Following a meeting in New York with Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Rabbi David Stav, founder and president of the Tzohar rabbinical organization on Tuesday expressed his full support for the rabbi after the Petach Tikva Rabbinical Court had nullified conversions which had been performed by Rabbi Lookstein.
Also on Tuesday, Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi David Lau, overruled a decision by the lower rabbinic court, officially accepting the conversion performed by Rabbi Lookstein.
Rabbi Lookstein, the spiritual leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and for many years principal of the Ramaz School, also converted Ivanka Marie Trump, daughter of Republican party preumptive presidential candidate Donald Trump.
However, because in 2009 Rabbi Lookstein participated in the National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the primary American modern-orthodox rabbinic association, took exception to his presence, stating that “participation in a prayer service held in the sanctuary of a church is prohibited,” ruling that “any member of the RCA who attends such a service does so in contravention of this policy and should not be perceived as representing the organization in any capacity.”
Last month, a woman who was converted to Judaism by Rabbi Lookstein was refused recognition as a Jew by an Israeli Rabbinical Court in Petach Tikvah, which stirred up the ongoing international controversy over who outside the Israeli Rabbinate is allowed to perform conversions to the Jewish faith. The Israeli court simply couldn’t find Lookstein’s name on the RCA list of accredited conversion rabbis.
“This decision causes three several major problems which cannot be ignored,” Rabbi Stav said in a statement. “First, there is an explicit halakhic ruling that we should not oppress a convert. The conversion that has been nullified by the court was of a clearly well-intentioned, ‘righteous convert,’ and it is inconceivable that simply because of outright bureaucratic considerations a conversion would be nullified.”
“Second, this decision further deepens the already troubling divide between Israel and the Diaspora,” according to Rabbi Stav. “And, most troubling of all, it leads to a situation where assimilation, both here in Israel and in the Diaspora, is allowed to go unchecked. Because when we have a situation where well-intentioned converts are being disregarded simply because their conversion was officiated by a nationalist and modern Orthodox rabbi, what message does this send to those interested in converting according to halakha?”
The rejection of conversions performed by Lookstein was condemned by the Jewish Agency for Israel, which is the world body “responsible for the immigration … and absorption of Jews and their families from the Diaspora into Israel.”
Rabbi Lau said in letters to key Israeli politicians that the Chief Rabbinate Council, due to convene on Wednesday, will hear an appeal of the Petach Tikvah rabbinic court decision, adding he was confident the Chief Rabbinate’s position would clear away all the concerns regarding conversions by non-Israeli Orthodox rabbis.
Rabbi Ratzon Arusi, the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Ono and member of the Chief Rabbinate Council, on Wednesday attacked vehemently the precedent ruling of Tel Aviv Municipal Court Judge Itai Hermelin, which empowered groups of sex workers to operate a legal brothel. Hermelin, who was elevated to municipal judge from his post as instructor for the Criminal Justice Clinic at Tel Aviv University, decided that since by closing down a building where prostitution took place he would be forcing the sex workers to take their business to the streets, he set up conditions under which sex workers could operate the facility legally.
Needless to say, this did not go well with Rabbi Arusi, whose community lies a few miles down the same major thoroughfare, Yitzhak Sadeh Street, where the building of ill repute stands. In a class he gave on Wednesday at the Natzach Israel yeshiva, which was recorded by Srugim, Rabbi Arusi accused Judge Hermelin of turning the entire state of Israel into “one big brothel.”
Rabbi Arusi, who is one of the top experts on integrating Jewish Law into Israeli State Law, criticized “a certain judge who permitted women to establish for themselves a house of ill repute and permitted men to acquire prostitution services. And that judge has declared that a woman’s possession of her own body is autonomous and the state may not interfere with her life and if this is what she desires — then if she opens a brothel by herself or with her friends it does not constitute an illegal act and she mustn’t be harassed. Likewise the customer is autonomous and if he desires prostitution services there’s no reason to prevent him from receiving them.”
As far as Rabbi Arusi is concerned, the Hermelin ruling might be that gulping sound at the end of the slippery slope of social and spiritual corruption that have engulfed Israel for decades. “He has brought us to the very state about which the prophet Isaiah screamed: ‘See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her — but now murderers!’ (Isaiah 1:21). The prophet didn’t refer only to prostitutes, of course. Corruption in government and in the judiciary is also considered prostitution.”
“Judaism is about the sanctity of life,” Rabbi Arusi insisted, explaining, “It means that man is not an animal, but a man, created in the image of God and behaving in this manner. He says yes to having a sex life, but in the framework of holiness and values, not promiscuity and licentiousness.”
It should be noted that the judge’s revolutionary ruling was inspired by the state prosecutor, who was attempting to expose the sex workers as liars, proving undeniably that the sex work in the building on Yitzhak Sadeh Street was actually run in an orderly fashion, in a manner befitting a permanent business. Soon enough, the judge began to wonder what purpose would be served by shutting down this well-organized facility of ill repute and dumping the women back on the street.
Of course, the downside is, as Rabbi Arusi said, not only accepting openly that one of the things Jews in the Jewish State are allowed to do is use sex workers, but that most Jews today don’t thing this is outrageous.
In a break with the longstanding tradition according to which political leaders avoid criticizing the military in public, Prime Minister Netanyahu opened the Sunday morning cabinet meeting with a resounding rebuke of IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan’s speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day. The speech, in which Galon said he sees in today’s Israel and among his subordinates in the IDF evidence of events that took place in Europe before the Holocaust, “was an injustice against the State of Israel and a cheapening of the memory of the Holocaust,” Netanyahu said, adding that “the comparison which rises from the Deputy Chief of Staff’s words is outrageous, and factually wrong. They should not have been said.”
“If there’s one thing which frightens me regarding the memory of the Holocaust, it’s identifying the blood curdling processes that took place in Germany and in the rest of Europe “70, 80, and 90 years ago, and discovering evidence of their taking place here, among us, in 2016,” Golan told an audience that included Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) who almost had a stroke. And when the Deputy Chief of the Jewish army added that his gripe is over the “purity of our weapons” (a uniquely Israeli term, dating back to the pre-state years, meaning when Jews use their weapons they must do so ethically) it was obvious he wasn’t referring to soccer hooliganism — he accused the IDF of harboring Nazi-like individuals.
The open rebuke was a deadly jibe at Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who defended and supported Golan’s speech and the sentiments he noted, and who spent a long hour Wednesday night debating with the PM who demanded an all out apology from Golan. Instead of a direct apology at the time, the best Ya’alon could come up with was a press release from the IDF Spokesperson’s office, which denied the allegation that the Deputy Chief had compared “unsettling phenomena” inside the IDF with events in Nazi Germany that preceded the Holocaust. But as JNi pointed out at the time, Golan absolutely made the comparison, as could be read plainly in the transcript of the speech.
The fact that a commander who compares the IDF to the Nazis may be considered to replace the current chief of staff, is yet another brick in a strangely anti-Jewish and even anti-Zionist wall being erected by the IDF leadership in recent years. The new Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, has removed Jewish education from the hands of the IDF rabbinate and handed it to HR, which in turn made it the purview of the left-leaning Education Corps; the same HR has also initiated a directive against letting Jewish soldiers grow beards, and belittled in a public speech the rabbinic principle of “He who rises to kill you, kill him first,” calling it merely a metaphor and not a moral principle. Ya’alon for his part keeps Jews in prison for many months without charges, and uses brute force to evict Jewish dwellers from their homes — while permitting widespread illegal Arab dwellings. All of the above, besides being nasty jabs against religious Zionism, are also associating Netanyahu and his government with the Israeli left’s agenda, which is tantamount to political suicide for the Likud and its leader.
“The Duputy Chief is an officer of great merit,” the PM concluded, “But what he said in this matter was completely erroneous and unacceptable to me.”
Whether or not the meritorious Golan decide to draw his own conclusions and jump under the bus, or be pushed there at a later date, Netanyahu has don what he could to disassociate himself from the high ranking officer’s infuriating message. And whether or not Ya’alon would see Sunday’s unusual attack by the PM as a message regarding his own political future in the Likud should be the subject of speculation in the weeks to come.
Philipp Justus, managing director of the German unit of YouTub’s parent company Google, on Monday received a letter from the World Jewish Congress (WJC), demanding he remove illegal material praising Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust. In the letter, released by news agencies, WJC Executive Vice President Robert Singer is asking, “Why is it that Google steadfastly refuses to take action against the proliferation of racist and anti-Semitic material on its platforms? Do you really believe that songs glorifying or inciting the mass murder of Jews fall under freedom of speech?”
Singer highlighted one exceptionally revolting song among many nasty numbers, “In Belsen,” by the neo-Nazi group Kommando Freisler, whose members received suspended jail terms in 2009 for inciting racial hatred. According to Singer, the despicable song is “widely available” on YouTube despite its banning in Germany.
In September, the director of the memorial at the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp Jens-Christian Wagner already asked YouTube to remove “In Belsen.” Wagner’s letter received no response, until last Saturday, when Germany’s biggest daily newspaper, Bild, reported it, and then most versions of the song were deleted from YouTube. But dozens of equally hateful Kommando Freisler and other neo-Nazi bands’ songs are still available online in “thousands of clips,” according to WJC spokesman Michael Thaidigsmann.
“It is obvious that Google/YouTube does not seriously deal with this matter, that it lacks any proactive attitude, and that even when offensive posts are being flagged, it is very slow to remove the incriminating files from its service,” Thaidigsmann said, adding bitterly, “If I post something from Adele or Taylor Swift, you can bet it’ll be gone in a few hours.”
A spokesman for YouTube’s German unit told AFP his employers have “clear guidelines to ban hate speech against certain groups or content that incites racial hatred. We remove all videos that violate these guidelines as soon as they are reported. That also applies to banned right-wing extremist music.”
And so it appears the problem lies either with the anti-hate guidelines or with the German YouTube employees who are supposed to follow them.
The European Union released a statement earlier today in which it condemned the military courts in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for sentencing to death five convicts accused of collaborating with Israel.
“The EU Missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah condemn the five death sentences issued by military courts in the Gaza Strip on 18 April,” said the EU statement. “These include three new death sentences and the confirmation of two previous ones, all on the grounds of collaboration with enemy forces.”
“This brings to ten the total number of death sentences to be issued in Gaza this year,” the EU added.
Death sentences for convicted informants and collaborators with Israel are nothing new for the Hamas regime as the terror organization has executed many such individuals over the years. However, the EU focused less on opposition to the punishment of suspected collaborators with Israel and more on the use of the death penalty in general.
“As in their most recent statement on 13 April, the EU Missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah recall the EU’s firm opposition under all circumstances to the use of capital punishment,” the EU stressed in its statement.
“It considers capital punishment to be cruel and inhuman, that it fails to provide deterrence to criminal behavior, and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity,” the statement continued.
The EU expressed its belief that the removal of the death penalty would help to serve as a step forward in the advancement of human rights under the Hamas terror regime in Gaza.
The EU also asked that the Hamas authorities in Gaza abide by the decision of the Palestinian Authority, which only governs over Palestinian communities in Judea and Samaria and not in Gaza, to implement a moratorium on the death penalty.
“The authorities in Gaza must refrain from carrying out any executions of prisoners and comply with the moratorium on executions put in place by the Palestinian Authority, pending abolition of the death penalty in line with the global trend,” insisted the EU.
“Brussels, Istanbul, Lahore–and now Jerusalem must tragically be added to the long list of cities brutalized by terror in recent weeks. Our hearts go out to the bus bombing’s victims and their families, and to all Israelis, at this difficult moment. There is simply no moral or political justification for this act of savagery. Hamas’ statement that it “welcomes the Jerusalem operation” proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the barbaric values of those who seek Israel’s destruction. We proudly stand with the Israeli people in their ongoing struggle against terror.”
Hillary and Bernie locked horns, clashed, yelled and smashed into each other almost literally last night in Brooklyn, NY. There were cheap shots and there were deep cuts. It can be safely said that the behavioral gap between the Democratic and Republican debates have narrowed significantly, so neither side can claim the high ground any longer. As to the portion of the debate in which we were most interested, US-Israeli relations, we must agree Hillary made us feel a little safer. Sanders started off from the point of view of B’Tselem and J Street, while Hillary at this point is a little to the right of J Street. After last night’s debate, if you’re a Democrat who cares about Israel, we advise you to buy an industrial size laundry clip, put it on your nose and vote for Bill’s wife. Not because we endorse her, we really really don’t, but she scares us a little less than Bernie does.
And now, to what they actually said last night about how they’d like to finally bring peace to the region…
Blitzer: Senator, let’s talk about the U.S. relationship with Israel. Senator Sanders, you maintained that Israel’s response in Gaza in 2014 was, quote, “disproportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of innocent life.”
What do you say to those who believe that Israel has a right to defend itself as it sees fit?
Sanders: Well, as somebody who spent many months of my life when I was a kid in Israel, who has family in Israel, of course Israel has a right not only to defend themselves, but to live in peace and security without fear of terrorist attack. That is not a debate.
But — but what you just read, yeah, I do believe that. Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, has every right in the world to destroy terrorism. But we had in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.
Heckler: Free Palestine!
Sanders: Now, if you’re asking not just me, but countries all over the world was that a disproportionate attack, the answer is that I believe it was, and let me say something else.
Sanders: And, let me say something else. As somebody who is 100% pro-Israel, in the long run — and this is not going to be easy, God only knows, but in the long run if we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.
Sanders: So what is not to say — to say that right now in Gaza, right now in Gaza unemployment is s somewhere around 40%. You got a log of that area continues, it hasn’t been built, decimated, houses decimated health care decimated, schools decimated. I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people.
That does not make me anti-Israel. That paves the way, I think…
Blitzer: … Thank you, Senator…
Sanders: …to an approach that works in the Middle East.
Blitzer: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, do you agree with Senator Sanders that Israel overreacts to Palestinians attacks, and that in order for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel must, quote, end its disproportionate responses?
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Clinton: I negotiated the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in November of 2012. I did it in concert with…
Clinton: President Abbas of the Palestinian authority based in Ramallah, I did it with the then Muslim Brotherhood President, Morsi, based in Cairo, working closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli cabinet. I can tell you right now I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks. They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages.
They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas aided and abetted by Iran against Israel. And, so when it came time after they had taken the incoming rockets, taken the assaults and ambushes on their soldiers and they called and told me, I was in Cambodia, that they were getting ready to have to invade Gaza again because they couldn’t find anybody to talk to tell them to stop it, I flew all night, I got there, I negotiated that.
So, I don’t know how you run a country when you are under constant threat, terrorist tact, rockets coming at you. You have a right to defend yourself.
That does not mean — that does not mean that you don’t take appropriate precautions. And, I understand that there’s always second guessing anytime there is a war. It also does not mean that we should not continue to do everything we can to try to reach a two-state solution, which would give the Palestinians the rights and…
Blitzer: … Thank you…
Clinton: … just let me finish. The rights and the autonomy that they deserve. And, let me say this, if Yasser Arafat had agreed with my husband at Camp David in the Late 1990s to the offer then Prime Minister Barat put on the table, we would have had a Palestinian state for 15 years.
Blitzer: Thank you, Senator, go ahead — go ahead, Senator.
Sanders: I don’t think that anybody would suggest that Israel invites and welcomes missiles flying into their country. That is not the issue.
And, you evaded the answer. You evaded the question. The question is not does Israel have a right to respond, nor does Israel have a right to go after terrorists and destroy terrorism. That’s not the debate. Was their response disproportionate?
I believe that it was, you have not answered that.
Clinton: I will certainly be willing to answer it. I think I did answer it by saying that of course there have to be precautions taken but even the most independent analyst will say the way that Hamas places its weapons, the way that it often has its fighters in civilian garb, it is terrible.
I’m not saying it’s anything other than terrible. It would be great — remember, Israel left Gaza. They took out all the Israelis. They turned the keys over to the Palestinian people.
Clinton: And what happened? Hamas took over Gaza.
So instead of having a thriving economy with the kind of opportunities that the children of the Palestinians deserve, we have a terrorist haven that is getting more and more rockets shipped in from Iran and elsewhere.
Blitzer: Thank you, Secretary.
Sanders: I read Secretary Clinton’s statement speech before AIPAC. I heard virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people. Almost none in that speech.
Sanders: So here is the issue: of course Israel has a right to defend itself, but long-term there will never be peace in that region unless the United States plays a role, an even-handed role trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people.
That is what I believe the world wants to us do and that’s the kind of leadership that we have got to exercise.
Clinton: Well, if I — I want to add, you know, again describing the problem is a lot easier than trying to solve it. And I have been involved, both as first lady with my husband’s efforts, as a senator supporting the efforts that even the Bush administration was undertaking, and as secretary of state for President Obama, I’m the person who held the last three meetings between the president of the Palestinian Authority and the prime minister of Israel.
There were only four of us in the room, Netanyahu, Abbas, George Mitchell, and me. Three long meetings. And I was absolutely focused on what was fair and right for the Palestinians.
I was absolutely focused on what we needed to do to make sure that the Palestinian people had the right to self-government. And I believe that as president I will be able to continue to make progress and get an agreement that will be fair both to the Israelis and the Palestinians without ever, ever undermining Israel’s security.
Blitzer: A final word, Senator, go ahead.
Sanders: There comes a time — there comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.
Clinton: … you know, I have spoken about and written at some length the very candid conversations I’ve had with him and other Israeli leaders. Nobody is saying that any individual leader is always right, but it is a difficult position.
If you are from whatever perspective trying to seek peace, trying to create the conditions for peace when there is a terrorist group embedded in Gaza that does not want to see you exist, that is a very difficult challenge.
Blitzer: Senator, go ahead.
Sanders: You gave a major speech to AIPAC, which obviously deals with the Middle East crisis, and you barely mentioned the Palestinians. And I think, again, it is a complicated issue and God knows for decades presidents, including President Clinton and others, Jimmy Carter and others have tried to do the right thing.
All that I am saying is we cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue.