Religion and State in Israel – March 10, 2008 (Section 1)

By ,

Religion and State in Israel

March 10, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Taking power away from the rabbis

By Rabbi Marc Angel and Rabbi Avi Weiss, The Jewish Week March 5, 2008

We are not the first to raise concerns about the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

Over the last few years, there have been legitimate and important Orthodox voices in Israel that have raised opposition to its rightward trend and its hard-line position concerning conversions in Israel.

Now, through its deal with the RCA, the Chief Rabbinate is dictating its specific conversion standards to those living thousands of miles away in the United States.

With its cowering to outside dictates, the RCA appears to have opted to reflect the haredi-controlled voice of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate instead of insisting that the broad spectrum of Modern Orthodox positions be part of the solution.

Rabbi Marc Angel is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York and past president of the RCA.

Rabbi Avi Weiss is senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and longtime member of the RCA.

See same opinion article in JTA: Conversion deal hurts converts, disrespects Orthodox rabbis in U.S.

The Conversion Crisis

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel,

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has taken a restrictive, hareidi view on conversions to Judaism.

They have imposed “standards” that are unrealistic for many would-be converts, and which are not required by the halakha itself.

The Rabbinical Council of America has essentially capitulated to the Chief Rabbinate, and is now in the process of establishing regional courts in the U.S. and Canada that will adhere to the extremist opinions relating to conversions.

Orthodox rabbis, members in good standing of the RCA, who perform conversions outside the RCA system will not have their conversions endorsed by the RCA.

Thus, in order to be “accepted” by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, American converts will now be faced with an increasingly rigid rabbinic bureaucracy.

Rabbis Form New Orthodox Organization

06, 2008

Rabbis Marc Angel and Avi Weiss have convened an organization they are calling the Rabbinic Fellowship, a national affiliation of rabbis that they say will create a safe space for Orthodox rabbis to exchange ideas without fear of repercussions.

In one sign of how the organization could influence the Orthodox world, Angel and Weiss said that it could set up an international network of rabbinic courts.

The establishment of the fellowship was inspired in part by a series of negotiations between the Rabbinical Council of America, which is the leading union of Modern Orthodox rabbis, and the Israeli chief rabbinate over conversion standards in America.

A Conversion Critique From Within

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen, The Jewish Week March 5, 2008

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, spiritual leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and recently retired head of the Ramaz Jewish day schools on the Upper East Side, is one of Modern Orthodoxy’s elder statesmen.

…he is feeling deeply pained about the direction the Orthodox rabbinate is taking when it comes to conversions, and conflicted about his own role in the system.

“I oppose the system,” said the rabbi, in an interview from Jerusalem, where he was visiting. “I am very much afraid of this system.

“The RCA is making it more difficult for people to convert just as the Chief Rabbinate has made it more difficult for people to convert in Israel. We are replicating their mistakes,” he said.

“…Because the system is being set up in a way like it is in Israel, it will make it more difficult for people to convert in an Orthodox bet din. That’s bad for the conversion candidates, and I think it’s bad for the Jewish people.”

The Chief Rabbinate-RCA Deal – The case for ‘centralized’ conversions.

By Rabbi Barry Freundel, The Jewish Week March 5, 2008

The writer is spiritual leader of Kesher Israel Synagogue in, Washington, D.C., and chairman of the Rabbinical Council of America’s GPS Committee.

The procedures and standards of the network were composed, finalized and ratified solely by the rabbis of the RCA. The Chief Rabbinate had no input into the standards that were adopted. There simply was no capitulation whatsoever, as has been charged.

We are pleased that the Israeli Chief Rabbinate ultimately endorsed the procedures of the GPS. We recognize that some may believe that a different halachic standard should apply. However, the vast majority of the membership of the RCA simply does not agree.

Here’s our answer to the conversion conundrum

The writer is rabbi of the Bikur Cholim-Machzikay Hadath Congregation in Seattle, Washington and Rosh Beth Din, Pacific Northwest Regional Beth Din for Conversion and a member of the [Orthodox] Rabbinical Council of America.

…a significant development, announced last week by the Rabbinical Council of America and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, has the potential to diminish the severity of these problems in several important respects, while still maintaining reasonable halachic conversion standards.

In the process these two rabbinic entities have created a model for reasoned cooperation, rather than rancor, in Jewish life.

I am referring to the announcement establishing a North American network of standing regional rabbinical courts for conversion, under the auspices of the Rabbinical Council of America, with the blessing, and endorsement, of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

See also same opinion article in JTA: Conversion deal with Chief Rabbinate could diminish a major Jewish rift

Barak refuses to exempt 1,000 haredim from IDF service

By Hanan Greenberg, March 6, 2008

Barak has ordered his assistants and legal advisors to form new criteria which will allow the addition of new yeshivas to the arrangement.

“The Defense Ministry will no longer be a rubber stamp and will not approve each and every request to shirk military duty,” a security source explained.

Barak Doesn’t Recognize New Yeshivot, Students Face Army Stint

By Hillel Fendel, March 6, 2008

For the first time, the Defense Minister has refused to recognize a group of 61 new yeshivot – meaning that 1,000 students now face being drafted into the army. The decision affects yeshivot under three years old.

Barak’s assistant Ruth Barr and the Defense Ministry’s Legal Counsel, Ach’az Ben-Ari, will formulate new criteria by which to determine which new yeshivot can be accepted to the “Torah is his livelihood” plan.

Defense Ministry sources hope the new difficulties in being accepted to a recognized yeshiva will encourage would-be students to join the army instead.

Shas vows to reverse yeshiva decision March 6, 2008

According to the Tal Law, the defense minister must personally authorize requests by yeshiva students for army service deferments; under certain circumstances, the defense minister can deny such requests.

The precise limitations on the defense minister’s powers are presently being investigated by legal advisors in the Defense Ministry.

The students whose requests Barak said he would deny belong to 61 newly created Torah institutions, most of which are smaller kollelim for married men, according to Rabbi Asher Tannenbaum, chairman of the Council of Yeshivot, the haredi body that presents an annual list of Torah students requesting deferrals.

Barak must not cave to the Haredim again

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz March 7, 2008

A quota must be set, beyond which no new students will be added to the deferred service arrangement.

The quota will undoubtedly be bigger than it should be – for example, 5,000 instead of several hundreds, or 10 percent rather than 2 percent of the annual draftee pool – but it must be absolute.

The issue should become central in the next elections, and all candidates must be required to take a clear-cut position on it.

Barak’s Orthodox spin

By Yair Borochov, March 8, 2008

Barak is the last person who wants to see yeshiva boys in the IDF.

Barak is even more interested than the Orthodox in seeing yeshiva boys stay out of the army. He simply needs this issue as a punching bag, just like the air he breathes. This spin is a result of his desperation, so please don’t play into his hands.

With just 50 takers in 6 months, national service option fails to attract yeshiva students

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz March 10, 2008

Only 50 yeshiva students have opted for civilian national service since this option was made available to them about six months ago, according to data provided by the head of the National Civilian Service Administration, Dr. Reuven Gal.

This is less than 0.1 percent of the more than 50,000 yeshiva students who currently receive draft deferrals.

During the [Tal] law’s first four and a half years of existence, from mid-2002 through the end of 2006, only 2,150 yeshiva students (4 percent) took a gap year, and of those, all but 150 (0.3 percent) returned to yeshiva afterward. So far, however, opening a civilian service track has not improved the picture.

For national religious Zionists, yeshiva attack was personal

By Dina Kraft, JTA March 9, 2008

In the close-knit world of religious Zionism, no one feels removed from the grief for eight young people gunned down while studying Gemarah in their Jerusalem yeshiva.

The national-religious camp’s flagship yeshiva

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz March 7, 2008

The Mercaz Harav rabbinic college is the most prominent yeshiva in the religious Zionist world. It trained the movement’s leading rabbis as well as many yeshiva heads, city rabbis, and teachers in religious colleges and high schools.

The school was central in shaping the evolution of religious Zionism. As the flagship of national-religious yeshivas, the religious right is bound to attribute greater symbolic meaning to a terrorist attack here than anywhere else.

Mercaz Harav’s dilemma: Land or unity

The attack on [Education Minister Yuli] Tamir can be seen as a symptom of a fundamental change in religious Zionism. For the sake of pursuing Greater Israel, religious Zionism’s leadership has decided to abandon the unity and togetherness fostered by cooperating with diverse elements of the Jewish people in the building of the Jewish state.

Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav Kook: A Yeshiva that Started a Movement

By Hillel Fendel,

Merkaz HaRav was founded as the Central Universal Yeshiva by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook in 1924. He saw it as the ultimate Torah center in which to raise Torah scholars and leaders who would help build a modern Torah society in the Land of Israel that would lead to universal and religious redemption.

When Rabbi Kook, who also served as the Chief Rabbi of the Holy Land, passed away in 1935, he was succeeded by his colleague/student, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlop.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, son of the original founder, took over in 1952, and served until his death in 1982.

He was then succeeded by Rabbi Sha’ul Yisraeli and Rabbi Avraham Shapira; the latter took over as sole Rosh Yeshiva when Rabbi Yisraeli died, and Rabbi Yaakov Shapira took over from his father, who died just five months ago.

U.K. Jewish school sued for barring pupil over conversion

By Anshel Pfeffer and Saul Sadka, Haaretz March 6, 2008

The parents, who have remained anonymous, describe as racist and illegal the school’s refusal to accept their son because his mother was converted to Judaism in a Conservative ceremony.

They say this is racist and illegal because the school receives government funding.

Other couples whose children were refused entry by the JFS have also joined the suit.

One of the parents, David Lightman, father of 14-year-old Maya, said his wife underwent an Orthodox conversion in Israel 20 years ago, and although they keep a kosher home, go to synagogue every Saturday and are very active in the community, the London religious court said she had not been sincere in her conversion because he is a Cohen (descendant of a priest), and according to Jewish law should not marry a convert.

See also article from November 28, 2008

Conversion Authority head threatens to resign

In protest against a government decision to reject conversion reforms, Rabbi Haim Druckman, head of the State Conversion Authority, announced Monday that he was considering resignation.

“Unless all of the Halfon Committee recommendations are adopted by the government I will have to seriously weigh my future plans,” said Druckman in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post.

Druckman’s resignation threats come after an appearance in the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee which discussed the government’s rejection of some of the reforms proposed by the Halfon Committee.

All the recommendations were enthusiastically supported by the Jewish Agency, Druckman and Professor Ya’acov Ne’eman, who headed the Ne’eman Committee which created the Joint Institute for Jewish Studies.

However, several key recommendations were not adopted by the government.

Chief Rabbi Amar: “The Supreme Court is leading the war against the Rabbinical Courts

By Oded Ben Tzvi, (Hebrew) March 6, 2008

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar:

“I proposed a law where every conversion would be within the Chief Rabbinate.

Today there is no such law. The entire conversion system is in danger. Everything is in the hands of the government.

The Prime Minister or an appointed Minister is able to set up a Reform Beit Din. This is troubling…

I proposed to anchor in law that conversion be added to the Law of Marriage and Divorce of the Chief Rabbinate…”

Most new conversion court judges will be ultra-Orthodox

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 10, 2008

At least eight out of 10 new judges to be selected today to serve on the rabbinical courts for conversion will come from the strict ultra-Orthodox sector.

Leading officials involved in the conversion process said the original objective was to choose more liberal judges who would make conversion easier.

The officials said the selection committee, headed by Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, made a deal to appoint four ultra-Orthodox judges who currently serve in the private rabbinical court of Rabbi Nissim Karelitz in Bnei Brak and four rabbis who are affiliated with Shas or Amar’s associates.

The other two will likely be from the religious Zionist camp.

A discriminatory and dangerous trick

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz March 5, 2008

…the tricky wording “agreement of the parties” that [Social Affairs Minister Isaac] Herzog pulled out of his hat as a condition for giving such authority to the rabbinic court is very problematic, especially when it involves giving it the power, after a divorce has been granted, to rule on issues stemming from the divorce.

Under this cloak of free will, this pretense of equality and forced agreement, a move was made, almost a grab, toward the establishment of autonomous judicial authorities based on Torah law.

This dangerous bill, if it had passed, would have worsened women’s status, already low in rabbinic courts.

Meanwhile, following the public debate after the bill’s presentation, Herzog backpedaled, and its discussion by the cabinet was postponed.

The threat, however, is still there, because it is rooted in coalition agreements between Kadima and Shas, and Shas will not give up easily.

A new religious Zionist party

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz March 6, 2008

The National Union party is going through turbulence. Unlike what its name implies, its nine MKs are divided into four factions…

…there is a need to recreate a large party that will represent the combination of Judaism and democracy, not only one of its components (as in the ultra-Orthodox and secular parties).

Such a party would not put the political issue with the Palestinians at the head of its agenda, but the question of the image of Israeli society and the combination of Jewish and Zionist identities, committed to a modern life. This should be at the top of its agenda.

On the political issue, it must grant its members the freedom to vote as their consciences dictate.

To neutralize the influence of the rabbinic establishment, as well as that of the national religious rabbinic establishment, it is important to establish that this party’s institutions and representatives will be elected in primaries as inclusive as possible (but only open to party members paying dues).

Thus we will avoid a scenario in which a narrow, extremist minority shapes the political face of a broad, multifaceted and complex community.

High School Seniors Demand Unity among Religious MKs

By Hillel Fendel, March 2008

In light of the splintered national-religious Knesset factions, seniors from two yeshiva high schools have initiated an ultimatum: Unite, or it’s likely we won’t vote for you.

The petition was initiated by the seniors of two prestigious yeshiva high schools: Kfar HaRoeh near Hadera, Israel’s first yeshiva high school, and Ulpanat Tzviyah in Herzliya for girls.

There is currently one religious-Zionist party in the Knesset – the National Union-National Religious Party (NU-NRP) – but it is comprised of four different factions: The NRP and the three parties that make up the National Union.

The party’s four members are: NRP, Tekumah, Moledet, Achi. Further muddling the picture are two other nationalist movements: The Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction of the Likud, and HaTikvah.

Religion and State in Israel

March 10, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

No comments yet.

Your Thoughts