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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Haredi’

Revolutionary Marriage Reform Law Spells End to Haredi Domination

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

The Knesset voted Monday night in favor of a bill sponsored by the Jewish Home party that in effect breaks the grip of Haredi rabbis on marriage permits in the country. It easily passed on second and third readings in the Knesset with the only opposition coming from Haredi Knesset Members.

The “Tzohar Law,” named after the organization of modern orthodox rabbis who have been vying for more influence in the country’s religious establishment, will allow couples to register for marriages anywhere they want.

The change is not minor. Certain cities are known to be a nightmare for couples who are often faced with local rabbis’ extreme demands concerning their being Jewish, their lifestyles, and also touching on customs that vary in different communities, such Sephardi and Ashkenazi, and which are not required to be observed by everyone.

One rabbi who has performed dozens if not hundreds of marriages told The Jewish Press that one city, which is not being named here in order not to blemish its name, is a known problem because of local Haredi rabbis’ conditions that often are “unreasonable.”

Now that a prospective bride and groom can register wherever they want, Haredi rabbis will lose any influence, good or bad, they once had over secular and non-Haredi religious couples. If the Haredi establishment had been a bit more flexible in the past decade, it could have won the respect of tens of thousands of Jews who might have been swayed to become more observant.

Instead, their insensitivity to Israeli’s desire for tradition without coercion has cost them their dominance and has allowed modern orthodox rabbis to take over as much more widely accepted role models.

The winners of the new law are the Tzohar rabbis and the Jewish Home Party, which is rapidly shaking off its predecessor’s National Religious Party stigma of representing only observant Jews and those that believe that Jewish development in Judea and Samaria is the only important issue for the country.

The party has attracted non-observant supporters with an election platform that supported civil marriages, and the Tzohar law is bound to attract more non-religious supporters who want to marry according to Jewish law without having to be subservient to Haredi rabbis’ ultimatums.

“We have opened the religious services market, “ said Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett.

The Tzohar rabbis recently lost an important battle with the Haredi establishment, which elected Rabbi David Lau as Chief Ashkenazi rabbi instead of Tzohar Rabbi David Stav.

The new law will also create a computerized database for the registrations, making the records accessible to all of the registrars.

After Mayoral Loss, the Buzzards Are Flying over Lieberman’s Head

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

The old adage suggesting that victory has a multitude of fathers, while failure, alas, is an orphan, can be applied yet again, this time to describe the grim aftermath in Shas following the heartbreaking loss of the Avigdor Lieberman-Aryeh Deri candidate for mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion (the name should be spelled “Leon,” but the campaign opted for this, more feline spelling).

So the bad guy in this story of glory and defeat is Israel Beiteinu strong man MK Avigdor Lieberman, soon to be either the previous and next Foreign Minister, or the next man with a serial number at the Ma’asiahu prison for white collar criminals—court decision on that one expected in two weeks.

But for now, Lieberman appears to be shouldering the shame of the mayoral loss, with attacks on him coming both from sore losers and sore winners. Yes, the winning incumbent, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat now and for the next 5 years, is not doing the gracious. not even pretending.

“Lieberman is a dishonest man, a fixer who wanted to turn me into a marionette and couldn’t,” Barkat told Ma’ariv.

According to the winner, Lieberman made it his life’s mission to destroy him, Barkat, who, apparently, remained pure as the driven Jerusalem snow: “I could have made a deal and appoint Vladimir Sklar CEO of the East Jerusalem Development corporation the way Lieberman insisted, and then I would have gotten wall-to-wall support,” he said. “I refused. I took a chance and paid a heavy price.”

In Israel, it seems, to the winner goes being spoiled.

MK Lieberman for his part has been denying the Sklar appointment story, arguing instead that in his feverish yearning to win, Barkat has sold the city out to the Haredim—specifically, former Haredi mayoral candidate Chayim Epstein has been saying he’s being appointed Barkat’s deputy mayor, with pay.

The nice appointment is considered to be his reward for keeping his name on the ballot even as it was becoming obvious he was going nowhere—and with that helped siphon off some of Lion’s Haredi votes. It’s a good theory.

But the worst thing for Lieberman was not the spectacle of the winner Barkat doing a victory dance in a fashion that would not go well over in the States, where the first thing a loser does is congratulate the winner, to be followed by the winner complimenting the loser. Over in the Jewish State, we win, we fillet the loser, fire up the barbie, have a beer.

The worst thing for Lieberman is how his own campaign has been badmouthing him. Ma’arive quotes Likud-beiteinu campaign workers who said “Lieberman pulled the rug from under all of us… He couldn’t deliver the goods… He didn’t deliver the Likudniks, and he especially didn’t deliver the Russians he promised… All the Israel Beiteinu voters in Jerusalem supported Nir Barkat… Israel Beiteinu used to have 2 seats in the city council – that’s now been erased… Even when combining the Liebrman and Likud votes, they barely make it past the blocking percentage…”

Finally, senior Aryeh Deri operatives put all the blame on Lieberman. The rift between Deri and Lieberman is serious. Last week, Deri told his listeners on Haredi radio station Kol Barama that they had to vote in large numbers, to secure a Shas-Lieberman partnership. Now, after the defeat, Deri told those same listeners that they lived up to his expectations—they awarded 35 thousand votes to Moshe Lion, but on the Likud-Beiteinu side the failure was overwhelming.

Deri’s seniors are angry at Lieberman, but they’re livid at Deri himself for falling prey to Lieberman’s machinations. It was a known thing that Lieberman could round up 10 thousand Russians in Jerusalem – that’s the number that voted for his faction in 2008. So how come all the Russians went for Barkat? Was Deri being naïve when he figured Lieberman for a solid real estate asset, when, in fact, that asset is infested with termites and about to fall on its own foundations?

Lieberman had nothing to tell his followers and the press other than his own version of you win some, you lose some. If he’s taken down by the court two weeks from now, it would mark a sea change in Israeli politics, an earthquake that could empower the right or the left, depending on whom you ask.

Things Haredim Do

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

A volunteer at the Tachlit center are busy dividing hordes of food into boxes, to be distributed to needy families before Shabbat and before the coming Jewish new year in Jerusalem.

Tomchei Shabbat (supporters of Shabbat) organizations like Tachlit flourish throughout the Haredi communities, each with its unique, local flavor, but all of them with one, central goal: feed the needy.

Most of them also deliver the food boxes quietly, so as not to shame the recipient. In many places there’s also a feedback system in place, allowing recipients to indicate which goods they like and which they’d rather not receive. It prevents waste, and also makes the proces look more like shopping than like charity.

Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Haredi Leader: Wearing a Shtreimel Is Chilul Hashem

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim, chairman of Ha’edah Hacharedit, an anti-Zionist faction in the Haredi public in Israel, estimated at between 50 and 100 thousand followers, surprised many on Tuesday when he called on Chassidim to give up their animal-fur traditional shtreimel hats and switch to synthetic fur.

In a conference of animal rights activists, Rabbi Pappenheim, a Yeke (German Jew) who is well respected within the Haredi world, said that the shtreimels are made with disregard to the law prohibiting the causing of needless pain to animals (tza’ar ba’alei chayim).

The shtreimel is a fur hat worn on Shabbat and holidays by Haredi men, especially Chassidim, after they get married. In Jerusalem, the shtreimel is also worn by “Yerushalmi Jews,” members of the original Ashkenazi community of Jerusalem—from their bar-mitzvah on.

The shtreimel is made from the tips of the tail of sable, mink, marten (weasels), or fox, costing anywhere from one to five thousand dollars–since it takes about 30 animals to make one shtreimel. The synthetic fur shtreimel is more common in Israel than elsewhere.

According to the website RespectForAnimals.com, the fur animals are raised in rows of small cages (2 ft. long by 1 ft. wide and 1 ft. high) and are fed with dollops of paste placed on the top of the cage. Water is supplied by hose and nipple.

Slaughter methods of these animals include gassing (using vehicle exhaust), neck breaking, lethal injection and electrocution (using electrodes clamped in the mouth and inserted in the rectum).

Rabbi Pappenheim said that because of the wide public discussion of the need to stop needless pain to animals, wearing a shtreimel today constitutes Chilul Hashem – desecration of God’s name.

“We live in an era in which people are more stringent and they make a lot of noise about tza’ar ba’alei chayim. So we must stop this custom of hurting animals,” he sais, according to Ma’ariv.

“Some would say that the synthetic shtreimel is not as beautiful,” Rabbi Pappenheim argued, “but I say, do we need to be more chassidish than [mythic founder of the Chassidic movement] the Ba’al Shem Tov? I don’t believe the shtreimels worn by the students of the Ba’al Shem Tov were more beautiful [than the synthetic shtreimels].”

He told his listeners that when his own children wanted to buy him a new shtreimel, he insisted: “I told them, only synthetic.”

Other participants in the animal rights conference included Rabbi Pappenheim’s grandson, Shmuel Pappenheim, and Yehuda Schein of Beit Shemesh, founder of the organization Chemla – an acronym for Haredim volunteering to help animals (the word also means “pity”).

Attorney Yossi Wolfson of the NGO Let Animals Live, and one of the founders of Anonymous for Anila Rights, and Dr. Yael Shemesh of the Bible Studies Dept. at Bar Ilan University.

Despite his support for the synthetic shtreimel, Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim objected to the idea of legislation to promote its use. “I believe in evolution, not revolution,” he said. we should get to a point where people would be ashamed to wear anything but a synthetic shtreimel.”

Schein said Haredi Jews should be at the forefront of animal rights issues, together with secular Israelis.

Israeli Haredi journalist Israel Gelis, who has written extensively on the shtreimel (it began as an attempt by the gentiles to humiliate Jews, which we turned into a badge of honor) told The Jewish Press that the only driving force that could cause a Haredi man to opt for a synthetic shtreimel is its cost: they sell in Israel for about $600.

Want a Tzohar Rabbi for the Wedding? Avoid Petach Tikvah

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The Religious Council of Petach Tikvah, located next to Tel Aviv, is generally known to give problems for couple wanting to get married by modern orthodox rabbis registered with the Tzohar organization, a rabbi told The Jewish Press Thursday.

Responding to the reported plight of a young man whose request for a certificate that he is single was rejected by the Petach Tikvah Religious Council, the rabbi, who has performed dozens of weddings, explained that the council is known for giving modern orthodox men a hard time.  He added that the rejection had nothing to do with the election loss  two weeks ago of Tzohar Rabbi David Stav to Haredi Rabbi David Lau

The Petach Council reportedly rejected the prospective groom’s request for a certificate because he opened a file with Tzohar. The Council tried to explain that the young man did not bring with him the required documents and that his wanting to be married by a Tzohar rabbi was irrelevant.

The rabbi who spoke with The Jewish Press suggested that the prospective groom travel to the nearby city of Shoham, where there is no problem with the Rabbinate.

Many Haredi rabbis on religious councils resent the growing popularity of Tzohar

 

 

Census Debunks Arab Demographic Threat

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Jewish and Arab birth rates indicate that the percentage of school children in the Israeli educational system who are Jewish will grow by 2019 while the percentage of Arabs will decline.

The Central Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday that the Jewish percentage will rise by one percentage point, from 73 to 74 percent, and the Arab percentage will decline by a point, from 27 to 26 percent.

Previous warnings of a growing Arab population were based on birth rates that no longer are valid. The latest statistics show that there will be 12 percent more children in the Hebrew education system by 2019 but only 10 percent more in the Arab system.

One reason for the decrease in the Arab birth rate might be due to Arab families enjoying a higher quality of life and becoming part of the “middle class” that usually is accompanied by smaller families. The change also indicates that Arabs in Israel do not share the ideology of the Bedouin and fundamentalist Muslim communities that promote larger families as part of the “resistance” movement to eliminate a Jewish majority in Israel.

However, birth rates among Haredi and modern orthodox Jews remain high, one of the reasons that the supposed Arab demographic threat in Judea and Samaria also is exaggerated.

The estimated number of school children also indicates that the Haredi birth rate has declined but still is far higher than in other Jewish sectors in Israel. The annual growth rate in the Haredi primary educations schools is expected to drop from 4.7 percent, for the period from 2001 until 2012, to 3.6 percent by 2019. The rate in the secondary school system is forecast to drop by nearly 50 percent, from 4 percent to 2.3 percent.

The growth rate in state secular and religious schools will increase, but only to 1.43 percent in the primary school system, according to the Bureau of Statistics.

Children in Haredi schools will comprise 31 percent of the total primary school population by 2019, 50 percent more than the 21 percent recorded in the past 11-year period.

IDF: Haredi Yeshiva Deans Cheat, Covering for No-Show Students

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Yesterday, during an in-camera session of the Knesset committee preparing the “equal burden” bill for its second reading before the plenum, the IDF representative at the meeting, Brigadier-Gen. Gadi Agmon, launched a vehement attack on the deans of Haredi yeshivas, accusing them of outright lying and covering up for students who are registered but do not show up for classes, Ma’ariv reported.

The legal arrangement between Israeli governments and Haredi yeshivas over the years, known as the “Torato umnuto” (his Torah study is his occupation) deal, recognized that young men whose only engagement was Torah scholarship would be absolved from enlisting in the army so long as they continue their studies. To be fair, the IDF has been giving similar deals to young men engaged in secular studies, but in many cases those deals involved attending students technical schools who went on to serve a longer stint, often using the skills they had learned.

The “Torato Umnuto” soon became a blanket covering the vast majority of Haredi young men, whether they were actually studying or not. It also turned out to be a two-edged sword, as those young men were barred from legal employment because of their military status, and so many were condemned to a life of dead-end jobs paid for illegaly.

This was the main purpose of the Tal Committee Law, which, back in 2002, was attempting to interject fairness and honesty into a seriously broken system. Many in the Haredi world have pointed to the steady stream of recruits, as well as the steadily rising numbers of Haredim both in the job market and in academic institutions as signs that the Tal law was working. But the Supreme Court, ever eager to equalize the country, was dissatisfied with what it considered lukewarm results and eventually killed the bill in the winter of 2012.

The new law, hammered out by the (Yesh Atid MK and Minister) Jacob Perry committee over the past six months, is a more sweeping version of the Tal law, calling for larger numbers of Haredi recruits in a shorter period of time. But while on paper the numbers might please the high court—in the Haredi world the Perry effort (which they usually pin on Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett’s back) is tantamount to at least the Russian Czar’s conscription of Jews, if not an outright holocaust.

This is the background of Brigadier-Gen. Agmon’s assault on the yeshiva deans, whom he sees as saboteurs of all the arrangements ever reached between the Zionist establishment and the Haredim, whether the Haredi representative were inside or outside the coalition government.

“It is inconceivable that deans of yeshivas would lie knowingly and sign for their students as if they’re present full time in the yeshivas, while in reality they’re not there,” Agmon, who serves as head of the Planning and Military Personnel Dept. in the IDF. “There are thousands who don’t study in the yeshivas [while stating that they are], but we don’t have the apparatus to enable us to identify them and enforce their enlistment,” he added.

Agmon’s appearance marked a distinct change in the IDF’s approach to the new draft legislation being cobbled in committee, this time headed by Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked. Until yesterday, the army stayed away from the discussion, essentially committing to carry out whatever the political echelon would decide. But the gloves were taken off yesterday, and all the spades were called out by the general.

MK Shaked decided to keep the session closed to the media, most likely to enable the Haredi committee members to speak frankly, away from their own newspapers which have been frothing at the mouth over the new bill for six months now. According to Ma’ariv, MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) and MK Ariel Atias (Shas) both agreed that a yeshiva boy who comes of age and is not attending classes should be drafted. Gafni went as far as to say that, should it be needed, those students should go to jail if they refuse to serve.

The problem is that that, too, is part of the Haredi parties’ kabuki theater, whereby they talk a good line, but when it comes to anyone actually encouraging those young men to inject a measure of honesty into their lives and go serve in the army – everybody is collaborating to keep them in the black garb, hat and all.

New Republic Article on Feminism from Zion Is All About the Stakes

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The new issue of The New Republic cover story (The Feminists of Zion An unlikely alliance between Orthodox and progressive women will save Israel from fundamentalism) is about us. It is about Haredim, modern Orthodox, and women. These are things we discuss regularly online and at our Shabbos tables, and in our coffee rooms. The story is remarkably accurate and balanced, displaying a very deep understanding of the issues in Israel today. I recommend reading the article immediately.

Imagine a spectrum of religious fundamentalism in the orthodox Jewish community. On one end you have extreme Haredi sects and on the other end you have completely secular Israelis. On most things and for most of time the people in the middle, let’s call them modern orthodox, skewed their allegiences toward the Haredi side. Orthodoxy is the great uniter. The assumption is that any two orthodox people will have more common interests than an orthodox and a secular Jew. This is how things were.

In essence, the article argues that while naturally aligned with their fellow orthodox Jews, women from the modern orthodox community in Israel are finding themselves aligned with secular feminist Jews in Israel. The collective pain that is felt due to the oppressiveness toward women in the extreme and not so extreme Haredi world is taking a toll. Women have been attacked physically, verbally, and psychologically for a long time and it is starting to create a negative reaction.

Several times the article mentions signs that tell women how to dress. We have become accustomed to these signs. But the women in the article argue that the signs give license to thugs who want to make a statement to women. To them, the signs mean much more than “Please be sensitive to our religious beliefs.” Part of that is because these standards are entering the public sphere and are no longer just limited to the private insular neighborhoods. But the other part of it is that the signs are somehow justifying the negativity and violence toward women.

What has happened is that women who feel hurt and abused are turning to secular and Reform Jews for salvation. Feminism is a dirty word in many orthodox communities, even in some places within the modern orthodox community. But it’s becoming a necessary evil for modern orthodox women who are not feminists at all to ask for help from feminists. It’s odd when orthodox people are funding they have more in common with secular and very liberal Jews than fellow orthodox Jews. But that is what is happening.

The article also talks about modern orthodox women who sympathize with the Women of the Wall. I wish they would be more vocal but i was heartened to hear it.

Last week I wrote about finding common ground and room for dialogue between modern orthodox and yeshivish Jews in America. (See:
Maybe Rabbi Birnbaum Has a Point: A Solution) I think what we are seeing in the article in TNR is what will happen if we can’t work together. If the people in the middle start to feel like the liberal and secular Jews are more sympathetic to their way of life, the great split that has been predicted for years, will finally happen. Modern orthodox Judaism will become an independent group.

Some might say, what’s so bad about that? Well there are plenty negative consequences to mention. But I will mention the two biggest issues. First, the Haredi institutions will fall without modern orthodox support. Some might say that’s not so bad either. I disagree. Their services are necessary, as is their trap door into engagement with society. On the other side, without a connection the Haredi community, the modern orthodox community will be hard pressed to support its own institutions for lack of qualified teachers and rabbis.

It’s not in our best interests to see a formal split. It might happen in Israel and it might happen in America. I think we should do everything we can to prevent it. The first thing we need to do, is get together and talk.

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The Feminists of Zion An unlikely alliance between Orthodox and progressive women will save Israel from fundamentalism

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