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Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Jewish’

Masorti Rabbis Perform First Conversions in Lisbon

Monday, April 29th, 2013

For the first time in the history of the Masorti movement, its rabbis performed conversions to Judaism in Portugal.

The two conversions were performed in the Portuguese capital at a Beit Din rabbinical court of three judges, who recognized Juliana Fernandes da Silva and her life partner Edgard Pimentel as Jews.

Though the Masorti movement — the smallest of the three major streams of Judaism — has performed conversions of several Portuguese Jews, this was the first time that the rabbinical court convened in Portugal, according to Rabbi Chaim Weiner of London, who oversaw the proceedings of the court.

Usually European Masorti converts travel to London, he added, but this time it was decided to hold the court in Lisbon because several rabbis were already in Portugal on a month-long study trip of the country’s Jewish heritage.

Da Silva, a 26-year-old Brazilian mathematician who grew up in a Catholic home, took a ritual dip in the mikveh following the court’s decision.

Immersion in the mikveh is required as part of the conversion process, and not afterwards, according to Jewish law.

Da Silva and Pimentel, a Brazilian born to an atheist father and a Catholic, non-observant mother, were welcomed at a reception the following day into Lisbon’s small Masorti community of a few dozen people.

Netanyahu Approves Egalitarian Section at Western Wall

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Women finally have the official nod to pray with a tallis, read from a Torah scroll and do more or less as they wish in a new “egalitarian” section to be enlarged at the southern end of the Western Wall, Haaretz reported Monday.

The newspaper said that Prime Minister Netanyahu told Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, who formulated the proposal, to draw up a timetable for establishing an egalitarian section at the Western Wall, popularly known by the Hebrew term “Kotel.” Sharansky is to meet with Office of the Prime Minister director Tzvi Hauser and with National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror, who is orthodox, to move the proposal off the drawing boards.

The decision ostensibly undermines the authority of the orthodox Rabbinate at the Western Wall, where there is a men’s and women’s section but no permission for women to pray in a non-traditional way.

However, the “victory” of the “Women of the Wall”, led primarily by American immigrants belonging to the Reform movement, is not necessarily the opening shot to challenge orthodox Judaism as the authority in Israel.

Indeed, it may be the last shot as well as the first.

The Prime Minister reportedly was encouraged by the massive support from American Jews for the women’s demands at the Western Wall, the most popular religious site for Jews visiting Israel.

The sight of policemen arresting women for the crime of disturbing public order by wearing a tallis or trying to carry a Torah scroll to the Western Wall was too much for American Jews, offended by the apparent affront to the pluralistic understanding of “equality.”

Buoyed by massive coverage in the American media, led by The New York Times, the Diaspora shouted from the rooftops, although not from the women’s sections of synagogues. The shouting was no match for the austere face of the orthodox Rabbinate, which often does everything it can to distance Jews who don’t do as they say.

The Haaretz report that the adoption of the plan “would wrest exclusive control of prayer at the wall from the Orthodox” may be wishful thinking for the newspaper, known for its bitter opposition to anything that smacks of religious authority if it is by orthodox Jewry.

If the women think that the Sharansky plan sets the stage for the Reform movement to challenge the orthodox rabbinate, they may have to say a lot of prayers to fulfill their wishes.

As much as the American Jewish committee thinks it influences what happens in Israel, one important factor in Netanyahu’s decision is that most of the Israeli public could care less one way or the other about the issue.

Most Israelis are not orthodox but most also are steeped in tradition and Middle East culture. They consider many American customs a bit odd, if not weird. Westernization is fine at the malls, and if women want to pray like men, fine.

The right of women to wear a tallis and read from a Torah scroll in their own egalitarian space does not mean that Israelis won’t stay quiet if the Reform movement wages a war on the entire orthodox establishment.

As secular as Israelis appear to be to Americans, scantily or oddly-dressed women often are seen in Israel reciting Psalms while traveling on buses or waiting at the bus stop.

Secular Israelis have a common cause with non-Orthodox Americans on the issues of civil marriages and divorces, but they will not necessarily be in a hurry to support a direct challenge to the orthodox rabbinate, which is a crucial part of modern Israeli culture.

The fact is that the Women of the Wall’s “victory” confines them to a special area, away from the popular Western Wall area. True equality, in their view, would be able to pray exactly where everyone else prays.

In effect, they may have lost the war by winning the battle.

Geneva Assailant of Jew ‘Too Mentally Ill’ to Stand Trial

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

A man who stabbed an Orthodox Jew in Geneva was found unfit to stand trial in Switzerland because of his clinical paranoia and “irrational fear of an international conspiracy.”

A court in Geneva earlier this month found that the 22-year-old man, who was not named, was too “mentally ill” to stand trial for stabbing and seriously wounding a 32-year-old French Jew in 2011, the Tribune de Genève daily reported.

The attack occurred in the parking lot of Geneva’s Natural History Museum while the victim, a citizen of France from Aix-les-Bains, was putting a baby carriage in the trunk of his car. His attacker stabbed him four times in view of the victim’s family. The victim arrived in the hospital in critical condition and spent several weeks there recovering.

The defendant, who grew up in Britain, was arrested a year after the attack in the Netherlands and extradited to Switzerland at the end of what the CICAD, a Swiss watchdog on anti-Semitism, termed “a long investigation by the police.”

The court declared the attacker unfit to stand trial based on a psychiatric evaluation that said he was a “paranoid schizophrenic suffering from visual hallucinations as well as hallucinated voices and fears of an international conspiracy.” He will be locked up in an institution for mentally ill people who pose a serious risk to their environment, the paper said.

Johanne Gurfinkel, the secretary general of a CICAD, told JTA the defendant belonged to far-right circles. “The perpetrator of this act may have suffered from mental problems, but he clearly attacked his victim out of anti-Semitic hatred,” Gurfinkel said.

Dept. of Education Outreach Plan May Include Orthodox Groups

Monday, March 18th, 2013

The U.S. Department of Education outlined new efforts to bring non-profit schools into federally funded programs, an initiative that had been sought by Orthodox Jewish groups, among others.

State and local educational agencies “must ensure the equitable participation of eligible private school students and, as applicable, their teachers and parents” in such programs, the department’s Office of Innovation and Improvement said in its proposed plan for such inclusion, posted on the department’s website on March 14.

Such schools, including religious schools, must also be included in programs falling under disabilities education law, it said.

The Orthodox Union welcomed the initiative.

“Today’s announcement by the Department of Education is an important and pragmatic first step in improving the delivery of federally funded educational services to the nonpublic schools students who are entitled to receive them,” it said in a statement. “We appreciate the collaborative relationship we have had with White House and Department officials on this project, and we look forward to working with them to ensure its successful implementation.”

US Orthodox Jews Find Bugs in Nutrition Agenda

Monday, February 25th, 2013

The federal government says spinach is so healthy that schools will lose their eligibility for funding if the Popeye favorite is not served, but some orthodox schools say the rule is full of bugs – literally.

Several orthodox Jewish groups have asked the US Dept. of Agriculture to choose substitutes for leafy green vegetables that are difficult if not impossible to be cleaned of tiny insects that are forbidden under Jewish dietary laws, the Forward reported.

“The problem of insect infestation has been confirmed by numerous rabbinical authorities and kosher certification agencies, and many schools have raised this problem,” Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Washington director, said in a statement.

Another complaint about the federal program is that it wants t limit the amount of grain-based foods, a diet that would not allow for any other grainy foods except for the one slice of bread that is required in order to recite the Grace after Meals.

NY Jewish Boroughs Voted Romney

Monday, November 26th, 2012

An analysis of a recent New York Times article examining the presidential voting trends of all the New York precincts determined that almost all Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney over Democratic incumbent Barack Obama.

According to an article by Front Page Mag, Romney won over 90 percent of the Jewish votes in Borough Park, Williamsburg, Flatbush, Crown Heights, Manhattan Beach, Belle Harbor, Howard Beach, Kew Garden Hills, Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay.

The article noted that support for Romney was irrespective of the level of income of the neighborhoods.

NY Board of Health Votes to Require Parental Consent for Metzitzah B’Peh

Friday, September 14th, 2012

The New York Board of Health on Thursday voted 9-0 to require parents to sign a consent form in order for a mohel – ritual circumciser – to use direct oral-genital suction, known as metzitzah b’peh. The form would indicate that parents are aware of the risk of infection.

Haredi leaders have resisted calls to replace direct oral suction with the alternative approaches.

The health department’s vote represents the culmination of a year of debate surrounding the practice, which was sparked by the death of an infant in Brooklyn last September and the subsequent revelation that a mohel who performed the ritual on the infant had tested positive for herpes.

In June, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley condemned the practice of direct oral suction.

Agudath Israel of America reportedly is planning to sue the city of New York over the requirement. Some 200 Haredi rabbis in New York signed a statement last week accusing the health department of “spreading lies” in order to pass the waiver measure.

The Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly applauded the health commissioner’s push for parental consent.

The Rabbinical Council of America stated:

Many Jewish legal authorities have ruled that direct oral suction is not an integral part of the circumcision ritual, and therefore advocate the use of a sterile tube to preclude any risk of infection. The RCA has gone on record as accepting the position of those authorities. Nevertheless, the RCA respects the convictions and sensitivities of those in the Orthodox Jewish community who disagree with this ruling and joins in their deep concern about government regulation of religious practices. The RCA urges these groups to voluntarily develop procedures to effectively prevent the unintended spread of infection.

The RCA supports the recent call of the Agudath Israel of America to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Health Department that, instead of unilaterally imposing regulations, they collaborate with Orthodox Jewish leadership to develop protocols to address health concerns.

JTA content was used in this report.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/ny-board-of-health-votes-to-require-parental-consent-for-metzitzah-bpeh/2012/09/14/

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