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

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Religion and State in Israel

March 2, 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.

Fresh Rift Seen Over New Conversion Rules

By Michele Chabin February 25, 2009

In a potentially divisive flare-up in the ongoing “Who is a Jew” struggle, Israel’s Interior Ministry is poised to institute new, stricter guidelines for diaspora converts wishing to immigrate to Israel, The Jewish Week has learned.

According to the new guidelines, spelled out in a two-page draft document in the works since 2005, potential converts from all religious streams seeking to make aliyah must study Judaism a minimum of 350 hours in “a recognized” Jewish community.

They must also spend a total of 18 months in the community where they are converting (at least nine months following the conversion), in order to prove their sincere commitment to Judaism.

Until now, the ministry has never dictated the number of hours a convert must study. 

Finally, the guidelines — which are retroactive, according to sources — automatically refuse citizenship to anyone whose visa application to Israel was rejected in the past for any reason.

Rabbinic court slammed for nixing conversion of Emil Fackenheim’s son

By Cnaan Liphshiz March 2, 2009

Jerusalem’s rabbinic court erred and overstepped its authority last year when it retroactively declared that the converted, Canadian-Israeli son of prominent Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim was in fact a non-Jew, the court’s ombudsman ruled earlier this month. 

Eliezer Goldberg, the former Supreme Court justice and State Comptroller who monitors rabbinic court activity, rejected the ruling made in August 2008 by Jerusalem rabbinic judge Yissachar Dov Hagar regarding Yossi Fackenheim, the 30-year-old son of the late Holocaust survivor, esteemed theologian and Reform rabbi. 

Signs of a system ‘in chaos’

By Cnaan Liphshiz February 27, 2009

The Yossi Fackenheim case

Hod Hasharon’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Reuven Hiller: 

“I wholeheartedly object to such rulings,” he said. “This is an extreme view that has no place in Judaism, and its recent emergence is very regrettable. 

In the past, the hard-line Haredi establishment fought against the nullifying conversions at all price. Now we see a complete reversal which shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

Dutch social worker with Israeli father blocked from making aliyah

By Dana Weiler-Polak February 24, 2009

Esther Timmerman could have lived almost anywhere she wanted. That is how it is when you are born in Holland and carry a Dutch passport. For many Israelis, this would be a dream come true.

But Timmerman, 38, decided she wanted to live in Israel – and that is when her problems began. 

Panel in charge of reviewing Law of Return ‘too homogenous’

By Shahar Ilan March 1, 2009

Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit should revise the makeup of the Ne’eman committee charged with studying changes in Israel’s immigration policies, say 21 human rights groups.

Two weeks ago, the cabinet approved Sheetrit’s establishment of the committee, headed by former finance minister Ya’akov Ne’eman, to examine possible changes in the Law of Return, as well as study the recommendations of a committee established four years ago for the same purpose, which have not been implemented. 

The committee includes former Education Minister Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, attorney Jacob Weinroth, Professor Yaffa Zilbershats and Udi Praver of the Prime Minister’s Office.

14-year-old girl becomes Israel’s youngest-ever divorcee

By Yair Ettinger February 27, 2009

The Jerusalem Rabbinic Court held expedited divorce proceedings for a 14-year-old girl and her 17-year-old husband this week, after the court ruled the makeshift wedding ceremony the two held did indeed conform to Jewish religious law. 

…The divorce proceeding was held earlier this week, after the religious court ruled the couple had met the three requirements for marriage under Jewish law: The couple had recited the wedding vows, exchanged an item of value (traditionally a ring), and consummated the relationship.

The court said the divorce would be reported to the Interior Ministry, which means that when the girl receives her identity card at age 16, it will state she is divorced. 

In terms of Jewish law, this means she cannot marry a Cohen, since it prohibits marriage between Cohens and divorced women. 

14-year-old bride divorces ‘husband’

By Ruth Eglash February 26, 2009

Although it is illegal under Israeli civil law for minors under 17 to marry, Jewish law requires only these three elements for a marriage to be valid.

New record: Married and divorced at 14

By Kobi Nahshoni February 26, 2009

After the young couple held their “wedding,” the boy’s family became concerned that if they were to break up in the future without obtaining a divorce first, they would not be able to get married again to other people.

They therefore implored their son and his girlfriend to separate legally, but the girl refused, saying she wanted to continue the relationship until she is 17, at which time they would be able to hold a formal wedding.

The boy’s relatives then offered her financial compensation, and she eventually agreed after receiving NIS 10,000 (roughly $2,500) from the parents.

Rabbinical judges have once again turned the Torah into a laughing stock

By Rivkah Lubitch Opinion March 2, 2009

Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinic advocate with the Center for Women’s Justice

Halachic rules, which were once completely relevant, practical and logical (such as the betrothal of a young couple), continue to be implemented in a destructive manner.

Where are the spiritual leaders who will assume responsibility for the Torah, and see to it that it continues to be a guide for life, and not tuned into a laughing stock?

Trust me, God is weeping not only for these two children, but also for the rabbinical judges and the Torah.

Women worshippers stir row at Western Wall

By Kobi Nahshoni February 25, 2009

Photo courtesy of Mirah Curzer

Over a hundred women arrived at the Western Wall Wednesday morning wrapped in prayer shawls and wearing kippahs, to mark 20 years since the inception of the Women of the Wall organization.

The group, which included dozens of Reform movement members from North America, accompanied the Hallel prayer with singing, consequently provoking heated responses from other visitors and the Wall’s ushers, who demanded that the group leave the place as its members “failed to follow the place’s customs.”

Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israeli Religious Action Center (IRAC), the public and legal advocacy arm of Reform Judaism in Israel:

“We feel that there is a great deal of hypocrisy here: On the one hand, the Western Wall symbolizes the unity of the Jewish people, and on the other hand women, who comprise half of this nation, are being silenced, along with the traditions of the biggest Jewish community in the world (American Jewry),” Hoffman claimed.

She added that “local customs” should not be defined by the most extreme ultra-Orthodox denomination in Israel. 

“The State has turned the Western Wall into an orthodox synagogue where regulations are being enforced by force.”

Orthodox irate over Women rabbis’ prayer at Western Wall

By Cnaan Liphshiz February 26, 2009

Hod Hasharon’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Reuven Hiller – an outspoken critic of the Reform Movement – called the act “an unnecessary provocation,” adding, “They may pray in their synagogues with shawls but why come to a place revered by all sects and offend people there?” 

Jackie Ellenson – the wife of Hebrew Union College President David Ellenson – also noted the Wall was sacred to all Jews in explaining the prayer. 

“The ultra-Orthodox movement does not own the Wall,” she said. “All Jews own it.” 

Fostering Jewish pluralism in Israel

By Maya Spitzer March 2, 2009

The Batei Midrash Network, a group of pluralistic organizations dedicated to Jewish learning throughout Israel, hosted this landmark day of learning at the Jerusalem International Convention Center on Friday, the fourth day of the weeklong Central Conference of American Rabbis Jerusalem 2009 Convention.

For the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Beit Midrash was symbolic of the growth and success of the Progressive (Reform) Movement, and of Jewish pluralism as a whole in Israel.

“People from all over Israel have come to Jerusalem to study with Reform rabbis,” said Rabbi Peter Knobel, president of the Central Conference.

Against the backdrop of the state’s refusal to recognize non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, the event demonstrated the solidarity of the worldwide Reform movement, said Rabbi Miri Gold, who is currently embroiled in a fight with the government for recognition as rabbi of Congregation Birkat Shalom in Kibbutz Gezer.

Let’s declare ourselves a separate religion

By David Forman Opinion March 1, 2009

[I]f, together, the Reform and Conservative movements were to declare themselves a separate religion from Orthodoxy…the state would have no choice but to grant them the rights and privileges enjoyed by other religions in the country, which would necessarily include control over life-cycle events for their own constituency.

…Once the Reform and Conservative movements declare themselves independent religions, Orthodoxy will rightfully be reduced to merely one of three branches of Judaism. 

Unfettered of Orthodox parochialism, Israel would then be free, with the help of a vibrancy, inclusiveness and progressiveness that religion should embrace, to fulfill the promise of its Declaration of Independence…

Reform rabbis urge relocation of Museum of Tolerance

By Etgar Lefkovits February 26, 2009

The leaders of Reform Jewry in North America on Wednesday urged the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center to relocate its planned Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem to an alternative location in the city due to the location of a Muslim cemetery found on a section of the planned construction site.

“While the Israeli Supreme Court has permitted the Wiesenthal Center to move ahead, an organization with high-minded goals like those of the Museum of Tolerance cannot be satisfied with mere adherence to the law.”

Of pride and prayer

By Yair Ettinger February 26, 2009

Havruta members say their organization does indeed provide an outlet for free expression, but also invests seriously in community-building activities, as described on its Web site .

Some members have come out to their families, rabbis or friends, but they say that fewer than 10 percent are fully out of the closet.

Havruta and Bat Kol have been holding meetings with rabbis in an effort to gain recognition for their groups from the religious establishment.

Members emphasize that their activity is “a quiet declaration that if rabbis do not sit down in earnest to confront the issue, reality will do it for them. Orthodox homosexuals are spearheading the change themselves.”

‘Bruriah’ has it all

By Hannah Brown March 1, 2009

In Kushnir’s film [“Bruria”], Hadar Galron stars in the title role, a contemporary, well-educated Orthodox woman who was the daughter of a rabbi.

Her beloved father wrote a controversial book about the Bruriah legend and the modern-day Bruriah goes on a quest to find a copy of her father’s book, which his religious opponents burned when she was a child.

Her quest puts her into contact with a younger man, while at the same time, she faces conflict with her husband, as their oldest daughter declares that she wants to study to be a rabbi.

Politics rule race to replace Jewish Agency chair

By Raphael Ahren February 27, 2009

Uzi Dayan and Menachem Ben-Sasson are the leading candidates for the chairmanship of the Jewish Agency for Israel, insiders revealed this week.

Sources familiar with the situation believe Avi Pazner, a former ambassador and current chairman of Keren Hayesod, will be tapped as interim chair. 

Other names being bandied about this week include Zalman Shoval, a former MK and two-time ambassador to the U.S., Dan Gillerman, the former Israeli ambassador the United Nations, who does not belong to any political party; outgoing MKs Rabbi Michael Melchior and Colette Avital, Ofra Strauss (chairwoman of Strauss-Elite) and South African-born Avraham Infeld, who most recently headed the Chais Family Foundation. 

Conservative Rabbis should foster Zionism before pushing Aliyah

By Gil Troy Opinion February 26, 2009

Aliyah is most appealing when it bubbles up naturally, from powerful Israel trips, inspiring experiences with Israelis, and, alas, still in this world, the occasional Diaspora-based trauma, be it anti-Semitism or another alienating force.

Once a Zionist revival makes Aliyah a possibility, then the practical help the Conservative Rabbis offered will prove beneficial.

But, as with most ideological and educational initiatives, first lay the proper groundwork – and do whatever damage control is required – before rushing ahead.

Should Christianity be taught in schools?

By Kobi Nahshoni February 24, 2009

The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies conducted a survey examining the public’s stances towards Christianity, the Christian world and Christian presence in Israel.

Most respondents believe that schools should teach students about Christianity, but not about the New Testament and that the State should allow freedom of religious exercise, but prevent Christian bodies from purchasing land in Jerusalem.

On almost all issues seculars exhibited an open-minded approach towards Christianity, whereas religious respondents were less than tolerant.

The Ultimate Kibitzer

By John W. Kennedy February 24, 2009

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein wants Jews to trust evangelicals, and evangelicals to love Israel.

“Our donors are those Christians who genuinely believe Jews and Christians share a biblical view and ought to come together for the sake of their shared vision, [part] of which is Israel,” Eckstein says.

Now, other Jewish and evangelical groups have jumped on the bandwagon to raise evangelical support for Jewish causes. These days, the bridge Eckstein built is crossed by everyone from televangelist John Hagee to the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

Eckstein steadfastly opposes efforts to single out Jews for outreach. 

“My red line is with those who proselytize through coercion, deception, overzealous techniques, and targeted missions toward Jews, those who go door to door looking for the Goldbergs and Steinbergs,” Eckstein says. “Are they doing actions that are deleterious for Jewish survival?”

Vatican seen preferring Haifa over Nazareth

By Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury March 1, 2009

Vatican officials seem to be leaning toward Haifa over Nazareth as the site for Pope Benedict XVI’s principal Mass during his planned visit to Israel this May, a senior government official involved in preparations for the visit said yesterday. 

Haifa and Nazareth are both competing fiercely for the honor of hosting the Mass, which will give whoever wins it a moment in the international spotlight. Thousands of people are expected to attend the Mass, which will be televised live worldwide. 

Pope’s visit to cost state NIS 43 million

By Yaakov Lappin February 26, 2009

Government ministries, the police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service) are gearing up for a visit by Pope Benedict XVI and have drawn up a wide-ranging plan to prepare for the occasion, which is expected to cost the state NIS 43 million.

Pope’s visit to Israel March 1, 2009

Vice Premier Haim Ramon briefed ministers on plans regarding Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel.

The Government approved the plans. Government ministries and bodies involved in planning for the visit will act as follows:

…The Chief Rabbinate will be responsible for the “religious” issues involved in the visit of such a senior Christian figure.

…The responsible minister will submit sensitive issues regarding the visit (including the Pope’s visit to the Palestinian Authority and to the Temple Mount) to the Prime Minister for his approval.

Jerusalem prepares for Pope’s visit

By Tzipi Malkov February 24, 2009

The Pope’s visit is also expected to have some positive side effects for Jerusalemites, as the municipality intends to launch a massive cleanup and rehabilitation project aimed at upgrading the capital’s shabby appearance in honor of the event.

Christian Allies Caucus seeks to broaden ties

By Etgar Lefkovits March 1, 2009

The newly appointed chairman of the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus, Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem, said Thursday that he hopes to broaden Israel’s connection with Christian supporters of Israel around the world.

Over the last five years, the caucus’s work has been given the cold-shoulder by the mainstream American Jewish leadership, whose outlooks on social issues, such as abortion, the separation of church and state and school prayer, are 180 degrees apart from the Christian Right in America, with only their support for Israel unifying them.

Rotem brushed aside ongoing concerns among some Jews – especially in the haredi community – that forging connections with Christians encourages proselytizing, noting that the caucus’s guidelines bar any connection with missionary groups.

Chief Rabbinate decides to resume dialogue with Holy See March 1, 2009

The Chief Rabbinate has decided to resume dialogue with the Holy See, after the Vatican declared that an apology from Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson wasn’t good enough and that he must repudiate his views if he wants to be a Roman Catholic clergyman.

Israel Radio reported Sunday that the Vatican confirmed that a Chief Rabbinate delegation headed by Haifa’s Chief Rabbi She’ar Yashuv Hacohen would visit in some two weeks and meet Pope Benedict VI.

In the meeting, preparations are expected to be made for the Pope’s visit to Israel in May.

Religion and State in Israel

March 2, 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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