Religion and State in Israel – June 23, 2008 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

June 23, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

State and religion clash on converts

By Anshel Pfeffer, June 20, 2008

In an unprecedented clash between state and religion, Justice Minister Daniel Friedman announced this week that he will act to fire the Dayan who ruled that all the conversions made over the last nine years by the special conversion courts were null and void.

…As it is, the dismissal will not be a simple matter. Rabbinical judges are appointed and dismissed by the Dayanim Appointment Committee, which while being jointly chaired by the Justice Minister has a majority of ultra-Orthodox members who are likely to oppose the move.

Who leaked list of Jewish converts at heart of religious row?

By Shahar Ilan, June 22, 2008

Who leaked the list of names of some 150 people converted by Rabbi Haim Druckman to High Rabbinic Court Judge Avraham Sherman, after which Sherman ruled the conversions null and void because Druckman, the head of the conversion court, was out of the country at the time they took place?

And who gave Sherman what Judge Tova Strassberg-Cohen, the ombudsman of complaints against judges, called the “mysterious file” against Druckman?

Will secret conversion course go on?

By Matthew Wagner, June 20, 2008

…at Shevach Mofet [High School]… the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, together with the Education Ministry, the IDF and a few maverick Orthodox rabbis launched a pilot program to instill non-Jewish students with the requisite knowledge and religious experience to prepare for conversion to Judaism.

…The program, which was started nearly two years ago, was kept secret to prevent the Ashkenazi haredi establishment from attacking it. Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who is in charge of conversions, defers to the Ashkenazi haredi rabbis.

…Perhaps out of concern that the Shevach Mofet program will encounter stiff rabbinic opposition, more moderate rabbis within the National Conversion Authority, the body approved by the Chief Rabbinate to perform conversions, are denying any knowledge of and trying to downplay the issue.

Religious freedom now

By Reuven Hammer, Opinion June 20, 2008

Rabbi Reuven Hammer is the head of the Rabbinical Court of the Israeli Masorti (Conservative) Movement and a former president of the movement’s International Rabbinical Assembly.

As long as an official rabbinate continues to function as part of the political structure of the government of Israel, with monopolistic powers in so many realms, including marriage and divorce, these problems will continue to plague us.

Those who really care about the future of Judaism in the Jewish state – and this should certainly include the religious- Zionists – should be at the forefront of a battle to separate these religious powers from the state and to privatize the rabbinate, permitting Jews to freely chose their own rabbinical authorities or none.

…We do not need a total separation of religion and state – this being a Jewish state, that would be all but impossible.

What I am proposing is a system by which the state gives help and support to religious institutions but does not dictate their policies, nor does it grant monopolistic rights to any one clerical group.

…We need freedom of religion here so that individual rights will no longer be trampled and, most of all, so that religion can flourish in Israel.

It’s possible without rabbis, too

By Dr. Zvia Greenfeld, Opinion June 23, 2008

The conclusion is that rabbis can no longer be relevant when making obligatory decisions for Israeli society.

The correct way to solve the matter will, in the final analysis, require a comprehensive separation between the essential civic needs of a normal democratic society and voluntary religious-cultural desires and considerations.

To put it more bluntly, this necessitates a separation of religion and state.

At the same time, the aspiration of the majority of the public to see Israel as a country with Jewish significance in some form deserves thought and respect, and requires a renewed examination of the reasonable and possible connection between the Jewish tradition and a modern civil society.

Time has come for secular conversion

By Yair Rotkovich, Opinion June 19, 2008

The writer is a secular-Jewish educator and conducts secular-Jewish wedding ceremonies

We must proclaim that a Jew is also someone whose father is Jewish, a logical and fair definition.

We need to fulfill the obligation and the right to establish secular, Jewish conversion [courts].

They should be non-institutional and should be led by women and men alike; [introducing] converts into the Jewish nation according to Jewish, secular criteria.

NIF Rallies in Support of Hundreds of Israelis who have their Orthodox Conversions Annulled June 17, 2008

Attorney Susan Weiss has appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court on behalf of 15 petitioners against last month’s decision by the Rabbinical Court of Appeals to nullify thousands of Orthodox conversions performed by the Israeli government’s Conversion Authority.

Weiss, the Founder and Executive Director of NIF grantee Center for Women’s Justice, represents the Danish-born Israeli woman and her three children, whose divorce trial began the entire controversy.

Weiss also represents in the petition a range of other women’s organizations including NIF grantee Ne’menai Torah V’Avoda, which promotes democratic values in the Orthodox community.

…In the wake of this split between the ultra-Orthodox and Zionist national Orthodox movement, NIF has provided Ne’menai Torah V’Avoda with emergency funding to organize a conference next month on the concept of Alternative Rabbinical Courts, which now have the support of much of the Zionist national Orthodox establishment.

The conference will be attended by many liberal Orthodox organizations supported by NIF, which will continue to assist in combating the violation of basic rights caused through this harsh ruling by the Rabbinical Court of Appeals.

Religious Zionism: Cut funding of haredi institutions

By Kobi Nahshoni, June 20, 2008

In his article titled “Rabbi Drukman and the religious Zionism pride,” Rabbi Gross argues that the religious Zionist public must consider responding differently than before, showing it will no longer serve as punching bag.

“The earth would have shattered a long time ago had something like this happened in the Orthodox community,”

Gross writes, coming up with two proposals:

One is to prevent the national-religious crowd from participating in Orthodox events, unless they are provided catering koshered by the Rabbinate, with vegetables permitted for sale or belonging to the court.

The second proposal calls to refrain from making donations to Orthodox institutions.

“Why not say to those knocking on our door asking for donations something like, ‘We are in favor of supporting Torah studies but would rather support the world of religious Zionist studies, including yeshivas and yeshiva students belonging to our community.’”

Wanted: A true religious Zionism

By Evelyn Gordon, June 19, 2008

Religious Zionism has been fading into irrelevancy for so long that one might wonder why it even matters.

Yet in fact, a flourishing religious Zionism is crucial to the Jewish state’s survival.

…This task is enormously difficult, but it should not be impossible: After all, Jewish law was created for life in a sovereign state.

Nevertheless, this is the greatest challenge Judaism has faced in 2,000 years.

And meeting it will require the brightest, most creative and boldest religious Zionism possible – not a cowardly so-called religious Zionism that offers nothing but a choice between abdication to the ultra-Orthodox and abdication to the secular courts.

Zionistic Halakha in a Jewish State

The Israel Democracy Institute June 25, 2008

On June 25, 2008, the Israel Democracy Institute will host a conference on Halakhic Zionism.

Participating will be leading rabbis and scholars, who will examine the question of the existence, or even the possibility, of a Halakhic and Zionistic perception.

Among the issues which will be discussed at the conference:

Should the founding of a Jewish state affect Halakhic ruling?

Do Zionist rabbis have their own stance on state authority, conversion policies, the legal system, and Israeli minorities?

Dr. Zvia Greenfeld on the Israel Democracy Institute’s “Zionistic Halakha in a Jewish State” conference

By Zvia Greenfeld, Opinion June 23, 2008

How is it possible that the list of participants in a conference of this kind, which supposedly wants to formulate a new understanding of the significance of Halakha in an era of freedom and responsibility, includes only men?

Do the organizers think it genuinely possible to change the social and moral fabric without women being an obvious part of the debate? How does such a scandal come about?

The Israel Democracy Institute should correct this situation immediately.

And moreover: Next year, when the eve of Shavuot approaches with its discussions of tikkun, all the centers of learning are called on to allow only women to present all the lessons in Torah.

Let us all enlist our forces this one time and give only women the right to teach Torah to the masses of the people of Israel. I cannot imagine a more successful way of symbolizing the great change that is required in our insight into Judaism.

Knesset Law Committee meets on rabbinical courts

By Dan Izenberg, June 19, 2008

According to representatives of women’s organizations who attended the meeting, the procedure described by Ben-Dahan was in violation of the law.

Batya Cahana-Dror, the legal adviser for the women’s organization Mavoi Satum (Dead End), told the committee that a law passed in 1995 obliged the court to take the initiative after 30 days and see to it that a decision ordering the husband to grant a divorce was implemented.

Since according to halacha, a divorce can only take place when a man gives the divorce decree to the woman and she accepts it, the court cannot grant the divorce in place of the husband.

But it can apply one of several quite harsh legal sanctions, including jail, denial of a professional license, denial of a driver’s license, and denial of the right to travel abroad to pressure the husband into doing so.

Study finds Israel’s religious foundation not so unique

By Haviv Rettig, June 19, 2008

Dr. Alexander Yakobson, a senior lecturer in Roman history at Hebrew University:

“There are numerous other cases where national identity and religion are officially connected in some way, and where there are official bonds between a nation-state and an ethnocultural Diaspora.”

Yakobson’s article, titled “Jewish Peoplehood and the Jewish State, How Unique? – A Comparative Survey,” summarizes more extensive findings of a book he co-authored with Israeli constitutional thinker Amnon Rubinstein titled Israel Among the Nations.

“There is nothing extraordinary about a nation-state of a people whose history and culture strongly connect it to a certain religion. This connection, apart from being a fact of cultural and social life, can also be enshrined in a country’s constitution and embodied in its national symbols” – even, he adds, if the people who describe themselves by that identity do not, in fact, follow the religion.

Training in verse

By Kobi Nahshoni, June 17, 2008

The Military Rabbinate opened its new track in the summer of 2007.

The course trains Yeshiva graduates who served in combat units to be battalion rabbis in reserves.

The first course, which was considered a “pilot” took place at Army Training Base 1, lasted for six weeks and had 109 graduates.

The accelerated course not only angered civilian rabbinical officials, who were shocked by the act of ordaining someone a rabbi without qualification and in such a short time, but also the officers’ course commanders.

Rav Ovadia Relates to Soldier’s Needs

By Yechiel Spira, June 16, 2008

Chacham HaRav Ovadia Yosef Shlita is quoted as permitting soldiers to begin doing their laundry on Erev Shabbos even if they know it will be completed after the start of Shabbos, Kol Chai Radio reported on Monday.

Quoting the Rav’s words from his weekly motzei Shabbos shiur, the Rav specified that in some cases, soldiers are permitted to return home for Shabbos and are compelled to return shortly following the Holy Day and are compelled to clean their clothing in the interim.

The Rav based his p’sak on a Rambam which speaks of melacha that is started before Shabbos and is only completed after the start of Shabbos, drawing an analogy to a chulent which cooks through the Shabbos.

The Rav’s ruling pertains only to soldiers compelled to return to base immediately following Shabbos.

Second Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism Congregation Dedicates State-Funded Building June 19, 2008

In remarks to the congregation and assembled dignitaries, IMPJ Executive Director Iri Kassel noted:

“The community is emerging from an underground bomb shelter to the surface, to a presence above ground level.

What great symbolism! This will bring visibility and recognition for the community and enable it to reach out to the public.

May it be that this house will soon be filled with Jewish and communal activities, may the shechinah dwell in this home. Amen.”

Conservative Movement launches new wedding campaign

By Matthew Wagner, June 18, 2008

“We will offer couples a more human touch that is sensitive to their needs,” said Rabbi Andy Sachs, Chairman of the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly.

“We will also teach the couple about the laws of family purity if they want to, but we will do it in a way that makes it significant and meaningful.”

However, since Orthodoxy has a monopoly over the registration of marriages between Jews inside Israel, Conservative marriages performed within the state are not recognized.

The Conservative Movement, therefore, recommends marrying abroad in a civil marriage, which is recognized by the state, and then conducting a Conservative wedding afterward.

Israel’s Messianic Jews: Police indifferent to threats against us

AP June 20, 2008

Lawyer Dan Yakir of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel says the law allows missionaries to preach provided they don’t offer gifts or money or go after minors.

“It is their right according to freedom of religion to maintain their religious lifestyle and disseminate their beliefs, including through literature,” he said.

Calev Myers, a lawyer who represents Messianic Jews, said he has fought 200 legal cases in the past two years.

Most involve authorities’ attempts to close down houses of worship, revoke the citizenship of believers or refuse to register their children as Israelis.

West of Lupolianski

By Yair Ettinger, June 20, 2008

Now, 22 years after Moshe Abutbul moved to Beit Shemesh, he has jumped into the mayoral race.

He represents Shas, which is comprised mostly of Sephardic Jews of Middle Eastern or North African descent, and he hopes to be the first ultra-Orthodox mayor of Beit Shemesh, now a city of 80,000 residents. Estimates state that more than half are ultra-Orthodox.

…Abutbul’s candidacy is supported by two secular lists, including the Labor Party, which established the Beit Shemesh Gush Hahevrati bloc with Shas to promote social issues.

Abutbul enjoys Labor’s support because the two factions share the common goal of ousting incumbent Mayor Danny Vaknin, who is also seeking ultra-Orthodox support in the coming elections.

The ultra-Orthodox community in Beit Shemesh does much more than tip the scales. It is the scales.

Official who slapped MK must resign

By Tomer Zarchin, June 19, 2008

A state official who slapped a Knesset member on the face last year has agreed to resign in order to avoid indictment.

The police decided last October to indict Attorney Amnon de Hartoch, who was in charge of approving funding criteria for ultra-Orthodox schools in the Justice Ministry, for attacking a civil servant. De Hartoch slapped MK Rabbi Yaakov Cohen (United Torah Judaism) after Cohen said to him: “You’re worse than a German.

The Germans killed the body, you kill the soul,” after a meeting of the Knesset’s Education Committee. De Hartoch later apologized, explaining that he was the son of a Holocaust survivor.

Edah Haredit celebrates 30 years of independent school system

By Matthew Wagner, June 22, 2008

Some 20,000 boys aged eight to 13 will descend on the road leading to Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood at midday on Monday to mark the 30th anniversary of an independent school system that refuses to accept funds from the State of Israel for ideological reasons.

Created by Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the spiritual leader of Satmar hassidism after the Holocaust, the Keren Hatzola (emergency fund) foots the bill for an extensive school system that teaches a curriculum based solely on traditional sources such as the Bible, Mishnah and Talmud.

Teitelbaum established the fund in 1978 after prime minister Menachem Begin’s government, as part of a deal with haredi politicians, began offering substantial funding to educational institutions belonging to ultra-Orthodoxy.

Bowing to religious pressure, Tel Aviv supermarket chain agrees gradual Shabbat closure

By Nati Toker and Ophir Bar-Zohar, June 17, 2008

The 24/7 grocery chain AM:PM will gradually close on Shabbat, to end the ultra-Orthodox boycott of the Alon business group, according to a proposal by owner Dudi Wiessman.

However, no progress in negotiations has been noted since he tabled the proposal last week.

Wiessman commenced negotiations with some of the members of the rabbinical Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat, which three months ago forbade observant Jews to “contract in business” with Wiessman.

Last week Wiessman met in his offices with some members of the committee, and suggested that the offending AM:PM outlets be gradually closed down on Shabbat.

However, committee chairman Rabbi Yitzhak Goldknopf, who represents the Gur movement, was not present at the meeting.

The Gur movement opposes any compromise with Wiessman, and no progress has been reported since the meeting.

Meanwhile, Shefa Shuk, which belongs to the Blue Square chain, is also contending with an ultra-Orthodox boycott.

Rami Levy negotiating purchase of Blue Square’s Shabbat-struck Shefa Shuk

By Yoram Gabison, June 22, 2008

Rami Levy, the low-priced independent 12-supermarket chain centered in Jerusalem, is considering buying several branches of the Shefa Shuk chain, which targets the ultra-Orthodox market. Shefa Shuk is owned by David Weissman’s Blue Square.

Preliminary talks have started for the sale of some, or all, of the stores, which are suffering from an ultra-Orthodox boycott as rabbis put pressure on Weissman to close his AM:PM stores on the sabbath.

Religion and State in Israel

June 23, 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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