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October 26, 2016 / 24 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Judaism’

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Shabbat Train Coalition Crisis – and Weren’t Afraid to Ask

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

The Shabbat infrastructure railroad works that have rocked Israeli politics over the past two weeks have been going on quietly during Shabbat for the past ten years, with the Haredim turning a blind eye on them, and everybody remaining happy. Now at least two wars are being waged over the same routine works, one between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, the other between UTJ and Shas and the Prime Minister and Transport Minister — because the rule of thumb for Israel’s Haredi parties is that as soon as a government violation of Shabbat is exposed publicly, it must stop or the Haredim walk. That was the reason the Haredim stood up on their hind legs a week ago, when the Israel Train Company announced delays in entering Tel Aviv on Shabbat due to infrastructure work that could not be done during the week.

The Israel Railways corporation is state-owned. It means that, unlike the privately owned bus and taxi services, which operate during some or all of Shabbat, depending on the city, the railroad must obey the laws of Shabbat, at least as long as the Haredim are part of government. “Had the railroad company continued to perform those projects quietly, without media attention, the Haredim would have kept quiet,” a source inside UTJ told JNI.media. “But as soon as it became known, no Haredi party could remain in government with those works going on.”

This was the root of the crisis which on Sunday morning is paralyzing traffic across Israel. Someone at the IR decided to make a big announcement — most likely because they had the public’s interest in mind. The infrastructure works necessitated closing down Rt. 20, an eight-lane highway that cuts through the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and on Shabbat ushers in thousands of shoppers and entertainment seekers from around Israel.

As soon as they became public, those railroad projects turned into a ticking bomb. Last week, the Haredim accommodated the Netanyahu government, because, frankly, Netanyahu has been the most pro-Haredi prime minister ever, and anyone who would replace him would necessarily be harder to work with. So they agreed to the concept that there were some infrastructure projects that had to be carried out on Shabbat, because on regular weekdays they would threaten the lives of the thousands of motorists roaming nearby.

The following Thursday, before the most recent Shabbat, the Haredi parties again examined the planned works and approved three out of the 20 proposed projects as, in fact, constituting risk to lives on weekdays.

But over the past week there were growing voices in the Haredi community that expressed doubt regarding the very idea that the secular Transport Ministry, which is not run by rabbis, would rule on halakhic issues such as Pikuach Nefesh (Heb: saving a life). As a result, those three approved projects received added scrutiny from the Haredi politicians, who concluded they were no different from the rest and should be carried out on weekdays as well.

The former chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yisrael Lau, told Israel Radio that secular politicians are trying to “hold the stick on both its ends,” a Talmudic term meaning trying to argue both ends against the middle. On the one hand, Rabbi Lau said, secular politicians are demanding that businesses be permitted to stay open on Shabbat, because Shabbat is the only time hundreds of thousands of Israelis are able to pack Tel Aviv in search of shopping, dining and a good show; on the other hand, Shabbat is when those railroad works should be carried out because that’s when the city is empty, and none would be harmed from potential work accidents.

The train infrastructure works which began at 5:30 PM Friday, were interrupted two hours later by an order from the prime minister’s office, after Shabbat had already begun. These works constituted the three out of 20 projects which the Haredi Parties initially agreed were dangerous to life had they been carried out during the week, but then those same Haredim had a change of mind and/or heart, at the very last minute, literally.

Initially, the PM’s office and the Transport Ministry ordered the Israel Train Company to proceed with the works into Shabbat, as had been the case every month for the past 10 years. A group of 200 employees arrived at 5:30 PM at the railroad track segment between Tel Aviv and Hertzlia, and started to take it apart. But later that same early evening, the Haredi parties announced they reject the compromise, which is why at 6:30 PM, moments before the start of Shabbat, the PM’s office ordered the work to stop.

The order reached the workers at the site at about 7:30 PM, and they dropped everything and left. No one bothered to consider what would happen Saturday night and Sunday, since it would take about 25 hours to complete the work. A similar infrastructure project near Atlit, south of Haifa, was likewise interrupted Friday night.

So, who is the real culprit in this crisis? The Haredim for insisting that a government in which they are members not openly desecrate Shabbat? The Prime Minister’s office, which capitulates to Haredi pressure because this coalition is probably the best political combination Netanyahu could have hoped for, and he’s not giving it up over one day’s suffering by Israeli passengers? Or is it Transport Minister Katz, who chose to turn an ordinary, behind the scenes project that’s been going on uninterrupted — into a full-blown coalition crisis?

We suggest all of the above. And the solution to this crisis will probably be the firing of Transport Minister Katz, because he started it, looking to erode the boss’s coalition. Expect blood — Yisrael Katz has friends inside Likud, who may rise up to defend him, as Welfare Minister Haim Katz has already done.


Sanz Hasidism’s Secret Revealed: How Couples Buy a Home for $660 a Month

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

It’s no secret that the Haredi sector in Israel is suffering from a terrible housing shortage which is only getting worse. But according to Walla, at least one Hasidic court has found a solution. Apparently, young newlyweds in Sanz are able to buy apartment in the “periphery” which is Israeli code for not in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Haifa or anywhere along the coast, for up to $185,000 without making a significant down payment.

Sources in Sanz are saying the problem is not an apartment shortage but a money shortage: few young Haredi couples are able to come up with the minimum down payment of about $80,000. Which is why at Sanz they launched the Build your Home program that helps every young Sanzer couple buy their own apartment for about $660 a month (2,500 shekels).

The couple would be directed to look for an apartment in T’veria, costing up to 700,000 shekels ($185,000). Each pair of parents must pay in about $6,600, and the Sanz gmach (loan society) kicks in a $93,000 interest free loan, and aids the couple in applying for an $80,000 mortgage from the bank. Since the couples qualify easily under Israel’s system of housing points, they should qualify for a mortgage loan that would pay for the new apartment. The couple only has to pay back about $660 a month — $265 to the gmach and the rest to the bank.

According to Walla, in Sanz about 120 couples get married each year, and there’s a backlog of about 200 new couples. However, according to a source in Sanz, the new program currently has about $14.5 million at its disposal, which should suffice to find housing for many couples. So far they say they’ve found housing in T’veria for about 300 couples.

The upside is, of course, modern housing at a low cost. But Haredi couples are used to living near their parents and close to the religious and educational institutions they grew up with. Moving to a new, remote community, although with many of their movement peers, is the sacrifice they would have to make. Halbershtam said practically all the Haredi movements in Israel are following the Sanz example, he’s being asked to assist Sephardim, Lithuanians, and Hasidim in setting up similar systems. “The housing shortage is like cancer, and we have found the cure,” he said.

About 9,000 Haredi couples get married each year in Israel, and their inability to come up with the down payment for their own home forces them to waste years worth of income on rent, instead of investing this money in acquiring their own place. The new programs, should they proliferate throughout the Haredi population, could liberate all of them. They would also help populate the periphery, expanding and bolstering Jewish settlement across the country.

David Israel

Temple Institute Crowdfunding to Train Cadre of Qualfied Priests

Monday, August 1st, 2016

The Temple Institute will be opening the world’s first school for training Levitical Priests to serve in the Holy Temple this year in Jerusalem. The organization has run a number of pilot programs over the past few years and is now embarking on a mission to teach Kohanim all the practical skills required to serve in the coming Third Holy Temple.

To raise the seed money for the project the Temple Institute has embarked on an Indiegogo crowdfunding project with an initial goal of $75,000.

The curriculum at Nezer HaKodesh will include courses on the Temple service, theory and practice, and the role and application of modern technology in the Third Temple. Courses such as The Sacred Temple Vessels — Aspects of Engineering and Design; and The Mathematics of the Holy Temple will be taught as part of the program.

For the last thirty years, the Rabbis and scholars of the Temple Institute have studied in-depth the ancient text needed to prepare for the Third Temple, becoming the world authorities on the subject. They have published tens of volumes and recreated more than 70 sacred vessels for use in the Third Holy Temple.

Establishing a school to train Kohanim signifies a huge step towards the realization of the reestablishment of the Temple service which has been dormant for 2,000 years since the Romans destroyed the Second Holy Temple in 70 CE.

The initiative was announced during the traditional three-week period of mourning for the Holy Temple, culminating with the Fast of the 9th of Av, when both Holy Temples were destroyed. This timing comes as no coincidence, as the purpose of the Temple Institute has always been to reframe this Jewish period of mourning into one of hope and change, highlighting that all of the prophets and sages of Israel have predicted the eventual peaceful rebuilding of the Third Temple in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Chaim Richman, International Director of the Temple Institute, commented: “We are extremely excited to announce this new step towards the restoration of the Holy Temple service. We call first and foremost upon Kohanim worldwide to support this special project, which signifies a return of their birthright. We have chosen to use Indiegogo as a tool to enable as many people as possible to be a part of this historic initiative. The Temple service represents the purest connection between man and our Creator. One third of the Torah’s commandments pertain to the Holy Temple service and we have prayed for its return for thousands of years. In a time when the world is plagued with terror and uncertainty, we enter this project with full faith that one day the Holy Temple will finally be rebuilt and the priestly service reinstated, ushering in an unparalleled era of peace and harmony among all of mankind.”

David Israel

IDF Using Facebook to Catch Fraudulent Chareidi Draft Dodgers

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

The IDF has caught some 4000 young men, ages 17 – 24, who received draft deferrals after they claimed they lived a Chareidi (Ultra-Orthodox) lifestyle and learned in Yeshiva – but were in fact, doing anything but that, according to a YNet report.

Those receiving the Chareidi deferral are required to learn 45 hours a week in any of the 1000 recognized Yeshivas in Israel.

The IDF Human Resources division said that since they’ve begun stricter enforcement and background checks, they’ve caught 4000 people who received religious exemptions who were actually living completely secular lives.

Most of those caught have already received their draft orders.

The tool the HR division used to catch most of the draft dodgers was nothing more complicated than a Smartphone and Facebook.

Many of those who claimed to be Chareidim and learning in Yeshiva had Facebook pages.

The content of their pages, such as photos on them on the beach, pictures with girls, and pictures in nightclubs, proved that they were living anything but religious lives.

Photos of their friends also gave the HR division a hint as to who else they should look at.

Once caught, the IDF would call the suspected draft dodgers in for a hearing, where they are presented with the photographic evidence and given the chance to explain and defend themselves.

The army prefers to not involve the police, and most end up drafted.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Online Fundraiser for Medical Treatment of Abayudaya Jewish Infant

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Mugaga Treva, 4, is the son of Nantabo Esther, a member of Namanyonyi Synagogue, one of the Abayudaya Synagogues in Uganda. The boy has a chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, for which he was referred to Mulago National Hospital in Uganda. The treatment costs $750, but Esther Nantabo, a single parent, cannot afford it. A fundraising effort was launched Tuesday night which has begun to attract some donations.

The Abayudaya (“People of Judah”) are a Baganda community in eastern Uganda near the town of Mbale who practice Judaism. They are devout in their practice, keeping Kashrut, and observing Shabbat. The Abayudaya numbers are estimated at 2,000. They live in several villages and are recognized by the Reform and Conservative movements as Jews. Some of them practice strict Orthodox Rabbinical Judaism.

The group was founded by a Muganda military leader named Semei Kakungulu, who was converted to Christianity by British missionaries around 1880. When the British significantly limited his territory, and refused to recognize him as king—as they had promised, Kakungulu began seeking alternative religious affiliations, and came to believe that the customs and laws described in the Torah were true. In 1919, Kakungulu faced great resistance and was eventually ostracized when he insisted on circumcising his flock. He circumcised his sons and himself and declared that his community was Jewish. He then fled to the foot of Mt. Elgon and settled in a place called Gangama where he started a separatist sect known as Kibina Kya Bayudaya Absesiga Katonda (the Community of Jews who trust in the Lord). The British, infuriated by his move, severed all ties with him and his followers.

In 1920 a European Jew named Yosef arrived and taught the isolated community about the Jewish calendar and the Jewish holidays: Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Succot. Yosef stayed for about six months, and educated the Abayudaya on Kashrut and Shabbat. Yosef convinced Semei Kakungulu to establish a kind of yeshiva, to pass on his teachings.

Kakungulu died in 1928, and was succeeded by Samson Mugombe, one of his disciples. The Abayudaya remained isolated for protection and survived persecution, including by Idi Amin, who outlawed Jewish rituals and destroyed synagogues. During the Amin persecutions, some of the Abayudaya converted to either Christianity or Islam. But a core group of some 300 members remained committed to Judaism, worshipping secretly, fearful that they would be discovered by their neighbors and reported to the authorities. This group later named itself She’erit Yisrael — the Remnant of Israel.

In 1962, Israeli Ambassador to Kenya Arye Oded, who at the time was studying at Makerere University, visited the Abayudaya and met Samson Mugombe. This was the first time the Abayudaya had ever met an Israeli and the first Jew they had met since Yosef. Oded conducted many long interviews with Mugombe and other leaders, and later reported on the group in his book “Religion and Politics in Uganda,” as well as in numerous articles.

In his article Shabbes Cholent in Uganda? Rabbi J. Hershy Worch wrote whimsically:

“You should have seen the grin on the faces of the young leaders of the community as they showed their elders the Shabbes-oven I had built into the packed earth floor of my bedroom, a shining smile that went from ear to ear. Eighty years they have waited for my cholent, can you imagine, the first hot food on a Shabbes morning for 80 years! Prometheus had no such thrill. Perhaps Moses, watching the Israelites licking their fingers over Manna in the wilderness may have had such naches, maybe.

“Most people know nothing about cholent, and those who do probably consider it no more than an odd quirk in the Jewish diet, something akin to gefilte-fish or latkes.

“To a hushed audience I explained the significance of the food they were eating. How Rabbinical Judaism, the Halacha, the Talmud well nigh demands hot food on Shabbes morning. This is how we Orthodox Jews may be distinguished from Karaites, Samaritans and other fundamentalists who rejected the Oral Torah. The hushed silence broke into a thunderous applause.”


Coalition Kills Core Curriculum Prerequisite for Haredi Schools

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

After the previous Netanyahu cabinet set a prerequisite requirement for all Haredi educational institutions to teach core curriculum subjects such as English and Math, a new bill will change the rules to absolve the same institutions of those requirements, Israel’s Channel 10 News revealed Wednesday.

During the coalition negotiations for the current Netanyahu government, United Torah Judaism and Likud agreed that the core curriculum law would be revoked. Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) has objected to this move earlier this year.

According to Channel 10, the elimination of the obligation to teach core curriculum subjects will not result in reducing the budgets of Haredi yeshivas who pass on the extra material. This way these institutions will get more money but will not incur new expenses.

The current law sets three prerequisites for declaring Haredi educational institutions as eligible for state funding: teaching core curriculum subjects, testing to measure growth and effectiveness, and eliminating discrimination against students from non-Ashkenazi ethnic groups.

According to the emerging legislation, advanced by Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush (UTJ), Haredi institutions will be absolved of having to teach any foreign language at all. They will also not be obliged to teach math if they don’t want to. These same institutions will also be absolved of participation in testing.

The only change the new legislation introduces is stronger controls on the prevention of discrimination in Haredi yeshivas.

David Israel

8 Women Receive Orthodox Ordination in Largely Political Endeavor

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

On Tuesday night, according to a report by Ynet, eight women received certificates of Orthodox Jewish ordination in Jerusalem and selected for themselves various equivalents to the commonly used “Rav” or “Rabbi” by males: some picked “Rav,” instantly making the title unisex; others went with “Rabba,” which would be the female conjugation of the male title, although the term is not in everyday use; some went with “Rabbi,” which in the genderless English grammar has been a common title for Reform and Conservative women clergy for decades.

One preferred to go with “Doctor,” possibly recalling the shamanist attributes for which some Jewish scholars were once renowned. Or more simply, because she has a PhD, but no ordination.

No one went with the prevalent “Rebbetzin,” presumably because to become a Rebbetzin one doesn’t need to study, just marry well.

The ordination was given personally by Rabbi Daniel Landis, a YU graduate who is the head of the Pardes Institute, an open, co-ed and non-denominational Jewish learning community, based in Jerusalem and operating programs worldwide. Landis is also a senior member of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC).

In his message to the freshly ordained Orthodox female rabbis, Landis explored the fact that his graduates are different from ordinary ordained Orthodox rabbis not merely because of their sex, but in their emphasis on Jewish studies, and on any studying at all for that matter:

“I very quickly abandoned the ambition to achieve only rabbinic expertise, and moved on to the more important initiative of promoting you as creative scholars, with integrity, sensitivity and courage, who have access to the members of their generation,” Landis said.

“Yes, but can they pasken on a chicken?” you might ask. It appears that ruling on the mundane needs of rank and file Orthodox Jews was not the top priority of this ordination, which is not a comment on the quality of scholarship of the graduates. They simply appear to put a different emphasis on their future roles in the Jewish community:

Rav Avital Campbell-Hochstein, one of the graduates, said at the ordination ceremony: “Receiving the ordination is not merely a score for knowledge. Ordination, or permission, like halakha itself, is focusing on human beings, on the image of God. Human beings must be seen and heard. The halakha and the Torah are sensitive to the slimmest signs of humanness.” And so, she continued, “in order for halakha, which is an emanation of the will of God, to be relevant and applicable, we must first and foremost be attentive. Human dignity is our driving force. Halakha can be a divider and it can be a meeting ground. It can be a wall and it can be a bridge. Choosing between those component depends on the human beings who use it, and who represent it.”

So, basically, no paskening on chickens for now. Instead, there was a lot of talk about advancing the status of women in halakha and in Orthodox society. You may have to rely on someone else for your kashrut decisions, but in areas of marriage, conversion, and burial, these ordained female rabbis will make sure, as Rav Naama Levitz-Applbaum put it, “that women will be counted, in the full meaning of the word, and to feel as full partners along the path.”

Perhaps as the number of ordained Orthodox female rabbis grows and as each ordination ceases to be viewed as a revolution and starts to be more commonplace (as has been the case in every profession women have entered over the past two centuries) we’ll start hearing about women Orthodox rabbis who are not so heavily invested in the feminist politics of their role but in caring for their congregations. At which point we should be able to assess this fledgling but growing movement not based on our political views but instead on the concrete scholarship and the halakhic contribution of these female rabbis. Because, let’s face it, Orthodox Jews need rabbis to interpret halakha for them. They have plenty of social workers doing everything else.


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/8-women-receive-orthodox-ordination-in-largely-political-endeavor/2016/06/09/

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