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Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev & Chairman Stanley P. Gold

A message from Hiddush

Mar. 1, 2018
14 Adar, 5778

Dear Friends,

"The storm is rising," we wrote in our last newsletter.

Now, we can definitely say that the situation is nearing the point of explosion! Also, this time, it is clear that the religion-state clash is an integral part of the approaching explosion.

This morning, Absorption Minister Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beiteinu) lashed out at the ultra-Orthodox parties who are demanding the immediate passage of laws to exempt yeshiva students from military service (see more below). She declared that "the Haredi parties are trying to extort the State in every manner and at every opportunity!" The Minister followed on Defense Minister Lieberman's (Head of Yisrael Beiteinu) statement, "The Draft Law is a Draft-dodging Law. United Torah Judaism's demand is nothing short of extortion by threats. Yisrael Beiteinu will not capitulate."

Clearly, like eagles sensing their prey below, the political groupings are repositioning themselves, sensing the coming elections. The Likud leadership (including an emergency meeting that Netanyahu held with the Haredi leadership last night), conveyed to the Haredi politicians that they are overreaching. Their demands might not only result with early elections, but also with serious political losses to their allies and a dramatic increase in the Yesh Atid party's attraction to the public. Having just extorted the passage of the Markets Bill focusing on Shabbat commerce, the Haredi political leadership (particularly the Aguda sector, under pressure by their rabbis) have demanded the commencement of legislation this week aimed at overriding the Supreme Court rulings regarding military service by yeshiva students (for further info see HERE and HERE), lest they will prevent the passage of the national budget.

However dismissive Israel's political leadership has been of the public's rejection of the Haredi parties' demands, now that elections are looming, they have all woken up to realize the imminent and dire repercussions of buckling to their extortion. There yawns a wide abyss between the Haredi pretentious claims that military exemption for their yeshiva students is critical to Israel's security because it's actually only their Torah study that safeguards Israel, and the 70% of the Jewish public that rejects this, as recently measured again in the Peace Index.

The lessons to be drawn are clear:

1) As cynical as politicians are, when they sense that the public is outraged and is going to exact a price for their surrender to extortion, they are capable of regaining portions of their backbones. 2) A key element in safeguarding religious freedom and equality in Israel should be ongoing outreach, mobilization, and consciousness raising of the public.

As we celebrate Purim, the holiday of masquerading, we urge you to endorse our vision and help us tear apart the cynical masks Israel's political powers that be wear every day.


Stanley P. Gold,
Hiddush Chair

Rabbi Uri Regev,
Hiddush President


Hiddush survey for 2018 International Agunah Day

69% of the Israeli public supports revoking the monopoly of the rabbinical courts on Jewish personal status matters, supports the establishment of a parallel civil system, and supports alternative, lenient rabbinic courts as a solution to alleviate the phenomenon of agunot

Click for larger graph

This is a strong expression of distrust in the Orthodox monopoly. International Agunah Day reminds us of the urgent need to dismantle the Orthodox monopoly on marriage and divorce in Israel.

The Rabbinate's monopoly over Jewish divorce is the main reason for the tragedy of the agunot, and canceling it is the main key to easing the suffering of agunot all over Israel. The just solution, which most of the public supports, is the creation of parallel channels. Couples must be legally permitted to have civil marriages and divorces through Israel's family courts, and Orthodox families should be allowed to choose lenient rabbinic courts, which are not necessarily part of the apparatus controlled by the ultra-Orthodox political parties.

The poll represents a strong vote of no confidence in the Orthodox monopoly over the divorce, and supports the results of previous surveys that have showed that the Israeli public supports freedom of choice in marriage. The public is fed up with the Israeli system of rabbinical courts that discriminates against women, anchors them in loveless marriages, and empowers their husbands to blackmail them. Throughout the years, Israel's governments have sold off the public's freedom of marriage for a cheap mess of political porridge. As long as there are no civil marriages and divorces in Israel, as most of the public wants and as all other Western democracies permit, Israel will remain the among the worst in the world in this arena.

This survey was conducted by the Smith Polling Institute, commissioned by Hiddush for Freedom of Religion and Equality, in advance of International Agunah Day, which falls annually on the Fast of Esther. The telephone survey was conducted between February 15-18, 2018 among a sample of 500 people representing the adult Jewish Israeli population, aged 18 and over.

Click HERE for survey details

Tzohar enters the kashrut certification market

An important chapter in the ongoing saga of religion and state has been written in Israel this week. In a widely covered press conference, the Zionist Orthodox Tzohar rabbinic organization announced that it is launching a kosher supervising entity that will compete with the Chief Rabbinate and offer the Israeli food industry an alternative supervision more convenient than that of the state.

Tzohar’s announcement was hailed by a wide array of organizations and activists, ranging from secular to Modern Orthodox, naturally including Hiddush.

Of course, it did not take long before the Chief Rabbinate and its allies declared: “The Tzohar Rabbinical organization is fast becoming like the Conservative movement, and it would be good for the public to understand that the struggle for the kashrut system is not between the Rabbinate and Tzohar, but between the Rabbinate and the Conservative movement, which has taken over Tzohar.”

A number of observations would help assess the significance of this new development:

1) Even as Tzohar's self-righteous pronouncements at the press conference maintained that this is not intended against the Chief Rabbinate, it is exactly that. This is clearly another nail in the Chief Rabbinate's coffin, which is being constructed.

2) As Hiddush's ongoing polling reveals, the public is overwhelmingly on the side of breaking down the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly over kashrut in Israel.

3) While Tzohar set out ambitious goals for their initiative (10% of businesses selling food are to be certified by Tzohar within three years), the jury is out as to whether these goals will be realized. The challenge is that for most businesses, this is not an abstract exercise. [more]

4) Further entangling the attraction of the new initiative is the fact that it has been very carefully designed to meet the legal complexities involving kashrut certification. What Tzohar is doing is closely monitored and guided by legal advisors. [more]

5) Tzohar's ability to launch this new initiative as based primarily on the landmark Supreme Court ruling that chiseled away at the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly, much to the chagrin and consternation of the Chief Rabbinate and their political supporters. [more]

6) Tzohar’s challenge to the Chief Rabbinate's kashrut monopoly is praiseworthy, but the answer must not stop at legal loopholes and creative language. [more]

7) Another example of the relativism involved in this saga involves a strong political proponent of preserving the Chief Rabbinate's exclusive power. I am referring to MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home party) who attacked this new initiative. [more]

8) Rabbi Stav himself, while relying unhesitantly on a Supreme Court ruling that challenged and eroded the authority of the Chief Rabbinate, had no problem with attacking the Supreme Court in the past in another area, which didn't meet his halakhic and religious interests. [more]

9) The bottom line question is: which is the desirable alternative path? [more]

Click HERE for full article


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