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August 1, 2015 / 16 Av, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Union’

OU Weighs in on SCOTUS Gay Marriage Decision

Monday, June 29th, 2015

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America issued a detailed statement in response to the decision reached by the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell vs. Hodges on Friday, June 26, that requires states to recognize and to license same sex marriages.

The OU stated that Judaism, according to the Hebrew Bible, Talmud and law, unequivocally forbids homosexual relations and cannot condone same sex marriages. Judaism also teaches respect for others and condemns discrimination against individuals.

The OU recognized that the democratic process in the United States with respect to this issue led to a result with which its adherents disagree, but felt it important to express the hope that the decision recognizing same sex marriages will not expand to include a requirement that those whose religious views do not embrace the view expressed by the court are not required to forego their own religious liberties as a result.

What the OU is saying is that the decision in Obergefell requires civil and political actors to treat same sex couples as they do heterosexual couples with respect to marriage licenses, but religious leaders should not and must not be held to that requirement.

During the oral argument of the case on April 28, Justice Scalia specifically asked the attorney for the plaintiffs, Mary L. Bonauto, a gay rights activist, whether a decision to make same sex marriage a Constitutional right would force clergy to perform same-sex weddings. Bonauto said no.

Justice Sotomayor elicited from Bonauto that those states which already allow same sex marriage have religious liberty clauses which exempt religious leaders whose faith forbids them to perform such marriages.

Justice Elena Kagan pointed out that rabbis are not forced to perform marriages between Jews and non-Jews even though the Constitution already bans religious discrimination.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. raised a slightly different hypothetical for a Constitutionally protected same sex marriage future.

The Chief Justice asked U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, representing the U.S. government, whether a religious school that has married housing would be required to give such housing to same sex couples. Verrilli did not give a direct answer. He punted, pointing out that different states would have different levels of enforcement and differences in how they would treat such a scenario.

Here is the full OU statement:

In response to the decisions announced today by the United States Supreme Court with reference to the issue of legal recognition of same sex marriage, we reiterate the historical position of the Jewish faith, enunciated unequivocally in our Bible, Talmud and Codes, which forbids homosexual relationships and condemns the institutionalization of such relationships as marriages. Our religion is emphatic in defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. Our beliefs in this regard are unalterable. At the same time, we note that Judaism teaches respect for others and we condemn discrimination against individuals.

We are grateful that we live in a democratic society, in which all religions are free to express their opinions about social issues and to advocate vigorously for those opinions. The reason we opt to express our viewpoint in a public forum is because we believe that our Divine system of law not only dictates our beliefs and behaviors, but also represents a system of universal morality, and therefore can stake a claim in the national discourse. That morality, expressed in what has broadly been labeled Judeo-Christian ethics, has long had a place in American law and jurisprudence.

We also recognize that no religion has the right to dictate its beliefs to the entire body politic and we do not expect that secular law will always align with our viewpoint. Ultimately, decisions on social policy remain with the democratic process, and today the process has spoken and we accord the process and its result the utmost respect.

In the wake of today’s ruling, we now turn to the next critical question for our community, and other traditional faith communities – will American law continue to uphold and embody principles of religious liberty and diversity, and will the laws implementing today’s ruling and other expansions of civil rights for LGBT Americans contain appropriate accommodations and exemptions for institutions and individuals who abide by religious teachings that limit their ability to support same-sex relationships?

Already, several states have struck a balance by incorporating religious liberty protections into their same sex marriage statutes. This approach must continue, for the expansions of civil rights for some Americans must not come at the cost of the civil rights of other Americans.

The Orthodox Union is proud to assert its beliefs and principles in the public forum, and will continue to do so in a manner that is tolerant and respectful of all of our nation’s citizens, but which is also authentically based upon our sacred ancient texts and time-honored traditions.

US Entrepreneur Turns Kosher Vodka into Spiritual Experience [video]

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Marc Grossfield is a typical entrepreneur who managed a number of successful businesses and eventually sold his marketing promotions company to a public company.

Through family connections, he hooked up with Eddie Philips of Millennium Imports and soon he was learning about such upscale brands as Chopin and Belvedere. Eddie seized the opportunity about 35 years ago when Poland was undergoing its transition from Communism and managed to become the sole importer of the upscale Belvedere Vodka.

It was a time when Absolut virtually controlled the luxury market with an average bottle selling for $15. Eddie took the luxury Belvedere brand with its beautiful bottle to the next level, commanding double what Absolut was charging and he was an instant hit.

According to Marc, Eddie did not keep the success to himself, donating as much as $25 million to Jewish causes. He eventually sold Belvedere to Louis Vuitton LVMH “for hundreds of millions of dollars” and then sold Chopin.

Meanwhile Marc was not only transitioning to Vodka thanks to his mentor Eddie Phillips but also becoming increasingly spiritual. The Gold family in Israel turned out to be a perfect fit.

The family, originally expelled from Russia in 1824, moved to Safed (Tzfat) along with the entire community where they continued to make vodka in the finest Russian tradition. This art was passed on from father to son, today run by Yossi and his dad Joseph Gold.

Yossi’s journey took him to the Israeli Air Force, then to medical school, to Brazil where he became a plastic surgeon and then to Germany to perfect the art of making vodka.

Marc’s mission was to have the Gold’s produce vodka out of the seven species of the land of Israel (i.e. figs, dates, pomegranate, wheat, barley, olives, grapes) so that Jews who wish to make a blessing over the original seven species could do so, and even a non-practicing Jew or non-Jew could feel some spirituality in making a toast.

He even imported sand from Israel to put a handful into every fancy bottle of Aviv. The water is from the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee.

Vodka is made from 40% alcohol and 60% water. There is even symbolism in the triangular shape of the bottle, representing body, mind and spirit. “The bottom is bigger,” says Marc, “representing kindness. Aviv was launched on Thanksgiving 2013 and in its first year stacked up well against such brands as Grey Goose, Ciroc and Belvedere. It is selling well in such wine and spirit chains as Lund’s and Byerly in Marc’s hometown in Minneapolis.

It is also distributed by Royal Wine in many areas and is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU).

This article was written by Menachem Lubinsky for Kosher Today.

Jewish Organizations Raise Relief Funds after Houston Flood

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Jewish organizations are raising disaster-relief funds following the devastating flooding in Texas earlier this week, during which Houston’s Jewish community sat at the center of the damage experienced by that city.

Countless Jewish homes and multiple synagogues were among the structures damaged following rain that exceeded 11 inches in some areas on Monday and Tuesday.

The Orthodox Union, which is raising flood-relief funds, sent its senior managing director, Rabbi Steven Weil, to help assess the damage on site in Houston.

B’nai B’rith International opened its Flood, Tornado and Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund in the city following the Houston flood.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston is raising flood-relief funds in Houston, noting that “many in our community have lost everything” in the hardest-hit neighborhood. Other Jewish Federations around the country are raising relief funds for Houston.

At the same time, local Jewish community is trying to focus on the positive, and Rabbi Barry Gelman, the leader of a heavily flood-damaged Orthodox synagogue, wrote to his congregants:

Let us focus on repairing what was ruined and rededicating ourselves to what makes UOS (United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston) so special, the community. After all, what is really special about us are the people that make up our community. That is what is indispensable—the building can always be fixed.

Jewish Groups Back Muslim Woman’s Headscarf Appeal to Supreme Court

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Two Jewish groups joined a friend of the court brief on behalf of a Muslim woman whose right to wear a headscarf in a retail job is under consideration by the Supreme Court.

The court on Thursday agreed to hear the case, Politico reported.

The American Jewish Committee and the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism joined an amicus with Christian, Muslim and Sikh groups. The Anti-Defamation League and the Orthodox Union also are considering amicus briefs.

The federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission brought the suit against Abercrombie & Fitch on behalf of Samantha Elauf, who had been recommended for hiring at an outlet in Tulsa, Okla. The outlet subsequently reversed its recommendation.

A lower court, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, ruled against Elauf, saying that she needed to give “explicit notice of the conflicting religious practice and the need for an accommodation for it, in order to have an actionable claim for denial of such an accommodation.”

That decision described Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Look Policy,” which, the court said, the retailer considers “critical to the health and vitality of its ‘preppy’ and ‘casual’ brand.”

Elauf contends that wearing the headscarf during her interview and communications with managers through a friend who worked at the store was sufficient.

The friend had checked with one manager who, citing the case of an employee who had worn a yarmulke, said there should not be a problem.

Elauf interviewed with another manager who was not certain of the policy and after consulting with her superiors dropped her initial recommendation to hire. Elauf did not explicitly raise her faith as an issue during the interview.

The religious groups argue in their brief that requiring an explicit notice of religious requirements is overly stringent.

“Hiring processes are often technologically structured in a way that precludes the employee from even raising the issue during the application process,” the brief argues.

OU Rejects US Govt’s Criticism of Jews Buying Homes in Jerusalem

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

On Thursday, Oct. 2,  the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, strongly rejected statements made by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki with regard to Israeli plans for housing construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat HaMatos and Israeli Jews purchasing houses in the neighborhood of Silwan.

Commenting on these matters, Earnest stated: “This development [in Givat HaMatos] will only draw condemnation…” and “It also would call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.” He further condemned “the recent occupation of residential buildings in the neighborhood of Silwan by people whose agenda provokes tensions, it only serves to escalate tensions.”

Psaki, the state department spokesperson, stated: “This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies [and] poison the atmosphere…”

The Orthodox Union’s executive director for public policy Nathan Diament issued the following statement in response:

“We reject yesterday’s harsh statements by the Obama Administration. First, they suggest that the onus for the peace process impasse is upon Israel, when in fact it is decades of Palestinian and Arab rejectionism and incitement (such as that voiced by Palestinian President Abbas at the UN General Assembly last week) that “poisons the atmosphere” for peace. Israel has demonstrated its interest in peace, not merely through words but through deeds, time and again.

Second, suggesting that Jews residing in neighborhoods of Jerusalem—the historic capital of Israel and the Jewish people—is “provocative” is offensive. It is also fundamentally at odds with the notion that differences over Jerusalem are to be resolved in negotiations.

Finally, the implied threat that Jewish residences in Jerusalem will “distance Israel from even its closest ally”—i.e., the United States—is a resort to rhetoric which is entirely unacceptable.

We appreciate the constructive conversation President Obama had yesterday with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the President’s restatement of his “unshakable” commitment to Israel’s security, which has been manifested in many practical ways. Yesterday’s statements by Administration spokespeople run counter to such a useful and productive working relationship.”

Kosher Supervisors Wary of Worldwide Anti-Semitism

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

The news that the Chief Rabbinate withdrew kosher supervisors from Turkish plants in the face of Israel’s war in Gaza is part of what some kashrus organizations call “working in a more dangerous world.”

They recall the murder of two kosher supervisors in Mumbai in December 2008, and extremists have recently threatened more terror in Mumbai.

In Europe, growing anti-Semitism has also rung the alarm bells. According to sources in the Chief Rabbinate’s office, one direct result of the turmoil in many places in the world is to restrict the travel of kashrus officials in trouble spots.

The Orthodox Union’s Kashrus Division director Rabbi Moshe Elefant whose office certifies companies in 99 nations, says that the organization relies heavily on local rabbinic authorities in many parts of the world, many within the Chabad worldwide network.

Kashrus officials think twice before dispatching a rabbi into a part of the world that they may not be familiar with. Relying on local rabbis who “understand the lay of the land” seems to be the new modus operandi of may kashrus organizations.

The caution has extended even to Israel where some food plants are located in Sderot and other border towns.

The above article was published by Kosher Today.

OU and Rabbinical Council of America ‘Cry Out in Anguish’

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

The Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Union issued a statement on the day the fate of the kidnapped Israeli teenagers was learned, Monday, June 30. The theme of the statement was the unity of the Jewish people. It was united in prayer and now it is united in grief.

We cry out in anguish and in outrage at the unspeakable horror of today’s announcement that the three teens, whom Jews and so many other people of good will around the world dared to hope would be found and returned safely to their families, were instead murdered in cold blood by their Hamas kidnappers, apparently shortly after their abduction 18 days ago.

The Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Union, with the rest of acheinu kol beis Yisroel (our brothers and sisters, the entire nation of Israel), mourn this unthinkable tragedy, this worst possible end to the search for Naftali Frenkel, 16; Gil-Ad Shaar, 16; and Eyal Yifrach, 19. This is, unfortunately, only the latest episode in which innocent lives have been snuffed out by adherents of a murderous, amoral death cult sworn to the destruction of Israel, and the genocide of the Jewish people.

The Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America offer their profound condolences to the families of these three boys, whom we have all come to think of as our own sons. Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal were our family, our brothers. The world needs to recognize, as it often fails to do, the nature of the enemies that are arrayed against Israel and the level of inhumanity of which they are capable. We join in the call for swift and resolute punishment for the perpetrators of this atrocity, and call upon world leaders to continue to affirm that such heinous tactics have no place in the civilized world.

The recurring theme expressed by the courageous mothers of the teens, as they saw the throngs who joined with them in support, is the unity of the Jewish people. Before, we were unified in prayer and hope for the boys’ safe return. Now, tragically, we are unified in grief.

May the families, the people of Israel, all those who stood with the families and held them in their hearts and prayers, be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/ou-and-rabbinical-council-of-america-cry-out-in-anguish/2014/07/01/

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