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December 17, 2014 / 25 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Agency’

Orthodox Women May Stand to Lose Under Sharansky’s Proposal

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Natan Sharansky recently put forth a proposal to renovate and extend the Western Wall plaza to include Robinsons Arch, thereby creating an egalitarian prayer space alongside the ones currently designated for men and women. As an Orthodox woman I am not egalitarian, nevertheless, I think creating space to include all the denominations comfortably at the Kotel is a positive thing, nobody should feel excluded from Jerusalem’s holiest site. Despite that, I am very disappointed with what this proposal might mean for Orthodox women.

Though Kotel access and inclusion for the progressive denominations is an important issue, Sharansky was specifically charged with coming up with a solution in response to the escalating conflict surrounding the Women of the Wall. Though some people may conflate those two issues they are in fact separate and distinct and in this case it looks like the issue of denominational access has won out over women’s rights. And what is even worse is that it is the women’s hard work which enabled this victory and yet is coming at their own expense.

As an active Orthodox feminist I have invested years of my life to advancing women’s rights within the framework of Halachah, studying at the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education instead of seeking ordination from one of the liberal movements, working at the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, serving as an intern at Congregation Ramath Orah on Manhattans’ Upper West Side, founding and leading various women’s tefillah groups where women could be represented and share their voices without having to abandon their communities to do so.

I was also a huge proponent of Women of the Wall (WOW) for many years. I saw WOW as my sisters in Israel struggling for women’s Halachic rights at the Kotel, the same way I was struggling for them here in America. Not a violation of Halachha, but a fight against patriarchal social norms that prevent me, and millions of other women, from actualizing our Halachically permitted potential. Anat Hoffman, in an opinion piece she wrote in the Forward in 2010 states

Simply put, our goal is to obtain the freedom to pray and to do everything that is Halachically permitted for women on the women’s side of the mechitzah (the barrier between men and women). This includes reciting prayers together that do not require a minyan, and, yes, most of all, it includes reading from the Torah. At a minimum, we want to be allowed to pray at the Wall for one hour each month, free of injury and fear. This should not be a provocative request. If I wanted to mount a provocation at the Wall, I certainly wouldn’t do so by inviting a group of modestly dressed women — most of them devoted Orthodox Jews — to show up early in the morning to pray in a manner entirely consistent with Halacha. That some are provoked does not make us provocative. We have been waking up early to pray every Rosh Hodesh for the past 21 years — this is no fad, no political act. It is done for the sake of prayer. Over the past week a number of people have questioned the premise that an egalitarian section at the Kotel does not address the needs of progressive Orthodox women. In response I would say firstly that I should not have to leave a space or community that I am an active part of in order to assert the rights afforded to me by Halachah, as an Orthodox women in a de facto Orthodox space shouldn’t my actions be a valid part of the greater whole that determines the status quo by which we set our norms? Secondly, davening in an egalitarian space is probably not seen as a Halachically viable option for most Orthodox women for whom an allegiance to Halachah is paramount to their other needs.

Thirdly, the proposed space is not a free for all space, even if a group of women wanted to get together within that proposed space and hold a women’s tefillah group, not a minyan, I question whether they would be able to. I have enough liberal friends and have been exposed to the progressive denominations sufficiently to see that they too have a bias and I question if such a group would be welcome.

Yom Ha’atzmaut Draws 200 New York UJA Leaders

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

The UJA Federation of New York’s William Rosenwald Mission landed in Israel Sunday with 200 leaders who will be celebrating the country’s 65th anniversary as a modern state on Tuesday.

The delegation will examine how the New York community can help improve Israel’s quality of life, especially for children in distress, Holocaust survivors and new immigrants living under the poverty line.

Members of the Park Avenue Synagogue will visit the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood in Jerusalem, where they will pitch in to help in renovations of a bomb shelter at an elementary school.

During their six-day visit, the leaders will meet with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as well as with Dalia Rabin at Yitzchak Rabin Center. hey also  will have discussions with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky and Jodi Ruderon, Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times.

Sharansky to Suggest Women’s Kotel Prayers Away from Main Plaza

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky is preparing to suggest that women pray whenever they want, complete with prayer shawls and a Torah scroll, at the southern edge of the Western Wall, known as Robinson’s Arch.

The proposal was reported by the Forward, and afterwards the Jewish Agency released a fudgy statement that “Sharansky will present his recommendations to Prime Minister Netanyahu upon the chairman’s return to Israel from his visit to college campuses in the United States.”

“One Western Wall for one Jewish people,” Sharansky said, adding that he hopes his recommendations will allow “the Kotel will once again be a symbol of unity among the Jewish people, and not one of discord and strife.”

“Strife” is a police war. “Hatred,” ”jealousy” and “stiff-necked” are closer to the truth.

The Women of the Wall argue that the Haredi rabbis in charge of the Western Wall are insensitive to their needs and treat them as second-class citizens.

Although many if not most Orthodox rabbis in the United States have no problem with a women’s prayer minyan, the Chief Rabbinate as well as  and many non-Haredi Orthodox rabbis in Israeli have a problem with it, based on their application of Jewish law.

They charge that a women’s prayer minyan, complete with their own Torah reading, would offend their religious sensitivities.

An unstated but obviously huge difference is that there is no place for prayer in the Diaspora that has the holiness like the Western Wall, and there is no public area for prayer that is attended by both women and men.

The conflict will probably hit the headlines again Wednesday and Thursday, the two days that are the beginning of the Hebrew month of Iyar. The High Court has allowed the Women of the Wall to hold their own minyan at Robinson’s Arch, but the women demand they be allowed to pray at the more widely attended portion of the Western Wall.

Every Rosh Chodesh, they try to break the ban at the Western Wall and frequently are arrested. Pictures in  American media of a policeman struggling with a woman holding a Torah scroll have helped rip to the seams the fragile relationship between the Diaspora and Israel.

Sharansky has come up with a compromise that would give the women half of what they want and would spare the Western Wall rabbi and Haredi worshippers from having to pray at the Kotel while knowing a women’s minyan is taking place next to them, despite a partition, and being exposed to hearing women’s singing, which they consider a violation of Jewish law.

Anat Hoffman, leader of the WOW movement, previously has rejected what she calls a “separate but equal” solution.

Her position has been that having the right to pray in a separate minyan is only part of an overall goal, in her words, “to dismantle the Western Wall Heritage Foundation,” the Haredi Orthodox entity that oversees the Western Wall.”

After Sharansky’s proposal went public, she backed off and said she welcomes the compromise.

The idea is “very ambitious,” Hoffman said. ”You don’t always have to be right; you have to be smart — and compromise is a sign of maturity and understanding what’s at stake here.”

Neither side can get it wants without grossly offending the other, but the Haredi community cannot be expected to accept her agreement without suspicion.  If WOW want to pray as they wish, there is nothing to stop them from claiming they have the right to pray together with their husbands or male friends in a mixed minyan, which is totally prohibited in all Orthodox circles and would offend Orthodox worshippers.

But Hoffman appears to be smart enough to accept the Sharansky solution, putting the Western Wall rabbi in a position that he might as well agree gracefully rather than pitting himself against the entire political establishment outside of Haredi circles.

If he does agree, there is a good chance that the power of prayer can exceed political power.

Sharansky Opens Agency in Munich, Fears Assimilation

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky opened a new Jewish campus in Munich this week and declared, “The Jewish community in Germany is indeed unique” but faces the challenge of assimilation.

The campus will house the Jewish Agency’s Munich office and the European Janusz Korczak Academy, a Jewish Agency-supported school that integrates traditional Jewish learning with a humanistic philosophy.

The Jewish community in Germany has flourished in the last two decades following a wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union and has grown to more than 200,000.

“In the last two decades the community has increased in size exponentially but assimilation could cause it to disappear just as quickly,” Sharansky said. “The Jewish Agency for Israel is therefore making a special effort to help young Jews in Germany strengthen their Jewish identity and their connection to Israel.”

These efforts include trips to Israel through Taglit-BirthrightIsrael and Masa Israel Journey.

Netanyahu: Sanctions Alone Won’t Stop Iran

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors that sanctions alone will not stop Iran, as evidence by North Korea’s continued nuclear program, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Only if sanctions are backed by “credible military threat” will there be a chance that Iran will peacefully halt its nuclear program, Netanyahu said.

U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly stated that “all options are on the table” when it comes to stopping Iran, though he has indicated that U.S. has a different time table than Israel when it comes to resorting to the use of force.

Furthermore, various statements by administration officials, Obama’s refusal to set publicly set a red line for when the U.S. might use force, and the nomination of Chuck Hagel who in the past opposed applying sanctions against Iran, have left room to doubt whether Obama is indeed ready to use military force against Iran if necessary.

Northern Most Bar/Bat Mitzvahs Celebrated in Murmansk

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Last month, the Jewish Agency for Israel organized for seven young Jews a bar and bat mitzvah celebration in one of the northernmost Jewish communities in the world— Murmansk, Russia (largest city north of the Arctic Circle). The Jewish community in Murmansk is twinned with Beth Israel- the West Temple in Cleveland and so the event was organized with the support of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

Murmansk Map

The small Jewish community of Murmansk numbers only a few hundred and does not have a synagogue. Jewish teenagers in the city were uncertain whether it was accepted practice to celebrate their bat or bar mitzvah once they had passed the ages of 12 or 13, but after they had read in the media that the chairperson of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, had celebrated his own bar mitzvah at age 65, they asked the Jewish Agency to organize a ceremony for the city’s Jewish youth.

Jewish Agency Youth Emissary Sagi Rabovski traveled the 870 miles from St Petersburg to organize the ceremony. Each of the participants was presented with a copy of the Chumash (Five books of Moses).

Rabovski said after the ceremony: “I feel that it is my mission to help even the smallest Jewish communities. By connecting Jews to Israel and the Jewish tradition, we can strengthen their Jewish identity.”

Murmansk suffers from bitter cold winters and on the day of the ceremony, the entrance to the Jewish Agency building in the city was blocked by snow, requiring the participants to dig their way in.

The Jewish Agency for Israel runs Hebrew and Jewish history classes for the small Jewish population of the city. Members of the Beth Israel- the West Temple sent gifts to the Murnmask community for Hanukah and members of the two communities regularly exchange personal messages via email.

Operation Dove’s Wings Begins as Ethiopian Aliyah Comes to a Close

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Operation Dove’s Wings commenced on Monday, with arrival of some 240 Olim from Ethiopia, half of them children, on the first charter flight. The flight was organized by the Jewish Agency for Israel, pursuant to the July government decision to increase the rate of Ethiopian Aliyah, in order to complete the immigration of the remainder of the Falash Mura to Israel.

The ceremony at Ben Gurion airport took place during the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors, which is taking place this week in Tel Aviv, with Jewish leaders from Israel and around the world.

On July 2012, the government of Israel decided to increase the rate of Aliyah from Ethiopia in order to complete the process as quickly as possible. It was decided to reopen the Jewish Agency’s Ibim Absorption Center at the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, which will be able to accommodate up to 600 of the Falash Mura.

Immigrants arriving from Ethiopia will also be housed in 16 Absorption centers around the country, run by the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. In order to facilitate absorption of the new immigrants, Jewish communities around the world and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews have raised $3 million, in addition to $1.5 million invested by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

Operation Dove’s Wings is expected to be completed by October 2013, with the arrival of the remainder of eligible Falash Mura, who have been waiting in Gondar. The Jewish Agency for Israel has been operating a community center in Gondar, headed by Asher Sium, to provide services for the waiting Olim. The center provides a comprehensive range of social services with the support of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. These include preparation classes for Aliyah run by a group of volunteers, humanitarian assistance, and catering services. The center also runs a school which includes Hebrew and Jewish studies, as well as the regular curriculum of the Ethiopian Education Ministry.

Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky said at the ceremony: “What a miracle. I just met a brother and a sister who were reunited today after 25 years. Well, we the Jewish people have just been reunited after 25 centuries. When Ethiopian Jewry left Israel, there was no Hannukah. Now we can celebrate both Hannukah and Yom Haatzmaut together. Together we are writing the last page of the history of Ethiopian Jewry. We are now bringing all of our brothers from Africa to Israel. This is happening thanks to the State of Israel, world Jewry and our Christian allies.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/operation-doves-wings-begins-as-ethiopian-aliyah-comes-to-a-close/2012/10/30/

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