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October 22, 2016 / 20 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘religious’

Far East Meets Middle East in Summit for Religious Leaders

Monday, September 12th, 2016

By Michael Zeff/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – Over 20 religious leaders from east Asia arrived in Israel Monday for a four-day summit in Jerusalem. Participants came from countries such as China, South Korea, India, and Japan, representing spiritual traditions of Taoism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Jainism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. Throughout the upcoming week, they will come face to face with Arab and Israeli religious leaders of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

“It is time to expand the Israel-Asia dialogue from only diplomatic and economic spheres to religion, spirituality and faith,” summit coordinator Simona Halperin told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “This is a first meeting in history between the religious leaders of Judaism and those of the eastern faiths.”

The summit was a joint project between the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the American Jewish Committee and the World Council of Religious Leaders (WCRL). Notable guests included the president of the Buddhist Association of China, Xuecheng, Swami Avdeshanand Giri, spiritual leader of millions of Indian Hindus, and Bawa Jain, Secretary-General of the WCRL.

President Reuven Rivlin greeted summit participants.

“Welcome to Jerusalem, the holy city to the religions of the sons of Abraham,” Rivlin told the guests. “Your arrival is a very special event, for many years the interaction between our religions hardly even existed.

“This is no longer the situation, as your visit today shows,” Rivlin said.

Xuecheng and Swami Giri also addressed the summit, saying religious leaders should take a leading role towards solving worldwide social and environmental challenges.

“I’m very happy to be here,” said the Swami. “We have a saying in our colloquial tongue: ‘When you have dialogues, then the wisdom dawns and knowledge comes.’ Dialogue imparts clarity.”

Xuecheng expressed his hope to make lasting friendships among religious leaders in Israel. “Only if we make true friends we can really set the goal of mutual respect and understanding. the Chinese religions are working very hard to call out other religions to help in the construction of a peaceful world,” he said.

According to Halperin, during the four days of the summit the religious leaders will meet with rabbis from all Jewish streams, as well as with Muslim, Druze and Christian leaders. The group will tour holy sites and discuss current events including global warming, the environment, the status of religion in contemporary society, the role of religion in peacemaking and more.

“Our spiritual worlds are very close to each other in that they are not missionary religions which makes them very open and tolerant,” Rabbi Daniel Sperber, a professor of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University and Orthodox rabbi. “I feel a unity and comradery between our peoples, more so than with the western world and Christianity.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

“Go For Your Dreams And Don’t Compromise Your Religious Standards”: Rachel Freier Is Not Your Typical Civil Court Candidate

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

It was the week of erev Shavuos and Rachel “Ruchie” Freier was getting ready for the holiday just as any typical chassidic homemaker would. Over our conversation on the phone, she told me how she was busy preparing to bake challah, kugel, and other sumptuous delicacies for Yom Tov. Her children and grandchildren living nearby her home in Brooklyn were expected to be there for the seudos.

All this seems typical, but Ruchie Freier is not your typical Borough Park balabusta. The married mother of six is a real estate attorney, a community activist, and a current candidate for civil court judge in Brooklyn’s fifth judicial district, which includes Borough Park, Kensington, Midwood, Ocean Parkway and 21 other Brooklyn neighborhoods. If elected, Freier will likely be the first chassidic female judge in New York, perhaps in the United States.

“My mother always said that as long as it’s legal, moral and not against the Torah, just do it and do it the best way you can,” Freier said. “I grew up believing that I would do whatever I am allowed to do and succeed with Hashem’s help.”

The other contenders for the post include Mordy Avigdor, a former counsel to Agudath Israel of America who also has worked with former Congressman Anthony Weiner and current Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, and Jill Epstein, who currently serves as principal law clerk to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes. The election will take place in the September 13 primary.

At her law offices in Brooklyn and Monroe, Freier specializes in transactions, financing properties, and residential and commercial properties. She is licensed in New York, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, and has experience in both the private and pro bono sectors.

“My knowledge and experience is broad-ranging,” she said. “I have years of experience in contracts and closings, transactional law, litigation, corporate law, trust and estates, family law and personal injury.”

Freier’s experience in the legal field started with modest beginnings. Born and bred in Brooklyn, Freier began her career as a legal secretary after graduating from the Bais Yaakov of Borough Park. She then started working as a legal secretary, advanced to become a paralegal, and eventually continued on to college and law school, all while raising her growing family.

Freier explained, “Attending college after high school was not the norm and at the time there were no separate women’s college programs in Brooklyn. Because graduates didn’t go to college, our high school trained us in legal stenography. I worked in the legal field for a number of years and loved it! After my husband finished his studies at kollel and received his BA from Touro, I realized it was now my turn. I began Touro College at age 30 and graduated six years later, majoring in political science and directing the Women’s Pre-Law Society. Afterward I attended Brooklyn Law School.”

It was at law school when Freier became intrigued with the idea of becoming a judge. “Since I was a kid, I wanted to become a lawyer,” she explained. “Then as I was studying law, the idea of becoming a judge began to percolate…. My interest in becoming a judge was a natural progression.”

The seeds began when she studied Constitutional Law. She remarked, “In law school I really appreciated the opportunity to learn Constitutional Law under William Hellerstein; he made the law come alive through his enthusiastic teaching style. And as a Jew, I believe that we have a mission to carry out justice in the world.”

Among her role models are her uncle Judge David Schmidt (now retired), as well as Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Noach Dear. “Without my uncle’s encouragement and the encouragement I received from my husband and family, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have already,” she said.

Atara Arbesfeld

Faith is the Joy of Religious Doubt and Uncertainty-Part II

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Faith means striving for faith. It is never an arrival. It can only burst forth at singular moments. It does not arise out of logical deduction, but out of uncertainty, which is its natural breeding ground.

To have faith is to live with unresolved doubts, prepared to rise above ourselves and our wisdom. Looking into the Jewish tradition with its many debates, one clearly understands that those who deny themselves the comfort of certainty are much more authentic than those who are sure.

Faith means that we worship and praise God before we affirm His existence; we respond before we question. Man can die for something even as he is unsure of its true existence, because his inner faith tells him it is right to do so. This honest admission of doubt is not only the very reason why it is possible to be religious in modern times; it is the actual stimulus to do so.

We need to understand that faith is “the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises” (1), and “we can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand” (2).

To believe is not to prove, not to explain, but to yield to a vision.

Of course belief cannot be credo quia absurdum est. It has to make sense and have a lot to say for itself in terms of knowledge and wisdom. Still, just as no building stands on rock-bottom, but on unsure pillars deeply driven into the ground so as to resist an earthquake, so must belief have enough strength to prove its worth without ever reaching absolute certainty.

Faith is like music. It is true because of its beauty not because of its intellectual certainty. Is it not created from impossible paradoxes, as well as a great deal of imagination that surpasses rationality and scientific or historical facts?

The truly great need no synthesis. They absorb whatever experience offers them. Their intensely creative personalities act like a fiery furnace, melting away contradictions. What emerges is either a harmonious whole or a creative parallelism with parts that mutually fructify and supplement each other. The truly great do not need to trim edges, as it were, to make genuine experiences fit with each other. They preserve them intact. And if their experiences appear contradictory, they build an emotional bridge spanning them allowing both the landscape and the water to be seen. Lesser mortals resort to logical means of harmonization (3).

The aim of halacha is to teach us the art of living with uncertainty. Halacha was not meant for those who are sure, because nobody can act out of certainty.

The most challenging question in all of life is what do you do and what do you believe when you are not sure. It is that notion that moves the scientist, the philosopher, and most of all the religious personality. We must destroy the security of all conventional knowledge and undo the normalcy of all that is ordinary. To be religious is to realize that no final conclusions have ever been reached or can ever be reached.

Halacha is the upshot of un-finalized beliefs, a practical way of living while remaining in theological suspense. In that way, Judaism doesn’t turn into a religion that either becomes paralyzed in awe of a rigid tradition, or evaporates into a utopian reverie. This dynamic can only come about when Jewish beliefs consist of fluid matter, which halacha then turns into a solid substance. The purpose of halacha is to chill the heated steel of exalted beliefs and turn them into pragmatic deeds without allowing the inner heat to be cooled off entirely. Jewish beliefs are like arrows, which dart hither and thither, wavering as though shot into the air from a slackened bowstring, while halacha must be straight and unswerving but still adaptable.

Indeed, we should be careful not to make faith into an intellectual issue. It is much more than that. The moment we look down on those who continue to have unshakable faith, considering them primitive in face of the many challenges, we have overlooked an important dimension of real faith. Besides the fact that such an attitude reflects arrogance, it also misses an important point: Faith is always more than just thinking about faith. Yes, those people who have lost their faith yet still hold on to it, honestly attempting by way of discussion and study to give their lost faith a new shape, should be deeply respected. At the same time, we should not forget that they are searching for something that the “simple” believer already has.

When we place the reflection on faith higher than the direct experience of faith, we are involved in a purely intellectual endeavor. The search for faith can only be genuine when it is personal, deep, and emotional, and the intellect only plays a small part. The accompanying qualities must be humility, the notion of inadequacy, and a strong urge to find authentic faith.  Genuine belief is a way of living, not an academic undertaking. It is an experience in which the whole of the human being is engaged.

Doubt only appeals to the intellect. The intellectual approach to faith is always a barer form of existence than faith itself. The reason is obvious. Besides our critical assessment, the other human faculties remain idle. Trust, hope, love and the notion that one is part of something bigger no longer play a role. Instead, life becomes nothing more than only itself. When doubt and skepticism are no longer the most important faculties through which one seeks religious faith, only then is it possible to actually find it. Skepticism, though it has its place, should not be at the center of one’s search. In today’s climate there is a certain gratification in going to the extremes of genius and brilliance until one nearly loses that which one would like to discover.  Intellectual thought and scientific discovery can never cover the sum total of the inner life of man. When one prays, one is involved in something that the intellect can never reach. When one studies Torah and hears its divine voice, it becomes something different than what academic study can ever achieve. It is in a separate category, which is closed to the solely scientific mind.

It is crucial that we see these facts for what they are. Only when we realize that intellectual certainty is not the primary path toward finding religious truth, will we be able to deal with our new awareness that the transitional phase we now experience has great purpose and has to be part of our religious struggle and identity. It won’t be easy. Novelty, as always, carries with it a sense of violation, a kind of sacrilege. Most people are more at home with that which is common than with that which is different. But go it must.

1. Samuel Butler and Francis Hackett, The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (Nabu Press, 2010)

   p. 27.

2. Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2010) p. 81.

3. Rabbi Professor David Weiss Halivni, “Professor Saul Lieberman z.l.,” Conservative

   Judaism, vol. 38, (Spring 1986) pp. 6-7.


Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Haredi Party Spearheading Effort to Protect Israeli Religious Charities from US Tax Authorities

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

The heads of charity organizations in the ultra-Orthodox society, commonly known as Gemachim, received at least a temporary measure of relief from the Knesset Finance Committee, chaired by MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ), ahead of a new amendment of the Income Tax Act that takes effect in September and compels Israeli financial institutions to report through the local tax authorities on the Israeli financial affairs of US citizens. The amendment is the result of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance (FATCA) agreement between Israel and the US, which was a prerequisite for continued cooperation between Israeli and American financial institutions.

It’s not much, but MK Gafni demanded that the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Israel order the banks to give the Gemachim time until the end of June to resolve their status as public institutions, which he hopes would allow them to exclude themselves from the FATCA rules. Gafni envisions a tweaking of the amendment to exclude groups with deposits of less than $50 thousand, or holdings worth less than $50 million.

According to Chairman Gafni, the new regulations could bring the collapse of the Gemachim. “The Israeli government signed an agreement with the US government without considering the disastrous consequences for one of the most important enterprises of the Jewish people that has existed for millennia — the charity and mutual aid societies,” Gafni said, explaining that the Gemachim are “the only means at the disposal of a person under financial duress to receive an interest-free loan to get back on his feet.”

MK Israel Eichler (UTJ), Chairman of the Public Petitions, summoned Dr. Ilan Steiner, Director of the Bank of Israel Currency Department, to his committee hearing, to warn him against another aspect of the US attack on these charity institutions. According to Eichler, banks are being forced under pressure from foreign governments to close the accounts of Gemachim accounts, “in the name of ‘fighting terrorism’ and stopping money laundering, the IRS and the American government have become supervisors of all bank accounts around the world including in Israel. Everyone has to go through their inspection, so the Gemachim have received a letter that they will not be able to keep their bank accounts anymore.”

MK Eichler told Dr. Steiner: “I hope that the Bank of Israel find a way to abide by the agreements with the US while not mixing up the Gemachim with the war on terror. The banks must not become a burden and a restriction on associations and charity organizations who want to help people and do not engage in terrorism. There are limits to the madness of the banking system. We must not allow the charity organizations and Gemachim to be paralyzed by American pressures.”

The issues of compliance regarding money laundering and the war on terror stem from the side benefits of an IRS act that was intended to make sure US citizens who make money abroad share some of it with Uncle Sam. According to the IRS, FATCA targets tax non-compliance by US taxpayers with foreign accounts, focusing on individuals’ reporting about foreign financial accounts and offshore assets, as well as by foreign financial institutions about financial accounts held by US taxpayers or foreign entities in which US taxpayers hold a substantial ownership interest.

Using the US’ enormous economic clout, FATCA bullies the world’s financial institutions into reporting on their American clients to Uncle Sam. Under FATCA, to avoid being withheld upon, foreign financial institutions must register with the IRS and agree to report to the IRS about their US accounts, including accounts of foreign entities with a substantial US ownership. Foreign institutions that enter into an agreement with the IRS to report on their account holders may be required to withhold 30% on certain payments to foreign payees if such payees do not comply with FATCA.

Talk about working for the Yankee dollar.

According to The Marker, Gemachim stand to suffer three different ways from the new law: instead of permitting a Gemach to transfer money into their accounts, they could now be questioned regarding the source of the funds and whether or not tax was paid on them in the US; each deposit could be subject to harassment by the bank, in order to verify that it is not part of a money laundering scheme; and the Gemach could be saddled with a new definition as a financial institution, and as such would be compelled to report on its fund sources to the IRS or face criminal sanctions.


National Religious Rabbi Appointed Supreme Rabbinical Court Judge While Court Facing Shutdown

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Following a six-hour debate, the nine-member committee to appoint religious court judges on Monday agreed on only one judge out of the seven who must yet be appointed, by order of the State Supreme Court. Over the objection of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Rabbi Eliezer Igra, a national religious scholar, was elected by a vote of seven in favor and two Haredi members abstaining, to be a Supreme Rabbinical Court Judge, and serve on the very committee that had just elected him.

But the singular appointment of Rabbi Igra will not fulfill the ultimatum issued by Israel’s State Supreme Court, which back in January ordered all the missing positions on the Supreme Rabbinical Court to be filled by Thursday this week, or else all the temporary appointments on the court would be revoked and the court would cease to operate.

Nevertheless, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) called the vote “a tremendous achievement for Habayit Hayehudi,” adding, “I’m very pleased.” She said that the non-Haredi bloc on the committee, which holds a majority of five members, have been suggesting several candidates for the Supreme Rabbinical Court, and they had all been rejected by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas).

Rabbi Igra studied for ten years at the hesder yeshiva Kerem B’Yavneh, served in the IDF Armored Corps and fought in the Yom Kippur War. He was the Talmud study partner of Yoni Netanyahu, the prime minister’s late brother.

The committee ran into several stalemates on Monday, leaving the Supreme Rabbinical Court short-handed, after several of its members have retired. The Haredi committee members were able to torpedo the proposed appointments of Rabbis David Bass and Uriel Lavi to the supreme religious court, and the National Religious members, for their part, were able to block new appointments the Haredim desired to several local rabbinic courts.

The only reason Rabbi Igra received his appointment had to do with the bad blood between the Sephardi and Ashkenazi chief rabbis, according to the website Haredim 10. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau joined the National Religious to usher in Rabbi Igra as revenge against Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef for appointing Shas member Moshe Dagan as the Chief Rabbinate CEO over Rabbi Lau’s fierce objection.

David Israel

3 Jews Removed from Temple Mount Wednesday for Religious Crimes

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Jerusalem police released a statement Wednesday morning saying three Jewish visitors have been removed from the Temple Mount compound because they “disobeyed the rules.” Jews are not allowed to express any kind of religious sentiment on the Temple Mount, from making a blessing on an apple they’re about to eat to shutting their eyes for longer than a prescribed period of time that would enable them to forge contact with the Deity whose emanation resides on the flat mountaintop. The Jordanian Waqf agency officials instruct Israeli police as to which Jews have violated the rules and those are removed in an orderly fashion.

Wednesday’s evictions add the number of religious Jewish criminals to 11, and, judging by past days’ experience, this number will continue to grow, because some Jews continue to harbor illegal faithful sentiments they refuse to repress.

David Israel

Police: Haifa Religious Council Deceived over 100 Couples Seeking Independent Orthodox Wedding

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Employees of the Haifa Religious Council have deceived more than 100 couples who said they wanted to be married through the national-religious rabbinic organization Tzohar, Israel Police announced on Wednesday. A Tzohar initiative has made it possible for couples to register for marriage anywhere, and not strictly in their area of residence as used to be the case in Israel. The idea was to make less stringent Orthodox rabbis available to Israelis who didn’t wish for their wedding to be officiated by a Haredi rabbi. That change was received with great resistance on the part of the Chief Rabbinate, which is concerned for losing its monopoly on Orthodox weddings.

Police launched an investigation following a complaint by Tzohar that elements in the Haifa Religious Council are acting systematically against couples who register to be married by a Tzohar rabbi. Among other things, Tzohar accused the council of entering false information regarding the personal data of registrants. The complaint cites more than 100 such cases.

Police interrogated with a warning two employees of the Haifa Religious Council, one of them senior. Police also collected testimonies, seized documents, and executed a variety of investigative actions. As a result, police are saying they have sufficient evidence showing the alleged violations had indeed taken place because of the council’s objection on principle to Tzohar’s legitimacy. Police believe the senior council employee was aware of and turned a blind eye on the other employee’s mass violations.

Tzohar emailed JNi the following statement in response to the news story:

“Effectively investigating criminal action is critical for our national desire to rid out corruption and restore the public’s faith in those responsible for religious services in our country. It is deeply distressing that the rogue actions of a small group can so negatively tarnish the Jewish spirit in ways that have caused irreparable damage to the people of Israel.”


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/police-haifa-religious-council-deceived-over-100-couples-seeking-independent-orthodox-wedding/2016/04/21/

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