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Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Jewish’

New Hope for ‘Agunot’ Women Trapped by Separated Husbands

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

A new independent rabbinical court to address the issue of agunot, so-called “chained women” whose husbands refuse to give them a religious writ of divorce, will be launched next year, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance announced this week at a conference in New York.

Jerusalem Rabbi Simcha Krauss, a leading Modern Orthodox rabbi and widely respected scholar, will head the court (Beit Din), which will have no institutional affiliation and will begin operating in New York.

Rabbi Krauss told JTA that the court will utilize little-used, obscure resources in Jewish religious law to free agunot, including the ex-communication from communal prayer of their husbands and Sephardic laws that allow for greater initiative from women in divorce cases.

He said he will leave “no door unopened” in his quest to address the plight of agunot.

Eventually, Rabbi Krauss said, he wants to open an affiliate court in Israel. He also is working on attaining approval from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, which is necessary if the court’s judgments are to be upheld under Israeli law.

“The goal of this project is to humanize the Beit Din,” Rabbi Krauss told JTA. “You can’t solve these situations with sleight of hand. But hopefully we can use the right methodology, so that even these situations get solved.”

He acknowledged that the biggest challenge facing any avowedly independent religious court is mainstream acceptance, particularly within the Hared communities.

“Nobody wants agunot,” Rabbi Kraus said. “So hopefully, if [Haredim] see that we are solving these cases, maybe they will come to us. Or maybe they will follow.”

’Yoseph Robinson Ave.’ Honors Orthodox Jewish Jamaican (Video)

Monday, August 19th, 2013

New York City has renamed an intersection “Yoseph Robinson Ave.,” in memory of a Jamaican convert who was gunned down while trying to protect his girlfriend during a robbery of a kosher liquor store, The New York Daily News reported Monday.

Ave. J and Nostrand Ave. in Midwood is now “Yoseph Robinson Ave.” in honor of the victim who tried to grab the gun of the masked robber, Elon Klass, who also demanded the jewelry that Robinson’s girlfriend was wearing.

Robinson had converted to Judaism and helped bridge gaps between the Caribbean and Orthodox Jewish communities in Midwood and East Flatbush.

Klass was sentenced last January to 35 years in prison for manslaughter and robbery.

Black-Hat Black Rapper Ties the Knot in Double Wedding

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

A former black hip-hop rapper has completed, along with his wife, the conversion as Orthodox Jews and married – along with another black couple who converted- under the chupah in Seattle. The ceremony took place in March but has not been widely reported until now.

“D-Black” used to rap about the violence, gang activity and drugs of his African-American ’hood and now he is Nissim Black, who attends a Sephardi synagogue in Seattle and writes songs that he describes as rap/urban alternative that “speak a message of hope and inspiration.”

The shift in his musical message will be on full display with his new album, Nissim, due for release July 16.

The changes in his personal life were underscored earlier this year, when the 26-year-old musician was one of two grooms in a double Jewish wedding ceremony that became a community-wide project.

The story starts in 2008. Newlywed with an infant girl and then called Damian Black, he found himself at a crossroad after a friend was shot and killed at a nightclub where Black had been performing. Soon after, he lost his day job working with autistic children.

“I had a ton of questions and no answers,” Black recalls. There were questions about “religion, about God, about Christianity, about why aren’t Christians Jewish if Jesus was Jewish.”

Black began researching religion, reading about the Torah and begging his wife, Jamie, to study with him.

“We almost got a divorce,” he says. “We didn’t see eye to eye.”

But, the more she read, the more she, too, found herself attracted to Judaism, ultimately taking the Hebrew name Adina. “If this is something that can give me answers, I wanted it,” she says, adding that she felt like Judaism, unlike Christianity, welcomed questions. “It’s like a breath of fresh air.”

Adina began urging her younger sister  and best friend Sheree to study with them. Nissim and Sheree together pulled in Bradley Brown, Black’s close friend since kindergarten, fellow musician and Sheree’s future husband. They, too, have taken Hebrew names, Chana and Yosef.

By 2010, the two couples — each with two young children — had moved to an Orthodox enclave in Seattle’s Seward Park and were studying for conversion at Sephardic Bikur Cholim Congregation. Their conversions were finalized with visits to the mikveh, ritual bath, on Feb. 27. As is traditional with a conversion at the congregation involving someone already married, a Jewish wedding ceremony was next.

That’s when the four of them came under the wing of congregant Beth Balkany, who was determined to make the couples Jewish wedding celebrations they wouldn’t forget.

Under Balkany’s direction the double wedding became a community project. Through the local bridal “gemach,” a lending resource, she found gowns that required just hems for each of the women. Nissim and Yosef provided a playlist for the DJ. A couple getting married the previous day donated their flowers. The caterer donated his time,  and the photographer did the same.

Someone contributed money for a videographer; someone else makeup for the brides.

Balkany pulled off a sit-down dinner for 170 people, and Rabbi Simon Benzaquen officiated at the two separate ceremonies, with his wife, Cecilia, walking each bride down the aisle.

The guests came not only from their congregation, but also from Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath, the Seattle Kollel and Ezra Bessaroth, Seattle’s other Sephardic synagogue.

“We had no idea that it was going to be as big and as fabulous as it was,” Adina says.

Her sister Chana added, “The love you felt in the room – it was just amazing.”

Rav Ovadia Calls Tzohar Rav Stav ‘Evil’; Tzohar Replies: Repent

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Revered Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a spiritual head of the Shas party and a former Chief Rabbi, castigated Chief Rabbinate candidate Rabbi David Stav in unprecedented terms Saturday night, calling him “evil” and a “danger to Judaism.”

The Tzohar rabbinical group responded by calling on Rav Ovadia, who by all accounts is one of the most brilliant Torah sages today, to “repent” and “ask for forgiveness.”

The epithets  by Rav Ovadia may boomerang and give Rabbi Stav sympathy support that could make him Israel’s next Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi.

They also give anti-religious Jews, both inside Israel and in the Diaspora, plenty of ammunition to fire back in their campaign against leaving authority for Israel’s religious affairs in the hands of orthodox Jews, Haredi or not. One can hear the refrain already, “And you call these people spiritual leaders?”

Rabbi Benny Lau, a national religious rabbi and the nephew of former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, told Voice of Israel public radio that despite Rabbi Ovadia’s constant antagonistic comments in  his weekly Saturday night sermons, he once realized the greatness of the man when he spoke  with him in person.

But Saturday night’ wild attack on Rabbi Stav left Rabbi Lau without any explanation for his behavior.

Rav Ovadia’s weekly speeches are often geared for his Sephardi audience, many of whom see themselves as having been discriminated against for decades under the domineering thumb of Ashkenazi rabbis for years.

Even taking that into account, Rabbi Lau’s inability to explain Rabbi Ovadia’s venom points in one direction: Aryeh Deri, the Rav’s favorite political leader and who rules the Shas political party.

Deri has been trying to torpedo a bill that would allow Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar to seek a second term. The reasoning is that since he is Haredi, his selection would create more pressure to accept a non-Haredi Ashkenazi rabbi.

Deri, a crackerjack if not ruthless politician, simply had to turn to his trusted rabbi, Rav Ovadia, to help make sure Rabbi Amar will not be selected and thereby prevent the election of Rabbi Stav.

It is open to question how much Deri and other aides close to Rav Ovadia have sheltered him from reality and have fed him the news they want him to read.

Regardless of who is to blame, when a  rabbi, especially one as distinguished as Rav Ovadia, states that appointing another rabbi to the Chief Rabbinate is like bringing idolatry in the Holy Temple, it only takes a look at the calendar to realize how deep and slimy the pit into which the campaign for Chief Rabbi has fallen.

Next week, Jews being the tradition “three weeks of mourning” that concludes with Tisha B’Av, marking the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

The Second Temple is said to have fallen because of “loshon haRa,” literally the “evil tongue” by which Jews slander other Jews.

The Tzohar rabbinical organization accused Rav Ovadia of doing just that and accused Rav Ovadia of incitement.

When respected rabbis feel the need to call on a rabbi as revered as Rav Ovadia to “repent,” it is clear something is not kosher.

Rabbi Stav has conducted an unprecedented self-promotional campaign to become Chief Rabbi, but it can easily be argued there is no other way to change the outward face inward soul of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel that has managed to distance secular Jews instead of drawing them closer to Judaism.

In a pitiful understatement, aides to Rabbi Amar have charged that political elements are sowing the seeds of hatred between Torah sages.

The group of Tzohar Rabbis protested what they called the incitement of Rabbi Yosef against “another great rabbi in Israel whose entire life has been dedicated to love of the Torah by the People of Israel.. [His comments] prove the need for an urgent change in the Rabbinate of Israel.”

Shas officials insisted on the last word, which gets worse every time they speak. They  said it is “not respectful to respond to words of a heretic by people who call themselves rabbis but are worse than non-Jews.”

One Shas source, compared Rabbi Stav with Korach, who challenged  Moses’ authority and whose followers died when the ground opened up and buried them alive. ” When Rav Ovadia says he [Rabbi Stav]is evil, there is no need to explain,” said the source. Now , it is clear that all of them [Tzohar rabbis] are evil.”

Yeshivat Maharat to Ordain Women Rabbis on Sunday

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Yeshivat Maharat, the first institution to train Orthodox women as spiritual leaders and halakhic authorities will host their first graduation ceremony on Sunday.

The women have each studied the same course of training as men and have studied the Jewish Torah at advanced levels for years.

Orthodox rabbis will be present at the graduation, at which the women will receive diplomas for “ordination as clergy, and the certificates will note they have been ordained as a “Decisor of Jewish Law for the Community.”

Maharat is a Hebrew acronym for Manhiga Hilkhatit Rukhanit Toranit, “One who is teacher of Jewish law and spirituality,” and each graduate will use the title of Maharat.

All of the women will be employed as clergy for Orthodox synagogues and institutions.

Rachel Kohl Finegold will be serving as clergy at Montreal’s Congregation Sha’ar HaShomayim with Rabbi Adam Scheier.

Ruth Balinsky Friedman will be serving as clergy at Ohev Sholom, The National Synagogue, in Washington D.C. with Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld.

Abby Brown Scheier will be a principal of a small Hebrew school, as well as teaching children and adults in the Montreal community.

Rori Picker Neiss will be completing her fourth year of Yeshivat Maharat while serving as clergy at Bais Abraham Congregation in St Louis, with Rabbi Hyim Shafner.

Women of the Wall Go for Broke, Plan to Read from Torah at Kotel

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

The Women of the Wall (WoW, having won their fight to pray in their own minyan complete with a tallis and tefillin, have escalated their campaign against orthodox Jewish tradition by announcing plans to read from a Torah scroll at prayers at the Western Wall on Monday.

Several leading Haredi rabbis called on thousands of Haredi men to gather for a mass prayer opposite Women of the Wall. Last month, some of them hurling objects at the women and jeered at them.

The Women of the Wall gather at the beginning of every Jewish month for a women’s Rosh Chodesh service at the Western Wall. The new month of Tammuz falls on the  Sabbath and Sunday this week, and the WoW have put off their “Rosh Chodesh” to Monday, one of two regular weekdays when the Torah is read at prayers services.

Their previous attempts to bring a Torah scroll into the Western Wall area prayer area, in violation of local tradition, created a media sensation, with photographs around the world showing police struggling with a woman holding a holy Torah scroll.

The scene played into the hands of the WoW, winning sympathy in the Diaspora from both non-Jews and Jews, mostly but not exclusively those from the Reform and Conservative movements.

In Jewish tradition, women have no obligation to pray in a minyan, and never with a tallis and tefillin, which are part of the men’s obligations. The women want “equality” although Jewish law does not consider men and women unequal because of different obligations for each sex.

The court ruling allowing the Women of the Wall to pray with a tallis and tefillin at the Wall, in a separate women’s section, does not preclude their using a Torah scroll, but the group decided not to do so last  month in order not to raise tension beyond the point of containment, on both sides of the issue.

“We could have done it last month, but [Religious Services Minister Naftali] Bennett asked us to make a certain compromises and we agreed for one month to show our good will,” Lesley Sachs, the group’s director, told JTA Wednesday. “There was no question we would bring it this month. Without it, it’s not a full service.”

Bennett met with Women of the Wall representatives Wednesday in what Sachs called a “very productive meeting.”

Haredi leaders are encouraging thousands to appear n protest but without violence. The Haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat quoted Haredi Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Yossi Deutsch, as saying, “Many will come, according to the instruction of great rabbis, to sanctify the name of heaven and prove that we will not surrender in the battle over the holiness of the Western Wall.”

JTA contributed to this report.

Is Someone Framing Women of Wall with Death Threat to Rabbis?

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

The Chief Rabbis of Israel filed a complaint with the police Monday after receiving letters threatening them with death if they try to stop the Women of the Wall (WoW) movement from praying in the custom of men, complete with a minyan, tallis and tefillin.

WoW officials immediately condemned the death threats and denied any connection with them.

“All those involved and educated on the subject know that there is no connection between the content and style of these letters and the spirit of nonviolence, tolerance and acceptance which drives Women of the Wall,” WoW stated. Addressing the rabbis who were threatened, they added that they “wish them strength and courage during this trying time.”

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and his Sephardi counterpart Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar received letters with a picture of a handgun. The letter stated, “This is your final warning. If the Women of the Wall are not allowed to daven in line with their custom, we will use all means at our disposal and will end up with one hundred Haredi bodies. Your end is near.”

The Chief Rabbinate stated that the threat is a “red line that has not yet been crossed in the past.”

For all those who have been hibernating the past several months, the Women of the Wall, cheered on by American media and the Reform Movement, have successfully won their campaign to be able to pray at the Western Wall, in the back of the women’s section, even if not in accordance with Jewish tradition that is maintained by Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz. He said he also received a death threat in a letter to his home.

The women will be back in full force at the beginning of the new Hebrew month of Tammuz, which starts Saturday and Sunday, having won permission from the Supreme Court last month to pray in a minyan with tallis and tefillin at the Kotel.

More than 1,000 Haredim, most of them high schoolers, prayed in protest, but the scene was marred by several Haredi men who threw bottles and rocks at the Women of the Wall.

So who sent the death threats?

If a member of WoW sent the letters, she definitely is not a core member of the group.

The writer could have simply been someone who hates Haredim and decided to hitch a ride on the WoW campaign to express outrage at Haredi rabbis, who on the one hand safeguard Jewish law and on the other hand often use religion coercion that distances Jews instead of bringing them closer to tradition.

And there is the worst possibility, if not the most probable.

Someone out there cannot accept the fact that, right or wrong, the women have won the battle. What better way to disgrace WoW by insinuating they are threatening Haredi rabbis to get their way?

This Shabbat, Jews from all over the world will read the Torah portion of Korach, of the Tribe of Levi. He insisted that all of the People of Israel are holy and that Moses was not the only one fit to lead the people.

He met his end when his followers were swallowed up by an opening in the earth, burying them alive.

Opponents to the Women of the Wall will have a field day comparing them with Korach.

There may be something to that comparison, but the same scoffers – and I am far, far from being a supporter of WoW – might recall that a recent Torah reading describes how the “elders” who were close to Moses and complained to him that two of the elders were prophesying.

“And the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him [Moses], and took part of the spirit that was upon him and put it upon the seventy men of the elders, and it was, when the spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, but did not continue.

“And two men remained in the camp – one was called Eldad and the other was called Medad – and the spirit rested upon them; and they belonged to those who had been recorded, but they had not gone out to the Tent [of Assembly], and they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,’ and Joshua son of Nun, servant of Moses from his youth, answered and said, ‘My lord Moses, restrain them.’ And Moses said to him, “Are you jealous on my account? Would that all the people of the Lord might be prophets, that the Lord would put His spirit upon them!” (Num. 11:25-28)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/is-someone-framing-women-of-wall-with-death-threat-to-rabbis/2013/06/03/

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