Religion and State in Israel – February 28, 2011 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

February 28, 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.

Rabbis lobby Yishai on behalf of Canadian Orthodox convert denied aliyah

By Yair Ettinger February 23, 2011

Several dozen U.S. and Canadian rabbis wrote to Interior Minister Eli Yishai yesterday, asking him to clarify his ministry’s regulations on conversions to Judaism done outside Israel, and to ensure these conversions will be recognized by the state.

The Supreme Court had ruled previously that the Interior Ministry must recognize the conversion of Reform or Conservative converts from abroad, but left Orthodox converts out of the ruling.

Dohlan’s case demonstrated for the first time that the actual decision is being made by the rabbinate. Yishai told Haaretz the practice was inappropriate, but the instructions of the ministry on the matter remain unchanged.

US rabbis: Recognize our conversions

By Kobi Nahshoni February 23, 2011

ITIM Director Rabbi Dr. Shaul Farber warned of a rift among the Jewish people, saying:

“In the situation created people who have undergone a conversion process in Reform or Conservative communities are eligible for aliyah, while those who underwent an Orthodox conversion – their conversion is not recognized.”

He said this was a dramatic change in the status-quo, which is like “a slap in the face of Orthodox communities in the US.”

Orthodox Rabbis Call Israeli Interior Ministry Policy ‘Unjust’ February 22, 2011

Now, a number of Orthodox rabbis here including Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side, Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University, and Rabbi Adam Mintz of Congregation Rayim Ahuvim on the Upper West Side, agree.

They and others representing the RCA, the Orthodox Union and Yeshiva University have signed the letter that states:

“As rabbis and as Zionists, we call upon you to clarify the situation and rectify the injustice being done to our converts, ourselves and the Jewish people.”

Sharansky: We can’t allow conversion crisis alienate Diaspora Jews

By Jonathan Lis February 23, 2011

Interview with Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency

I want to separate the argument about conversion from the recognition of Judaism for the sake of citizenship-eligibility under the Law of Return.

It’s so important that a person who undergoes conversion according to the tradition of his community and who the community accepts as a Jew be eligible to make aliyah under the Law of Return.

From time to time problems have come up on this subject, especially in cases of Reform or Conservative conversions.

Now problems have also started cropping up in cases of Orthodox conversions. It turned out that in cases of Orthodox conversion, the Interior Ministry would contact the Chief Rabbinate and turn to various Orthodox bodies to consider the person’s Judaism.

It turned out that sometimes these bodies would be influenced by political considerations; for example, if the community’s rabbi was accepted or not. And the answers were given on that basis, even though the information was in no way connected with eligibility to make aliyah.

…We’ll advise the government to instruct the Interior Ministry to turn to us instead of the Chief Rabbinate to check a person’s Judaism with this or that rabbi abroad.

U.S. Rabbis Blast Israel Over Immigration Policy For Converts

By Michele Chabin, Religion News Service February 24, 2011

Rabbi Seth Farber, an American-born Orthodox rabbi in Israel who helped spearhead the rabbis’ letter, said Interior Ministry officials “don’t understand the landscape of North American Jewry. They believe that the Chief Rabbinate is the central authority of Orthodox communities around the world, but this is inaccurate.”

Farber, the director of ITIM, an organization that often advocates for converts, called it “ironic” that the most religious converts are coming under scrutiny while Reform and Conservative converts are not.

Conversions Debate Update February 24, 2011

According to President and CEO Jerry Silverman, “JFNA will continue to push hard for a more concrete change in the Interior Ministry’s procedures that will seek greater compliance with Supreme Court decisions and eliminate the Chief Rabbinate from this process.

We will continue to work closely with our partners until all Jews are treated equally and have the ability to make aliyah, regardless of their background.”

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef backpedals on broad approval of IDF conversions

By Yair Ettinger February 21, 2011

Heavily pressured by ultra-Orthodox rabbis, Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef yesterday qualified a sweeping authorization of IDF conversions that he had issued last month.

…Yesterday he clarified that statement, saying his words apply only to candidates who are sincere in their declaration that they intend to uphold religious commandments.

Converts who clearly mislead dayanim (religious court judges) and who have no intention of upholding the commandments, are not to be considered eligible to marry under Jewish law and custom, Yosef explained yesterday.

Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Israel [Movement for Progressive Judiasm], released the following statement:

“In an unsurprising cynical fashion, peace was reached between the various ultra-Orthodox factions at the expense of IDF soldiers who convert to Judaism, and who will lead Jewish lives with the constant fear of what could happen when they register to get married.”

Unlikely Shas alliance forged over conversion compromise

By Yair Ettinger February 23, 2011

The son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef gave former party leader and rival Aryeh Deri a green light to try and reach a compromise with the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox community following Yosef’s controversial ruling okaying army conversions.

Eda Haredit calls off IDF conversions approval protest

By Jonah Mandel February 21, 2011

The Eda Haredit had been under heavy fire recently, after it started organizing the demonstration, which was perceived by [Rabbi Ovadia] Yosef’s supporters as directed against him.

Not only did the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut division recently tighten its supervision over the procedural – as opposed to halachic – aspects of the Badatz Eda Haredit kashrut industry, but also the Religious Services Ministry, headed by Shas’s Ya’acov Margi, warned the Eda Haredit last week that it would inspect its marriage registration, following a State Comptroller’s Report on the topic.

A place among the Jews Editorial February 22, 2011

At the very least, the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over marriage registration, which too often has been hijacked by the most extremist representatives of Orthodoxy, should be dissolved and the various streams within Orthodoxy should be permitted to conduct marriages in any place in the nation.

Ideally, recognized non-Orthodox streams – Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist – should be allowed to do so as well – as long as they adhere to basic consensus tenets, such as matrilineal descent.

With respect to Israeli citizenship, we wholeheartedly embrace the initiative put forward by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky that his organization, not the Chief Rabbinate, be responsible for determining whether a Diaspora convert belongs to a recognized Jewish community or not.

Kadima: ‘IDF conversion is conversion in all senses’

AP February 21, 2011

“We will not agree in any way that IDF soldiers who converted will live their Jewish lives with apprehension and fear because of the whim of the Chief Rabbinate judges.

No political deal between the courts of the rabbis will be done on the backs of the soldiers.”

North American rabbis demand Interior Minister Yishai ‘rectify injustice’

By Jonah Mandel February 21, 2011

ITIM Rabbi Seth Farber:

“The Chief Rabbinate is saying that to come to Israel you have to have a certain standard. But if someone is accepted as a member of the RCA, the RCA should accept their conversions,” he added.

Sharansky: More converts should be able to immigrate

By Jonah Mandel February 22, 2011

In an effort to curb the trend of Orthodox converts from abroad not being recognized by Israel for citizenship, the Jewish Agency on Tuesday appealed the Interior Ministry for a more dominant role in identifying established Diaspora communities as such.

Conversion rates rise among Eastern Europeans

By Kobi Nahshoni February 22, 2011

There was a 27% increase in conversion certificates issued to Eastern European immigrants in 2010, and a 6% rise in the number of IDF soldiers and parents of soldiers who converted.

[Rabbi Haim Drukman] also championed state conversions, saying that haredi claims suggesting the converts were not leading Jewish lifestyles after receiving the required stamp of approval, were false.

He added that as long as the converts accepted Judaism at the time of their conversion, they remain Jews even if afterwards they did not perform rites.

Choosing Judaism Three Times

By Judah Gross February 23, 2011

Many people, throughout history, have converted to Judaism. Some have even converted twice, often to fulfill a more stringent set of Jewish legal requirements.

This year, Rebecca Strober may convert for the third time.

…But regardless of what happens, Strober does not plan to become Jewish for a third time. She wants to move forward with her life—hoping to study anthropology at Hebrew University—and does not see how Nativ could be invalidated.

“My conversion was not only Orthodox, it was government-sponsored and looked over by three Orthodox rabbis,” she said. “Converting again would be telling an entire community that they’re bullshit.”

Israeli Chief Rabbis Visit IDF’s Chief Rabbi

By Elad Benari and Yoni Kempinski February 21, 2011

On Sunday, Israel’s chief rabbis, Rabbi Yona Metzger and Rabbi Shlomo Amar, visited the Military Rabbinate unit of the IDF. The two rabbis were greeted by the Chief Military Rabbi, Rafi Peretz, and by the new Deputy Chief of Staff, Major General Yair Naveh.

The meeting was held in the wake of a heated debate over military conversions…

Click here for VIDEO

‘Get-o-omics’: The Economics of Agunot

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen February 23, 2011

That there are Orthodox Jewish men who hold a get, or Jewish divorce decree, over their estranged wives’ heads out of spite and to extort money from the women’s families — making the women agunot — is a sad reality.

The creators of a new documentary film, “Women Unchained,” hope to shed new light on this seemingly intractable issue, and create communal pressure for change.

Click here for VIDEO (Facebook)

60 years later, spies’ lives revealed

By Akiva Novick February 20, 2011

“Your husband is not who you think he is. He is not Arab. Your husband is a Jew who was sent into your village on a mission by the defense establishment.”

This was the news a few Israeli Arab women received from the head of the Mossad mission in France in 1964.

…Three rabbis were then brought to the Israeli embassy in Paris, including Chief IDF Rabbi Shlomo Goren, to convert the women to Judaism. Considering the special circumstances, the rabbis ruled that the children can be accepted as Jews even though their mothers were not.

Come and convert our tribe – Jewish Uganda February 24, 2011

“When Rabbi Greenspan said that we were not 100 per cent halachic, he meant that although we are observant, we have no direct Jewish lineage, and we are not yet accepted by Orthodox bodies in Israel. This suggests that we will have to undergo conversion. The rabbis learned about us from the website [].”

VIDEO: Battle for Jerusalem

Click here for VIDEO

This trailer was produced and directed by Liz Nord, Edited by A.M. Peters, and Shot by Roy Gluska, with additional camera work by Liz Nord and Jonathan Amerikaner. The music was composed and recorded by Jim Heffernan (

“Battle For Jerusalem” follows five young, Jewish artists and activists who strive to revitalize Israel’s capital in the midst of an escalating conflict for control of the city between the growing ultra-Orthodox and the majority moderate communities.

Against many odds, these committed citizens are working to keep the city vibrant and religiously tolerant, resulting in a burgeoning cultural renaissance.

[vimeo 19819631 w=400 h=225]

Battle for Jerusalem – Background Trailer from Liz Nord on Vimeo.

Devout and proud

By Tamar Rotem February 25, 2011

Kamoha (Hebrew for “like you”) is the third organization in Israel to be established to represent and support religious gay men; Amit says its activities are aimed at ultra-Orthodox of all levels of devotion.

Its predecessors are Hod (the Hebrew acronym for religious homosexuals), created in the 1990s, and Havruta – Religious Homosexuals in Israel, founded in 2007.

Religious gays offered ‘conversion therapy’

By Kobi Nahshoni February 25, 2011

For years, organizations for homosexuals have refused to acknowledge the possibility of changing a person’s sexual inclination. A newly established association of religious gays and lesbians is now giving those psychological “conversion therapies” a chance.

The Kamoha – Orthodox Homosexuals organization is the first such group which does not rule out the notion that a homosexual can become straight. The association is now setting up a charity to fund “conversion therapy” for religious men aged 18 to 25 who are attracted to people of their own sex.

Billionaire Tisch to be next Jewish Agency board chair

By Gil Shefler February 21, 2011

“It’s a new era,” agency chairman Natan Sharansky said. “Motivation to make aliya today stems from a strong Jewish-Zionist identity and not distress related to the economy or personal safety.”

Tycoon James Tisch elected to head Jewish Agency BOG

By Raphael Ahren February 25, 2011

“There is still a major focus on aliyah,” Tisch said in response to critics who fear the new strategy will negatively impact on immigration to Israel.

“The Jewish Agency has identified Jewish identity and Jewish peoplehood as really important issues. It may be an issue that doesn’t resonate so well in Israel but for Diaspora Jews it is really important,” he added. Tisch quoted statistics saying that 500 Jews “disappear” every day.

The New Jewish Agency February 22, 2011

The Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors, bringing together representatives from Jewish communities around the world this week in Jerusalem, approved a new structure for the organization which will focus on connecting young Diaspora Jews with Israel and increasing aliyah, according to a strategic plan led by the Chairman of the organization Natan Sharansky.

But Israel is now a more Jewish state than ever, the religious dominate in politics


Wayne Firestone, Hillel president:

“Due to today’s religious coercion, people move away from religion, the lack of separation between religion and the state causes a distancing between the religious and the secular.

We have to work with both sides, the secular elements of the population must understand that hareidim are their brothers, and the hareidim must find a common cause with the secular group, without dictating who is a Jew and determining what is considered conversion and what isn’t.”

Demand for Birthright-Taglit hits new high in N. America

By Gil Shefler February 23, 2011

The Birthright-Taglit program, which brings young Jewish adults from the Diaspora to Israel on free, 10-day educational tours of the country, said it received 40,108 applications during the seven day registration period for summer trips that ended on Tuesday – 1,334 more than the year before.

Demand soars for Birthright trips

Demand Soars for Taglit-Birthright Israel Trips

J Street goes it alone with Israel program

By Raphael Ahren February 25, 2011

After Taglit-Birthright Israel refused to allow a trip organized by J Street, the dovish Israel advocay group’s student division J Street U is currently planning its own Israel trip for American youths.

New Institute to Expand Jewish and Israel Studies at UC Berkeley

By Andrew Cohen February 24, 2011

Berkeley Law has launched a new institute that will expand Jewish and Israel studies on the UC Berkeley campus.

In coming semesters, the institute’s faculty will introduce additional courses in Israeli history and constitutional law, expand Jewish Law offerings to undergraduates, and host its first annual campus-wide conference, on Israel as a high-tech nation.

Merkaz Hamagshimim closes its doors in capital after 14 years

By Raphael Ahren February 25, 2011

The Young Judaea youth movement is closing Merkaz Hamagshimim, the popular community center for young English-speaking immigrants it has operated in Jerusalem since 1996, Anglo File has learned.

Movement officials said the Merkaz was no longer needed but that some services will continue to be provided by other segments of the organization and that no staff has been fired. Merkaz alumni and immigrant association officials said they regretted the move.

Keep Dreaming: Jewish Identity 101

By David Breakstone Opinion February 25, 2011

The writer is vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of the Jewish Agency Executive

If we really want our MKs to explore Jewish identity meaningfully – and to talk about the challenges of intermarriage in a venue where it is unquestionably appropriate to do so – then we need to create an environment where the full diversity of opinion and expression is validated. We need to bring them to Limmud.

Non-profits to gather in Jaffa to examine their future

By Ruth Eglash February 27, 2011

FONSI – Future of Non Profit Summit-Israel is a follow up to a similar event held recently in New York and is an initiative of REACH3K, a company that consults non-profits on their development and fundraising strategies and CAUSIL, a New York-based organization that helps brands, organizations and individuals engage in the best practices of communications, marketing and technology.

Religion and State in Israel

February 28, 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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