Israel Now

Can Inclusive Candidate Be Elected Chief Rabbi?

David Stav, once a long shot in Israel, seeks major changes in haredi stronghold, including on marriage and conversion.

Editor and Publisher
05/29/2013

A few months ago Rabbi David Stav, the 53-year-old founder and president of Tzohar, a rabbinic organization that strives to make the face of traditional Judaism more appealing to Israelis, was seen as the Don Quixote candidate in the upcoming national Chief Rabbinate election, held once a decade.

Rabbi Stav has pledged to end corruption of the rabbinic court system and privatize kashrut certification.

Chasing The Ivies In Kiryat Moriah

‘Flipping the switch’ from think tank to liberal arts college, Shalem seeks to emulate U.S. elite academia, infused with Jewish identity.

Assistant Managing Editor
05/29/2013

Jerusalem — Strolling around the new Shalem College recently, Daniel Gordis explained how the newly accredited, first-of-its kind liberal arts school will be a good fit for the neighborhood of Kiryat Moriah.

“There will be all kinds of cultural events, string quartets and drama to liven up the place,” said the college’s New York-born senior vice president.

Shalem College faculty and staff take time out from their preparations for fall’s opening. Adam Dickter

Chipping Away At The Orthodox Monopoly

Reform, Masorti movements see some progress for their causes, but the struggle for acceptance continues.

Staff Writer
05/29/2013

The ecstasy of many non-Orthodox Jews following January’s election is over and a sober reality has begun to set in.

Sure, for the first time that anyone can remember the new Israeli government does not include any haredi or fervently Orthodox parties. But the inclusion in the coalition government of an Orthodox party — Jewish Home — has tempered hopes for sweeping changes that would end the virtual pariah status of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism in Israel.

For years, the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel have been seen as illegitimate forms of Judaism, and haredi Jews in the government have ensured that the Orthodox hegemony in the country over anything to do with religion, lifecycle events and kashrut remained intact.

Today, there are about 60 Masorti or Conservative congregations with about 15,000 members.

Hiddush president Uri Regev, above, believes Yair Lapid’s talk of civil marriage is a “sleight of hand.”

The MK As Bridge Builder

An American-born, moderate haredi lawmaker is a new kind of Israeli politician. Can he help bring about change?

Israel Correspondent
05/29/2013

Born and raised in the U.S., Rabbi Dov Lipman recently became a member of the Israeli Knesset from the Yesh Atid (There Is a Future) party. Both haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and worldly, Lipman, 41, studied at the Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University, where he received a master’s degree in education.

An educator and community activist who led the fight last year against haredi extremists who attacked schoolgirls in Beit Shemesh, Lipman believes that haredi society needs to integrate more into Israeli society, not only for the country’s benefit but the haredi community’s as well.

Dov Lipman

Welcome To The ‘Feminist Revolution’

From public transportation to prayer at the Western Wall to the halls of the Knesset, women’s empowerment is on the march in Israel.

Israel Correspondent
05/29/2013

Jerusalem — It’s taken 65 years, but women’s rights are finally a mainstream issue in Israeli society.

Members of Women of the Wall lift their voices in prayer. Getty Images

Middle Class Rising?

The long-burdened Israeli center seems newly ascendant in the wake of the recent election. But austerity looms and will the middle class turn on its champion, Yair Lapid?

Special To The Jewish Week
05/29/2013

The Knesset is back in session after a post-election recess of nearly two months, and the “first 100 days” that will set the tone for the new government are well underway.

The social protest movement, fueled by frustrated middle-class Israelis, drew huge crowds in the summer of 2011. Getty Images

‘The Time Has Come To Re-appropriate What Is Ours’

Ruth Calderon’s stirring Knesset speech (and Talmud lesson) calling for a Torah that includes all Jews may be the proof text of Israel’s new middle.

Special To The Jewish Week
05/29/2013

Editor’s Note: Ruth Calderon, founder of a secular yeshiva in Tel Aviv, spent several years living in New York recently and teaching at the JCC in Manhattan and other venues. This was her inaugural speech in the Knesset in January as a member of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. It appears here in its entirety.

Mr. Chairman, honorable Knesset, the book I am holding [a copy of the Talmud] changed my life, and to a large extent it is the reason that I have reached this day with the opportunity to speak to the Knesset of Israel as a new member.

Calderon telling the Talmudic story of Rabbi Rechumei in the halls of parliament. Michal Fattal/Haaretz

The ‘Perplexed’ Turn To The Talmud

Increasing numbers of secular Israelis are engaging in ancient texts, hoping to reclaim the country’s moral center.

Special To The Jewish Week
05/29/2013

A small group of students sits around a table in the ground-floor room of an unassuming building on a quiet street in the heart of Tel Aviv. They are studying Talmud; some follow along in their copies of the Steinsaltz Talmud, others on their tablets. But what makes this daf yomi, page-a-day Talmud class in this urban “shtiebel” different is the makeup of the group.

They are a mix of men and women, ranging in age from young adult to retirement.

Scenes from Alma, Ruth Calderon’s secular yeshiva, where participants exchange ideas. Calderon is at top with microphone.

Can Real Religious Pluralism Take Hold?

In the wake of the recent election, Israel may be transcending its decades-old culture war between religious and secular.

Israel Correspondent
05/29/2013

Tel Aviv — It was another show of strength in the struggle against the so-called “Zionist entity.”

Images from the May 16 demonstration in Jerusalem showed a black sea of anti-Zionist haredi men dressed in traditional suits and head coverings, pouring out their anger against the country’s security forces; they were protesting government policy to pursue plans to draft yeshiva students and cut their public subsidies.

Start of a beautiful friendship? The alliance between Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett could force big changes in Israeli society.

Israel Now May 2013

In the wake of January’s elections, The Jewish Week looks at changes sweeping through Israeli society—from the halls of the Knesset to the classroom to the Western Wall. A 40-page special report.

05/28/2013
Israel Now May 2013
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