Religion and State in Israel – January 31, 2011 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

January 31, 2011 (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.

Ashkenazi Haredi rabbis slam koshering of IDF conversions

By Yair Ettinger January 26, 2011

Seventeen Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox rabbis, including prominent religious leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, signed an open letter protesting rabbinic approval for conversions to Judaism undergone by soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces.

The letter, published in three ultra-Orthodox dailies yesterday, called the ruling a “terrible desecration of God’s name.”

Ashkenazi Haredi rabbis protest conversion ‘breach’

By Jonah Mandel January 26, 2011

A letter signed by top Lithuanian adjudicator Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, senior hassidic rabbinic authority Rabbi Shmuel Wosner and over a dozen other haredi rabbis appeared in the major haredi newspapers – Yated Ne’eman, Hamodia and Hamvaser – and without mentioning them by name, was addressing the military conversions, which were recently declared kosher by President of the Shas Council of Torah Sages Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, after their validity was challenged.

Haredi Rabbi Elyashiv slams Ovadia Yosef’s approval of conversion bill

Kfar Chabad’s Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi At Odds With All Chabad Rabbis

By David Yisraeli January 28, 2011

In the wake of the controversy, Chabad in Israel was shaken once again when leading Chabad authority Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi voiced his support for the Chief Rabbinate.

Addressing his fellow Chabad rabbis’ letter, Rabbi Ashkenazi says he sees the interference of Chabad rabbis in this issues as inappropriate.

Chief Sephardi Rabbi defends IDF conversions decision

By Jonah Mandel January 24, 2011

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar defended on Monday his decision to approve the military conversions that are undertaken according to Jewish law.

The chief rabbi then proceeds to make the distinction between those who never really accepted “Torah and mitzvot at the time of [their] conversion,” and are thus not considered converts, and those who had the right intent at the time of their conversion, but did not remain observant afterward.

The Seed of Israel

By Aryeh Tepper Opinion January 26, 2011

In 2010, [Shas MK Rabbi Haim] Amsalem published a massive Hebrew-language work, Zera Yisrael (“The Seed of Israel”), arguing that, when it comes to the non-Jewish descendants of Jews, things really are notall that cut and dried.

Bringing to bear a host of authoritative sources, Amsalem persuasively demonstrates that such persons may be seen as falling under the little-known but legally valid category that gives his book its title.

They might not yet be Jewish, but through their origins they are still definitely connected to the Jewish people, and this connection has important ramifications.

Soldier’s story highlights plight facing gay would-be converts in Israel

By Dina Kraft January 25, 2011

The young would-be convert to Judaism with a gold Star of David pendant peeking through a buttoned shirt is still baffled by the summer afternoon he says he was called in and dismissed from an Israeli army conversion course for being gay.

Bring the Bnei Menashe home to Israel

By Michael Freund Opinion January 19, 2011

Over the past year, I have been intensively lobbying Israel’s government on behalf of the Bnei Menashe, and I am optimistic that a breakthrough is near.

Both the chief rabbi and Interior Minister Eli Yishai have expressed their support for bringing the remaining members of the community to Israel. All that is needed now is for the Israeli government to take the courageous and historic decision to reunite this lost tribe with our people.

On Joining the Covenant

By Rabbi Irving Greenberg Opinion January 14, 2011

Once you have put your life on the line, shabbat, kashrut, and other such obligations, critical as they are, assume proportionately less weight, and an individual’s failure to live up to them in full, however disappointing, should not constitute any sort of disqualification. I hold this to be especially true of converts serving in the Israeli army.

Columbus of Hidden Jews

By Itamar Eichner January 25, 2011

Michael Freund, the Christopher Columbus of Jews, smiled with satisfaction. Right then and there he knew his journey was a successful one: Another lost Jewish tribe had been found.

…Freund, an American immigrant, has a mission: Locating remote and hidden Jews and descendants of the Jewish people.

Woman behind the curtain

By Yizhar Hess Opinion January 25, 2011

Yizhar Hess is the Executive Director and CEO of the Masorti Movement in Israel

If we are not vigilant, the public sphere will change. It has already begun to change. We may not have noticed it, but the voice of women is already being heard less, not metaphorically, but in reality. If cadets at the main officers training base, albeit only a handful, left the auditorium when an army entertainment troop (which included women) was singing, then we are facing a new era.

What seems absurd to us today is liable to become a commonplace occurrence tomorrow

“Black Bus” Looks at Women Who Left Hasidic Life

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen January 27, 2011

“Black Bus” is a close look at the price paid by women who leave their Hasidic communities. Weinfeld and Einfeld are unable to have contact with their parents or siblings or friends. Even as they explain — to the filmmaker, to Haredi Jews who come to talk with them in the movie — why staying in the community was impossible, you see how much pain they’re in.

Click here for “Black Bus” TRAILER

Canadian Jews urged to speak on Israeli issues

By Frances Kraft January 27, 2011

Anat Hoffman has a message for Canadian Jews: Israel is “too important to be left to Israelis. The Jews here have a right and a duty to voice their hopes for Israel.”

If they don’t, she warned in a Jan. 17 interview, “they may wake up one day and see an Israel they absolutely cannot relate to… Israel is a state of all the Jews, whether they live there or not, and reflects on all Jews.”

A Good Week for Israel

By Rabbi Eric Yoffie Opinion January 25, 2011

I have just returned from a brief trip to Israel. While we are accustomed lately to reading grim news from Israel, my experience was the opposite.

I also met for several hours with first-year students of the Hebrew Union College.

… My goal was to give them the tools to advocate for Reform values and to help them to understand why love for Israel and promoting Reform Judaism in the Jewish state is an essential component of their Reform identity.

For the Sake of Zion, Reform Zionism: A Personal Mission

By Richard G. Hirsch January 21, 2011

After serving as founding director of the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC, Rabbi Richard Hirsch moved to Israel to lead the World Union for Progressive Judaism and become a tireless advocate for the global Reform Jewish community.

This book traces Rabbi Hirsch’s efforts to build and support Progressive Judaism in Israel and to integrate Reform Judaism into the institutions of the Zionist Movement.

Yeshiva, suspected of fraud, returns $410k in stipends to Masa

By Raphael Ahren January 28, 2011

The police recently concluded an extended investigation into the alleged fraud of a local yeshiva accused of defrauding the Masa Israel project, Anglo File has learned.

The yeshiva received $410,000 in stipends from Masa for students who signed up for the program but apparently did not attend the institution. The yeshiva, Tomchei Tmimim in Migdal Ha’emek − which belongs to the global educational network of the Chabad movement − denies any wrongdoing.

Jewish Agency officially proposes closing Aliyah Department

By Raphael Ahren January 28, 2011

Jewish Agency officials last week for the first time explicitly stated their intention to close the institution’s current departments − including the large Aliyah Department − in the wake of a far-reaching overhaul according to the agency’s new strategic plan.

The proposed change strengthens concerns among immigration organizations that the agency might abandon its leading role in promoting and facilitating immigration, contrary to its claims that its new focus on Jewish identity will encourage more Jews to move to Israel.

At the Same Table

By Dr. Misha Galperin Opinion January 24, 2011

My recommendation: let’s create a global summit to bring together every institution that is working on strengthening Jewish identity with the government of Israel.

Let’s agree to sit at the same table. Let’s figure out what is getting in the way and what needs to be done.

Let’s point our oars in the same direction. We need the overarching drive and goal that brought institutions together in the past. We cannot afford to squander the moment with myopic thinking.

Federations launch $5.5 million campaign for Ethiopian aliyah January 24, 2011

The campaign comes at the behest of the Israeli government, which agreed last November to bring up to 7,846 additional Ethiopians to Israel. Like Israel’s commitment, the federation’s campaign comes with an eye toward concluding mass Ethiopian aliyah; it’s called “Completing the Journey.”

Israeli leaders from abroad gather in Toronto January 27, 2011

For the first time ever, leaders of Israeli communities around the world met last week to discuss the unique role of an Israeli community in the Diaspora.

“This is a historic moment, and it is very important to be here. Israel needs help from the Israelis abroad,” said Amir Gissin, the Israeli consul general in Toronto, at the opening of the three-day conference of the World Council of Israelis Abroad, Building Bridges to World Jewry and the State of Israel.

Israel Trips For Jewish Youths Expand, Including For Disabled Teens

By Nicole Neroulias, Religion News Service January 24, 2011

Jewish organizations are aiming to send more North American teens and young adults than ever to Israel this year, focusing on increasing current numbers and reaching out to new groups.

Ain’t no mountain high enough

By Raphael Ahren January 28, 2011

A group of American-Jewish teenagers with severe physical disabilities is scheduled to arrive in Israel this morning for a free 10-day trip that is usually the privilege of their healthier peers.

Sponsored by Chai Lifeline, a U.S.-based nonprofit servicing chronically ill children as well as cancer survivors, the trip takes the mostly Orthodox teenagers (and one parent of each participant) from across the U.S. to Israel for the first time in their lives.

Can Jewish giving weather the transfer from one generation to the next?

By Jacob Berkman January 25, 2011

The San Francisco-based Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, which has given out about $700 million since it was started by Richard Goldman in 1951, with most of the gifts benefiting environmental, health and Jewish causes, will close at the end of 2012, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The Avi Chai Foundation, which donates funds primarily to Jewish education and continuity, is scheduled to give away all of its estimated $700 million by 2020.

The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, a family of foundations that helped to found Taglit-Birthright Israel, is set to close in five years.

Dual-loyalty of Diaspora Jews explored January 26, 2011

The Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future sent 40 select North American undergraduate students to Israel last week for a seven-day service learning and experiential education program entitled “A Place Called Home.

‘Gen-Y’ is hungry

By Kenneth Brander January 26, 2011

Just look at the new phenomenon in Israel where national service was once the sole purview of the religious Zionist community; recent years have seen a rise of new organizations like Ma’ase, Shlomit, Sheirut Leumi Mamlachti empowering young adults of Israel’s secular community to volunteer for a year of service before their obligatory time in the army or enabling those exempt from army service who still wish to impact the destiny of the state of Israel. These organizations are collectively serving thousands.

Health Min. moves to reduce red tape for immigrant docs, paramedics

By Raphael Ahren January 28, 2011

The Health Ministry announced plans this week to ease the licensing process for new immigrants, including allowing doctors to apply for a medical license before they physically relocate and translating into English a licensing exam for paramedical professionals.

The Shelf Life Of Jewish Peoplehood

By Erica Brown Opinion January 25, 2011

Dr. Erica Brown’s most recent book is “Confronting Scandal” (Jewish Lights). She can be reached at

Defining peoplehood forces us away from personal self-definition to a more global, collective statement of affiliation.

“Peoplehood” may be a faddish word in the current language of institutional Judaism; “continuity,” “renaissance” and “solidarity” all enjoyed their philological heyday in taglines and fundraising campaigns.

Shalom: Thousands of olim settled in Negev and Galilee

By Ron Friedman January 27, 2011

Four thousand new immigrants, a quarter of all immigrants who arrived in 2010, settled in the Negev and the Galilee, according to Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom.

2,000-year-old drainage channel cleared under J’lem’s Old City

By Melanie Lidman January 26, 2011

Clearing work was finished on a drainage channel underneath the Western Wall Plaza dating from the Second Temple Period, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Tuesday. The cleared channel, which is over half a kilometer long, was built under the main road of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

New Jerusalem tunnel will damage Temple Mount, Palestinians say

By Yair Ettinger and Nir Hasson January 26, 2011

The rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz

“The system is to the side of the Western Wall, outside of the Temple Mount. The Western Wall itself is surrounded by stone walls weighing tens of thousands of tons and no one is digging through them underneath the Temple Mount, both because of the explicit religious prohibition and because it’s simply not possible.”

The Politics of Archeology in Israel

By Alieza Salzberg January 2011

Alieza Salzberg is a graduate student at the Hebrew University where she studies Rabbinic Literature.

Today’s archeologists are locked in a fierce debate over whether archeology can confirm biblical stories. The land of Israel has yielded many archeological finds, but what they mean is subject to interpretation: archeology is both influenced by politics and personal belief, and plays a role in shaping political discourse.

From high heels to military drills

By Yaron Sasson January 26, 2011

King was born 20 year ago in Jerusalem. Her grandfather is a member of the ascetic Amish sect, and the deep love for Israel was bestowed on her by her parents, who met during a Christian festival that was held in Israel.

Her father established the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem…

Currently, King is one of some 100 Christians serving in the IDF. After completing her basic training at the southern Zeelim military base, King was given the position of a Hummer operator.

Israel hopes to draw Christian tourists, rep says

By Laura Stricker January 27, 2011

“In the Canadian market, we are going to invest about $350,000 in… advertising. A good portion of our budget is going to be invested in the Christian market. We have found that [a lot of] tourism in the next few years in Israel is going to be from the Christian market.”

Religion and State in Israel

January 31, 2011 (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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