Religion and State in Israel – August 31, 2009 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

August 31, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

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.

‘Reform, Conservative should build shuls with their own money’

By Matthew Wagner August 27, 2009

Shas Religious Services Minister Ya’akov Margi during an interview in his office in Jerusalem with The Jerusalem Post:

“I recommend to those organizations that do not want to accept [Orthodox] Halacha to build their own mikvaot and their own synagogues according to their own Halacha.”

Shas Religious Services Minister Ya’akov Margi continued:

“According to the law for Jewish Religious Services, the Chief Rabbinate is the sole body responsible for providing religious services. And they do this in accordance with Halacha.

Since the Conservative and the Reform do not conform to Halacha they are not eligible for state funds. Nor do they have the right to use existing mikvaot and synagogues.”

Click here for VIDEO: Masorti at 30

‘State should fund Reform, Conservative’

By Matthew Wagner August 30, 2009

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky sent a letter to Religious Affairs Minister Ya’acov Margi last week in which he rejects Margi’s claim that only Orthodox institutions are eligible for state-funded religious services.

“I was surprised to read your statements in The Jerusalem Post in which you claim that only institutions that are run in accordance with Halacha are eligible for Religious Affairs Ministry funding,” wrote Sharansky.

“I wish to remind you that the Religious Affairs Ministry is not a halachic body and is responsible for providing religious services to all citizens of the state of Israel from all religions, streams and congregations who need these services.

“The Religious Affairs Ministry must ensure religious freedom and prevent infringement of citizens’ rights in this field.

The Jewish Agency calls on the Religious Affairs Ministry to fulfill its responsibility to all the religious congregations in Israel and to foster mutual respect and brotherhood among different religious approaches and beliefs. By doing so the ministry will deepen appreciation and respect for Jewish tradition.”

The ‘aguna’ – a statistic or a real problem?

By Rachel Levmore August 30, 2009

The writer is a rabbinical court advocate; coordinator of the Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the Council of Young Israel Rabbis and Jewish Agency; a doctoral candidate in Talmud at Bar-Ilan University and author of Minee Einayich Medima on prenuptial agreements for the prevention of get-refusal.

The outrage should be against the untold suffering of the modern-day aguna.

All those who relate to the aguna problem would do well to turn their focus from the question of numbers to the proposals for and implementation of solutions.

If Jewish society stays fixated on the question of how many agunot there are, then indeed there will be so many that there will be no possibility of ever answering the question.

The tragedy of Israeli divorce

By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Opinion August 30, 2009

The writer is the founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs, and chief rabbi of Efrat.

In recent years – via the Knesset’s religious political party system of wheeling and dealing – one of the leaders of the haredi world, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, has effectively taken over the Chief Rabbinate and its courts.

The thrust of their decisions regarding divorce is based on a responsum by a noted scholar, Rabbi Shmuel de Medina (known as the Maharashdam…

Rebbe Menahem Mendel of Kotzk put it succinctly: “‘They’ [he was referring to the Mitnagdim, and I refer to these court judges] serve idols; we [the Hassidim or the more ‘enlightened’ Orthodox rabbis] serve God; they serve the dry law, law devoid of sensitivity and understanding, concerned only for the misguided ‘purity’ of Israel; we serve the compassionate God of the second tablets, whose concern is for the hapless aguna.”

Israel stumbling in bid to ease conversion process

By Yair Ettinger August 27, 2009

A group of religious Zionist rabbis and Knesset members came out Wednesday against one of the government’s flagship initiatives to ease the conversion process – a bill to give the Chief Rabbinate a greater role in the process.

“The bill would enable the Haredim to seize control of all [conversion] processes and refuse to allow anyone to join the Jewish people,”

argued Moshe Benatar, director of the Zionist Council, which called the meeting at which the rabbis and MKs issued their statement.

At the same time, several organizations that run conversion programs said they are on the verge of closing, because the government funding they formerly received has not been transferred since the start of the year.

Thirteen of these programs said they have received no state funding since the start of the year.

The only program that is receiving funding, they said, is the state-backed conversion institute set up several years ago at the recommendation of a public commission headed by Yaakov Neeman (now the justice minister), which is jointly run by the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements.

Women protest gender-segregated buses

By Roy Elman August 30, 2009

“Ride in Safety – Ride with Egged”

The protest against gender-segregated bus lines stepped up. Dozens of protesters, mainly women, rode en masse on buses labeled ‘mehadrin lines’ in Jerusalem in which women must sit at the back of bus out for modesty reasons.

Under the banner “Free transportation day – putting an end to discrimination in public spaces,” the protesters flocked early in the morning on Sunday to ‘mehadrin line’ bus stops. When the buses arrived, they sat in the men’s section at the front of the bus.

“We are acting as responsibly as possible. We instructed all our male and female activists to act respectfully and to dress appropriately,” said Ella Spokesperson Shiran Dadon.

“We instructed all of our activists not to sit next to bachelor yeshiva students and for men not to sit next to women out of respect of their desire not to come in physical contact with the opposite sex.”

The hopeless irrelevance of the State Rabbinate

By Peretz Rodman Opinion August 31, 2009

The writer is past president of the Masorti/Conservative Rabbinical Assembly of Israel and acting chairman of the Masorti Movement’s public affairs committee.

As political and religious leaders of haredi Orthodoxy realize that increasing numbers of Israeli Jews are seeking religious alternatives to Orthodox Judaism, they become more and more strident in their denunciation of those alternatives.

Seeing the competition grow stronger, they seek to squelch it as they always have: through the political power they wield.

Katamon rabbi chosen as candidate for J’lem chief rabbi

By Matthew Wagner August 30, 2009

Rabbi Aryeh Stern, head of the Halacha Brura Institute, a teacher at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva and a rabbi in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood, was chosen from four candidates. He beat out Rabbi Yosef Carmel, head of Eretz Hemdah Institute, by a single vote.

Jerusalem Mayor Barkat has a deal with Shas that the son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef will be chosen as the chief Sephardi rabbi of Jerusalem in exchange for Shas backing of a Zionist candidate.

Religious-Zionist Sector Chooses Candidate for Chief J’lem Rabbi

By Hillel Fendel August 27, 2009

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat phoned Rabbi Stern to congratulate him shortly after the results of the vote became known. Barkat has come out strongly in favor of a religious-Zionist candidate for the position of Chief Rabbi.

Rabbi Stern: “The challenge is to present a warm and loving rabbinate that is understanding of the public, and at the same time to provide both practical and spiritual leadership.”

Deal done to end Haredi hegemony over capital’s chief rabbi

By Peggy Cidor August 27, 2009

City councilor Rachel Azariya (Yerushalmim) is herself Modern Orthodox with a clear religious and feminist agenda, and one of those most involved in efforts to gain the election of a Zionist chief rabbi for the city.

…”I am very much in favor of presenting one candidate for the whole Religious Zionist constituency. It is of the utmost importance that we obtain a candidate who understands that Jerusalem is a city of all its residents – religious and secular.”

A high-ranking figure in the Religious Zionist movement:

“Still, I believe that what we are witnessing here is another aspect of the ‘Barkat effect.’

Once Barkat proved that he and the residents of Jerusalem could turn over the situation and put a secular, young and Zionist leader as mayor instead of a haredi apparatchnik, people began to believe that change could also be affected on other issues.

If you like, it’s our local version of ‘Yes, we can.'”

New procedure: PM to approve chief rabbis’ trips abroad

By Roni Sofer August 30, 2009

The government has approved Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s proposal that the Prime Minister, or a minister on his behalf, would approve Chief Rabbis’ trips abroad.

Minister Yishai said that “this matter should be regulated, and the same thing should apply to ministers and deputy ministers.”

The proposal also includes the rabbis’ trips which are not funded by the State. In such a case, the approval would rely on the opinions of the attorney general and the Chief Rabbinate’s legal advisor.

Religious protests put brakes on Shabbat-eve bus plans

By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay August 31, 2009

More car accidents take place in Tel Aviv on Friday nights than on any other day or night of the week, and Mayor Ron Huldai has agreed that Friday-night buses should be run for the benefit of revelers – but haredi councilors are raising objections to the idea, reports

The Haredi council members say that introducing Friday-night buses would breach both the coalition agreement Huldai signed with them, and the religious status quo determined at the founding of the state.

Hesder, pre-IDF academies more popular

By Matthew Wagner August 30, 2009

Pre-military academies and hesder yeshivot have become a rite of passage not only for graduates of yeshiva high schools but also for graduates of less religious high schools, according to data released last week.

Forty three percent of graduates from 70 “regular” religious high schools, most of which are located in outlying areas in the South and North, opted to enroll in either a hesder yeshiva or a pre-military yeshiva academy last school year.

A decade ago just 13.2% did so, according to Ma’agalim, an organization that encourages Orthodox high school graduates from poor towns to volunteer for significant IDF duty beyond their mandatory service.

Israeli Court Gets Orthodox New Yorker

By Stewart Ain August 25, 2009

The selection Sunday of an Orthodox New Yorker to sit as a jurist on Israel’s highest court marks only the second time that an American-born Israeli has been appointed to the prestigious panel.

The appointment of Neal Hendel of Beersheva also marked the first time that a district court judge has been chosen who had not previously served in the top court on a trial basis.

That decision ended a stalemate that for the last several years had plagued Israel’s nine-member Judicial Selection Committee, keeping it from filling all 15 seats on the High Court of Justice.

Hendel, who wears a knitted yarmulke, attended Yeshivah of Flatbush High School and in 1973 studied Talmud with Rabbi Yoseph Dov Soloveichik at Yeshiva University.

Hendel, who was born in 1952, has lived in Beersheva since he and his wife, Marcie, a native Long Islander, made aliyah.

High court appointee brings in U.S. legal experience, not just religion

By Raphael Ahren August 28, 2009

Yitzhak Heimowitz says he had suggested the Negev as a home base for Hendel, who immigrated in 1983 and currently serves as vice president of the district court in Be’er Sheva…

“I think it’s important to realize that appointments don’t just happen, but are reflective of years of hard work,” the Baltimore resident told Anglo File.

“He started as an assistant DA in the traffic courts; then was promoted to judge, then to district court judge, then to vice president of the court.” In 2002, he asked his brother if had ambitions for the Supreme Court – “just to tease him.”

Hendel responded that it wasn’t appropriate to talk about his ambitions. “I took that as a yes,” his brother said.

Bat Mitzvah, Motherhood, and Orthodox Judaism in Transition

By Elana Sztokman August 27, 2009

…We tell Yonina she is now viewed as an equal but it’s not yet the case.

As long as women do not “count”, not for minyan, not for kaddish, not as human beings, the message we sent to our daughter is still a lot of wishful thinking.

As long as we continue to insist on gender difference, that only men can give a get, that men take a wife while women are “taken”, that only men are considered reliable witnesses, that men are rabbis while women are “maharats”, and so forth, then the equality line is still a bit of a fib.

Sure, we’re working, but there is much work left to do, and this is where our energies belong.

As Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl DeWunn wrote in a phenomenal article about women of the world in the New York Times last week, women’s lives are THE issue of our time. The Jewish community should take heed.

Synagogues Flourish in Secular Kibbutzim August 26, 2009

A few years ago, a member of Kibbutz Deganiah predicted, “There has been no synagogue here in 100 years, and there won’t be one in the next 100 years.” She was wrong.

Not only is there a synagogue in Deganiah, founded in 1910 as Israel’s first kibbutz ever, but similar houses of worship (popularly known as “shuls”) are open and active in other secular kibbutzim in the north such as Ein Harod and Maoz Chaim, as well as in other secular communities in the region such as Tomrat.

Natan Sharansky heads to Moscow

By Amir Mizroch August 31, 2009

Newly-elected Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky will travel to Moscow on Monday to mark the opening of the new school year for Jewish learning institutions in the Russian capital and attempt to raise money for the agency’s programs in the FSU.

The visit falls under a dark shadow, however, as the agency’s funding is under serious strain, putting its programs in the FSU in risk.

JDC, Jewish Agency mull more cuts

By Jacob Berkman August 25, 2009

The North American Jewish federation system’s overseas partners are warning of a brewing financial crisis facing the organized Jewish community in the former Soviet Union.

Welcome to the absorption bar

By Adam Valen Levinson August 28, 2009

Every Wednesday night, Anglo immigrants mingle with Israeli locals at the Mexican tequila bar Mezcal in Tel Aviv’s trendy Florentin neighborhood. This new tradition comprises part of the Jewish Agency’s new push toward “community absorption” in the burgeoning, youthful city that in recent years had no center for absorption. “

“Young people meet other young people that just made aliyah, they meet people that want to help them out, they can ask me any question they need, and beyond all that, they’re having a good time being young immigrants,” said Scott Dubin, youth coordinator for the Jewish Agency’s six month-old Tel Aviv branch of the Babayit Beyachad (“At Home Together”) absorption program.

How Social Networking Impacts the Jewish Community

By David Pessah August 28, 2009

“Much of the extra-organizational innovation you see in the Jewish world has been made possible by the Internet,” says David Abitbol, founder of the Web’s most popular Jewish blog, , where posts by Jewish bloggers quickly become vibrant conversations connecting Jews all around the world.

“The Internet has made it easier for Jews to find each other. Jewlicious itself would not have existed before the Internet.”

Her heart’s in Jerusalem

By Ruth Eglash August 25, 2009

Interview with Lynn Schusterman

Q: What are you doing to reach out to non-affiliated Jewish youth?

In a world like ours that is diverse and diffuse, there is no way for us to know exactly where or what types of programs to invest in.

It is becoming clear, however, that the days of investing in one singular institution are over and to be effective one must be everywhere and into everything. You need to be on the broadest playing field possible.

Our idea is not to find one single person or program to ensure the future of the Jewish people, that is why we have programs like ROI, which has created a whole network of young people working for the future.

There are many young innovators out there who are ahead of the curve, but we want to focus on encouraging as many people as possible to be involved in spreading the word.

Muslim extremists force Yemen Jews to flee to Israel

By Zvi Bar’el August 25, 2009

Three Jewish families from Yemen are scheduled to arrive this week in Israel, a Yemeni rabbi told Reuters yesterday. The move comes after Shi’ite extremist groups aired threats against the community.

Religious Council: Don’t buy Moroccan shofar

By Yoav Zeitun August 28, 2009

The Tel Aviv Religious Council’s ritual objects department has called on the wide public not to use a shofar (ram’s horn) made in Morocco during the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

The department workers say they have examined the shofarot, thousands of which have already been distributed to stores, and discovered that they were glued with polyester – making them unfit, as far as Jewish Law is concerned.

Despite objections, dig will go ahead at ‘mystical’ grave

By Josiah Ryan August 26, 2009

An agreement struck between the Tiberias Magistrate’s Court and a Tzipori land-owner on Monday will allow the excavation of a tomb that may contain the remains of famed 3rd century Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi to begin next month.

The work at the site, which features a clear inscription of the rabbi’s name on the lintel and reportedly contains a terra cotta sarcophagus, may trigger significant opposition throughout the religious community, experts and religious authorities said on Tuesday.

Rav Mordechai Eliyahu on Life Support

By Yair Alpert August 31, 2009

Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sefardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, is currently in intensive care and is connected to a respirator a week after undergoing emergency surgery at Shaarei Tzedek Medical Center in Yerushalayim.

Could his son’s Bar Mitzvah herald a political comeback for disgraced Shas leader Deri?

By Yair Ettinger August 28, 2009

The bar mitzvah celebration Aryeh Deri held for his son Wednesday resembled a showy political spectacle, with an impressive parade of political leaders. Above it all hovered the enigma of Deri’s return to politics.

All eyes were on Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who holds the key to Deri’s return to his home party. After several ups and downs following the trial, Deri’s relationship with Yosef is once again being tested, now that Deri is searching for a political home.

“All Aryeh told me is it’s going to be huge,” a rabbi and confidant of Deri’s said at the bar mitzvah.

Safed rabbi asks Madonna to ‘perform in modest clothing’

By Kobi Nahshoni August 31, 2009

While she surely receives thousands of letters a day from fans, a letter like this Madonna likely wasn’t expecting.

Safed’s rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, has sent a personal letter to the international pop star who landed in Israel on Saturday night, urging her to honor the Holy Land and wear modest clothes while performing in Tel Aviv on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The rabbi began his letter to “Mrs. Madonna Louise Ciccone” by welcoming her to Israel and its holy sites.

…I ask you, on their behalf, to honor this place with modesty, to honor the land you are stepping on.

‘Madonna Forbidden to Sing in Israel’ says Top Kabbalah Rabbi

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu August 31, 2009

Madonna and her entourage splashed into Israel for two shows, but leading Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Batzri expressed sorrow that Israelis put out the red carpet for the non-Jewish star who dabbles in Kabbalah.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Opposition leader Tzipi Livni are among those who will meet Madonna, a Roman Catholic who has adopted the Jewish name “Esther.”

Religion and State in Israel

August 31, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

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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