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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Agency’

‘Christians and Jews’ Pays for Jewish Agency, Chabad, Security Upgrade

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has given $1 million each to the Jewish Agency and Chabad to help them guard against anti-Semitic and terrorist attacks.

The money will go to fund infrastructure upgrades and security measures for Jewish communities around the world that are unable to fund security expenses on their own.

“There is no one group that has accepted responsibility for security of Jews around the world. The Jewish community is not stepping up to provide security,” Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president and founder of IFCJ, told JTA. “This has become a major need to sustain Jewish life around the world and it is going to continue to grow.”

Chabad will use its $1 million to create a central security system to protect its emissaries and upgrade security in its facilities that are at the most risk, according to Eckstein. The Jewish Agency will distribute its money via grants using an application process, he said.

The announcement of the grants came a week after a suicide bomber attacked a bus full of Israeli tourists at an airport in Bulgaria. Eckstein said that in recent months his organization provided $100,000 to Bulgaria through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to provide for the poor in the community as well as to upgrade security.

The IFCJ says it has given approximately $45 million for security-related issues in Israel and elsewhere since 2003, the year that bombings carried out in Istanbul, including some targeting synagogues, killed 67 people and injured hundreds.

Shut Down the Jewish Agency!

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

I find myself with mixed emotions this morning. On the one hand, I was greatly inspired and overjoyed to watch the live Jewish Press broadcast of the arrival of happy new olim to Israel on a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter. Each one of these new immigrants achieved a towering greatness today in coming to the Promised Land, fulfilling the words of the Torah and the prophets of Israel, to join with their sisters and brothers of Clal Yisrael in transcending their private, egotistical concerns, to join in the rebuilding of the Nation of Israel in its Land, the goal of the Torah and the prayers we have been reciting each day, three times a day, for almost 2000 years. In effect, they have become super Jews. There is no greater achievement than this. While man’s walking on the moon is certainly a wondrous achievement, it is dwarfed in comparison to walking even four or five cubits in the Holy Land. This morning, every one of these new olim became closer to God than Neil Armstrong, even though he traveled tens of thousands of miles through the heavens to reach the moon. Their courage, their pioneer spirit, their love for the Land of Israel, for Torah, and for God, are examples we should all admire and emulate.

On the other hand, I was saddened this morning that only half the airplane was full. Less than 300 Jews out of close to six million! True, other aliyah charter flights will follow this summer, but last year’s total from North America was merely 3000 plus. 3000 out of 6,000,000!! I am not much of a mathematician, but a simple calculator gave me the tragic figure, a rate of aliyah of .0006 percent.

.0006%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We have been praying to come home to Israel for nearly 2000 years. Every year, at the conclusion of Yom Kippur and the Passover Seder, we say, “Next year in Jerusalem!” God, in His infinite kindness, has given us a Jewish airline, with free tickets, to take us home to a Jewish airport in the miraculously rebuilt Jewish Homeland, and only .0006% of North American Jewry comes on aliyah each year!

Dear friends, in my humble opinion, the Jewish Agency should be closed. Imagine if we were talking about a hospital with a rate of patient survival of .0006%. Or a baseball team with a winning record of .0006%. Obviously, it wouldn’t be long before the hospital closed or the franchise folded.

Make no mistake. I am not criticizing any of the dedicated directors or employees of the Jewish Agency. Certainly, I have nothing but praise for Mr. Sharansky. But the Jewish Agency is obsolete. It is destined to failure so long as the Rabbis, and Roshei Yeshivot, and parents, and the heads of Jewish organizations in the Diaspora don’t urge their students and children and members to go on aliyah. The Jewish Agency is destined for a .0006 success rate so long as the Rabbis, and Roshei Yeshivot, and parents, and the heads of Jewish organizations in the Diaspora don’t teach Jewish youth in the Diaspora that Israel is their only future. The Jewish Agency is destined for a .0006 success rate so long as the Rabbis, and Roshei Yeshivot, and parents, and the heads of Jewish organizations in the Diaspora don’t teach Jewish youth in the Diaspora that the goal of the Torah is to establish a Torah Nation in Eretz Yisrael and that every Jew in the world is obligated to play his and her part in this transcendental mitzvah, blessing, and privilege.

Believe me, the same 3000 plus people would come on aliyah every year, even if the Jewish Agency didn’t exist. It could very well be that even more immigrants would come, without having been turned off and discouraged by hearing Jewish Agency shlichim tell them that they were too old, or too handicapped, or too unemployable. The annual budget of the Sachnut is 320 million dollars. The Israel Ministry of Absorption spends another 360 million (In comparison, the dynamic Nefesh B’Nefesh program has a budget of 20 million). Instead of paying Jewish Agency salaries and empty office rentals around the world, give each new immigrant an outright cash gift and you’ll get more olim by far than you’re getting today with all of the giant bureaucracy and payroll.

Getting Serious About Get-Refusal

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

It’s human nature to hide our heads in the sand. That may be because we are mostly optimistic. We believe everything will be all right even when we know we are taking a chance.

On the flip side, it’s emotionally very difficult to admit we have a problem. We are worried about how others will regard us. Moreover, addressing a problem entails gathering strength to go about solving it. It’s so much easier to hide our heads in the sand.

About ten years ago, at a rabbinic convention in Israel, I was introduced to a well-known American Orthodox rabbi as a to’enet rabbanit – rabbinical court advocate. The rav politely asked me what I do. I briefly explained how I work with dayanim in Israeli batei din on cases of Get-refusal they have difficulty resolving. I stressed my focus on prenuptial agreements to prevent the agunah problem from arising in the first place, through the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel.

“Oh, I know all about prenups” the rabbi replied. “My daughter just got married but I didn’t tell her to sign one. We don’t need these things.”

This rav, one of the most effective leaders in the American Orthodox world, did not recognize the very real agunah problem in his community. In fact, I have received cries for help (even though I am in Israel) from women who belong to every manner of Orthodox community in the U.S., from chassidishe and haredi to Modern Orthodox and everything in between.

Truth be told, it is difficult for a rav to admit publicly to a problem of Get-refusal in his community when no one is admitting it in the other communities. It is more comforting to imagine that should an agunah case arise, the community will take care of it. However, individuals who begin to tread the path of a me’agen are becoming more and more resistant to communal pressure or even rabbinic influence.

By recognizing the potential for the problem and arranging the signing of prenuptial agreements for its prevention, communal and rabbinic influence can be restored. The problem needs to be prevented from taking root in each individual case before it is too late.

Nevertheless, the practice is to hope for the best, rationalizing the agunah problem with statistics. “What,” we think, “are the chances of this happening to me or to my daughter?”

And yet our communities have overcome deep-seated reluctance in order to deal with other widespread problems. To cut down on the number of cases of genetic disease afflicting the Orthodox community, for example, practical yet dignified solutions were found. The community needed to find a way to assist individuals on a communal level and so now many Orthodox educational institutions routinely bring professionals into twelfth-grade classes to administer blood tests.

In this manner, the individual understands the implicit stamp of approval by the rabbanim and the fear of “what will others think?” is erased, since all are working toward the prevention of the problem.

Similarly, the leadership of each of the various Orthodox communities can make practical arrangements for prenup education with every educational institution – high school, yeshiva gedolah, seminary or college.

A service should be provided whereby every student, man or woman, who becomes engaged is called in. The school’s rabbi or counselor can present the couple with a halachic prenuptial agreement together with an explanation, and arrange for notarization services in the school’s office. In this manner the community will quickly understand that all are expected to sign a prenuptial agreement. It will become “automatic” – one of the things you have to arrange before you get married.

Even those who marry later, while no longer under the aegis of educational institutions, will remember to sign a prenuptial agreement since it will have become a standard part of the shidduch process.

Twenty-one rabbanim of one of Americas’ Orthodox communities – roshei yeshiva of Yeshiva University – recently signed a (second) kol koreh calling on all rabbis and the Orthodox community to promote the standard use of a halachic prenuptial agreement. They were spurred to do so by the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot. There are those who may feel YU or ORA is not their derech, but that does not relieve them of the responsibility to address the agunah problem in their own communities.

Israel to Support New Immigrant College Students

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Israel’s government has budgeted more than $10 million to provide college scholarships and Hebrew language schools to new immigrants.

The Cabinet decision Sunday to continue to support financially the Immigrant Absorption Ministry Student Authority is “ensuring the continuation of its joint projects with the Jewish Agency which, due to budgetary constraints, faced uncertain futures,” according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office

The money will be made available immediately “so as not to harm registration and the start of the academic year for immigrant students,” the statement said.

In recent years, the student authority has assisted approximately 6,500 students a year, one-third of whom are from Ethiopia, and it is “a significant factor in the decision of young people who are eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return.”

Under the decision, the government will also support some 90 Hebrew language schools, and four youth villages for youth at risk operated by the Education Ministry.

The Jewish Agency for Israel praised the decision, saying it would allow the Jewish Agency to concentrate on increasing and encouraging aliyah while the government “will assume responsibility for the olim from the moment they arrive in Israel.”

Thousands of French Jews Consider Aliyah

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Some 5,000 French Jews participated in an aliyah fair in Paris.

The fair, organized and run by the Jewish Agency, took place Sunday as French voters went to the polls and elected Francois Hollande as their new president, beating incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, considered the favored choice in the Jewish community.

“I cannot recall having seen such a massive number of people interested in aliyah since the days when lines of people stretched out of the Israeli embassy in Moscow,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who attended the fair. The annual fair usually attracts about 2,000 visitors, according to the Jewish Agency.

A new survey conducted in March, of the 500,000-member French Jewish community, the second largest in the Diaspora, found that French Jews have grown so disgusted with anti-Semitism that more than one quarter of them are considering emigrating.

The poll was conducted by The Israel Project, which previously measured American attitudes about Jews and Israel in order to produce pro-Israel ads.

According to the poll, 26 percent of those surveyed said they have considered emigrating due to worsening French anti-Semitism.

Of them, 13 percent are “seriously” considering leaving, according to Washington pollster Stan Greenberg, who led the surveys and focus groups.

The mood among French Jews is like a “severe depression,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, a founder of The Israel Project.

According to Ynet, official results show that 92.8% of French nationals residing in Israel (9,186) voted for Sarkozy.

The fair in Paris came on the heels of an attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in which a rabbi and his two young sons and the daughter of the head of the school were killed.

On a visit Monday to Toulouse, Sharansky said the Jewish Agency and the Israel Trauma Coalition will send counselors to the Ozar Hatorah school from Israel in the coming days, followed by a delegation of Israeli youth counselors. The professionals are charged with helping the students and their parents, as well as the teaching staff, return to their normal routine following the March attack.

“I came to Toulouse in order to strengthen the children and the community, but also to remind them that the Jewish Agency will strengthen their connection to Israel and assist those who are interested in making aliyah,” said Sharansky, though he added that aliyah should not be based solely on a tragedy like the one in Toulouse.

JTA reports were used in this article.

Israeli, New Yorker, Win Bible Contest

Friday, April 27th, 2012

An Israeli teenager won the International Bible Contest in Jerusalem, with a New York teen finishing second.

Elhanan Bloch was the best among the 56 competitors from 24 countries who competed Thursday, ahead of Akiva Abramovitz of Brooklyn.

The Bible competition is held annually on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day.

Bloch also took the religious Israeli schools contest.

Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael KKL-JNF hosted the students. The contest followed a three-week trip throughout Israel sponsored by KKL-JNF, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Israel Defense Forces Education Office.

The complete list of winners:

1st: Elchanan Bloch, of Israel
2nd: Akiva Abramowitz, of Brooklyn, USA
3rd (tie): Avshalom Adler, of Israel
3rd (tie): Elías Jalife, of Mexico
4th: Aaron Goldberg, of Toronto, Canada
Diaspora Winner (tie): Aaron Goldberg of Toronto, Canada
Diaspora Winner (tie): Akiva Abramowitz, of Brooklyn, USA

Demonstrations And Remonstrations On Agunah Day

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Those who are subjected to emotional suffering tend to be kept out of society’s line of sight. All the more so when society is either the cause of the suffering or can alleviate it and does not do so.

On the individual level, suffering takes up all of one’s energy, attempts to escape it consume one’s financial resources, and all of one’s time is expended in its alleviation. As a result, it is easy for the average person not to notice the suffering or to ignore it.

Fortunately, tools have been developed that serve as reminders that stir our conscience. One such tool is the determination of particular calendar days to raise awareness of a specific phenomenon. This is the purpose of International Agunah Day.

Ta’anit Esther, which falls on March 7 this year, has been set aside to remind us that there are women suffering in our midst as their Jewish husbands refuse to free them from the bonds of marriage despite the marriage’s utter breakdown. In doing so, the husband creates the agunah – the victim of get-refusal.

Not much has been done since last year’s Agunah Day to resolve the agunah problem. If anything, the problem has grown more acute – witness the weekly seruv listings on the pages of The Jewish Press. The refusal of Jewish men to grant Jewish women a get has been reported on the pages of various Jewish-American and Israeli publications and, even more devastating for Jewish society, the general media, both mainstream and social: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, YouTube, Facebook, etc.

The standing of Jews is weakened every time those who aren’t Jewish read, see or hear about the inability of a grown woman to exercise her human right to leave a failed marriage. Her inability is an expression of the inability of the greater Jewish society – laypersons and rabbis alike – because it is due to the quiet acceptance of her suffering. The inaction in our communities and in our rabbinic establishment is more than a reflection of our ignoring the problem. It is actually a cause of the problem.

Get-refusal is a particularly insidious form of domestic abuse, since the abuser justifies his actions to himself. After he has totally convinced himself he is acting in accordance with societal mores it is easy for him to continue in his recalcitrance. As it is, the community around him is wont to “keep out of other people’s private affairs” and will conveniently ignore the suffering caused to the agunah, thus adding to it.

When rabbis do get involved and issue a ruling that the man has made his wife into an agunah, it may have been so long in coming that the husband’s obstinacy has been buttressed and reinforced by society’s inaction up to that point.

Fortunately, not all Orthodox Jews are complacent in this simplistic ignoring of the agunah problem. For example, the Yeshiva University-based Organization for the Resolution of Agunot in the United States and the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel have extended help in many forms to many agunot, working to ease the women’s pain and bring about a resolution. Indeed ORA has organized numerous demonstrations over the past few years, held in protest of recalcitrant husbands’ abuse of power.

It is interesting to note that the clear majority of protestors in the earlier demonstrations were Modern Orthodox, with “yeshivish” individuals joining later on. The crying out against abuse of agunot coupled with the relative lack of public disapproval gives the impression that the more stringent a community in its adherence to kashrut, Torah study and dress code, the more lax it is in its adherence to two crucial mitzvot: lo ta’amod al dam rey’echa and hocheyach tochiach et amitecha.

In the first instance, one is instructed by Torah law not to stand idly by when one’s fellow Jew is suffering, when that person is in need of help, when one’s support can make the difference. The latter mitzvah makes it incumbent on the God-fearing Jew to remonstrate one who is behaving improperly and transgressing a commandment. The agunah and the get-refuser, respectively, are prime examples of these categories. Where is the community’s stringency in obeying these two mitzvot? Where are the societal demonstrations of zero tolerance for any instance of get-refusal?

The Rabbinical Council of America resolved in 1994 “that every member of the Rabbinical Council of America will utilize prenuptial agreements, which will aid in our community’s efforts to guarantee that the get will not be used as a negotiating tool in divorce procedures. ” How many other sectors of Orthodox Jewry have made a similar declaration?

Any society is judged by how it treats its weak and suffering. Just read the words of our prophets. For Jews, that is the measure of Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of God’s name. Tragically, the get-refuser and the society that turns a blind eye to his actions choose to ignore that responsibility. For the desecration of God’s name is not caused only by the get-refuser himself. The entire Orthodox Jewish community is responsible.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/demonstrations-and-remonstrations-on-agunah-day/2012/02/29/

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