Originally published in In Jerusalem, April 28, 2017

Planning a meaningful, enjoyable and affordable event to celebrate a bar/bat mitzva, wedding or anniversary can be daunting. Doing so from across the world can be exponentially harder. Yet, every year, that is exactly what thousands of Jews from around the world do in order to celebrate their smahot in Israel.

The calm before the guests arrive

Celebrating in Israel connects the celebrants with their nation, land and history. It also provides an opportunity to add meaningful elements to the occasion that go beyond a party, by partaking in one of the many hessed (charitable kindness) opportunities available specifically for people marking their occasions here.

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Originally published in In Jerusalem, March 10, 2017

 

Noam and Noa wanted to marry according to Jewish law and tradition, but wanted nothing to do with the Chief Rabbinate. Both felt that, with its stranglehold on marriage and more importantly, divorce, where the rabbinate must approve a couple’s desire to divorce before it can be implemented, the institution does more harm than good.

They searched high and low for a way that would enable them to marry according to Halacha, without having to encounter the rabbinate at all.

Why would a young couple on the verge of starting a new life together be thinking of the end of their marriage?

Jewish law mandates that when a couple seeks divorce, it is the husband who must give the bill of divorce (get) to his wife, and she must accept it. Aguna is the term used to describe a woman trapped in marriage, while she awaits the delivery of a get from her husband. According to traditional Jewish sources, the classic case of an aguna was a woman whose husband
could not be found. One whose husband was lost at sea, did not return from a journey, or was missing in action; those are the traditional agunot. Continue reading

Originally published in In Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Post, September 30, 2016

‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ has long been the policy of the Haredi parties when it comes to how the State deals with public works on Shabbat. As long as the work was kept quiet, the Haredi parties did too. However, as was recently the case with rail work on Shabbat, as soon as the Haredi media reported it, the politicians had to protest publicly. And they did. And work was halted, stranding thousands.

Since its founding, the State of Israel has had to maintain the delicate balance of being both a Jewish and democratic country. While Jewish and democratic values often align, when the two clash– they do so with vigor.

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MK Rachel Azaria

For much of the State’s history, religious matters have been the domain of the ultra-Orthodox, the legacy of David Ben Gurion, to ensure unity and support for a Jewish state. The “status quo” arrangement Ben Gurion made remains in effect. 

And it worked — for a long time. Matters of religion used to be black and white, as MK Rachel Azaria of Kulanu explains it. People were religious or they weren’t. They kept kosher, or they didn’t. Over the past 20 years, however, many Israelis have taken on an in-between ideology, one that incorporates religious observance with democratic values, and therefore conflicts with the strict ultra-Orthodox approach that has governed the Jewish identity of the state.

At the same time, Israeli society has absorbed more than a million immigrants from countries where Jewish family lines had been blurred, leaving many unable to prove their Jewish roots. Thus, they are sociologically Jewish, but not necessarily as far as traditional law is concerned. Continue reading

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post, In Jerusalem July 8, 2016

IF YOU had to guess how many children out of 100 have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), what would you say?

What about autism? Dyslexia?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of November 2013, up to 11 percent of children have been diagnosed with ADHD.

Also according to the CDC, about 1.5 out of 100 children have been identified as having autism.

And according to an ongoing Yale University study begun in 1983, which follows kindergarten children in all public schools in Connecticut, one in five children have dyslexia.

Surprised? It turns out that dyslexia is the most common learning disability. However, it is often not diagnosed. This is especially true in Israel, where in some cases the word dyslexia isn’t even on the evaluation sheet as an option for the clinician to choose. The result is that many children who have dyslexia (which is not reading letters backwards, but more on that later) are not diagnosed and do not get the help they need. As a result, they fail in school and all that comes with it.

Dr. Rinat Green, a staunch advocate on behalf of children with dyslexia in Israel, has made it her life’s work to change reality for them. She estimates that a large number of street kids could have been saved had they been properly diagnosed and treated for their dyslexia.

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