Thursday, November 15, 2012

Religion and State in Israel - November 15, 2012

Religion and State in Israel

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
*Special edition on Women of the Wall & Anat Hoffman's arrest coming soon

“There’s got to be a sense that the State of Israel gives non-Orthodox Jews the same kind of Jewish opportunities. 

Because of issues such as Anat Hoffman’s arrest at the Kotel, [MK David] Rotem’s conversion bill and the lack of freedom to marry, North American Jews don’t see an Israel that reflects their core values.”

“For decades we said that because of existential issues such as Iran, we cannot have conversations about religion and state. I don’t discount that there are serious challenges, but there is also a serious challenge from within that speaks to the heart and character of what the state is about.”

Supreme Court Justice Miriam Naor questioned the logic of the State’s arguments, asking “How is the fact that giving a person money brings him closer to integration into the work force? Logic dictates that if you don’t give him money [then] he will have to work.”

"The petitioners   say that such payments discriminate against women and members of other faiths and the non-Orthodox Jewish community, as well against university students.

They say the policy also discriminates against other welfare recipients because yeshiva students are not required to show that they have been unable to find employment; on the contrary, they are not allowed to work while receiving the payments."

"According to the Jerusalem police, the sum total of fraudulent funding obtained over the past two years is almost NIS 100 million."

The group, which is believed to have been operating for years, stands accused of forging 1,650 identity cards which the ringleaders presented to Education Ministry officials ..."

“At the end of the 1970s, when Israel’s standard of living was relatively low, education was not imperative for finding a job,” Ben-David said. 

“In those days, rates of employment among men with all levels of education, as well as among haredi men, were over 80%. Today, in a competitive and global Israeli economy, employment rates among the uneducated are below 50%, as are employment rates among haredi men.

Among non-Haredi Jews, 68.8 percent worked in the business sector, while among Haredim the numbers were no more than 25 percent. 

The high rate of public sector employment among Haredim suggests there is a lot of make-up work going on.

"...contrary to the spirit of the Trajtenberg recommendations, the condition that subsidies be given only to working families was dropped. Shas Minister Atias knew very well what he was doing."

Have Shas leaders have turned a subsidized housing policy aimed at helping the working poor into another giveaway to the Haredim?

"“Since the Tal Law expired, the State has been breaking the law of military service ... and the implications of its response to the High Court is that it does not intend to obey [its ruling], at least until after the elections and the establishment of a new government,” Hiddush director Uri Regev said.

Eetta Prince-Gibson: "If the IDF chooses to conscript large numbers of Haredi men who do not accept the rules of the democratic game, who oppose equality for women and insist on increasingly strict gender segregation, it will be trying to solve one problem by creating other, more serious ones."

By Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz

Competition in kashrut supervision in Jerusalem is long overdue, and I firmly believe it is the only way to bring change. 

The rabbinate should be given the poetically just role of enforcing the best practices of private agencies through supervision, investigation and the legal prosecution of fraudulent standards.

This way, the market would drive industry quality up, and the government would be positioned in its natural role of legislation and enforcement.

"We had a meeting with officials from the Rabbinate's Kashrut Enforcement Division, and they agreed to allow women to integrate in two fields: shatnez lab tests and checking supervised leaves for bugs.

In both fields the woman does not work at the actual business, but rather in an isolated and hidden place, for modesty reasons."

"Sometimes, the applicant receives the 'authorization' to serve as a rabbi within weeks or months - thanks to his personal connections rather than his skills."

Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah noted that as far as they knew, since the State's establishment, dozens or even hundreds of rabbis have received a certification to serve in the Rabbinate – or as city rabbis – without being required to take these exams.

Legal expert Ruth Halperin-Kaddari has been fighting for women's rights around the globe, but faces some of her biggest battles in Israel.

“Lately I've become more pessimistic. I feel that we’re not progressing anywhere in the narrow field of family law. 

And in the rabbinic courts in Israel, it’s one step forward and two steps back. A decade ago there were no 'get' annulments. And now it’s a norm. The situation is not improving, and it’s very discouraging. ... 

There is no country in the Western world where personal status law is governed by religious laws as it is in Israel.”

It’s hard to believe, but the reality of divorce in Israel is even more problematic. The process for ending a marriage is completely controlled by the religious court systems, even for couples who went abroad to have a civil ceremony.

To make matters worse, women are not permitted to testify in these courts, even during their own divorce. Women cannot remarry if their husbands have gone missing or refuse to give them a divorce. Childless widows have to undergo a humiliating ceremony to be “released” by their brother-in-law.

By Rabbi Seth Farber

"We are witnessing major changes over the last decade in the way society treats homosexuals and lesbians… Rabbi Piron has become one of the greatest leaders of this change." 

Havruta, Bat Kol and Shabal, three organizations aiding religious gays and lesbians, issued a statement which they hope will set the record straight about Rabbi Piron.

Jerusalem's Aspaklaria Theater, which was founded in 1998 as an Orthodox Jewish performance troupe, has been recognized by the state as a repertory theater. 

The National Council for Culture and the Arts had not added a new company to its register of repertory theaters for 14 years. Aspaklaria specializes in plays that demonstrate Jewish values and are written by religious playwrights.

‎‎Avrohom Leventhal worries, however, about the future of his new community [Beit Shemesh], with the continuing tensions from the extreme sectors of the ultra-Orthodox population.

"I hope we can remain a diverse community," he says. "My neighborhood today is a kaleidoscope of the Jewish people, and shows that people can be different and get along." 

Leventhal's own suit and black yarmulke would lead most Israelis to call him 'Haredi,' but he considers himself too Zionist and too 'open-minded' to fit the classic definition.

Alan Hoffmann describes how the Jewish Agency has repositioned itself to confront the current challenges facing Jews both in Israel and in the Diaspora

Yehuda Kurtzer, Hartman Institute:

The way forward, he believes, is not in arguing about whether one is being "anti-Israel" by criticizing the country, or is "helping Israel" by defending it. Instead, he would like to see a text-based, real debate about Jewish values, life and ideas and to frame the discussion of Israel within that context.

"For example, what does sovereignty mean 'Jewishly'? Or, what does it mean to integrate Jewish and democratic values? These are some of the big questions we want to be asking," he says.

The Jewish Agency for Israel

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