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March 16, 2017
3 Nissan 5777

Dear Friends,

It seems as though many societies are experiencing similar trends simultaneously: a large proportion of the population seeks equal rights, and another portion of the population resists and espouses an entirely different vision of the purpose and destiny of the nation.

This week's articles demonstrate the spread of the desire to open marriage to all, as a democratic society should guarantee and as Israel's Declaration of Independence promises. Here's the opening line from the Jerusalem Post article:

    “Civil marriage is one of the most encumbered issues in the Jewish state, but the religious-Zionist organization Ne’emenei Torah Va’Avodah began a campaign Sunday advocating for the introduction of such a possibility in Israel.”

Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah produced an entertaining and interesting cartoon as a protest against the Rabbinate's control of all religious issues in the State. We have included that as well.

The High Court of Justice weighed in on the case of the Agunah from Safed, demonstrating how halakhah can be appropriately modified to respond to modernity and bring increased humanity to historic Jewish life. Obviously such cases occur because of medical technology only recently available. We witness here an uplifting case of halakhah responding to benefit Jewish lives and as a guidepost to morality. The High Court demonstrates how halakhah can appropriately be utilized in a modern state.

Rabbi Marc Angel wrote a superb article encouraging our communities to donate our funds to further our causes and not to aid those who block our equal participation in Jewish life. As we all know, many Jews donate to organizations that actually would deny them rights to practice Judaism in the Jewish State. Marc Angel encourages us to redirect our support to the organizations that further our vision of a democratic Israel for all Jews.

Finally, we have sent a Hebrew article that shows how far to the right some organizations can go. Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur of the Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva have published a follow up book, Torat HaMelech 2, explaining how a Jewish kingdom could enslave and even kill non-Jews, and advocating for Israel to become such a state. They have been investigated by Israel for incitement to racism in the past, but without bringing charges. We reproduce the article before Pesah to demonstrate where a small group of extremists would take the State of Israel, and how they are being opposed by more responsible rabbis who understand that Jewish law does not sanction such cruelty.

May you have a meaningful and joyous Pesah.

We would love to hear from you at: organizers@ RRFEI.org, or on our Facebook group for Rabbis for Religious Freedom and Equality.

Chag Sameach,


Rabbi Mark H. Levin
RRFEI Editor

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For first time, religious group campaigns for civil marriage in Israel

The Jerusalem Post, March 26, 2017

Click HERE for the full article

Currently, all matters of marriage and divorce are conducted by the established religious authorities.

Click for video

Civil marriage is one of the most encumbered issues in the Jewish state, but the religious-Zionist organization Ne’emenei Torah Va’Avodah began a campaign Sunday advocating for the introduction of such a possibility in Israel.

The group, which is on the liberal end of the religious-Zionist community, says it is the first time a religious organization has called for civil marriage, which is generally considered to be an anathema to religious communities and leaders.

To start the campaign, NTA created a comical, animated video underlining the problems inherent in the monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate over Jewish marriage in the state.


Defeat for Chief Rabbi Yosef in High Court ruling on ‘Agunah from Safed’

The Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2017

Click HERE for the full article

In 2014, the Safed Rabbinical Court issued an innovative ruling in Jewish law issuing a bill of divorce to a woman whose husband was in a permanent vegetative state, on behalf of the husband.

In a defeat for Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the High Court of Justice gave its final decision on Thursday on the Agunah from Safed case, ruling definitively that the Supreme Rabbinical Court may not hear a third party appeal to a lower court divorce ruling.

The ruling is a blow to Yosef who fiercely opposed the precedent set in the case, and a victory for the woman herself and the Mavoi Satum organization which represented her and which claimed that severe damage would be done to the finality of all rabbinical court rulings if third party appeals were heard by the Supreme Rabbinical Court.

The case of the Agunah from Safed relates to a 34-year old woman whose husband sustained severe injuries in a motorcycle accident nine years ago, from which he fell into a coma and has never recovered.


תורת המלך 2: ספר ההמשך מדריך איך ממנים מלך ומה לעשות עם נתיניו הלא יהודים

יותם ברגר, יאיר אטינגר, הארץ, March 21, 2016

Click HERE for the full article

אחרי שהסבירו מתי ולמה מותר להרוג לא־יהודים, מחברי "תורת המלך", שאף נחקרו בחשד להסתה לגזענות, הוציאו ספר המשך. על פניו זו פנטזיה על מונרכיה דתית, אך בציונות הדתית יש החוששים כי הנחיות הספר את מי מותר לשעבד וכיצד לנהוג במורדי מלכות לא יישארו על הכתב בלבד

מלך — כמה פשוט. במקום ההתנהלות המייגעת הכרוכה בדמוקרטיה, יומלך מלך, שליט יחיד בעל זכויות יתר היכול לשעבד שבויי מלחמה ולעשות ככל העולה על רוחו. בלי בג"ץ ובלי בחירות. החלק השני של "תורת המלך" — חיבור של רבני ישיבת "עוד יוסף חי" — אמנם כתוב בשפה הלכתית ומצטט מקורות, אבל מגלה את השאיפות הכמוסות של הקיצונים בין המתנחלים. החיבור מוקדש כולו לדיני "ציבור ומלכות", כלומר כינון שלטון דתי־יהודי מונרכי, שיחליף את הדמוקרטיה החילונית בישראל, ומתאר עולם שבו המלך הוא כל יכול, בעל עבדים ושפחות. עולם שבו...

ישיבת עוד יוסף חי ביצהר הרוויחה ביושר את הפיכתה לסמל הקיצוניות של ישיבות הגדה המערבית. חלק ניכר מפרסומה חייבת הישיבה לחיבור הראשון של ספר ההלכה "תורת המלך", שפרסמו רבניה יצחק שפירא ויוסף אליצור, ספר שמתיר למעשה בשלל מצבים את דמם של לא־יהודים ובמקרים מסוימים אף את דמם של יהודים. פרסום הספר הוביל לחקירה משטרתית נגד כותביו בחשד להסתה לגזענות, אך איש מהם לא הועמד לדין.


Do our charity dollars work for or against our ideals?

Rabbi Marc Angel, Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

Click HERE for the full article

We are good-hearted people who do our best to be kind and charitable. We want to build a better society, ease suffering, aid the needy, support worthy institutions etc. We are barraged by those who solicit funds for one cause or another. We may give a few dollars to each; we may give a lot to a few; we may give more or less, depending on our mood when we receive the solicitation for charity.

Do we have a philosophy that governs our charitable outlays? Or do we just make contributions randomly, based on who asks us first or who approaches us most respectfully?

I would like to suggest that we think carefully about our charitable giving, and view our charitable dollars as a means of advancing our vision of a better Jewish community and a better world.



Rabbis for Religious Freedom and Equality in Israel represents a broad spectrum of Jewish belief and practice, and champions the values of religious freedom and equality fundamental to World Jewry, in partnership with Hiddush for the realization of these principles in Israel and the Diaspora.

Rabbis for Religious Freedom and Equality in Israel
Website: WWW.RRFEI.ORG | Email: organizers@rrfei.org | Tel. [US] 646-334-5636; [Israel] 054-779-1179

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