Religion and State in Israel – April 6, 2009 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

April 6, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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

Likud, UTJ reach conversion compromise

By Matthew Wagner and Gil Hoffman April 1, 2009

United Torah Judaism signed a coalition agreement with the Likud late Wednesday morning after a compromise was reached on the issue of conversion reforms.

…UJT MK Moshe Gafni said Tuesday night that the conversion compromise agreement was “very good.”

“We made sure that all conversions require the full acceptance of an Orthodox lifestyle, including the acceptance of the yoke of mitzvot,” said Gafni.

Ya’acov Weinroth, a haredi lawyer who has strong ties with the UTJ, managed to draft an agreement that was acceptable both to the religious sensibilities of UTJ’s rabbinic leadership and Israel Beiteinu.

…According to [UJT MK] Maklev’s spokesman, any amendments to laws that govern conversions would have to be approved by the Chief Rabbinate.

UTJ primed to join coalition

By Matthew Wagner March 30, 2009

Shas, under the advice of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and with the backing of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, agreed to certain changes in the way conversions are performed by rabbinic judges on the state payroll.

The Chief Rabbinate’s Supreme Rabbinical Council also agreed to changes demanded by Israel Beiteinu, which include steps to be taken to make it easier for non-Jews to convert to Judaism.

For example, city rabbis approved by the Chief Rabbinate will be allowed to perform conversions. This would increase the number of rabbis permitted to convert.

The Ashkenazi haredi rabbinic establishment opposes this reform, arguing that in the 1990s when city rabbis were allowed to convert, there were several incidents of city rabbis accepting bribes in exchange for arranging the conversion.

Also, territorial restrictions on rabbinical judges’ jurisdiction are to be abolished. As a result, a rabbinic conversion judge will not be restricted to converting Israeli citizens who live in his district.

But Ashkenazi haredi rabbis are concerned that potential converts will take advantage of this reform to choose the more lenient rabbinic judges to perform the conversions.

Among the compromises being proposed to counter UTJ opposition is the establishment of a rabbinic committee, to include representatives of Elyashiv that would ultimately decide which local rabbis can perform conversions, and which cannot.

Spiritual odyssey turned nightmare

By Matthew Wagner April 5, 2009

Fifteen years ago in Turin, Italy, Rachel – aka Emanuela – began the spiritual odyssey that eventually led to her passionate embrace of Orthodox Judaism.

Today, at 35, Rachel is two months pregnant, married to a kashrut supervisor and living in the Jerusalem area.

But her personal journey, which has taken a somewhat unpleasant turn, is still not over.

Although Rome’s Orthodox Rabbinical Court declared Rachel Jewish on July 11, 2006; although the Chief Rabbinate of Israel recognized Rachel’s conversion; and although Rachel was joined in wedlock to her devout husband by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel six months ago, the Interior Ministry refuses to recognize Rachel as a Jew.

Interior Ministry: Beit Din confirmation of US convert not enough

By Ruth Eglash April 1, 2009

An American-born convert to Judaism who has been officially accepted as Jewish by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is struggling to obtain recognition from the Interior Ministry so he can make aliya, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Lukas (Lev) Morgan O’Neil, who was adopted and converted to Judaism as a baby and who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household in Orange County, California, has been caught in the midst of a bureaucratic quagmire over the past year, as Interior Ministry officials have consistently refused to accept his application to immigrate, asking for more and more documented proof of his Jewishness.

Papers alter Israel cabinet photo April 3, 2009

Two ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspapers have altered a photo of Israel’s new cabinet, removing two female ministers.

Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver were grouped with the rest of the 30-member cabinet for their inaugural photo.

But Yated Neeman newspaper digitally changed the picture by replacing them with two men. The Shaa Tova newspaper blacked the women out.

Publishing pictures of women is viewed by many ultra-orthodox Jews as a violation of female modesty.

Other Israeli papers reprinted the altered images next to the original photos, with one headlining it “Find the lady”.

Listen to Hebrew radio interview

Gafni beats out Litzman, will head Finance C’tee

By Zvi Zrahiya April 3, 2009

Knesset Member Moshe Gafni will be the next chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, the United Torah Judaism faction in parliament decided yesterday.

The race had been between Gafni and the committee’s former leader, Yaakov Litzman. The Finance Committee itself has to confirm the appointment next week. 

Litzman Angry with Likud Negotiators

By Yechiel Spira April 5, 2009

Yahadut HaTorah’s Rabbi Yaakov Litzman is reportedly angry at Likud officials, who he views have betrayed him in his quest to become chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee.

According to reports, Litzman told Likud officials that he was instrumental in preventing Yahadut HaTorah from joining a government headed by Tzipi Livni and instead of repaying his loyalty, he was abandoned.

UTJ’S Moses takes over Health Ministry amid sea of protests

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich April 2, 2009

Amid protests from public health experts that a full-fledged health minister is needed in the third-largest government ministry, United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Menachem Eliezer Moses was informed Wednesday that he will be deputy minister in charge of a minister-less Health Ministry.

The 62-year-old Viznitz Hassid, who has 10 children and speaks only Yiddish besides Hebrew, will have to cope with concerns and doubts about his political clout as he takes over.

UTJ has had several MKs who served in government posts but never as ministers because as a “non-Zionist” party, it avoids such positions. Moses just became an MK and already will control the important ministry.

Pre-nuptial agreement now!

By Rivkah Lubitch Opinion March 31, 2009

Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinical advocate, working at The Center for Women’s Justice.

…we, the public, must do the minimum, which is actually almost all we can do, and that is – sign a pre-nuptial agreement that poses some sort of threat against the party refusing to give or even accept a get, and by doing so, temper and reduce the effect of get-refusal as much as possible.

Sign a pre-nuptial agreement to avoid aginut!

Divisive union

By Yair Sheleg April 2, 2009

Shahar Lifshitz, member of Bar-Ilan’s law faculty:

“You have to understand that a large part of the Supreme Court’s legal activism stems from the passivity of the public and its Knesset representatives.

Take the spousal union, for example. Does anyone think it’s possible to go for years without a solution for 300,000 people who can’t marry in Israel?

On precisely this issue, the Orthodox community should itself have provided an alternative, instead of sitting in the bleachers and cursing the referee.”

Rabbi agrees to drop ban on eulogies delivered by women

By Matthew Wagner April 2, 2009

A rabbi in northern Israel who came under attack for what some called blatant male chauvinism agreed this week to stop reproaching women for eulogizing their deceased loved ones.

Haim Adani, Rabbi of Elyachin, a town of about 3,000 residents located near Hadera, agreed to stop preaching against women who asked to eulogize their loved ones and to join in the funeral procession.

Adani changed his funeral policy after receiving a threatening letter from Attorney Aviad Hacohen, himself an Orthodox Jew. 

In the letter Hacohen, who represented Mordechai Avdiel, a member of Elyachin’s burial society, and others, warned Adani that he would take legal action unless the rabbi agreed to stop his gender-based discrimination.

69 Complaints Filed Against Rabbinical Courts

By Yechiel Spira April 5, 2009

A report released by State Ombudsman retired justice Eliezer Goldberg was presented to Justice Minister Prof. Yaakov Ne’eman last week.

A chapter of the report is dedicated to the nation’s rabbinical courts in 12 cities, including the Supreme Rabbinate Court. 80 complaints were addressed against dayanim in 2008, including 69 from 2008 and 11 remaining from 2007.

The number of legitimate complaints against dayanim rose from 14% in 2007 to 23% in 2008.

Court hands secular victory in ban on prayers in Jerusalem home

By Yair Ettinger April 6, 2009

Secular residents of Jerusalem’s Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood chalked up a victory against their ultra-Orthodox neighbors Thursday when a court barred prayer services in a residential apartment. 

…Before the ruling, [attorney Rephael] Stub had said in court that the group would simply move to another apartment in the neighborhood. A representative of the ultra-Orthodox group confirmed this to Haaretz in response to Bar Asher-Zaban’s ruling. 

[Jerusalem Municipality] Attorney Havilio has said that in such a case, he will take action against the other apartment owners as well.

Can you pray in a secular neighborhood?

By Yair Ettinger April 1, 2009

What the worshippers describe as an innocent assembly has become another chapter in the bitter battle between ultra-Orthodox and secular. Now, for the first time, the dispute will be adjudicated in court. 

[…Jerusalem Municipality attorney Yossi Havilio] did attribute his focus on the case to the fear of a “slippery slope” in the mostly secular neighborhood. 

“It is obvious that the Haredim want to move into Kiryat Hayovel as they did in Ramat Eshkol,” the chairman of the Meretz city council list, Pepe Allalo, said outside the courtroom on Monday. “It is a well-planned process – today there isn’t a single secular person in Ramat Eshkol…”

Another blow to education

Haaretz Editorial April 6, 2009

The most irresponsible clauses in the Likud-Shas coalition agreement appear to be those regarding budgets for ultra-Orthodox education. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who headed Likud’s negotiation team, have ensured not only that this generation carries on its back an ultra-Orthodox community, most of whose men shirk both work and military service.

They have also ensured that the next generation will continue to do so, and will finance a much larger ultra-Orthodox community. 

Court annuls ‘outrageous’ Agudat Yisrael teacher deal

By Or Kashti April 3, 2009

The Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court last week voided an agreement between the ultra-Orthodox Agudat Yisrael Party and the Education Ministry that would have deprived the party’s kindergarten teachers of rights and worsened their conditions. 

The court called the agreement, which required that teachers in the party’s network of kindergartens accept drastic pay cuts and wage minimums, “outrageous.” 

The court blasted the Education Ministry, ruling that the agreement it had signed with Agudat Yisrael was contrary to state-education regulations, which oblige education systems, including the ultra-Orthodox kindergarten network, to pay their workers equal wages as those paid in recognized institutions. 

It’s never too late: Circumcision at 87

By Tzofia Hirschfeld April 5, 2009

This weekend, for example, an 87-year-old man and an 81-year-old man were circumcised by a mohel (circumciser) working with the Ezrat Achim-Brit Yosef organization, which is dedicated to circumcising Jews of all ages across the world.

To this day the organization has circumcised some 35,000 Jews in hundreds of countries, including Guatemala, Japan and Finland.

“We let them know that such an option exists, and practically give it to them on a golden platter. When someone comes to us we ask him about his family, and this way we sometimes end up circumcising entire families.”

Coming soon: VIP burials on Mount of Olives

By Ofer Petersburg April 4, 2009

A new real estate deal may emerge to be the most lucrative ever signed. A French group obtained 5.5 dunams (about 1.3 acres) of land for burial on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives from businessmen Eli Yisraeli and Yossi Reich for $24 million.

The group intends to establish a VIP burial section for wealthy Jews, with expected profits of $100 million

Currently, the price of a single burial plot starts at $8,500 and can reach $50,000 for a plot in close proximity to the grave of holy rabbis buried there.

Tel Aviv Municipality Celebrates the Rebbe’s Birthday

Source: April 1, 2009

The Chabad House of Tel Aviv and the municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo celebrated the Rebbe’s birthday and the centenary of the founding of Tel Aviv with the writing of a Sefer Torah in honor of the local shluchim and the city’s residents.

Mayor Ron Chuldai hosted the city’s shluchim at a special ceremony, which began with the writing of the final letters of the Sefer Torah. 

Also present were the chairman of the city council Yael Dayan, Chief Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau, the Rabbis of the more outlying neighborhoods, and other public figures.

Speeches were given by head shliach Rabbi Yosef Gerlitzky and Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau. Mr. Huldai thanked the shluchim for organizing the writing of the Sefer Torah. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Neve Chen, emceed the event.

Afterwards, Rabbi Gerlitzky gave shemurah matzos to the mayor and the members of the city council, as well as an edition of the Tanya printed by Chabad of Tel Aviv. 

Jerusalem Mayor Barkat: Chabad Public School Exemplary

By Zalman Nelson March 30, 2009

As part of an inspection of local schools and educational initiatives his administration hopes to implement as they tackle the city’s scholastic challenges, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and several members of his staff made a three hour visit to Chabad’s Ir Ganim – Jerusalem school last week.

Principal Rabbi Shimon Yedger shared the history, development and philosophy of the school since he was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem M. Schneerson of blessed memory, in 1984 to be the school’s principal when the student body numbered 86.

“The key here is our mission. Many of us were directly sent by the Rebbe to dedicate ourselves to working with these children,” said Rabbi Yedger who is in his 19th year as principal.

“It’s the main force behind our activities and programs, and each of us considers it an honor and privilege to help these kids grow as students and people.”

‘Modesty squad’ youth accused of attacking computer store clerks

By Aviad Glickman April 2, 2009

The prosecution has filed an indictment with Jerusalem’s District Court against Shmuel Weisfish, 22, who is a member of the notorious ultra-Orthodox ‘chastity squad’.

Weisfish is accused of attacking employees at a computer store in the capitol and threatening to torch the store and murder them. Charges include rioting, blackmail, threat, and aggravated assault and battery.

Religion and State in Israel

April 6, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

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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