Religion and State in Israel – February 9, 2009 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

February 9, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Chief Rabbinate Resumes Dialogue with Vatican

By Hillel Fendel February 9, 2009

With the Pope’s demand that a Holocaust-denier bishop either apologize or be thrown out of the Catholic Church, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is reinstating relations with the Vatican.

A Chief Rabbinate meeting in Rome with the Catholic Church’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews scheduled for early next month, which had previously been canceled because of the Williamson fiasco, is back on.  

Topics to be discussed include sanctity of life, family status, and ecology – “but not theological issues,” Chief Rabbinate Director Oded Weiner emphasized.

Rethinking ‘recognized conversions’

By Rabbi Seth (Shaul) Farber February 3, 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.

ITIM has recently gotten hold of a letter sent by the “Population, Immigration and Border Authority,” of the Interior Ministry that states clearly that an Orthodox conversion performed overseas was not acceptable to the State for purposes of aliyah because the Chief Rabbi [of Israel] did not recognize the conversion as legitimate.

Essentially, the State’s civil authorities have decided to sublimate the definition of the “recognized” communities – at least in the Orthodox sphere – to the Chief Rabbi.  

…Is it conceivable that the State of Israel relies on the major Reform and Conservative rabbinical bodies to determine “recognized” communities, but that when it comes to the Orthodox, the chief rabbi is the final arbiter? Apparently so!

Israeli rabbi rejects Toronto conversion

By Paul Lungen February 5, 2009

The son of a prominent philosopher who urged Jews to retain their identity in order to deny Hitler a posthumous victory has had his own Jewish status denied by a Jerusalem rabbinic court.

…Fackenheim, who has lived in Israel since childhood, said he is appealing the decision on a number of fronts.

He has complained about the presiding judge’s findings to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, as well as to a rabbinic court ombudsman and to Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, director of Israel’s rabbinical courts.

The Chief Rabbinate has deferred to the ombudsman, who is conducting a review of the decision. Fackenheim has also retained the Israel Religious Action Center for legal assistance.

Rabbi Martin Lockshin, a professor at York University, said the decision “definitely shows the arbitrary and dangerous nature of the haredi-dominated beit din system in Israel… This type of action is unprecedented in Jewish history and must be decried.”

“Modern Orthodox Jews and modern Orthodox rabbinical organizations must not cede to Israeli haredim,” Rabbi Lockshin continued. 

“They must strengthen the hands of modern Orthodox forces in Israel and encourage them to set up alternate rabbinical systems that will allow Israelis to circumvent the haredi-dominated system.”

Court: Chief Rabbi Metzger’s explanation of hotel favors not credible

By Tomer Zarchin February 8, 2009

The High Court of Justice Thursday questioned the credibility of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger in connection with allegations he received improper favors from Jerusalem hotels.

The court also criticized the way Attorney General Menachem Mazuz investigated whether the case would disqualify Metzger from serving as a dayan, a religious court judge.

In his ruling, High Court Justice Edmond Levy noted that some of the explanations provided on Metzger’s behalf and by Metzger himself appeared “surprising and even unfounded.” 

Chief Rabbi Metzger wins court battle to retain powers

By Matthew Wagner February 5, 2009

Israel Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy:

“If I had sat in judgment of Metzger… I would have thought that central aspects of Metzger’s version of the incidents do not hold up against the hard facts presented by the attorney-general.”

“Nevertheless, in accordance with the purely legalistic aspect of this case… I see no way of avoiding the conclusion that this court cannot interfere.”

So Metzger probably took bribes?

Dr. Elana Sztokman Opinion February 6, 2009

“The Committee for the Appointment of Judges should not have been given the authority to decide on Metzger,” 

says Batya Cahana-Dror of Mavoi Satum, a leading organization helping chained women in Israel that is currently spearheading the Alternative Beit Din campaign.

“This committee has its own interests in these appointments and cannot make an unfettered decision. So long as the rabbinical judges continue to operate according to their own political interests, they will continue to lose the faith of the general public.”

Cahana Dror recommends opening up the committee to representatives of the public in order to make rabbinical judges accountable for their actions.

Chief Rabbinate prays for cloudy skies

By Zafrir Rinat and Yair Ettinger February 5, 2009

February has so far been unseasonably warm, as it was last year, and the lack of significant rainfall has farmers praying for a little help from above. 

Several areas have seen less than half the rain they were expected to receive during the three primary winter months, of which February is the last. 

After receiving urgent pleas from farmers, the Chief Rabbinate recently called on the public to pray for the resumption of rain and even to attempt fasting in that effort. 

Ministry: Married sperm donor must have wife’s consent

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich February 8, 2009

The Health Ministry has decided to appeal to the Supreme Court against a ruling by Jerusalem District Court Judge Yehonathan Adiel that allowed sperm from a married man to be used for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) of a single woman he knows without informing his wife.

On Sunday, the ministry sent a copy of its appeal to all the directors of IVF units and all sperm banks in Israeli hospitals. 

Signed by ministry legal adviser Mira Huebner, the appeal stated that allowing the fertilization of ova by sperm from a married man without his wife’s knowledge or permission would expose the doctor who performed the IVF and the medical institution where he works to a lawsuit by the wife, whose arguments should be heard in advance.

If, for example, the man refuses to give his wife a divorce and turns her into an aguna (“anchored woman”) who cannot remarry without his agreement, the ministry lawyer argued, this could be a consideration for refusing approval for the use of his sperm to fertilize another woman’s eggs.

IDF Rabbinate rapped for booklet

By Amos Harel February 9, 2009

The Defense Ministry has conceded that a controversial booklet distributed by the Israel Defense Forces rabbinate during the fighting in Gaza “evidently contained certain content unsuitable for military publication.”

The booklet was distributed by the rabbinate’s “Jewish awareness” section. 

“After the mishap, Ashkenazi held a personal meeting with the chief military rabbi in which he was instructed to investigate the matter to ensure such incidents do not recur,” Bar wrote. 

IDF Chief of Staff Offers Thanks at Western Wall

By Hillel Fendel February 9, 2009

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi paid a visit to the Western Wall on Sunday night to offer prayers of thanksgiving for the miracles and successes in the recent Cast Lead operation in Gaza.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, entrusted with rabbinical supervision of the holy sites on behalf of the government, hosted Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi and took part in the prayers. 

Afterwards, a festive thanksgiving meal was held in the Hashmonaim Hall, to the left (north) of the uncovered section of the Western Wall.  Additional prayers and songs of thanksgiving and praise were recited there.

The great defeat of secularism

By Shahar Ilan Opinion February6, 2009

The outgoing Knesset was especially bad for the secular community. Over and over, secular citizens suffered heavy, painful blows, and over and over no one stepped up to represent them. It is not just a matter of wars of religion, but more of a defeat without even putting up a fight.

These are the main issues where the secular community has lost:

The Tal Law, which permits yeshiva (religious seminary) students to put off mandatory army service, was approved for extension to the maximum period of five years.

Israel is paying for the studies of 100,000 yeshiva students aged 18 and up, who are not serving in the army.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs has risen from the ashes. In its reincarnated state it is called the Ministry for Religious Services.

For the first time Israel has passed a law which states that the government will fund “small yeshivas” (yeshivas for high school-aged students), even though they do not include in their curriculum the core program required by law.

The process of gradually increasing the stipends for children was the result of a coalition agreement with Shas in 2006. 

Secular Zionism’s other failure

By Rabbi Jeremy Rosen Opinion February 8, 2009

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, the former principal of Carmel College, London, is a writer, and a professor at the Faculty of Comparative Religion, in Antwerp.

I argue that the secular community should cast off its old loyalties and petty concerns and unite over one cause: excluding religious parties from power and separating state from religion.

This alone would justify the secular Zionist heritage and in the process do religion a giant favor, because wherever there is separation, religion actually flourishes.

J’lem: Stores to introduce sex segregation

By Uri Gilhar February 6, 2009

Last week, a popular nuts and seeds store at the Bucharim neighborhood in Jerusalem declared it plans to institute separation between men and women shoppers ahead of the Tu B’Shvat holiday during which dried fruit sales are on the rise.

The owners of Pitzuchei Mizrahi said they would arrange separate entrances for men and women, after they were recommended to do so by a kashrut supervisor.

Sources in the ultra-Orthodox public believe that other businesses in the capital will follow suit.

Chinuch Atzmai Has a Day in Court

By Yechiel Spira February 4, 2009

The hearing was called in response to an urgent petition from Rav Avraham Yosef Lazerson, who petitioned against the registrar of non-profits, against Chinuch Atzmai and against the attorney general.

Lazerson basically is trying to prevent the system from recognizing the Council of Torah Sages from being viewed as the formal board of the directors, which would leave the operating authority of Chinuch Atzmai in the hands of Gur.

Jerusalem City Hall Allocates NIS 3.6 Million to Religious Council

By Yechiel Spira February 4, 2009

Employees of the Jerusalem Religious Council today, Wednesday, are expecting to receive their salaries for December 2008 and January 2009 after City Hall transferred NIS 3.6 million to the ailing religious council.

The move may signal Mayor Nir Barkat’s first successful major encounter with the city’s religious population, bailing out the ailing council which is suffering from monetary problems that long precede the newly-elected mayor.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg, Aish HaTorah Dean, Passes Away

By Hillel Fendel February 5, 2009

Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the renowned founder and Dean of Yeshiva Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem, passed away Thursday morning in Jerusalem at the age of 78. 

A graduate of two prominent yeshivot in the United States – Rabbi Chaim Berlin in New York and Ner Yisrael in Baltimore – Rabbi Weinberg founded or co-founded the two most famous yeshivot in Jerusalem for beginners, Ohr Somayach and Aish HaTorah. 

Tel Aviv 11th Graders Learn About Judaism from Chabad February 4, 2009 Original source

Eleventh-grade students at the Herzliya Gymnasia School in Tel Aviv have been attending a series of encounters at the local Chabad House based on the theme, “Getting to know about Judaism.”

This week was the third in the series, during which one class of students has been gathering at the Geulat Yisrael Chabad shul at the Chabad House every week.

During the meeting, the students hear a short talk on the basics of Judaism, given by Rabbi Yitzchok Bir, director of activities at the Tel Aviv Chabad House. 

Afterwards, the boys put on tefillin, while the girls are told about lighting Shabbos candles.

Residents of ‘cursed’ building seek rabbis’ advice

By Uri Gilhar February 8, 2009

After three of their neighbors die of cancer within one year, panicked residents of a apartment building in Haredi Ramot neighborhood approach prominent religious leaders, who suggest gossip may have brought about evil eye.

Preventing Women from Mourning

Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman February 3, 2009

A personal testimony by Oranit* about a family funeral

When we lose someone close, we become aware of our physical fragility and reevaluate our life.

Life may end at any given moment; and yet instead of easing the pain of others when times are difficult, there are those who add suffering to suffering.

The pain of my loss was aggravated by the cruel restrictions made by the people of Yavne’s cemetery.

They discriminated against me because I am a woman. They chastised me for expressing my feelings and forbade me from seeing my cousin’s burial. Besides feeling stunned and sad, I also felt guilty for not protesting aloud.

The emotional “catch 22” was too much for me; I could not bear to make a difficult situation even worse by raising a commotion.

“Haredim” by Menachem Kahana, Photographer

The community, which to the outside spectator seems monotonous and rigid, opens up before us in all its glory and beauty, albeit with all its weaknesses too.


By Michel Dor February 7, 2009

An exhibit by photojournalist Menachem Kahana titled “Haredim” opened at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv this week, in cooperation with the Beit Avi Chai center for Jewish culture in Jerusalem.

Kahana managed to penetrate into the heart of ultra-Orthodox society, and his photos – the product of a decade-long fascination with a world mostly unknown to secular Israelis – are intriguing, and at times disturbing.

Local Authorities to Stop Funding Water and Electricity at Chareidi Schools

By Yechiel Sever February 5, 2009

Many Chinuch Atzmai and Ma’ayan Hachinuch HaTorani schools were astonished to receive notices from local authorities saying that water and electricity accounts would be terminated and that they would receive only 75 percent of the funding amounts allocated for other schools.

The new policies are based on the Local Authorities Education Law, legislated in the face of staunch opposition by UTJ, which claimed that it contained numerous faults and would cause enormous damage to schools rather than fix things.

Study: U.S. Jews less willing than Israelis to strengthen ties

By Cnaan Liphshiz February 2, 2009

Although American Jews and Israelis share a strong and mutual feeling of solidarity, U.S. coreligionists have a very low willingness to strengthen the relationship, according to a new study. 

Conservative Movement promotes aliya

By Matthew Wagner February 8, 2009

The Conservative Movement will launch a campaign to encourage immigration to Israel from North and South America during the movement’s annual Rabbinical Assembly convention this week in Jerusalem.

…In addition to the immigration campaign, the Rabbinical Assembly will vote on several resolutions. One of them is a resolution to support the dissolution of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

“We challenge the efficacy of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in light of the country’s diverse, and increasingly non-Orthodox citizenry,” said the RA in a press release.

Saving the Agency

Forward Editorial February 4, 2009

Some say the fate of the Jewish Agency doesn’t matter, that the great Jewish dramas of the 20th century are over. That’s shortsighted.

There’s still a need for collective institutions to carry out the Jewish community’s will at the international level no less than at the national and local levels.

There’s also a need for accountable institutions to conduct the business of Israel-Diaspora relations, so the task isn’t left to billionaires meeting in back rooms. 

If the Jewish Agency isn’t doing its job, it must be fixed — not abandoned.

Holy Land pilgrims donate blood in record numbers

By Michele Chabin February 6, 2009

Donating blood may not top many tourists’ to-do lists in a foreign country, but it’s a growing trend in Israel, where a small but increasing number of Jewish and Christian pilgrims see it as a religious imperative.

“When Christians donate blood in Israel it is a way to show our love and solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people,” said David Parsons, a spokesman for the evangelical International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, which holds a large blood drive during its annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration.

Laurice Brown, pastor of Destiny Ministries in Vancouver, Wash., pencils in a visit to the blood bank every time she brings a group to Israel. During a recent visit, she said she felt “drawn” to donate because “this is where Jesus was born.”

“It’s a blessing to give of ourselves to a country we love,” Brown said.

Crystal Walker, a member of Brown’s pilgrimage tour, felt donating blood “is a good way to give back to Israel. This is God’s land and we have to support what the Lord wants. If we’re not supporting Israel, we’re not supporting God.”

Son of a preacher man

By Paul Widen February 8, 2009

‘Fredrik” recently finished basic training in the 51st Battalion of the Golani Brigade. Together with thousands of other soldiers, he is waiting on a base a few miles from Gaza, ready to be deployed in case the cease-fire collapses.

The only difference is that he is not an Israeli citizen, or even Jewish. He is a 29-year-old Swedish Pentecostal Christian.

…”I feel especially close to the religious Jews in my unit. They say that I have an interesting relationship with God,” he says with a smile.

“I think we challenge and inspire each other. They know a lot of Talmud, while I know more Bible. 

It triggers them to learn more, and their knowledge triggers me to learn more, but at the same time I respect their faith completely and they respect my faith completely. We are not trying to change each other…

First Black Hebrew gets Israeli citizenship

By Zvi Alush February 3, 2009

“Hallelujah, Hallelujah,” members of Dimona’s Black Hebrew Israelite community sang out after one of them received a notification that he was eligible for Israeli citizenship.

When he opened the letter, Ben-Israel was delighted to find a summons from the Interior Ministry inviting him to go pledge allegiance to the State of Israel and its laws.

“I jumped for joy and ran to the community and we all laughed and cried,” Ben-Israel said on Monday.

Muslim seeking to convert: I’m Jewish in spirit

By Hadid Rashi February 9, 2009

Nizar Mahameed, a 30-year-old Haifa resident, arrived at the rabbinical court in the city several months ago and asked to convert to Judaism. He presented to the rabbis with all the documents required to start the process, and was referred to a rabbi to begin conversion lessons.

But the road from being Nizar Mahameed, the son of a prominent Arab Muslim family from Umm al-Fahm, to becoming Nati Peretz, a Shabbat and kashrut observing Jew, was not an easy one.

Religion and State in Israel

February 9, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

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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