Religion and State in Israel – May 5, 2008 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

May 5, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

First state-funded Reform synagogue to go up in Modi’in

Click here for VIDEO of synagogue “landing” in December 2007

By Matthew Wagner, May 5, 2008

For the first time in its 60-year history, the State of Israel is funding the building of synagogues that will serve non-Orthodox congregations.

Until now, the Orthodox establishment, under an unofficial status quo arrangement, has enjoyed a total monopoly over state funds earmarked for the building of houses of prayer.

In Israel, where there is no separation of religion and state, all public religious services are provided through a network of neighborhood and city rabbis who are chosen by the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate. Non-Orthodox streams of Judaism in Israel are not officially recognized by the rabbinate.

The soon-to-be built synagogue belongs to Modi’in’s Yozma Reform Congregation. A special ground-breaking ceremony will be held on Monday.

Kinneret Shiryon, Yozma’s female rabbi, said the announcement, on the eve of Israel’s 60th anniversary, was particularly satisfying.

“It feels enormously rewarding to see that our perseverance has finally paid off,” said Shiryon, a US immigrant.

“I have seen progressively that the State of Israel’s pluralistic Jewish expression has grown during my 26 years here. People have not just stayed with the Orthodox status quo; rather, they are looking for and finding different options.”

A total of six prefab synagogues will be provided to both Reform and Conservative congregations in Modi’in, Tivon, Zichron Ya’acov, and Tzur Hadassah.

Rabbi David Lau, one of three state-salaried Orthodox rabbis in Modi’in, refused to comment.

Shiryon said none of Modi’in’s rabbis have ever openly recognized Yozma, which runs six preschools, an elementary school and various volunteer and social activities in addition to the synagogue. About 240 families belong to the community, and a total of 550 families receive various services from Yozma, she said.

State recognition and funding of the synagogue is the result of a legal battle that began several years ago, waged by the Reform Movement’s legal arm, the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), and Yozma.

IRAC and Yozma petitioned the High Court against what they called the discriminatory methods of state money allocations for religious institutions adopted by the Construction and Housing Ministry and Modi’in’s municipality.

As a result of the legal action, IRAC and Yozma entered negotiations with then-construction and housing minister Isaac Herzog (Labor). A compromise was reached in which the Reform Movement dropped its petition while the ministry’s religious institutions development unit agreed to provide the Yozma community with a 200-square-meter prefab building.

Attorney Rabbi Gilad Kariv, a senior member of IRAC, said Sunday that although municipalities had allocated city land for the building of non-Orthodox synagogues in the past, this was the first time the actual building was being funded by the state.

Kariv explained that IRAC had taken advantage of two developments that facilitated the acquisition of state funding.

“First, there was the dismantling of the Religious Affairs Ministry and the parceling-out of its various functions,” Kariv said. “Jurisdiction over the building of synagogues was transferred to the Construction and Housing Ministry. Secondly, Isaac Herzog, who is sensitive to liberal Judaism’s needs, was appointed as construction and housing minister.”

Recently, power over the building of synagogues was restored to the reinstituted Religious Affairs Ministry, headed by Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen.

Kariv said he fears that additional synagogues for about eight Reform congregations in Netanya, Kiryat Ono, Nahariya, Karmiel and Rosh Ha’ayin, among other places, will be long in coming.

Reform Jews open Israel’s first state-funded non-Orthodox synagogue

AP May 5, 2008

“This is a substantial step in recognizing different streams of Judaism in the state of Israel,” said Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon, who leads the 240-family congregation.

“The power of religious political parties in the Israeli government may be one factor keeping funds and recognition away from Reform and Conservative synagogues,” Shiryon said. She said many Israelis believe Orthodox Jews are the only ones who keep the coals of Jewish identity burning.

“Religion in Israel has traditionally been an either-or proposition,” said Rabbi Uri Regev, president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. “Most Israelis consider themselves religious or secular and don’t accept the liberal streams.”

Groups like Regev’s want to change that. “There’s more than one way to be Jewish,” he said.

Seeking an Independent Path to Jewish spirituality

By Haviv Rettig, May 5, 2008

“Something is happening in the Jewish world. It’s giving birth to groups that don’t need permission from any movement or rabbi to have a valuable spiritual experience,” says Orly Kenneth, who initiated a unique conference that took place on Friday at a community center in Petah Tikva.

The conference brought together over 200 representatives of new kehillot, or independent “communities,” which have sprouted up around Israel since the first one was founded seven years ago in Nahalal in the Jezreel Valley.

These privately-organized groups of friends and community members gather to celebrate holidays and conduct Jewish ceremonies outside the “confines” of Israel’s established religious hierarchy.

They are not synagogues, adhere to no rabbi and usually write their own liturgy, but, participants say, they are nevertheless an attempt to inject Israeli identity with a sense of Jewish life and community.

Jewish Agency plans large-scale cutbacks

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz May 2, 2008

The Jewish Agency will soon be initiating a large-scale cutback in a move that would significantly reduce staff size, chairman Zeev Bielski warned this week.

Though he would not specify the number of intended job losses at the organization, he said the cutbacks in the coming weeks would “touch every department in the Jewish Agency.”

But he rejected claims the Jewish Agency is on the decline and insisted it remains as relevant as in the years after the establishment of the State, saying the “reduction in manpower” is simply the result of the dollar’s decline.

Deal between Jewish Agency and Nefesh B’Nefesh near

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz May 2, 2008

Bielski also confirmed reports that a deal with Nefesh B’ Nefesh, the private immigration organization, is near.

Tensions between the two groups have long been high; an agreement between the two expired last summer and has yet to be renewed. He expects a renewed deal “in the coming weeks.”

He insisted, “We have to reach a deal. To have an argument with an organization that deals with aliyah is crazy.”

Under pressure from federations, UJC set to cut back staff

By Jacob Berkman, JTA May 1, 2008

Rieger and the UJC’s chairman, Joe Kanfer, have spent the last year and a half trying to implement an operational strategy to streamline the organization.

That plan has included the UJC playing a more active role in advising federations and splitting the organization into a North American office and an overseas office in Israel.

Israel and Judaism’s future

By Rabbi David Hartman, May 5, 2008

This essay will argue that our return to the land has not only recreated some of the existential conditions that informed the biblical, covenantal foundations of Judaism but also that modern Israel provides Jews with an exciting opportunity to recapture some of the salient features of their biblical foundations.

The acceptance of responsibility for Jewish national existence will be understood as a progressive extension of the rabbinic understanding of the covenantal relationship between God and Israel.

Monday Declared ‘International Aliyah Day’

By Ezra HaLevi, May 4, 2008

The one-day display of the ingathering of exiles, orchestrated by the Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency, will mark the absorption of more than 3,000,000 Jewish immigrants to the Promised Land in the 60 years since the State of Israel declared independence.

Oldest immigrant couple to Israel weds May 5, 2008

Ya’akov Manlun, 97, and his wife Orah, 88, new immigrants from the Benei Menashe Tribe of India, wed Friday in a lavish ceremony joined by many guests in Kiryat Arba.

Ya’akov and Orah have been married for almost 70 years, and have recently made aliyah to Israel. The couple concluded their conversion process days ago and asked to be remarried under the Law of Moses.

The couple immigrated to Israel last year with the help of Shavei Israel.

Rethinking the Partnership between Israel and World Jewry

By Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman

The fundamental challenge now facing world Jews as well as Israelis, is to recognize Israel as a work-in-progress and join in the effort.

…The Israeli experiment in society-building is, essentially, a joint venture, and the Jews of the world have a place at the table, if they should choose to sit and earn it.

…The process of becoming one people, with a collective identity and common sense of peoplehood, will begin when each community learns to see the other as the other sees itself. It will continue and thrive when mutual perception turns into mutual respect.

And it will culminate when the unique beauty and distinctive sensibilities of each community are forged into a coherent, meaningful whole: a shared vision of who we are and of where we want to go – together.

Ethiopians threaten sanctions unless Falashmura brought

Haaretz May 4, 2008

Members of Israel’s Ethiopian community are threatening to shut down all the immigrant absorption centers in the country and go in a convoy to Jerusalem if the government implements its decision to stop bringing Falashmura Ethiopians to Israel next month.

Some 600 Ethiopians rallied Friday in Tel Aviv and suggested moves like a hunger strike outside the Knesset, and demonstrations in Jerusalem with 50,000 immigrants.

Shas leader Eli Yishai will go to Ethiopia in a few weeks to study the matter in person.

An anchor for national mourning

By Matthew Wagner, April 29, 2008

A dichotomy was created. The use of religious rituals such as liturgy, the learning of sacred texts and fasting to memorialize those murdered in the Shoah was allocated to the 10th of Tevet and Tisha Be’av.

In contrast, secular ceremonies such as torch-lighting and standing at attention during a memorial siren were allocated to Holocaust Remembrance Day with the religious aspects of memorializing, such as the reciting the Kaddish, kept to a minimum.

The Chief Rabbinate’s failure to compose a significant liturgy commemorating the memory of the victims combined with the fear among early state leaders that the rabbinate would monopolize Holocaust memorializing have created a cultural chasm.

However, a liturgical composition called the Shoah Scroll (Megilat Hashoah) might just be the means of bridging this chasm.

In Israel the reading of the scroll has not been limited to the small Conservative (Masorti) Movement. Last year the Israel Community Center Association (ICCA) printed the scroll as the centerpiece of a booklet which included excerpts from diaries, eyewitness accounts and modern Hebrew poetry.

Jewish studies, for Muslims only

By Jack Khoury, Haaretz May 1, 2008

The clerics, imams and muezzins are now in their second consecutive year of studying Judaism, as part of a seminar organized by the Inter-religious Coordinating Council in Israel. Rabbi Marc Rosenstein, the director of the [Galilee Foundation for Value Education], and Ziad Halalila, a teacher from Sakhnin, took the initiative and brought the project into being.

Climate change

By Rabbi Berel Wein, May 1, 2008

The climate has changed; no respect for tradition or our past or for the sensitivities of a large and ever growing section of society is present.

So it is not the individual issue of public display of hametz on Pessah that is so hurtful. It is rather the indication of how severely the climate regarding Jewish tradition has changed.

There are many Jews who are not observant but who nevertheless respect the prohibition of hametz on Pessah.

The court’s ill-advised decision, which concentrates on the legal tree in front of it and does not take into account the general societal forest that exists, weakens the public’s resolve of respect for tradition and sensitivity to generations and other sections of society.

‘Israelis must rediscover Jewish values’

President Shimon Peres says he is greatly concerned about the demoralization of the nation and the loss of traditional Jewish values.

He is not trying to dictate to Israelis how they should live their lives, he told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that will be published in full in the Independence Day edition next Wednesday. But it is vital, he said, that the different segments of Israel’s society learn to understand and respect one another.

In America, said Peres, people do not begrudge each other in the way they do in Israel. “Here, everyone begrudges everyone else.”

It bothered him deeply, Peres said, that Orthodox Jews are intolerant of secular Jews here and vice versa; that Jews have problems understanding Arabs, and Arabs have problems understanding Jews; that Ashkenazim find fault with Sephardim and vice versa.

An inconvenient truth

By Gidi Weitz, Haaretz May 2, 2008

Interview with Attorney Dr. Yaakov Weinroth

Born in 1948 in Germany, his parents immigrated to Israel when he was two years old and settled in Netanya. It was a Torah-observant but not an ultra-Orthodox household. His mother does not cover her hair.

He attended the Yavneh state-religious school, a yeshiva high school and at age 15 transferred to the ultra-Orthodox Ponevezh yeshiva. He spent another year at the Mir yeshiva. When he was 20 and studying at yeshiva, the Six-Day War erupted and he decided to enlist in the Nahal Brigade.

“I’m a stranger everywhere. You think that my kind of life is an accepted thing among the Haredim? You come to my house, you see all the Western literature – is that a standard thing?

What makes me belong to the Haredi public? That I believe wholeheartedly in the value of the Torah as the central value of the Jew and the human being. This is the thing that is central in my life. Which is why not a day goes by in which I don’t study for at least two hours.

If you ask me if I’m a Zionist, then I’ll also say yes without any hesitation. I’m not a Zionist in the sense that I want to build a new kind of man, but I definitely view the Jewish people’s return to its land as an event that defies comprehension.

I don’t belong to the secular experience, I don’t belong to the Haredi experience and I don’t belong to any other experience. And it’s hard. You have no idea how hard it is. But I have no choice. I’m not prepared to give up any one of the thousand different souls inside me.”

Religion and State in Israel

May 5, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

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