Religion and State in Israel – December 21, 2009 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

December 21, 2009 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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

Renegade Hesder Yeshiva rabbi capitulates in row with IDF

By Anshel Pfeffer December 20, 2009

A Hesder yeshiva rabbi on Sunday has agreed to denounce political demonstrations by Israeli soldiers in uniform, after his comments to the contrary led the army to cut its ties with his seminary.

During a meeting with other hesder rabbis, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, of the Har Bracha yeshiva, agreed to sign a statement clearly opposing the protests. The statement also expresses the rabbis’ appreciation of the defense establishment, the IDF and its commanders.

The statement signifies Melamed’s capitulation in the dispute with the army and Barak; he had earlier refused to sign such a statement because he said it would be forced upon him.

‘Convert to be buried outside cemetery’

By Matthew Wagner December 14, 2009

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar ruled Sunday that a 13-year-old boy who passed away over the weekend in Madrid had to be buried in a separate burial section demarcated by a row o

Ben-David was buried Sunday in a special section of Madrid’s Jewish cemetery reserved for people whose Jewishness is in question.

Gai Ben-David, who celebrated his bar mitzva in June, died from a brain tumor.

About a year ago he, his mother, Jessica, and his sister converted to Judaism at the (Conservative) Ahavat Shalom Congregation in Fort Worth, Texas.

A Shandah in Spain

By Joel Rembaum December 16, 2009

Joel Rembaum is rabbi emeritus at Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles.

In response to the news of the rabbi’s refusal to allow Gai to be buried as a Jew, the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), the worldwide association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis, who stand in solidarity with the Ben-David family at this painful time, issued the following statement:

…Gai’s conversion — which included brit leshem gerut and mikveh (ritual circumcision and immersion in a ritual bath) — is as unimpeachably kosher and halachic as any conversion offered in the world, including those supervised by Orthodox rabbis, such as Rabbi Amar.

As the RA statement emphasizes, Gai Ben-David’s conversion was done according to the standards of Jewish law.

For Rabbi Amar, however, that is irrelevant, because Gai’s supervising rabbi and his beit din (Jewish court of law) are not recognized by the Orthodox rabbinate of Israel. In fact, there are many American Orthodox rabbis whose conversions are not recognized in Israel.

Ironically, the ruling of the Charedi court, noted above, turned this principle of non-recognition against the chief rabbinate of Israel’s own conversion beit din.

Conservatives decry Amar’s ‘outside the wall’ ruling

By Matthew Wagner December 17, 2009

The Rabbinical Assembly – the international association of Conservative rabbis – has issued a sharp condemnation of a ruling by Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar that rejected Conservative conversions.

Lies my rabbi told

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion December 15, 2009

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

How pathetic when chief rabbis abandon the truth and hide behind falsehoods and denials to cover base behavior. Let the rabbis stand up and take the heat for the damage they have done to the Ben David family, to the Masorti community in Madrid, and to Judaism.

…There is an interesting postscript to this sad tale. Many leaders, and members, of Madrid’s Jewish community have signed a document stating that when their time comes (may it be a long time off), they would like to be buried in the very same area where Gai was laid to rest.

May Gai’s memory serve as a blessing to all of us. May the light of his life guide those who are unable to temper justice with mercy. May his family be comforted with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Want your adopted son to become Jewish? Act Orthodox

By Orly Vilnai December 14, 2009

When they returned to Israel, they immediately began the process of having the baby converted to Judaism. They turned to the rabbinic court in Ashkelon, the seat of the head of the conversion administration, Rabbi Yosef Avior. The rabbi told them that if they wanted to have the baby converted, they would have to become observant Jews.

The rabbinate in Israel requires adopted children to go to Orthodox schools, and many parents produce false certificates to overcome this obstacle. However, Nira did not want to lie, and the parents decided to register their son in a religious school.

…”This is clearly religious coercion,” Yaron says. “I am no less good a Jew than a religious person. We went to the army, we observe commandments, we work hard and we went through hell until we received these children. Why are they doing this to us? Who are they to say whether we are Jewish enough?”

Conversion controversy pits Jew against Jew

By Jennifer Green December 20, 2009

In the midst of a nasty global battle over who is a “true” Jew, Ottawa’s Rabbi Reuven Bulka has stopped converting people to Orthodox Judaism.

Would-be converts must now travel back and forth to Montreal since no other rabbi in the nation’s capital has undertaken the time-consuming and expensive process.

“We send them now to the Montreal rabbinic court,” Bulka says. “I wish I could tell you that it’s straightforward, but they are having trouble with Israel, too.

“Nothing in Israel stays in Israel,” he says of the dispute over who is really Jewish. “It’s going to go overseas.”

Court ruling may end burial society monopoly in Israel

By Noah Kosharek December 17, 2009

The Hevra Kadisha religious burial society in Herzliya Wednesday withdrew its petition to the High Court of Justice against the Israel Lands Administration and Herzliya municipality asking to be allocated part of the new cemetery in the city.

The High Court recommended that the burial society withdraw its petition after the court made it clear that it saw no way to force the city to allocate the land.

City hall called the move a breakthrough that after 70 years would end the Hevra Kadisha’s monopoly on burials not only in the city, but throughout the country.

Violence in rabbinical courts

By Rivkah Lubitch Opinion December 18, 2009

Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinical court advocate and works at the Center for Women’s Justice.

So what do we call it when a husband refuses to give his wife a “get” for 5 years, 10 years, 20 years? Is this a form of violence? “Iggun” violence? Divorce violence? Marital violence? We still don’t have a name for it.

Aren’t the rabbinical courts that stand on the side and watch as husbands abuse their wives, and sometimes even encourage this behavior, partners to the violence against women?

The fight over Israeli law vs. Jewish law

Donniel Hartman is President of the Shalom Hartman Institute. December 9, 2009

While we do not necessarily have to argue for a complete separation of state and religion, we must minimize the coercive effect of attempting to implement a Judaism that is not acceptable to all.

Judaism has a role in our public culture, in our language, in our values discourse. It has a role in the educational system, where everyone has the freedom to teach a Judaism that is in sync with their ideological beliefs and commitments.

It cannot be the obligatory framework for our national legal system. A state governed by Jewish law is a not a state where all Jews can live in.

Can Israel be both Jewish and democratic?

By Rabbi Reuven Hammer December 20, 2009

The writer is the head of the Rabbinical Court of the Masorti Movement

The solution to these problems is also well known but has been successfully avoided by all the governments because of political pressures and lack of resolve.

It requires as a first step the enactment of civil partnership legislation

…The second step is the abolishment of the monopoly of the current Chief Rabbinate – not the abolishment of the Chief Rabbinate but the change of its status from a governmental monopoly into a privatized NGO which would exist alongside other rabbinates.

From Chicago to the Negev

By Natasha Mozgovaya December 16, 2009

Rabbi Asher Lopatin wants to ensure that several principles will be upheld in Carmit.

“I’m a modern Orthodox rabbi and I am really interested in pluralism and diversity – not just reaching out to the Orthodox, but to religious and secular, non-religious, different religions. [I want to see] people of different economic levels, Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Americans, religious and non-religious.”

“What I do best is being a community rabbi,” Lopatin says.

“In Israel there are lots of people who are talking about the need for community rabbis, who will reach out, talk to people, build a community, connect people – not just a rabbi who answers their questions about kashrut.”

View from Galilee: Why a Woman of the Wall Joined a Kibbutz

By Haviva Ner-David Opinion December 19, 2009

After thirteen years of living in Jerusalem, my husband Jacob and I decided this summer to pack up our family of eight and move to a kibbutz in the Lower Galilee.

This was not an easy decision. It meant leaving the home in Bakah—a uniquely religiously pluralistic neighborhood–we built ten years ago, leaving a number of friends who had become like family, and leaving a city we care very much about.

I am a rabbi. My ordination (smicha) is a private ordination from an Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem.

…So it seems there is no escaping misogyny in the name of God and extremist religious coercion. It’s in the Galilee as well.

So rather than escaping struggle, I have simply added more struggles to my list. I am not sorry we came here.

There were many other reasons for our move, such as being part of an the exciting project of building a pluralistic liberal religious community in the Galilee and experiencing life in a pastoral setting with the opportunity for regular, daily contact and interaction with nature.

Does Orthodox Judaism discriminate against women?

By Dan Rickman Opinion December 15, 2009

Allowing women fully into halachic process is necessary to promote values of equality which are legitimate aspiration of all citizens in modern world

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Global Restrictions on Religion, December 2009 December 2009

But the list of countries with high restrictions also contains some that are widely seen as democratic, such as Turkey and Israel.

Israel’s score is driven up by security policies that sometimes have the effect of limiting access to religious sites, and by its preferential treatment of Orthodox Jews.

The government recognizes only Orthodox Jewish religious authorities in some personal status matters (such as marriage) concerning Jews and devotes the bulk of state funds provided for religion to Orthodox Jews, even though they make up only a small portion of all Jews in Israel.

Abuse of IDF Exemptions Questioned

By Nathan Jeffay December 16, 2009

A growing gap between the size of the Orthodox Jewish population in Israel and the number of women who are receiving exemption from military service on religious grounds has prompted a move in the Knesset to clamp down on those who may be lying about their beliefs to avoid army service.

Non-kosher chefs want equality

By Itamar Eichner December 16, 2009

A number of Israel’s leading chefs have signed a petition calling on Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to cancel a protocol which bans the ministry from taking official guests to non-kosher restaurants.

The chefs say this protocol is a serious blow to the gourmet restaurant branch on the one hand, and also affects the non-Jewish guests who are not exposed to quality gourmet dining in Israel, since most such restaurants are not kosher.

Ashdod’s Chief Rabbi Targeted in Contempt of Court Case

By Yechiel Spira December 16, 2009

The owner of the bakery, Penina Comforti, has turned to the High Court again, seeking to find the rabbi guilty of contempt of court since she still has not been given a hechsher.

Rabbi Sheinen is quoted by the daily HaMevaser as explaining that he cannot be part of a process that will deceive the [public] and he cannot grant a hechsher without a fulltime mashgiach, despite the ruling of the court.

Rabbinical Council of Europe Decries High Court Involvement in Matters of Halacha

By Yechiel Spira December 20, 2009

Rabbinical Council of Europe has released a statement sharply critical of the High Court of Justice and its involvement in matters of Halacha, matters under the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

The RCE rabbonim explain they are concerned over the state’s repeated involvement in religious matters, and in this case, seeking to compel Rabbi Yosef Sheinen Shlita to give a hechsher against his halachic ruling, calling on the High Court to cease its improper involvement in halachic affairs.

Letter from Jerusalem: Learning Curve

By Gershom Gorenberg Opinion December 2009

Against all odds—and thanks to state support—Israel’s haredi community has grown in numbers. But can Israel continue to pay the price?

For Israel as a whole, the problem is simple: In 1960, government figures show 6.6 percent of the children in the Hebrew-speaking elementary schools were in haredi institutions.

By 2008, the proportion was 27 percent. If those children follow today’s haredi lifestyle, can the rest of Israel support them?

…Defying expectations, the modern Jewish state led to a blossoming of ultra-Orthodoxy. Today, both the state and the haredi community need a new change in direction in order to flourish.

Former kidney transplant patient fights Israeli reluctance to donate organs

By Raphael Ahren December 18, 2009

Biblical law indeed forbids needlessly mutilating a body, delaying its burial and deriving benefit from a body, such as selling it for medical research. However, “most rabbis agree that pikuach nefesh, saving a life, is more important than these prohibitions,” Nusbaum said.

Yet there remains some opposition to organ donations, mainly from within the Haredi community. The bone of contention is the definition of death.

According to the Chief Rabbinate and many other leading Orthodox rabbis, a person dies when his brain-stem ceases to function, even if the heart continues to beat with the help of a ventilator.

A minority opinion, however, holds that as long as the heart beats, a person is considered alive and it is forbidden to harvest his or her organs.

Ministers, seeking to bypass Litzman, will vote on egg donation bill

By Dan Even and Jonathan Lis December 15, 2009

Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) said he was going to pursue the legislation. However the process has been held up for the past few months, due to meetings between Health Ministry representatives and rabbis regarding the implications of egg donations in Jewish law.

…Sources close to Litzman said yesterday he was likely to vote against the private members bill, and after breakthroughs were attained in discussions with rabbis recently, he would be ready to promote a bill sponsored by the Health Ministry

Bank of Israel: Child benefits boost Arab, Haredi birthrates

By Tal Levy December 17, 2009

Economic assistance to families in Israel increased fertility among Arab and ultra-Orthodox with more than three children, according to a Bank of Israel study released yesterday and covering the 1994-2007 period.

…The reduction in child allowances between 2004 and 2007 explains a significant part of the decline among Arab women and a small part of the decline among Haredi women.

Ultra-Orthodox websites “Haredim” and “Etrog” shut down following Rabbis ban December 18, 2009

In light of the comments recently made by Gedolei Yisrael, shlita, “Etrog” – a site that is completely free of lashon hara – has decided to discontinue its services on the internet. From this moment on, there will be no news or other informative postings on the portal.

See also “Haredim” (Hebrew)

Haredi websites respond to rabbis’ condemnation

By Kobi Nahshoni December 16, 2009

The ultra-Orthodox websites have not given up their fight in the face of the senior rabbis’ campaign against them. Following the first harsh condemnation document published by the rabbis, all website managers declared their devotion to the “great ones” on Sunday.

However, despite the desperate attempts to align themselves, the websites have had a particularly rough weekend. One of the managers of the “Behadrei Haredim” website resigned his post immediately after the publication, whereas other reporters and editors are also reconsidering their future in the internet.

Surfing the net in sin

By Matthew Wagner December 17, 2009

Is it business and political interests or religious Puritanism that is the motivation behind an attack led by rabbis on Internet news media sites catering to haredi audiences?

Sources in the haredi world say it’s a little bit of both. Rabbis’ religious sensibilities are being skillfully manipulated by businessmen and politicians, say the sources, to close down – or at least seriously damage the popularity of – several haredi Internet sites that offer news items, op-eds and talk-backs focusing on internal haredi issues, spiced with pictures and video clips.

Making Purim twice as happy

By Nir Hasson December 18, 2009

Residents of Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood received good news: This year they will be able to celebrate Purim a day later without misgivings, just like other Jerusalem neighborhoods.

This was made possible by a project that will position sealed structures to symbolically connect Ramot to the rest of the city – addressing the issue raised by Jewish law as to whether Ramot is considered part of the city, as there is no unbroken continuity between Ramot and the rest of Jerusalem.

…The project, however, has prompted a dispute between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jerusalemites.

Haredi sector to get first advertising school

By Meirav Crystal December 20, 2009

A professional studies center for the fields of communications, marketing, and advertising will be launched in Bnei Barak as a satellite campus of the “Habetzefer,” the Tel Aviv school run by the Israel Association of Advertising Agencies which teaches practical courses in the aforementioned fields.

The satellite is slated to open its doors in Bnei Barak in March 2010

‘Secular-only’ neighborhood planned in Kiryat Malachi

By Aharon Bachar December 17, 2009

The Kiryat Malachi Municipality is hoping to start marketing houses in a new luxury neighborhood intended for young secular couples in the southern city.

The plan focuses on multi-story building with the hopes of attracting a secular population and avoiding an onrush of ultra-Orthodox families, following a recent ruling issued by Rabi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv that using Shabbat-designated elevators was a violation of religious laws pertaining to the holy day.

Haredim stone police in Jerusalem

By Efrat Weiss December 19, 2009

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox protestors demonstrated in Jerusalem Saturday to protest the opening of the Karta parking lot on Shabbat.

As opposed to recent rallies that remained largely orderly, protestors hurled stones at police vehicles stationed on Jerusalem’s Shivtei Israel Street; no injuries were reported in the violence but there was some damage.

Haredi protest turns violent in Mea She’arim

By Abe Selig December 20, 2009

Some 150 haredi demonstrators gathered on the corner of Shivtei Yisrael and Hanevi’im streets in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood on Saturday afternoon, to protest the ongoing operation of the Karta municipal parking lot on Shabbat.

Two Egged buses vandalized in Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood December 20, 2009

Two Egged buses were vandalized Sunday night in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea She’arim.

The buses were pelted with stones, covered in paint, and their tires slashed.

Police suspect that the crimes were committed by haredim in protest over display of, in their opinion, indecent advertisements on the buses.

Rabbis meet Yasuf leaders to calm tensions after mosque arson

By Chaim Levinson December 15, 2009

Two days after the torching of the mosque in the northern West Bank village of Yasuf, a group of rabbis and other clergy met with leaders of the area in an attempt at reconciliation and at calming tensions.

Rabbis and Yasuf village elders meet at junction after burning of mosque December 14, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

Bearing copies of the Koran, a Hanukka song translated into Arabic, and a lot of good will, a colorful contingent of moderate rabbis, poets and modern Orthodox youths and professors arrived Sunday at the entrance to Yasuf, a village near Nablus, to protest an arson attack there against a mosque.

Scribe to write Torah at Masada December 18, 2009

From today, Shai Abramovich, a Torah scribe from Safed, will write the first Torah scroll in modern times in a room in the ancient synagogue at Masada.

He will work there every morning, but will have to leave when the site closes for about a year. In January people will be able to see him at work online.

“This is where Yigael Yadin found the scrolls that the people on Masada hid from the Romans. We’re writing the Torah on the same parchment to show everyone we’re the people of eternity,” said Rabbi Shimon Elharar.

Mount of Olives security beefed up to stop vandalism

By Matthew Wagner December 17, 2009

On Sunday the cabinet will be asked to vote to transfer responsibility for security on the Mount of Olives to the Construction and Housing Ministry.

In addition to the security cameras and regular police patrols, the ministry will provide a budget for a private security company that will maintain a constant presence on the mount.

Jewish activists planning Temple Mount ascent

By Abe Selig December 16, 2009

A group of activists dedicated to bringing Jews to the Temple Mount told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that they were hoping to see hundreds of participants take part in a planned “mass pilgrimage” to the site scheduled for Thursday morning in honor of Hanukka, which celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple after it was recovered from Hellenist Greeks more than 2,000 years ago.

Energy Magnate Aguiar Makes Chanukah Gift to Chabad-Lubavitch December 14, 2009

Aguiar explained that he was motivated to contribute in the amount of 770 as the numbers correspond to that of the current Jewish calendar year of 5770.

770 is also the address of Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.

Israel Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and Guma Aguiar were honored with lighting the public Menorah at the Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Naftali Rot, director of Tzeirei Chabad in Jerusalem, was the Master of Ceremonies and was privileged to introduce Rabbi Metzger.

Religion and State in Israel

December 21, 2009 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.

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