Religion and State in Israel – March 7, 2011 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

March 7, 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.

Jewish Agency offers solution to conversion problem

By Paul Lungen March 3, 2011

Natan Sharansky believes he has found an “elegant” solution to a problem that is currently vexing the Jewish world: let the Jewish Agency determine which communities, congregations and rabbinical authorities are legitimate – at least when it comes to performing conversions for the purposes of Israeli immigration laws.

A violation of sovereignty

By Shlomo Avineri Opinion March 4, 2011

Sharansky, suggested […] that the Agency − and not Israel’s Chief Rabbinate − be the entity to which the Interior Ministry would apply to ascertain the validity of conversions in cases involving candidates for immigration.

The solution to the issue Sharansky raises is a government decision that places the matter in the hands of an Israeli governmental body − the Justice Ministry, for example − and enables a pluralistic approach to the matter.

Powers that are part of the fabric of the Jewish state must not be transferred into the hands of a body the majority of whose members are not its citizens.

Toward a state of all Jews

By Yehezkel Dror Opinion March 4, 2011

Prof. Yehezkel Dror served for more than six years as founding president of the Jewish People Policy Institute.

The Jewish Agency has to be redesigned so as to make it the “Jewish People Agency,” in which both Israeli Jews and Diaspora communities will be represented equally.

At the same time the role of Israeli political parties in determining the representation of Israel in the agency should be reduced, as should that of philanthropists in determining the representation of the Diaspora.

What, Not Who, Is a Jew?

By Daniel Gordis Opinion March 2, 2011

Daniel Gordis is senior vice president of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem

Although pronouncements of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and some leading Orthodox authorities seek to convey the impression that Orthodox standards for conversion are monolithic and always have been, the truth is much more complex.

…Ours is an era of unprecedented complexity in the formation of identity. What we need now is a conversation with each other — about what Jewishness is at its very essence and about how the changing face of world Jewry should and should not be reflected in conversion policy.

We may not necessarily agree, but we will, one hopes, protect the unity, and therefore the survival, of the very people to which committed prospective converts still seek to dedicate their lives.

Who Is a Jew and What Is Jewish?

By Susan A. Glenn and Naomi B. Sokoloff Opinion March 2, 2011

The writers are editors of Boundaries of Jewish Identity (University of Washington Press, 2010)

Regardless of the formal historical, institutional, or national definitions of “who is a Jew,” the experience of identity is layered, shifting, syncretic, and constructed, and it is clear that Jewish identity can be reforged under new circumstances.

Yet, at the same time, the social practices through which individuals and communities of Jews in various parts of the world have challenged conventional understandings of the boundaries of Jewish identity have opened up profound debates on questions of cultural and even biological authenticity.

Jewishness has always exceeded clear-cut categories of racial, ethnic, and religious identity — hence, the ongoing, continually renewed, and multifaceted debates generated by the question, “Who is a Jew?”

Making Jews: Conversion and Mitzvot

By Rabbi Yehiel E. Poupko March 2, 2011

Rabbi Yehiel E. Poupko is the Judaic scholar at the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago

Responses from the 1950s and 1960s, by Israel’s late chief rabbis, Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, Isser Yehuda Unterman, and Shlomo Goren, provide insight: If a non-Jew made aliyah and thus plighted his or her fate with the fate of the Jewish people, then circumcision and immersion in the mikvah, along with a general acceptance of the yoke of mitzvot, were sufficient to effect a halakhically valid conversion.

Conversion and Conversation

By Rabbi Mark Washofsky Opinion March 2, 2011

Mark Washofsky is the Solomon B. Freehof Professor of Jewish Law and Practice at the Hebrew Union College– Jewish Institue of Religion in Cincinnati.

Does the stance of these Haredi rabbis doom any hope for a “conversation”? Not at all.

…A solution, in other words, lies in sight. Its success depends upon the willingness of the broad swath of the rabbinical community to pursue the conversation that Rabbis Gordis and Poupko advocate.

They must pursue it even against the implacable opposition of ultra-Orthodox forces for whom the term “halakhic flexibility” is an anathema. If they do, they will have earned the thanks of klal Yisrael, the entire Jewish people, in Israel and everywhere else.

Conversion without tears

By Barbara Sofer March 4, 2011

“Each month, more than 250 people turn to the ITIM hot line seeking information about conversion in Israel,” says [Rabbi Seth] Farber.

“Conversion is one of the tools the Jewish people can use to fight intermarriage and assimilation. Unfortunately, the Israeli rabbinate is under too much pressure to seriously engage this issue for the long term.”

No room for compromise

By Yair Sheleg Opinion March 1, 2011

Accepting the ultra-Orthodox worldview, which holds that observance of the religious commandments is the only criterion for conversion, is tantamount to asserting that Zionism has not changed a thing in the perception of Jewish identity.

…Therefore, anyone who views himself as a Zionist must categorically reject the ultra-Orthodox view.

Agreeing to continued ultra-Orthodox abuse of converts for the sake of keeping the peace within the governing coalition is tantamount to agreeing to change the state symbol or the national anthem out of such considerations.

Beware the Jewish Brotherhood

By Neri Livneh Opinion February 28, 2011

It’s all a matter of demography, and there’s no one to blame for it, but something essential has changed in the relations between ultra-Orthodox and secular Israelis around the country.

So much for Jerusalem, which we gave up on a long time ago. We also conceded Beit Shemesh, and never had hopes for Bnei Brak. But we were so preoccupied with Jerusalem and the southern towns that we forgot about the rest of the country.

Rabbis are no Zionists

By Ziv Lenchner Opinion February 28, 2011

Our rabbis need to decide where they are headed: Towards loyalty to the State, its laws and institutions, or in the exact opposite direction.

Should they continue to undermine the legitimate political and civilian entity and rebel against the government, they should at least be honest and remove the word “Zionist” from their title.

The joys of Israeliness

Haaretz Editorial March 4, 2011

Click here for VIDEO


The story of the Bialik-Rogozin School may seem unrealistic when viewed outside of the political context, but it still teaches us something about a kind of normalcy that seeps up from beneath.

Mainly, though, it teaches us about the power of Israeliness, about Hebrew language and culture, and about Israel’s ability to integrate outsiders without losing its identity, culture or Jewish heritage.

Bialik-Rogozin’s challenge to Zionism Editorial March 1, 2011

This secular version of the biblical “light unto the nations,” the film seems to be saying, is precisely the sort of thing the Jewish state is supposed to stand for.

Since Zionism’s inception, there has been an inherent tension….

What were the rabbis thinking?

By Yoel Finkelman Opinion March 5, 2011

The writer is a lecturer in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University.

The rabbis’ letter reflects three deep-seated attitudes within a significant portion of the more “right-wing” rabbinic elite.

First, these religious Zionist rabbis, like their haredi counterparts, do not trust the judicial system or the secular press.

Religious Zionists must resist the call to break with Israel

By Israel Harel Opinion March 3, 2011

This community, and particularly the students of those rabbis, should disassociate themselves from their rabbis’ worldview, which is becoming increasingly closer to the ultra-Orthodox one. Israel’s justice system is not the “gentiles’ court,” as was written in the letter.

‘Disengagement rabbi’ pulled from conference at behest of Gaza evacuees

By Chaim Levinson March 4, 2011

The organizers of the Jerusalem Conference to be held this month have canceled the participation of former Chief Military Rabbi Israel Weiss, following threats from Gaza evacuees, sources told Haaretz.

The incredible Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

By Isi Leibler Opinion March2, 2011

Riskin represents a moderate religious Zionist voice in the Israeli political discourse where, despite occasional naiveté, his courageous stance frequently contributes to bridge building and overcoming polarization between Jewish and non- Jewish communities.

In the Spirit of Adar

By Sarah Chandler Opinion March 6, 2011

Soon our songs of praise became a circle dance – the circle with no end and no beginning – we grasped arms and hands and belted out our carlebach niggun high and wide. Unlike so many visits over the past decade, we continued undisturbed. The rain lightened.

VIDEO: Raise Your Mask Purim – The Fountainheads


“Pluralism and Normativity in the Jewish Experience”

By Greer Fay Cashman March 1, 2011

Live broadcast

There are no free lunches, even for chief rabbis. British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who will receive the Ladislaus Laszt Ecumenical and Social Concern Award at a ceremony at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on March 9, will also have to deliver a lecture on “The Challenge of Religious Difference in a Desecularizing Age.” That’s fair enough.

After all, recipients of awards often deliver an address either before or after the ceremony. But that’s not the end of it. Later in the day, Sacks will participate in a panel discussion on “Pluralism and Normativity in the Jewish Experience.”

His fellow panelists will be Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Prof. Alice Shalvi, with Prof. Ya’acov Blidstein as moderator.

Zeev Bielski: WZO split from Jewish Agency a ‘great error’

By Raphael Ahren March 4, 2011

The Jewish Agency’s recent separation from the World Zionist Organization was a “huge mistake” and the two organizations should reunite as soon as possible, MK and former chairman of both bodies Zeev Bielski (Kadima) said this week.

Report: Elementary schools misallocate funds for Hebrew instruction of immigrants

By Raphael Ahren March 4, 2011

Nearly 60 percent of the country’s elementary schools misallocated funds which the Education Ministry provided them to provide additional hours to support immigrant students, according to a report released this week.

Be the Jew You Make: Jews, Judaism, and Jewishness in Post-Ethnic America

By Shaul Magid Opinion March 2, 2011

Shaul Magid, a Sh’ma Advisory Committee member, is professor of Religious Studies and the Jay and Jeannie Schottenstein Chair in Jewish Studies in Modern Judaism at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Jews in Israel have always argued, and rightly so, that living as a majority culture enables them to rethink notions of identity and self-fashioning.

In America, the diminishing of antisemitism and the “mongrelization” of Jewish identity (Jews share this with many ethnic minorities) has created another opportunity for Jews to rethink their identity as “Jews” both fully acculturated and interconnected with the ethnic fabric of the society in which they live.

New initiative sends MKs to US – not to talk, but to listen

By Ruth Eglash March 4, 2011

Six MKs will get a crash course on the intricate structure of the organized US Jewish community next month, under a new initiative sponsored by the Boston- and Israel-based Ruderman Family Foundation and Brandeis University The Jerusalem Postlearned on Thursday.

The Zionist Imperative

By Marla Braverman Opinion Winter 5771 / 2011, no. 43

Bitter historical experience teaches that Jewish sovereignty has no substitute. Of course, this does not mean that diaspora Jews should view Israel’s policies as unimpeachable.

On the contrary, precisely because Israel fulfills such a crucial role in safeguarding the continued existence of the Jewish people, Israel’s leaders and citizens ought to take into account what their brothers and sisters abroad have to say.

Natan Sharansky Meets with HUC-JIR’s Year-In-Israel Students March 5, 2011

Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet refusenik and prisoner, Israeli political leader, human rights activist, author, and Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, spoke with HUC-JIR’s Year-In-Israel students on Monday, February 28, 2011.

The evening was arranged under the auspices of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, by Rabbi Stanley Davids, former Chair of ARZA and member of the HUC-JIR Board of Overseers in Israel.

Liz Piper-Goldberg’s Response to Meeting with Natan Sharansky March 5, 2011

I was moved and excited by Sharansky’s emphasis on Jewish Peoplehood during his address. He argued that the same awakening of Jewish identity that occurred in Soviet Jews has happened for the more than 300,000 Birthright Israel participants, and all the more so, for participants in long term Israel programs, such as EIE, NFTY in Israel, or HUC-JIR’s Year in Israel.

As he stated, “Israel doesn’t have any magic Zionism to give you – so what’s happening?” North American Jews who visit Israel are discovering that we have a stake in a history, a people, and a nation – a nation that is exciting and interesting, despite the problems and challenges that we also find here.

You’ve got a (soldier) friend

By Elka Looks March 4, 2011

Three Israeli reservists have launched a grassroots initiative to expose a different side of the army they serve − and they want to be your friend.

Fighting for Roots

By Nate Hersh Opinion February 27, 2011

By coming here, I expected I would be taking up my responsibility to the Jewish people, vindicating my ancestor’s struggles and preserving my Jewish heritage. I was inspired to act and think and fight like the early Zionists.

But of course the reality of immigration is much different. The everyday problems of being an immigrant can at times seem suffocating. I am still decidedly non-religious, and my Hebrew is barely passable.

Rediscovered, Ancient Color Is Reclaiming Israeli Interest

By Dina Kraft February 27, 2011

Yuval Sherlow, a prominent rabbi in Israel’s modern Orthodox circles — where wearing tekhelet in ritual fringes has become increasingly popular, as it has in American ones — agreed.

“Tradition is not so interested in science,” Mr. Sherlow said. “There is a type of denial of science and new information.”

The color ‘techelet’

By Jonah Mandel March 4, 2011

Not quite azure, more of a midnight blue. That is apparently the actual color of the biblical techelet, according to Prof. Zvi Koren, who spoke this week at the Shenkar College’s International Edelstein Color Symposium.

Bat mitzvah girls study feminine power March 1, 2011

“The idea is to allow the participants to experience, along with their mothers, a significant process of feminine empowerment as reflected in Judaism,” explains Oshra Koren, who is in charge of the program on behalf of Matan – The Sadie Rennert Women’s Institute for Torah Studies.

Religion and State in Israel

March 7, 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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