Religion and State in Israel – June 16, 2008 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

June 16, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Progress for Progressives

By Rabbi Uri Themal, OAM ProjeNews June 10, 2008

The first reform Synagogue funded by the Government was inaugurated at the beginning of May in Modi’in followed by Tivon at the end of the month.

Within the next few months another four Reform and Conservative congregations will be able to occupy their permanent homes.

Whilst these are not elaborate buildings, the congregations accepted them with a great sense of gratitude and joy.

Moreover, they are celebrated as a symbol that the non-orthodox streams of Judaism are moving towards better acceptance, that the Government can’t afford to ignore the needs and aspirations of these movements anymore and that a greater sense of justice must prevail in all strata of Israeli society.

…The move from the public bomb shelter to a reform synagogue given to the congregations means ownership, recognition and presence in the religious spectrum of Israel.

World Union for Progressive Judaism Retains U.N. Accreditation June 10, 2008

Rabbi Uri Regev said,

“It is gratifying that the U.N. Committee on NGOs decided not to pursue the complaint. The World Union has been active as an NGO for almost 40 years, pursuing the core values it shares with the U.N. of human equality, peace and social justice.”

How Reform Jews almost got kicked out of UN

By Haviv Rettig, June 10, 2008

The latest group to learn this lesson in the flesh, so to speak, can be fairly described as one of the most liberal, dovish and pluralistic organizations in the Jewish world, the World Union of Progressive Judaism, an international umbrella of American Reform Judaism and a handful of liberal Jewish movements worldwide.

Last week, the group narrowly avoided being kicked out of the UN.

Education Min.: Less busing subsidies for Haredi schools

By Or Kashti, June 12, 2008

The Education Ministry is slashing its subsidies for busing students to ultra-Orthodox schools in the “independent education” system.

The ministry explained its plan for the next school year in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice by the Israel Religious Action Center.

IRAC, the legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel asked the ministry to apply the same criteria to the ultra-Orthodox schools that it uses for state schools.

“We are pleased that after years of waste and discrimination against most Israeli schoolchildren the Education Ministry has decided to make its busing policy egalitarian,” IRAC attorney Yonit Shlain-Ben Or said.

“We hope the ministry will fulfill its commitment and save the state millions of shekels.”

High Court Decides Not to Intervene in Jewish Studies Budget at Yeshivos Ketanos

By Yechiel Sever, June 12, 2008

Following deliberations the High Court decided against hearing an appeal on the issue of boosting funding for Jewish studies at the yeshivos ketanos because it was not the subject the Reform Movement’s suit regarding the regular funding of the yeshivos ketanos.

The Israeli Reform movement has been aggressively trying to challenge government funding of chareidi education at all levels.

The Reform movement has very few members in Israel, and its most prominent representatives in Israel function as attorneys rather than as rabbis.

As a result of the High Court actions, the decision to transfer funding for [enrichment] Jewish studies will be in the hands of the Education Minister.

Conservative Movement launches alternative wedding campaign

By Neta Sela, June 16, 2008

The Conservative Movement launched a new campaign Monday, aimed at informing Jewish couples, which are reluctant to wed through the Rabbinate, of the possibility of holding a traditional Jewish wedding with a modern twist.

Dubbed “A traditional chuppah – the way for Israelis to marry,” the campaign, which was simultaneously launched online, in print and on the radio, seeks to capture the attention of Israeli couples who want to incorporate various modern wedding elements in the traditional Jewish ceremony.

The Conservative Movement hopes the campaign will increase awareness within both the Israeli public and the decision makers, as to the various possibilities available for those wishing to get married.

Click here to visit online Campaign (Hebrew)

Listen to Campaign radio ad (Hebrew)

A leap of faith into adulthood

By Tamar Rotem, June 11, 2008

The Hamasa el Hadrasha program, currently in its third year in more than 150 elementary schools, is run by the Itim Jewish Life Information Center, a religiously pluralistic nonprofit organization that offers advice on subjects pertaining to the Jewish life cycle, in conjunction the Education Ministry’s Shenhar Commission, which is responsible for promoting Jewish culture in secular schools.

Many of the secular Jews who are now studying Judaism support the position that they must not allow Jewish culture and heritage to become the exclusive purview of the Orthodox establishment. Such families typically hold bat-mitzvah ceremonies in which girls read from the Torah in synagogue, in addition to bat-mitzvah parties.

Meeting God in the middle

This is the second year of Bina‘s Secular Yeshiva, and 150 students study here on a regular basis. The group is diverse – composed of pre-army Israeli students, post-army Israeli students, Jews from the Diaspora, all from varying backgrounds and varying degrees of secularity.

The pre-army group is a Bina-affiliated program. The participants live in the neighborhood, studying at the Secular Yeshiva three and a half days a week.

They spend two days a week turning their studies into action by volunteering in the neighborhood with a variety of different groups.

They must be doing something right

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 13, 2008

Yet still, the doubt lingers:

What kind of return has the Jewish people been getting on the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars and all this hype?

Perhaps part of the problem is that there is no consensus about what birthright‘s main aim should be.

Birthright Israel’s Biggest Night

By Gary Rosenblatt, Editorial June 11, 2008

There are, no doubt, valid criticisms of the hedonistic aspects of the Birthright trips, and surely there could be more serious Jewish content infused in the tours.

But there is no arguing with the fact that Birthright has been a huge success in attracting so many young people who may never have visited, or thought about, Israel had it not been for this bold venture.

Film exploring Israel-Diaspora gap prompts soul searching

By Dina Kraft, June 11, 2008

“Eyes Wide Open”

The film casts a spotlight on the often painful question of whether American Jews, who represent the Diaspora’s largest community, are feeling increasingly disconnected from Israel, and if so, why.

Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation

“For the first time in sacred history, a City Rabbi of the State of Israel, member of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, is reciprocating back to the Christians who have a heart for Israel and the Jewish people, by initiating a Center of Relational Dialogue in order to clarify the theological and faith areas in which we agree and in which we disagree in order to cement our common goals of Religion for Peace and security for the embattled State of Israel.”

Click here for VIDEO

Koreans dominate in Bible studies at Hebrew U.

By Ofri Ilani, June 11, 2008

“There is a growing demand for biblical studies here, on the part of non-Jewish Asian students,”

notes Professor Emanuel Tov, who served as the academic advisor to a few of the Korean doctoral candidates.

What impels dozens of Koreans to learn Hebrew at an advanced level and study the Bible in Israeli universities?

Their primary motivation is Protestant or Catholic religious faith.

Bar-Ilan is Expanding in Size and Image

By Gary Rosenblatt, June 11, 2008

Peres had high praise for the Ramat Gan-based Bar-Ilan, which he aptly described as “the largest Jewish university in the world,” with its 33,000 undergraduate and graduate students, noting that it blends science and Torah and excels in both areas.

And he announced a major initiative — The Digital Judaic Bookshelf Project — that will be housed at Bar-Ilan and will make available to all the works of traditional Jewish culture and the modern Hebrew library.

The project, expected to cost $34 million, will be the greatest Jewish literacy effort ever, according to school officials, and is an outgrowth of Bar-Ilan’s Responsa Project, which includes over 90,000 questions and answers and books from all areas of Judaism.

120,000 Yeshiva and Kollel Students in Eretz Yisroel

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur June 12, 2008

A total of 120,000 students are learning at 1,860 yeshivas and kollelim in Eretz Yisroel, which amounts to at least 19 million hours per month based on the standard schedule. The statistics were gathered by Yated Ne’eman with the help of the Union of Yeshiva Directors.

…Meanwhile the heads of the various institutions must wage constant battles against Reform organizations, legal advisors and government ministries who seek ways to reduce their numbers by curtailing funding, which has become especially burdensome of late due to the 30-percent decline in the value of the dollar.

Religion and Politics – New Torah Scroll Presented to Jerusalem as Capital’s Mayor Prepares for Elections

Click here for VIDEO June 10, 2008

The festivities of Shavuot in the context of the reunification celebrations of Jerusalem, the capital’s municipality promoted a new initiative: a Torah scroll inscribed by the symbolic participation of Jerusalem’s Jewish residents.

The presentation event took place at the city hall in the presence of Jerusalem mayor and leading rabbis of the country.

Bratslav demand air travel reform

By Zohar Blumenkrantz, Haaretz June 15, 2008

The Bratslav ultra-Orthodox sect is demanding that Israel carry out a reform to reduce prices for Kiev-bound flight tickets before the famed September pilgrimage to the burial place of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav in the Ukrainian town of Uman.

The request comes on the heels of Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz’s (Kadima) recent cancellation of a visit to Kiev, where he was expected to hold talks with local authorities over instituting the so-called open skies policy with regard to air travel with Ukraine.

Mofaz canceled his trip because Kadima’s primary elections are expected to be held this summer.

Edah Haredit won’t organize protests against gay parade

By Matthew Wagner, June 15, 2008

The Edah Haredit, an umbrella rabbinical organization that brings together some of the capital’s most zealous haredim, will refrain from organizing demonstrations against the gay pride march slated for June 26.

This year, explained Poppenheim, the rabbis decided that the spiritual dangers of battling the parade outweighed the benefit of stopping the parade, which will not pass through haredi neighborhoods.

Let’s keep it kosher

By Uri Orbach, June 16, 2008

A large majority of the Jewish public adheres to basic kashrut laws. A large majority of Jews in Israel do not eat pork, do not touch shrimp, and even separate milk and meat.

And what’s more: To the masses of people who keep kosher, the sight of chefs preparing non-kosher foods and devouring them openly on major TV channels is a difficult sight, no less. This is truly not something that should be taken for granted.

This debate then is not about kashrut, but rather, about politeness and good manners.

It’s not a question of what one cooks, but rather, what one cooks on television; because the cooking is theirs, but television belongs to all of us.

Kosher is as kosher does

By Ben Sales, June 12, 2008

Eating Kosher, Israel’s first-ever kosher gourmet food festival

The goal of the festival, according to Shaul Yahalom, one of its coordinators, is to provide an opportunity for those who keep kosher to survey the market while legitimizing kosher gourmet food for the rest of the country.

Vilnai: Joseph’s Tomb should be on agenda with Palestinians

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz June 12, 2008

Israeli negotiators should tell their Palestinian counterparts that Jews should be able to return to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told the Knesset on Wednesday.

MK Rabbi Yitzhak Levy (National Union-National Religious Party) has asked Barak to arrange access to Joseph’s Tomb, pointing out that according to the Oslo Accords the tomb is a Jewish holy site.

In his response, Vilnai cited difficulties in securing the site but said that Israel would bring up the issue in negotiations. He also promised to look into having the defense establishment pay for restoration.

With Ethiopian aliyah ending, uncertainty for those left behind

By Ron Csillag, June 15, 2008

American Jewish aid groups involved in Ethiopian aliyah have promised to provide domestic resettlement aid and humanitarian assistance for Ethiopians who waited in Gondar for years but whose petitions for aliyah were rejected.

…If Israel shuts down its emigration operation here, “we will continue as before,” Zemene pledges, without elaborating.

Weeks away from aliyah’s end, Falash Mura advocates lobby for more

By Uriel Heilman, JTA June 12, 2008

“I know people have concerns that there’s no end to this, that this is an indefinite extension, that they’re not really Jews,” said Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian justice minister and longtime advocate for Ethiopian aliyah.

“Our entire position rests on two points: One, that there’s a finite, definite group of 8,500. Two, we’re not saying the 8,500 should be brought. We’re saying the 8,500 have a right to have their eligibility determined according to law.”

In order to be eligible for immigration, the Ethiopians must demonstrate both that they have close kin in Israel as well as a maternal connection to a Jewish line — or are married to someone who has. The Falash Mura must also agree to embrace Judaism as a condition of their aliyah.

Rather than immigrating under the Law of Return, the Ethiopians qualify under a family-reunification statute, the Law of Entry.

Funding Runs Out for Ethiopians

Even now, it is by no means clear that the immigration is finished. Activists claim that more than 8,000 Falash Mura in Ethiopia are eligible under the criteria approved by the Israeli Cabinet in 2003 but have not had their claims examined.

According to Joe Feit, an American attorney and longtime advocate of the Falash Mura, several efforts related to the disputed Falash Mura are currently pending: two bills in the Knesset, discussions in the prime minister’s office and several lawsuits.

Religion and State in Israel

June 16, 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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