Religion and State in Israel – March 22, 2010 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

March 22, 2010 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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

The conversion bill is dead

By Rabbi Seth Farber Opinion March 21, 2010

The writer is the founder of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center and rabbi of Kehillat Netivot in Ra’anana

The conversion bill is dead. At least for the time being. And this has me worried.

After a frenzied week of negotiations that sought to appease the ultra-Orthodox, the Reform Movement, the North American Jewish community and the Jewish Agency, the conversion bill – initially proposed in the Knesset law committee last week – was tabled, leaving potential converts with nothing to hope for.

Watching from the side (both in and out) in the past ten days, it is important for me to dispel some myths about the bill.

…The bottom line is that thousands of converts continue to wait for help, and the Knesset vacation won’t provide a needed push for these converts. As we sit at our seders this year, we ought remember that once upon a time, we were all “gerim,” and challenge ourselves to do more for this vulnerable population.

US Jewish leaders in Knesset for talks on conversion law March 17, 2010

According to Natan Sharansky,

“From my conversations with the PM and the cabinet secretary it is clear that the law which is viewed as problematic by Jews in the Diaspora will not be passed during the current Knesset session which goes into recess on March 21.

We have received assurances that we will be consulted in this process so that the views of world Jewry are taken into consideration.”

Conversion Bill Sparks Unusual Push Back From Diaspora Jews

By Gal Beckerman March 17, 2010

Rabbi Seth Farber said he was involved with the drafting of a proposal to replace the problematic clause amending the Law of Return. Instead of denying citizenship to all converts in Israel, it would apply only to those who had been living in Israel illegally for the previous six months.

This way, it would cover the Interior Ministry’s concerns about foreign workers while not adversely hurting legitimate converts to Judaism.

Farber said that though all the parties involved in the drafting of the bill had looked at the proposal favorably, its adoption has not yet been confirmed.

L.A. Federation leaders voice concern on conversion law in Knesset meeting

By Julie Gruenbaum Fax March 15, 2010

The Reform movement also expressed strong opposition to the bill, saying it would give the chief rabbinate authority over Law of Return eligibility, undoing a fragile status quo that allows non-Orthodox converts to be recognized as citizens.

“This legislation will certainly reopen one of the most divisive battles in the Jewish community.

The proposed legislation will lead to a situation in which Jews-by-choice would be treated differently and denied recognition as Jews under the Law of Return, in direct contradiction of Israeli Supreme Court rulings.

Additionally, it may lead to the delegitimization of all non-orthodox conversions performed outside of the State of Israel,” said a statement released by the Union for Reform Judaism.

Diaspora Jews Seen Getting Consulted On Conversion Bill

By Michele Chabin March 16, 2010

Uri Regev, CEO of Hiddush: the Organization for Religious Freedom and Equality, said the civil union bill will do more harm than good.

“Rather than doing the right thing – namely providing freedom of marriage to all Israelis – the organizers caved to haredi pressure,” Regev said.

“Now Knesset members will say ‘we’ve done our part,’ and won’t feel under any pressure to improve the law.”

In what many believe a twist of irony, Regev noted that the new law gives the religious establishment more, not less, authority over personal-status issues.

The Jewish Agency Chairman’s position on the issue of the conversion bill

By Natan Sharansky March 17, 2010

It is my belief that any legislation that gives the Chief Rabbinate complete authority over conversion – and by association, relegates control to the orthodox stream of Judaism at the expense of the other streams – disrupts the balance achieved by the Neeman Committee.

Not only is it unacceptable to exclude reform and conservative voices from the communal Jewish table, but in the end, such an exclusion could alienate them to the point of an irreparable rift between these streams and the State of Israel.

Conversion in Israel Affects All of Us

By Rabbi Stacey Blank Opinion March 15, 2010

Today, in the modern State of Israel, where Jews have never been freer to practice their religion and have never been more capable of ensuring the physical survival of the Jewish people, refusing people conversion or a right to be Israeli is part of a power play to protect special interests without consideration of individual lives.

‘Absurd situation in terms of conversion’ March 19, 2010

Minister of Religious Affairs Yaakov Margi spoke of the issues surrounding proposed conversion and marriage laws that are currently being debated in the Knesset.

“The Conversion Law is intended to bypass the Beth Din (religious court) and the Chief Rabbinate,” Margi said.

“Today, there is an absurd situation where anybody except the Chief Rabbinate can give conversions.”

Margi also posed the question of who has an easier time, rabbis in Israel or in Europe. “In the Diaspora, no one interferes in rabbis decisions on matters of religion, here, in Israel, there are endless battles,” he continued.

Israel Conversion Law Angers Canadian Diaspora

By Paul Lungen March 19, 2010

Rabbi Michael Melchior, former minister for Diaspora relations. He said the dispute over the bill, and the threat by the Ashkenazi haredi party (United Torah Judaism) to bolt the government over the bill are “a classical example of how we mess up things at the highest level.”

Rabbi Melchior said Rotem’s bill, before it was amended at the behest of haredi parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism), resembled one he had proposed years ago.

“The bill was an attempt, without breaking all the principles and rules regarding conversions, to make conversions a little bit easier” by permitting city rabbis across Israel to perform them, he said.

Knesset Bill under Consideration: New Conversion Bill Threatens Jewish Unity

Editorial March 18, 2010

What makes the provisions at issue so distressing is the fear that this could be the first slide down a slippery slope, with the potential for future erosion of the Law of Return.

By giving the Chief Rabbinate more authority, and by distinguishing between Jews-by-choice and those who are Jews by descent, the concern is that some Jews are being treated differently, and less fairly, than others.

VIDEO: Women of the Wall – Rosh Hodesh Nissan March 16, 2010

Haredi men throw chairs at Women of the Wall

Click here for VIDEO

The right message at the Wall Editorial March 19, 2010

Most significant, though, was the police’s reaction to the haredi unrest. Instead of arresting the women for inciting the haredim, as it has done in recent months – when Nofrat Frenkel was pushed into a police van and detained for the “crime” of reading from a Torah scroll and wearing a tallit, and Anat Hoffman, a founder of Women of the Wall, was arrested, interrogated and fingerprinted for a similar “crime” – the police this time arrested the men who threw the chairs.

It is to be hoped that this marks a reversal of Israeli authorities’ tendency to blame the victim for a “provocation,” instead of blaming the attacker.

VIDEO: Women of the Wall – Rosh Hodesh Nissan March 16, 2010

Women of the Wall praying

Click here for VIDEO

Haredim throw chairs at praying women

By Kobi Nahshoni March 16, 2010

“Suddenly there was tension and something like 10 chairs came flying towards us, and two even got broken,” Women of the Wall Chairwoman Anat Hoffman told Ynet.

She said that the timing of the protest, when they were just standing and waiting for prayers to begin, shows that it was carried out by a group who had come especially to provoke.

“In recent years the Western Wall has become a haredi synagogue,” said Yizhar Hess, executive of the Masorti movement. “Anyone visiting the site notices the changes.

“The struggle of the Women of the Wall is not just for the sake of their own ability to pray, but for the sake of anyone who fears for Jerusalem’s wellbeing,” Hess added.

A (c)hair raising experience

By David Brinn March 17, 2010

On Tuesday, chair throwing was the violent act of choice. Rena Magen, one of the participants in the service described it like this:

…All of a sudden, chairs started flying at us from the men’s side of the mechitzah, with great force.

About 10 total, one after the other, very quickly. It was so outrageous that we hardly had time to be afraid. I am amazed that whoever shot this clip had the presence of mind to do so.

Praying With Our Feet

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion Spring 2010

Rabbi Andrew Sacks directs both the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel and the Bureau of Religious Affairs of the Masorti movement.

Over the years the Kotel has become much like a private shtiebel, a neighborhood Orthodox shul. Celebrations there have become rare. Few swearing-in ceremonies for the Israel Defense Forces now take place there, and new olim, immigrants to Israel, are no longer officially welcomed there.

No longer does the army choir sing there on Israel’s Memorial Day, because the singers include women, whose voices the haredim feel they are prohibited from hearing.

This haredization of the Kotel is symptomatic of much that is happening all over Jerusalem. There are weekly clashes between the haredim, who seek to impose their will on the entire city, and the rest of its citizens.

“A Woman, a Chair and a Wall”

By Yonina Creditor Opinion March 21, 2010

Yonina Creditor, JTS Rabbinical School

Six days have passed and I still struggle with whether the fight for religious freedom at the Kotel is worth all this pain.

I hear the recording, “HaKotel BeYadeinu” and think – no it is not. HaKotel BeYedaihem (the Kotel is in Their Hands) and they are afraid to share.

I don’t know what these Chareidi men fear from a group of women who have such love for Hashem and Torah that we take upon ourselves Mitzvot (commandments) that are not forbidden to us according go the Torah and Rabbinic literature.

IDF to Har Bracha Hesder Soldiers – 10 Days to Decide

By Yechiel Spira March 19, 2010

While the conflict between the Ministry of Defense and the Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva has dropped from the media, the issue is not forgotten and military officials have informed soldiers affiliated with the yeshiva to make a decision in ten days, either to change to another hesder yeshiva or leave the hesder framework and comply with regular 36 month military service.

City Project Will Recycle Mikvah Water for Reuse

Original article from (but no longer online) March 15, 2010

The city of Jerusalem has planned a pilot program to reuse water from mikvaot (ritual baths). The water from each mikva will be purified daily and returned by the next morning.

Teens under the chuppah

By Chaim Levinson March 18, 2010

Last year, a matchmaker approached Ayala Suchi, 18, from Yitzhar, with a potential husband. While many people feel a woman her age is too young for marriage, in Ayala’s family and circle of friends, no one was surprised by her decision to become a teenage bride. Her younger sister had married at 17, and a cousin did so at an even younger age.

Another opponent of young marriages is Dr. Hannah Kehat, founder and chairwoman of the feminist-religious organization Kolech: “This is a serious problem…

Does Modern Orthodoxy Have a Future? March 2010

It is undeniable that Modern Orthodoxy has changed since the early days of Torah Va’Avodah. But is it developing in a planned, desirable way?

Do we need to intervene and change course? Is it fair to intercede or should we allow natural evolution to run its course?

On Thursday Chol HaMoed Pessach, April 1st at the Begin Center in Jerusalem, weigh in on these questions.

This event, organized jointly by Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah and The Jewish Institute for Ideas and Ideals, will host a spectrum of organizations and personalities.

What kind of rabbinate do we need? The Torah world and the challenge of reality

By Bambi Sheleg Opinion March 18, 2010

Bambi Sheleg is Editor, Eretz Acheret

Thousands of rabbis are today active in Israel and in the Jewish world as a whole. Most of them belong to the Orthodox establishment, especially to the ultra-Orthodox stream.

Although these rabbis represent only a small portion of Israeli Jewish society and the Jewish people in general, their influence on the lives of many Israelis is extensive and they also exert a significant influence on the Jewish people’s image and situation in the Diaspora.

However, the agenda that they have fashioned as the “Jewish agenda” in our present generation points to an ever-widening gap between these rabbis and extensive sections of the society in which they operate.

For whom will the Messiah come?

By Rabbi Naama Kelman Opinion March 18, 2010

Rabbi Naama Kelman is the dean of the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.

Sadly, the Orthodox rabbinical establishment concerns itself with questions that are of little interest to the majority of the population.

The stagnated rabbinical establishment is unable to advance laws that are appropriate to the current century.

It is preoccupied with futile wars against equality, pluralism and progress instead of trying to find a humane solution to the problem of agunot – women whose husbands refuse to give them a divorce – instead of addressing the possibility of mutual divorce, more egalitarian wedding ceremonies, conversion that adapts itself to the lifestyle of the converts, rather than insisting exclusively on an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle, and much, much more.

A Time of Profound Change

By Rabbi Yuval Sherlo Opinion March 18, 2010

Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, a leader of “Tzohar – A Window Between Worlds,” is Head of the Hesder Yeshiva in Petah-Tikvah

There is, however, a third possibility, which is recognition of the new reality, as a result of which the rabbi will study all of the necessary realms. He need not be a an Übermensch, but rather a rabbi who is familiar with the different worlds that exist outside of his own, and who slowly progresses towards filling in the gaps necessary in an ongoing manner, alongside his rabbinic studies. He must conduct a dialogue with the world that is external to the world of Torah, and strike a balance through exquisite attentiveness to additional foundations.

Works begins on Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance, despite protests

AP March 15, 2010

[Original plan]

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said Monday it hopes to start building its Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem in the coming months despite a petition to the United Nations to stop construction because the site was once a medieval Muslim cemetery.

Since the Supreme Court’s unanimous green light in late December for the project to go ahead, preparatory work has started and we are now down to bedrock, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based international Jewish human rights organization named for the late Nazi hunter.

PM’s son one of National Bible Quiz winners

By Hagai Einav March 17, 2010

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s youngest son, Avner, has been crowned Bible Quiz winner of state education. The annual contest was held Tuesday afternoon in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona for the 47th time.

The four finalists will participate in the International Bible Contest for Jewish youth, which will take place in Jerusalem on Independence Day, along with young men and women from across the world.

A first look at the Simpsons’ upcoming visit to Israel

By Matan Abramovich, City Mouse Online March 17, 2010

The first images from the upcoming episode of The Simpsons, in which the animated family visits Israel, were released this week after six months of
buzz over the special show to be aired in the United States on March 28.

‘A show that all faiths can be offended by’

By Melanie Lidman March 18, 2010

“The series is released to millions of children around the world, and releasing a special part about Israel will without a doubt create an improvement in the reputation of Israel in the world and will encourage people to come and visit and enjoy Israel,” Meseznikov’s press secretary, Amnon Liebermann, told The Jerusalem Post. “We hope initiatives like this will continue.”

Rabbi Lior: Vegetarianism not right for our times

By Kobi Nahshoni March 18, 2010

Whoever avoids eating meat or has chosen a vegetarian lifestyle for the sake of having mercy on animals is wrong, according to Rabbi Dov Lior, a prominent Religious Zionism halachic authority.

“We still are not compassionate towards people in our times, so having mercy on animals is irrelevant,” explained the rabbi. “Only when the world ascends spiritually and we have mercy on people will we be able to be vegetarians.”

Lior is serving as Kiryat Arba’s rabbi and is considered a prominent leader in the National Haredi movement.

Shinto priests come to Jerusalem, looking for common ground

By Mark Rebacz March 18, 2010

Though a polytheistic religion such as Shintoism, and the world’s oldest monotheistic religion – Judaism – seem worlds apart, followers of the two seem to think there is common ground.

To that end, 26 Shinto priests from Nagoya, Japan, met last Thursday at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to conduct an interfaith dialogue with Israeli academics.

Narrowing Israel’s religion gap

By Peter Kohn March 16, 2010

Extending a welcoming hand to Israel’s secular Jews has been a rewarding experience for Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth, an organiser from Israeli group Tzohar.

Established by a small group of rabbis in 1997 in the aftermath of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, the organisation embraces a religious Zionist view, and has dedicated itself to bringing communal harmony by trying to instill a greater sense of Jewish tradition.

Israeli, and Jewish too

By Prof. Ruth Gavison Opinion March 17, 2010

The writer is founding president of the Metzilah Center for Zionist, Jewish, Liberal and Humanistic Thought.

…Therefore, Israel is Jewish and democratic, Jewish (because it has a Jewish majority and a Jewish public culture and is the realization of Jewish self-determination) and also Israeli (a country in which all citizens, and only citizens, participate in the democratic decision-making process).

MK Katz proposes Aliyah Day

By Raphael Ahren March 19, 2010

“Whether this bill will have any relevance outside of Israel remains to be seen,” said American-Israeli sociologist Chaim Waxman, who specializes on immigration.

“If the schools’ curricula were to include more discussions of aliyah, then perhaps this could raise the consciousness within Israel, but I don’t expect a major impact abroad.”

‘Aliyah Day’ Law Gets Head Start

By Hillel Fendel March 15, 2010

At a conference on Aliyah in the Knesset on Monday, it was resolved to begin parliamentary work on a law institutionalizing an annual Aliyah Day.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein also emphasized that Israel must be more open to the Reform and Conservative communities:

“They often feel that Israel doesn’t want them; this leaves them open to other influences, turning them against Israel, etc. We must be open to Jews of all stripes.”

[MK Yaakov Katz (Ketzaleh) head of the National Union party] had earlier said that Hassidic Jews in New York must also be a target of Aliyah efforts.

Experts warn against Israeli plan to use European rabbi for PR

By Cnaan Liphshiz March 21, 2010

Dr. Mikael Tossavainen, who is in charge of the Scandinavian desk at Tel Aviv University’s Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, described this plan as “a bad idea.”

“Using rabbis as spokespeople would reinforce the image that’s already very strong, that Jews are in some way connected or responsible for what Israel does,” he said.

Minister’s turn to European rabbis in PR war meets skepticism

By Cnaan Liphshiz March 19, 2010

European rabbis may become the latest addition to Israel’s arsenal of public diplomacy tools, following Minister Yuli Edelstein’s request this week that they act as “ambassadors.”

But authorities on Israel advocacy in Europe warned the plan could end up reinforcing tendencies to blame Jewish communities for Israel’s actions.

Edelstein, the Information and Diaspora Minister, conveyed his request this week through Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, who met with a large delegation from the Rabbinical Center of Europe in Jerusalem.

European rabbis asked to be Israel’s ‘ambassadors’ March 19, 2010

The meeting, which took place at the Ohel Yitzhak Synagogue in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter, was an opportunity for the top rabbis in Europe to meet and discuss issues of importance with their counterparts in Israel.

From strawberry fields to the halls of justice

By Raphael Ahren March 19, 2010

A student of the late Talmudic scholar Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik, Hendel is known for letting his legal opinions be influenced by rabbinic thought as well as American law.

Speaking in the AACI’s new building – which is named after benefactors Max and Gianna Glassman of Toronto – Hendel recounted four decisions he took and explained how his background as a Modern Orthodox American informed his reasoning as a judge.

The stress-free life

By Guy Rolnik and Tali Heruti-Sover March 18, 2010

The meeting with Morton Mandel, in the mammoth lobby of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, reveals a satisfied Jew.

He cultivates an appearance that your average 60-year-old would kill for, his mind is sharp and agile – and his fortune is estimated at $4-5 billion.

…At a conservative estimate, Mandel has donated to date no less than $300 million in Israel, and although this sum is enormous, it represents only about a third of his total contributions. By simple arithmetic, Mandel and his family have thus far contributed close to $1 billion to Israel and to various Jewish causes in the United States.

The immigrant loan fund is empty, but the state still advertises it

By Adaya Fiterman March 21, 2010

An Immigrant Absorption Ministry fund that is supposed to provide loans to new immigrants and Israelis returning from abroad has not been allocated money to operate, TheMarker has learned.

VIDEO: Rabbi Shlomo Riskin introduces Pastor John Hagee at Christians United for Israel (CUFI)

Click here for VIDEO

Friends in Deed

By Lee Smith March 16, 2010

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, and Israel’s goodwill ambassador to the Evangelical movement, understood back in the ’80s that the evangelical movement was a powerful political as well as cultural force. In spite of stiff opposition from the American Jewish community, he reached out to these unlikely partners.

“Evangelical support for Israel is founded not on a prophecy, but on a promise,” says Malcolm Hedding, executive director of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.

Why do Jews Spit on Christians in the Old City?

By Jennie Grayson March 21, 2010

Recently, there have been positive developments on the municipal level: Yaacov Avrahami, an advisor to the mayor on the Christian communities in Jerusalem, who was in attendance, worked with the Jerusalem Intercultural Center to get a ruling from the Beit Din of the Edah Haharedit (the Ultra Orthodox Religious Court in Jerusalem) condemning the practice of spitting on Christians, calling it a “desecration of the divine name.”

The phenomenon of spitting on Christians in the Old City may seem minor when compared to all of the problems in this part of the world, and in this city in particular. Still, it goes to the heart of the inter-religious tension within Jerusalem.

Operation Shlomo

By Ruth Eglash March 17, 2010

Interview with Knesset Member Shlomo Molla (Kadima)

Q: Do you think Israel should consider changing the Law of Return?

I think the Law of Return should form the basis of our immigration policies, but I also believe that we can’t give up on any Jew or group of Jews.

When the State of Israel was first created there were voices of concern about bringing in the Jews from North Africa and Yemen but they were brought here and they contributed to building this country.

So much for the Exodus

By Tom Segev March 18, 2010

“Ethiopian Haggadah,” edited by Rabbi Menachem Waldman

Waldman, who is making an almost missionary-like effort to integrate Ethiopian Jews into Orthodox Judaism here, explains that his work is based on a theory from halakha…

Religion and State in Israel

March 22, 2010 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.

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