Religion and State in Israel – July 25, 2011 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

July 25, 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.

Rabbinic ruling on Jewish identity doesn’t pass muster at Interior Ministry

By Yair Ettinger July 20, 2011

Yehudit Weizman, an immigrant from Hungary who grew up Jewish, married a Jewish Israeli in a Jewish ceremony, and was recognized as Jewish according to halakha by a rabbinic court in Tiberias to boot. But the Interior Ministry defines her and her three children as people with “no religion.”

For the Interior Ministry, Weizman is a Christian, because her maternal grandmother converted to Christianity during World War II.

She will only be registered as Jewish on her identity card, with all the concomitant legal implications, if she converts, the Interior Ministry told her. Even ultra-Orthodox rabbis, including those working for the state, have not made such a demand.

After such cases reached the High Court of Justice, the Interior Ministry agreed to a compromise under which it would recognize certain petitioners as Jews, although the court refused to set rules on the matter.

But relief may be on the way in the form of a bill, initiated by Tzohar, a group of moderate Orthodox rabbis…

The bill would require the Interior Minister to recognize rulings by rabbinic courts acknowledging people as Jewish.

Conversion to Judaism: Halakha, Hashkafa, and Historic Challenge

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel Opinion July 5, 2011

Rabbi Marc D. Angel is Founder and Director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, and Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel.

This article is reprinted with permission from Hakirah: The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought, Volume 7, Winter 2009.

At a time when thousands of people are seeking conversion to Judaism, the Orthodox beth din establishment is raising increased obstacles to them.

Unless converts are willing to promise sincerely to keep all the mitzvoth, they will be rejected as candidates for conversion.

If they have already converted, they now must fear that a beth din might invalidate their conversions retroactively if they do not maintain the proper level of religious observance.

The Jewish status of thousands of halakhic converts and their children are placed under a cloud, causing immense grief to the individuals involved and to the Jewish people as a whole.

…At this period of historic challenge, the Orthodox rabbinate can either rise to greatness or shrink into self-righteous isolationism.

Thus far, the rabbinic/beth din establishment has chosen the latter course. It is not too late to turn things around. The honor of God, Torah and the Jewish people are at stake.

Reform Movement praises Education Ministry for openness

By Jonah Mandel July 21, 2011

On the backdrop of growing criticism from liberal circles against the Education Ministry over what they perceive as a rise in nationalistic values, the Reform Movement in Israel is noting with satisfaction the growth in the ministry’s support for their programs in the public-school system.

The upcoming school year will be the second year in which the movement will receive funding of approximately NIS 200,000, as part of the Ministry’s “centers for enhancing Jewish education,” explained the head of Israel’s Reform Movement, Rabbi Gilad Kariv.

Civics studies to focus on connection between a Jewish and democratic state

By Tomer Velmer July 20, 2011

A new civics curriculum is underway after being approved by the Education Ministry on Monday. The new curriculum has a bigger emphasis on the connection between a Jewish and democratic state.

The program’s approval encountered a few obstacles due to a public battle between civics teachers and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar who sought to introduce the change.

…The chapter on Israel’s characteristics as a Jewish State will also include various aspects of the role of Jewish law in the public arena, as well as a debate over the status of the Hebrew language as Israel’s official language.

Study: Jerusalem’s religious sector growing

By Tzofia Hirschfeld July 20, 2011

According to figures released by Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, since 2003 there has been a 19% increase in the traditional-religious population (36,000 people in 2009), a 15% rise in the national-religious population (54,000) and 14% in the haredi population (78,000).

Keeping up with the Jerusalemites – Rachel Azaria

By Liz Nord Opinion July 9, 2011

Prior to my arrival in Jerusalem, the mayor had been in the process of promoting Rachel [Azaria] to be one of his deputy mayors, a move that would increase her power and visibility.

The Haredi City Council members, whose representation on the council is greater than their actual representation in society, blocked the move. Ultimately, they agreed to a coalition with the far-left Meretz party in order to keep Rachel out.

In other words, the Haredi members were so threatened and upset by the idea of a religious, yet socially liberal, woman rising in the ranks, that they chose to join forces with the councilors who are most ideologically different from them in order to prevent it.

Tel Aviv 2010: 6% drop in weddings

By Kobi Nahshoni July 21, 2011

[Eldad Mizrahi, chairman of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Religious Council] points to additional reasons for the drop in the number of marriages in his city, including the fear of a commitment in light of the rise in divorce cases and the many alternatives for weddings “according to Jewish Law” – civil marriage or other agreements between couples.

He says the Rabbinate must acknowledge the “competition”, make the registration procedures simpler and prevent bureaucracy or other phenomena making it difficult for people to visit its offices.

New Jersey rabbi accused in Jewish divorce kidnapping plot

By Bernd Debusmann Jr. Reuters July 18, 2011

A New Jersey rabbi and his wife surrendered to authorities on Monday on charges of kidnapping an Israeli man and threatening to bury him alive if he did not agree to a traditional Jewish divorce.

High Court condemns Israeli government’s reluctance to fund secular burials

By Yair Ettinger July 21, 2011

The High Court of Justice has given the government one last chance to respond to a claim that it is still avoiding its 15-year-old legal obligation to fund secular burials in Israel.

In deliberations held last week, the justices said they were likely to accept a petition filed against the treasury and religious services ministry by the Menuha Nehona, or rightful rest, movement, which provides civil burial services, and strongly attacked the behavior of the government.

[Attorney Yifat] Solel called the High Court decision “progress toward an end to the continued discrimination against secular people in Israel, who seek to be released from their captivity to the local burial societies.”

Fighting for Israel’s Soul

Freedom fighter

By Esti Ahronovitz July 22, 2011

Prof. Naomi Chazan, president of the New Israel Fund:

“We fund Haredi, Mizrahi and Arab groups. We support new immigrants and also veteran citizens and the elderly.

We fund Noar Kahalacha, which combats ethnic discrimination in ultra-Orthodox educational institutions and went to court against discrimination of Mizrahi girls in schools in Emmanuel; and also Banish the Darkness, a religious-secular coalition against racism.

Shatil provides services to some 500 organizations. The donations come mainly from good Jews abroad, many of whom are longtime donors.”

Q: How do you see yourself the day after another law like this is passed?

“I hope these laws will not be passed. If the idea is to distance world Jewry from us, fine, go ahead and pass another of these laws, and that will be that. How can diaspora Jews be proud of an Israeli state that runs roughshod over human rights?”

Q: The average Israeli doesn’t really care what American Jews think of him.

“It’s not a case of what American Jewry thinks. The question is: What is good for us? Is it good for us to be gagged?”

We’ve Got It Backward: Israel Education Should Come First, Then Advocacy

By Gary Rosenblatt Opinion Editor and Publisher July 19, 2011

There is a recognition taking hold that people’s views on Israel are not just about policies, like settlements, but about people and values and connecting on a personal level.

There’s no one magic approach that works for everyone, but it’s clear that advocacy is best when it is grounded in education, and we need a lot more of it.

This idea of thinking of Israel in a new and meaningful way that brings us closer to understanding, appreciating and making real the Zionist dream is not a simple task. But it’s critically important, now — for Israel and for us.

Two-way street: Israel should learn about Diaspora, too

By Rabbi Daniel Greyber Opinion July 19, 2011

Israelis, please understand: We Diaspora Jews are your sisters and your brothers. As a member of the family, I plead with you: Get to know us, not as a stereotype, but as living communities and real people.

Love is a two-way street. I believe with all my heart that what will allow all of us to survive and build a better Jewish future is a feeling of connection and love between us.

I remain committed to Israel. I pray Israel feels the same sense of commitment to this connection.

I invite Israeli educators to visit the United States not (only) to raise money, but also so we can learn together and better understand one another’s worlds. Together we can nourish a deep love for the Jewish people in our communities. It is that love that unites us all.

From US to Israel for Jewish education

By Yoav Friedman July 22, 2011

Danny Oberman, executive vice president at Nefesh B’Nefesh, adds that “the cost of education in North America is among the main reasons for the decision of many families to immigrate to Israel, especially in the past two years, in light of the financial crisis in the US.

“We hear from many parents who made aliyah with us in recent years how happy they are with the decision they made, and with the fact that they not only got to give their children a better Jewish and Zionist education than in Jewish schools in the US, but also managed to save a lot of money.

“In quite a few cases, we are talking about saving more than $100,000 per family a year.”

Birthright Israel: As Political As Chopped Liver

By Leonard Saxe and Jeffrey Solomon Opinion July 19, 201119

Cross-posted: Does Taglit-Birthright Israel Have a Political Agenda?

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

Taglit-Birthright Israel is counter-cultural. It is particularistic in a universalistic world and its programming tackles issues of identity and group commitment that many contemporary young adults seek to avoid.

The program has created a new paradigm — a new way for diaspora Jews to relate to Israel — that emphasizes the connections among people, not mythology or ideology. In an era where political diversions are ever sharper and destructive, it is a breath of fresh air and sign of hope for the future.

Peoplehood vs. Zionism

By David Breakstone Opinion July 22, 2011

The writer is vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of The Jewish Agency Executive. The opinions expressed in this column are his own.

A prime example is the recently published report “Jewish Peoplehood Education” – the outcome of a three-year exploration of the subject by a global task force commissioned by the UJA-Federation of New York and supported by the NADAV Foundation and The Jewish Agency for Israel.

The mandate it was given was “to grapple with how to engage the next generation with the Jewish collective.” Among the guiding principles it advances is that “The centrality of Israel in the formation of a Jewish peoplehood needs to be revisited, reinterpreted and rearticulated.”

…Tag on the phrase “including the upbuilding of the Jewish state as the ultimate manifestation of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, need for self-expression and capacity for self-reliance” and I’d be quiet.

Peoplehood is history

By David Suissa Opinion July 19, 2011

David Suissa is a branding consultant and the founder of OLAM magazine.

The latest buzzword in the Jewish world is “peoplehood.”

…If you ask me, the most natural way to promote Jewish peoplehood is to teach the extraordinary history of the Jewish people.

…Our sense of solidarity can only be enhanced by a greater familiarity with our incredible journey.

Unfortunately, history is the ugly stepchild of Jewish outreach. It doesn’t have the romance of spirituality, the imperative of Torah study, the headiness of repairing the world or the practical relevance of daily rituals. What it does have, however, is narrative. Hundreds and thousands of narratives that have the power to bond us with the collective Jewish experience.

Misunderstanding What a “Jewish State” Actually Means

By Evelyn Gordon Opinion July 21, 2011

The problem is this view reflects a profound misunderstanding of what a “Jewish state” actually means.

Judaism has never seen itself exclusively or even primarily as a religion; indeed, you won’t find the modern Hebrew word for “religion” anywhere in the first five books of the Bible.

The Biblical terms for what we today call Jews are Am Yisrael – “the nation of Israel” – and Bnei Yisrael, “the children of Israel.” And that’s precisely the point: From a Jewish perspective, the Jews are first and foremost a nation.

Thus, the term “Jewish state” is in no way analogous to “Christian state.” Rather, it’s analogous to “French” or “Danish” or “German” state. Just as these are the respective homelands of the French, Danish and German peoples, a Jewish state is the homeland of the Jewish people.

Looking for My Birthright in All the Wrong Places

By Molly Tolsky Opinion July 22, 2011

Birthright was not going to get me.

I had heard about the brainwashing propaganda party that takes place on these 10-day free trips to Israel. I was well aware of Birthright’s intent, and pretty darn sure that it couldn’t possibly work on me. I was there to see the land, learn about the culture and return unscathed.

VIDEO: Risking it all for Aliyah

By Benjamin Spier July 24, 2011

Alex Veksler says he doesn’t regret giving up a job at a major US bank to bring his family to Israel.

Click here for embedded VIDEO

Education center dedicated to Herzl’s vision opens in J’lem

By Mackenzie Green July 24, 2011

The Stella and Alexander Margulies Education Center was dedicated at a ceremony on Mount Herzl on Thursday night.

The 1,000-sq.m. center, which stands adjacent to the Herzl Museum, houses a library and an interactive exhibit, which the museum hopes will draw researchers and students alike.

The NIS 16.5 million building was erected by Yakov and Yoav Molcho and was funded in large part by Marcus Margulies, a longtime supporter of the Jerusalem Foundation.

New Stone Setting

By Raphael Ahren July 22, 2011

Law professor Suzanne Last Stone was appointed earlier this month the new academic director of the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem.

The head of the Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo Law School, Stone is moving from the institute’s board – where she served for several years – to its professional staff to “strengthen the academic dimension of [its] daily activities, in addition to maintaining quality control of all JPPI publications from the academic perspective,” according to the organization.

Christian Zionists unite in D.C. to express support for Israel

By Natasha Mozgovaya July 20, 2011

Over 5000 Christians, mainly Evangelicals, gathered this week at the Convention Center in Washington for the annual conference of the organization CUFI, Christians United For Israel.

Religion and State in Israel

July 25, 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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