Religion and State in Israel – November 21, 2011 (Section 1)

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Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

Haaretz Editorial November 18, 2011

Until civil marriage is made official, Israelis have no reason to cooperate with the religious establishment. Any of the temporary ways to sidestep that establishment are preferable – as an expression of civil autonomy and even as an act of protest. Editorial November 15, 2011

Ideally, recognized non-Orthodox streams– Reform and Conservative – should also be allowed to conduct weddings as long as they adhere to basic consensus tenets such as matrilineal descent.

Competition will push rabbis to find innovative ways to reach out. And Israelis will no longer feel coerced into celebrating a wedding in a way that feels uncomfortable.

By Rabbi Julie Schonfeld and Rabbi Gilah Dror Opinion November 20, 2011
The writers are, respectively, president and executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly.

Access for “recognized streams” that “acknowledge basic tenets” is not really “free market” Judaism – and even true “free markets” do not ensure the basic protections of human rights such as freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

So long as a predetermination is made as to “whose Judaism is Jewish enough” in order to have one’s marriage qualify for registration, a form of religious coercion that denies basic human rights will continue to alienate Israelis from their own Judaism and impoverish the development of a vibrant, indigenous modern Jewish expression in Israel.

By Judith Rotem Opinion November 17, 2011
The writer has published several novels. She has received the Prime Minister`s Prize (2002) and the Book Publishers Association`s Gold Prize for her best seller, “Craving” (2004).

That’s where it all began. Since then, as with the unrestrained spread of weeds, Haredi society and its religious-Zionist satellite public have been overrun by ever more rigorous regulations.

…I see a straight line between the decrees aimed at preserving modesty, which in many homes these days are imposed on girls from the age of 3, to the separation that exists on so-called mehadrin (strictly kosher) buses, which could be better described as medirin − exclusionist.

By Nir Hasson November 20, 2011

Large picture windows were installed in the hall facing the street during renovations a few years ago.
However, shortly thereafter, reportedly under pressure from the Jerusalem municipality and ultra-Orthodox residents who also threatened the company’s members, it was decided to keep the curtains closed.

By Haim Amsalem Opinion November 16, 2011
The author is a Knesset member, an ordained rabbi and chairman of the Am Shalem movement.

Let me begin by making a clear and loud declaration for all to hear: There is absolutely no basis in Jewish law for the separation of men and women on buses or public streets.

…But this isn’t just about buses. This is about growing extremism in the haredi world, part of which includes the demonization of women.

…If we don’t stop this trend to extremism as a political force right now, I fear to think where things will be in 15 years.

By Jeremy Sharon November 16, 2011

Rachel Azaria: “The haredi public realizes that it needs to be part of society, so we see military enlistment and participation in the workforce increasing in this community.But this threatens the extremists, who are burdening their communities with fabricated [laws] which are not halachic.

“Their goal is not to isolate women from the public sphere but to isolate the haredi community from the general community.”

By Maayan Lubell Reuters November 14, 2011

“The new fad is to distance one’s self from women as a way to measure piety. The idea that sex is dirty is not part of Judaism. We have to plug this leak before it spills over,” said Anat Hoffman, IRAC’s executive director.

“We object to the sexist use of women in ads. But it is also important to me that my two daughters grow up in a place where they are not excluded because they are women,” Uri Ayalon said.

“Segregation has been happening for a while. What’s new is that the pluralistic public has woken up and is fighting. We won’t stand it any longer,” Rachel Azaria told Reuters.

By Pierre Klochendler November 20, 2011

Former (and first) ultra-orthodox legislator (on a left-wing party list) Tzvia Greenfeld hoped the counter- campaign will reverse the pattern of exclusion. 

“We don’t want mingling of the public territory and of the private space perceived as religious. But in areas shared by all, such coerced separation should be forbidden,” the advocate of separation of State and religion cautions.

“Women will be back on the city’s walls in such a way that their display will be boring again. No one will notice us.”

By Phoebe Greenwood November 15, 2011

[The Israeli Religious Action Centre (IRAC)] receive around four calls a day from mostly orthodox Jewish women complaining of segregation in medical centres, on pavements, in post offices, graveyards and, most often, on buses. The centre estimates that daily, between 500 and 600 bus journeys in Israel are segregated.

“I feel like a fire fighter – this issue spreads and spirals like a fire,” saids the IRAC’s director Anat Hofman. “But the fact that our case load is increasing is a good thing – it means more people are sensitive to the problem and are prepared to stand up against it.”

By Allison Kaplan Sommer Opinion November 16, 2011

Ynet reports that ultra-Orthodox Radio Kol Berama, which holds a government license and excluded women from its programs, bowed to public pressure that included a heated Knesset debate, and will now allow women to call in for an hour each Sunday morning.

An hour per week of call-in time on an obscure radio station may not seem like a great victory, but after the last several months of depressing developments, any progress toward hearing and seeing women in the ultra-Orthodox sector has to be seen as an encouraging sign.

By Etta Prince-Gibson November 16, 2011

Women have the right to be both seen and heard in public space. There should be no need to make that declaration. It should be self-evident; we should be able to take it for granted. But it isn’t, and we can’t.

No longer satisfied with merely forcing women to dress according to their dictates and to mute women’s voices so that men do not succumb to their own sexuality, some men are demanding that women be neither seen nor heard on our streets.

By Netta Geist November 17, 2011

“I remember going out and suddenly seeing it: a campaign for family medicine depicting a man and two kids, and a poster for a wedding venue with just the groom,” says Rachel Azaria, former Jerusalem councillor who was fired by [Mayor] Barkat after bringing the Mea Shearim case before the High Court.

“It takes a while to notice that something is missing from Jerusalem’s public space, but once you do, you can’t believe you didn’t realise it sooner,” said Rabbi Uri Ayalon.

By Neri Livneh Opinion November 18, 2011

The solution is easy: Instead of removing women of all ages from public spaces in Israel, a public appeal could be issued asking Haredi men to stay at home or wherever they feel safe and protected from the sin lying at their doorstep in the female form.

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen November 18, 2011

Blu Greenberg:
When Haredim said they want separate buses, women said they did too. I say thank God I’m not part of that community because it would be oppressive to me, as an Orthodox Jew who likes to feel like a free person, not a second-class citizen.

On the other hand, the women seem to want this. I can say it’s oppressive but I have to allow for their freedom of choice. Then do other people say about me that I just accept these things in my community and why do I stay? Where do you draw the line? I don’t know.

By Kobi Nahshoni November 16, 2011

The Chief Rabbinate Council on Tuesday discussed the marriage registration and wedding ceremonies conducted by Tzohar rabbis.

The meeting’s participants decided to appoint a joint committee which would discuss the modern Orthodox organization’s claims, but in the meantime many of Tzohar’s rabbis will be prevented from marrying couples.

By Yair Ettinger November 16, 2011

The council also decided that any municipal chief rabbi who allows unauthorized rabbis to perform weddings in his town will face disciplinary charges.

Currently, not all Tzohar rabbis are authorized to perform weddings by the Chief Rabbinate, but Tzohar-affiliated municipal rabbis have in the past allowed them to do so.

By Rabbi Uri Regev Opinion November 15, 2011

Tzohar’s strategy in Israel was to declare its work a way to save the Jewish people from Reform, Conservative and civil marriage, implying that those who would marry outside of Orthodox tradition would be lost to the Jewish fold forever.

The incredible deviation from its message to North American Jewish leaders that there is a “coercive Chief Rabbinate” and that these marriage restrictions would “harm every Jew and Jewish community in the world” appear increasingly suspect, given Tzohar’s own vocalized disdain for liberal Jewry.

By Jeremy Sharon November 16, 2011

…[Chief Rabbi Shlomo] Amar said in response to Tzohar’s allegations: “They claim that perhaps there is some discrimination against some communities. Maybe we weren’t aware of them….”

By Susan Hattis Rolef Opinion November 20, 2011
The writer teaches at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College and was a Knesset employee for many years.

Hopefully someday the law in Israel will be changed following growing pressure from secular Jews, who are tired of hearing that they are a threat to “the unity of the Jewish People” because they wish to be free of any religious coercion. The unity of the Jewish People can only be preserved under a pluralistic regime that ensures the human rights and personal freedom of every Jew.

By Yehuda Shlezinger November 16, 2011

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar: “Israel believes in rabbis and the Rabbinate,” he reportedly said.
Another rabbi who was at the meeting told Israel Hayom on Tuesday: “Tzohar is fighting for its life and will lose the battle. This whole thing will boomerang against them. Without the rabbinate, they are nothing, zero.”

By Yair Ettinger November 15, 2011

Most [Chief Rabbinical] Council members are municipal rabbis who object to allowing Tzohar rabbis to register couples as married even if neither member of the couple lives in the town where they are registered.

The Tzohar registration process sidelines the municipal rabbinates and has the effect of withholding part of their income.

By Jeremy Sharon November 15, 2011

MK Tzipi Hotovely announced Monday she would be introducing a bill, alongside MK Uri Orbach, to legally ensure that any rabbi with ordination from the Chief Rabbinate is able to carry out wedding ceremonies.

By J.J. Goldberg Opinion November 14, 2011

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, the charismatic ex-New Yorker and outspokenly moderate settler leader, offers some startlingly bold criticisms of Israeli Orthodoxy in a Jerusalem Post column titled “Has the Chief Rabbinate outlived its usefulness?

His bottom line is that it hasn’t—at least, he hopes it hasn’t—but he hints that it’s teetering on the edge with its relentlessly intrusive disregard for the rights and sensibilities of non-religious Israelis.

By Yair Ettinger November 21, 2011

Pressure to support candidates acceptable to Israel’s two main ultra-Orthodox parties suggests that neither of the bar association’s two slots on the rabbinic courts’ Judicial Appointments Committee will be filled by a woman.

Thus, for the first time in 12 years, the committee would have no woman member. Women’s rights groups have warned that the makeup of the committee will contribute to extremism in the rabbinic courts.

By Sharon Shenhav Opinion November 19, 2011
The writer is a Jerusalem-based women’s rights lawyer and served as the BarAssociation’s representative to the Commission to Appoint Dayanim from 2003 to 2009.

…due to back-room deals arranged by various political factions within the association, no women will be elected to the Commission to Appoint Dayanim on November 22.

A highly qualified female lawyer with many years of experience representing women in the rabbinical courts, Bat Sheva Shani, director of Yad L’isha, is the only woman candidate.
She doesn’t have a chance!

By Yair Ettinger November 18, 2011

This is another step in the privatization of religious life in Israel: As in private Orthodox wedding ceremonies and private conversions, here too there is a group that is in effect distinguishing between religion and the religious establishment – in this case the hevra kadisha.

Here too Jews are preferring to act in the civil-secular realm, while strictly adhering to tradition and rabbinical law in all their details. The main point for them is that they have a choice as to how to do this.

By Jonathan Lis November 15, 2011

On Monday, MK Avi Dichter (Kadima) withdrew his controversial draft law that would subordinate democratic rule in Israel to the country’s role as a Jewish state. In its place he proposed a more moderate bill, which was met with harsh criticism.

By Prof. Shlomo Avineri Opinion November 21, 2011

In the new version, too, the bill is unnecessary and merely deepens tensions between Jews and Arabs, as well as among various parts of the Jewish population. And it will give Israel a bad name. There is only one remedy for this bill – to shelve it completely.

By Talila Nesher November 18, 2011

Parents of some 400 children in the state religious school system have banded together to protest what they view as the extreme bent the system has taken.

A parent from the Moriah school said: “One fine day they decided to separate the children on the bus: the boys in the front and the girls in the back. Recess is also taken in different yards.”

By Avirama Golan Opinion November 16, 2011

The national-religious public was long ago swept out to this sea and swallowed up.
The only ones who are fighting are the direct victims of the undertow, the women. While putting themselves and their families at real risk, they are attempting to stop it.

But the general public, religious and secular, is not adding its voice to theirs. Abandoning them to fight this battle alone means consciously committing mass suicide in the sea of the twisted new Judaism.

By Masua Sagiv Opinion November 17, 2011

For a while now I have been feeling that the national-religious sector is not the same sector I grew up in, and the change is not for the better.

Radicalized sectarian separatism, strictness in respect to minor issues and a methodical renunciation of values that are not “purely halachaic,” focusing all energies on settlement in the land of Israel and nothing beyond, and growing separation from secular society are to my regret the mainstream in our sector, and anyone who thinks otherwise is dubbed a leftist, Reform Jew and a bleeding heart (all grave insults in the sector, shamefully enough.)

By Elana Sztokman Opinion November 15, 2011

This interplay between Torah, religion and politics in the religious Zionist world is fascinating. It’s as if we want to be talking about Rabin, but we’re not supposed to say that that’s what we’re doing. It’s as if there is pressure to take a particular stance towards everything, but in practice people’s lives are much more complex.

By Tzofia Hirschfeld November 17, 2011

A Jerusalem synagogue recently hosted an event on fertility preservation for single religious women in a bid to present them with the existing halachic solutions, such as egg freezing, and the technological innovations for improving fertility.

The event was initiated by social worker Dina Kazhdan, and was attended by Rabbi Menachem Burstein, head of Jewish fertility organization Puah, halachic advisor Rabanit Gila Hazan, and Dr. Dror Meirow, who leads the fertility preservation program at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center.

By Gil Shefler November 17, 2011

Members of a Jewish Agency for Israel committee engaged in a heated debate at its Board of Governors meeting in Buenos Aires on Tuesday over its set of priorities and whether the organization has neglected aliya.

The chairman of the group’s Aliya and Rescue Committee, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, launched an all-out offensive following a report that said several hundred Russian-speaking Jews want to move to Israel this year but can’t because of lack of funds.

“There are 800, 900 young academically trained people in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Kiev ready to come to Israel tomorrow,” he said. “What’s the cost? Two million dollars. To me it is absurd, maybe even obscene, that a $300 million organization cannot afford to bring olim from Moscow and St. Petersburg to Israel.

By Raphael Ahren November 18, 2011

Budget cuts approved by the Jewish Agency for Israel this week may jeopardize the existence of smaller immigration assistance groups, according to aliyah professionals. Nonprofits serving native English speakers, however, say they are financially strong enough to continue operating as usual.

There are about 15 private groups helping new immigrants find their way in Israel that receive funding from JAFI.

By James Hyman Opinion November 15, 2011
James Hyman, Ph.D., is Chief Executive Officer, Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning.

Until we, as American Jews, have a viable lexicon to understand and describe our identity as more than religious alone, it will be very difficult for the very best of what Israel has to offer us today to penetrate American Jewish identity.

Until a far greater number of American Jews understand and have experiences that reinforce a broader conception of Jewish identity, Israel programming will not fit into the self understanding of American Jews and the institutions of American Jewish life.

By Raphael Ahren November 18, 2011

The Jerusalem municipality is initiating for the first time a lecture series in North America in the hopes of convincing potential immigrants to make the capital their home.

The campaign is part of a new effort to show native English speakers that the holy city is better than what thou may have heard about it. November 14, 2011

Fifty-two North American olim arrived in Israel on Thursday on a Nefesh B’Nefesh Group Aliyah Flight.
Among them was 23-year-old Genna Brand, who is the newest addition to Israel’s National Women’s Soccer Champions, ASA Tel Aviv.

By Gil Shefler November 14, 2011

BUENOS AIRES – Since the establishment of Israel the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) has held its annual meetings in the country, but for the first time in decades the Zionist group’s top brass has gathered overseas for its Board of Governors which kicks off here on Monday.

By Dan Brown November 16, 2011

In a ground breaking new initiative, the Jewish Agency is teaming up with local philanthropists to make Israel experiences more accessible to young Argentinian and other Latin American Jews.

By Lonny Moses November 16, 2011

Lonny Moses is the youth leadership coordinator of Habonim Dror North America. He graduated from American University in 2010.

More importantly, Israel—and the Jewish people—deserve better. We deserve people who have been given an opportunity to connect and grapple with the diversity of ideas, challenges and consequences of Jewish nationalism and culture over time.

Clearly there are some people, even at the GA, who understand this. Unless the rest of us come to terms with that reality and work to truly meet this need, the organized Jewish world will continue to fail its young people and itself.

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
All rights reserved.

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