Religion and State in Israel – June 15, 2009 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

June 15, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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

Chief Rabbinate: New regulation doesn’t complicate conversion

By Dan Izenberg June 11, 2009

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has increased the bureaucratic difficulties facing converts in special conversion courts, Rabbi Shaul Farber, head of the Itim Institute, charged on Thursday.

According to the regulation, if a non-Jew seeks to convert in order to marry a Jew whose parents were married in Israel, the Jewish partner must prove to an authorized dayan, or religious court judge, of the special conversion court that he or she is Jewish.

According to a section of it referring to the Jewish partner whose parents married in Israel, the regulation states,

“If the parents of the [Jewish] partner were married in Israel by a rabbi authorized to register marriages, the candidate for conversion will provide documents as requested to a dayan of the special conversion court who has been especially authorized by the chief rabbi, to prove the Jewishness of the partner.”

Farber was particularly concerned about the regulation calling for the provision of “documents” to prove the Jewishness of the convert’s partner when the partner’s parents were married in Israel.

In the past, he said, it was enough for a Jewish Israeli to provide the parents’ marriage certificate issued by the Chief Rabbinate as proof of his Jewishness.

“The fundamental assumption of the regulation is that the Jewishness of anyone involved in a serious relationship with a non-Jew who wants to convert is questionable,” said Farber.

He added that by asking for additional documents, it appears that “a marriage certificate issued by the Chief Rabbinate is not recognized by the Chief Rabbinate itself.”

Farber was also upset by the provision in the regulation whereby the chief rabbi would authorize only certain rabbis to examine the partner’s documents. He charged that this was one more bureaucratic obstacle on the way to conversion.

Right of Reply: Conversion as Halacha knows it

By Rabbi Avi Shafran Opinion June 10, 2009

The writer is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America and the author of a biography of a convert to Judaism, Migrant Soul: The Story of an American Ger.

In response to Conservative Rabbi Reuven Hammer “In praise of conversion” June 1, 2009

[Rabbi Reuven Hammer] is correct that a properly conducted conversion cannot be “retroactively cancel[led].” If a convert decides to abandon his or her previous acceptance of mitzvot, he or she is a lapsed Jew like any other.

If, however, it is demonstrated, even at some later date, that there never was kabbalat hamitzvot at the time of the conversion ceremony (or that some other required element of conversion was missing), then there was, simply put, no conversion to begin with.

Yisrael Beiteinu opposes civil marriage bill in about-face

By Yuval Azoulay June 11, 2009

After the Yisrael Beiteinu party regularly declared during the last Knesset election campaign that it would work to pass legislation allowing for civil marriage in Israel, yesterday, one after another, the party’s MKs voted against such a bill.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the executive director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, which represents the Reform Jewish movement in the country, rejected any government civil marriage bill which would only provide for marriages among non-Jews.

Voters: Yisrael Beiteinu failed us

By Yael Levy June 11, 2009

“We were all waiting for this vote, it was a chance we believed in, but Yisrael Beiteinu has failed yet again, and continues to play its games in the Knesset,” said Dr. Ludmilla Oigenblick, head of the Association for the Rights of Mixed Families told Ynet.

According to Dr. Oigenblick, who voted for Yisrael Beiteinu in the February elections, thousands of couples were waiting for this vote, since many of the cannot afford to travel to Cyprus for a civil marriage.

“I am very sad, because they did not just vote against the law, but actually voted against mixed families. I supported them in the elections, but they have made it clear that they seek to perpetuate the struggles between parties over whose name is on the law,” Oigenblick said.

Rabbinic judges revoke alimony after husband proves wife cheated, too

By Ruth Eglash June 10, 2009

A post-divorce settlement in which a man was ordered to pay his ex-wife alimony was revoked this week by a Rabbinic Court judge after the man presented videotaped evidence of his wife having sex with another man prior to the divorce, the Rabbinic Court Administration (RCA) announced Wednesday.

Susan Weiss, founding director of the Center for Women’s Justice, condemned the ruling, however, calling it archaic and typical of the current patriarchal legal system.

The whole issue of whose fault the break-up of a marriage is has gone out of favor in most other legal systems,” said Weiss, a lawyer by training and a pioneer in challenging the rulings of the RCA in divorce cases.

“It’s really hard to prove whose fault it is that a marriage has broken up, but to creep into people’s bedrooms and spy on them is certainly not moving in the right direction.”

Plight of ‘chained’ women to be exposed via YouTube

By Ruth Eglash June 11, 2009

Five short video clips portraying the unfair treatment of women in the religious judicial system are set to hit video sharing Web site YouTube in the coming weeks, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The videos are an attempt to raise public awareness to the plight of agunot (chained women), whose husbands refuse to grant them a get (a divorce under Jewish law).

“They are presented in the form of bed-time stories, but really they are true horror stories,” said a spokeswoman for the Jerusalem-based non-profit Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ), which filmed the clips – four in Hebrew and one in English – earlier this week.

Bill would make it harder for women to avoid draft

By Rebecca Anna Stoil June 11, 2009

MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) bill would require that applicants state that in addition to being religious, they studied for at least two of the last three years in a religious educational establishment, and that they provide documentation to back up the statements.

Even in those cases in which the exemption-requester did not study in a religious institution, Hasson proposes that she be granted an interview with a draft board official in which she can try to convince him that there are special conditions that justify her being exempted.

A kashrut conundrum

By Yael Brygel June 11, 2009

[Restaurant owner Noam] Frankforter believes that in general there is no need for a teudah.

But if restaurant owners choose to acquire one, it should be administered by an organization with trustworthy workers, who do not give in to self-interest and corruption.

He says that this is a significant consideration in his decision not to acquire a teudah from the rabbinate.

“I don’t want to pay the rabbinate money,” he says. “In my opinion, the rabbinate does not do a good job. They are detached from reality. They have their own self-interests and are not faithful agents of kashrut.”

Most Israelis support non-Orthodox

By Haviv Rettig June 15, 2009

Fully 54 percent of those polled support granting equal status and funding to the liberal Jewish streams and their rabbinic leadership, according to the fourth annual Survey of Contemporary Israeli Attitudes toward World Jewry, a poll of 500 Israeli Jews over 18 that was conducted early this month. Just 36% opposed giving equal status to the liberal streams.

Israelis still prefer, by a margin of 49% to 44%, to have conversions remain in the hands of the state’s Orthodox-controlled Chief Rabbinate, suggesting that some 10% support religious pluralism but want to maintain the Rabbinate’s stricter conversion standards.

That support drops slightly once again on the question of patrilineal descent. Whereas Jewish law dictates that one must have a Jewish mother, or convert, to be a Jew (57% agreed with this), some 39% said Jewish identity could also come from the father.

A song for many voices: The soul of secular Israel

By Rani Jaeger Opinion June 15, 2009

Though this may not make headlines, Israeli society is engaged today in a fervent search for spirituality.

For the larger public, the phenomenon is understandably eclipsed by politics, security and the economy.

But for its many and diverse practitioners, the quest is a rich and vibrant experience.

The Israeli relationship with spirituality, like the concept itself, has been complex and fluid.

…Israelis have come a long way in their understanding of spirituality. From an either-or society of secular pragmatism versus religious spiritualism, with very few shades in between, Israel has come to accept spirituality as an important social and cultural element.

Orthodox Jews Launch “Kosher” Search Engine June 14, 2009

Religiously devout Jews barred by rabbis from surfing the Internet may now “Koogle” it on a new “kosher” search engine, the site manager said on Sunday.

The site, at, omits religiously objectionable material, such as most photographs of women which Orthodox rabbis view as immodest, Altman said.

Its links to Israeli news and shopping sites also filter out items most ultra-Orthodox Israelis are forbidden by rabbis to have in their homes, such aS television sets.

Nothing can be posted on the Jewish Sabbath, when religious law bans all types of work and business, Altman said.

“If you try to buy something on the Sabbath, it gets stuck and won’t let you.”

An egalitarian synagogue, on both sides of the mechitza

By Liza Schwartz June 8, 2009

On any given Shabbat in Jerusalem, minyans around the city wait for ten men to begin praying. Only Shira Hadasha has to wait longer. Not because no one shows up, but because they require both ten men and ten women.

“We take upon ourselves an extra requirement,” said Elie Holzer, a founder of the minyan, noting that it’s not a halachic statement but a social one.

Halacha does guide the minyan’s decision to let women lead certain parts of services while still using a mechitza.

Outsiders, particularly those from North America, see the minyan’s feminist face and categorize it with the pluralistic communities they know from home – some of which have been inspired by Shira Hadasha.

But for Shira Hadasha members, these revised gender rules are only the most visible manifestation of a philosophy that transcends feminism.

‘Israel ready to detach itself from Jewish Agency’

By Haviv Rettig Gur June 12, 2009

The escalating political feud between the Israeli government and American donors over the leadership of the Jewish Agency has grown so acrimonious it may threaten the agency’s very existence, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

“If the Jewish Agency wants to become just another NGO, cutting its connections with the Israeli government, that’s their right.

The immediate result will be to find more efficient partners to advance our programs and interests in the Diaspora,” Minister for Diaspora Affairs and Information Yuli Edelstein told the Post on Tuesday.

Edelstein was reacting to plans by the UJC, the umbrella American federation body which provides the majority of the JA’s funding, to free the agency’s top spots from Israeli political control by disconnecting it from the World Zionist Organization.

That reform plan would harm the chances of Edelstein’s mentor and fellow anti-Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky becoming the agency’s next chairman.

The failure behind the success

By Yochi Brandes Opinion June 10, 2009

Yochi Brandes, born in Haifa in 1959, comes from a Hasidic background and earned an MA from the Shechter Institute of Jewish Studies, and derives much of her inspiration from the Bible and rabbinic literature.

I asked my students at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, who study Bible as an elective, why they chose this course even though they remembered Bible as a boring subject.

…No student said the Bible was the source of our identity and culture. No student said he wanted to study the Bible because it is a work that relates to our lives, here and now.

When I expressed surprise over what they did not say, there was silence. Why are you surprised, they finally asked.

In all the years we studied it, they always gave us the message that the Bible is not connected to our lives, that is far from our world and does not belong to our culture.

They taught us that the Bible belongs to religious people, not to us; that it is theirs, not ours.

The principals of pluralism

By Gail Lichtman June 11, 2009

In what could definitely be described as better late than never, more than 100 school principals and teachers, who completed the two-year TALI Educational Leadership Program between 2003 and 2008, were finally honored in a formal graduation ceremony at the Kibbutz Ramat Rahel Congress Hall on June 3.

The TALI Educational Leadership Program is a course of study for principals and teaching staff from TALI schools all over the country. Now in its ninth year, its aim is to create leaders who can bring Jewish studies, in the TALI spirit of pluralism and non-coercion, into their schools.

TALI, the Hebrew acronym for “enriched Jewish studies,” is a nationwide network of more than 120 schools and preschools, with some 32,000 students, committed to providing Jewish education to the non-observant in the secular state school system.

Established in 1976, TALI is sponsored by the TALI Education Fund (TEF), a part of the Masorti Movement’s Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, and is fully recognized and supported by the Ministry of Education.

“This program developed and strengthened my connection to Jewish history and Judaism in a pluralistic way. It broadened my Jewish horizons and enriched my repertoire. It gave me a means to transmit the values and richness of Judaism in our school.”

Extended Interviews: American Jews and Israel June 12, 2009

Interviews include:

  • Rabbi Avi Weiss, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale;
  • Rabbi Michael Paley, scholar-in-residence and director of the Jewish Resource Center of the UJA-Federation of NY;
  • Abby Bellows, Jewish activist and community organizer;
  • Professor Steven Cohen, HUC;
  • Philip Weiss, writer and blogger.

Tax reforms, Jewish Agency drive contributing to rise in UK aliya

By Jonny Paul, London June 10, 2009

The Jewish Agency is predicting that 2009 will be a historic year for aliya from Britain, with the number set to increase to 800 new immigrants, the most since 1984.

According to figures released last week, 201 people moved to Israel from the UK between January and April, a 53 percent increase from last year.

Catering to Christians

By Carl Hoffman June 10, 2009, an online travel and information-sharing network for Christians around the world, featuring Israel as the Christian Holy Land.

The company Web site invites its clients to “journey into the Land of the Bible with Travelujah, a vibrant Christian social community where you can learn from experts, share experiences, upload your pictures, ‘Search the Bible,’ and book that unforgettable journey of a lifetime to the Holy Land.” offers Christians the opportunity to have a portion of their cremated ashes scattered at, over, on, or into the New Testament biblical site of their choice.

Religion and State in Israel

June 15, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

If you are reading in 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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