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How should the Shabbat be observed in a Jewish and democratic state? In this 1992 essay, the political theorist Daniel Elazar considers the question, balancing majority will, individual conscience, consent of the governed, and subsidiarity. In considering the ways Israel’s many factions relate to the Shabbat, Elazar suggests local referenda can help move the state […]

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Rabbi David Stav on Jewish Unity

September 10, 2015 | By: David Stav

Through his leadership of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization, Rabbi David Stav has been at the forefront of debates over the relationship between religion and state in Israel, pushing for reforms in the State’s handling of marriage, conversion, and kashrut. Why is Tzohar focused on these issues? And how does he think about government’s role in religious life?

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As part of its ongoing series on “Jewish Ideals & Current Dilemmas in Contemporary Zionism,” the Tikvah Overseas Seminars hosted two of Israel’s leading rabbinic activists to discuss recent legislation regarding marriage and conversion in Israel. Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the Tzohar Rabbinic Organization, and Rabbi Dr. Seth Farber, founding director of ITIM, have […]

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As part of Tikvah’s advanced institute “The Case for Nationalism,” the participants heard from the great Jewish dissident, thinker, and statesman, Natan Sharansky. Sharansky discussed the ideas of his book, Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy; the problem of a world with “nothing to die for,” to quote John Lennon; and the complementarity of the […]

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The Haredi Future

December 29, 2014

Mosaic‘s December monthly essay confronts one of the key issues for Israel as it envisions its future: the status and role of Israel’s haredi population in Israeli public life. Aharon Ariel Lavi, a 2013-2014 Tikvah Fellow and a co-founder of the Shuva community on the Gaza border and of the National Council of Mission-Driven Communities, authored the […]

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A Jewish State?

December 2, 2014 | By: Haviv Rettig Gur and Daniel Gordis

A bill to formally define Israel as a Jewish nation-state has become a political flash point. Two Tikvah veterans, alumnus Haviv Rettig Gur and faculty member Daniel Gordis, have offered differing, nuanced takes on the political wisdom of the bill. Rettig Gur details how the idea of such an amendment to Israel’s Basic Law began in […]

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Orthodox Reform

March 12, 2014

The draft debate and the huge Haredi (ultra-orthodox) protest last week raises questions about the ideological and theological basis of Haredi perceptions. In this weekend’s Israeli Musaf Shabbat magazine, Tikvah 2012 Fellow Yoav Sorek writes about what he sees as a dangerous development in the popular Haredi worldview. Although Haredim see themselves as the authentic continuation of traditional Judaism, Sorek finds that some of them are moving away from the fundamental precepts of Judaism, which were basic for the previous generation and which are still shared by other parts of the orthodox world. This is a new religion, he claims, which is not interested in changing history – and therefore is not targeted by anti-Semites, which are willing to tolerate such Jews.

A translation of the first two paragraphs appears below the original Hebrew.

Read the excerpt here.

Despite the predictions of many of Israel’s secular founders, the ultra-orthodox population of the Jewish state has only grown in size and influence. During his recent campaign, Yair Lapid, now Finance Minister in the coalition government, famously declared to a crowd of Haredi students at Ono Academic College, “You won. There was a competition in Israel for Israeli-ness that lasted for over a century… and in the end you won.”

The point is clear: Israel’s future as the Jewish state depends on the successful integration of its Haredi communities into the mainstream of society. But what might this integration look like? Is there a peaceful and productive way forward that overcomes the deep antagonism dividing secular and religious in Israel (and was, in fact, still evident in Lapid’s remarks)?

Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer has made it his life’s mission to work toward such a positive integration. Rabbi Pfeffer was a student in Tikvah’s Jewish Thought and Enduring Human Questions program and this year will be an instructor and panelist in our Summer Fellowship on Jewish Thought and Citizenship. Rabbi Pfeffer is a young Haredi Jerusalemite with considerable standing in his community – a rabbinic judge and an acclaimed author of a book on Jewish law. He is also a recent graduate of Hebrew University with a law degree and a distinguished appointment as intern to the Israeli Supreme Court.

We republish here a video clip along with excerpts from an interview we conducted with Rabbi Pfeffer in September, 2012. Since that time, he has initiated two important projects: The first is a yeshiva high school for Haredi students that incorporates basic grounding in secular studies within a traditional yeshiva framework: “The novelty is that the school aims at a mainstream Haredi public, and is molded on a classic Haredi high-school model. I think it can be an important step in helping the community find direction for the future.” The second, an academic program for Haredi college-age students, is designed to introduce the “Yeshiva-University” model into an Israeli setting: “It is a challenge, and there’s a long way to go — but we have already received many positive vibes, and hope to reach important achievements for the community. Aside from teaching there whenever I can, I am officially the ‘rabbi’ of the new ‘campus’ and a member of its board.”

Watch a clip and read the full interview here.

A Modest Proposal

December 3, 2013

Every now and then, people who in the grand scheme of things look and sound more or less like me voice opinions that make me wonder whether I’ve been sucked through the rabbit hole. Often these opinions have to do with freedoms they would like to sacrifice to government bureaucrats. All too often, those freedoms […]

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