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Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev & Chairman Stanley P. Gold

A message from Hiddush

April 6, 2017
10 Nissan, 5777

Dear Friends,

Passover is around the corner, and we will soon assemble around the Seder table and discuss the blessing of freedom. We will read the Haggadah and the central commandment that each and every one of us should view him/herself as if they came out of Egypt. As we look at the pain, suffering, and bondage of so many in the world, such as the misery of millions in Syria today, we should be moved to action.

We at Hiddush realize that we need to view the concept of freedom beyond simply delivery from slavery, and as we celebrate Passover this year, we are ever motivated to bring Israel more fully into a state of religious freedom and equality. Interestingly, the Merriam-Webster definition of “Freedom” mentions slavery only as the second meaning:

    Definition of FREEDOM
    1: the quality or state of being free: such as
    a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action
    b : liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another

Religious coercion and many constraints on individual choices and actions are still rampant in Israel, especially for Jews.

Think of the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who are denied the right to marry, of the “chained” women who are denied freedom from marriages that no longer work, of the Women of the Wall and egalitarian prayer groups who are denied freedom of worship at the Wall, and you will easily realize that we have our work cut out for us. Around the Passover table we should double our resolve to work to make that which is so clearly promised in Israel’s Declaration of Independence and is supported by the majority of Israelis – a reality!

Only this week, Rabbi David Yosef, a member of the Council of Sages of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, chose to teach that the “Wicked child” of the Haggadah in this generation is the Reform Jew. Meanwhile, his brother, Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef attempted to use his authority to re-chain a woman who had been freed from her marriage to her comatose husband.

We derive encouragement from the support of the public, from the courage of Israel’s High Court of Justice, and from the growing number of Orthodox groups and activists who join the battle for religious freedom and equality, as you can see on the right. Together we can truly make a difference, bring about freedom in its widest sense, and realize our dreams for Israel and the Jewish People.

Chag Kasher v'Sameach,

Stanley P. Gold,
Hiddush Chair

Rabbi Uri Regev,
Hiddush President

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Growing frictions between
religion & state in Israel

Israel's Supreme Court has handed down two decisions that demonstrate the critical importance of an independent civil judiciary, but the Government Coalition continues to capitulate to the ultra-Orthodox political parties.

The last two weeks have provided us with yet another nasty mouthful of the growing conflicts between religion and state in Israel. The good news is that Israel's Supreme Court has handed down two decisions that demonstrate the critical importance of an independent civil judiciary. Also, since both decisions were written by Justice Rubinstein, an Orthodox Jew who has repeatedly spoken for and acted in strengthening the Jewish character of the State of Israel, we see how artificial the fundamentalists’ claim of "the Israeli Supreme Court is out to destroy Judaism in Israel" truly is.

One ruling deals with a high visibility, controversial case regarding the intention of Israel's Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (the Head of Rabbinic Court of Appeals) to convene a special panel of the Court to hear an appeal submitted by a third-party individual with no connection to the divorce case who attempted to challenge the validity of a gett (religious divorce document) rendered by the Safed rabbinic court in a case where the husband had been comatose for 10 years. For further background, click HERE


"The matter before us," said Rubinstein, "is difficult, emotional, and human, and on the side of the legal question that we were asked to decide, the heart goes out to the woman who has endured a torturous path, first when her marriage life crumbled, as her husband became comatose, then over all the years that she fought to gain a gett, and then fighting over the validity of her gett. It's time to end this matter."


Another decision rendered by the Supreme Court this week, though not a final ruling, involves the ongoing litigation over the demand that a woman be appointed Deputy Director of Israel's Rabbinic Courts, as was agreed upon in a previous hearing, and that the criteria for submitting candidacy for the position of Director of the Rabbinic Courts would also be adapted to enable a woman to apply for the position.


On the "bad news" side of things...


The battle over "Whose Israel?" and what values will shape its identity and soul is on. This is a battle we cannot afford to lose. Even the glimpse given to us this week of what may happen when the likes of Rabbis Yosef and Gafni are given full rein is scary. Clearly the silent majority in both Israel and the Diaspora does not want any share in such a prospect, but so long as it remains silent, cynical politicians will have the upper hand. Recent polling of public opinion regarding developments such as the growing Orthodox support for religious freedom, give us hope.

Read the full article...

For first time, Orthodox NGO campaigns
for civil marriage in Israel

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

As we have stressed in the past, one of the most encouraging developments in the area of struggle for marriage freedom in Israel is the growing support for this cause coming from Modern Orthodox groups and activists. For some, it is a personal protest against an increasingly rigid and fundamentalist Chief Rabbinate, represented by a growing number of Orthodox couples who choose to marry outside the Rabbinate's auspices. For some, it is a realization that as much as they are personally committed to halakha, they also recognize the rights of others who do not share their commitment and should be entitled to realize the basic civil right of marriage in their own ways.

One such compelling example was covered by the Jerusalem Post on March 26, available HERE, providing yet another example of the wide usage of Hiddush's survey data, as a necessary context for this new development.


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