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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”

Beck Commends Orthodox Judaism

Glenn BeckOn his February 22 radio show, Mormon-convert, ex-drug-addict and media mogul, Glenn Beck, compared Reform Judaism to “radical Islam,” saying that both were more about ‘politics’; that is changing what is outside of oneself, rather than actually being about ‘religion’, changing what is inside of oneself.

Beck’s comments came one month after 400 rabbis, many of whom are affiliated with the Reform movement, paid for a full page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal, denouncing what they saw as inappropriate references to the Nazi Holocaust, made by Beck, when referring to George Soros.

Beck said this:

“When you talk about rabbis, understand that most people who are not Jewish don’t understand that there are the Orthodox rabbis and then there are the Reformed (sic) rabbis. Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature. It’s almost like Islam – radicalized Islam – in a way to where radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics…It’s not about terror or anything else, it’s about politics, and so it becomes more about politics than it does about faith. Orthodox rabbis that is about faith. There’s not a single orthodox rabbi on this list. This is all reformed rabbis that made this list…”

International Temple Mount Awareness Day

Israeli law prides itself on two cardinal principles of democracy: freedom of access to places of worship, and the freedom of worship to practitioners of all religions.

Israeli government has always cited the Jewish Country’s unflinching assurance of the freedom of worship for Muslims and Christians in the city of Jerusalem. This fact is vitally presented in its case to maintain Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli sovereignty.

Temple MountThe irony is this: in the heart of Jerusalem lies a piece of real estate which has been granted de facto some sort of extra-legal, extraterritorial status, a sort-of “wild West” where the rule of law does not exist and the most basic and inalienable democratic rights are not honored. That is the Temple Mount.

The facts are as such: The Muslim Waqf, controlled by the Palestinian Authority, has been granted absolute say over the administration of the Temple Mount. Illegal destruction of archaeological findings from the first and second Temples takes place on a daily basis, and so does illegal construction. The Waqf’s unambiguous aim of this policy is the transformation of the entire Temple Mount plateau into one massive Mosque, thereby achieving exclusivity to the site for Muslims.

No less pernicious is the manner in which non-Muslims are treated both atop the Mount and upon approaching it. The discriminatory policy is enforced by the Israeli police, go figure. Non-Muslims are simply not allowed to carry with them a Bible or prayer book and are not even allowed to pray. Jews who ascend the Mount, in accordance with Jewish law are singled out and discriminated against in a derogatory fashion. They are detained at the security booth, identification cards inspected and given oral instructions on what they cannot do.

Furthermore, unlike any other group of human beings ascending the Temple Mount, Jews are not allowed to be in gatherings of more than 10 or 20 at a time, and they are accompanied during the entire duration of their visit by police officers and a Waqf official to ensure that they do not violate the prohibitions. It is needless to say, prayer books, the Tanach, tefillin or a tallit are forbidden.

In recent rulings, the Supreme Court has categorically upheld the right of Jews to pray on the Mount, and has had to reprove the police for not honoring this law. If the danger exists that Jewish prayer on the Mount could be met by a disturbance of the peace, then freedom of worship is denied.

The Temple Institute has declared this coming Tuesday, March 16, the first of the month of Nisan, to be International Temple Mount Awareness Day. Supporters are called-upon to petition the government of Israel for change.

Religious Women and The Draft

On Wednesday, the Knesset rejected a bill which would have reduced the number of girls who dodge military service, by falsely declaring that they are religious. The bill brought by Kadima’s Yisrael Hasson, was quashed 63 to 29.

The meat of the proposed law, would have girls, asking to be exempt from the military on religious grounds, to provide proof that they had attended a religious school, for a period no less than three years.

If religious dodging is not curbed now, said an IDF representative, “In five years it will span 60% of all eligible youth.” Asking girls to provide this kind of documentation, would only match the existing stipulation for religious men.

Kadima criticized Netanyahu for his rejection of the bill saying that the Prime Minister “chose to cower before coalitional considerations and legitimize draft dodging… This is shameful surrender to such elements and spitting in the face of the public shouldering the burden.”

“This is sanctioning mass draft dodging courtesy of the defense minister, Labor and Yisrael Beiteinu. Netanyahu chose to serve his ultra-Orthodox partners and ensure his political survival at the expense of national interests.”

Given the recent settlement freeze which is a strong characteristic of the current administration, it would be hard to consider Netanyahu’s decision against this bill as an attempt to appease the religious masses, with whom he is quickly losing favor; unless it is meant as an attempt to “make it up to them” – after showing “weakness” on the West Bank settlements issue.

Who’s Going to Break Up Haredi Marriage Monopoly?

My wedding has finally made it to the news. No, I don’t think the state of Israel particularly cares whether I, personally, got married or not, but here’s what I mean. When I started asking people about the bureaucracy of getting married in Israel, many people scared me half to death, or at least disgust. Some even suggested not registering as married in Israel in order to avoid the whole situation. And then there was another group of people who told me straight out to avoid the Rabbanut, Israel’s government Rabbinate, altogether by going the way of the Haredim.

Badatz, an acronym for Bet Din Tzedek, or Court of Justice, is the Haredi arm that dispenses marriage licenses, much like Bisli in a vending machine. The thing is, when the State started out and those secular Zionists pompously insisted in centralizing the marriage license industry so they could keep a record and run a country, the Haredim said, basically, “To heck with that. We’re going to register our own guys, and if you don’t like it, go climb an olive tree.” They thereby maintained their right to dispense Bisli marriage licenses, because who was going to stop them? The Messiah?

stavBadatz isn’t nearly as complicated as the Rabbanut, because Badatz only expects to register people they already know are ultra Orthodox and “keep the Torah.” So why should they bother forcing the women to sign notes that they went to the mikveh, the ritual bath before marriage, or that they took pre marital courses with a Rabbi or some such thing? Or that your Rabbi isn’t Conservative or Reform, or a Messianic Jew fםר Jesus, or even a priest who knows some Hebrew? They don’t care, because they assume their guys aren’t going to do that kind of stuff.

So when I went to Badatz in my jeans and sandals in order to circumvent the Rabbanut to get my marriage license, all I had to do was give them a note that my mother is Jewish, and my (now) wife’s mother is Jewish. We both walked in to their little office where nobody had a computer and they all spoke Yiddish, gave them our letters, slapped 360 shekel on the table and he asked me, “Who is doing your wedding?” I told him. He didn’t seem to care. I asked him if there’s anything my Rabbi has to do at this wedding. (At Rabbanut weddings, you have to follow protocol exactly or you don’t end up married.) The guy said, “KeHilchisa!” Literally, “The right way!” Meaning, according to Jewish law. Or, in this case, the implication was “I don’t care what you do!”

So we left, got married, and then picked up our license a few weeks later. Dealing with Haredim had never been so pleasant.

Now, this Rabbanut circumventing phenomenon is circulating in the news, finally. That’s what I mean when I say my wedding finally made the news. Rabbi David Stav (above) of the Tzohar Rabbis Organization, a group of Rabbis that is fed up with the Rabbanut and its insane bureaucracy, said this week, “Today, formally, it is the local rabbinates that are authorized to register marriages, in the marriage departments. However, you never actually see Haredi-religious Jews going there to register for marriage, because the Haredi Jews can register for marriage at the various Badatz courts, which have deals with local rabbinates that allow them to register marriages and later pass on the paperwork to the rabbinate.”

He continued, “Zionist-religious and even secular couples go to those Badatz courts because there is not a long line there,” (that’s me, baby!) “You don’t need to go back several times to complete the paperwork, and you do not need to bring witnesses to testify that you are single. Also, there are many who want a specific rabbi to perform the ceremony although the rabbinate does not approve that rabbi, while the Badatz courts have no supervision and they let almost anyone marry couples.”

Seriously, I could have had an Imam do my wedding and they wouldn’t have cared.

Rabbi Stav said this because he wants to get Tzohar in on the action. Piece of the pie, slice of the cake, etc.

Ain’t love grand? I call for a mudwrestling match between the Rabbanut and the Tzohar guys. Badatz can ref.

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.

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