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Norman,

directed by Joseph Cedar

(R, 1 hour, 58 minutes)

Norman Oppenheimer is a guy who claims to have more inside information than you figure he can, who only wants a minute of your time to pitch you on a deal that could work out for everyone. He’s a name dropper who tends to exaggerate his importance. Maybe you’ve listened politely to Norman, maybe you’ve brushed him off.

He’s not a bad guy. It’s just that he pushes a little too hard.

We meet Norman doing what he does. He tries to trade on the slightest connection, he ambushes captains of industry in the streets, and he is, sometimes kindly but always firmly, rebuffed.

But then he catches low-level Israeli politician Micha Eshel (Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi) — the deputy of a deputy minister — at a vulnerable time.

Three years later, that politician is elected prime minister of Israel. Norman is in the crowd, clapping and smiling beatifically. Maybe that vulnerability will pay off for him.

Norman is remarkable for the gentle and precisely calibrated performances of Richard Gere, who plays (once again) against his dashing type as the deferential yet dignified would-be deal maker, and Ashkenazi, who as Eshel displays genuine affection and gratitude for Norman.

Director Cedar has crafted a bright and modest movie about ordinary people running up against their limitations. That might sound like a weak response to the superheroes on the loose this summer, but if you’re looking for something a little more grown up, a little less sweet, have I got a deal for you.

With Charlotte Gainsbourg, Steve Buscemi, Michael Sheen.

Their Finest (R, 1 hour, 57 minutes) This witty, meandering, intelligent comedic drama, set in London in 1940, concerns the hiring of Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) to write female dialogue for morale-boosting propaganda films produced by the British government, which leads her to work on an epic feature based on the Dunkirk rescue starring former matinee idol Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy). With Sam Claflin. Richard E. Grant, Jake Lacy; directed by Lone Scherfig.

The Fate of the Furious (PG-13, 2 hours, 16 minutes) The kinetic horsepower-fueled franchise returns for the eighth time, predictable as ever, with the classy addition of Charlize Theron as a coolly competent villain named Cipher and a cameo by Helen Mirren. With Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham and Scott Eastwood; directed by F. Gary Gray.

Violet (not rated, 1 hour, 25 minutes) An ambitious, quiet, and tautly focused psychological drama, set in a rural area of Belgium. A vicious attack on a teenager at a mall forces the kid’s 15-year-old friend, Jesse (Cesar De Sutter), to try to come to grips with senseless trauma. Could he have prevented the violence? With Mira Helmer; directed by Bas Devos.

The Lost City of Z (PG-13, 2 hours, 21 minutes) A long-winded yet spirited and elegant portrayal of ambitious British 20th-century explorer Percy Fawcett (a fine performance by Charlie Hunnam) who, while exploring remote reaches of the lush Amazon jungle in Bolivia, encounters signs of a previously undiscovered civilization and hears rumors of a city no white man has ever seen. Based on the nonfiction book by David Grann. With Tom Holland, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson; directed by James Gray.

MovieStyle on 07/14/2017

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Explainer: what is pre-pregnancy carrier screening and should potential parents consider it? – The Conversation AU

Couples thinking about kids can be screened for genes that may cause disease in their offspring.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently recommended obstetricians, gynaecologists and other related health care providers offer pre-pregnancy carrier screening for genetic diseases to all patients.

Pre-pregnancy carrier screening involves testing healthy adults for the presence of gene mutations that cause diseases that are not present in them, but if both parents have the same recessive gene, could eventuate in their children. This includes diseases such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophies.

If both partners in a couple carry the same recessive disease, then the couple have a one in four chance of a child with that disease. Carrier couples may therefore have multiple affected children. Some recessive diseases are relatively mild but others are severe, including many that cause death at or shortly after birth.

Newton Morton, one of the founders of genetic epidemiology, estimated from population data as long ago as 1956 that each of us is a carrier of three to five lethal recessive mutations and this has been confirmed by more recent research. This means we are all carriers of something, but most of us are generally unaware of our carrier status unless we have an affected child.

Historically, pre-pregnancy carrier screening programs have been tailored for specific population groups who are more likely to have a recessive disease. For example, the recessive brain condition Tay-Sachs disease, which is usually fatal in early childhood, has a high incidence in the Ashkenazi-Jewish community.

In 1969 it was discovered the loss of an enzyme (called hexosaminidase A) causes the disease. This led to the development of tests allowing carriers for Tay-Sachs disease to be identified. The first pre-pregnancy carrier screening programs in the Ashkenazi population followed in the 1970s. Since then the incidence of Tay-Sachs disease has reduced by more than 90%.

Other such targeted pre-pregnancy carrier screening programs exist in other parts of the world. For example in Mediterranean countries where there is a high rate of the recessive blood disease thalassaemia, pre-pregnancy carrier screening was offered and this also resulted in a reduction in the incidence of the disease.

Today, the country with the most comprehensive pre-pregnancy carrier screening program is Israel. It introduced a national program in 2003 and by 2015, the program was screening approximately 60,000 people annually for nearly 100 recessive conditions. The Israeli program is tailored to the different ethnic groups in the country, but also includes diseases common in all ethnic groups such as spinal muscular atrophy.

Diagnostic laboratories around the world are now using technology that can sequence multiple individuals for hundreds of disorders at once. This technology is used to diagnose many different types of genetic diseases and is more effective than standard diagnostic testing. It has also been investigated for carrier screening and can detect carriers of multiple recessive disorders.

When pre-pregnancy carrier screening programs are introduced, they reduce death and disease associated with the screened diseases. They can save families from experiencing the tragedy of a child affected by a significant genetic disease. They also reduce the burden of recessive disease within the population as a whole.

Each recessive disease is rare but there are hundreds of recessive diseases and so collectively they have wide-ranging social and economic impacts. A study of 50 severe recessive diseases found their collective incidence to be greater than that of Down syndrome (one in 600 compared to one in 1,100).

So pre-pregnancy carrier screening programs that include many genetic diseases, as now recommended by the American College, would maximise knowledge of genetic risk for couples.

When testing genes, some identified variations are definitely harmful while most are definitely harmless. But for some variations we cant be sure if they are harmful, and whether or not they will cause disease in any children.

And some mutations, called de novo mutations, arise spontaneously during the development of a child. These mutations cannot be detected by pre-pregnancy screening.

So while the risk of having an affected child is reduced by pre-pregnancy carrier screening, it is not eliminated.

There are no guarantees that pre-pregnancy screening will result in a healthy baby, but it will allow couples options to reduce the burden of disease associated with known disease-causing mutations.

Counselling is required before and after the test to explain the risks to couples.

There is little health risk from the test, no more than the risk associated with taking a blood sample. The cost may be prohibitive for many couples, though. While it depends on the number of genes screened, costs may be several hundred dollars per person.

A small number of targeted pre-pregnancy carrier screening programs have been in place in Australia for a number of years including for Ashkenazi populations, for individuals with a family history of various diseases, and in IVF clinics. In Victoria the Victorian Clinical Genetics Service offers private pre-pregnancy carrier screening.

Several Australian groups, such as the Australian Genomics Health Alliance, are researching ways to screen larger numbers of genes. It remains to be seen if Australian bodies will make similar recommendations to those in the US.

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Explainer: what is pre-pregnancy carrier screening and should potential parents consider it? – The Conversation AU

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Israel: Jewish but not religious? – Intermountain Jewish News

Rabbi David Lau, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, speaking in Berlin, Germany in 2013. (Sean Gallup/Getty)

Israel is and must continue to be a Jewish state, but does that mean it must be a religious state?

We pose this question because Israels religious bodies, and how they interpret Judaism, is causing some serious rifts in Diaspora relations. Fundamentally, these two communities are at odds: Judaism in Israel is overseen by an institution, the Rabbinate, that is formally associated with Orthodox Judaism. Diaspora Judaism, is pluralistic, encompassing a variety of denominations with no one denomination having much of a say of what happens in another.

How to reconcile these two approaches?

The ideal, it seems, would be if Israel could parallel developments in some European countries that are still very much Christian, but the Christian church has very little to almost no jurisdiction over peoples lives. For example, in England, the Anglican Church is led by the Queen and is the official religion of the state, but the only legal jurisdiction it seems to have is over the marriages and divorces of nobility. There, too, religious holidays are often public holidays, including some you may never have heard of, like Whitsun. And that Anglican Church does receive government support. Could that be a model for Israel? The only issue there and its a big one is that this type of religious secularism (hows that for an oxymoron) took centuries to develop, and Israel is only 69 years old.

Israel was founded on the Zionist dream: A state for Jews. Yet, with the way things are going, Israel is running into the danger of sending the message that its not a state for all Jews, but a theocracy. Thats not a message it can afford tosend.

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Kubbeh soup hits NYC – The Jerusalem Post mobile website

Kubbeh soup . (photo credit:AMY SPIRO)

It may be the height of summer in New York City, but one chef is hoping to entice hungry Manhattanites to dig in to a steaming bowl of kubbeh soup.

Kubeh, a new offering from chef Melanie Shurka, is set to open on Saturday, and offer both fried and broth-based versions of the filled dumplings.

Shurka, a lawyer turned chef, first discovered the ubiquitous Israeli treat while studying law in Tel Aviv. While she grew up in New York with an Israeli Persian dad and an Ashkenazi Jewish mom, it wasn’t until later that Shurka really got to know the Iraqi-Syrian-Israeli dish and all its variants.

Shurka – alongside her husband, David Ort – will offer five types of kubbeh and four different broths that draw from the Persian, Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish roots of the dish.

The menu allows diners to mix and match between the different dumpling and broth options, and Shurka believes “there are no wrong choices” (though I wouldn’t put a fish ball in a chicken soup, but the choice is yours). There are the common hamusta (sour) and beet broths plus tomato, and beef-, lamb- and mushroom-filled dumplings as well as Persian gondi made from chicken and chickpeas. The menu also features two versions of fried kubbeh, plus a variety of other Middle Eastern-inspired dishes.

Kubeh is far from the first Israeli eatery to pop up in New York city of late – the cuisine is having a veritable moment, even across the US. Famed Israeli chef Meir Adoni opened Nur to much acclaim several months ago. Chef Eyal Shani announced this week that he will open a new branch of his “Hamiznon” chain in Manhattan this fall, and Einat Admony’s Taim, Balaboosta and Bar Bolonat (where Shurka previously worked) have been serving up Israeli fare for years. Outside of New York, Michael Solomonov’s Zahav and Alon Shaya’s Shaya are both popular and critically acclaimed (both have been honored with James Beard Awards).

Despite the hunger for Israeli cuisine, July may be a tough time to open a soup-based eatery; hopefully Kubeh will have strong air conditioning in place.

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‘Haredi soldiers attacked and ministers are silent’ – Arutz Sheva

Haredi soldiers learning Torah

Flash 90

MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) recently said on the Kol Belz radio program that “The Sephardim are going to the army because, unfortunately, there is weakness in them. There are many of them there [in the army].”

MK Eichler’s statement was one of the attacks on haredi IDF soldiers which prompted MK Amir Ohana (Likud) to slam the haredi leadership for its attitude towards IDF soldiers from their community. Speaking at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week, Ohana said that “the blood that will be spilled here … is on the hands of [Health Minister] Litzman and his men who allow incitement to rage unchecked.”

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, MK Ohana explained that he singled out Minister Litzman in his remarks because the Health Minister is “the most senior member of the haredi delegation and is the only minister in the Ashkenazi faction.” He differentiated between the Sephardic Shas party and its Ashkenazi counterpart.

“The majority of the haredi delegation does not approve this incitement and violence. They denounce it and want to get rid of it. But there is a small and extreme minority that dictates the tone because the majority is silent and I expect the majority to remove them from the party,” Ohana said.

Ohana was asked if his expectation is naiive, since the position of the haredi leadership against enlistment in the IDF is well known. He responded by saying that the issue is not the haredi acceptance of IDF service, but “What happens to the recruits who are the subjects of the incitement and violence?”

“Litzman says, and his people say, that the instigators and the violence are not his audience, but the Satmarites who oppose the existence of the State of Israel, but if you remain silent, how will you bring this faction down? Why are we in the Likud, in the Jewish Home party, and in Yesh Atid able to condemn this and they are not? Suddenly Litzman can’t find the time to condemn this. It began with [shouts of the slur] ‘Chardak!’ and with brochures, and continued with the hanging of effigies and sending a fake bomb to a haredi soldier. It will end in blood,” Ohana said.

Ohana said that he is trying to get other ministers to speak out against the phenomenon, but it is difficult to criticize the leaders of the haredi parties when they are partners in the coalition. He said that the haredi soldiers cannot be taken for granted, because “they are cut off from everything they have been told so far, and therefore they should be strengthened.”

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Deputy minister blasts chief rabbi’s ‘fake news’ on US Jews – The Times of Israel

A former Israeli ambassador to the US on Monday slammed as fake news claims by Israels Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau that 85 percent of American Jews had never visited Israel.

Three times as many Jews have visited as Rabbi Lau claims, Michael Oren told The Times of Israel.

The most recent comprehensive study of American Jewish life the 2013 Pew study shows that 43% of American Jews have visited Israel, and that number is increasing over time.

Talk about fake news! Oren continued. Rabbi Laus comments are symptomatic of the condescending and dismissive attitudes that some Israelis have toward American Jews.

He added, Its that kind of lack of understanding of each other that underlies the Western Wall controversy.

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau attends a special meeting of the Rabbinate Council at the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem Old City on May 24, 2017. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)

Oren was referring to a cabinet decision late last month to suspend a government-approved plan for a pluralistic prayer pavilion at Jerusalems Western Wall, following calls by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus ultra-Orthodox coalition allies to scrap the deal.

The decision sent shock waves through the worlds non-Orthodox Jewish community, particularly in the US, with community leaders declaring that the decision had hurt Israel-Diaspora relations in an unprecedented way.

Lau the Ashkenazi chief rabbi had on Sunday dismissed reports of an Israel-Diaspora schism as fake news, claiming that the vast majority of American Jews had never set foot in Israel anyway.

Speaking at a conference organized by the ultra-Orthodox daily newspaper Hamodia, Lau said that the biggest issue facing US Jews was not the Western Wall, but intermarriage and apathy about the Jewish state.

In the past two weeks we have been exposed to lies, that American Jews are tearing themselves away from Israel, said Lau. Eighty-five percent of American Jews have never set foot in Israel.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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Analysis: The turn of the Moroccans to lead the ‘white tribe’ of Israel’s Labor – i24NEWS

Regardless of who will be elected to be the new head of Israels Labor Party in the second round Amir Peretz or Avi Gabbay one fact is already known: the person to replace Isaac Herzog is of Moroccan origin.

So what? is the wrong reaction to this statement. What should really be very irrelevant in Israel 2017 is actually very relevant. To begin with, in the 70 years of the State of Israel there has never been a Sephardi [descended from the Jews of the Iberian peninsula] prime minister, Moroccan or otherwise.

Now two contestants from Moroccan families and the social and geographical peripheries are competing for the leadership of the political party still strongly identified with the white tribe, an unsavory term gaining momentum as society matures. In fact, Labor has actually already had two Sephardi chairs: Benjamin Ben-Eliezer of Iraqi descent and Amir Peretz himself over ten years ago. Nevertheless, the party is still perceived as the Bastille of the white Ashkenazi [Jews of Eastern European descent] hegemony, resented and rejected by masses of Sephardi voters.

The roots of this phenomenon are deeply embedded into the history of Israel. They are the crime and the punishment for wrongdoings perpetrated by the then-ruling old Labor in the process of absorption of Jewish immigration from North Africa. Humiliation is the key word. The wound refuses to heal despite the belated public forgive us act by Ehud Barak as a Labor prime minister in 1999; The gaps opened over decades between Ashkenazi and Sephardi have not closed despite the attempt to verbally bury what is called in Hebrew the ethnic devil.

This time, it feels different. The two Peretz and Gabbay, of humble background, defeated two who best represent the old elite of Labor Party. One is the acting chair, Isaac Herzog, son of the late Gen. Haim Herzog, Labor politician and sixth president of Israel; the other is Omer Bar-Lev, son of the late Lt-Gen. Haim Bar Lev, one of the stars of the old Labor and a cabinet minister on multiple occasions.

A world-renowned Israeli writer of Iraqi origin, Eli Amir, defined the victory of the two runner-uppers over the crown princes as the emergence of a new aristocracy. He strongly believes that the outcome of this election marks a conceptual change.

He might be right, although not necessarily. The recognition that no party in Israel can win the elections without Sephardi voters and the assumption that a Sephardi leader may attract those votes, might provide an alternative explanation. It might be both. In any case, both candidates hate the reference to their ethnic background. They hardly mention it, if ever. They let others do for them what is still considered to be an unpleasant job in Israeli society.

Gabbay, by now a millionaire with an impressive record in the sphere of business and management, hardly mentions his roots, though he makes wise use of the hardships of his youth, growing up in a tiny house with eight siblings. Peretzs biography is well known to Israelis, and so is his statement of wishful thinking ten years ago that the ethnic problem is non-existent. Little did he know.

Whatever the future holds, the two victories over the old elites are an event of historic importance. Unlike the two former short-lived episodes of Sephardi leadership of Labor party, this one grows of from fertile ground in a more comfortable climate.

About two years ago, a new social movement emerged on the Israeli scene. Young intellectuals of Sephardi origin formed an organization under the name Golden age – it is our turn now. The name Golden Age refers to those days of Jewish cultural prosperity in Spain in the Middle Ages; now is our turn was their way of saying that the days of the exclusive Ashkenazi hegemony in Israel are over – now is the turn of Mizrachi Israel, to get control of all the strongholds in society that really matter.

So far, the new movement has had limited success. Nevertheless, the double victory of the two contestants in the Labor Party certainly has a lot to do with the changing social climate and audacious, unapologetic Sephardi discourse relentlessly spread by public opinion leaders and intellectuals of Sephardi origin.

It certainly was not like that just 11 years ago when Peretz was first elected to lead the party, many veteran Ashkenazi members left in angry protest. He just did not fit in. The most radical reaction was that of the then-new Russian speaking community in Israel. One of the major local newspapers in Russian called Peretz a garbage alley-cat from Sderot, in reference to the small town in the southern periphery where he chose to live. They hated his roots, his looks, and his accent. Everything. Peretz himself admitted then that he expected some dissatisfaction, but this level of racism surprised him.

Twelve years later, the same party has chosen not only him, but also another candidate of Moroccan origin to possibly lead the party. Ethnicity makes Israeli politics go round. The official reaction is that there is good reason to celebrate the success of two Moroccans, but that the revolution is far from over.

In July 2017, the two emerge on apolitical scene in days of a vocal, self-assured Sephardi discourse. The one elected will be on a double-pronged mission: to rephrase the left and right discourse and fine-tuning adjustments based on both security and identity. The rest just might become history.

Lily Galili is a feature writer, analyst of Israeli society and expert on immigration from the former Soviet Union. She is the co-author of “The Million that Changed the Middle East.”

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Chief Ashkenazi rabbi says he didn’t know of ‘blacklist’ of Diaspora rabbis – The Times of Israel

Israels Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said in a letter that he did not know of the existence of a blacklist of Diaspora rabbis and that it should not have been released to the public.

The chief rabbi was shocked to discover this list, read the letter written by an aide on behalf of Lau and issued Sunday. This was done without the rabbis knowledge or his agreement. How can a list like this be publicized without the rabbi being made aware of the list itself or of its publication?

The results of this are very serious, the letter continued. First of all, an employee in the Chief Rabbinate cannot decide on his own to publicize who the Rabbinate approves or not. Secondly, the damage this does to certain rabbis cannot be exaggerated including to the Chief Rabbinate.

The list consists of 160 rabbis from 24 countries whom the Chief Rabbinate does not trust to confirm the Jewish identities of immigrants. It includes rabbis from the United States and Canada, and Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis. It was released to JTA and other news outlets over the weekend by Itim, a nonprofit that guides Israelis through the countrys religious bureaucracy, after it received the list as part of a freedom-of-information request made in 2015 in a Jerusalem municipal court demanding a list of approved foreign rabbis and received this list as part of that case.

According to a JTA tally of the 66 American rabbis on the list, at least one-fifth are Orthodox, including several prominent Orthodox rabbis and one alumnus of the Baltimore ultra-Orthodox seminary Ner Yisroel. The vast majority of US rabbis on the list are Reform or Conservative.

In Sundays letter, Lau ordered Chief Rabbinate Director-General Moshe Dagan to call in Rabbi Itamar Tubul, who kept and released the list, for questioning and a reprimand.

In December, rabbis at the Chief Rabbinate set up a controversial committee to vet conversions, but it is not clear whether the committee approved the published list.

Earlier Sunday, Lau had dismissed reports of a schism between Israel and US Jews over the Western Wall deal as fake news, claiming that the vast majority of American Jews never set foot in Israel anyway.

Speaking at a conference organized by the ultra-Orthodox daily newspaper Hamodia, Rabbi David Lau said that the biggest issue facing US Jews was not the Western Wall or the conversion bill, but intermarriage and apathy about the Jewish state.

In the past two weeks we have been exposed to lies, that American Jews are tearing themselves away from Israel, said Lau. Eighty-five percent of American Jews have never set foot in Israel.

At the end of June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government backtracked on a January 2016 plan to officially recognize a separate, permanent, pluralistic prayer area at Robinsons Arch, adjacent to the main Western Wall prayer area, in a compromise reached after years of negotiations between liberal Israeli and American Jewish groups and the Israeli authorities. The frozen deal would have given non-Orthodox Jewish leaders a joint role in the oversight of the pluralistic site. Currently, a temporary prayer facility exists there.

Archaeologists claim the egalitarian platform harms the visual story of the Western Wall by hiding important archaeological artifacts. (courtesy, Eilat Mazar)

Under ultra-Orthodox management, the main Western Wall area is separated between mens and womens prayer sections.

Lau rejected claims that the Western Wall was only for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

I was in the US a few months ago, he said. I was asked: Why do you not let people of other faiths come to pray at the Western Wall? I told them that is also false. I was at the Western Wall. Next to me was a man from Nigeria. I dont know how he prayed, who he prayed to. But he stood there. Did I bother him? Did he bother me?

Lau quoted the verse that My house is a place of prayer for all the nations, saying that all were welcome to come and pray. He did not explain how those who want pluralistic prayer could do so, but he said those making a fuss about the mixed gender plaza werent interested in coming to Jerusalem to pray.

A young member of Women of the Wall holds up the miniature Torah scroll during the monthly Rosh Hodesh service on June 25, 2017, in the womens section of the Western Wall plaza, just before Netanyahu froze the Kotel Agreement. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)

Of the 15% of US Jews who have visited Israel, Lau said, many of them are Orthodox, or wanted only separate prayer at the Western Wall. He implied that the actual number who cared about a mixed plaza was insignificant.

In the same meeting at the end of June, the cabinet also advanced a bill that would have granted the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, an ultra-Orthodox-dominated body, sole authority over recognized Jewish conversions within Israel. The conversion bill, however, was shelved on Friday for six months.

Efrats Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin officiates at a conversion examination for the Giyur Kahalacha private conversion court, November 2015. (courtesy)

Lau said this was also fake news and denied that the judges on the rabbinate conversion courts were out of touch with reality.

You should know that most of the judges in rabbinic courts were officers in the IDF, he said. They are connected to the Jewish experience as much as everyone else.

But he said that Israel cannot allow a situation where any three Jews can convene to form a conversion court, and award certificates of conversion. They give a certificate, he said, but what about Judaism.

He stressed that Israel bears a responsibility to care for US and Diaspora Jews, who are our brothers. But the way to do that was not through the Western Wall or conversion, but through education and strengthening their Jewish commitment.

Lau, along with Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, was instrumental in pushing ministers to force the government to backtrack on the Western Wall deal. Just a week before the cabinet decision the rabbinate released a letter that condemned the plans to improve the mixed-gender prayer at the Wall.

View of the current mixed-gender prayer section at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City on March 6, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The position of the Chief Rabbinate is that the government decision on dividing the Western Wall is invalid and cannot stand, the letter said, according to a copy obtained by the Israel Hayom daily. The Chief Rabbinate is the highest halachic [Jewish legal] authority in the state, and therefore it is entirely forbidden to hold mixed prayer, men and women together, at any site of the Western Wall.

The governments reneging on the two decisions about the Western Wall and conversions were met with fierce opposition from American-Jewish groups, philanthropists, businessmen and various figures active in the Jewish world, as well as Israeli politicians, who expressed their dismay and disappointment. Some have intimated the decisions might impact financial contributions to Israel and warned of eroding support for the Jewish state.

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Chief Ashkenazi rabbi says he didn’t know of ‘blacklist’ of Diaspora rabbis – The Times of Israel

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Israeli chief rabbi says he didn’t know about ‘blacklist’ of Diaspora rabbis – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, right, and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau attending a New Years ceremony at the national headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem, Sept. 7, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) Israels Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said in a letter that he did not know of the existence of a blacklist of Diaspora rabbis and that it should not have been released to the public.

The Chief Rabbi was shocked to discover this list. This was done without the rabbis knowledge or his agreement. How can a list like this be publicized without the rabbi being made aware of the list itself or of its publication? read the letterwritten by an aide on behalf of Lau and issued Sunday.

The results of this are very serious, the letter continued. First of all, an employee in the Chief Rabbinate cannot decide on his own to publicize who the Rabbinate approves or not. Secondly, the damage this does to certain rabbis cannot be exaggerated includingtothe Chief Rabbinate.

The list of 160 rabbis from 24 countries, including the United States and Canada, and including Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis, was released to JTA and other news outlets over the weekend by Itim, a nonprofit that guides Israelis through the countrys religious bureaucracy, after it received the list as part of a freedom-of-information request made in 2015 in a Jerusalem municipal court demanding a list of approved foreign rabbis and received this list as part of that case.

According to a JTA tally of the 66 U.S. rabbis on the list, at least one-fifth are Orthodox, including several prominent Orthodox rabbis and one alumnus of the Baltimore haredi Orthodox seminary Ner Yisroel. The vast majority of U.S. rabbis on the list are Reform or Conservative.

In Sundays letter, Lau ordered Chief Rabbinate Director-General Moshe Dagan to call in RabbiItamar Tubul, who kept and released the list, for questioning and a reprimand.

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Home Movies – Arkansas Online

Norman, directed by Joseph Cedar (R, 1 hour, 58 minutes) Norman Oppenheimer is a guy who claims to have more inside information than you figure he can, who only wants a minute of your time to pitch you on a deal that could work out for everyone. He’s a name dropper who tends to exaggerate his importance. Maybe you’ve listened politely to Norman, maybe you’ve brushed him off. He’s not a bad guy. It’s just that he pushes a little too hard. We meet Norman doing what he does. He tries to trade on the slightest connection, he ambushes captains of industry in the streets, and he is, sometimes kindly but always firmly, rebuffed. But then he catches low-level Israeli politician Micha Eshel (Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi) — the deputy of a deputy minister — at a vulnerable time. Three years later, that politician is elected prime minister of Israel. Norman is in the crowd, clapping and smiling beatifically. Maybe that vulnerability will pay off for him. Norman is remarkable for the gentle and precisely calibrated performances of Richard Gere, who plays (once again) against his dashing type as the deferential yet dignified would-be deal maker, and Ashkenazi, who as Eshel displays genuine affection and gratitude for Norman. Director Cedar has crafted a bright and modest movie about ordinary people running up against their limitations. That might sound like a weak response to the superheroes on the loose this summer, but if you’re looking for something a little more grown up, a little less sweet, have I got a deal for you. With Charlotte Gainsbourg, Steve Buscemi, Michael Sheen. Their Finest (R, 1 hour, 57 minutes) This witty, meandering, intelligent comedic drama, set in London in 1940, concerns the hiring of Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) to write female dialogue for morale-boosting propaganda films produced by the British government, which leads her to work on an epic feature based on the Dunkirk rescue starring former matinee idol Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy). With Sam Claflin. Richard E. Grant, Jake Lacy; directed by Lone Scherfig. The Fate of the Furious (PG-13, 2 hours, 16 minutes) The kinetic horsepower-fueled franchise returns for the eighth time, predictable as ever, with the classy addition of Charlize Theron as a coolly competent villain named Cipher and a cameo by Helen Mirren. With Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham and Scott Eastwood; directed by F. Gary Gray. Violet (not rated, 1 hour, 25 minutes) An ambitious, quiet, and tautly focused psychological drama, set in a rural area of Belgium. A vicious attack on a teenager at a mall forces the kid’s 15-year-old friend, Jesse (Cesar De Sutter), to try to come to grips with senseless trauma. Could he have prevented the violence? With Mira Helmer; directed by Bas Devos. The Lost City of Z (PG-13, 2 hours, 21 minutes) A long-winded yet spirited and elegant portrayal of ambitious British 20th-century explorer Percy Fawcett (a fine performance by Charlie Hunnam) who, while exploring remote reaches of the lush Amazon jungle in Bolivia, encounters signs of a previously undiscovered civilization and hears rumors of a city no white man has ever seen. Based on the nonfiction book by David Grann. With Tom Holland, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson; directed by James Gray. MovieStyle on 07/14/2017

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Explainer: what is pre-pregnancy carrier screening and should potential parents consider it? – The Conversation AU

Couples thinking about kids can be screened for genes that may cause disease in their offspring. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently recommended obstetricians, gynaecologists and other related health care providers offer pre-pregnancy carrier screening for genetic diseases to all patients. Pre-pregnancy carrier screening involves testing healthy adults for the presence of gene mutations that cause diseases that are not present in them, but if both parents have the same recessive gene, could eventuate in their children. This includes diseases such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophies. If both partners in a couple carry the same recessive disease, then the couple have a one in four chance of a child with that disease. Carrier couples may therefore have multiple affected children. Some recessive diseases are relatively mild but others are severe, including many that cause death at or shortly after birth. Newton Morton, one of the founders of genetic epidemiology, estimated from population data as long ago as 1956 that each of us is a carrier of three to five lethal recessive mutations and this has been confirmed by more recent research. This means we are all carriers of something, but most of us are generally unaware of our carrier status unless we have an affected child. Historically, pre-pregnancy carrier screening programs have been tailored for specific population groups who are more likely to have a recessive disease. For example, the recessive brain condition Tay-Sachs disease, which is usually fatal in early childhood, has a high incidence in the Ashkenazi-Jewish community. In 1969 it was discovered the loss of an enzyme (called hexosaminidase A) causes the disease. This led to the development of tests allowing carriers for Tay-Sachs disease to be identified. The first pre-pregnancy carrier screening programs in the Ashkenazi population followed in the 1970s. Since then the incidence of Tay-Sachs disease has reduced by more than 90%. Other such targeted pre-pregnancy carrier screening programs exist in other parts of the world. For example in Mediterranean countries where there is a high rate of the recessive blood disease thalassaemia, pre-pregnancy carrier screening was offered and this also resulted in a reduction in the incidence of the disease. Today, the country with the most comprehensive pre-pregnancy carrier screening program is Israel. It introduced a national program in 2003 and by 2015, the program was screening approximately 60,000 people annually for nearly 100 recessive conditions. The Israeli program is tailored to the different ethnic groups in the country, but also includes diseases common in all ethnic groups such as spinal muscular atrophy. Diagnostic laboratories around the world are now using technology that can sequence multiple individuals for hundreds of disorders at once. This technology is used to diagnose many different types of genetic diseases and is more effective than standard diagnostic testing. It has also been investigated for carrier screening and can detect carriers of multiple recessive disorders. When pre-pregnancy carrier screening programs are introduced, they reduce death and disease associated with the screened diseases. They can save families from experiencing the tragedy of a child affected by a significant genetic disease. They also reduce the burden of recessive disease within the population as a whole. Each recessive disease is rare but there are hundreds of recessive diseases and so collectively they have wide-ranging social and economic impacts. A study of 50 severe recessive diseases found their collective incidence to be greater than that of Down syndrome (one in 600 compared to one in 1,100). So pre-pregnancy carrier screening programs that include many genetic diseases, as now recommended by the American College, would maximise knowledge of genetic risk for couples. When testing genes, some identified variations are definitely harmful while most are definitely harmless. But for some variations we cant be sure if they are harmful, and whether or not they will cause disease in any children. And some mutations, called de novo mutations, arise spontaneously during the development of a child. These mutations cannot be detected by pre-pregnancy screening. So while the risk of having an affected child is reduced by pre-pregnancy carrier screening, it is not eliminated. There are no guarantees that pre-pregnancy screening will result in a healthy baby, but it will allow couples options to reduce the burden of disease associated with known disease-causing mutations. Counselling is required before and after the test to explain the risks to couples. There is little health risk from the test, no more than the risk associated with taking a blood sample. The cost may be prohibitive for many couples, though. While it depends on the number of genes screened, costs may be several hundred dollars per person. A small number of targeted pre-pregnancy carrier screening programs have been in place in Australia for a number of years including for Ashkenazi populations, for individuals with a family history of various diseases, and in IVF clinics. In Victoria the Victorian Clinical Genetics Service offers private pre-pregnancy carrier screening. Several Australian groups, such as the Australian Genomics Health Alliance, are researching ways to screen larger numbers of genes. It remains to be seen if Australian bodies will make similar recommendations to those in the US.

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Israel: Jewish but not religious? – Intermountain Jewish News

Rabbi David Lau, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, speaking in Berlin, Germany in 2013. (Sean Gallup/Getty) Israel is and must continue to be a Jewish state, but does that mean it must be a religious state? We pose this question because Israels religious bodies, and how they interpret Judaism, is causing some serious rifts in Diaspora relations. Fundamentally, these two communities are at odds: Judaism in Israel is overseen by an institution, the Rabbinate, that is formally associated with Orthodox Judaism. Diaspora Judaism, is pluralistic, encompassing a variety of denominations with no one denomination having much of a say of what happens in another. How to reconcile these two approaches? The ideal, it seems, would be if Israel could parallel developments in some European countries that are still very much Christian, but the Christian church has very little to almost no jurisdiction over peoples lives. For example, in England, the Anglican Church is led by the Queen and is the official religion of the state, but the only legal jurisdiction it seems to have is over the marriages and divorces of nobility. There, too, religious holidays are often public holidays, including some you may never have heard of, like Whitsun. And that Anglican Church does receive government support. Could that be a model for Israel? The only issue there and its a big one is that this type of religious secularism (hows that for an oxymoron) took centuries to develop, and Israel is only 69 years old. Israel was founded on the Zionist dream: A state for Jews. Yet, with the way things are going, Israel is running into the danger of sending the message that its not a state for all Jews, but a theocracy. Thats not a message it can afford tosend.

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Kubbeh soup hits NYC – The Jerusalem Post mobile website

Kubbeh soup . (photo credit:AMY SPIRO) It may be the height of summer in New York City, but one chef is hoping to entice hungry Manhattanites to dig in to a steaming bowl of kubbeh soup. Kubeh, a new offering from chef Melanie Shurka, is set to open on Saturday, and offer both fried and broth-based versions of the filled dumplings. Shurka, a lawyer turned chef, first discovered the ubiquitous Israeli treat while studying law in Tel Aviv. While she grew up in New York with an Israeli Persian dad and an Ashkenazi Jewish mom, it wasn’t until later that Shurka really got to know the Iraqi-Syrian-Israeli dish and all its variants. Shurka – alongside her husband, David Ort – will offer five types of kubbeh and four different broths that draw from the Persian, Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish roots of the dish. The menu allows diners to mix and match between the different dumpling and broth options, and Shurka believes “there are no wrong choices” (though I wouldn’t put a fish ball in a chicken soup, but the choice is yours). There are the common hamusta (sour) and beet broths plus tomato, and beef-, lamb- and mushroom-filled dumplings as well as Persian gondi made from chicken and chickpeas. The menu also features two versions of fried kubbeh, plus a variety of other Middle Eastern-inspired dishes. Kubeh is far from the first Israeli eatery to pop up in New York city of late – the cuisine is having a veritable moment, even across the US. Famed Israeli chef Meir Adoni opened Nur to much acclaim several months ago. Chef Eyal Shani announced this week that he will open a new branch of his “Hamiznon” chain in Manhattan this fall, and Einat Admony’s Taim, Balaboosta and Bar Bolonat (where Shurka previously worked) have been serving up Israeli fare for years. Outside of New York, Michael Solomonov’s Zahav and Alon Shaya’s Shaya are both popular and critically acclaimed (both have been honored with James Beard Awards). Despite the hunger for Israeli cuisine, July may be a tough time to open a soup-based eatery; hopefully Kubeh will have strong air conditioning in place. Share on facebook

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‘Haredi soldiers attacked and ministers are silent’ – Arutz Sheva

Haredi soldiers learning Torah Flash 90 MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) recently said on the Kol Belz radio program that “The Sephardim are going to the army because, unfortunately, there is weakness in them. There are many of them there [in the army].” MK Eichler’s statement was one of the attacks on haredi IDF soldiers which prompted MK Amir Ohana (Likud) to slam the haredi leadership for its attitude towards IDF soldiers from their community. Speaking at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week, Ohana said that “the blood that will be spilled here … is on the hands of [Health Minister] Litzman and his men who allow incitement to rage unchecked.” In an interview with Arutz Sheva, MK Ohana explained that he singled out Minister Litzman in his remarks because the Health Minister is “the most senior member of the haredi delegation and is the only minister in the Ashkenazi faction.” He differentiated between the Sephardic Shas party and its Ashkenazi counterpart. “The majority of the haredi delegation does not approve this incitement and violence. They denounce it and want to get rid of it. But there is a small and extreme minority that dictates the tone because the majority is silent and I expect the majority to remove them from the party,” Ohana said. Ohana was asked if his expectation is naiive, since the position of the haredi leadership against enlistment in the IDF is well known. He responded by saying that the issue is not the haredi acceptance of IDF service, but “What happens to the recruits who are the subjects of the incitement and violence?” “Litzman says, and his people say, that the instigators and the violence are not his audience, but the Satmarites who oppose the existence of the State of Israel, but if you remain silent, how will you bring this faction down? Why are we in the Likud, in the Jewish Home party, and in Yesh Atid able to condemn this and they are not? Suddenly Litzman can’t find the time to condemn this. It began with [shouts of the slur] ‘Chardak!’ and with brochures, and continued with the hanging of effigies and sending a fake bomb to a haredi soldier. It will end in blood,” Ohana said. Ohana said that he is trying to get other ministers to speak out against the phenomenon, but it is difficult to criticize the leaders of the haredi parties when they are partners in the coalition. He said that the haredi soldiers cannot be taken for granted, because “they are cut off from everything they have been told so far, and therefore they should be strengthened.”

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Deputy minister blasts chief rabbi’s ‘fake news’ on US Jews – The Times of Israel

A former Israeli ambassador to the US on Monday slammed as fake news claims by Israels Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau that 85 percent of American Jews had never visited Israel. Three times as many Jews have visited as Rabbi Lau claims, Michael Oren told The Times of Israel. The most recent comprehensive study of American Jewish life the 2013 Pew study shows that 43% of American Jews have visited Israel, and that number is increasing over time. Talk about fake news! Oren continued. Rabbi Laus comments are symptomatic of the condescending and dismissive attitudes that some Israelis have toward American Jews. He added, Its that kind of lack of understanding of each other that underlies the Western Wall controversy. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau attends a special meeting of the Rabbinate Council at the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem Old City on May 24, 2017. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90) Oren was referring to a cabinet decision late last month to suspend a government-approved plan for a pluralistic prayer pavilion at Jerusalems Western Wall, following calls by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus ultra-Orthodox coalition allies to scrap the deal. The decision sent shock waves through the worlds non-Orthodox Jewish community, particularly in the US, with community leaders declaring that the decision had hurt Israel-Diaspora relations in an unprecedented way. Lau the Ashkenazi chief rabbi had on Sunday dismissed reports of an Israel-Diaspora schism as fake news, claiming that the vast majority of American Jews had never set foot in Israel anyway. Speaking at a conference organized by the ultra-Orthodox daily newspaper Hamodia, Lau said that the biggest issue facing US Jews was not the Western Wall, but intermarriage and apathy about the Jewish state. In the past two weeks we have been exposed to lies, that American Jews are tearing themselves away from Israel, said Lau. Eighty-five percent of American Jews have never set foot in Israel. Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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Analysis: The turn of the Moroccans to lead the ‘white tribe’ of Israel’s Labor – i24NEWS

Regardless of who will be elected to be the new head of Israels Labor Party in the second round Amir Peretz or Avi Gabbay one fact is already known: the person to replace Isaac Herzog is of Moroccan origin. So what? is the wrong reaction to this statement. What should really be very irrelevant in Israel 2017 is actually very relevant. To begin with, in the 70 years of the State of Israel there has never been a Sephardi [descended from the Jews of the Iberian peninsula] prime minister, Moroccan or otherwise. Now two contestants from Moroccan families and the social and geographical peripheries are competing for the leadership of the political party still strongly identified with the white tribe, an unsavory term gaining momentum as society matures. In fact, Labor has actually already had two Sephardi chairs: Benjamin Ben-Eliezer of Iraqi descent and Amir Peretz himself over ten years ago. Nevertheless, the party is still perceived as the Bastille of the white Ashkenazi [Jews of Eastern European descent] hegemony, resented and rejected by masses of Sephardi voters. The roots of this phenomenon are deeply embedded into the history of Israel. They are the crime and the punishment for wrongdoings perpetrated by the then-ruling old Labor in the process of absorption of Jewish immigration from North Africa. Humiliation is the key word. The wound refuses to heal despite the belated public forgive us act by Ehud Barak as a Labor prime minister in 1999; The gaps opened over decades between Ashkenazi and Sephardi have not closed despite the attempt to verbally bury what is called in Hebrew the ethnic devil. This time, it feels different. The two Peretz and Gabbay, of humble background, defeated two who best represent the old elite of Labor Party. One is the acting chair, Isaac Herzog, son of the late Gen. Haim Herzog, Labor politician and sixth president of Israel; the other is Omer Bar-Lev, son of the late Lt-Gen. Haim Bar Lev, one of the stars of the old Labor and a cabinet minister on multiple occasions. A world-renowned Israeli writer of Iraqi origin, Eli Amir, defined the victory of the two runner-uppers over the crown princes as the emergence of a new aristocracy. He strongly believes that the outcome of this election marks a conceptual change. He might be right, although not necessarily. The recognition that no party in Israel can win the elections without Sephardi voters and the assumption that a Sephardi leader may attract those votes, might provide an alternative explanation. It might be both. In any case, both candidates hate the reference to their ethnic background. They hardly mention it, if ever. They let others do for them what is still considered to be an unpleasant job in Israeli society. Gabbay, by now a millionaire with an impressive record in the sphere of business and management, hardly mentions his roots, though he makes wise use of the hardships of his youth, growing up in a tiny house with eight siblings. Peretzs biography is well known to Israelis, and so is his statement of wishful thinking ten years ago that the ethnic problem is non-existent. Little did he know. Whatever the future holds, the two victories over the old elites are an event of historic importance. Unlike the two former short-lived episodes of Sephardi leadership of Labor party, this one grows of from fertile ground in a more comfortable climate. About two years ago, a new social movement emerged on the Israeli scene. Young intellectuals of Sephardi origin formed an organization under the name Golden age – it is our turn now. The name Golden Age refers to those days of Jewish cultural prosperity in Spain in the Middle Ages; now is our turn was their way of saying that the days of the exclusive Ashkenazi hegemony in Israel are over – now is the turn of Mizrachi Israel, to get control of all the strongholds in society that really matter. So far, the new movement has had limited success. Nevertheless, the double victory of the two contestants in the Labor Party certainly has a lot to do with the changing social climate and audacious, unapologetic Sephardi discourse relentlessly spread by public opinion leaders and intellectuals of Sephardi origin. It certainly was not like that just 11 years ago when Peretz was first elected to lead the party, many veteran Ashkenazi members left in angry protest. He just did not fit in. The most radical reaction was that of the then-new Russian speaking community in Israel. One of the major local newspapers in Russian called Peretz a garbage alley-cat from Sderot, in reference to the small town in the southern periphery where he chose to live. They hated his roots, his looks, and his accent. Everything. Peretz himself admitted then that he expected some dissatisfaction, but this level of racism surprised him. Twelve years later, the same party has chosen not only him, but also another candidate of Moroccan origin to possibly lead the party. Ethnicity makes Israeli politics go round. The official reaction is that there is good reason to celebrate the success of two Moroccans, but that the revolution is far from over. In July 2017, the two emerge on apolitical scene in days of a vocal, self-assured Sephardi discourse. The one elected will be on a double-pronged mission: to rephrase the left and right discourse and fine-tuning adjustments based on both security and identity. The rest just might become history. Lily Galili is a feature writer, analyst of Israeli society and expert on immigration from the former Soviet Union. She is the co-author of “The Million that Changed the Middle East.”

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Chief Ashkenazi rabbi says he didn’t know of ‘blacklist’ of Diaspora rabbis – The Times of Israel

Israels Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said in a letter that he did not know of the existence of a blacklist of Diaspora rabbis and that it should not have been released to the public. The chief rabbi was shocked to discover this list, read the letter written by an aide on behalf of Lau and issued Sunday. This was done without the rabbis knowledge or his agreement. How can a list like this be publicized without the rabbi being made aware of the list itself or of its publication? The results of this are very serious, the letter continued. First of all, an employee in the Chief Rabbinate cannot decide on his own to publicize who the Rabbinate approves or not. Secondly, the damage this does to certain rabbis cannot be exaggerated including to the Chief Rabbinate. The list consists of 160 rabbis from 24 countries whom the Chief Rabbinate does not trust to confirm the Jewish identities of immigrants. It includes rabbis from the United States and Canada, and Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis. It was released to JTA and other news outlets over the weekend by Itim, a nonprofit that guides Israelis through the countrys religious bureaucracy, after it received the list as part of a freedom-of-information request made in 2015 in a Jerusalem municipal court demanding a list of approved foreign rabbis and received this list as part of that case. According to a JTA tally of the 66 American rabbis on the list, at least one-fifth are Orthodox, including several prominent Orthodox rabbis and one alumnus of the Baltimore ultra-Orthodox seminary Ner Yisroel. The vast majority of US rabbis on the list are Reform or Conservative. In Sundays letter, Lau ordered Chief Rabbinate Director-General Moshe Dagan to call in Rabbi Itamar Tubul, who kept and released the list, for questioning and a reprimand. In December, rabbis at the Chief Rabbinate set up a controversial committee to vet conversions, but it is not clear whether the committee approved the published list. Earlier Sunday, Lau had dismissed reports of a schism between Israel and US Jews over the Western Wall deal as fake news, claiming that the vast majority of American Jews never set foot in Israel anyway. Speaking at a conference organized by the ultra-Orthodox daily newspaper Hamodia, Rabbi David Lau said that the biggest issue facing US Jews was not the Western Wall or the conversion bill, but intermarriage and apathy about the Jewish state. In the past two weeks we have been exposed to lies, that American Jews are tearing themselves away from Israel, said Lau. Eighty-five percent of American Jews have never set foot in Israel. At the end of June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government backtracked on a January 2016 plan to officially recognize a separate, permanent, pluralistic prayer area at Robinsons Arch, adjacent to the main Western Wall prayer area, in a compromise reached after years of negotiations between liberal Israeli and American Jewish groups and the Israeli authorities. The frozen deal would have given non-Orthodox Jewish leaders a joint role in the oversight of the pluralistic site. Currently, a temporary prayer facility exists there. Archaeologists claim the egalitarian platform harms the visual story of the Western Wall by hiding important archaeological artifacts. (courtesy, Eilat Mazar) Under ultra-Orthodox management, the main Western Wall area is separated between mens and womens prayer sections. Lau rejected claims that the Western Wall was only for ultra-Orthodox Jews. I was in the US a few months ago, he said. I was asked: Why do you not let people of other faiths come to pray at the Western Wall? I told them that is also false. I was at the Western Wall. Next to me was a man from Nigeria. I dont know how he prayed, who he prayed to. But he stood there. Did I bother him? Did he bother me? Lau quoted the verse that My house is a place of prayer for all the nations, saying that all were welcome to come and pray. He did not explain how those who want pluralistic prayer could do so, but he said those making a fuss about the mixed gender plaza werent interested in coming to Jerusalem to pray. A young member of Women of the Wall holds up the miniature Torah scroll during the monthly Rosh Hodesh service on June 25, 2017, in the womens section of the Western Wall plaza, just before Netanyahu froze the Kotel Agreement. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel) Of the 15% of US Jews who have visited Israel, Lau said, many of them are Orthodox, or wanted only separate prayer at the Western Wall. He implied that the actual number who cared about a mixed plaza was insignificant. In the same meeting at the end of June, the cabinet also advanced a bill that would have granted the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, an ultra-Orthodox-dominated body, sole authority over recognized Jewish conversions within Israel. The conversion bill, however, was shelved on Friday for six months. Efrats Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin officiates at a conversion examination for the Giyur Kahalacha private conversion court, November 2015. (courtesy) Lau said this was also fake news and denied that the judges on the rabbinate conversion courts were out of touch with reality. You should know that most of the judges in rabbinic courts were officers in the IDF, he said. They are connected to the Jewish experience as much as everyone else. But he said that Israel cannot allow a situation where any three Jews can convene to form a conversion court, and award certificates of conversion. They give a certificate, he said, but what about Judaism. He stressed that Israel bears a responsibility to care for US and Diaspora Jews, who are our brothers. But the way to do that was not through the Western Wall or conversion, but through education and strengthening their Jewish commitment. Lau, along with Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, was instrumental in pushing ministers to force the government to backtrack on the Western Wall deal. Just a week before the cabinet decision the rabbinate released a letter that condemned the plans to improve the mixed-gender prayer at the Wall. View of the current mixed-gender prayer section at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City on March 6, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) The position of the Chief Rabbinate is that the government decision on dividing the Western Wall is invalid and cannot stand, the letter said, according to a copy obtained by the Israel Hayom daily. The Chief Rabbinate is the highest halachic [Jewish legal] authority in the state, and therefore it is entirely forbidden to hold mixed prayer, men and women together, at any site of the Western Wall. The governments reneging on the two decisions about the Western Wall and conversions were met with fierce opposition from American-Jewish groups, philanthropists, businessmen and various figures active in the Jewish world, as well as Israeli politicians, who expressed their dismay and disappointment. Some have intimated the decisions might impact financial contributions to Israel and warned of eroding support for the Jewish state.

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Israeli chief rabbi says he didn’t know about ‘blacklist’ of Diaspora rabbis – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, right, and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau attending a New Years ceremony at the national headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem, Sept. 7, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) JERUSALEM (JTA) Israels Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said in a letter that he did not know of the existence of a blacklist of Diaspora rabbis and that it should not have been released to the public. The Chief Rabbi was shocked to discover this list. This was done without the rabbis knowledge or his agreement. How can a list like this be publicized without the rabbi being made aware of the list itself or of its publication? read the letterwritten by an aide on behalf of Lau and issued Sunday. The results of this are very serious, the letter continued. First of all, an employee in the Chief Rabbinate cannot decide on his own to publicize who the Rabbinate approves or not. Secondly, the damage this does to certain rabbis cannot be exaggerated includingtothe Chief Rabbinate. The list of 160 rabbis from 24 countries, including the United States and Canada, and including Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis, was released to JTA and other news outlets over the weekend by Itim, a nonprofit that guides Israelis through the countrys religious bureaucracy, after it received the list as part of a freedom-of-information request made in 2015 in a Jerusalem municipal court demanding a list of approved foreign rabbis and received this list as part of that case. According to a JTA tally of the 66 U.S. rabbis on the list, at least one-fifth are Orthodox, including several prominent Orthodox rabbis and one alumnus of the Baltimore haredi Orthodox seminary Ner Yisroel. The vast majority of U.S. rabbis on the list are Reform or Conservative. In Sundays letter, Lau ordered Chief Rabbinate Director-General Moshe Dagan to call in RabbiItamar Tubul, who kept and released the list, for questioning and a reprimand.

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