Religion and State in Israel – May 30, 2011 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

May 30, 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.

Salaries of new municipal rabbis to increase by 250%

By Zvi Zrahiya and Yair Ettinger May 24, 2011

The salaries of newly appointed municipal rabbis will be increased by 250 percent, while the salaries of more veteran rabbis will be held at their current level, Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi and head of salaries at the Finance Ministry, Ilan Levin, agreed.

Shahar Ilan, deputy director of the Hiddush for Religious Freedom and Equality, said that the municipal rabbis positions existed mainly for political appointments by the ultra-Orthodox parties.

“It’s not clear what exactly it is that they do and get paid for,” he said. “Instead of giving them grand salaries we should cancel the position altogether.”

Treasury agrees to dramatic hike in city rabbis’ wages

By Jonah Mandel May 23, 2011

The Treasury has agreed to a dramatic increase in the salaries of new city rabbis, a senior Finance Ministry official announced Monday during a meeting of the Knesset’s Finance Committee.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Reform Movement in Israel, said,

“The only shameful thing about the city rabbis’ wages is the agreement between the treasury and Gafni, who is exploiting his position as head of the Finance Committee for sectorial accomplishments, and continuing to take money from public funds.”

Woman sues Chevra Kadisha over funeral segregation

By Raanan Ben-Zur May 25, 2011

A resident of Netanya recently filed a suit for NIS 32,000 (roughly $9,000) against Chevra Kadisha after she was asked to stand separate from men in a funeral she attended. “This is discriminatory and is against our world view,” she claimed.

Susan Ayad said that last January she attended the funeral of a close friend in a Netanya cemetery. As they gathered in the eulogy square the mourners were shocked discover that large planters dividing the floor into two parts.

“The rabbi holding the service on behalf of Chevra Kadisha asked the men to stand on one side of the partition and the women to stand on the other side,” the claim stated.

The peripatetic priest

By Rivkah Lubitch Opinion May 29, 2011

Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinic court pleader who works at The Center for Women’s Justice

A couple married in accordance with Jewish law in England. Nine years later, they appeared before an Israeli rabbinic court embroiled in a contested divorce, in which the husband asked to divorce his wife against her will.

The husband claimed he was a Cohen – of the priestly sect – and that his wife had been a divorcee, and therefore he was not allowed to marry her in the first place. Because of this, said the husband, the court should support his claim and order his wife to accept a get.

…In a civilized and ordered world, a husband need just tell a court, “I want a divorce because our marriage has broken down and we no longer live together,” and the court would require his wife to divorce.

Redefining ‘pro-choice’

By Ruth Eglash May 26, 2011

“I’ve known this group for many years, and they are very pushy. Most of the volunteers are religious women, and they tell other women what to do,” says Rina Bar-Tal, chair of the Israel Women’s Network (IWN), who calls Efrat’s work a “catastrophe” and likens their methods to the vigorous proselytizing of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“This organization represents an extreme minority and not the religious public in general,” continues Bar-Tal, a member of a Health Ministry committee for women’s health issues who meets regularly with representatives from the haredi community.

Can a Jew legally cancel his Jewishness?

By Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer Opinion May 26, 2011

The writer is President of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.

The tumult around author Yoram Kaniuk and his eagerness to jettison his Jewishness, as if discarding an inaccurate adjective, stems from realities that he did not create, and begets opportunities that he would never anticipate.

…I want to be a Jew and a Zionist in the classical and messy sense, surrounded with swirling and conflicting ideas about what being Jewish in a competitive marketplace entails, about the challenges of multiple identities, prepared to wrestle with the many options of what the State of Israel can be and what it can embody for the Jewish people and for the world.

Redemption and Independence

By Marc Rosenstein Opinion May 24, 2011

The question of how to observe Yom Ha’atzma’ut is actually the symbolic manifestation of a serious dilemma: what is the Jewish state? Is it indeed a turning point in history of messianic significance? Or is it just another in an ongoing series of historical ups and downs?

Does it represent Divine intervention in history? Or is it just the product of the interaction of sociological, economic, and political factors that can be rationally understood?

Is Israel a holy state, or just a state like any other? Does its existence lay upon us religious obligations? Should the state itself bound by religion or by religion-based values?

“Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State”

27th Annual International Conference of the Association for Israel Studies

Prof. Moshe Halbertal of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and New York University Law School will deliver the keynote address “What is a Jewish Democratic State.”

Halbertal, who directs the Tikvah Center for Law and Jewish Civilization at NYU, spent this year as a visiting professor at New York University and Harvard.

International Conference on Religious Law and State Affairs

Jewish Law and State Affairs

  • Chair: Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, Faculty of Law, Bar-Ilan University
  • Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern, Faculty of Law, Bar-Ilan University, Halachic Ruling on Political Matters
  • Dr. Haim Shapira, Faculty of Law, Bar-Ilan University, Religion and Politics in Jewish Law: From Unity to Separation and Back
  • Dr. Moshe Hellinger, Political Science, Bar-Ilan University, Civil Disobedience on Religious Grounds in Contemporary Religious-Zionist Thought

The Tager Family Jewish Law Program, established by Romie and Esther Tager, of Great Britain, advances research in Jewish law from a variety of viewpoints – among them, religious, historical, and philosophical.

From the Four Corners

By Alex Joffe Opinion May 24, 2011

Alex Joffe is a research scholar with the Institute for Jewish and Community Research.

…Such questions are especially acute in Israel, where the gatekeeper role is played by the chief rabbinate.

In the case of Ethiopian Jews, essentially cut off from the post-biblical development of rabbinic Judaism and airlifted dramatically to Israel in the 1990s, they were declared Jewish by Chief Rabbis Ovadia Yosef and Shlomo Goren—but other authorities demanded that they go through a modified conversion ritual.

This was met with vociferous protest but ultimately accepted, and their subsequent integration into Israeli society, albeit difficult, has been largely successful. (Holdouts include the ultra-Orthodox, or haredim, who may be the true “exotic Jews'” of the global community.)

Ugandan Jews and politics get native rabbi fired up

By Dan Pine May 26, 2011

By 1920 they had adopted Jewish practice, though they were not considered halachically Jewish. Thus in 2002, Conservative rabbis from the United States and Israel traveled to Uganda to oversee the official conversion or affirmation of Abayudaya, including immersion in a community mikvah.

Sizomu says his community has forged numerous ties with individuals in Israel, though it appears the Abayudaya have a ways to go in being fully accepted by the religious establishment there. But he remains hopeful.

“The Masorti [Conservative] movement is reaching out to our youth,” he said. “Through the embassy and other agencies, I would love to see my young people visit Israel and have a very close connection.”

Home, finally

By Oren Kessler May 27, 2011

[photo no connection to article]

His status meant the family was among the first Bnei Menashe to set foot on Israeli soil, with the assistance of Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail – a tireless seeker of the lost tribes who was convinced of the Bnei Menashe’s Jewishness and who raised funds to facilitate their immigration.

But it would be 10 years before the Chief Rabbinate recognized the community as Jews, and most Bnei Menashe – the Gangtes included – initially arrived on tourist visas.

…Ten years after the Gangtes’ arrival in Israel, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar recognized the Bnei Menashe as remnants of the lost Israelites. The extended family – most of whom were by then in Israel – completed a giur lehumra, a conversion process conducted as a “precautionary” measure to eliminate any uncertainty over a person’s Judaism.

Conversion, a ‘vital task’

By Greer Fay Cashman May 5, 2011

Meeting at its Jerusalem headquarters last week, the World Emunah executive, after listening to a lecture by Benny Ish Shalom, head of the Joint Conversion Institute, passed a resolution stating that it regards conversion as a national goal of top priority and called on the national government and rabbinic leadership to join forces towards the success of what it termed “a vital task.”

To set the minds of converts at ease, Ish Shalom, quoting from authoritative texts, said: “There is no cancellation of conversion, no matter what.”

The only exception he said, is if the convert deceived the Rabbinical Court and provided false and misleading information, such as claiming to be single when in fact he or she is married.

With Jewish Agency out, Zionist groups get into promoting aliyah

By Raphael Ahren May 27, 2011

The British Zionist community is the first to stage an organized effort to promote immigration without the Agency, but others are expected to follow.

As reported first by Anglo File, the WZO, which split from the Jewish Agency last year, plans to use its new independence to focus specifically on immigration promotion.

West Bank cities dropped from Jewish Agency site promoting aliya

By Ruth Eglash May 26, 2011

A community-aliya program aimed at new immigrants from English-speaking countries has sparked controversy in recent weeks as the Jewish Agency has pulled back from promoting two of the towns involved because they are beyond the pre-1967 lines, The Jerusalem Post learned on Wednesday.

[T]hree weeks ago, two of the towns, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel – both of which are situated over the Green Line – were removed from the information on the website.

JPPI: Demographic Trends and Options in Israel and in the Diaspora May 24, 2011

After five years of intensive research and analysis, the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) is set to release its new book, “Jewish Population Policies: Demographic Trends and Options in Israel and in the Diaspora,” written by Professor Sergio DellaPergola.

The main recommendations include:

  • establishing final borders of the State of Israel;
  • facilitating cultural absorption of non-Jewish members of Jewish households into a Jewish context and promote a friendlier approach to conversion;
  • assist with the return of Israelis abroad; granting of absentee voting privileges for Israelis temporarily living abroad;
  • and reducing obstacles that interfere with the birth of a third and fourth child in Israeli families and develop conditions that may facilitate Jewish family growth in both Israel and the Diaspora.

The Struggle for Relevance: JFNA and Overseas Allocations

By Stephen G. Donshik Opinion May 24, 2011

Stephen G. Donshik, D.S.W., is a lecturer at Hebrew University’s International Leadership and Philanthropy Program.

It appears that the disparity of interests among the member Federations has made it very difficult for the system to achieve consensus.

The lack of a basic agreement among its members for the purposes of raising funds and allocating them to the overseas agencies raises serious questions about JFNA’s relevance.

Does it lack the ability to fulfill its mandate as the membership organization of the Federations (ala CJF), on the one hand, and the advocate for overseas needs and services (ala UJA), on the other hand?

Natan Sharansky meets with 53 North American olim as they leave for Israel May 24, 2011

The new Olim range in age from a six-month-old baby to the nonagenarian parents of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. It includes 11 families, 19 singles, a dog and a cat.

The Olim hail from 10 American states and Canadian provinces and are destined to settle in almost as many Israeli towns and villages, including northern kibbutzim, Nahariya, Rehovot, Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh.

Promises, Promises

By Aviva Perlman Opinion May 23, 2011

Prior to coming to Israel, my mother tried made me promise her three things:

I won’t date an Israeli

I won’t move to Israel/want to make aliyah

I won’t become orthodox

…A friend of mine recently checked in to see how I was feeling over my quickly approaching departure. He said “It’s a good thing if it’s hard to leave Israel.”

I’ve never had an easy time leaving Israel but I know this time will be much more difficult.

Farewell Israel. I will miss you, but I’ll be back.

I promise.

Ten Years Later, Birthright Still Reaching Young Jews

By Jeffrey Solomon and Leonard Saxe May 24, 2011

Jeffrey Solomon is president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies; Leonard Saxe is director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

A pervasive narrative of contemporary Jewry in America is that Jewish young adults are “distancing” themselves from Israel.

Although pessimism is widespread, it is difficult to reconcile with the facts on the ground — in particular, the stunning success of Birthright Israel.

Only one out of three young Jews who registered for the free, 10-day visit to Israel was accommodated for the summer trips.

Evidence suggests that Jewish young adults are not only interested in Israel, but that they are more emotionally connected than any previous generation of young Jews.

Marching for Israel, with Love and Criticism

By Rabbi Jill Jacobs and Rabbi David Rosenn Opinion May 24, 2011

Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. Rabbi David Rosenn is the chief operating officer of the New Israel Fund.

For us, celebrating Israel means celebrating the existence of a homeland for the Jewish people. Celebrating Israel means celebrating this homeland as a vibrant and thriving democracy that is striving to realize the social and democratic ideals that were the foundation of the state.

Celebrating Israel means celebrating our connection to people, places and an ancient history we hold dear.

It also means celebrating the NGOs, lawyers, activists, and advocates who work every day to hold the country to the hope, outlined in the Declaration of Independence, that Israel will be a country “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel;

The Russian Wave

By Yehudah Mirsky Opinion May 26, 2011

Nor is it clear just how much Israel wants to “absorb” them. If each wave of immigrants has brought its own difficulties, this one pushed to the forefront a perennial Israeli headache: determining “who is a Jew.”

Indeed, it turned that headache into a mind-bender, not to mention a vehicle for the further consolidation of the chief rabbinate’s political power.

Some Russian newcomers had two Jewish parents, some had one, some had a Jewish grandparent, and some had no Jewish ancestors at all but were married to Jews.

For the Christians among them, according to one of the journal contributors, living in Israel has paradoxically reinforced their religious identity, which in Soviet days had largely been defined only in ethnic terms.

See also: Years Together: The ‘Great Aliya’ and Russian Israelis in the Mirror of Social Research” Israel Affairs Special Issue for Volume 17, Issue 1

Ears that Can Hear: Israel Education for the 21st Century

By Yigal Ariha and Laura Shaw Frank Opinion May 27, 2011

Yigal Ariha has served as the Israeli shaliah and Tanakh teacher at the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community High School in Baltimore, MD.

Laura Shaw Frank, a doctoral student in Modern Jewish History at the University of Maryland, College Park, is a Jewish History and Judaic Studies teacher at Beth Tfiloh.

Our connection to Israel, although different because one of us is Israeli and will be living in Israel again in a few months and one of us is American and has chosen, at least for the time being to live in America, still leads us to one conclusion:

Israel speaks to those who have ears to listen to it.

In other words, without proper emotional infrastructure, all of our efforts to teach about Israel through history, culture, art, food, and so forth, will go in one ear and out the other.

The problem is that this infrastructure is vanishing quickly.

For the Sake of Zion: Richard G Hirsch’s Historical Memoir of the Struggles of Progressive Zionism

By Rabbi Daniel R. Allen May 24, 2011

Rabbi Allen is Executive Director, ARZA

In his new memoir For the Sake of Zion: Reform Zionism–A Personal Mission, published by URJ Press and the World Union for Progressive Judaism, Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch tells of his life’s work promoting progressive Zionism and helping the Reform Movement come to grips with and embrace Jewish nationalism.

Hirsch operated on multiple levels. He built the infrastructure of what is today a growing Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. He raised the funds for and advanced the cause of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, almost single-handedly convincing the leadership that it must be headquartered in Israel.

He was also one of the founders of ARZA (the Association for Reform Zionists of America), established to have a voice in the WZO/JAFI world where today it is the single largest Zionist party.

A Six-Day (Solar) War

By David Rosenblatt and Yossi I. Abramowitz Opinion May 27, 2011

David Rosenblatt and Yosef I. Abramowitz are co-founders of the Arava Power Company, with Kibbutz Ketura, and serve respectively as vice chair and president of its international board.

June 8: Rally world Jewry, on Shavuot. Nigel Savage, leader of the Jewish environmental organization Hazon, challenges the Jewish people to be the first carbon-neutral people on the planet.

Every Jewish family and community in the world can calculate its carbon footprint on the Jewish National Fund website, and offset the carbon dioxide by planting trees, underwriting solar projects for Israeli schools and investing in solar fields.

Let’s not only plant a tree in Israel, but also install a solar panel. David Schwartz of Chai Planet also plans to create opportunities for world Jewish communities to underwrite pilots for emerging Israeli green technologies.

Exclusive Interview with the Ein Prat Fountainheads

By Sarah Bauder May 25, 2011

“Our goal is to produce fun and meaningful music videos that put smiles on people’s faces and help them connect with their Jewishness in new ways. We also want to showcase the diverse, vibrant and highly-engaged Israeli-Jewish identity that is emerging in our generation of Israelis today,”

said Shani Lachmish, graduate of Ein Prat and one of the lead singers of the group.

Ba’al Tshuva

By Merissa Nathan Gerson Opinion May 25, 2011

I came to Israel a year ago, a mostly secular Jewess, with a thirst for Judaism.

…I was a post-denominational anti-establishment mystically leaning Jew enrolled in a strict text study program. I cried for nearly an entire month. For nearly half a year I took my tears to imply that I had defied gravity and was in the wrong place at the wrong time, like I had sold my soul.

Orthodox Jewish Feminist Challenges Traditional Patriarchy

By Kevin Douglas Grant Religion News Service May 23, 2011

Tova Hartman opens the door to her apartment with a warm smile, speaking softly and casually dressed. With her down-to-earth femininity, she doesn’t exactly look like a rabble-rouser within Orthodox Judaism.

Which, perhaps, is precisely what makes her so effective.

The 53-year old psychologist and Jewish scholar has used her decidedly feminist Orthodox synagogue to mount a formidable challenge to the male bastion of religious orthodoxy.

Religion and State in Israel

May 30, 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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