Religion and State in Israel – May 16, 2011 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

May 16, 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.

Interior Ministry sued over Orthodox conversion recognition

By Ron Friedman and Jonah Mandel May 13, 2011

The ITIM Institute petitioned the High Court of Justice Thursday against the Ministry of Interior’s refusal to grant citizenship to Orthodox converts who converted abroad.

The lawsuit, submitted by the Jewish Life Information Center on behalf of Canadian convert Thomas Dohlan, called on the court to order the ministry to explain its decision to refuse him citizenship under the Law of Return and prevent the ministry from taking action to expel him from the country.

“Since Dohlan’s case, over a dozen similar cases of converts who are being refused Interior Ministry recognition have reached ITIM – this simply cannot go on any further.

On Independence Day Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on every Jew in the world to make aliya, while in practice the Interior Ministry is preventing it,” Rabbi Farber added.

Conversion Roundtable Convenes for First Time May 13, 2011

The first meeting of the Conversion Roundtable chaired by Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Zvi Hauser, Secretary of the Government, took place yesterday in Jerusalem.

Participating in the closed door meeting were the leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel, as well as officials representing the Minister of Interior, Office of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Justice.

Baltimore & IDF Soldiers Celebrate at Yom Ha’atzmaut Event

By Barbara Pash May 11, 2011

Click here for PHOTOS

One of the programs Levenston highlighted is a conversion course. An IDF rabbi runs the course – seven weeks long, 14 hours per day. After successfully completing the course, the IDF rabbi performs the soldier’s conversion.

“They lived under Communism. They weren’t taught Judaism, and they are not considered halachically Jewish,” she said of participants. “We feel that they’ve come to Israel, they are fighting for Israel,” and the program provides a path to the religion and to citizenship as a Jew in Israel.

Violetta, one of the two IDF soldiers on the program, is in the process of conversion. After her father died in an automobile accident, she and her mother emigrated from the Republic of Kazakhstan, once part of the Soviet Union and now an independent country.


By Aryeh Tepper May 13, 2011

Another irony: the theme of this year’s Mimouna was the biblical injunction to “love the convert.”

In choosing it, the event’s organizers were explicitly promoting a tolerant, North African form of Judaism as against the perceived intolerance of the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi establishment. But promoting it to whom? By appealing to Israeli society at large, the organizers were also acknowledging the primacy of a shared Israeli Judaism.

Standing Up for Women’s Rights in Israel

By Ravid Tilles Opinion May 12, 2011

During our year in Israel, my wife, Yaffa and I knew that we wanted to show our solidarity with the Women of the Wall.

…Interestingly, this was the first time that I had ever been on the side of the mechitza that was separated from the major action of the service. The women were filled with joy as they danced together and sang the Hallel prayer.

Click here for Women of the Wall PHOTOS

Statement on Yom Ha’atzma’ut

By Rabbi Eric Yoffie Opinion May 9, 2011

…At the same time, together with the Conservative Movement and the Federations of North America, ARZA, is continuing the fight against religious exclusivity and coercion in Israel as typified by the pending Rotem legislation on conversion.

Our movement recently won an Israeli Supreme Court judgment outlawing gender segregation on public transportation. We will fight all those who mean harm to Israel just as we continue to resist policies of the Government that exclude Jews and do harm to our religious and prophetic values.

The Israeli Reform movement is growing rapidly. In the past ten years our congregations have doubled, our nursery schools have tripled and are full. Today the Israeli Reform movement, led by native born and Hebrew-speaking lay and rabbinic leaders, touches the lives of 250,000 Israelis. It is through the continued growth of our Movement that we are influencing Israeli society for the better.

A High-Profile Call for Marriage Equality in Israel

By Allison Kaplan Sommer May 11, 2011

Click here for VIDEO

The video, shot by top fashion photographer Ron Kedmi, represents the opening salvo in a new and energetic campaign to change Israel’s conservative restrictions on marriage. A consortium of organizations is backing this campaign, including the New Israel Fund, the Reform movement in Israel and several human rights organizations.

The consortium is actively promoting the introduction of a new law that would allow Israeli citizens to “Marry and divorce in Israel according to their choice, faith, and conscience.

Israel’s religious gays battle for acceptance

By Josh Lederman AP May 15, 2011

A once unimaginable movement is emerging from within Israel’s insular Orthodox Jewish community: homosexuals demanding to be accepted and embraced, no matter what the Bible says.

Living alongside a secular majority that has largely embraced the Western gay rights movement, Israel’s religious gays are increasingly rejecting age-old dictates to ignore their attraction, abstain from sex or undergo therapy that supposedly will make them straight.

The ‘Theological Ping’

By Sandee Brawarsky May 10, 2011

Book Review: “The Choosing: A Rabbi’s Journey from Silent Nights to High Holy Days” (Rutgers University Press)

After graduating, [Rabbi Andrea Myers] went to Israel to study at the co-ed Pardes yeshiva; she learned about kashrut in the kitchens of the houses she cleaned in order to cover her tuition expenses.

In Jerusalem, she underwent a traditional conversion and when she returned to America after two years, she enrolled at the Academy for Jewish Religion — working her way through school as a tutor and medical technician.

…She touches on kashrut, denominations, theology, Jewish history, many memories, her love of Israel and her wish that “modern Israel was a place where I could live and work as a liberal lesbian rabbi and be happy and embraced, but it’s not.”

Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk asks court to cancel his ‘Jewish’ status

By Mazal Mualem May 15, 2011

The author Yoram Kaniuk is expected to ask the Tel Aviv District Court this morning to order the Interior Ministry to permit him to “leave the Jewish religion” by altering his entry under the heading “religion” in the Population Registry.

Kaniuk wants any official state document on which he appears as “Jewish” to be changed to “Without Religion.”

Does the State fits your values? 60% of Israelis satisfied with State May 12, 2011

An analysis according to religious definitions reveals that 60% of seculars, 70% of traditional Jews and 55% of religious Jews feel that the State fits their values. Among the haredim only 21% feel the same way, while 53% said the State does not reflect their values.

Sixty-one percent of seculars, 64% of traditional Jews and 65% of religious Jews have barbecues during the holiday, while 42% of the haredim don’t celebrate Independence Day.

Beyond “Religious” and “Secular”

By Yehudah Mirsky Opinion May 11, 2011

What should be the place of the Jewish religion in a Jewish state? There are many putative answers to this question, and the answers have changed over time.

…Whatever one makes of them individually, however, Sorek and Picard, along with Sephardi figures like Meir Buzaglo, recognize just how crabbed and constricting the categories of “religious” and “secular” truly are, and are trying from different directions to think through Israel’s current cultural impasse and beyond the tired and destructive religious status quo.

They thus present a bracing challenge to self-described religious and secular alike, and a daring demand to grasp the responsibility for the Jewish past and future that comes with living in freedom in the Jewish state.

The quality of independence

By Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern Opinion May 10, 2011

Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern is Vice President of Research at the Israel Democracy Institute and a Professor of Law at Bar-Ilan University.

A superior air force may be essential for preserving Israel’s national independence, but a return to the wellsprings of Jewish culture is necessary for maintaining the quality of that independence. The self-confidence of our people, a necessary condition for healthy existence, demands that we deal with the challenge of identity.

Israeli ID cards to commemorate Shoah dead

AP May 9, 2011

Israel is unveiling new identity cards for its citizens that will commemorate the Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust of World War II.

The serial numbers will begin at 6,000,000, the number of Jews who perished in the genocide. The new cards, to be introduced in the coming months, will also include six Stars of David, representing the six million victims.

Statement on Yom Ha’atzma’ut

By Rabbi Eric Yoffie Opinion May 9, 2011

And I know that when Israelis leave religious affairs in the hands of the chief rabbinate, they are guilty of a giant failure of imagination; only by creating a religious “free market” will the creative genius of the Jewish people be able to thrive in the Jewish state.

While these concerns are weighty and remain with us always, I see Yom Ha’atzma’ut as a day to proclaim our love for Israel and to celebrate Israel’s achievements.

I am encouraged by the progress of Reform Judaism in Israel, and I believe in Israel’s capacity to foster a vibrant Jewish life and to become a classroom to world Jewry on matters of Jewish identity.

A class of her own

By Daniel Eisenbud May 9, 2011

Interview with MK Einat Wilf

“I think the reason that I present a challenge to some of the more religious parties is that they find that even secular Jews often view the more religious ones as being ‘better Jews.’ They still defer to them – even if subconsciously,” she said.

“Typically, somehow it is considered that if you are secular, you care less about Jewish life. And if you’re more religious, you care more about the public sphere. I think that what I embody is someone who is deeply committed to the future of the Jewish people, and cares very much about the public sphere.”

As chair of the Aliya, Absorption and Diaspora Committee, I plan to devote substantial committee time to the question of creating this new contract.”

Wilf describes her “contract” as being based on the principle of pluralistic inclusion of all Jews as equals – particularly those in the Diaspora.

Jewish state would disappoint Herzl, 39% of Israelis say

By Gil Shefler May 15, 2011

In a survey conducted on behalf of the World Zionist Organization on the occasion of Herzl’s 151st birthday, marked last week, some 46 percent of respondents said the man who set the Zionist political movement in motion would either be pleased or very pleased with Israel, while 39% said the opposite.

Abortion issue heats up in the Holy Land

By Simone Gorrindo May 3, 2011

While abortion in Israel is usually not the polarized, hot button issue it is in America, it has lately been making waves in both political and religious news. At the start of March, a liberal member of the Knesset put forth a bill to abolish the abortion committees, which did not pass. Efforts to change the status quo have also come from the right.

Much in the style of a Catholic bishop, the Chief Rabbinate sent out letters at the beginning of the year to every rabbi in the country, asking them to forbid their congregants from aborting a child. For many religious Israelis, abortion is equal to killing, and they would never even consider the option.

…Schussheim believes the Chief Rabbinate should be involved in the abortion committees, for the sanctity of life is a fundamentally religious concern, he says, one that the Torah touches upon. Unless the mother’s life is in danger, abortion is forbidden.

…While Schussheim argues that what Efrat offers is education, Irit Rosenblum, the head of an Israeli family rights organization called New Family, thinks the process is a lot more insidious.

New cemetery tries break Jewish burial service’s monopoly

By Gili Cohen May 13, 2011

Herzliya is now burying its dead in a new municipal cemetery, with funerals arranged by a new municipal department in a bid to break the local burial society’s monopoly.

…Last month the city received a burial license, so that it, like other cities such as Modi’in, can bury its dead without having to affiliate with a burial society. The city is therefore setting up a municipal corporation to deal with the burials.

…Many assumed that a cemetery being managed by German, who is affiliated with the left-wing Meretz party, would permit civil burials, but the municipality took pains to clarify that funerals would be conducted there in accordance with Jewish law.

While the city is legally obligated to set off a section for alternative burials, it has not yet done so.

Innovative Israeli Burials Save Land Resources

By Miriam Kresh May 12, 2011

Commenter Esther Hecht pointed us in the direction of innovative Israeli solutions in the quest for sustainable burials. The concept is called dense burials, and is the project of architects Uri Ponger and Tuvia Sagiv.

Dense burials include multi-level graves like the one pictured above; apartment-style buildings where each floor contains many graves; terraced graveyards and use of abandoned quarries for hillside burials. All have been sanctioned by the Israeli Rabbinate and are regularly used.

See also: Eco-Funeral? Jewish Burial Rites Are Green

The Strange Alchemy of the Settlements

By Gershom Gorenberg Opinion May 13, 2011

The religious settler movement has made permanent rule over the “Whole Land of Israel” — including the territories that Israel conquered in 1967 – -into Judaism’s cardinal principal, its axis mundi. Theology has swallowed whole the hard-line nationalism of soil, power, and ethnic superiority and taken on its shape.

…The price is being paid not only by Israel as a state but by Judaism as a religion. Creating a state is a practical political step. Whether it has religious meaning, and whether that meaning is positive or negative, depends on how the state behaves.

Disputed J’lem church concerts to go ahead as planned

By Jonah Mandel May 13, 2011

All sides declared victory Wednesday in the dispute over the Jerusalem Municipality’s support of concerts due to take place in churches next month.

The Jerusalem Opera Festival, which will open in the beginning of June, will include some 30 chamber and vocal concerts to take place in 10 of the city’s historic sites and churches.

Last week, the haredi and national-religious deputy mayors demanded of Mayor Nir Barkat that the city withdraw its support of the event, following which the mayor met with Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Places Shmuel Rabinowitz on the topic.

VIDEO: Pasta for Shabbat: Israel’s Italian Jewish community

Click here for VIDEO

By Chiara Sottile May 11, 2011

The synagogue at 27 Hillel Street, in the heart of Jerusalem, is no ordinary synagogue. It is the fulcrum of Israel’s unique Italian Jewish community.

The Italian-Jewish identity is a complicated one: sometimes painful and contradictory, and always with a special Italian flair. But recently, the Italian synagogue was given an ultimatum, one that could threaten this vibrant community.

[vimeo w=480&h=340]

Pasta for Shabbat: Israel’s Italian Jewish community from Chiara Sottile on Vimeo.

Artist Tunick: Nudity is an explosion of life

Religious Knesset Member Resists Planned Naked Dead Sea Shoot

By Nathan Burstein May 13, 2011

Zevulun Orlev, a member of the religious HaBayit HaYehudi party, has asked Israeli legal authorities to prevent a planned photo shoot by Spencer Tunick, an American artist who has, according to his Web site, “been documenting the live nude figure in public” since 1992.

Naked crowds artist hits Dead Sea cash drought

By Douglas Hamilton May 12, 2011

But a representative of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party — a member of the ruling coalition — made it plain his constituents were categorically opposed to the art proposal.

“This is artistic beastliness,” veteran Shas lawmaker Nissim Zeev told Israeli television. “This corrupter must be prevented from carrying out this disgraceful display.”

“We will do everything to ensure that this display does not happen in the Land of Israel — forever,” he added.

VIDEO: Naked Sea – Spencer Tunick Dead Sea Installation

Click here for Kickstarter and VIDEO

My 1st Independence Day in Israel May 13, 2011

In honor of Israel’s 63rd Independence Day celebrated this week, we met Jews who decided to practice real Zionism – leave their homes, friends and families and make aliyah.

They came from four ends of the world – North America, South America, Europe and Australia – in order to fulfill one old dream. Facing the Sabra’s cynicism and roughness, the new immigrants bring warm hope and deep love for the homeland.

These are their stories, and this was their first Independence Day in Israel.

VIDEO: Aliyah Down the Line

Nefesh B’Nefesh presents the ‘laundry tale’ of Jonathan and Rebecca Goldstein, who finally realize their dream of Aliyah to Israel after postponing for a few years.

Movie by Efrat Zoaretz, Animation and VFX Naor Zoaretz, Music Production Danny Meged

“Coming Home” song – Arranged, written and performed by Rami Feinstein

Sweetening the Deal

By Ryann Liebenthal May 9, 2011

In its drive to attract professional, “high quality” immigrants, Israel faces the stark reality that Jews in America have relatively little to complain about.

The people at these events are not the pioneering kibbutzim of an earlier era, embarking on a mission to build Israeli society from the ground up. The current success of Nefesh B’Nefesh lies in shifting the focus of aliyah from the ideological onto the material, as they aim to eliminate the practical barriers keeping American Jews in the United States.

Nefesh seminars and webinars often take on the no-nonsense qualities of a business convention. And if they rarely mention questions of ideology, this is perhaps because, like every confident salesperson, Nefesh’s people are operating under the assumption that you already want what they’ve got.

A 50-year aliya process bears fruit

By David Brinn May 9, 2011

For some people, the decision to move to Israel is a snap judgment, and for others it takes a lifetime. Fred Worms’s aliya story is a little bit of both.

“We’ve been making aliya for 50 years, but two years ago we completed the process and did it properly.”

Baby steps for Israel’s birthday

By Gil Shefler May 9, 2011

Getting a baby step ahead of the country’s 63rd birthday celebrations, dozens of Israel’s youngest pioneers and their olim parents gathered in Jerusalem’s German Colony neighborhood last week to mark the tots’ first Independence Day.

The 45 little ones, all born in Israel to parents originally from English-speaking countries, were dressed head-to-toe in blue and white by Nefesh B’Nefesh, the event’s organizers.

Special holiday for olim’s babies May 10, 2011

Since its founding in 2002, over 2,100 “sabra” babies have been born to the 27,000+ North American and British olim that Nefesh B’Nefesh has assisted with their aliyah, together with the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

The IDF’s three (top) amigos

By Yaakov Katz May 9, 2011

Kaplan will not be the only Spanish-speaker receiving the menorah-shaped pin from Peres. Alongside her will stand Michal Resnik, a 23- year-old from Buenos Aires who moved to Israel almost 10 years ago and serves in the IDF’s C4I Directorate, as well as Efraim Raza, who moved to Israel from Peru in 2005 after converting to Judaism.

Rabbis For Jacobs

By Rabbi Steven A. Fox, CCAR chief executive and Rabbi Jonathan Stein, CCAR president May 10, 2011

We enthusiastically support the choice of Rabbi Richard Jacobs to succeed Rabbi Eric Yoffie as president of the Union for Reform Judaism and are deeply dismayed at the unwarranted attacks that have been leveled against him.

Herzl Day Website Launched May 13, 2011

Just in time to mark Herzl Day celebrations (May 15th), the World Zionist Organization has launched a dedicated “Yom Herzl – Herzl Day” website.

The site contains downloadable educational and trivia resources in English, Hebrew and Spanish, for the day’s celebration.

Where Goes the Money?

By Gershom Gorenberg Opinion May/June 2011

Gershom Gorenberg is the author of The Unmaking of Israel, forthcoming from HarperCollins in November 2011.

Why does Israel Bonds still exist in 2011? To broaden the question, do other classic Israeli fundraising institutions serve a legitimate purpose anymore, at least in their present forms?

…If the philanthropic appeal of Israel Bonds became obsolete in the 1970s, the Jewish National Fund arguably became an anachronism on May 14, 1948.

…The Jewish Agency is even more of an anomaly. Before 1948, it was part of the movement to create a Jewish state. Yet it stayed in existence after 1948, as if in an alternate universe where Jews still struggled for independence.

VIDEO: A Mystical Union: Jewish-Sufis in the Holy Land

By Zachra Raja, May 13, 2011

Click here for VIDEO

Jews and Muslims worship right next to each other in the Holy Land, yet they are separated by walls, barriers and hostility. Some Jews, however, are trying to break that pattern. They have found a path in Sufism, the mystical dimension of Islam.

[vimeo w=480&h=340]

Zahra-Chiara edit from Zahra Raja on Vimeo.

Religion and State in Israel

May 16, 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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