Religion and State in Israel – September 16, 2009 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

September 16, 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.

Campaign to break Orthodox monopoly

By Ron Friedman and Matthew Wagner September 15, 2009

Hiddush, a trans-denominational organization aimed at promoting religious freedom in Israel, was launched at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Monday.

The new group, a partnership between Israeli Jews and World Jewry headed by Rabbi Uri Regev and American businessman and Jewish philanthropic and communal leader Stanley P. Gold, challenges the status quo of the religious power structure in Israel and aims to build up grassroots momentum for change.

Some of Hiddush’s goals include instituting civil marriages as well as ensuring recognition for Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist marriages and conversions, and providing equal funding for non-Orthodox religious services, said Regev, CEO of Hiddush, in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post.

He spoke out against the social ills facing the country that in his opinion were caused by the religious involvement in the state, including inequality in education, employment and army service, discrimination against women, refusal of ultra-Orthodox schools to implement the legal requirement for teaching mathematics, English, sciences and civics and the limitations on use of public transportation.

Survey: Israelis support religious pluralism September 16, 2009

In conjunction with their launch, Hiddush commissioned a large-scale public opinion survey by well-known Israeli pollster Rafi Smith where time and again, a majority of Israelis were found to be against the status quo.

This marks the beginning of an ongoing Religion and State Index that Hiddush will conduct. Among the key findings:

84% of secular Jewish Israelis think the state should grant equal status to all 3 major streams of Judaism (Orthodox; Reform; Conservative);

84% object to the current system of mass exemption from army service for men who study in yeshivas;

92% of secular Israelis support ending the ultra-orthodox monopoly on marriage; 95% of new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union;

64% of all Israeli Jews support introducing civil marriage and/or Reform/Conservative;

72% of Jewish Israelis object to the current policy of making conversion to Judaism contingent on observing the Sabbath and Kashrut (ritual dietary laws) and retroactively revoking conversions for not fully observing Sabbath/kashrut;

66% of Jewish Israelis believe that Israel should take into consideration the opinions of world Jewry on matters of law of return, conversion, marriage and matters of religion & state;

80% of Jewish Israelis object to the gender-segregated Mehadrin bus lines, public bus lines that segregate women and requiring that they sit in the back;

Tension between secular and ultra-orthodox is second in importance, after Arab-Jewish tensions, and double that of the tension between left and right or between poor and rich;

71% support reducing financial support given to yeshivas and large families (5+ children) in order to increase participation in the workforce;

60% of Jewish Israelis support the separation of religion and state in Israel.

Rosh Hashanah – A time for dreaming

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion September 13, 2009

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

I dream of the day when all parking lots will be open on Shabbat in Jerusalem – but nobody will want to use them.

I dream of a day when there will be no protests if drivers do decide to use them.

I dream of the day when we have a Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem who comes from the religious Zionist world – and she is able to serve all of the city’s residents.

I dream of the day when religion will not be used as an excuse to avoid paying taxes or serving our country…

There must be a middle ground

By Eliezer Whartman Opinion September 13, 2009

There should be no state support for religious institutions or functionaries. They should be funded privately, as they are in the US.

Religious issues should be brought before an impartial commission made up of rabbis of the three denominations: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. The Knesset and municipal councils are not proper places for debating religious matters.

There should be no compulsory religious court jurisdictions over family matters. If both sides wish to bring their case before a religious court, that is their right, but they should not be compelled to do so.

No institution should receive public funds if its members do not serve in the IDF and do not pledge allegiance to the flag.

Reform and Conservative rabbis must be given the same rights as Orthodox rabbis

The offices of the chief rabbis, established under Turkish rule, should be abolished. They are superfluous and often harmful. The same holds true for municipal religious councils.

All men and women of military age should be compelled to serve in the armed forces. Those who cannot serve for “religious reasons” should spend an equivalent amount of time in public service.

The teaching of Jewish consciousness and Zionism should be reinstituted into all school systems.

Schools which do not meet the minimum state curricular requirements should be shut down.

Equal time should be allowed to all denominations of Judaism on publicly-owned media.

Don’t convert

By Avirama Golan Opinion September 10, 2009

Those primarily to blame for the growing power of the Orthodox establishment are not the religious or the ultra-Orthodox, but the secular.

In a capitulation born of a mixture of fear and ignorance, most of them have allowed the rabbis, ever since the state was established, to dictate the manner of their births, marriages and deaths.

…In light of the unrestrained lunacy of the Hardal (Zionist ultra-Orthodox) rabbis and their war against those rabbis who have sought to make conversion easier, young Ethiopian leaders have been left with no choice: They must ignore the pressure and, like Kehat, issue an emancipation declaration to their community.

Don’t give in, they must say. Don’t convert.

…The Rabbinate will surely not declare them kosher, but don’t be afraid. You are Israelis and your children are Israelis, and it makes no difference what the Rabbinate writes – or what the state shamelessly copies from it.

Looking Past the Cry of Racism

By Jonathan Degani Opinion September 9, 2009

Part of a genuine conversion is the guarantee that the one converting will keep the mitzvot. This means that all Ethiopian “converts” must go to religious schools.

…In 10 years, when all Ethiopian Jews will be considered full-fledged Jews without a problem and Jewish law is maintained, we will look back and thank the Chief Rabbinate for holding its ground at a time when they could have satisfied everyone and pushed the problem down the line.

Secret no more

By Cnaan Liphshiz September 13, 2009

The reemergence of the Bnei Anusim phenomenon has created challenges for Portugal’s mainstream Jewish community, for the Chief Rabbinate in Israel and for the Bnei Anusim themselves – many of whom seem to share a deep sense of exclusion and frustration alongside a profound desire to belong to the rest of the Jewish people.

This summer, hundreds of Bnei Anusim convened in Barcelona for a conference focusing on Israel advocacy.

…Other Bnei Anusim, however, seek formal recognition as Jews, including conversion.

They are aided by Shavei Israel (formerly Amishav), a Jerusalem-based organization that seeks to strengthen the connection between the Jewish people and “lost Jews” from around the world. The group, which maintains a permanent emissary in Portugal, has assisted dozens of Bnei Anusim converts in the country.

“We don’t need to become Jewish, we are and have always been Jewish,” he says.

Vitorino, his wife and five children underwent Orthodox conversion in 2004, with help from Shavei Israel.

The Chief Rabbinate has not yet recognized the 2004 conversion, which was approved by Lisbon’s chief rabbi.

Michael Oren, 31: from Holland to Betar Illit

By Gloria Deutsch September 10, 2009

With an Israeli father and a Dutch mother, Michael Oren and his siblings assumed they were Jewish and Israeli when growing up in Amsterdam.

His father, an artist who moved to Holland in the 1970s and married Michael’s Christian mother, always brought them up to love Israel and to be strongly Zionist.

Shlomi residents say forced to send kids to religious school

By Aviad Glickman September 15, 2009

Fifteen residents of the northern border town of Shlomi in northern Israel filed a High Court petition on Tuesday against Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Shlomi Local Council head Gabi Na’aman demanding they be allowed to transfer their children to a secular school in the Western Galilee region.

They forgot quickly

By Yair Lapid Opinion September 8, 2009

Just like in the previous round, the Haredim are going too far because they believe no reaction will be forthcoming.

The seculars appear to them as too weak, too indifferent, and too spoiled; the haredim think the seculars don’t really care. Just like in the previous round, they’re wrong.

The letters I didn’t send

By Yair Lapid Opinion September 16, 2009 – Part 2

There is no secret conspiracy to bring them over to the Zionist side, but rather, merely an attempt to provide them with tools that one of these days will allow them to turn into productive citizens.

I fail to understand what is so wrong about that. All over the world, we see religious Jews working and making a living for themselves and their families; why shouldn’t your children do that too?

We’re not scared to die

By Tali Farkash Opinion September 9, 2009

Part 1 – In response to: They forgot quickly by Yair Lapid Opinion

Special military arrangements for the benefit of the haredi community in the Intelligence Corps, Air Force, Education Corps, and Nahal Brigade are the first steps in a bid to allay very real fears and anxieties.

This is a slow process that cannot be expected to end in one day, after more than 50 years of reclusive haredi life.

Any attempt to accelerate the process through threats and boycotts will prompt the opposite reaction than desired.

We are also fed up

By Tali Farkash Opinion September 11, 2009

Part 2 – In response to: They forgot quickly by Yair Lapid Opinion

I am outraged by the fact that the haredim in Israel are forced “back into the closet”.

They are asked to sit quietly, in the dark, while studying the Talmud as not to disturb secular Israelis with their unwanted presence.

Religious resident row ends in libel suit

By Cnaan Liphshiz September 11, 2009

A heated fight over the potential arrival of ultra-Orthodox families to a predominantly secular town near Jerusalem has resulted in an unusual court case, involving an employee of the Joint Distribution Committee and an American born Holocaust scholar who called him an anti-Semite.

‘Tznius’ (Modesty) Home Visit Campaign in Secular Beit Hakerem

By Ezra Reichman September 14, 2009

The pink flyer, which was titled “Daughter of the King”, was distributed to many homes during the home visits made by the callers.

The flyer adheres women,

“Honor yourself by covering yourself. Tznius will give you peace of mind. Remember that you are a daughter of the king, a princess.

Princesses don’t roam the streets… tznius is highly praiseworthy and one should try to fulfill it to the utmost.”

On the second part of the flyer is a prayer to the Master of the Universe to help a woman achieve her desire to be modest.

“Help me be a kosher, modest and truthful woman as You desire.”

Haredi web surfers to learn Mishna in Ramon’ memory

By Yair Ettinger September 15, 2009

A Haredi web site dedicated to studying Mishna in memory of Capt. Asaf Ramon was set up on Sunday.

The “Behadrei Haredim” Web portal devoted its headline to the initiative, which represents a small breach in the official Haredi policy of distance from Israeli national tragedies in general and in the army in particular.

People who respond to the memorial effort will commit to study all six books of the Mishna, as is customary in times of mourning.

Jewish-American businessman Guma Aguiar ‘not interested in politics’

By Izzy Ein Dor September 15, 2009

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For more videos of Guma Aguiar click here

Jewish-American businessman Guma Aguiar, who recently took over the ownership of soccer powerhouse Beitar Jerusalem after donating $4 million to the team, said he has no political aspirations, unlike previous owner Arcadi Gaydamak.

Speaking to Ynet at the Hadar Yosef Tennis Center in Tel Aviv, said he chose to support Jerusalem’s team because the city “is the center of the universe.”

Florida court: Aguiar can’t come within 20 meters of witnesses

By Yuval Goren September 10, 2009

A Florida district court banned industrialist and Beitar Jerusalem soccer club patron Guma Aguiar from coming within 20 meters of prosecution witnesses in a trial between himself and his Uncle Tom Kaplan.

The ban follows a complaint by Rabbi Leib Tropper, who claimed this week that Aguiar assaulted him and threatened to throw him from the window of a Jerusalem hotel last April.

Israel police were not able to explain why the assault investigation against Aguiar was closed two weeks later.

The Jerusalem district prosecution decided to reopen the investigation following an appeal filed Tropper’s lawyer.

Diaspora Minister to Swedish Jews: Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism

By Cnaan Liphshiz September 16, 2009

Tuesday’s videoconference is part of a project initiated by European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor, which aims to foster stronger ties between Diaspora communities and Israel.

The project will allow representatives from one Jewish community every month to hold a video-recorded discussion with an Israeli official or opinion-shaper. The videos will be posted online at

The next videoconference will be held in October with Hungarian Jews, and the one following with representatives from the Jewish community in Milan.

IFCJ initiates largest food drive ahead of New Year

By Ruth Eglash September 10, 2009

In an effort to reach as many needy people in the State of Israel as possible, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) initiated this week its largest food drive to date.

In addition to the gift cards, the IFCJ will also assist in distributing food baskets through humanitarian aid organization Latet and Kollel Chabad to an additional 75,000 Israelis in need.

Bringing religion back to the frontlines

By Rabbi Michael Melchior Opinion September 16, 2009

A former Knesset member, the writer leads several civil society movements.

The way to narrow the gap between the mess we are in and the place we would like to go could be through religious peace and interreligious dialogue.

…The Mosaica Center, which I head, deals with the core questions of coexistence and endeavors to create cooperation particularly among people with religious beliefs, who have been totally excluded from the process until now.

The two very intensive spiritual months of Ramadan and Tishrei create a double period of spirituality, an opportunity for finding God and for God to find us.

As both Judaism and Islam express it, it is a time for us to recognize where the human limitation is and where we need to leave it to the Him to assist us and direct us. May it be God’s will that we utilize this unique opportunity to build hope in a world which desperately it.

A fast of thousands

By Noreen Sadik September 15, 2009

The faithful go year-round to the Temple Mount to pray, contemplate or just take a break. The Dome of the Rock and al-Aksa Mosque fill during the prayers, which are five times a day.

During Ramadan, female worshipers fill the Dome of the Rock, while males pray in al-Aksa. Every Friday, Islam’s holy day, the sanctuary is crowded with some 150,000 worshipers.

According to manager Farid Haj Yahya, the project, which is sponsored by the United Arab Emirates, provides meals to 3,000 people every day, numbering approximately 100,000 people during Ramadan.

The total amount consumed is 36 tons of meat, in addition to rice, vegetables, yogurt, juice, bottled water – and, to emulate the prophet’s example, dates.

Religion and State in Israel

September 16, 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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