Religion and State in Israel – February 2, 2009

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Religion and State in Israel

February 2, 2009

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Attorney General Mazuz: Adoption doesn’t constitute conversion

By Aviad Glickman February 2, 2009

The adoption of a child by a non-Jewish family does not invalidate his right to make aliyah to Israel in accordance with the Law of Return, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz told the High Court of Justice on Monday.

Mazuz’s issued his opinion in response to a petition filed by Regina Bernik, who asked to make aliyah to Israel by virtue of her father’s Jewishness, although she was adopted by a non-Jewish couple as a child.

Bernik’s request was turned down by the Interior Ministry, and she decided to challenge it at the High Court.

The biological offspring of a Jew who was adopted as child by a non-Jewish family, and who seeks to make aliyah, is entitled to do so by virtue of his own affiliation and blood ties with the Jewish people, Mazuz stated. 

He added that the same should apply for a Jew’s grandchildren.

A rabbinate gone wild

Haaretz Editorial January 27, 2009

…The time has come for the chief of staff and defense minister, who have maintained silence on [IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai Ronzki’s] unbridled behavior, to finally get rid of him.

They would then do well to investigate how the IDF rabbinate, whose job is to provide proper conditions for religious soldiers, has turned into an instrument of divine punishment.

The IDF should make do with kashrut supervisors and manage without a rabbi from now on.

Winning hearts and minds in the IDF

By Israel Harel Opinion February 2, 2009

It is clear, therefore, that the struggle is not between the chief education officer and the chief military rabbi, but rather between two spiritual movements.

One movement is represented by those who attack the chief military rabbi – people who are responsible for ambivalence in the IDF and undermined its complete faith in the righteousness of its path. As a result, its operational abilities have been compromised.

The opposing group is the one that budded in Operation Cast Lead.

This trend is based on full identification with the Zionist and nationalist roots, not necessarily religious ones, of the State of Israel. 

In the name of God

By Shamir Yeger and Gal Einav Opinion February 2, 2009

The writers are infantry reserve fighters called up to serve in the Gaza war.

There is a problem with the growing tendency to provide religious elements with a monopoly on values and fighting spirit, and particularly with the legitimacy granted to organizations with a missionary and messianic character to operate amongst the soldiers.

Most of the commanders in our division are religious, yet up until the last war there was complete separation between their private world and their military position.

If we fail to clearly draw the line right now, in a few years we shall find ourselves shifting from wars of choice or no-choice to holy wars.

Appointment of new rabbinic judges challenged in High Court

By Matthew Wagner January 29, 2009

In an unusual case of rabbis suing rabbis in a secular court, a group of veteran conversion court judges petitioned the High Court on Wednesday against the appointment of 10 new conversion judges.

The veteran judges argued, through attorneys Yeshayahu Avraham and Moshe Ben-David that nepotism tainted the appointments, which were made by a special five-man committee.

A close aide to committee chairman Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who preferred to remain anonymous, rejected allegations that nearly all the appointees have ties to Amar.

A bone to pick with our Chief Rabbinate

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion February 2, 2009

The writer is Director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in Israel

Multi-billionaire Warren Buffett once commented, “It is really only when the tide goes out that you realize who has been swimming naked.” 

Well the tide has gone out and the Rabbinate has been discovered to be naked.

…Israelis should look to the Rabbinate in times of crisis for spiritual succor. 

Those in the official Rabbinate should be teachers who inspire our Jewish community and who bring pride to our people. 

They should treat Jewish law as a tool to allow Jews “to live by”(V’Hai B’Hen). 

Chief Rabbinate cuts ties with Vatican

By Matthew Wagner January 28, 2009

On Tuesday the Chief Rabbinate of Israel broke off official ties with the Vatican indefinitely in protest over the Pope’s decision to reinstate a known Holocaust denier.

The Chief Rabbinate also canceled a meeting scheduled for March 2-4 in Rome with the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

In a letter to the commission’s chairman, Cardinal Walter Casper, Chief Rabbinate Director-General Oded Weiner wrote that “without a public apology and recanting, it will be difficult to continue the dialogue.”

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate breaks off ties with Vatican

(Sh)tender Thoughts

Click here for VIDEO

By Rabbi Daniel Landes, Director and Rosh HaYeshiva Pardes Institute January 29, 2009

Sorcerer unable to cast Orthodox judge from lawsuit 

By Tomer Zarchin January 30, 2009

Magistrate’s Court Judge Menahem Klein refused Wednesday to recuse himself from a lawsuit involving sorcery and curses, on the grounds that the Orthodox judge would not be impartial in the case.

The case involves a suit brought by Eti Cohen, who is demanding her money back from Sana Koma, whom Cohen paid to lift a curse. 

Koma said Klein should recuse himself because Orthodox Judaism, which he follows, prohibits the act of sorcery. 

In his decision, Klein wrote that people could not “shop” for another judge just because the judge assigned has a different way of life. 

Klein said doing so would be “a severe blow to faith in the judicial system.” 

Klein also wrote that even if he started with the assumption that Koma’s acts constituted sorcery according to the Torah, financial issues between Cohen and Koma were still being governed by general contract law and had nothing whatsoever to do with religious prohibitions. 

“There is no contradiction between my way of life and my function as a judge in the modern State of Israel,” Klein wrote. 

The divorce statistics: What they don’t show

By Rabbi Seth Farber January 29, 2009

Rabbi Seth (Shaul) Farber received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University and his rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University. He is the founder of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center and rabbi of Kehillat Netivot in Ra’anana.

What is needed now is a social upheaval that challenges recalcitrant men at the most basic level. Similarly, a recommitment on the part of the rabbinical courts to making their agunah desk a professional institution would make a marked difference in the “get refusal” business

I have been involved in a number of cases of tracking down missing husbands, most recently in a case that involved a husband who was found in Indonesia a few months back, and who sent his wife a get last month.

But, as we say in Hebrew preventative action is always desirable. Groups like ICAR and Mavoi Satum have begun the public fight. 

But until the public is sufficiently outraged, men will continue to abuse the system of Jewish law, and their wives as well.

Netanyahu deal aimed at national-religious camp

By Nadav Shragai January 28, 2009

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu signed a deal with Effi Eitam’s Ahi faction yesterday to try to increase support of voters from the national-religious camp.

But two national religious parties – Habayit Hayehudi and National Union – responded angrily to the declaration.

In the deal, the two sides embrace the national-religious educational system and hope this will be reflected in the state budget.

Shas warns of ‘impending doom’ if Kadima wins

By Yair Ettinger February 1, 2009

Shas Chairman Eli Yishai yesterday warned party members of “impending doom” if Kadima and Yisrael Beiteinu increase their parliamentary strength in the coming elections.

Officials of the ultra-Orthodox party suspect Kadima and Yisrael Beiteinu of advancing a secular agenda that will damage their interests, as the now-defunct Shinui once did.

At yesterday’s gathering, Yishai said Yisrael Beiteinu and Kadima will permit the sale of pork and allow civilian marriages.

He called on activists to go from “synagogue to synagogue” to sign up new party activists.

“Great dangers await us,” Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, the party’s spiritual leader, said in his weekly sermon on Saturday evening. 

“There are many who are opposed to the Torah, the yeshivas and the yeshiva budgets. 

We must do our utmost to secure a strong Shas, so – God willing – the Torah will be strong, too.”

What about Judaism?

By Yael Mishali Opinion January 29, 2009

The secular parties must present their potential voters with a non-religious Jewish worldview. If they do not endorse the separation of religion and state, they must explain why.

We must stop being scared of uttering the word “Judaism” in its various conjugations: “Jewish state,” “Jewish culture,” and “Jewish worldview” – all of them must be given some Jewish substance.

It could be secular Judaism, traditional Judaism, or religious Judaism; whatever is right for you.

Shas nabs promise for extra NIS 162 million for yeshivas

By Yair Ettinger February 2, 2009

A bit of ultra-Orthodox history took place on Friday: Shas Chairman and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister, Eli Yishai, paid Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv a visit at his Jerusalem home. Elyashiv is the spiritual leader and patron of the Degel Hatorah faction of Agudat Yisrael.

It has been years since Yishai was invited to meet a leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox public. 

Yishai and Meshulam Nahari, another Shas minister, were rewarded with the sought-after picture of the two beside the Ashkenazi rabbi. 

Yishai did not show up empty-handed. He and Nahari said they had managed to obtain another NIS 162 million from the Finance Ministry for yeshivas, in addition to the NIS 140 million already budgeted. 

The money made headlines in the ultra-Orthodox press and garnered a lot of praise for Shas from influential Ashkenazi rabbis. 

Just hours earlier, Yishai had managed to head off an attempt to depose religious court judge Rabbi Avraham Sherman. 

Yisrael Beiteinu makes inroads into Shas territory

By Yair Yagna February 1, 2009

Yisrael Beiteinu is expanding its electoral support in low-income, peripheral towns that used to vote almost exclusively for Shas.

In recent weeks activists for the hawkish party, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, have garnered new support in the southern towns of Netivot and Ofakim.

“I’ve always voted for Shas, but Lieberman is Aryeh Deri’s replacement,” said Yossi, a resident of Sderot, referring to the former Shas chairman, who was indicted and charged with fraud.

“He, too, is being hunted by the police. He speaks the truth – something all the other politicians are scared to do.”

Few ultra-Orthodox voters in Ofakim and Netivot will publicly admit to not supporting Shas, but community leaders say they are aware of the phenomenon and are trying to persuade voters not to jump ship.

“I’m certain many Haredi voters will choose Lieberman but later claim that they voted for Shas,” Gideon, a resident of Ofakim, said.

Maran Elyashiv Announces Voting is Mandatory

By Yechiel Spira January 30, 2009

According to a Kol Chai Radio report on Erev Shabbos, Maran Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv has released a ‘kol korei’ instructing the tzibur to get out and vote on February 10th in the upcoming general elections.

Rav Elyashiv Shlita states voting is not optional, but the responsibility of every community member as to ensure the gains of the chareidi community achieved by its representatives are not lost in the coming Knesset.

Shas looking to gain ground with largest trade unions

By Yair Ettinger January 30, 2009

Shas recently established a “secularists’ headquarters,” some of whose main activists are union members. 

Dudi Shaked, a member of the IEC workers union, is featured on the group’s Web site saying, “Shas today is a warm home for organized labor.” 

Who’s the wild card?

The Haaretz poll was conducted by Dialog, under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs. February 1, 2009


By Ronen Medzini January 29, 2009

Less than two weeks before the general elections many in the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi public are calling on their sector not to vote for the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party, which traditionally represents the community.

This stems from the growing disappointment regarding the party’s poor political achievements, the internal conflicts between Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah, and the failed struggles over independent education.

Chareidi Municipal Leaders Seeking Solutions

By Yechiel Spira January 28, 2009

The Forum of Chareidi Mayors convened for a first time on Tuesday in the presence of Minister of Industry & Trade, Shas leader Eli Yishai, towards addressing the housing shortage in the chareidi sector.

Bnei Brak Mayor Rav Yaakov Asher stated the chareidi community must obtain a foothold in the Israel Lands Administration, for failure to do so would doom any major project addressing the needs of the chareidi community.

Bet Shemesh Mayor Rav Moshe Abutbul agreed with Asher, stating they must push a land reform package. 

He expressed his hope that following the election, a chareidi minister will oversee the Ministry of Housing and this will permit moving ahead towards achieving these goals since the minister will also oversee the Israel Lands Administration.

Betar’s mayor also addressed the public transportation issue. He explained that now, Illit Bus Company has taken over the bus routes from Betar Tours…

First college for haredi women inaugurated

By Tzipi Kepel January 27, 2009

The first technological college for ultra-Orthodox women was inaugurated in Israel this week, in the city of Netanya. 

The college’s opening marks a change in the way the financial viability of haredi households is being perceived.

The pioneering move was lead by the director of the Beit Margalit school chain for haredi girls, Rabbi Yigal Krispel, with the support of Shas’ spiritual leaders and of Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai of Shas.

Rabbi Yigal Krispel:

“In order to enable families to earn a decent income, it has been decided to open another job training channel that will operate in the spirit of our institutions, with a separation between men and women.”

UTJ MK Rabbi Avraham Ravitz dies

By Yair Ettinger January 28, 2009

An entire generation of ultra-Orthodox Jews was raised on the stirring speeches of Rabbi Avraham Ravitz, the rabbi-politician who died of a heart ailment at the age of 75.

He was a feisty public figure who loved to laugh, even at himself.

Thousands accompanied his funeral cortege, which departed from his home in Jerusalem’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood. 

Among the mourners were many public figures, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who studied Torah with Ravitz.

Former J’lem deputy mayor to take Ravitz’s Knesset seat

By Shelly Paz January 28, 2009

Former Jerusalem deputy mayor Yehoshua Pollack is to fill the Knesset seat left vacant by the death earlier this week of United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Avraham Ravitz.

Pollack, who had held the city’s planning and construction portfolio and who is currently the treasurer of Betar Illit, will serve for about four weeks, until the 18th Knesset is convened on February 24.

The accidental MK – Yehoshua Pollack

By Peggy Cidor January 29, 2009

Although Pollack might still reap some benefits from his short stint in the Israeli parliament, it won’t change much about his current rather difficult situation.

After losing the battle during the mayoral elections – some say because of his provocative remarks and attitude before the mayoral campaign – it was clear that Porush would be the one to retain his position at the top of the haredi list to the Knesset, while Pollack would more or less politely be sent to earn his living elsewhere – Betar Illit, for example, with a much less dazzling status and salary (though much better, at least for the moment, than his former Shas colleagues, who became simple members of the city council, without salaries or a particularly stellar status)

Government Ministry Ads Not Targeting Chareidi Audiences

By R. Gil January 29, 2009

During a year in which government ministries posted a 73- percent increase in newspaper advertising, the neglect of the chareidi sector was especially noteworthy.

A survey conducted by Ifat Advertising Monitoring and commissioned by Yated Ne’eman showed the extent of the scandal: 230,000 column inches were aimed at the general public, compared to 17,250 for the chareidi public.

Entire advertising campaigns, and especially job listings, were nowhere to be found in the chareidi press.

A large portion of government ministries totally exclude the chareidi sector. They omit chareidi newspapers, not including them in their general campaigns.

Most of all they have no interest in hiring chareidim as rank-and-file civil servants. Fact: State job listings, which are advertised extensively in the general press, do not get advertised in the chareidi sector at all.

Heart recipient’s father: We’ll never donate organs

By Dr. Itay Gal January 29, 2009

The father of an eight year-old girl whose life was saved thanks to an organ donation from an eight year-old boy killed in a car accident said Wednesday that as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, he or his family would never donate organs themselves.

Prof. Yaacov Lavee, director of Heart Transplantation Unit at Sheba Medical Center:

“I know for a fact that the refusal to sign such a card originates in extreme haredi circles. I’ve encountered many haredim who signed the card.

Those who don’t accept brain death (as an indication for death) represent a very small stream of Judaism… many rabbis view organ donation as a great mitzvah.”

Noam Shalit seeks Rabbi Yosef’s influence

By Ronen Medzini February 2, 2009

Noam and Zvi Shalit, the father and grandfather of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, arrived Monday morning at the home of Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood.

The rabbi expressed his optimism that the affair would reach its end soon, and even invited Gilad to visit his home upon his return.

At the start of the meeting, Rabbi Yosef blessed the Shalit family, Gilad Shalit and all Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

“As far as God is concerned, Gilad is sacred and he will save him from the hands of these evil people,” he said.

Mayor Barkat Promises to Assist Jerusalem Religious Council

By Yechiel Spira January 28, 2009

A protest of hundreds of employees of the Jerusalem Religious Council was called off at the last moment on Monday as a result of the intervention of Jerusalem Councilman Rav Yosef Deutsch, who brought the matter of the capital’s ailing religious council to the attention of Mayor Nir Barkat.

Herzliya religious council begins recovery plan

By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay February 1, 2009

The Herzliya religious council has embarked on an NIS 3.6 million “recovery plan” that will set its budget for the coming years and will see three out of its 25 employees taking early retirement, reports

The religious council, the city council and the Ministry of Religious Services all agreed to contribute NIS 1.2 million each to the recovery plan, which follows several difficult years for religious councils around the country.

First ‘Kassam-proof’ yeshiva to be dedicated in Sderot

By Michael Freund January 27, 2009

After years of enduring Kassam attacks from Gaza, Sderot’s hesder yeshiva plans to consecrate on Thursday a specially-built, rocket-proof beit midrash, or study hall, the first of its kind ever erected in Israel.

The five-story building was constructed using tons of reinforced concrete, along with blast-proof windows and other specially-designed structural components, yeshiva spokesman Josh Hasten told The Jerusalem Post.

The school, which has been operating in Sderot for 15 years, has over 500 students who combine military service with traditional yeshiva studies.

Rabbinic midrashim through artistic expression

By Yoav Friedman  January 28, 2009

Students at the Judaism and the Arts track of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem have created a different type of “interpretative picture.” 

Working hard, they fashioned works of art that represent their interpretation of a rabbinic midrash.

Suggestion that UJC add overseas partners rankles Jewish Agency

By Jacob Berkman January 28, 2009

In a potentially groundbreaking move, leaders of the North American network of Jewish charitable federations are considering a plan to end their exclusive funding relationship with their two main overseas partners.

UJC, JAFI exchange words over plan to open up overseas funding

By Jacob Berkman January 28, 2009

The Jewish Agency’s chairman, Richie Pearlstone, wrote an angry letter to UJC chairman Joe Kanfer; its President and CEO, Howard Rieger, and the chairman of its executive, Kathy Manning.

The three responded with a letter of their own, basically  telling him that the UJC will remain the Jewish Agency’s partner, but that sometimes change is necessary.

Click here for letters

Israel-Diaspora Partnership Threatened

By Anthony Weiss January 28, 2009

Chairman of the Jewish Agency’s board of governors, Richard Pearlstone:

“We fear that United Jewish Communities is on the way to abandoning its obligations and responsibilities to the hundreds of thousands of Jews we serve every day, with the clear result of deconstructing the historic partnership between JAFI and the federations of North America.”

US donations to Israel drop 20%

By Yedidya Peretz January 29, 2009

The financial crisis sweeping through the United States has caused a 20% drop in donations to Israel so far, Becky Caspi, senior vice-president of operations at the UJC, said Wednesday.

Despite distance, Jews do feel a connection

By Haviv Rettig Gur February 1, 2009

The study reports strong feelings of connectedness and mutual concern between the world’s two largest Jewish communities, in the United States and Israel, each of which accounts for some 40 percent of world Jewry.

Among the report’s findings, Israeli Jews reported a slightly higher identification as “Jews” than did Americans, suggesting that they see themselves as Jews first, Israelis second.

Immigration group: Financial crisis will boost aliyah from Western nations

By Raphael Ahren February 1, 2009

Israel can expect a “dramatic increase” in immigrants from Western countries this year as a result of the world financial crisis, the immigration assistance group Nefesh B’Nefesh announced Wednesday.

While in 2007, 1,398 people contacted the Nefesh B’Nefesh call center in the period between September 1 and December 31, last year the number was 2,947 – an increase of 101 percent. 

US Jewish leader: Israel must take more financial responsibility

By Matthew Wagner January 29, 2009

US Jews expect Israel to accept more financial responsibility for its needs, Rebecca Caspi, senior vice president and director general operations of UJC-Israel, said Wednesday.

In the footsteps of the Ten Lost Tribes

By Amir Mizroch January 30, 2009

How did a few thousand exiled Jews from ancient Judea and Samaria traverse the entire Middle East, Europe and Asia to end up 2,700 years later in isolated border regions and backwater villages dotted from northeast India to Nigeria?

…They all want to make aliya as soon as possible and are awaiting approval by the government to do so.

In Jerusalem, the Interior Ministry is dead-set against the mass aliya of the Bnei Menashe, preferring a quiet policy of allowing small groups of them to come on tourist visas, after which they undergo conversion.

In the past, rabbis were sent to convert the Bnei Menashe in India, a practice which came to an abrupt halt when the Christians in the area cried foul, leaving the government with no choice but to kick the rabbis out and ban conversion on Indian soil.

Disputed Jaffa cemetery to remain intact

By Eli Senyor January 29, 2009

A solution was found to a 35-year court battle over a Muslim cemetery in Jaffa Thursday. According to the plan, yet to be approved by the Israeli Land Administration (ILA), the entrepreneur who owns the land on which the cemetery is situated will receive rights to an adjacent plot, leaving the cemetery untouched.

Religion and State in Israel

February 2, 2009

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

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