a different side of Israel

Tag: Jewish Law

Chillin’ in the Hood: Russell Crow

A proposed ban last November on circumcision in San Francisco is not restricted to just the city on the Bay. Santa Monica could actually be the first American city to see the ban make it onto the ballot.

The nonprofit MGM or Male Genital Mutilation Bill has called for circumcision bans on a national level. Early in 2011, the nonprofit’s regional directors around the country submitted proposed bills to 2,800 different legislators in a host of states and in the U.S. Congress.

Recently, actor Russell Crowe decided to opine about what he calls a “barbaric and stupid” tradition. On Twitter, Crowe slammed those who practice circumcision, saying it is an “immoral” practice.

Responding to those who told Crowe that circumcision was done for hygienic reasons, he retorted “Hygienic? Why don’t you sew up your a** then”

When other twitter followers mentioned the Bris ceremony, when a newborn Jewish boy is circumcised, he wrote:

“Honestly you are comparing sexual mutilation with a Jewish ceremonial act?! F**K that. The Mayans had ceremonial acts too!”

Crowe also wrote:

“I love my Jewish friends, I love the apples and the honey and the funny little hats but stop cutting your babies @eliroth”

More Clashing of Worlds in Jerusalem

Despite some violence and 1,500 ultra-Orthodox protesters, shouting”Shabes! Shabes!” Intel Corp. says that it has no plans of closing down their chip making factory in the industrial zone of Har Hotzvim on Shabbat.

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANSThe protests were sparked by Intel’s opening of a new facility near the ultra-orthodox area; the company has operated on Saturday’s for more than twenty years, and plans to continue to do so.

Intel is one of Israel’s biggest corporate supporters. They first opened a plant in Haifa in 1974 and in Jerusalem in 1984. By the year 2000, they employed more than 4000 Israelis.

Most businesses in Jerusalem close down for the Sabbath and those which stay open tend not to be located near haredi neighborhoods. There has always been tension in Jerusalem between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews, who make up one third of the city’s population. Well starting last year, things began to get worse. First, voters elected a secular mayor to replace the ultra-Orthodox incumbent, and then City Hall decided to open a municipal parking lot on Shabbat near the Meah Shearim neighborhood. These instances have been the cause of much controversy and violence over the last year, occasionally splashing onto the headlines.

What we have here dear readers is a “failure to communicate” as Paul Newman once put it in “Cool Hand Luke.” Who is right and who is wrong? This is a mere reflection of the case of the disappearing public sphere in the Jewish Country. There needs to a modifier, a common law to entice both sides to come together. It should be the blending of ancient Torah values, with modern Zionist vision; and an effective change of attitude should start in school.

Elyashiv Aside, Here’s the Good News

Nishmat is a center for women’s learning and halachic instruction. Not that Torah learning institutions for women are all that rare, but this one sponsors a program that issues certification for women who have completed a course in Jewish law in the area of family purity, or Taharat HaMishpaha. This area regulates sexual relations between husband and wife.

NishmatAnd yesterday evening, Nishmat lifted a 10-year restriction on their certifications’ validity. The women they certify, however, are not called “Rabbis,” but rather “advisors.” And their rulings are first sanctioned by a Rabbi before they are validated, if a simple answer is hard to come by.

Then, you may ask, what’s the point of training women? Simple. If you’re a married woman and you have a question regarding family purity laws, it’s really difficult to go to a male Rabbi you may not even know well and talk about the intimate details of your menstrual cycle. It is much easier talking to a woman about it, for obvious reasons.

The effect on the community has been enormous. The volume of questions coming in to the Yoatzot (female advisors) hotline is exceeding 20, sometimes 30 a day, probably encouraging those who would otherwise shun away from the practice of family purity to follow it, now that they have someone to talk to. Over the past decade, 100,000 questions have been answered on their hotline, fielding questions from all over the world.

Nishmat is endorsed by leaders of Israeli Modern Orthodoxy including Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya’acov Ariel abd Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, the former head of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Gush Etzion near Efrat.
It’s a big step in harmonizing the two worlds, one that brings many closer to religious observance without coercion.

More Organ Stuff – Donating Jewishly Permitted?

According to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel…surprisingly yes. A somewhat shockingly unanimous decision was made 2 days ago by the religious government body that brainstem death constitutes death according to Jewish law. This would make it halachically permissible to remove an organ from a braindead person before the heart has stopped beating, making organ transplant possible. Their ruling did not have to do directly with organ transplant, but it definitely sets the stage for it. Together with modern organizations such as HODS, the Halachic Organ Donor Society, we may see Israel soon, and Jews in general more willing to donate organs to those in need.

The bill approved by the Rabbinate, recently passed by the Knesset, has even more far-reaching consequences. For one, it would allow disconnecting a braindead person from life support even if his heart is still beating. It would also allow a woman whose husband has suffered braindeath to remarry.

This reverses a 30 year old decision that halachic death only occurs at clinical death, leading to many legal complications with regard to all of these issues. Though the decision was never implemented for technical reasons, the shift is still dramatic.

The only influential Rabbi disagreeing with this decision is Yosef Elyashiv, long known as a staunch conservative and leader of the Lithuanian sects of Ultra Orthodoxy. He holds that no organs may ever be removed under any circumstances. But he was overruled.

As of today, less than half of the families of braindead patients agree to donate their organs, 35% for religious reasons, and the rest for personal reasons. Altogether, almost 58% refuse to donate organs. That figure could begin to lighten now.

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