Israel Recognizes Conservative, Reform Rabbis


Rabbi Miri Gold

Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein office announced yesterday that 15 Reform and Conservative rabbis will be recognized as rabbis of non-Orthodox communities and put on the state payroll for the first time — on a par with Orthodox community leaders. This out-of-court settlement brings to a close the 2005 petition before Israel’s Supreme Court by the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism and Reform Rabbi Miri Cohen of Kibbutz Gezer. The decision allows for equal financing of non-Orthodox rabbis in regional councils and farming communities throughout the country, but so far does not extend to the larger cities.

Rabbi Gold, who first heard the news on the radio said, “This is a big step for religious pluralism and democracy in Israel.  Israeli Jews want religious alternatives and with this decision the State is starting to recognize this reality. There is more than one way to be Jewish, even in Israel.”

The ruling in this case follows other successes by the Israel Religious Action Center including the placement of a Reform Rabbi in Mevasseret on the Religious Council there, the finding that forced gender segregation on public transportation is discrimination and prohibited, and the allocation of pre-fab units to non-Orthodox congregations for synagogue buildings.

According to DEBKA, “they have a long way to go before their authority is accepted for performing marriages, conversions and other religious matters along with Orthodox and Haredi rabbis.” However, this decision has hailed as an important milestone by the Conservative and Reform movements.

Reaction after the jump.  
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Vice-President of the Rabbincal Assembly
The Rabbinical Assembly is the international body of Conservative rabbis

This is a historic day for Israelis and Jews around the world. In order for Judaism to grow and thrive in Israel, it is necessary that the government recognize its obligation to provide equal funding to various Jewish religious streams and expressions that flower in the Jewish state.

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik, President of the Rabbinical Assembly

The announcement of Israel’s Attorney General Weinstein represents a dramatic step forward in the struggle for religious pluralism in Israel. The historic inequities in the funding of local community rabbis in Israel has long hampered efforts to bring a greater variety of spiritual options to Israelis.  Hopefully, this decision will open the door to new and exciting Jewish spiritual opportunities that will strengthen Israel, and bring Israelis to a new appreciation of Jewish tradition.

Rabbi Daniel Allen, Executive Director of ARZA; The Reform Israel Fund
ARZA is the major American Reform Movement funder of the Israel Religious Action Center, an arm of the Israel Reform Movement, that brought the case to court six years ago.

Miri’s success is success for all of us. With patience and perseverance, we will build an inclusive democratic Israeli society. Israel’s Declaration of Independence guaranteed religious freedom, it has to be that this freedom is for all Israeli’s, Jewish as well as Christian and Muslim. This decision brings us closer to the day where this will be the reality in Israel rather than the ideal.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism

This is a watershed moment for the Reform Movement and for religious pluralism in Israel. Mazel tov to Rabbi Gold and the many activists who work so diligently to ensure the eventual and thorough embrace of liberal Judaism in Israel.

Kenneth Bob, President, Ameinu

This historical decision is an important first step toward the recognition of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism by the State of Israel. There is still much work to be done, but it’s a big victory for pluralism and religious freedom in Israel. We salute the efforts of the Conservative and Reform movements and will continue to stand with you.

Santorum Fights Back Against Negative Ads With “Rombo” Spoof

Mitt Romney is doubling down his bet on Michigan. Santorum is leading in the state when Romney was born and his father was elected Governor, but Romney’s Super PAC “Restore Our Future” is saturating the airwaves in Michigan, Ohio and Arizona with a negative ad entitled “Voters” attacking Santorum.

However, Santorum is deflecting these attacks with humor. Mike Allen from Politico reports:

Rick Santorum goes up statewide in Michigan today with “Rombo,” a 30-second “rebuttal ad” by strategist John Brabender. The spot shows a Mitt Romney double (coif, cufflinks, wingtips) skulking into a musty, rusty parking garage and using a machine gun to spray mud at an elusive cardboard cutout of Santorum.

Transcript of Santorum’s ad and Video of Romney’s ad follow the jump.
Transcript of “Rombo”:

Santorum: I’m Rick Santorum, and I approve this message.

Narrator: Mitt Romney’s negative attack machine is back, on full throttle. This time, Romney’s firing his mud at RICK SANTORUM. [Sound of gunfire.] Romney and his super PAC have spent a staggering 20 million … attacking fellow Republicans. Why? Because Romney’s trying to hide from his big-government Romneycare, and his support for job-killing cap-and-trade. And in the end, Mitt Romney’s ugly attacks are going to backfire.

Video “Votes” by Romney Super PAC “Restore Our Future”

Geither: Debt Ceiling is Unconstitutional

The United States is the only country in the world with a “debt ceiling”.

Congress has approved a budget in which revenues are insufficient to cover expenses (thanks in part to extending Bush era tax cuts to Millionaires and tax loopholes for hedge fund managers, oil companies, ethanol producers and companies which ship jobs overseas). Simple arithmetic tell you that if Congress commits to a level of expenses without providing adequate revenue, then the debt will as a consequence expand. By denying the expansion of the debt already implied by the budget Congress has passed into law, Congress defies not only logic and mathematics, but the United States Constitution itself.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was asked by Mike Allen about the negotiations over default and the debt ceiling. According to Geithner, a debt ceiling requirement is unconstitutional:

Geithner: I think there are some people who are pretending not to understand it, who think there’s leverage for them in threatening a default. I don’t understand it as a negotiating position. I mean really think about it, you’re going to say that– can I read you the 14th amendment?

Geithner whipped out his handy pocket-sized Constitution. Allen tried to brush it aside.

Allen: We’ll stipulate the 14th Amendment.

Geithner :No, I want to read this one thing.

Allen: It’s paper clipped! [Geithner’s copy of the Constitution was clipped so that it would open directly to the passage in question.]

Geithner “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for the payments of pension and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion” — this is the important thing — “shall not be questioned.”