Religion and State in Israel – May 5, 2008 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

May 5, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Sephardic Chief Rabbi to revoke ruling invalidating thousands of conversions

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz May 5, 2008

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, acting in his capacity as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, will attempt to revoke a ruling from last week that invalidated thousands of conversions carried out in Israel over the last few years.

The judges, it emerges, went ahead with the ruling over the fierce objection of Amar, who is said to have been surprised by the decision.

The Ashdod Regional Rabbinical Court ruled that the woman cannot be recognized as Jewish, since she has never practiced Judaism. The debate was subsequently extrapolated to a broader discussion of Druckman’s conversion parameters.

Sherman’s ruling said: “Conversion certificates from whichever rabbinical court, however big, reputable and qualified, do not enable the marriage registrar to allow a convert into the People of Israel, when there has not been a genuine acceptance of the religious duties, which is something that can be discerned by the appellant’s appearance and demeanor.”

Amar calms converts after decision

By Matthew Wagner, May 5, 2008

In a short written statement to the press, Rabbi Amar said he was sorry about the controversy caused by the rabbinical court’s decision.

“The decision relates to one particular incident that has yet to be resolved. At any rate, no one has annulled the conversion of anyone. Rather, the court just criticized one of the panels of judges on the conversion court.”

An Amar spokesman said the chief rabbi stood behind Druckman and recognized his conversions as kosher.

Knesset to debate rabbinic court’s move to nix conversion

National Religious Party chairman Zevulun Orlev said he was planning to propose a law that would remove the rabbinic courts’ authority to deal with conversion.

MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) who has spearheaded his party’s campaign to place the authority for conversions at the level of the municipal rabbinate, was even more emphatic, describing the rabbinic court’s ruling as an attack against the authority of the state.

Bill: Rabbinical courts will not rule on conversions

By Kobi Nahshoni, May 4, 2008

National Religious Party Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev:

“The High Rabbinical Court’s political, anti-Zionist ruling about conversions proves we have no choice but to form alternative conversion courts, presided by rabbis who served in the IDF and who pray for the state.”

Thousands of conversions questioned May 2, 2008

According to Attorney Susan Weiss, who is the founding director of the Center for Women’s Justice, says this verdict has far-reaching implications on thousands of people who have undergone conversion in the last few years and on their children, and is planning to appeal to the High Court of Justice against this severe resolution.

For background, see: Marylander Caught In Israeli Conversion Snafu

By Joel N. Shurkin, Baltimore Jewish Times January 14, 2005

“I decided to go public,” she said the day before the Jerusalem Post interviewed her, “whilst the rest remain silent out of worry of its effect on their cases. I don’t want any other potential convert to go through what I went through.

“I wonder what would happen if my younger sister, Shawn, would decide to someday make aliyah and want to convert.”

Taking On the RCA?

By Gary Rosenblatt, April 30, 2008

In a move certain to be seen as an effort to compete with the Rabbinical Council of America — the largest group of Orthodox rabbis — two vocal critics this week launched a clerical group called the International Rabbinic Fellowship.

…Most recently, the point of contention has been over an agreement reached by the RCA and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel over conversions performed by American rabbis.

The Chief Rabbinate used to automatically accept conversions performed by RCA members, but the new agreement would only allow for conversions approved by a dozen or so religious courts in the U.S.

Rabbinical court ordered to rehire female worker

By Tova Tzimuki, May 5, 2008

The Petah Tikva Rabbinical Court has recently been ordered to rehire a woman who was supposed to begin work at the court as a secretary but was sent away by the halachic [poskim] because of her gender.

…Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann sent a harsh letter to the Petah Tikva court’s presiding judge, Rabbi Baruch Shimon Salomon, stressing that the rabbinical court was obligated to follow the laws of the State of Israel, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Law that prohibits discrimination based on gender.

The minister warned that should the court fail to accept the worker, sanctions would be taken against it.

Independence Day among religious Zionists: Less happy, more questions

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz May 5, 2008

The rabbis of Tzohar, an Orthodox organization working toward dialogue with secular Jews, have brought [the prayer for the welfare of Israel] into the streets in response to a process of disengagement from the state and its symbols on the part of some religious Zionists following the evacuation of Gush Katif and Amona.

Last year it was a “solo” by Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein of the Har Nof congregation in Jerusalem, who got up on stage between the performances of Hip Hop group Hadag Nahash and a rock group, and read out the prayer, which begins: “Our Father in Heaven, rock and redeemer of Israel. Bless the State of Israel…”

This year Tzohar rabbis will recite the prayer on stages in 12 additional communities.

Benizri’s empty shoes (and Knesset seat) not easy to fill

By Zvi Zrahiya, Haaretz April 29, 2008

The removal of Shas MK Shlomo Benizri from the Knesset following his conviction Monday for receiving bribes – a ruling that carries with it the determination of moral turpitude which automatically removes an MK from his post – has left a void in the Knesset: it still remains unclear who will take up Benizri’s seat in the Knesset.

One option that is being examined is whether Mazur Bahayne, the 13th Shas candidate on its election list for 2006, is eligible to fill the position.

Bahayne is a rabbi in the Ethiopian community in Be’er Sheva, and his salary is paid by the Be’er Sheva Religious Authority. Article 7 of the Basic Law: the Knesset, states that a list of election candidates cannot include rabbis whose service is remunerated by the state.

Shas changes copy of historical document

By Roni Sofer, May 4, 2008

Shas ministers abstained from signing Sunday a copy of the government’s 1949 resolution declaring Independence Day as Israel’s national holiday on the 5th of Iyar. The argument: The historical resolution bears no marking of a Jewish identity.

The proclamation was printed ahead of Israel’s 60th celebrations with Yishai’s comment, “We must remember that God’s hand was in it and I pray to the Creator of the Universe that we will restore passed glory today.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave his approval to the new symbolic addition, after which Shas’ ministers affixed their signature.

Only after Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai had consulted Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, did the ministers agree to sign the historical proclamation – but not before they added a hand-written comment at the bottom.

Rabbis call for Bible Quiz boycott

By Matthew Wagner, May 1, 2008

A group of religious Zionist rabbis have called for a boycott of this year’s International Bible Quiz after discovering that one of the four finalists from Israel is a Messianic Jew who believes Jesus is the true Messiah.

“Messianics are missionaries who proselytize in very sophisticated ways,” said Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of the rabbis calling to boycott the quiz.

“It is forbidden to give them legitimacy by allowing them to take part in the quiz.”

Other rabbis that have called to boycott the quiz include Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed, Ya’acov Yosef, son of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Tzvi Tau, head of Har Hamor Yeshiva.

The Education Ministry said in response to a query from The Jerusalem Post that the “Global Bible Quiz for Jewish Youth” was open only to Jewish pupils.

Regarding Messianic Jews, the pupil in question was Jewish, and therefore, according to the ministry’s legal department, was not disqualified from participating.

What if a ‘messianic Jew’ wins Israel’s annual Bible quiz?

By Roy Eitan, JTA May 2, 2008

The Education Ministry refused to bar Levy. A ministry spokesman said that issues of personal belief were not the organizers’ concern and that because Levy “is Jewish according to her Israeli identity cards and school registration,” she can take part in the contest.

Messianic alert threatens Bible quiz

JTA April 29, 2008

An Israeli anti-missionary group warned that a messianic Jew could win the international youth Bible quiz in Jerusalem.

Yad L’Ahim, a group of fervently Orthodox Jews who combat missionaries in Israel, said Tuesday that a 17-year-old Jerusalem girl who is among four contestants in next week’s Independence Day quiz belongs to a secret Christian sect.

The daily newspaper Yediot Achronot identified the girl, but Yad L’Ahim’s claims about her religious affiliations could not immediately be confirmed.

Yad L’Ahim’s chairman, Rabbi Shlomo Dov Lipschitz, called for religious Jews to boycott the quiz if the girl is not disqualified.

“Missionaries will be greatly encouraged by the fact that a member of their messianic Christian community has a chance of being the world champion and will exploit this, God forbid, to increase their efforts to convert people in Israel and the Diaspora,” he told the newspaper.

The Education Ministry, which oversees the quiz, said it had looked into the complaint about the contestant and decided not to act because she is considered Jewish.

The girl’s father, whose first name was not given, told Yediot, “If anyone tries to hurt my daughter, I believe that God will pay them back.”

Russian deacon calls for proselytizing Jews in Israel

JTA May 5, 2008

A leading Russian Orthodox scholar has called for a more fervent effort to convert Russian-speaking Jews in Israel.

Deacon Andrei Kuraev, a professor at the Moscow Spiritual Academy, said the Orthodox Christian Church based in Moscow should begin to proselytize actively among Israel’s 3 million Russian-speaking Jews.

“This is a unique missionary opportunity,” Kuraev said. “Through Jews who were raised on European and Russian classics, we could carry the light of the Gospel to all Israel.”

Number of students at state secular schools getting extra tuition in Jewish studies climbs by 92 percent

By Or Kashti, Haaretz April 30, 2008

Despite the sharp rise in Jewish studies in non-religious schools, however, most of the budget for this subject goes to religious schools.

The Education Ministry is considering changing the criteria for receiving these funds in order to direct the money to more non-religious secular schools – a move expected to spark opposition from the religious parties.

Religious homosexuals hold first meeting

By Kobi Nahshoni, April 29, 2008

Almost three months have passed since the “gays’ letter” was published on Ynet, and members of HOD – Gay Religious Group are forging on in their efforts to gain the religious society’s recognition.

Last Thursday, some 70 religious homosexuals convened at a famous Jerusalem theater, in what was defined by the organizers as a “historic and exciting meeting.”

The event was initiated by HOD leaders, Itai and Rabbi R., but was attended by representatives of all movements, including Chavruta – the religious section of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance.

…even though non-religious schools have been getting a bigger piece of the pie lately, some principals complain that the funding criteria still discriminate against them, making it easier for religious schools to get the money.

“The criteria are not sufficiently flexible to include the creativity that every school has developed in Jewish studies,” one principal said.

“There has been an important step forward, but it is nowhere near enough,” he added.

New WebYeshiva Brings the Whole World into the Study Hall

By Ezra HaLevi, May 4, 2008

Rabbi Brovender has big plans for the future.

“We are looking to developing programs in Russian, French, Spanish and in Hebrew, of course – all the languages Jews happen to speak today,” he said.

“We also have very serious plans about entering the high school market. There are a lot of high school kids in America, England and even Israel who don’t live in religious centers – who go to good secular schools but don’t get the opportunity to receive a quality Jewish education.”

Kidney transplant candidates in limbo after Philippines closes gates

By Matthew Wagner, May 5, 2008

Yechiel Landman, a haredi yeshiva dropout in his mid-sixties who joined the army and went on to a successful career as a banker.

In 2003 he established Haverim, an organization that matches people in need of various kinds of medical help – from kidney, heart or liver transplants to drugs not covered by the state-subsidized basket of medicines to dental work – with charity organizations, donors and other do-gooders.

Rabbis in Israel, who have come out against China’s organ harvesting policies, have nevertheless supported the practice in the Philippines, because until now it has been governed by the state authorities, and donors were undergoing operations of their own free will.

Meanwhile, Israel’s first law governing organ donation and trafficking went into effect on May 1.

We have had it up to here with the ultra-Orthodox

By Asher Maoz, Opinion article Haaretz May 5, 2008

These are painful statements, but they must be said loud and clear: Two peoples live in this land, both Jewish – they and we.

They are the ultra-Orthodox, who see themselves as emissaries of God on earth. We are all the rest – secular, traditional and religious.

It is not that we have suddenly separated; we never were one people. We tried to delude ourselves that we were. They knew all along that we were not.

Haredim boycott ‘Zionist’ snacks

By Nissan Shtrauchler, May 4, 2008

The [Eda Haredi], an ultra-Orthodox communal organization which strongly opposes Zionism, declared a consumers’ boycott on leading Israeli food brands that have been adorned with the Israeli flag in honor of the country’s 60th birthday.

These products include sugar, oil and peanut butter snacks, which are now marketed in special editions with packages that have been redesigned to include the blue and white flag.

In notices distributed across Jerusalem this weekend, the hardei public was urged not to buy any product that carries the flag or any other symbol “that advocates Zionist idolatry.”

With help of Haredim, Yad Vashem IDs another 120,000 Shoah victims

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz May 1, 2008

“Historically, it has been difficult for Yad Vashem to reach the ultra-Orthodox community,” Sarah Berkowitz, the manager of the institution’s activities in the ultra-Orthodox community, said.

“They realized the immense importance of commemorating, but had their own ways. Their public is built of communities that adhere to calls from their rabbis, and to enlist them we needed first to contact the rabbis of each and every community to ensure cooperation.”

Ultra-Orthodox communities were for many decades not comfortable associating with a body like Yad Vashem, which is affiliated with the Zionist establishment, so they formed their own Holocaust remembrance organizations.

The first Vishnitz vs. the original Vishnitz

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz May 5, 2008

The succession dispute that has been dividing the Vishnitz community for several years was taken before none other than a Justice Ministry official: the registrar of nonprofit organizations.

The latter was in effect asked to determine indirectly who is the heir of the elderly and ailing leader of the Vishnitz sect, Rabbi Yehoshua Hager, whose two sons are fighting over his inheritance even while he is still living.

…The registrar of nonprofit organizations decided at the beginning of last month not to intervene.

“…The appropriate forum for this complaint is the authorized court and not the registrar of nonprofit organizations.”

Panel: Modi’in Illit should be city, despite illegal construction

By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz May 5, 2008

The ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modi’in Illit in the West Bank should be granted city status despite suspicions that its council members were involved in authorizing illegal construction, an ad hoc committee set up by the Interior Ministry has recommended.

…One of the committee’s two members, however, is suspected of being in a conflict of interest. Committee member Zvi Cohen, the mayor of the nearby ultra-Orthodox town of Elad, recently told a local weekly newspaper that he has close ties to Rabbi Yitzhak Guterman, the mayor of Modi’in Illit.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, Modi’in Illit had 33,200 residents as of September 2006.

Agnon next to Haggai, Begin next to Avshalom

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz April 30, 2008

During the past 200 years the demographic situation in many parts of Jerusalem has been changed, and the position of the Jews has strengthened. On the Mount of Olives, the vast majority of the dead may be Jews, but place of the living Jews there has both logic and a future.

Thousands Flock to Midnight Visit at Joshua’s Tomb

By Sarah Morrison, May 4, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

The tombs of biblical Jewish Leaders Joshua ben Nun and Caleb ben Yefuneh were open to the Jewish public on Thursday May 1st.

The tombs, which are located 20 miles east of Tel Aviv in the Arab village of Timnat Haras, are open to Jews only three or four times a year. Thursday corresponded with the 26th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan which is the anniversary of Joshua’s death.

Thousands of Jews, secular and religious, flocked to the site in order to recite psalms and prayers of gratitude at the tombs.

Religion and State in Israel

May 5, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

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