Religion and State in Israel – May 23, 2011 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

May 23, 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.

New Orthodox leader on Conversion Issue

Englewood rabbi takes helm of Orthodox rabbinic group

By Larry Yudelson May 20, 2011

RCA President Rabbi Shmuel Goldin:

“The current situation that exists vis-a-vis aliyah and the acceptance of candidates for aliyah, that all candidates from Conservative and Reform movement are accepted as Jewish, but within the Orthodox community only some are accepted — that’s not acceptable,” Goldin said.

“We have to work out a better system. What has happened is the Jewish Agency, which was always the organization that determined that particular status, handed that over to the [Chief] Rabbinate. The Rabbinate was looking for a central address and the RCA was the natural central address. That’s how the problem developed.

I agree with [ITIM Rabbi Seth Farber] that we have to develop a solution to that. He is doing a wonderful job as far as I’m concerned, enhancing the ability of converts to access a difficult system in Israel, and I think we should support his work. I will consider him an ally during my tenure.”

Who’s to blame

Letter to Editor May 15, 2011

Sir, – Regarding “Interior Ministry sued for not recognizing Orthodox conversions” (May 13), the Chief Rabbinate has failed in dealing with the issue of conversions. It has dealt with conversion candidates in a humiliating and corrupt manner, and seemingly cannot reform itself.

The Interior Ministry is aiding and abetting this.

It is a shame that it will probably take a Supreme Court ruling to direct the Chief Rabbinate on conversions and the Interior Ministry on the way it handles applications for citizenship by converts. They have only themselves to blame.

Kenneth S. Besig

Kiryat Arba

The Bars

By Avner Avrahami and Reli Avrahami May 20, 2011

Shabbes goy: Because he is not a Jew, according to halakha, and because the cowshed needs a kashrut certificate, Itai is happy to work on Saturdays and make it possible for the kibbutz to receive the coveted kosher certification.

The wedding: 2007, Las Vegas. “Elvis married us” – meaning, an Elvis lookalike, who conducted the ceremony (there are photos)….

Itai says he has a small secret to reveal. Small secret: “I am registered mistakenly as a Jew in the Interior Ministry, so I could have been married by a rabbi, but we weren’t into that.”

Former thug who found Judaism hopes to be first African-American in the Knesset

By Raphael Ahren May 20, 2011

Black & Bulletproof – An African-American Warrior in the Israeli Army

Hardie underwent three conversions: first with Reform, then with Conservative and finally, in 1997, with Orthodox rabbis.

After graduating law school, he worked for California Governor Pete Wilson.

In 1999, Hardie immigrated to Israel, a country he had visited only once before.

For about six months, he studied at a Jerusalem yeshiva and interned for Ehud Olmert, who was then the capital’s mayor.

In 2000, the 26-year-old Hardie enrolled in the Israel Defense Forces’ elite Golani Brigade.

Observing Shabbat in Gambia

By Itamar Eichner May 20, 2011

Although they are not Jewish according to Halacha, Gambia’s “Jews” built a synagogue, in which they read from a Torah scroll in English.

…The community members are not interested in making aliyah, but want to be recognized by Israel. They asked Gideon Behar, Israel’s ambassador to Senegal who is also responsible for Gambia, to organize a trip for them to the Holy Land, as well as prayer books and books on Judaism.

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow: Don’t use dead man’s sperm May 16, 2011

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, head of the Petah Tikva hesder yeshiva, says frozen sperm must not be used for insemination purposes if its owner is no longer alive.

According to the rabbi, the deceased should be commemorated in a variety of other ways, but not by generating offspring who will be born fatherless.

What’s Halacha got to do with it?

By Susan Hattis Rolef Opinion May 18, 2011

The writer is a former Knesset employee.

Last Sunday, acclaimed author Yoram Kaniuk … petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court to instruct the Ministry of Interior to enable him to register as having no religion.

…From a liberal-secular point of view, the anomaly could be resolved if Israel were to officially define “Jewish state” as a state where all Jews (or preferable “members of the Jewish people”) – defined more or less as currently defined in the Law of Return, with the explicit addition that a Jew need not be observant, or practice Judaism in any particular form – have the right to reside and become citizens;

strengthen the democratic principles on which the state is based by legally fortifying the rights of all its inhabitants “irrespective of religion, race or sex,” and adding that an inhabitant need not observe any religion or even have a religion (this would, inter alia, involve the mandatory institution of non-religious marriage, divorce and burial);

and enact Basic Law: Legislation, which should clearly state the status and hierarchical order of the various types of law prevalent in the country – including Halacha.

Kaniuk’s complaint, or the gripes of wrath

By Benny Ziffer Opinion May 20, 2011

Kaniuk, who wrote, among other things, the novel “The Last Jew” in 2006, says he no longer wants to be listed as a Jew in the Population Registry; instead he wants to be registered as a person without religion.

In this he is continuing the quixotic fight of Yonatan Ratosh and the Canaanite movement (or the Young Hebrews, to use their official name ), and organizations for the prevention of religious coercion – which have fought in vain against the way the Jewish state pressures its citizens to belong to one religion or another.

Not black and white

Letter to Editor May 19, 2011

Sir, – Yehuda Mirsky’s column about fresh thinking from within the religious sector (“Beyond ‘religious’ and ‘secular,’” Comment & Features, May 15) is fascinating.

…One wonders how it came to pass that wonderful, loving, open-minded and educated Zionist rabbis are almost nowhere to be found in local rabbinates, and why our so-called chief rabbis are more concerned with winning the approval of haredim – which they never get – rather than winning the love and respect of the general population.

So long as our rabbinic bureaucracy serves as a barrier to religion rather than a magnet for the disenfranchised, the polarization that exists will continue.

No amount of philosophizing will change this…

J.J. Gross


Not black and white

Letter to Editor May 19, 2011

Sir, – “Beyond ‘religious’ and ‘secular’” made no mention of the reconceptualization of Israel’s public educational system. Perhaps the biggest block to a pervasive and active Jewishness in Israel is the existence of what is in effect two public school systems – secular and religious…

Joseph David Levinson


A Call for Jewish Unity in the State of Israel from the Laureates of the Liebhaber Prize for Religious Tolerance

Criticism Of Rabbinical Students On Israel Unfair

By Rabbi Daniel Nevins Opinion May 17, 2011

Rabbi Daniel S. Nevins is Pearl Resnick dean of The Rabbinical School and dean of the Division for Religious Leadership at The Jewish Theological Seminary.

Rabbi Daniel Gordis has maligned a generation of rabbinical students as being insufficiently Zionist (“Alienation From Israel Is Hitting Liberal Seminaries,” Editor’s column, May 6).

…Non-Orthodox rabbinical students may be more attuned than others to the myriad ways that the State of Israel favors Orthodoxy and discriminates against the other streams of Judaism.

They have observed the preferential funding of Orthodox institutions and the monopoly granted Orthodox rabbis over sacred times like marriage and sacred spaces like the Kotel.

Study: Religious-Zionist World is Changing

By Maayana Miskin May 20, 2011

A new study on the religious-Zionist community in Israel has found growing ideological diversity as the community grows, and has named three groups in particular as central to the movement as a whole. The study was conducted by Dr. Yitzchak Geiger, an expert in the field.

In Israel’s first years, the religious-Zionist community was relatively uniform, Geiger said. “There were fewer groups within the religious community, because the religious community was much smaller,” he explained.

Over the past 50 years, however, there have been major changes.

Ex-Shas maverick MK Haim Amsalem reaches out to Anglo community

By Samuel Sokol May 19, 2011

Rabbi Dov Lipman, a Beit Shemesh-based community activist and educator, has announced his intention to run for a seat in Knesset under the banner of renegade Shas MK Haim Amsalem’s newly established Am Shalem party.

Lipman would serve as the representative of the party’s Anglo faction, which he currently heads.

…“The secular have become more secular with almost no Judaism and in some cases even little Zionism in their education.

The haredim have less and less secular education and are even more cut off from the rest of the country,” he said.

Shas Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: Woman’s voice allowed on radio

By Kobi Nahshoni May 18, 2011

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party, has ruled that a woman’s voice can be heard on the radio.

The rabbi was asked to address the issue following complaints filed against haredi Sephardic radio station Kol Barama for refusing to have women present programs or call in as listeners.

Don’t call them spoiled

By Yoel Esteron Opinion May 18, 2011

…Some people accuse Shas of looking out for the ultra-Orthodox. Fine. Apparently this claim is not completely baseless.

Minister Ariel Atias says that he looks out for the weaker sectors, and not specifically for the ultra-Orthodox. True. Of course there is a strong correlation between potential Shas voters and those individuals who will benefit when housing restrictions in the periphery are eased.

Does that bother me? Not particularly. If these groups deserve governmental assistance, the parties representing them can try to help them.

A sacred commitment

By Peter S. Knobel Opinion May 20, 2011

Rabbi Peter S. Knobel is rabbi emeritus of Beth Emet: The Free Synagogue, in Evanston, Illinois, and past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Reform Judaism is not only a Diaspora movement. There is a vibrant, exciting and growing Reform movement within Israel that has built synagogues, community centers, kibbutzim, and schools for children, youth and adults.

It ordains rabbis for the Israeli Reform movement (whose leadership is increasingly native Israelis) at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem.

It fights for pluralism and justice through the Israel Religious Action Center. It has become part and parcel of the fabric of Israeli life. It is making Judaism accessible to the vast majority of Israeli Jews who do not consider themselves “religious.”

A recent poll showed that 42 percent of Israelis who view themselves as traditional, and 76 percent of those who describe themselves as secular, view the Reform Movement favorably.

The Modern Orthodox Case for Gender Segregation on Public Buses

By Tzvee Opinon May 18, 2011

See also: article

There is no valid religious justification for segregating/separating men and women on buses, even if one grants that there is validity to removing women to behind a mechitzah in a synagogue during prayers.

Taking a bus ride is not a prayer service. The notion that gender segregation on public buses is part of a sacred-minority-Jewish-lifestyle is false.

See also: The Practice of Gender Separation on Buses in the Ultra-Orthodox Community in Israel: A View from the Liberal Cathedral

Siach: Embracing the Complexities of an International Conversation

By Judith Belasco May 18, 2011

Siach: An Environment and Social Justice Conversation brought together 120 environment and social justice activists from North America, Europe, and Israel this past weekend, to meet each other, network and begin to think about ways to collaborate and work together.

Over the course of the weekend, what emerged was a gathering that embodied the value of partnership that it espoused (Siach was a collaboration between Hazon in the US, Bema’aglei Tzedek in Israel, and Jewish Social Action Forum in the UK, and was generously supported by UJA-Federation of New York), along with some heated debate about how to pursue Jewish justice.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s Views on Orthodoxy in Israel

By Rabbi Shaul Farber May 18, 2011

Rabbi Shaul Farber heads ITIM, an organization in Israel that helps people deal with the rabbinic establishment in life- cycle matters.

The following article explores each of these statements from the contemporary perspective (inserting Medinat Yisrael for Palestine), asking if Rabbi Soloveitchik’s statements still ring true today, and if they calibrate with the ethos of contemporary Orthodoxy.

  • Is the future of Medinat Yisrael with Orthodoxy, and is the future of Orthodoxy in Medinat Yisrael?
  • Will the religious fervor of the “halutsim” lead to traditional Judaism?
  • Is it the task of Orthodoxy to redeem not only the soil of Medinat Yisrael, but also the souls of its sons and daughters, and bring them within the traditional fold?

Birthright Tapping Alums, Parents

By Stewart Ain May 17, 2011

Gideon Mark, CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel, said there has been a “huge increase in demand in the U.S. and in other countries” and that his worldwide budget this year of $88 million must jump to $131 million in two years to handle the goal of 51,000 participants.

…All of these campaigns are critical because $100 million pledged by Israel over the next three years is a challenge grant that requires the organization to raise more than two dollars for every dollar Israel contributes, a total of nearly $240 million, Mark explained.

Worship Experience in Jewish space

By Vicky Farhi and Muki Yankelowitz Opinion May 18, 2011

Over the last few years we’ve had the opportunity to experience worship services in Reform synagogues both in Israel and America.

The similarities and differences have been interesting to observe and experience, as one of us (Vicky) has an American Reform perspective and the other (Muki) has an Israeli Progressive perspective. We’re happy to share with you some of our observations.

Israeli MK aides shocked at Jewish life in Britain

Israelis shocked at life in Britain

By Marcus Dysch May 19, 2011

A group of Israeli parliamentary advisers say a visit to Britain to learn about pluralism in the Jewish community has revealed a stark contrast to their lives at home.

Ranit Budaie-Hyman, a graduate of the project and organiser of the visit, said: “Previously, many of these advisers had no understanding of the terms Reform, Conservative, Orthodox or Charedi.

“Talking to the different rabbis opened up diverse Jewish worlds and the group now understands more about those communities.

“We were honoured to see how communities work together to present a united front in upholding Jewish practice in Britain. Jewish life outside Israel is very different from in Israel.”

Israeli Philanthropists Launch Nation’s First American-Style Jewish Federation

By Nathan Jeffay May 18, 2011

A brand new American import has arrived in Israel, but it isn’t the usual fast-food chain or a television sitcom. Rather, it’s that staple of U.S. Jewish life, the community federation.

For the first time, a group of philanthropists in the leafy city of Ramat HaSharon near Tel Aviv have created an Israeli charity — Takdim-The Ramat HaSharon Community Foundation — based almost entirely on the federation model. They are in talks with several American federations that are considering mentoring the organization.

Two Decades in Zion

By David Sheen May 20, 2011

On May 24, exactly 20 years will have passed since El Al set the world record for carrying the largest number of passengers on a single flight, bringing 1,122 Ethiopian Jews to Israel as part of Operation Solomon.

This week Hebrew University honored that accomplishment by holding a two-day symposium on Ethiopia, its Jews, and their connection to Israel.

Landmines removed from Jesus’ baptism site

By Judith Sudilovsky Religious News Service May 18, 2011

Should you wish to make a pilgrimage to Aenon near to Salim, the spot on the Jordan River where John 3:23 tells us that Jesus was baptized by His cousin, John the Baptist, you will be pleased to know that it has been cleared of landmines.

God bless Glenn Beck

By Michael Freund Opinion May 18, 2011

The writer serves as chairman of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based organization that assists ‘lost Jews’ seeking to return to the Jewish people.

It takes nerve and daring to challenge ourselves, to heed the voice of God and recognize the righteousness of our cause.

…As a man of faith, I was especially moved when Beck read on air from the Book of Ruth.

He choked up when he quoted Ruth the Moabite’s appeal to her mother-in-law Naomi: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God.”

This, he said, had helped inspire him to stand with the Jews.

Religion and State in Israel

May 23, 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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