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December 6, 2016 / 6 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Rabbinate’

Jewish ‘Pluralists’ Rage as Rabbi Riskin Gives Only One Finger, Not Entire Hand

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Leftwing writer Judy Maltz on Wednesday offered a living illustration of the popular adage “give them a finger, and they’ll take the whole hand.” Reporting for Ha’aretz on Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, spiritual leader of Efrat in Gush Etzion (Rabbi Riskin’s Unwelcome Message to Fans of Jewish Pluralism), who this week told the Jewish Agency Board of Governors that he objects to their idea of an alternative conversion court, Maltz noted that she and other advocates of the Reform movement in Israel were disappointed. After all, Riskin has been “a driving force in promoting greater roles for women in Orthodox communities in recent years, and has also advocated for greater acceptance of the LGBT community in Orthodox congregations.”

And so, employing the logic of “you gave me your finger, why not the whole hand,” Maltz wrote: “By breaking with traditional Orthodox views about women and homosexuals, Riskin and his cohorts were seen as natural allies for the Reform and Conservative movements in their struggle for greater religious pluralism in Israel – especially after daring to challenge the Chief Rabbinate not only on conversions, but also on marriage laws. Hence, the disappointment following Sunday night’s gathering.”

If ever there were clear proof to the danger of a slippery slope in the tolerance of non-halakhic Jewish movements by Orthodox Jews — Judy Maltz has just provided it. Mostly because she fails to perceive Rabbi Riskin as a halakhic person, preferring instead to view him as someone for whom—like herself—his politics is his faith.

Halakhic Jews, whether they are black-clad Haredim or Liberal Orthodox in running spandex, live their daily lives through their commitment to the yoke of the sages. Our standards may differ on absolutely everything, but we all base all our decisions on our interpretation of Jewish law, whether independently or by consulting our halakhic authority. Which is why when Liberal Orthodox rabbis support a more egalitarian approach to women in the synagogue, or embrace LGBTs, they anchor their decisions in Jewish law as they interpret it — not their personal preferences. Of course, their interpretation of halakha would certainly be influenced by their personal biases, everyone’s does, but in the end they follow the law. This is also why Haredim who object to yeshiva students’ military service anchor their opposition in their interpretation of Jewish law.

Maltz does not get it. She makes the argument that since ultra-Orthodox Jews already view the modern Orthodox as Reform Jews in disguise, the question is not whether or not they are inclined to defy Jewish law, but rather “how far are liberal Orthodox Jews willing to push the envelope,” as she puts it.

In other words, since Rabbi Riskin has already said that Reform Jews should be allowed to have their section of the Kotel, for instance, why won’t he recognize the legitimacy of Reform conversions?

A year ago, Rabbi Riskin responded to a report in Haaretz, that a Beit Din conversion panel was asking converts only to declare a general obligation to Judaism, without declaring that they would observe the commandments and live according to Jewish law, as prescribed by the Rabbis. Riskin was mentioned as favoring this approach, and he responded urgently that he is ” all for observance of the commandments and the genuine and meaningful process that leads to it.” He added that “construing my position in any other way is misleading and a simplistic interpretation that ignores the many layers and nuances of the issue.”

There are three fundamental requirements of a male convert, two of a female, according to Maimonides: acceptance of the yoke of the sages through the observance of the commandments, circumcision, and immersion in a ritual bath (Hilkhot isurei Bi’ah 14:5). No matter how loving and accepting of Reform Jews Rabbi Riskin may be, expecting him to violate these clear rules and to side with a Reform conversion that denies the rule of halakha is an insult. And it should be a lesson to Liberal Orthodox Jews who fail to make a distinction between embracing the other and embracing the other’s subversive ideology.

Maltz cites Rabbi Steven Wernick, chief executive officer of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, who expressed his disappointment that Riskin was not inclined to use his influence and stature to promote greater acceptance of non-Orthodox Judaism in Israel. “He is doing great things for pluralism in Israel, but only from within Orthodoxy,” he said.

Rabbi Riskin tried to put a leash on this cat and take it on a walkie when he told Maltz he would accept Reform conversions should the Reform agree to the requirements of “immersion in the mikvah, circumcision, and basic knowledge and practice of Judaism.”

In other words, just as soon as hell freezes over…

David Israel

Finance Minister Exposing Fresh Meat Market to Foreign Competition

Monday, October 17th, 2016

At a time when free markets are losing favor in the eyes of GOP voters in the US, Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) has decided to open up the fresh meat market to competition from abroad. As part of this move, the quota for duty-free fresh meat imports will be doubled.

Needless to say, the move was not received well by Israeli farmers. On Friday, they demonstrated outside the Kfar Yehoshua train station, where the first commercial service on the Jezreel Valley railway line was being inaugurated. Armed with their tractors and pickup trucks, the cattle growers accused Kahlon of plotting to destroy Israel’s 460 cattle farms. They received support from MK Eitan Broshi (Zionist Camp), chairman of the agricultural lobby in the Knesset.

The Finance Ministry began exposing the local fresh meat market to foreign competition about two years ago, under Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) who now shares the opposition benches with Broshi. Indeed, this year there were a number of fresh meat brands available on the local market at roughly 25% less than the average price. The low price drove high consumer interest and supplies ran out before the end of the year.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, opening up the Israeli market to supplies from the EU countries is intended to replace the frozen meat market with higher-quality fresh meat, a move similar to the Agriculture Ministry’s eliminating the frozen poultry market, which used to encompass the bulk of Israel’s poultry market, replacing it with fresh poultry.

The new move will extend these lower prices to the coming years. The Finance Ministry has been conducting talks with the major local players in the industry, and an agreement has been reached on government subsidies to grass-fed, free range cattle growers and on spreading the import outline so that the market will become completely open by 2020.

The plan is for the quotas for fresh meat from abroad to be raised in 2020 to 17,500 tons, while duty will be reduced to 12%. In addition, local farmers will be permitted to import up to 10% of the market in fresh meat, to encourage local production and safeguard employment.

Israel’s  Chief  Rabbinate supervises the slaughtering of kosher meat  being  imported  to  Israel. Currently,  the  importation  of  non-kosher  meat  to  Israel  is  forbidden. The  Import Department of  the Chief  Rabbinate conducts tests  and  authorizes  slaughterhouses  and  teams of  inspectors.

JNi.Media

Knesset Passes Law Assigning Running State Mikvahs to Chief Rabbinate

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Following a lengthy debate and numerous objections, on Monday night the Knesset plenum passed the amended Jewish Religious Services Bill by a 41 to 35 majority. The amended law, proposed by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and endorsed by several MKs, will require that state-run mikvahs-ritual baths be subject solely to the directives of the Chief Rabbinate. The law will take effect within nine months of its passage in order to allow preparation for the new amendment.

The explanation attached to the bill reads, “Since the inception of the State of Israel, the mikvahs have been used for halakhic traditions and customs, and for this purpose they were allotted public funding for construction and maintenance. In the wake of petitions by entities wishing to destroy the accepted foundations of Judaism that have been in existence for thousands of years, the High Court has ruled that various sects should be permitted to use the mikvahs to their various ends.”

MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) said that “this is the first time that a mikvah, which is a place of purity, has become a place of exclusion. We view this as discrimination under primary legislation.”

“Others who are hurt by this are, of course, our Jewish brothers and sisters in the Diaspora,” Lavie continued. “Once again they receive the ‘heartwarming’ message that the State of Israel doesn’t count them in. Not at the Western Wall, or in marriages, or in conversions, and now at the mikvahs, too — you have no place in the State of Israel.”

“This law is neither Jewish, nor legal, nor democratic,” Lavie added.

Meretz Chair MK Zehava Galon said the law is part of a “battle over the face and character of Israeli society.” Turning to the ultra-Orthodox MKs, Galon said, “You feel threatened? Why? Because someone is trying to undermine your monopoly over the Rabbinate, over Orthodoxy, over a pluralistic and equal life here?”

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Camp) said, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated so many times that every Jew, wherever he may be, should consider Israel his national home. So what do they do in order that a Jew feel at home in Israel? They do not allow him to wed in a civil marriage; they do not allow him to be buried next to his loved ones if he is defined as someone who is not worthy of burial in a Jewish cemetery; they do not allow him to convert in an appropriate and respectful manner; and then they pass the Mikvah Law which deals a devastating blow to all those who underwent a Reform or Conservative conversion, which is about 20 percent of all converts.”

MK Yehuda Glick (Likud), who is an Orthodox rabbi, also expressed his objection to the legislation. “MK Gafni, why does it bother you that a Reform woman immerses in a mikvah?” Glick asked the bill’s author. “She does not stop you from immersing. Why do we need this divisiveness? You said the Jewish Agency will build mikvahs (for the non-Orthodox), but a representative of the Agency told me they do not plan to build any,” he said. Glick held a 30-second moment of silence in the plenum in protest of the legislation.

MK Gafni argued back, saying his law is not discriminatory. “All the claims made here that this constitutes a ‘selection’ are baseless,” he said, adding, “There was a violation of the status quo by the High Court of Justice; we asked that the status quo not be violated. Reform Jews in the US don’t have a single mikvah. All of a sudden they need a mikvah over here? This law aims to prevent the Reform from getting this legitimization through the back door.”

Jewish Agency of Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky has released a statement in response to the passage of the bill, saying, “This bill, which offers no solution to the non-Orthodox denominations, circumvents the rulings of the High Court of Justice. It is unfortunate that the bill passed before such a solution was ensured.”

JNi.Media

Analysis: Rabbinical Court Lookstein Ruling Could Spell Our Next Kamtza and Bar Kamtza Tragedy

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

It should be noted that despite our fantastical idea, Ivanka Trump was actually converted under the Rabbinical Council of America and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate Geirus Policies and Standards Network (GPS) agreement, and so her conversion is not, in fact, in jeopardy.

Now to the fantasy:

A friend of ours suggested a rereading of the Talmud narrative of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza (Gittin 55–56) in light of Wednesday’s ruling of the High Rabbinical Court. Same Rabbis, same Roman Emperor, except he could be living in DC come next January:

They went and said to the presidential candidate, “The Jews hate you, they think you’re nothing but a nasty Goy, and they’re all praying Hillary humiliates you.”

Said he, “That would be YUGE. How do I know you’re not lying?”

“Send an offering to the Jewish Nation,” they said, “and see whether they will accept it on their altar.”

So he sent them the most gorgeous blonde offering he could find, his own flesh and blood. But while on the journey, they put a blemish on her Haskel (or as some say, on the Look of her Stein) – in a manner where the Chief Rabbinate counted it a blemish but we do not.

Most of us urged the Rabbinical Court to accept her in order not to offend a presidential candidate. Even the two chief rabbis, the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi, begged the Rabbinical Court to accept her as Jewish.

Said the Rabbinical High Court to us: “People will say that blemished blonde offerings are acceptable on the altar.”

Most of us tried to kill the story so that no one write or talk about it on CNN, but the Chief Rabbinical Court objected, saying “Are we who are just doing our jobs, pointing out obvious blemishes on consecrated offerings, to have our story be killed, our sage honor impugned and our authority undermined?”

We thereupon remarked: “Because of the scrupulousness of the High Rabbinical Court our House was destroyed, our Temple burnt, and we ourselves were exiled from our land.”

To remind you (since it’s been almost a full year since Tisha B’Av), this is the original story from Gittin 55–56 (courtesy of the Soncino Talmud):

Kamtza went and said to the Emperor, The Jews are rebelling against you. He said, How can I tell? Kamtza said to him: Send them an offering and see whether they will offer it [on the altar]. So he sent with him a fine calf. While on the way Kamtza made a blemish on its upper lip, or as some say on the white of its eye, in a place where we [Jews] count it a blemish but they do not. The Rabbis were inclined to offer it in order not to offend the Government. Said R. Zechariah b. Abkulas to them: People will say that blemished animals are offered on the altar. They then proposed to kill Bar Kamza so that he should not go and inform against them, but R. Zechariah b. Abkulas said to them, Is one who makes a blemish on consecrated animals to be put to death? R. Johanan thereupon remarked: Through the scrupulousness of R. Zechariah b. Abkulas our House has been destroyed, our Temple burnt and we ourselves exiled from our land.

David Israel

Chief Rabbinate: Good Bye, Mikvah Lady

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

A halakhic drama reached its surprise happy ending Wednesday at the Israeli Supreme Court, when the role of ritual bath supervisor, a.k.a. “Mikvah lady,” has been changed from mandatory to optional.

Israel’s state prosecution on Wednesday submitted to the Supreme Court, in the name of the Chief Rabbinate and the Ministry of Religious services, an official response to a petition by the Itim organization, conceding that “the dipping woman will be allowed to decide for herself whether she wishes to follow this halakhic rule (dipping under the supervision of a Mikvah lady), including dipping alone or dipping in the company of a female friend, and neither the local religious council nor its employees are allowed to condition the dipping on the obligatory presence of the ritual bath supervisor.”

The response represents a complete capitulation of the relevant state institutions, and the state prosecutor requested that the high court dismiss the original petition because it is no longer necessary.

At the same time, it cannot be said that the Chief Rabbinate Assembly has given up the fight altogether. They will continue to compel the local religious councils to hire Mikvah ladies, and post a sign in every mikvah explaining the halakhic obligation for supervision during a woman’s dipping. A woman wishing to dip on her own would be forced, every month, to go through the process of publicly showing that she ignores the rules that are posted on the sign for all to read.

The specific halakhic role of the Mikvah lady, as explained by Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, is to make sure that a woman’s entire head of hair has gone underwater, because if it didn’t there’s a problem in the dipping and the woman’s availability for intimacy with her husband is questioned. Rabbi Ariel proposes that the dipping woman call on the Mikvah lady once she has immersed in the water, and ask her to watch and see that her entire body of hair went underwater.

Incidentally, it should be possible for a friend to advise the dipping woman regarding the immersion of her hair.

As to the problem of “knots,” the woman should shampoo and comb her hair prior to dipping so that it isn’t entangled.

The initial petition was submitted to the court in July 2015, in the midst of what was then a year long, stormy debate within the Orthodox community, between young women who rebelled against the authority of the Mikvah lady and the established Orthodox institutions. The petition, submitted by Itim, represented 13 women who wanted to be left alone when they’re dipping.

Orthodox authorities are concerned not only about the proper execution of the halakhic dipping, but also about the push to permit unmarried women to dip, which the rabbis view as an invitation to lechery.

The case will be heard by the Supreme Court on Thursday despite the surrender of the Chief Rabbinate and the Religious Services Ministry, because one plaintiff, the Jerusalem Religious Council, is still a holdout, insisting that the Mikvah “is not a bathhouse, but an instrument whose sole purpose is to effect a kosher dipping, which must be determined by an authorized supervisor.”

Itim Chairman Rabbi Dr. Shaul Farber praised the Chief Rabbinate for following the Jewish tradition of preferring permission over prohibition. One of Itim’s arguments was the fact that the stern Mikvah ladies were pushing young women away from the mitzvah of dipping in the mikvah at the end of their cycle, thus actually diminishing family purity in the nation.

JNi.Media

Likely Compromise Found in Coalition Rift over Reform, Conservative Mikvahs

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) on Monday morning presented a compromise solution for the problem caused by last Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling siding with the demands of Reform and Conservative petitioners for equal access to state-run mikvahs-ritual baths. Last February, the Supreme Court ruled that local religious councils must make state-run mikvahs available for conversion ceremonies run by Israeli Reform and Conservative clergy.

Last week, the Knesset Interior Committee debated a bill proposed by Shas and UTJ, the two ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, determining that the use of public mikvahs in Israel will be conducted strictly according to halakha and under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate.

Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) for his part on Friday announced that he plans to submit the bill in order to prevent the implementation of the court’s ruling. This would be in keeping with the coalition agreement between UTJ and Likud, which says that each time the Supreme Court issues a ruling that jeopardizes issues close to the heart of the Orthodox-Jewish party, the government must submit a bill to bypass the court.

Gafni, who argued that the court’s new ruling violates the national status quo on issues of religion and state, also cited the coalition’s obligation to maintain the same status quo.

Judge Elyakim Rubinstein, an Orthodox Jew who was part of the unanimous decision in favor of the Reform and Conservative petitioners, suggested in his ruling that the religious council in question, in Be’er Sheva, illegally segregated against Israeli citizens. “From the moment the state has constructed public mikvahs and made them available to the public — including for use in conversions — it cannot practice inequality in their usage,” Elyakim wrote. Rubinstein added that “the state’s decision not to supervise dipping in the mikvah that is conducted as part of a private conversion does not justify preventing it.”

One of the other two judges on the panel was Salim Joubran, a Christian Arab. Chief Justice Miriam Naor was the third judge. It should be noted that while last week Ha’aretz complained about a decision by Judge Rubinstein favoring the Chief Rabbinate, implying he should have recused himself from deciding Orthodox Jewish issues because he wears a yarmulke (sic), the same paper did not make a similar complaint in this case.

The MK Bitan compromise will suspend the application of the Mikvah law for nine months, during which time two to four mikvahs would be built for the Reform and Conservative public. The Jewish Agency is expected to bear the costs of construction. Meanwhile, the coalition would work on a softer version of the Shas-UTJ bill, which would skirt the Supreme Court ruling but not actually bypass it. The first draft was scheduled to be presented to the Interior committee Monday morning.

According to MK Bitan, “We are not planning to pass a Supreme Court bypassing law, but instead to find solutions to the problems raised by the court’s ruling. According to the understanding, we will build between two to four mikvahs in various locations in the country for the Reform and Conservative public so they can dip there according to their method.” Bitan stressed that “we must maintain equality for everyone in spending resources.”

A Haredi party source that spoke to JNi.media on the condition of anonymity said the Bitan compromise will most likely be accepted since it does not actually compel religious councils to share existing mikvahs with the Reform and Conservative, but allocates to them new mikvahs. Nevertheless, the Haredi coalition parties are likely going to be subjected to attacks from the Haredi media, which see the very idea of allowing the two non-Orthodox movement a foot in the door as ushering disaster. Some in the Haredi media, such as Ha’peles, would like to see the Haredi parties using their critical role in Netanyahu’s small coalition to extract deeper concessions regarding the non-Orthodox mikvahs.

JNi.Media

Analysis: Can Ha’aretz Be More Racist than Donald Trump? You Betcha

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Late last month, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was condemned universally, when everyone but Ann Coulter called him a racist and a bigot for suggesting federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel should have recused himself from the Trump University trial because his parents were born in Mexico, and he, Trump, as he so aptly put it, is “building a wall.” Trump went on to tell various reporters that although the judge was born in Indiana, he must be a Trump hater, on account of “I’m building a wall.” He also told one reporter that the same obligation to recuse themselves should also apply to Muslim American judges in Trump-related cases (the candidate generates thousands of them, literally).

The fact that both House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Kentucky) called on their party’s nominee to tone down the racism should tell us just how much they loathed his outburst.

On Friday morning, Ha’aretz op-ed writer Uri Misgav, in reviewing the recent Supreme Court decision that sided with the Chief Rabbinate and against the AG in prohibiting “alternative” kosher certifications, wrote the following:

“The ruling was by a majority of two to one. The two judges who preserved the corrupting power in the hands of the Rabbinate were Rubinstein and Noam Sohlberg. Both wear a yarmulke, [and are] religious Orthodox, who grew up and developed on the high road of Religious Zionism. They put the cats in charge of the cream. This was a very strangely composed panel. In fact, it was so strange that it’s not strange at all: of course it was intentional. With the assumption that it’s better to let the religious handle these issues which are close to their hearts. Except that the logic should have been the complete opposite of that. There’s a clear conflict of interests here. At stake was the tension between state and religion. The secular judge, incidentally, had the minority opinion.”

The paragraph above is dripping bigotry, not only accusing supreme court judges of being unable to examine a case on its merits, suspending their personal views—which is something we expect of every judge in every trial—but that somehow the powers-that-be on the court assigned the two religious Orthodox judges because the case belongs in their ghetto. The root of Trump’s bigotry and the root of Misgav’s bigotry are the same: they both assume that judges belonging to the group they hate are inevitably partial, interested parties in the cases they try.

But then Misgav focuses on Judge Sohlberg, calling him a criminal, because he resides in Alon Shvut, at the heart of Gush Etzion, an area which even Misgav agrees will never be handed over to Arab rule, even as part of a two-state agreement. Writing for a newspaper that has printed many miles of allegations against rightwing activists and politicians who have threatened the Supreme Court for its unprecedented activism, Misgav actually exposed Sohlberg to prosecution by a European court as a war criminal. The scenario is simple: Judge Sohlberg lands in Brussels, someone on the same El Al flight identifies him and calls over the Gendarmes, showing them the English translation of Misgav’s attack, demanding that Sohlberg be taken into custody until the war crime charges against him are verified. Unrealistic? Probably, but when MK Moti Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) last summer announced, “We have to take the blade of a D-9 [bulldozer] to the High Court of Justice,” Ha’aretz took his expression of rage at face value.

It appears Ha’aretz is willing to see Israeli high court justices’ lives be put in jeopardy just to advance the paper’s political ends. So much for tolerance and liberalism.

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/analysis-can-haaretz-be-more-racist-than-donald-trump-you-betcha/2016/06/10/

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