The Kotel belongs to the entire Jewish people; and “Who is a Jew?” is not an Israeli issue but rather an issue facing Klal Yisrael, the collective Jewish people throughout the world.
The Kotel and conversion laws are ones that deal with intense controversies that divide the Jewish people. Surveys, including one conducted by the Schechter Institutes last month, say that most Jews in Israel are in favor of the Kotel compromise. Thus, even if the government has different stances, they must debate these issues in the light of day and not in secret. They must debate this issue not just when the dominant Haredi ultra-Orthodox voices are present, but also when those opposing Kotel restrictions are present.
62% of Israelis believe that everyone should be allowed to pray at the Kotel in accordance with egalitarian practice and free of any separation between men and women! Only 9.2% believe that non-Orthodox streams and Women of the Wall should be forbidden to pray at the Kotel.
I was born two years prior to the Six-Day War when Jerusalem was still a divided city, with barbed wire and concrete walls separating the two sections. Jerusalem totally changed by the time I grew up. It became a city without borders, an exciting and fascinating place, whose spaces were accessible to everyone. One could experience the city on a personal, one to one basis. My urban encounter spanned the entire city…
Israelis celebrate Passover in one of two ways: either by closely sticking to laws of Pesach related to hametz and the Seder, or by hiking in nature and joining family for a relaxed festive meal. This year experience the family Seder meal as a celebration of a new beginning, and find personal meaning in the story of Exodus from Egypt.
Distress signals sent out by secularists in recent months have been picked up loud and clear by the Secular Forum, though stridency does not necessarily ensure soundness of the writers’ arguments or best serve their interests. The most important step of any strategy is precise analysis of a given situation. Incorrect analysis leads to hasty action that fails to solve the problem or actually exacerbates it.
In recent months, acrimonious public debate has been raging in Israel over Jewish education enrichment programs. The Secular Forum has been especially vociferous against what it terms “religionization” in non-orthodox state schools, sounding the alarm at the prospect of secular children coming into any contact whatsoever with Jewish content. Were it not for the religious Minister of Education imposing his Jewish agenda, goes secularist reasoning, their children could be studying philosophy, Darwinian theory of evolution, and even Shakespeare.
Motherhood is a central element in the process of nation building. The growth of nations transformed the notion of motherhood to a foundation stone. Thus, the mother as builder of the family assumes a national meaning as well.
The High Holidays are a time of transition from one Jewish year to the next. During the week of September 12, 2016, the Schechter Institutes celebrated a number of milestones and transitions. The following is an edited version of my remarks on September 13th.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel, there has been ongoing debate over the Ministry of Education’s role in shaping the country’s Jewish identity. Successive education ministers formed public committees, launched new programs, promised transoformations. First was Education Minister Zalman Aran’s “Jewish Awareness” program in the 1950s; then the 1994 Shenhar Committee recommendations; Minister Limor Livnat’s “100 Tenets” program which hardly took its first steps before being shelved; then Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s “Jewish Culture and Heritage” program which lasted around five years before Minister Shai Piron decided to revise it. In between, Knesset Education Committee Chairman Rabbi Michael Melchior promoted the ‘Integrated Education Law,” which posited joint educational programs for secular and religious students in semi-private frameworks.