Jewish, Jewish, Everywhere, & not a drop to drink
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Shimon Peres gives advice

Shimon Peres gives advice, but only to Haredim.

Israeli president Shimon Peres (born 1923) is a smart person. He always has the right quip and makes the right remark for any occasion. For a dyed-in-the-wool long-time king-size socialist, he is a great free-thinking open-minded "lawyer". He talks as if he has the final "monopoly" on all wisdom. Take the situation reported below. He is meeting very anxious Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) young men who tell him that Israel has now become a hotbed of incitement against them. In return Peres tells them that they must "be like the RAMBAM (Moses Maimonides)" (1135-1204) who was both a famous Jewish religious sage and medical doctor. Basically he's telling his audience what most secular/ized dads his age tell their teenage kids, to go to college, get a professional degree and "get a job". He is obviously clueless about what makes Haredim tick.

Now why doesn't Mr. Peres tell all the secular Jews in Israel, those who hate the religious, that they too must "be like the RAMBAM" and not just go to college/university and become not just knowledgeable about Judaism, but also become proficient high-level scholars on the level of Ultra-Orthodox Jews and rabbis AS WELL AS having jobs. Just as much religious people need training for jobs, as Peres would like it, the secular Jews need a religious education to become educated Jew who learn and practice the laws of the Torah Judaism..."just like the RAMBAM"...

From Israel National News - Arutz Sheva:

"Peres to Hareidi Youth: Be Like the Rambam

 Peres sits down with hareidi youth, calls for hareidi Jews to attend college, enter the workforce. ‘Be like the Rambam.’

By Maayana Miskin

President Shimon Peres sat down Tuesday evening with dozens of young hareidi Torah students from yeshivas including the Mir, the Hevron Yeshiva, and Ponevezh. The meeting, organized by the Leil Shishi Aktuali forum, aimed to allow the young students to express their views on current events that affect their community, and to hear Peres’ response.

The students’ top concern was the level of discourse in Israeli society, and in particular, the strong anti-hareidi sentiment that they have experienced in recent months as the government debates hareidi army recruitment.

They told Peres that the state of Israel is their home, and that they feel the trust and respect that once existed between different communities within Israel is gone. The focus on hareidi enlistment has led to a campaign to delegitimize the hareidi way of life, they said.

The religious Jewish world places a high value on Torah study, particularly for Jewish men. In the hareidi community in Israel, most believe that full-time Torah study is preferable to IDF service, and that men who can afford to study Torah rather than work should do so.

Peres listened to the young students, then explained his views, which include a heavy emphasis on hareidi participation in the workforce.

“There’s no contradiction between keeping the 613 mitzvoth [commandments] and getting an academic degree. Higher education is a condition for well-paid work that allows people to live with ease while keeping the mitzvoth,” he argued.

“One shining example is the Rambam, who was a great rabbi and a brilliant doctor,” he added. The Rambam (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon) was an influential Torah scholar in the Middle Ages who studied Torah full-time for many years, and began working as a physician after much of his money was lost when his brother drowned at sea.

Peres added that employers have a responsibility as well. “Hareidi Jews need to work, and the non-hareidi [Israelis] need to let them work,” he said. “We have to consider the hareidi community’s needs and provide the conditions to allow the hareidi lifestyle to be integrated with a dedication to work.”

He expressed firm opposition to discrimination and attacks against hareidi Jews, and said he respects the Torah students who keep Jewish tradition and culture alive.

“The basic Jewish books like the Mishnah and Talmud are essentially democratic,” he said. “Their purpose was a deep spiritual debate over the essence of Judaism, and they allow for arguments and give a space to the minority view.”

In conclusion, Peres said, “The hareidi community is an important part of the Jewish people and of the state of Israel…. There is no room in Israeli society for either religious coercion or anti-religious coercion.” "

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef condemns Women of the Wall
During his weekly sermon, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef lashes out against 'stupid women who come to Western Wall, don a prayer shawl, and pray.'

Women of the Wall in response: Rabbi invited to get to know us

Kobi Nahshoni
Published: 11.09.09, 08:06 / Israel Jewish Scene

Some 20 years after they first wrapped themselves in prayer shawls at Judaism's holiest site, the Women of the Wall (WOW) were the subject of much criticism during the Sephardic chief rabbi's weekly Saturday evening sermon.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef came out on Saturday night against the feminist lineup at the Western Wall and called for the condemnation of its members. According to him, the movement is made up of "stupid" women who do not act "for Heaven's sake," but merely because "they want equality."

During this weekly lesson, which addressed the laws of Shabbat Kiddush (sanctification of the wine on the Sabbath), the rabbi noted that women are obligated to perform Kiddush and can fulfill their obligation either by hearing a man perform the blessing or by reciting it themselves.

On this subject he said, "Teffilin (phylacteries) she must be careful not to lay. There are stupid women who come to the Western Wall, put on a tallit (prayer shawl), and pray."

According to Rabbi Yosef, "These are deviants who serve equality, not Heaven. They must be condemned and warned of."

WOW Chairwoman Anat Hoffman reported to Ynet in response, "Rabbi Ovadia Yosef established negative motives for the group of women praying at the Western Wall without knowing even one of the women. Because the motive of the group is awe of God, I invite him in the name of Women of the Wall to meet us and get to know us."

The Masorti Movement Chairman Yizhar Hess, said in response, "It is a shame that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a talmid-chacham and Torah great, allows himself to disrespect the women's revolution that is taking over the Jewish street in Israel and the world. Torah scholars, be careful of your words."

Prayers at Robinson's Arch

Starting in the 80s, WOW held joint prayer services for women and men at the start of every Hebrew month. They first held the services in the Western Wall pavilion, and later – following a High Court ruling – at the nearby Robinson's Arch.

About a half a year ago, at the beginning of the month of Adar, dozens of women from Israel and the world marked 20 years of activism with a prayer service at the wall itself. For this, they were berated by worshippers and attendants on the spot. Attendants for the Kotel rabbi asked the women to disperse because they were not acting in accordance with the site's traditions.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch claimed in a conversation with Ynet that these are provocative actions that offend the sensibilities of male and female worshippers, desecrate the holy site, and are in opposition to the High Court decision. He added that "this is grave act worthy of condemnation."

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Israeli TV Channels are Doomed
Media Man Says Israeli TV Channels are Doomed

by Gil Ronen

(IsraelNN.com) The financial woes of television's Channel 10, which now requires a government bailout, do not surprise David ("Dudu") Elharar – a well-known singer, music producer and media personality. Elharar told Arutz Sheva's Hebrew news service that Channel 10's predicament is not the result of mismanagement but a phenomenon that will repeat itself, not just in Channel 10 but in the larger Channel 2 as well.

"First of all it is good that they are incurring losses – both Channel 10 and Channel 2 are losing and that is excellent,” he opined. “And why do they lose money? Because they ignore a large part of the nation that has truly stopped watching them a long time ago.”

Not just the television channels but all of the radio channels, too, including the local radio stations, are in constant violation of the Broadcasting Authority Law, according to Elharar. “The Broadcasting Authority Law says outright that they must, in their broadcasts, reflect the life of the nation, provide a podium for artists from all the nation's streams – they must, by law, reflect the cultural treasures of the entire nation and strengthen Jewish tradition,” he explained. “In Article 3 it says that the broadcasts will provide room for the different views that are common among the public. Unfortunately, [while] they all operate under the Broadcasting Authority Law, none of them does this.”

The State of Tel Aviv

“What we have here in Israel is 'The State of Tel Aviv' – completely secular stations that broadcast contempt for Judaism throughout the day,” he protested. “They are not allowed to do what they do according to the Broadcasting Authority Laws. Their problem is not whether or not they give air time to local creations or not, but whether or not they operate in accordance with the law. Because this is a Jewish state and not the West. This is Asia, we are surrounded by enemies and we have to fight for our status, and the media needs to broadcast patriotism and spread the knowledge of why we are fighting and what we are fighting for.”

The reason why people are leaving the media channels is that the media channels have left the people, determined Elharar, who is fighting a court battle for the right to continue to host a weekly program on IDF Army Radio. “The people in the television industry do not care about the nation. The funny thing is that if Channel 10 were to broadcast content that was opposite to what it broadcasts today, if it cultivated love of the homeland, all of the viewers would return to it. That is exactly what we saw in the elections – it is what the nation wants. The TV channels' ideology received just three Knesset members. The guys from Meretz are their representation.”

Elharar estimated that almost three million citizens do not watch the Israeli television channels. “A million Russian citizens watch TV in Russian, the hareidis have no TV sets and thousands more have taken the television out of the house. Others just watch sports, or people like my wife who only watch the Hidabroot (religious) channel. Nothing will save this media – and I mean the popular papers, too; until they understand that their job is to report and not to rule us they will continue to lose money.”

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Desperation and decline of Reform and Conservative Judaism: First African-American Female rabbi convert to Judaism
Pulpit Of Color

by Stewart Ain
Staff Writer

As a student rabbi, Alysa Stanton — who next month becomes the first ever African-American woman rabbi — was assigned to intern in a congregation in Dothan, Ala.

But no sooner did she arrive than the president of the congregation called the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati to complain.

“He said, ‘Are you kidding,?’” recalled Rabbi Ken Kanter, director of HUC’s rabbinical program.

Stanton said she was told that a “black person ministering to a white congregation in the Deep South was unheard of.”

However, Rabbi Kanter said, the congregation “very quickly recognized they had a rabbi who happened to be a woman and who happened to be African-American. She quickly became their rabbi ... and at the end of the year they wanted her to stay because she was so well loved.”

Stanton said the challenge had been to “put aside mutual stereotypes and prejudices and get to know each other on our own merits. We did it and [developed] phenomenal relationships. I will always hold a special place for them in my heart.”

That experience gave her the confidence to consider another congregation in the South when it came time to apply for her first full-time position, which she will assume after her ordination June 6. The synagogue is Congregation Bayt Shalom in Greenville, N.C., about 70 miles east of Raleigh in the eastern part of the state.

Stanton and a half-dozen other candidates from both the Reform and Conservative movements were interviewed by phone by the congregation’s 10-member search committee, according to Michael Barondes, the congregation’s president. Stanton and a Conservative rabbi were then invited for a visit.

“She led an adult education class and met with the youth group and made a tremendous impression on the congregation,” Barondes said of Stanton. “She has musical skills and a singing talent that was impressive. And she has interpersonal skills and the ability to engage people — adults and children. She was also able to articulate the desire to help us come up with a plan to unite the diverse Jewish community in a one-synagogue town.”

About 70 percent of the 56-family congregation is Reform and the rest Conservative. The congregation is affiliated with both movements.

“The fact that she is a convert was not a factor [in her selection],” Barondes said. “She was not the only Jew-by-choice who applied for the position. ... And the fact she is African-American played no part. During her three-day visit, she was able to impress so many people that the congregation overwhelmingly supported her candidacy.”

Stanton, 45, grew up in a Pentecostal Christian home in Cleveland, Ohio. At the age of 6, her family moved to a Jewish neighborhood in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

It was there that her Uncle Ed, a devout Catholic who also occasionally attended the local synagogue, explained to her what the mezuzahs meant on the neighbors’ doorposts. When she was 10 and already on her own spiritual quest, he gave her a Hebrew grammar book.

“My mother is a woman of faith,” Stanton said. “She taught us that we need to have a spiritual base and she gave us the freedom to chose what that is. For me, Judaism was where I found a home.”

At the age of 11, Stanton moved with her family to Lakewood, Colo., and by the time she was in her early 20s, she said she had decided to convert to Judaism.

“I sought out a rabbi and each week I traveled 144 miles to meet with him in Denver for intensive, one-to-one study,” she said, adding that after a year she converted, appearing before a bet din [Jewish court] and going to the mikveh.

“Initially when I converted my family was shocked,” Stanton said, adding that her mother (her father is deceased) and sister and two brothers have been “very supportive — my rock during this long journey.”

For about the last 15 years, her rabbi in Denver has been Steven Foster of Temple Emanuel, a Reform congregation. He said he found Stanton to be “a very spiritual person who brings the best of two different cultures together. She is a terrific person and we will be lucky in the Jewish community to have her as a rabbi.”

Rabbi Foster said that although Stanton was converted by a “right-wing Conservative rabbi,” she later “connected with us because of our history with social justice issues. ... She used to teach for us and sing for us and when she decided to become a rabbi we all supported her.”

One of her professors at HUC, David Weisberg said the fact that Stanton landed a job already in this tight job market — only about half of the graduates have jobs — is evidence of her special qualities.

“She has a love of Judaism and a pull for the study of the Torah,” he said. “She is very sensitive about the issues of piety and love of Torah.”

Steve Sunderland, a friend at the neighboring University of Cincinnati, called Stanton a “remarkable young lady who has a spiritual commitment to Judaism that is rare. ... She has it clear in her mind that she is a Jew who happens to be African-American. She sees being an African-American one additional gift she brings to Judaism.”

Those thoughts were echoed by Rabbi Samuel Joseph, an HUC professor of Jewish education and leadership development, who said he has “never met anyone more determined.”

“She loves being Jewish and wants to serve the Jewish people,” he said. “It’s always tough being the first, but she wasn’t going to let anything stop her. I don’t believe she ever thought about becoming a pioneer.”
Stanton said, in fact, that she did not know she was the first until after she started rabbinical school.

Rabbi Kanter said Stanton’s prior career, as a licensed psychotherapist specializing in grief and loss – she was called upon to counsel people after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 – “is an important talent to bring to the rabbinate.”

Stanton is a single mother of a 14-year-old, Shana, who she adopted at the age of 14 months. Stanton later married and divorced. Because of complications from gastric bypass surgery, she was forced to complete her rabbinical studies in seven rather than five years.

Steven M. Cohen, an HUC research professor of Jewish social policy, said it is “no coincidence” that Stanton is being ordained the same year Barack Obama was sworn in as president.

“He is a man who represented the aspiration to cross ancient boundaries, rivalries and conflicts,” he said. “She crosses both religious and ethnic boundaries in her own life, representing a pioneering model of Jewish continuity. ... She is not alone in that the number of converts and others coming to Judaism from non-conventional backgrounds is probably at its peak in American life.”

The Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco estimates that 20 percent of the six million American Jews are racially and ethnically diverse by birth, conversion and adoption. And there have been an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 marriages between Jews and African-Americans since the civil rights movement.

Diane Tobin, the institute’s associate director and director of its Be-Chol Lashon program, said her organization has worked with Stanton as part of its mission to “advocate for the growth and diversity of the Jewish people.”

Although Stanton is the first female African-American rabbi, there are many black male rabbis worldwide, Tobin said.

“With the election of President Obama, the Jewish community is very interested in its diverse roots,” she said. “We have always been a diverse people and young people in particular want to see themselves as part of a global people. ... Mainstream Jewish communities want to partner with us and introduce diversity as part of their programming.”

Although Stanton and her daughter will be the only black members in her Greenville congregation, Tobin said she would be interested to see if they attract blacks to the congregation.

Ernest Adams, 62, an African-American in Manhattan who converted to Judaism in 1997, said he is “meeting more and more black folks in synagogues.”

“In the South the Jewish community couldn’t be as liberal as the Jews up North, where you could find Jews marching with Martin Luther King,” he said. “In the South, the rabbis had to be cautious. But now that a white Southern congregation can hire a black rabbi, there is a significant change. The fact that it has been greeted with equanimity means there’s a big shift. The culture is changing.”

Stanton said graduation day will be something special, not just because she is the first African-American woman to be ordained a rabbi but because of the medical problems she had to overcome to get there.

“I went back to school in a wheelchair [at one point],” she recalled. “So to be finishing now is so poignant on so many levels. God has sustained me.”

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Sunday, November 09, 2008
Conservatives lady rabbi in key position
Historic moment in N.Y. as first woman named to lead Rabbinical Assembly

By Anthony Weiss
Sun., November 09, 2008 Cheshvan 11, 5769

The central organization for Conservative rabbis has appointed a woman as its top executive, making it the first of the three major Jewish denominations to appoint a woman as the head staffer for one of its organizational bodies.

The Rabbinical Assembly announced on October 29 that Rabbi Julie Schonfeld had been appointed to take over as its new executive vice president.

Schonfeld will replace Rabbi Joel Meyers, who will step down in July of 2009 after 20 years running the R.A.

"It's 23 years after the first woman was ordained in the movement," Rabbi Elliot Dorff, a professor at the American Jewish University told the Forward.

"That's a generation, basically. We're finally at the point at which a woman could be appointed to a major administrative post within the movement."

Despite the historic nature of the appointment, Schonfeld herself downplayed the importance of her gender.

"I think that my rabbinate is really defined by the ideals that I share with all of my colleagues and with all Conservative Jews worldwide, regardless of my gender," Schonfeld told the Forward.

The move comes at a time when the Conservative movement has been undergoing a major shift in its leadership. Arnold Eisen took over as chancellor of the movement's flagship school, the Jewish Theological Seminary, in 2006, and the movement's synagogue wing, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, is in the process of looking for a new executive vice president.

In the last decade, the Conservative movement has struggled with shrinking membership roles and debates about the proper mission of the movement.

Sense of territorialism

Rabbi Andrew Sacks, director of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Masorti movement, Conservative Judaism's Israeli wing, said he hoped that the change in leadership would revitalize the movement and lead to greater cooperation between its agencies.

"I think it will diminish the sense of territorialism and make the movement more appealing and stronger," Sacks told the Forward.

Schonfeld will not be a totally new face to the R.A., having served as the organization's director of rabbinic placement since 2001. During that time, she worked on a variety of issues, including a comparative study of rabbis' career advancements by gender.

Schonfeld will also offer continuity in another sense, as both she and Meyers are members of the Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008
Conservative Judaism "too poor" to support its main seminary
JTS Facing $2 Million Budget Shortfall

Seminary to dip into ‘rainy day’ fund; adjunct faculty may lose jobs.

by Stewart Ain
Staff Writer
The New York Jewish Week

The Jewish Theological Seminary is facing a new financial crisis and plans to dip into what its new chancellor calls a “rainy day fund” to cover a $2.2 million budget shortfall, The Jewish Week has learned.

The grim financial picture emerged last Thursday when Chancellor Arnold Eisen met with the entire seminary staff at 9 a.m. to disclose the shortfall. He also provided an overview of the seminary’s operations, which one attendee described as a “pep talk,” and insisted that the seminary was stronger than ever and would get through this.

His office said Tuesday that he was traveling and unable to be reached.

The seminary’s provost, Alan Cooper, met privately 90 minutes later with the faculty.

“Most faculty showed up, which is amazing” in the summer, said one faculty member. “We all knew it was going to be about our financial condition and of our failure to reach our budgetary goals. ... They have raised less than they hoped for.”

Benjamin Gampel, chairman of the Faculty Executive, said the “faculty was concerned but quite respectful.” He said Cooper told them “the people who have contracts and are on tenured tracks are all safe. When there are cuts, those cuts would be of the new people.”

Another faculty member who was at the meeting recounted that Cooper went even further, announcing that the seminary’s 68 part-time teachers — who comprise about half of the seminary’s faculty — should understand that their rehiring is not a certainty for the academic year beginning in September 2009. Cooper was at the seminary Tuesday but did not return phone calls or e-mails.

Although the seminary hired two new senior faculty members this year — Evyatar Marienberg and Michelle Lynn-Sachs — it was made clear that a hiring freeze is now in effect and that adjuncts and those faculty who have contracts that end next year should not expect to be rehired.

In addition, the faculty was told that those earning more than $100,000 would not receive a cost of living increase or a raise next year. Those who earn less than $100,000 would receive a cost of living increase and a 2 percent raise, according to those who attended the meeting.

Elise Dowell, the seminary’s senior director of communications, said she did not attend the meeting but understood it was a “somber meeting in a respectful way.”

She said the steps proposed were “what any responsible administration would do.” Dowell stressed that there are “no plans for future cuts at this time,” but added: “We constantly review where we are, and to be financially responsible we will be looking at the institution at large and identifying ways to deal with the current economy.”

Asked about the $2.2 million budget shortfall, Dowell would say only that the seminary would be taking “slightly over $2 million” from a “rainy day fund.”

The bleak economic picture comes at a time when the seminary is still searching for a development director to succeed Rabbi Carol Davidson, who recent left.

“We had been hearing for weeks now that fundraising was not doing well,” said one faculty member. “But they said that nothing is certain until the end of June [the end of the fiscal year]. We were told that what we heard was not the last word.”

Dowell insisted that fundraising was better this year than last, but unlike in previous years she declined to provide any numbers or the reason for the change. In 2004, she said the seminary had raised $17 million compared with $14 million in fiscal year 2001.

Nor would Dowell disclose the size of the operating budget, how much money was in the “rainy day fund,” whether the seminary had ever tapped it before and whether it was different from the reserve fund from which the seminary borrowed millions just a few years ago.

In December 2004, The Jewish Week reported that the seminary was facing a debt of about $50 million, had imposed a hiring freeze and had to sell land at Amsterdam Avenue and 100th Street it had bought four years earlier for graduate housing. In addition, it sold two apartment buildings on 122nd Street adjacent to the campus that had been used to house students. Graduate students are now tenants there.

The seminary has been circumspect in its finances and it is not known whether all of the money borrowed from the reserve fund — estimates of the amount taken range from $26 million to $50 million — has been repaid.

Financial troubles for the 122-year-old seminary, the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism worldwide, come at a time when the Conservative movement is losing members to the Reform movement. In 10 years from 1990 to 2000, membership in Conservative synagogues dropped from 915,000 to 660,000.

The troubles at JTS also come as rabbinical seminaries of both the Reform and Orthodox movements are reporting strong financial growth.

A spokeswoman for Yeshiva University, the central institution of Modern Orthodoxy, said it expects to raise $140 million this fiscal year. Aside from a $100 million gift last year from Ronald Stanton — the largest ever for Jewish education — the university raised $59 million last year.

“We have hired 56 full-time faculty for graduate and undergraduate programs this year,” she said. “Since 2003-2004, we have expanded our undergraduate faculty by 30 percent. ... We are having an excellent year — an exceptional year.”

Rabbi David Ellenson, president of Hebrew Union College –Jewish Institute of Religion, said there has been a dramatic turnaround financially since he became president seven years ago.

At that time, the school, the intellectual, academic, spiritual and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism, had a $4 million deficit and a $32 million budget. It took four years to turn things around through a number of cutbacks and the elimination of redundancies, Rabbi Ellenson said.

Today, he said, the college is operating with a balanced budget of nearly $39 million and its endowment has increased in the last five years almost 1 1/2 times “due to fundraising and prudent investments.”

“We hire part-time faculty where necessary and in a way that is responsible and prudent,” Rabbi Ellenson said. “There is no institution of higher learning that is not challenged by fiscal issues and questions of sustainability. We feel good about the direction in which we have moved and are happy to have a completely balanced operating budget.”

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Thursday, April 10, 2008
Conservative Judaism goes down the tubes...
Another Area Day School To Close Its Doors

Solomon Schechter School of Suffolk County victim of tuition costs and perceived lack of commitment in the area

by Stewart Ain
Staff Writer

Faced with a steadily declining enrollment and the inability to attract new students, the Solomon Schechter School of Suffolk County has decided to close its doors in June after 26 years of operation. The action leaves the Jewish Academy in East Northport, a school for children age 2 through the second grade, as the only Jewish day school in Suffolk.

“It’s a very sad thing for Suffolk County,” said Honey Pine, who taught Hebrew at the school for all 26 years. “It’s sort of like an end of an era.” She said the school, which was housed in the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center in Commack, started with 50 students and in about 10 years had as many as 175 students. This year, it had 52 and was unable to attract new students despite a major recruitment drive by a professional director of admissions.

Laura Buechler, a former chairman of the board of education, said that over the years the school “turned out terrific young people. ... It’s heartbreaking.”

Tuition is $12,000 and many families have two children in the school, she noted.
“It’s very difficult for families to spend that kind of money, particularly when hard economic times makes it even more difficult,” Buechler added. “And Suffolk has some very good school districts. You have to really be committed to send your kids here.”

The Suffolk Schechter closing comes a few months after the closing of the Metropolitan Schechter High School in Teaneck, N.J. That school was formed two years ago after it and the Schechter High School in Manhattan merged.

Richard Krulik, the Suffolk Schechter school’s president, said the administration is “working closely with the Nassau Schechter to integrate our students” both in the elementary-middle school in Jericho and the high school in Glen Cove. Because the Jericho school is more expensive than the Suffolk school, which has grades K-8, UJA-Federation arranged for an anonymous donor to cover the tuition differential and provide the same financial aid parents had received in the Suffolk school, according to Rabbi Deborah Joselow, managing director of UJA-Federation’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal. “The leadership of the Suffolk school estimated that the financial aid will be about $120,000,” she said.

Rabbi Joselow stressed that the aid would be provided to Suffolk students who transfer to any Jewish day school. Representatives of both the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County and the Jewish Academy have also met with Suffolk’s parents.
“We are asking parents to sign up for a new school by April 14 so we can figure out the amount” of assistance, she said.

In addition, because many Suffolk students live too far from the Nassau schools to be eligible for busing by their public school districts, Rabbi Joselow said another anonymous donor has agreed to pay any additional costs for private busing.

“The idea is to make it as easy as possible for the families and the schools to transfer and absorb the new students,” she said. Lelah Fleischer, president of the Schechter school in Nassau, said she is aware that for some parents who live on the North Fork of Long Island the “logistics are horrible” because of the distance involved. She also emphasized the importance for Suffolk Schechter students to transfer to another Jewish day school. “We’ll support them no matter where they go,” she said. “Of the 52 children, families with 46 children have inquired about the schools. And we’re already processing applications from a lot of them.”

Fleischer noted that her school is about to begin environmental and traffic studies to examine the feasibility of moving its high school from Glen Cove to the grounds of Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn Heights. Rabbi Tuvia Teldon, director of the Jewish Academy, said his school has 80 students and could accommodate another 30 or 40. He said that if there is a demand, he would add a third grade next year.

“We consider it to be a community emergency and we want to do our part to help these families,” he said. “I feel a tremendous responsibility because we will be servicing 100,000 Jews in eastern Nassau and all of Suffolk.

“In Suffolk, the population is not really looking for a Jewish day school education and so we tried to establish our school to the finest in general studies with a strong Jewish component,” said Rabbi Teldon, whose school is under Orthodox supervision. “About 80 percent of our parents are unaffiliated. Hopefully we’ll be able to grow and serve as the day school of Suffolk.”

On March 20, a day after the decision was made to close the school, career counselors from FEGS, a UJA-Federation agency, arrived at the school to help the 22 full and part-time teachers prepare their resumes. “A lot of them have not been in the job market for quite a long time and they needed to learn how to market themselves,” Rabbi Joselow said. In addition, SAJES, the county’s central agency for Jewish education, has also worked with the teachers to help them prepare lesson plans and presentations that they will have to make when they interview for new positions, according to Deborah Friedman, SAJES’ executive director. “Our priority has been to ensure that the children, families and teachers make a seamless transition and stay within the system of Jewish education,” she said.

Rabbi Joselow emphasized that UJA-Federation has been working for several years with the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education to try to help the Suffolk Schechter grow.

“We have been working with all of the non-Orthodox schools on Long Island to try to get them to work together” in terms of joint programming and efficiencies in management, the rabbi pointed out. “PEJE helped with financial resource development, marketing, governance and admissions,” she added.

“Everybody was going in the same direction to try to keep the school open for years, not just this year.”

Robert Abramson, director of the Solomon Schechter Day School Association, said the leadership of the school had done everything possible to grow the school.

“At some point I hope and pray there will be a place for a Schechter school in Suffolk,” he said. “But it’s not only about Schechter, it’s about other day schools out there too.”

He was referring to the fact that both the Hebrew Academy of Suffolk County and the Torah Academy of Suffolk County both closed over the years because of a lack of students.

“People who moved out there are not looking for day schools,” Abramson said. “Everybody I talk to says this is a population we have to reach, but it’s not easy.”

Rabbi Joselow said UJA-Federation has commissioned a study by Insight Research of Manhattan to learn why Jewish parents on Long Island and Manhattan don’t send their children to Jewish day schools. “It started a few months ago,” she said. “We don’t know of any marketing study like this. They have finished the Long Island segment and are still doing Manhattan. We hope to have it out by mid-summer.” Friedman of SAJES said her organization plans to use it in determining how next to proceed.

“There seems to be a lack of awareness of the richness of a Jewish day school and perhaps in Suffolk County we will have to look at other Jewish day school models,” such as community day schools, she said. “Sometimes you have to say goodbye to something before you can begin anew,” she said. “We want to leave our options open for the future. We have a lot of smart leaders out here and a lot of people who care about Jewish education. Those are the people who will join us to help us figure it out.”

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Monday, March 03, 2008
Modern Orthodox women move closer to becoming rabbis
Who's that woman in the pulpit?

By Shmuel Rosner
Mon., March 03, 2008 Adar1 26, 5768

NEW YORK - She waits patiently for the end of the service before going up to the synagogue's pulpit. This is the policy and she respects it. Women are not allowed there until the service has been completed. This is how it was before her, and this is the custom now. Her husband doesn't get it - he thinks that she ought to propose a change. But Elana Stein Hain is not in any hurry. "Caution" is the key word in a conversation with her that took place recently in Manhattan's Upper West Side. This caution "is the only way for me to be effective," she said.

She is part of a new fashion that is getting quite a lot of attention in modern Orthodox circles in America, an offshoot of one of the few trends that are occurring almost simultaneously in America and Israel - the Orthodox women's revolution. Or to use plain English: women taking key, quasi-rabbinic roles in synagogues. They are almost rabbis, but not really. Or maybe really, but just not called by that name. They deliver sermons, but they cannot lead prayers, nor can they officiate at weddings. But maybe at other ceremonies: for example, funerals.

Elana Stein Hain is one of these young women. The Jewish Center has hired her to serve as a "resident scholar." She teaches, counsels and delivers sermons on Sabbaths and holidays. However, as noted, only after the entire prayer service has been completed. Not like a rabbi, who delivers his sermon between the shaharit and musaf services, or between the kabbalat Shabbat and aravit services. This is an Orthodox synagogue, after all.

And she is comfortable with this role, even with the limitations that Orthodoxy imposes on her. "I respect the system, and therefore I am also prepared to accept things that aren't exactly the way I would like them to be," she said. In any case, she herself is far from a revolutionary. Indeed, she believes that it is necessary to "preserve the differences between men and women," because "men are more gender-neutral" - a statement that is almost scandalous in its conservatism. She laughs at her congregation affectionately: When they hired her for this position, "they thought they were very cutting-edge," religiously speaking. But Stein Hain knows that they are in truth very traditional. They have not broken any barriers. Were it up to her, it is doubtful that they ever would.

Breakthrough or not?

The women who serve in Orthodox synagogues in New York - and one in Chicago as well - come from similar backgrounds. They all studied in the Talmud program at Yeshiva University or at institutions of learning like Drisha in New York or Nishmat in Jerusalem. Sara Hurwitz is a "religious mentor" at the Hebrew Institute in Riverdale, in the Bronx. Lynn Kaye has been given the position of "rabbi's assistant" at Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan and is defined as the "director of Jewish life and learning," a bombastic title for a role that is very similar to that of a rabbi. Among them are women who are revolutionary and those who are less so, women who are ambitious and those who are less so. Their roles are perhaps another step in a slow revolution, but there are those who believe that it is the last step.

In any case, the Orthodox women's revolution is above all a revolution of learning. This is what brought them in the first place to insist on a more central place and a more active role in their communities. Rivka Haut and Adena Berkowitz, who recently finished editing a bencher (booklet containing the grace after meals and other songs and prayers) entitled Shaarei Simcha ("Gates of Joy") that is intended primarily for women, noted this week, "Thirty years ago, women who participated in women's tefillah [prayer services] were considered beyond the mainstream. All this has occurred in about 30 years! A major accomplishment indeed."

But the yardstick for measuring the size of the achievement is subjective. Where Haut and Berkowitz identify a breakthrough, Samantha Shapiro sees a kind of stasis that borders on insult. She, too, was initially enthusiastic about the new generation of learned women, but about a month ago, writing in the American magazine Slate, she described women's roles in synagogues as follows: "It now seems a little sad to me that women devote their intellect, time and passion to Torah and to the system of Jewish law without being formally recognized by that system, and often being seen as a threat to it."

Stein Hain does not especially like that article. She also does not look like someone who is aiming to threaten her congregation. Rather, she is trying to avoid any suspicion of threat. Like her, others are also careful not to step on any toes. Kaye, who like Stein Hain is a graduate of the Talmud program at Yeshiva University, is happy with the title that has been given her. Even if she would like to see a woman hold the title "rabbi," she would certainly not want this to happen before the congregation is ready.

Thus both women are very aware of the degrees of caution they must exercise - which are not identical. Each synagogue has its own capacity for encompassing change, or the appearance of change. Ben Harris of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported three months ago, for example, that Hurwitz will be given a new title at her synagogue - morateinu, our teacher. This reflects a promotion - but a limited one. And that brings us to the real question: Are we talking about a stage on the way to full participation, one station before "rabbi," or is this the last stop?

"The next step? I don't know if there is one," said Stein Hain. There are women who are prepared to say that they want more, but not necessarily to a newspaper.

Only in New York - and Jerusalem

The "next step" is Dina Najman. In her case, the disguise has almost been cast aside. Berkowitz and Haut pull her out as the clearest, most outstanding example of women's advancement in the Orthodox Jewish world: a woman who is "head of the congregation" at Kehilat Orach Eliezer (familiarly known as KOE), located in the same fashionable area of Manhattan. This week, someone who is very familiar with American Orthodoxy scoffed that there are only two places in the world where a woman can fulfill a function in an Orthodox synagogue: in Jerusalem's Katamon neighborhood and in New York's Upper West Side.

When Najman was appointed to the position a year and a half ago, The New York Times devoted an article to her. She was the first, a pioneer. However, her appointment was helped by a fact that was usually buried deep inside the media reports: Her synagogue does not officially belong to any organization of Orthodox congregations. It is free to do whatever it chooses, and the Orthodox are free to disown it.

And some of them have definitely done so. Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel of America, for example, wrote that this synagogue is "pointedly - and significantly - unaffiliated." Najman can walk around with a self-made Orthodox label - and certainly her self-image, education and observance of tradition are all Orthodox. But the label will remain controversial.

In any case, Najman's congregation has not flourished since she was appointed to head it. It has been caught in a predictable trap: For someone who is Orthodox, it is too permissive, and for someone who is not Orthodox, there are more liberal options - for example, congregations where there is total equality between men and women. Thus the narrow crack between Stein Hain's cautious conservatism and Najman's less cautious conservatism defines the border between what is already permitted - even if not prevalent - and what is still outside the establishment.

This is territory from which Stein Hain distances herself as much as she possibly can. It is almost dusk in Manhattan, and she excuses herself to recite the evening prayers in the depths of the Starbucks branch at the corner of Columbus Avenue and 86th Street. Afterward, she will walk to her synagogue, barely five minutes away. And she will also have her picture taken, on one condition: that the photograph look like a woman who is on the pulpit to deliver a sermon. Only a man, after all, is permitted to pray there.

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Justifying Israeli homosexuals by attacking Haredim
A proud father of a gay son

By David Fogel
Mon., March 03, 2008 Adar1 26, 5768

Full disclosure: I'm the proud father of a gay son. And I'm not the only one. Our prime minister, Ehud Olmert, is the proud father of a gay daughter - a daughter who has become a symbol, the pride of the community, for being an open lesbian and a brave fighter for equal rights for the homosexual community.

And because I know, from personal acquaintance, that Ehud Olmert is a warm and loving father, I am angry at his thundering silence in light of the nonsense and incitement against the homosexual community by several leaders of Shas.

As long as the leaders of this party were content robbing the public coffers, as long as they adopted the extortion methods of the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox parties, we somehow accepted it; after all, this has been going on since the establishment of the state. It's true that there has been a certain innovation here: To date, the MKs of the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox parties have not been convicted of criminal offenses or served prison terms - but we have become accustomed to this, too.

But the Shas wheeler-dealers are no longer satisfied with reaching into the public coffers. As faithful representatives of worldviews that were common during the Middle Ages, they have pulled out a new "winning" card - as far as they are concerned, nothing less than an ace - the homosexual card.

I have no desire to repeat their nonsense, or to try to diagnose the psychological problems that lie behind these statements. I only know that in this difficult country, where hooligans mercilessly beat up helpless elderly people, there has been an increase - so my son and his friends tell me - in hooligans also beating up homosexuals who are walking innocently in the city streets, minding their own business. We can assume that some of these hooligans draw encouragement and confirmation from the contemptuous words uttered by the Shas wheeler-dealers.

I return to Ehud Olmert.

Olmert is a sophisticated and experienced politician, as evidenced by the wisdom and the cunning behind his extraordinary success at maintaining his coalition. There probably has been no prime minister who did that as well as he does. And still, we can also expect him to understand that there are far more important things than survival. For example, the dignity of his children.

Therefore, if I were Ehud Olmert, I would convene all the Shas MKs in a closed room and tell them the following: I have no intention of preaching morals to you and explaining to you what damage you are causing my daughter's community. As far as I am concerned, you can continue to think whatever you wish. But if you dare once again to utter such nonsense in public, you will find yourselves outside the coalition.

The writer is the chair of Fogel-Ogilvy Advertising Ltd.

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Monday, February 11, 2008
Modern Orthodox Pre-Marital Sex Woes
Chief rabbi prohibits single women from going to mikve

The Jerusalem Post
Feb 10, 2008 1:27 Updated Feb 10, 2008 2:55

In an attempt to stem a trend of quasi-condoned premarital sex among young modern Orthodox men and women, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger has issued a prohibition against allowing single women to use mikvaot (ritual baths).

In a letter dated January 24 and addressed to the rabbis of the Land of Israel, Metzger warns of a trend in which young modern Orthodox men and women use mikvaot to circumvent one of the severest prohibitions connected with sexual intercourse.

"It is absolutely prohibited to allow a single woman to immerse herself in a mikve," wrote Metzger. "And it is an obligation to prevent her from doing so."

Metzger also advised that ritual bath attendants should be told to prevent single women from immersing themselves.

Jewish law proscribes sexual relations with a woman during and after menstruation until she immerses herself in a mikve. This prohibition is known as nidda.

Traditionally, only married women have been permitted to remove the prohibition of nidda via a mikve, so they can have sexual relations with their husbands.

In contrast, single women have traditionally been prevented from using a mikve because it would, in theory, remove the main prohibition against sexual intercourse.

There is no Biblical prohibition against a male and a female having sexual intercourse once the obstacle of nidda has been removed.

There is, however, a less stringent rabbinic injunction against premarital sex.

In recent years modern Orthodox men and women have been postponing marriage to pursue higher education and careers. Others have simply not found the right person with whom to settle down.

As a result, some young Orthodox people, who feel obligated to adhere to Halacha, but who also find celibacy impossibly difficult, have used the mikvaot to remove the main legal obstacle to premarital sex.

Prof. Tzvi Zohar of Bar-Ilan University wrote an article in March 2006 condoning premarital sex that aroused fervent debate in religious Zionist circles.

Zohar's article, printed in Akdamot, an academic journal on Jewish thought published by Beit Morasha, analyzed the opinions of leading halachic authorities from the Middle Ages, such as Nachmanides, and those of the modern era, such as Rabbi Ya'acov Emden, and showed that many permitted sexual relations without marriage.

In an arrangement sanctioned by Jewish law, according to these opinions, the woman becomes a pilegesh, or concubine. Neither the man nor the woman has any obligations or rights, but both must adhere to family purity laws in accordance with Halacha.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Homosexuals provoke Haredim in Jerusalem
Shas MK: Gays are causing Israeli society to self-destruct

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz Correspondent
Wed., January 30, 2008 Shvat 23, 5768

As a Knesset panel deliberated Tuesday on proposals to ban all gay pride parades in Jerusalem, MK Nissim Ze'ev (Shas) accused the homosexual community of "carrying out the self-destruction of Israeli society and the Jewish people."

Ze'ev also said homosexuals were a plague as "toxic as bird flu."

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee met to debate two bills presented by religious party members which would amend the Jerusalem municipality's Basic Law to prevent gay pride parades from being held within the city limits.

The bills were presented by MK Eli Gabai (National Union - National Religious Party) and MK Yitzhak Vakhnin (Shas).

Both bulls were passed in a preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum and have have now been brought for committee deliberations ahead of a first reading.

MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) said in response to Ze'ev's comments that "when I hear concepts like plague and self-destruction, I don't believe they are in the lexicon of expressions. The capital city does not belong only to the ultra-Orthodox."

The chairman of Israel's LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) organization, Michael Hammel, called Ze'ev's words embarrassing and frightening.

"The right to march in the capital city is not a local 'Jerusalemite' matter," he said. "This is a culture war, where politicians are trying to turn Jerusalem into their private property."

Committee members decided that public figures from the religious and homosexual communities in Jerusalem would meet to discuss the gay pride parade on a separate occasion.

MK Yitzhak Levy (NU - NRP) said, "the current situation is that this is a crippled and small protest: once you close a stadium, once you give 100 meters. There should have been a discussion to find new ideas, thus I am calling for a discussion."

Noa Setet, who runs Jerusalem's Open House - the organization which has initiated the parade - seconded Levy's suggestion, but added that the group had scheduled two meetings in the past and Levy's aides had canceled both of them.

Levy denied having canceled the meeting and said he intended two recruit other public figures from the religious community for the future discussion.


Haredi court places curse on upcoming Jerusalem Gay Pride parade

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondent
Tue., January 29, 2008 Shvat 22, 5768

The ultra-Orthodox rabbinical court, Haredi Badatz, placed a "curse" Sunday on the participants in the upcoming Gay Pride parade scheduled to take place next week in Jerusalem.

The court also cursed the police officers who will be maintaining order during the parade.

Badatz rabbis plastered warning posters on Jerusalem city walls saying "All those involved in the matter, those of impure souls and those helping them and guarding them, they will feel in their souls a curse, a bad spirit will come over them and haunt them, they will never be cleansed of their sins, from the judgment of God, in their bodies, their souls and their finances."

The ultra-Orthodox leaders plan to stage a "large demonstration which will shake the foundations for the sake of Jerusalem's holiness." The demonstration will likely take place next week, but the warning posters disseminated Sunday afternoon are perceived by the ultra-Orthodox community as a green light to begin protests even sooner.

The rabbis decided to try to bring about the cancellation of the parade through protest after their "diplomatic efforts" to negotiate the cancellation with the Jerusalem police failed.

The leader of the Haredi community, Rabbi Izhak Tuvia Weiss told the police that he was opposed to mass demonstrations, and asked senior police officials to rescind the authorization it had given to the gay and lesbian community to hold its Gay Pride parade in the streets of Jerusalem.

According to some Haredi officials, Rabbi Weiss was disappointed by the meeting he had last week at his home with the chief of the Jerusalem district police force, Major General Aharon Franco, who refused to cancel the parade.

In the wake of his diplomatic failure, Rabbi Weiss agreed to join the more militant members of the community in supporting the mass demonstration against the parade.


15 arrested protesting against Jerusalem Gay Pride parade

By Yuval Yoaz, Yair Ettinger and Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent
Thu., June 21, 2007 Tamuz 5, 5767

Fifteen arrests were made as hundreds of ultra-Orthodox protesters threw stones, prompting police to use water cannons against them at a demonstration in Jerusalem early Thursday, against the Gay Pride march planned for later on Thursday.

The protest erupted after Israel's High Court cleared the way for the march on Thursday by dismissing an appeal against it by right-wing groups.

The High Court decision was published late Wednesday. The parade is set for a short route past the historic King David hotel to a nearby park, where a gathering is to be held.

Every year, the parade sparks a heated reaction from religious Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have rioted repeatedly against the march over the past week, burning tires, assaulting policemen and damaging police cars. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said 22 policemen were injured in the riots, and 110 people were arrested.

Jerusalem's annual Gay Pride parade has been a relatively modest affair, with none of the flamboyant costumes or nudity common at similar events elsewhere in the world, or even in the nearby Israeli city of Tel Aviv.

At the 2005 march, an ultra-Orthodox man stabbed and wounded three marchers.

The 5,000 marchers expected Thursday will be guarded by 7,000 law enforcement personnel, Rosenfeld said. Because of security concerns, he said, the parade route is only 500 meters (yards) long.

Last year, security concerns led to cancellation of the parade. Instead, gays held a closed festival at a Jerusalem sports stadium.

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski implored the court to cancel the parade in a personal message, though this contradicts the municipality's official stance. "The Jerusalem municipality's management regards this parade as a severe provocation, harmful to the delicate balance between the different interests of the city's various population groups," said Lupolianski's note. "The city's management therefore calls upon the court to cancel the parade and prevent violence."

Underscoring his views, ultra-Orthodox demonstrators protesting the parade confronted police Tuesday night in the capital's Mea Shearim neighborhood.

Earlier this month, however, the municipality adopted an official stance that runs contrary to Lupolianski's position: It decided that there was no reason for the city to prevent the parade from taking place.

Jerusalem police work to combat threats of violence
Jerusalem police on Wednesday detained three men in their 20s who were suspected of preparing caltrops and planning to place them on the road during the Gay Pride parade.

Police also found 60 tires hidden in the Gilo neighborhood and suspect that residents were planning on burning them at the parade.

The police have completed security preparations for the event, which will begin at 17:00 on Thursday. The parade will commence at the intersection of Hess and King David streets in Jerusalem and continue towards Liberty Bell Park.

They have also completed security preparations for the Ultra-Orthodox counter-protest which will take place at the same time at the intersection of Jaffa and Sarei Yisrael streets.

A temporary police headquarters will be established near the parade's route.

The High Court refuses right-wing petitions against parade
The High Court on Wednesday cancelled three petitions for the parade's cancelation which were under review since Tuesday. One was filed by the Kochav Echad nonprofit organization, the second by Industry Minister Eli Yishai, who heads the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party Shas, and the third by right-wing activists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel. All three petitions demanded that the parade be canceled on the grounds that it would offend the religious community's sensibilities.

Ben-Gvir and Marzel initially requested that their petition be reviewed by a different bench, but their request was rejected. Originally, they claimed, the panel was to have comprised Justices Edmond Levy, Elyakim Rubinstein and Joseph Elon - all of whom are either religious or from a religious family - but an "unknown party" replaced that panel with one comprised of Deputy High Court President Eliezer Rivlin, Justice Ayala Procaccia and High Court President Dorit Beinisch. Before rejecting their request for a different bench, Beinisch told Ben-Gvir and Marzel: "You may consider yourselves honored to have your request reviewed by the current panel."

During the hearing, the justices urged the Jerusalem Open House to give the event a restrained and modest character.

Ben-Gvir argued that "a march through the streets of Jerusalem would almost certainly generate violent rioting. The parade would offend hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox and traditional Jews, as well as Christians and Arabs."

As police were completing their deployment in Jerusalem in an effort to ensure the safety of tomorrow's parade, ultra-Orthodox activists from the fundamentalist Edah Haredit sect continued to stage violent protests in Mea Shearim. In contrast, leaders of the mainstream factions of the ultra-Orthodox community instructed their followers to refrain from participating in protests against the parade, citing "educational damage to the community."

Jerusalem municipality still has not hung up Gay Pride parade flags

The Jerusalem Municipality has yet to put up Gay Pride flags along the route of the planned Gay Pride parade scheduled for Thursday, despite what the Jerusalem Open House called an "explicit promise to do so by [Wednesday] morning at the latest."

City officials said they had intended to hang the flags on Thursday morning, for fear anti-Gay Pride protestors will vandalize them overnight, but following a threat by the Open House that it would file a petition with the High Court of Justice, agreed to hand out the flags Wednesday afternoon.

In a letter sent to Mayor Uri Lupolianski, Open House attorney Gilad Barnea accused the mayor of "trying to disrupt and sabotage the ongoing preparations" for the parade.

The Jerusalem Municipality said in response that it was acting in accordance with High Court decisions

In recent years, the municipality has repeatedly committed itself to hanging the Gay Pride flags - as it does with the flags of other groups that hold events in the capital - only to fail to do so.

Shahar Ilan and Yair Ettinger contributed to this article


Some 3,500 march in gay pride parade in Jerusalem

By Jonathan Lis and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondents and The Associated Press
Mon., June 25, 2007 Tamuz 9, 5767

Roughly 3,500 people marched in the much-contested gay pride parade in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, as some 1,500 ultra-Orthodox men and right-wing activists demonstrated against the event.

Some 500 ultra-Orthodox protesters marched along Jaffa Street in the city, in an attempt to intersect the march and confront the participants. Police blocked the demonstrators, however, arresting 12 of them.

"I am demanding my civil rights, including the right to get married and have children," said marcher Guy Frishman, 27. "I want to have rights like every other person."

One man evaded police to approach marchers, yelling: "Filth! Get out of Jerusalem!" He was escorted away by police.

The march took place under heavy guard, with more than 7,000 police officers protecting the participants. The Magen David Adom emergency medical service was expected to deploy 45 ambulances and 200 medical personnel along the parade route.

The number of participants was far less than the 5,000 people the parade's organizers had believed would take part.

The parade began at the junction of King David Street and Moshe Hess Street and ended in the nearby Liberty Bell Park.

Earlier Thursday, a resident of the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem was arrested on Jaffa Street in possession of a small improvised explosive device.

Elsewhere in the city, ultra-Orthodox demonstrators set fire to garbage cans in Shabbat Square and disrupted traffic in the area. In Beit Shemesh, two ultra-Orthodox demonstrators were arrested by police.

Parade organizers petitioned the High Court of Justice on Thursday to instruct the Jerusalem municipality to station fire engines and sewage draining vehicles at the site of the post-parade rally, in order to bypass a firefighters' strike which threatened to bring about the cancellation of the rally.

Six days ago, some 1,500 firefighters went on strike and refused to secure events or grant licenses to businesses. The firefighters said they would not grant a license to the parade organizers.

Right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir submitted a petition to the High Court earlier Thursday, citing fire code violations in his call for the cancellation of the parade.

Although the strike did not prevent the marchers from holding the parade, it did result in the cancellation of the post-parade rally.

Police limited the route of the parade, authorizing organizers from the Jerusalem Open House gay rights organization to hold a procession along a stretch of only several hundred yards.

Police began scouring the route on Wednesday, to prevent the possibility of extremists planting explosives or other means of injuring the participants.

The officers selected to participate in the operation had prepared for a wide variety of scenarios, ranging from stabbing attempts to terrorist attacks with multiple casualties.

Two years ago, an ultra-Orthodox demonstrator, Yishai Schlissel, leaped into the parade and stabbed three participants who sustained minor to moderate wounds.

On Wednesday night, 23 ultra-Orthodox demonstrators were arrested and two police officers were hurt in violent protests against the march. The protesters hurled rocks and firebombs at the police officers. Two police cars were damaged and one was set on fire. The police used water cannons to disperse the protests.

Jerusalem also saw demonstrations in Givat Shaul, Mea Shearim, Beit Yisrael and Bait Vagan. On some occasions, protesters threw stones at the police and set fire to garbage canisters. Four officers suffered minor injuries, and seven protesters were arrested. Police also found two dummy explosives, one in Beit Hakerem, the other in Ramot. The fake explosives included notes warning that the dummy bombs would be replaced with real ones unless the parade was canceled.


They're here, they're queer - be proud of Israel

By Bradley Burston
Mon., July 09, 2007 Tamuz 23, 5767

JERUSALEM - I'm proud of the State of Israel. It may have more faults per capita than any nation in the world, faults which are duly broadcast, rerun, critiqued, and condemned as nowhere else. It may have more critics per capita than anywhere else in the world, in particular among its majority population of restive, instinctively kvetching, eternally disappointed Jews.

I know every criticism by heart. I'll see your every damning denunciation, and raise you 10. But I am proud of this country, and the gay pride parade in Jerusalem goes a long way toward explaining why.

I am proud of a country which - under the burden of a 24/7 threat of Islamic Jihad terrorism, under a daily Hamas barrage of Qassam missiles on a small town in the Negev, under an explicit Iranian threat of erasure in the future and client militia brushfire wars in the near present - deploys 8,000 police, nearly half of its entire active-duty force, to protect a parade in Jerusalem by a minority group that is routinely denigrated by many members of two of the holy city's largest and most vocal communities: the ultra-Orthodox and the Palestinians.

I am proud of the gay community, which made strenuous efforts to assure that the parade would be held in areas far from the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and other areas where the march would serve to offend residents.

I am proud of the police for standing up to yeshiva students who, screaming "Nazis! Nazis! Nazis!" at the officers, pelted them with rocks, bottles, angle iron and Molotov cocktails, all the while breaking windows, smashing streetlights, and setting fire to tires and garbage dumpsters.

I am proud of ultra-Orthodox rabbis and yeshiva masters, who, though appalled by the parade and what they see as the abomination of homosexuality, publicly and unequivocally forbade their students from taking part in violent demonstrations.

I am proud of a country that scorns the slimy Meir Kahane disciple Itamar Ben-Gvir when he screams at gay celebrants in a Tel Aviv parade "the Nazis should have finished you off."

I am proud of the policeman on King David Street who, when asked by a passing pre-schooler about the flag with the rainbow colors, replied, "There are boys who love boys, and girls who love girls."

I am proud of a country in which the army's influential radio station airs the views of the daughter of the prime minister when she states that the right of gays and lesbians to march in their capital city is as inherent as their right to vote.

Just as I am proud of Israel's last Eurovision song contest winner, an acclaimed diva who began life as a man, who told a television interviewer why she believed that in the interest of respect for the holy city, the parade should not be held there.

And I am proud, as well, of the fact that Israel Television gave air time to a rabbi to explain his strong opposition to the march, and to the woman anchor who, asked by the rabbi what she would do if her son told her she was gay, said that she would hold him and be grateful for his openness.

There are many who argue that a Jewish country cannot countenance a public celebration of homosexuality. It is time for them to take the advice of leading rabbis, who placed this announcement in the Lithuanian Haredi newspaper, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post:

"Demonstrating should be done by each person in his place [by feeling outrage in the soul, by praying and beseeching (God) against the loathsome blasphemy]."

All of us who live here have our personal list of obscenities, perversions and abominations, as committed by our fellow Jewish residents of Israel. We may find their actions politically abhorrent, culturally unbearable, spiritually bankrupt, personally offensive.

They are a big part of the price of living in this country, riven along fault lines dividing and enraging left and right, secular and religious, Mizrachi and Ashkenazi, sabra and immigrant.

It may be the built-in flaw of a Jewish homeland, this infighting among the Jews it has brought home.

But as the gay pride parade proves, the most profound strength of a Jewish country are those Jews who strive to learn to live with the Jews with whom they so profoundly differ.

We're here. By definition, we are all of us, each in our own ways, queer. We should, all of us for our own reasons, be proud.


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Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Saudi prince offers Israelis to become "Arab Jews"
Saudi prince: If Israel quits Arab land, it could join Arab world

By Reuters
Tue., January 22, 2008 Shvat 15, 5768

A senior Saudi royal has offered Israel a vision of broad cooperation with the Arab world and people-to-people contacts if it signs a peace treaty and withdraws from all occupied Arab territories.

In an interview with Reuters, Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former ambassador to the United States and Britain and adviser to King Abdullah, said Israel and the Arabs could cooperate in many areas including water, agriculture, science and education.

Asked what message he wanted to send to the Israeli public, he said:

"The Arab world, by the Arab peace initiative, has crossed the Rubicon from hostility towards Israel to peace with Israel and has extended the hand of peace to Israel, and we await the Israelis picking up our hand and joining us in what inevitably will be beneficial for Israel and for the Arab world."

The 22-nation Arab League revived at a Riyadh summit last year a Saudi peace plan first adopted in 2002 offering Israel full normalization of relations in return for full withdrawal from occupied Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese land.

Israel shunned the offer then, at the height of a violent Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But it has expressed more interest since the United States launched a new drive for Israeli-Palestinian peace at Annapolis, Maryland, last November, aiming for an agreement this year.

Prince Turki, who was previously head of Saudi intelligence, said that if Israel accepted the Arab League plan and signed a comprehensive peace, "one can imagine the integration of Israel into the Arab geographical entity."

"One can imagine not just economic, political and diplomatic relations between Arabs and Israelis but also issues of education, scientific research, combating mutual threats to the inhabitants of this vast geographic area," he said.

'Arab Jews'

His comments, on the sidelines of a conference on the Middle East and Europe staged by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation think-tank, were some of the most far-reaching addressed to Israelis by a senior figure from Saudi Arabia.

The desert kingdom, home to Islam's holiest shrines, has no official relations with Israel, although both are key allies of the United States in the region.

"Exchange visits by people of both Israel and the rest of the Arab countries would take place," Prince Turki said.

"We will start thinking of Israelis as Arab Jews rather than simply as Israelis," he said, noting that many Arabs historically saw Israel as a European entity imposed on Arab land after World War Two.

Prince Turki, brother of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, holds no official position now but heads the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh.

He said Israel could expect some benefits on the way to signing a treaty and making a full withdrawal, noting that after the 1993 Oslo interim accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization, regional cooperation had begun and Israel had achieved representation in several Arab states.

Those Israeli advances were reversed after the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000.

Israel was wary of the Arab League plan partly because it would entail handing back the Golan Heights captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, as well as redivision.

But an Israeli participant at the conference, Yossi Alpher, co-editor of the Bitter Lemons Israeli-Palestinian Web site and a former senior intelligence official, welcomed the comments.

"I was delighted to hear Prince Turki's description of the comprehensive nature of normalization as he envisages it within the framework of the Arab peace initiative," Alpher said.

"His remarks should encourage us Israelis and Arabs to deepen and broaden the discussion of ways to reach a comprehensive peace, implement the Arab peace initiative and reach the kind of cooperation that his highness described."

Alpher said he hoped that once there was a comprehensive peace, Israel's Arab neighbours would accept Israelis "as Jewish people living a sovereign life in our historic homeland" and not as "Arab Jews" or "European Jews".


Simshalom's response:

Arab Jews vs Jewish Arabs

Very funny!

The Saudi prince is willing to "convert" Israeli Jews into "Arab Jews" so does that mean that the Arabs are willing to become "Jewish Arabs" in return?

Besides, he may be alluding to the genuine Jewish tribes that lived in the areas of today`s Saudi Arabia, particularly the Jews of Medina who preceded Islam and were tricked by Mohamed to enter into negotiations and were then either slaughtered and the women were forcibly taken into captivity and made into Muslim concubines (including one for Mohamed himself who became his favorite wife.)

The prince must be willing to offer a few simple things in return from his own back yard like reparations for all the Jewish property that was confiscated from them by the Muslims following Muhamed`s rise to power and rescinding the present Saudi laws that forbid non-Muslims, especially Jews, from being in Saudi Arabia. This would then allow his imagined "Arab Jews" from Tel Aviv and Haifa to live and work freely without fear there.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008
French President's Jewish Greek roots
Book on Greek-Jewish roots of Sarkozy goes on sale in Greece

Thu., January 10, 2008 Shvat 3, 5768

A book on the Greek-Jewish roots of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose family can be traced back to the Jewish community in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, went on sale in Greece Thursday.

The book, whose English title reads Me, the Grandson of a Greek, was
launched during a lavish gathering in Athens late Wednesday by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni, former Socialist foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos, former prime minister Constantinos Mitsotakis and the ambassadors of France and Israel.

The book written by three Greek authors gives a historical account of the maternal family of Sarkozy, who were a part of the Jewish community in Thessaloniki, once nick-named the "Jerusalem of the Balkans."

The book reveals that Sarkozy's mother's family came to Thessaloniki from the French region of Provence.

Sarkozy's great-grandfather, Mordechai Mallah, a well-known Thessaloniki jeweler, and his wife, Reina, had seven children. One of them was Aaron, Sarkozy's grandfather.

At the age of 14, Aaron and his mother left for France where Aaron studied medicine and served as a doctor during World War I. He later met his wife, a nurse, in Paris and converted to Catholicism in order to marry her, taking the name Benedict. One of their children, Andree Mallah, married a Hungarian refugee named Paul Sarkozy. The couple had three sons, one of which was named Nicolas.

Paul Sarkozy left the family when Nicolas was 5 years old and the young boy was largely looked after by his grandfather, who used to tell his grandchildren stories from Thessaloniki.

Nicolas Sarkozy and his brothers did not know of their Jewish roots until after their grandfather passed away in 1972. The book's authors' claim Benedict did not tell his grandchildren about their Jewish roots in order to protect them, fearing another Holocaust, which ended up killing many of the Mallah family.

The authors write that at the age of 20, Nicolas Sarkozy travelled to
Thessaloniki to sell his family's property after they were struck with
financial problems.

Approximately 6,000 are left of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki today.

More than 50,000 of them were massacred during the Nazi occupation of Greece.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis presented Sarkozy with a copy of the book at the last EU Council meeting in Brussels. The Greek premier also promised him it would be translated into French.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008
Israel home to over 40% of world's Jews
Percent of world Jewry living in Israel climbed to 41% in 2007

By Anshel Pfeffer
Sun., January 06, 2008 Tevet 28, 5768

The world Jewish population in 2007 is estimated at 13.2 million people, a rise of some 200,000 over 2006, according to a Jewish People Policy Planning Institute report published today.

In the past year, the number of Diaspora Jews shrunk by 100,000, while Israel's Jewish population rose by 300,000. Israel is now the home of 41 percent of worldwide Jewry, the report said.

According to a poll conducted by the institute and included in its report, most American Jews fear for the safety of Israel in the wake of the Second Lebanon War and Iran's nuclear program.

Respondents from Jewish communities in Europe and Latin America said they were less inclined to feel an affinity with Israel and they believed radical Islam was being dealt with successfully in their countries.

According to the report, two tiers exist among Jewish communities abroad: A religious one, whose sense of affiliation to Israel is increasing, and another whose Jewish sense of association is weakening and among whom intermarriage is more commonplace.

Institute managing director Avinoam Bar Yosef said the state should allocate more funds to reaching out to the 'second tier' of Diaspora Jews.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Main Jews disappear
Study finds Maine has highest intermarriage rate in U.S.

By Anthony Weiss, The Forward
Tue., December 11, 2007 Tevet 2, 5768

In Portland, Maine, even the editor of the local Jewish newspaper was born to intermarried parents, and when she got around to marrying, it was not to a Jew.

Given her own experience, Elizabeth Margolis-Pineo, editor of The Voice, was not surprised by a new demographic study that found Portland and its environs to have the highest intermarriage rate in the country.

According to the study, which was funded in part by an intermarried couple, 61% of couples in married Jewish households are interfaith. This is the highest rate of any North American Jewish community measured in the past 15 years.

"There are kids in the [Jewish] preschool named 'Piscapo' and 'Isajar,'" Margolis-Pineo said. "Unless you're an idiot, you realize that there's a lot of intermarriage."

The study was conducted by Ira Sheskin, the director of the Jewish Demography Project at the University of Miami.

The new figures place Portland ahead of both Seattle and San Francisco, which previously had shared the highest measured intermarriage rate, at 55%, according to information from the North American Jewish Data Bank.

The national intermarriage rate was 48% in the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey. By comparison, Boston - the closest major Jewish population center to Portland - has an intermarriage rate of 46%. New York and Los Angeles have rates of 22% and 23%, respectively.

Given the relatively low level of Jewish affiliation in Portland, and the small size of the community - it numbers only 8,350 Jews - one of the most remarkable facts is that an expensive demographic survey took place at all.

The study was made possible, in part, by the chairman and former CEO of L.L. Bean, Leon Gorman, grandson of the iconic company's founder. Gorman is not Jewish, but his wife, Lisa, is.


Simshalom responds:

Secular Jews intermarry as Haredim are fruitful and multiply:

So it is only a matter of time that in the near future there will be only two types of Jews: Either Torah Jews like the Haredim who live by Halachah and have many children and whose communities will continue to grow OR the non-Orthodox secular Jews who marry gentiles and are on the road to disappearing forever as their numbers shrink.

So this is what it`s come to.

How sad and yet how predictable.

All this just proves that where there is no Torah and observance of the mitzvot there will also be not just no Judaism but no Jews in the end.
And where there is the commitment to live by the Torah and keep all its mitzvot then there will be growth not just of Judaism but also of Jews!

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Jews face off against Jews in Jerusalem
Haredi dominance of Beit Shemesh 'is only matter of time'

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondent
Tue., December 04, 2007 Kislev 24, 5768

"Hitler and the messiah. The two dominate the walls and souls here," Amos Oz wrote in his book "In the Land of Israel" after visiting the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Geula and Mea Shearim in the fall of 1982. "The battle has been won. Zionism has been pushed away from here, as though it had never existed."

In the next chapter, Oz stops at Beit Shemesh, where he meets a group of young men, "their faces distorted with rage" at Mapai (the precursor of today's Labor party), Shimon Peres and the elites.

Twenty-five years later it seems that the chapter on Mea Shearim could be transposed to a few neighborhoods in Beit Shemesh, a city whose population now reaches 73,000. "Taking part in the profane elections is prohibited," and "Israeli women must dress modestly," declare posters around the city.

Local resident Nati Shauli did not even consider filing a police complaint two weeks ago after his car was vandalized. He and his wife came out of the grocery store in Ramat Beit Shemesh A, a mostly religious neighborhood, to find that their tires had been slashed. Shauli is convinced that whoever is responsible wanted to keep bare-headed women like his wife away from the ultra-Orthodox shopping center.

"Life has become insufferable here," he said in desperation.

A month ago, the neighborhood's national-religious residents held a demonstration vowing not to give in to the "hooligans." But a tour of Beit Shemesh shows that the fanatic element here also has complex and tense relations with the ultra-Orthodox community, which is identified mostly with Agudat Yisrael, Shas and Degel Hatorah.

The resemblance between Mea Shearim of days gone by and Ramat Beit Shemesh, one of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, is not accidental. Some 15 years ago the housing shortage in Jerusalem drove the extreme, anti-Zionist Eda Haredit sect of Jerusalem's Haredi community to seek housing for young couples outside the capital. They chose Ramat Beit Shemesh B. Today these people are even more fanatic than those in Mea Shearim.

These extremists comprise an estimated 2 percent, no more than 15,000 of the Israeli ultra-Orthodox community. They are a minority in Beit Shemesh as well, but wield considerable power and influence.

The fanatics are mostly followers of Rabbi Shaya Rosenberger, a right-wing Satmar Hasid. Another group, a separatist group of Breslav Hasidim led by Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Marmelstein, is even more extreme. In recent years these groups have conducted a series of campaigns - posting billboards calling for "modest behavior," introducing sexually segregated bus lines and recently protesting plans to open a state religious school near their neighborhood and opposing the sale of apartments in the neighborhood to people who are not ultra-Orthodox.

Two and a half weeks ago, police officers headed by Jerusalem police chief Aharon Franco and Beit Shemesh chief Oz Eliasi secretly met the leaders of the town's Eda Haredit sect. On their way to Rabbi Rosenberger's house the officers passed graffiti blasting Eliasi and branding him "the Nazi" and "evil."

People in the neighborhood described the meeting a "surrender," saying the police were now officially afraid of entering the neighborhood. They said the police had promised the rabbis to refrain from any activity in the neighborhood without the rabbis' prior authorization.

District police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said the meeting was intended to "open channels of communication with the rabbis to restore peace to the neighborhood. Nothing was promised and no prior coordination was agreed on before any police activity."

However the fanatics' energy is mainly directed at the silent ultra-Orthodox majority. People in Ramat Beit Shemesh A say that men harass ultra-Orthodox women merely for walking in the supermarket with wigs, as women from the Gerer Hasidic group do. They hurl insults at other women because they refuse to send their small sons to the part of the bus earmarked for men.

"We operate our own bus lines to preserve our way of life," a Ramat Beit Shemesh B resident said.

Relations between the different ultra-Orthodox groups will be tested next year in the municipal elections. More than a year and a half ago in the Knesset elections, despite the fanatics' attempts to sabotage voting, the political strength of the ultra-Orthodox prevailed. United Torah Judaism received most of the votes, 22.2 percent, in a town that had been a Likud bastion in 1982. Shas came in second with 19.9 percent of the votes, while the Likud, Labor and Kadima lagged far behind.

Agudat Yisrael, Degel Hatorah and Shas are convinced they will obtain a solid majority on the town council, but may not field a mayoral candidate just yet. "It may take another term," a Degel activist said. "But it's clear that the ultra-Orthodox dominance of Beit Shemesh is only a matter of time."


Simshalom's response:

So? Why can`t Charedim move anywhere they want...since for two thousand years Jews kept the Torah in the galut dreaming of returning to Jerusalem and Zion, and now that Torah Jews (such as Charedim) have made it to the finish line and are finally living and thriving in Zion and Jerusalem, they should be praised for upholding, validating and sanctifying the blood sweat and tears that the Jewish people went through in order to come and live in peace and harmony in the Jewish homeland.

It`s a disgrace that secular chiloni Jews think that there`s something wrong here, they are not thinking "Jewish" if they think that having Charedi Jews move into Jewish neighborhoods, in the Jewish homeland, is problematic.

Let the Charedi march go forth, they`ll win, and a word of advice to the Charedi-bashers and haters, if you can`t beat `em, join `em, the Charedim have many Kiruv Jewish Torah outreach programs designed to meet your needs which is bound to bridge the gaps and will help you feel better and more accepting. Remember: Ahavat Yisrael


Irene's response:

Dear Sim, since you do not live in Israel, I assume you prefer the good life in the USA and therefore do not really know the true situation here. Be that as it may, why can people not live and let live? Maybe if the Charedim would use a gentler and calmer way of bringing the non-frum jews back to frumkeit. By the way, chiloni is a very derogatory word and as a Jew you should know not to insult people.

I was on a bus that was attacked by this mob and a yound girl sitting next to me said to me if this is how the frum Jews behave, why should I continue my studies to become frum?

If they want Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet to be chareidi, I have no problem with that, but then they must sort out their own bus service, electricity, water, garbage collection etc (which by the way is subsidised by the WORKING people in Beit Shemesh).


Simshalom responds to Irene:

Irene...it`s not just Israel.

Hi Irene, thanks for responding. So you think I`m having an easy life in the US? Think again! You`re mixing up all sorts of information. You`re looking at hooliganism by a small minority of Charedim and their lack of paying taxes. So I agree with you about that. But that still doesn`t justify blanket hatred of Charedim by Chilonim (what else to call secular Jews in Hebrew? "Chachamim?)

It`s not just in Israel that Charedi population growth causes counter-attacks from non-religious Jews and in the US they have support from millions of non-Jews. So this isn`t a matter of geography or where one chooses to live (so far Jews live in all sorts of places, same reason Israelis leave Israel, but that`s a tangent.)

Chiloni Israelis do not study Torah and keep the mitzvot. Until they do, they`ll have nothing to stand on against the growth of Charedi families and communities, that for all their faults, and they have many, are based on Torah and Mitzvot with successful Kiruv Rechokim.


Kipa Sruga in Beit Shemesh responds:

Until a couple of years ago all the different groups of people lived together peacefully in Beit Shemesh. Beit Shemesh is a traditional kind of place where even the religiously non-observant are religious. Then these zealot hooligans came and started telling us what to do in our town. I didn`t ask them to come here. If they don`t like it they should go somewhere else.


Simshalom responds to Kipa Sruga:

Kipa Sruga: market forces will win in the end.

Jews have had to move many times from neighborhoods in the USA. Not only when it`s Blacks or others moving in, but also when groups of Jews, like the Charedim of Boro Park moved in & the Modern Orthodox didn`t feel comfortable and moved out. These are things that happen all the time. There is only one way to stop such things: the communities you belong to have more children & will automatically create a counter societal push. In the end, the media is miscasting this whole phenomenon, they like to scream "Charedim, Charedim" like "fire, fire" but that is just hysteria.

The truth is that all neighborhoods undergo socio-economic changes, & in this case even religious and cultural changes, & no amount of screaming or grandstanding will change it. The only advice is, if you don`t like it, & you see what`s going to happen down the line, find a neighborhood that you will be happy in. It`s not easy, but that is the only solution. The Charedim are just as wild & pushy as any group of Israelis.


Where the ultra-Orthodox are the moderates

By Yair Ettinger
Wed., December 05, 2007 Kislev 25, 5768

"Hitler and the messiah. The two dominate the walls and souls here," Amos Oz wrote in his book "In the Land of Israel" after visiting the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Geula and Mea Shearim in the fall of 1982. "The battle has been won. Zionism has been pushed away from here, as though it had never existed."

In the next chapter, Oz stops at Beit Shemesh, where he meets a group of young men, "their faces distorted with rage" at Mapai (the precursor of today's Labor party), Shimon Peres and the elites.

Twenty-five years later it seems that the chapter on Mea Shearim could be transposed to a few neighborhoods in Beit Shemesh, a city whose population now reaches 73,000. "Taking part in the profane elections is prohibited," and "Israeli women must dress modestly," declare posters around the city.

Local resident Nati Shauli did not even consider filing a police complaint two weeks ago after his car was vandalized. He and his wife came out of the grocery store in Ramat Beit Shemesh A, a mostly religious neighborhood, to find that their tires had been slashed. Shauli is convinced that whoever is responsible wanted to keep bare-headed women like his wife away from the ultra-Orthodox shopping center.

"Life has become insufferable here," he said in desperation.

A month ago, the neighborhood's national-religious residents held a demonstration vowing not to give in to the "hooligans." But a tour of Beit Shemesh shows that the fanatic element here also has complex and tense relations with the ultra-Orthodox community, which is identified mostly with Agudat Yisrael, Shas and Degel Hatorah.

The resemblance between Mea Shearim of days gone by and Ramat Beit Shemesh, one of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, is not accidental. Some 15 years ago the housing shortage in Jerusalem drove the extreme, anti-Zionist Eda Haredit sect of Jerusalem's Haredi community to seek housing for young couples outside the capital. They chose Ramat Beit Shemesh B. Today these people are even more fanatic than those in Mea Shearim.

These extremists comprise an estimated 2 percent, no more than 15,000 of the Israeli ultra-Orthodox community. They are a minority in Beit Shemesh as well, but wield considerable power and influence.

The fanatics are mostly followers of Rabbi Shaya Rosenberger, a right-wing Satmar Hasid. Another group, a separatist group of Breslav Hasidim led by Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Marmelstein, is even more extreme. In recent years these groups have conducted a series of campaigns - posting billboards calling for "modest behavior," introducing sexually segregated bus lines and recently protesting plans to open a state religious school near their neighborhood and opposing the sale of apartments in the neighborhood to people who are not ultra-Orthodox.

Two and a half weeks ago, police officers headed by Jerusalem police chief Aharon Franco and Beit Shemesh chief Oz Eliasi secretly met the leaders of the town's Eda Haredit sect. On their way to Rabbi Rosenberger's house the officers passed graffiti blasting Eliasi and branding him "the Nazi" and "evil."

People in the neighborhood described the meeting a "surrender," saying the police were now officially afraid of entering the neighborhood. They said the police had promised the rabbis to refrain from any activity in the neighborhood without the rabbis' prior authorization.

District police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said the meeting was intended to "open channels of communication with the rabbis to restore peace to the neighborhood. Nothing was promised and no prior coordination was agreed on before any police activity."

However the fanatics' energy is mainly directed at the silent ultra-Orthodox majority. People in Ramat Beit Shemesh A say that men harass ultra-Orthodox women merely for walking in the supermarket with wigs, as women from the Gerer Hasidic group do. They hurl insults at other women because they refuse to send their small sons to the part of the bus earmarked for men.

"We operate our own bus lines to preserve our way of life," a Ramat Beit Shemesh B resident said.

Relations between the different ultra-Orthodox groups will be tested next year in the municipal elections. More than a year and a half ago in the Knesset elections, despite the fanatics' attempts to sabotage voting, the political strength of the ultra-Orthodox prevailed. United Torah Judaism received most of the votes, 22.2 percent, in a town that had been a Likud bastion in 1982. Shas came in second with 19.9 percent of the votes, while the Likud, Labor and Kadima lagged far behind.

Agudat Yisrael, Degel Hatorah and Shas are convinced they will obtain a solid majority on the town council, but may not field a mayoral candidate just yet. "It may take another term," a Degel activist said. "But it's clear that the ultra-Orthodox dominance of Beit Shemesh is only a matter of time."



Why are Charedi victims portrayed as "aggressors" ?

It`s odd how a minority of Jews in Israel (Charedim) who are in real terms powerless (all the levers of power in the State of Israel are in hands of Chilonim) are constantly portrayed as if they were an invading force of "aggressors" when the opposite is true.

A Charedi Jew is limited where he can live whereas the Chilonim can live anywhere. Religious Zionists, while not Chilonim, also have more options than your average Charedi Jew who cannot separate from key institutions needed to survive, like yeshivas, chedorim, Bais Yaakovs for their children and communal organizations of religious life. Dress and lifestyle limit them.

Neighborhoods change all the time all over the world, as one group moves in and another moves out, based on essentially natural factors and forces, so the hysteria and crankiness generated against Charedim in situations like this are irrational reactions, when the real and Jewish thing to do would be to rejoice and celebrate that the Jewish people are expanding.


Joe Sittizen responds:

Charedim aren`t victims, they`re the agressors

I don`t know how Sim defines "victim", but when a bunch of charedim go out and beat people up on buses (which has happened many times, not just on the Beit Shemesh line last month), they`re on the offensive.

Slashing tires, threatening people, attacking people, insulting people, throwing bleach on women - the rational reaction is to label these charedim as aggressors.
The only irrationality appears to be the small subset of charedim who think they are beyond the laws of the Torah, let alone the laws of the land.

The best place for the violent charedi aggressors is the same place as any other violent whacko be they religious or secular - behind bars to cool off for a few months.


Simshalom responds:

Joe: Focusing on lunatic fringe does not tell the truth

Joe, I agree that ANYONE who commits crimes of violence against anyone, other than for self-defense, must be arrested, tried and punished. In any normal society if anyone attacks another passenger on a bus they must be arrested. Why are the bus companies allowing hooligans to get on the buses? and if Charedim don`t like the bus system, let them walk or start a Charedi bus company. But this is not what this article is about as it`s trying to paint ALL Charedim as the bad guys, which is just plain wrong.

Charedim are not monsters, and secular and religious Zionists are not all Tzadikim. If they`d stop the constant belittling, denigration, and dehumanization of Charedim, then the climate would change. These are your Jewish brothers and sisters drawing close to you and you should all be welcoming each other and not going for each other`s jugulars.

If the Charedim are all bad so how come so many Israelis of all ages are becoming Chozrei B`tshuva in so many places? Charedim must be good, no?

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