A Polish court ruled that the de-facto ban imposed last year on slaughter without stunning of animals, which includes kosher and halal ritual slaughter, is unconstitutional.Click here for the rest of the article...
By Rabbi Josh Weinberg
May it be Thy will, my God and the God of my fathers, to protect me against the impudent and against impudence, from bad men and bad companions, from severe sentences and severe plaintiffs, whether a son of the covenant or not.
– The personal prayer of Rabbi Y’hudah HaNasi, BT B’rachot 16b
I. Non-Orthodox Weddings in Israel
Last June, I officiated at a wedding in Israel for close friends, who were subsequently married in a civil union abroad in order to have their marriage recognized in Israel. A pending bill now in the Knesset calls for hundreds of rabbis and officiants like me to be jailed for such offenses. Jewish Home Member of Knesset Eli Ben-Dahan, the bill’s original author, rationalizes this unnerving legislation by explaining its purpose as ‘acting to aid those women who have been refused a get (certificate of divorce) by their husbands and for whom the rabbinate is unable to assist’. The stated goal is also to assist victims of other precarious matrimonial predicaments resulting specifically from outside-the-Rabbinate marriage authorities. (Currently, only the Orthodox Israeli Rabbinate can marry Jewish couples.) Many of us believe that this bill is an attempt to level a blow t0 the growing phenomenon of young Israeli couples who seek their own Jewish religious wedding ceremonies—Reform, Conservative and Orthodox, and the rabbis who accommodate them–threatening the Rabbinate’s control. While this bill is unlikely to pass in the Knesset, it joins a growing list of bills that are of grave concern.
This much-discussed bill, delayed in the Knesset, seeks to define the identity of the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. This is not only superfluous, but seeks to place values of democracy and equality as secondary to those of Jewish nationality. The bill also attempts to establish Jewish law as a source of inspiration for the Knesset–which, in many instances, it already is in the Israeli Supreme Court. As the bill morphs from one version to another, we must watch closely.
III. Rounding up infiltrators or persecuting the strangers in our midst?
The original intent of the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law was to prevent the entry of Palestinian terrorists. The law was never lifted. The third amendment to this law, passed on January 10, 2012, and implemented in June 2013 expanded the definition of “infiltrator” to include Africans entering Israel through the border with Egypt. According to this amendment, infiltrators could be detained up to three years, and those from any country considered a “hostile enemy state” (including those fleeing genocide or oppressive regimes) could be detained indefinitely. A group of asylum seekers and human rights organizations brought charges against the state to the High Court of Justice in response to this amendment. In September 2013 the High Court of Justice voided Amendment 3, stating that the law “disproportionately limits the constitutional right to liberty determined in Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty” (High Court of Justice [Israel], 2013).
The volley between the Parliament and human rights organizations did not stop there. Parliament passed Amendment 4 in December 2013, which determined that “infiltrators” entering Israel after this date could be detained without trial for up to one year. After one year they would be transferred to Holot, an open-detention camp, and held until they could be deported–either as the result of an improvement in the political situation in their country of origin, or until they signed a ‘voluntary’ return agreement. The distinction between full detention and open camps is that those in open camps may leave the premises, but must return three times a day for roll call and must stay overnight in the facility, which is closed from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. In effect, this prevents detainees from working, since the punishment for failing to attend roll call is to be sent back to a full-detention camp. In addition to picking up asylum seekers at the border, the government began to round up asylum seekers who had entered before December 2013, and placing them in Holot, causing panic among the asylum-seeking community.
In September 2014 Amendment 4 was struck down by the High Court of Justice, ordering the closure of Holot and voiding the one-year mandatory detention period for new entrants. In the decision, Justice Fogelman stated:
Every person, by virtue of being a person, has the right to human dignity…and infiltrators are people. And that needs explanation, let’s say it explicitly: infiltrators do not lose one ounce of their right to human dignity just because they reached the country in this way or another.
The 5th Amendment—passed two days ago—reinstates Holot as an open-detention center, reduces confinement to 20 months (with an evening roll call), and prohibits detainees from working. There is evidence that Likud’s Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, and Knesset Interior Committee Chairwoman Miri Regev are working together to push the amendment through the Knesset before its impending dissolution. On October 26, 2014, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted to approve a bill that would allow the Knesset to override rulings by the High Court of Justice. This is seen as a direct response to the High Court of Justice rulings on Amendments to the Prevention of Infiltration Bill. A day later, the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice on behalf of 138 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers who have been held in Holot for over two years, prior to the High Court’s rejection of the 3rd Amendment, which ordered the release of all detainees.
Earlier this week, outgoing Finance Minister Yair Lapid said, “We have to treat refugees from Darfur as Holocaust survivors.” In that case, let’s not lock them up. The bill, hastily put together before impending Knesset dissolution, passed a key Knesset committee on Monday, paving the way to be voted into law.
While attention will focus on the upcoming Israeli elections of March 17th, we must not ignore what is happening now. These issues touch on the foundation of what it means to have a Jewish State and a Jewish society. Of course we will have our own opportunity to vote and have our voices heard in Israel. This matters, and we must stand up and be counted.
Rabbi Joshua Weinberg is the President of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA).
French police arrested five men suspected of making threats online to attack a synagogue.Click here for the rest of the article...
New York police fatally shot a man armed with a knife on Tuesday after he stabbed a rabbinical student from Israel in a Brooklyn synagogue, and authorities quickly stepped up security at Jewish houses of worship around the city, police said.Click here for the rest of the article...
(JTA) — An Israeli man studying for the rabbinate in New York was stabbed while praying at Chabad-Lubavitch world headquarters in Brooklyn.
Levi Rosenviat, 22, who lives in the West Bank’s Gush Etzion bloc of settlements, was stabbed at 1:45 a.m. Tuesday in the neck and elsewhere in the synagogue of the building located in the Crown Heights neighborhood, according to reports. Rosenviat is reported to be in stable condition at Kings County Hospital.
He arrived in New York two weeks ago, according to the New York Daily News.
His alleged assailant, Calvin Peters, 51, was shot in the stomach by police and later died in the hospital. He reportedly entered the Chabad building shouting “I will kill the Jew! I want to kill the Jew!” according to the Daily News.
Peters had entered the building an hour earlier saying he was looking for a book, another Israeli student told the newspaper.
Police and security guards reportedly flooded the building moments after the attack. Peters initially put down his knife, but then picked it back up again. Police ordered Peters to drop the knife and shot him when he did not comply. A video of the encounter was posted by the Israeli news website 0404.
Police reportedly are calling the incident criminal, not terror-related, though with elements of a hate crime.
A Chabad spokesman told Israeli media that homeless men sometimes enter the world headquarters, which is open 24 hours a day, in order to get warm.
Musical theater pantomimes are a well-loved Christmas tradition in England. Can Hanukkah pantos have similar success in Israel?Click here for the rest of the article...
The man credited with inventing the first home video games, Ralph Baer, died on Saturday at age 92 at his home in Manchester, New Hampshire, a director at the Goodwin Funeral Home said on Monday.Click here for the rest of the article...
(JTA) — Limor Livnat, Israel’s culture and sports minister, said she is quitting political life.
Livnat, 64, a Likud Knesset member since 1992 and the party’s highest-ranking female member for many years, made the announcement on Monday. She served as education minister from 1996 to 1999, and headed the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women.
She told Israel’s Channel 2 news that she wanted to move in “new directions,” the Times of Israel reported, but stressed that “the Likud remains my home.”
According to Haaretz, Livnat has been marginalized within her party in recent years because of her moderate positions. She has criticized the controversial Jewish nation-state bill and was the only Likud minister not to vote for it.
In a November interview with Army Radio, she criticized Likud’s move to the right.
“The Likud was always a right-center party and that’s what it needs to be,” she said. “Unfortunately, there are people in the Likud who are not moderate and are pushing the party to places I don’t want to see it.”
Bernard Madoff’s former back office director was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Monday for helping the convicted fraudster conceal his massive Ponzi scheme for decades.Click here for the rest of the article...
A Jewish man joined his first synagogue but his husband won’t go to the welcome dinner. He asks the Seesaw for help convincing him that Judaism isn’t some kind of scary cult.Click here for the rest of the article...
Downtown Johannesburg has always been home to immigrants. Jews have been long since been replaced by African newcomers, but two synagogues remain.Click here for the rest of the article...
Rabbi Jack Moline has left his post as director of the National Jewish Democratic Council after less than a year.Click here for the rest of the article...
WASHINGTON (JTA) — The National Jewish Democratic Council and its director, Rabbi Jack Moline, parted ways after less than a year.
Moline, a longtime rabbi in northern Virginia who was prominent in the Conservative movement and close to Obama administration figures, assumed the position at the beleaguered advocacy group in January of this year, and left by Nov. 18.
His absence was noticed only this week, when community figures noted to reporters that his name no longer appeared on the group’s correspondence.
An NJDC spokesman said the decision was mutual, and would not elaborate. Moline declined comment.
His tenure was not without controversy: Within weeks of taking the job, he sharply criticized the American Jewish Committee and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee of “strong arm” tactics in pressuring Democrats in Congress to oppose President Obama’s Iran policies.
He eventually apologized to the AJC, but would not do so to AIPAC.
After the Democratic blowout in this year’s midterm elections, Moline told JTA that the party had not done enough to mobilize Jewish voters in key states.
The NJDC has in recent years lagged behind its GOP counterpart, the Republican Jewish Coalition, in raising funds.
Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and a prominent funder of Republicans, is appealing a federal court’s dismissal of his defamation lawsuit against the NJDC.
A Jerusalem court rejected an appeal by Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick allowing him to return to the holy site.Click here for the rest of the article...
Several prominent rabbis and the president of a national teachers union were arrested Thursday night while protesting police brutality.Click here for the rest of the article...
A son of the former congressman Eric Cantor is a member of the University of Virginia fraternity at the center of a high-profile rape scandal.Click here for the rest of the article...
Several high-profile New York rabbis are scheduled to join a Manhattan protest of a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner, an unarmed black man.Click here for the rest of the article...
NEW YORK (JTA) – Several high-profile New York rabbis are scheduled to join a Manhattan protest of a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner, an unarmed black man.
The march set for Thursday night on the heavily Jewish Upper West Side neighborhood is being coordinated by the Jews for Racial & Economic Justice advocacy group. The protest is in solidarity with a coalition of 64 local and national organizations.
Among the rabbis scheduled to take part are Rolando Matalon of B’nai Jeshurun, a major Upper West Side congregation; Jill Jacobs, the executive director of T’ruah, a Jewish human rights advocacy organization; and Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the largest LGBT synagogue in North America.
On Wednesday, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who was shown in a video from July 17 holding Garner in a chokehold while arresting him. The medical examiner ruled that Garner’s death was a homicide.
Protests have occurred throughout the country since the decision was announced that afternoon.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Wednesday that the Justice Department will launch a federal civil rights inquiry into the case.
(JTA) — A son of the former congressman Eric Cantor is a member of the University of Virginia fraternity at the center of a high-profile rape scandal.
Michael “Mikey” Cantor, whose father until recently was the sole Jewish Republican in Congress, belongs to Phi Kappa Psi at the Charlottesville school, according to The Daily Caller website.
The younger Cantor has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
An investigative report published last month in Rolling Stone magazine chronicles the story of a woman named Jackie, who alleges that she was gang-raped at the fraternity house in 2012 by seven men while two other men looked on. In response to the article, the university suspended all fraternity activities through Jan. 9.
The Rolling Stone report described the gang rape as premeditated and indicated that it may have been part of an initiation ritual. The report also criticized the university’s handling of Jackie’s case, and campus sexual assault allegations in general. The University of Virginia did not initially investigate the incident, and the alleged perpetrators have not been disciplined.
Michael Cantor’s older brother, Evan, a University of Virginia alumnus, also was a member of Phi Kappa Psi. He graduated before the incident was alleged to have taken place.
Sabrina Rubin Erdely, who wrote the Rolling Stone article, has been scrutinized for not trying harder to contact the seven men accused of the rape, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Rolling Stone has since issued a statement in response to the criticism, saying that Erdely’s piece was fully fact-checked.
The University of Virginia and Charlottesville police have launched an investigation of the incident.
In June, Eric Cantor, a seven-term Richmond congressman who served as House majority leader, lost his primary to a Tea Party-backed challenger. In August, he resigned his seat and the following month announced that he would be joining a boutique investment bank.