The Conspiracy

Hatikvah, modified; Reform cantors ordained; and more. [Required Reading]

Making Hatikvah accessible for the rest of Israel [Forward]

Is Hatikvah a song for only a portion of its population? What about Israeli Arabs? In this fascinating piece from the Jewish Daily Forward, the question is explored, Can this anthem be modified to reflect the diversity that Israel houses?

“‘The successful integration of Israeli Arabs into Israeli life, on which the country’s future depends, has to have its symbolic expression, too,’ Philologos continued. ‘It’s unacceptable to have an anthem that can’t be sung by 20% of a population. Permitting it to stand mutely while others sing is no solution.’

So he proposed a solution, a careful adjustment of a few problematic words and phrases. In the opening stanza, ‘nefesh yehudi’ becomes ‘nefesh yisra’eli’, the soul of a Jew becoming the soul of an Israeli. And the eye that ‘looks for Zion’ (‘le-tsiyon’) can be altered to yearn ‘for our country’ (‘l’artseynu.’)

Then in the closing stanza, he suggested a skillful blend of the current language with the words of the original poem from which the national anthem was taken: ‘Od lo avda tikvateynu, / ha-tikvah ha-noshana, / lihiyot am hofshi b’eretz avoteynu, / b’ir ba david, David hana.’ That is, ‘We have still not lost our hope, / our ancient hope, / to be a free people in the land of our fathers, / in the city in which David, in which David encamped.'”

Israel and the problem of convert immigration [Forward]

While challenges to those who wish to convert to Judaism are often discussed, one area of concern is gaining prominence: immigration to Israel. It seems, despite valid conversions to the faith, many potential immigrants to Israel are facing serious obstacles. The Jewish Daily Forward writes:

“Israel’s Interior Ministry has long asserted that it has the power to withhold immigration rights from converts unless they have been residents of their Diaspora community for a period of time after they convert. It has done so in defiance of a 2005 Supreme Court ruling stating that because all Jews have equal rights to aliyah, converts may immigrate as soon as they become Jewish.

Despite the ruling, the Interior Ministry did not stop claiming power to impose residency requirements, but it applied it sparingly. Now, however, it appears to be making residency demands routinely — leaving some converts in limbo. Most of the 15 applicants refused over the past four months are currently living in Israel on tourist visas. They now face the quandary that to become citizens, they must leave their new lives and return to the Diaspora.

But even this solution is problematic. Lidiah Bikus, a convert from the Belorussian town of Kishinev, asked the Interior Ministry earlier this year what, exactly, are the residency criteria she must fulfill before making aliyah. She received a response, which the Forward has reviewed, in which the Interior Ministry admitted that there are no final or publicly available criteria.”

Reform seminary to ordain cantors for first time in history [HUC]

For the first time in history, cantors who have completed their formal study will receive a ordination, instead of an investiture. This move from the Hebrew Union College (the U.S. Reform seminary) is being undertaken for the following reasons, according to the HUC announcement:

“The term investiture is not recognized by some states as a means of conferring clergy status.  Consequently, there have been cantors barred from visiting congregants in prisons and hospitals or, in some cases, barred from performing weddings.

Cantors have had great difficulty qualifying to serve in the military chaplaincy.

Cantors now complete an intensive five-year program, comparable to rabbinical training, including a first year of study in Israel and master’s thesis, and are prepared to serve as co-clergy with rabbis.”

Jon Stewart says, “Vagina Mangers.” [JTA]

First of all, “What?” Second of all, “Uh-oh.” Take it away, JTA!

“This week it was Stewart himself who found himself under fire from the Catholic League for suggesting that women use “vagina mangers” to call attention to threats to female reproductive freedom.

Stewart has criticized Fox News for using the term ‘war on …’ from Christmas to salt, yet holding back from saying ‘war on women’ in reference to recent abortion and birth control debates. To catch Fox News’ attention, Stewart advised women to put ‘vagina mangers’ over their genitalia to catch the media’s attention. His suggestion came with a graphic that featured the manger as the Nativity scene.”

Outside the camp: Leviticus in a modern context [Huffington Post]
Rabbi Arthur Green takes a look at a section from Leviticus that has served as fodder for religious conflict, particularly over its treatment of individuals as being “inside” or “outside” the community. What can be taken away from these passages today, especially if one is modern-minded?
“Who are those we send ‘outside the camp?’ In the various Hasidic and other ultra-Orthodox communities, the standards are quite clear and severe. Anyone who breaks with the norms of traditional Jewish law, or who openly expresses doubt in divine providence or the Torah’s authority, is to be shunned. This still takes place in the old-fashioned way, including mourning as though for the dead. The Hasidim are not unlike the Amish; closed communities of the religious elect, for whose members’ excommunication can be a devastating punishment.For the rest of us, the ground is shifting. When I was younger, gays and inter-marrieds were the two kinds of Jews most likely to be kept ‘outside the camp.’ The former were seen as morally degenerate in an age that had not yet begun to deal with the origins of homosexuality and had not yet dreamed of normalizing it within the sacred bounds of marriage, as is thankfully being done today. The latter were betrayers, setting aside loyalty to thousands of years of tradition for the “mere” choice of a love-partner. This taboo, too, has been breached in most of our families, and the prospective son- or daughter-in-law is welcomed and embraced, partly in the hope that such embrace will encourage the raising of Jewish children, thus keeping the camp alive for another generation.”

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