Twenty years ago, Israel's Chief Rabbinate, which was founded by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the father of religious Zionism, was taken over by the ultra-Orthodox world view. This past week, with the election of two haredi Chief Rabbis, it emerged that ultra-Orthodox control of the Chief Rabbinate is going to continue for the next decade. This is a failure on three levels: political, religious, and cultural.
I am a Holocaust survivor who sits on the board of directors of the Claims Conference. At the recent annual board meeting, we discussed this year’s negotiations with the German government, which led to, among other benefits, an agreement that will result in $1 billion for homecare for Holocaust victims from 2014 through 2017.
In a stunning video shown at his recent official retirement dinner, Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks received high praise from four British prime ministers, three archbishops of Canterbury, and one Roman Catholic archbishop. (You can see it at http://bit.ly/19v5LwL).
For the past 19 years I have been conducting “Love and Religion: an Interfaith Workshop for Jews and Their Partners.” The target population is interfaith couples that are seriously dating, engaged and/or newly married. Over 600 couples have participated in these workshops, and my goals are that they enjoy the experience of being with other couples facing similar concerns, that they learn more about the issues they are facing and that they feel less alone in the process.
Tisha b’Av — the day of mourning for the loss of both Temples in Jerusalem and for the end of Jewish sovereignty until 1948 — is often marked by turning inwards, by examining the senseless hatred and other societal failures that the Talmud blames for the destruction and exile. (It fell earlier this week.) For some, this is a day to focus on tikkun olam (repairing the world) and to heed the words of the Prophets by protesting against corrupt leaders and injustice.
The Modern Orthodox Yeshivat Maharat’s investiture of three women as halachic and spiritual leaders has drawn rapturous praise from the non-Orthodox world, including the liberal Jewish press. The ordination ceremony — attended by enthusiastic representatives of the progressive and Orthodox communities alike — has been acclaimed in print as “a landmark event in Jewish history” and “a revolution … to be praised and admired.”
This month marks the 75th anniversary of a conference on Jewish refugees held at the French resort town of Évian-les-Bains. Delegates from 32 nations gathered on July 6, 1938, at the posh Hôtel Royal at the behest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Their purpose was to discuss the swelling numbers of refugees fleeing the Nazis. Germany had already passed more than 100 anti-Jewish laws and had begun persecuting the Jews of Austria, which it had occupied a few months before the conference. At this point, Hitler was trying to force Jews out of the lands he conquered; the systematic murders of the six million had not yet begun.
When turmoil erupts in the Middle East, it is understandable to ask about the impact of events on Israel, on its treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and on its overall security. Given Israel’s ever-precarious security situation, the changing geopolitics of the region tends to have a magnified impact on Israel’s political and security perspectives. Such is the case today with the fluid situation in Egypt.
The Haredi Spring is coming to an end — and not a moment too soon. In the recent election in Israel, the majority rose up and called a halt to the process of haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, Jews playing a dominant role in the government coalition while resisting national service. Requirements for army service and incentives to work instead of living on welfare are now being discussed in the Knesset. The haredim have reacted by insisting that their way of life and privileges were sacrosanct and could not be reined in by the democratic process. In truth, they have never seemed comfortable with real democracy.