be renovated and restored, and will serve as the Schechter Center for Jewish Culture in Neve Tzedek.

The project will cost an estimated $3 million, and will be funded by donations from abroad raised by the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies; also participating are the Masorti (Conservative) movement, the Iyun Academy for Jewish studies and Kehillat Sinai.

The place will include a kindergarten, a synagogue, study rooms, an art gallery and a cafe.

[Religion and State in Israel – January 21, 2008 continues in Section 2]

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