Religion and State in Israel – May 25, 2009 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

May 25, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

If you are reading from email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

High Court: State must fund Reform conversion facilities

Israel IBA Television News May 23, 2009

Israel IBA Television interview with Attorney Einat Hurvitz, Legal Director Israel Religious Action Center May 23, 2009

Amar launches battle against reform conversions

By Kobi Nahshoni May 25, 2009

Minister of Religious Services Yakov Margi added that by sanctioning non-Orthodox conversions the government would cause a national rift – “two people in the State of Israel that are separated from one another.”

MK Uri Orbach, the only representative of religious Zionism in the meeting, told Ynet: 

“It’s obvious that the issue is not the funding but the High Court’s interference, which is an opening for recognition in Reform conversions and for introducing Reform rabbinical judges into the state conversion system. We share in this concern.

“It’s no secret that the religious-Orthodox world is divided on conversions – what is the Halacha and how should non-Jews be treated. It’s complicated, but there’s no argument that what the Reform Movement is doing is not Halacha.”

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, of the Israel Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in response to the urgent meeting that

“The Chief Rabbinate has failed disgracefully in its handling of conversions, and allowed extremist and heartless elements to take over the conversion courts, marriage registries and rabbinical courts.”

Minister Yishai: Allowing Reform conversions will prompt influx of Palestinians

By Yair Ettinger May 25, 2009

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, chairman of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, warned that if non-Orthodox conversion is recognized in Israel, “there are hundreds of foreign workers and Palestinians who will take advantage of the Reform conversion in order to gain Israeli citizenship.” 

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar warned that the Supreme Court ruling is part of a broader effort by the court to undermine the power of the Chief Rabbinate and of Jewish orthodoxy in Israel. 

“The next step of the Supreme Court will be to recognize Reform conversions,” Amar said.

Ultra-Orthodox newspaper attack High Court decision

By Gil Ronen May 24, 2009

On Friday, hareidi newspaper Yated Ne’eman published an attack on the “Festival of Converts” which the Ministry of Absorption is planning for the upcoming week of Shavuot. Shavuot is considered the “converts’ holiday” because it involves reading the Scroll of Ruth the Moabite, Judaism’s most famous convert.

Sunday’s Yated Ne’eman ran an editorial blasting “the harsh and dangerous attempt by the High Court to force itself and to interfere in the most basic matters of Jewish Law, with the intent of aiding the industry of fake conversions that has been uncovered over the last few years, which enables thousands of non-Jews to assimilate among us while disguising themselves as Jews.”

Funding conversion Editorial May 21, 2009

Israel’s self-funded Reform and Masorti (Conservative) movements have been preparing some of these immigrants for conversion to Judaism. 

While the Orthodox state authorities won’t accept these converts as “authentic” Jews, they are otherwise absorbed, spiritually and culturally, into Israel’s mainstream. 

Many join synagogues and take succor in a tradition the Soviets had sought to rob them of.

We are delighted, therefore, that the High Court of Justice has ordered the state to start covering the expenses of non-Orthodox conversion institutes.

The beginning of the end of the Orthodox funding monopoly? Let’s hope so.

Court’s conversion decision could cost state NIS 7m.

By Ruth Eglash May 20, 2009

Changes to the process of preparing potential converts to Judaism could cost the state an additional NIS 7 million and will require a complete overhaul of the current system’s stringent criteria, according to Avigdor Levitan, who heads the Immigrant Absorption Ministry’s Conversion Division.

The division oversees and funds the work of 13 non-profit schools and institutions involved in teaching the basics of Orthodox Judaism.

Reform Movement not overjoyed by conversion class ruling

By Dan Izenberg May 20, 2009

Tuesday’s victory by the Reform Movement in its petition demanding equal funding for its conversion classes vis-à-vis those run by private Orthodox institutions may influence future court rulings on other questions of funding for religious services, but its impact on the status of the conversions themselves in the eyes of the state is questionable, attorney Einat Horowitz told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

Gafni: No funds for Reform conversions

By Matthew Wagner May 21, 2009

Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said Wednesday that he will block any attempt to transfer state funds to non-Orthodox institutions involved in preparing converts to Judaism.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform Movement in Israel, said that 

“Moshe Gafni is one of the prominent examples in Israeli public life of how religious faith becomes a source of hatred and prejudice, instead of a source of love for the other and respect for humankind.”

Does Court decision set a precedent?

By Matthew Wagner May 21, 2009

Religious Services Minister Ya’acov Margi (Shas) refused to comment on the High Court’s decision, saying that the Prime Minister’s Office, and not his own, was responsible for conversions.

However, the court’s decision set a precedent for the obligation to fund all religious services in an egalitarian manner, whether they be Orthodox, Reform or Conservative.

This precedent could lead to the religious services minister being forced to use some of his budget to pay salaries to non-Orthodox rabbis. He may also have to begin funding the construction of synagogues for Reform and Conservative communities.

There are about 200 neighborhood rabbis who receive a salary of between NIS 4,000 and NIS 10,000 a month. City rabbis can earn as much as NIS 30,000 a month.

Religious councils pay these salaries and provide other religious services. The councils receive their budgets from the Religious Services Ministry (40%) and the local government (60%). The religious councils also receive money from various fees, such as those on marriages, ritual slaughter and burials.

High Court Rules Reform and Conservative Conversion Programs Should Receive Equal Funding

By Yechiel Sever May 21, 2009

In reaction to the ruling, Finance Chairman MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni said, “Once again we are witness to the Court’s coercive behavior on an issue the law places in the hands of elected officials, the government and the Knesset. When the Court finds their decisions are inconsistent with its worldview they impose their opinion on elected officials.

“The Reform Movement, which stabs Torah-true Judaism in the back, has not been given legitimacy, and I will do everything in my power, be’eizer Hashem, to ensure they do not receive funding for their acts of buffoonery, which is a waste of public funds on vain acts that bring only damage and destruction.”

Analysis: Is the Orthodox funding monopoly ending?

By Matthew Wagner May 20, 2009

The state may soon fund the salaries of Reform and Conservative rabbis, foot the bill to build non-Orthodox synagogues and ritual baths, and provide funding for Torah study in liberal Jewish institutions.

What would the court say about Reform Rabbi Miri Gold, the acting rabbi of Kibbutz Gezer and the surrounding area? She visits the sick, delivers eulogies at funerals, and leads prayers on Shabbat and holidays. 

But she does not receive a salary from the state like the Orthodox rabbis in the Gezer region who perform many of the same functions.

If Orthodox communities receive state support for the building of synagogues and mikvaot, why shouldn’t Reform and Conservative communities, according to the same logic?

High Court orders state to fund non-Orthodox conversions

By Aviad Glickman May 20, 2009

Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Israel Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism said that 

“following this important ruling, the communities of progressive Judaism will boost their efforts to assist thousands of olim to complete their journey to Israel and to the heart of the Jewish people.”

No Ayatollahs for Israel

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion May 20, 2009

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

The Supreme Court will soon decide about funding for Brit Milah (ritual circumcision) of non-Orthodox converts, the use of Mikvaot for conversion and brides (ritual immersion baths) by the non-Orthodox, and funding for non-Orthodox rabbis to serve as municipal employees.

The Masorti Movement opposes the continued financing of an official Chief Rabbinate, along with its thousands of State funded employees. But as long as the institution continues to exist we will insist on funding that is fair and equitable.

The court noted that the majority of Jews in Israel and in the world are not identified with the Orthodox Movement. It is high time our Rabbinate took note.

Window for Pluralism

By Stewart Ain May 20, 2009

Yizhar Hess, executive director and CEO of the Masorti Movement in Israel, said that for many years non-Orthodox rabbis have sought to have the marriages they perform in Israel recognized by the state. 

“Right now 20 percent of couples who could marry with the Chief Rabbinate are not, opting to do it in other ways,” Hess said. 

“That’s a sign that society is more ready than before to deal with the question of identity in a pluralistic way. … We have a window of opportunity now to change Israeli society, to have it become more pluralistic.”

Court: Stop discrimination of non-orthodox

By Dan Izenberg May 20, 2009

Attorney Einat Horowitz, who represented the petitioner, the Movement for Progressive Judaism in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post afterward that the court’s decision could influence the outcome of other current and future legal actions brought by the Reform Movement.

These included calling on the government to pay salaries for Reform rabbis and to allow non-Orthodox converts to use public ritual baths to immerse themselves as part of the conversion process, she added.

Although the High Court had ruled in favor of freedom of religion and pluralism regarding the Reform and Conservative movements in the past, this was the first time it had dealt directly with a question of equality in funding for religious services, Horowitz said.

High Court Tries to Interfere with Conversion Case

By Yechiel Sever May 21, 2009

“This is the first time we’ve encountered such a dangerous precedent of a court trying to dictate and interfere with halachic considerations and determine what constitutes conversion according to halacha,” HaRav Leib Tropper, chairman of Eternal Jewish Family, told Yated Ne’eman

“And that’s not to mention how the High Court is overlooking serious claims of false conversions, such as writing `before a bench of three’ when no such bench was ever assembled.

“This is not merely an attempt to dictate the outcome of a particular situation, but an attempt to undermine the Beis Din’s authority. 

As an organization with active branches around the world, we intend to bring the Jewish world and the Diaspora up in arms to keep anyone from diminishing the authority of Toras Moshe.”

The High Court gods

By Hagai Segal Opinion May 22, 2009

This is a sad joke, which the High Court of Justice treats seriously. 

The Reform movement insists on entering the Judaism club without respecting its ancient rules of acceptance. They are allowed to form their own club with new rules, yet they insist on pushing their way into the old club, in order to enjoy its historic reputation.

Increasing Battle against Jerusalem Mehadrin Lines

By Yechiel Spira May 25, 2009

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), who chairs the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, is working against the mehadrin lines in Jerusalem.

Hotovely, a shomer Shabbat Jew, explains that there is no halachic basis for segregation on buses, which she insists is unacceptable in the 21st century from a social and religious perspective.

Hundreds of supporters, opponents of the mehadrin lines, are expected to take part in a kenos [conference] at Hebrew University in Yerushalayim on Monday.

Avital Feldman other anti-mehadrin activists organized the event. A panel will address attendees. Panel members include former High Court Justice Dalia Dorner, Jerusalem Councilwoman Rachel Azariya, feminist Dr. Orit Kamir and Prof. Alon Harel, a member of the law faculty.

Number 2 Bus Turns Mehadrin [Unofficially]

By Yechiel Spira May 20, 2009

While Egged and the Transportation Ministry continue to probe the mehadrin bus service issue, the 2 bus providing service to the Kosel in actuality has already become mehadrin, with men seated in the front and women in the rear.

The 2 line has become the symbol of the conflict between the chareidi community and the state, with askanim and rabbonim working together to create facts on the ground, at times in defiance of state law.

The word was spread throughout chareidi areas of the capital and while government agencies debate the matter, the number 2 bus appears to be a mehadrin line in every sense of the word.

One major difference however is that women must still get on in the front of the bus in order to pay the driver.

Bar Ilan president slams religious fear of academia

By Kobi Nahshoni May 21, 2009

Prof. Moshe Kaveh was elected this week for a sixth term as president of Bar Ilan University, Israel’s only religious university.

In an interview with Ynet he explains why yeshiva graduates should go to the academia and why seculars must study Judaism.

Sex and faith on campus

By Matthew Wagner May 22, 2009

…This religious student’s testimony is one of several quoted by Yona Goodman, a veteran religious Zionist educator, in a controversial article entitled “Culture Shock.”

The article, which appeared in the recent edition of Tzohar, an influential periodical written by and for religious Zionist rabbis, has aroused a flurry of interest and controversy in modern Orthodox circles.

In coming weeks, Tzohar, an organization of modern Orthodox, Zionist rabbis, will be holding a special meeting with rabbis and educators involved in providing spiritual assistance to young religious men and women on college and university campuses.

The goal: to formulate and institute an educational and spiritual framework that can help young religious students grapple with the temptations and challenges they meet on campus.

Shas MK Margi Pushing for Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Election

By Yechiel Spira May 22, 2009

Minister of Religious Affairs (Shas) Rabbi Yaakov Margi is working in earnest to expedite the process to hold elections for Jerusalem chief rabbi no later than Rosh Chodesh Elul.

He hopes to gain enough support for his efforts to create facts on the ground, expecting opponents to take their case the High Court of Justice.

WZO calls on US Jews not to take Yemenites to Satmar community

By Haviv Rettig Gur May 25, 2009

The World Zionist Organization executive called on the communal umbrella of American Jewry to stop the fundraising effort meant to move Yemenite Jews to a Satmar community in Monsey, New York.

The Jerusalem-based WZO, whose leaders form part of the leadership of the Jewish Agency, disapproves of the United Jewish Communities’ efforts on behalf of the move because the Yemenites will be joining an anti-Zionist community.

“Bringing Yemenite Jews to the Satmar community is an anti-Zionist activity, because it’s bringing Jews to a place that doesn’t really recognize the State of Israel,” said Paula Edelstein, who sits on the WZO executive and is co-chair of the Jewish Agency’s Immigration and Absorption Committee.

Jewish Agency slams move to evacuate Yemenites

By Haviv Rettig Gur May 24, 2009

Officials in Israel and the Jewish Agency are angered at the coming move of more than 100 Yemenite Jews, almost half of the remaining community in that country, to the United States.

“Clearly if you gave those $2 million to the Jewish Agency, they would do much more with that money in terms of improving their [the Yemenite Jews’] living conditions,” said an Israeli official who asked not to be named. “It would be more than enough to bring the entire population [of 270] to Israel.”

Nefesh B’Nefesh scheme propels surge of immigration to the North

By Raphael Ahren May 22, 2009

More people than expected applied for Nefesh B’Nefesh’s new Go North program, which gives English-speaking immigrants financial incentives for settling in the Golan and the Galilee. 

Yet immigration professionals said the local job market – with few opportunities for highly educated Anglos – and other considerations might endanger the project’s enduring success. 

Religion and State in Israel

May 25, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

If you are reading from email or RSS feed, please 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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