Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wikipeidia - Criticism of Michael Freund & Shavei Israel

Michael Freund's response to RaP's criticism in 2009

Shavei has been under criticism for its limited vision of the Jew Status and Jewishness. Many rabbinical and secular notions state that a Jew is always a Jew, no matter how much he or she stood away from the rabbinical tradition. The laws for Sephardic Anussim sustained by Sephardic rabbis and rabbinic wisemen for more than 600 years defined “anuss” as any Jew forced to abandon Jewish legal practice, but still remains Jewish anyway, seeing that, in rabbinic law, an anuss does not need to be formally converted (though workers of Shavei affirm they do not convert in the strict sense, people who contact with their projects frequently use the term conversion[6]), and in some rabbinical opinions the Anussim retain a higher statute than a Jew free to observe Judaism on the inside of a Jewish community.
It has also been accused of giving only some attention to groups like the Majorca Chuetas and the Belmonte Jews, whom “have been abandoned by the Sephardim”, and that attention given by Shavei comes always accompanied by “some historical and dialectical inconsistencies”. Shavei is frequently accused of favouring Ashkenazi ways, ignoring the Sephardi Chief Rabbinate of Israel and ignoring that these populations are “Sephardi Jews with specific customs and ways of living under the halakha.” Its lack of transparency is also an usual target of criticism. The tops-down structure and excessive clericalism of Shavei is also criticized, seeing that it ignores that “being a Jew is also a matter of communal agreement” with the communities that they try to convert, something which they do not try to reach.
These critics affirm that the non missionary character of Shavei is a sham, and that it is made by the “Secular Arm” of the Israeli government. The supposed separations of Freund’s Amishav and Shavei is also noted by critics, and much noted and believed by the public oppinion.[7][8][9]
Shavei may also be accused of fooling different crowds by using the word “return” for defending their actions (“return” to the Jewish nation being understood in different ways by the Israeli government, Israeli rabbinates, and Jewish law).[citation needed] The Jewish return law does not include tevilah, for a meshumad (former heretic) or an anuss (coerced converted Jew).[10]
Rabbis related with Shavei have also been accused of having turned tense the relations with local non-Orthodox spiritual traditions and favoring Israeli traditions.[11]
While Freund and his supporters affirm that his critics engage in Lashon haRá (evil tongue/rumours), the critics answer that many Shavei publications induce readers and Sephardim-Anussim in error and have many transgressions of Jewish law, and that they are truly preserving Jewish Law by attacking Shavei’s actions. They accuse Shavei of not being transparent on its motives, fooling Bnei Menashe for using them as settlers in areas disputed with Arab populations,[12][13] of treating Sephardim-Anusim as Gentile converts to Judaism (denying them so their culture and ancestrally[14]) and of “Ashkenazifying” them.[citation needed]

The Shavei actions towards the Bnei Menashe are especially criticized and analyzed. In 1979 the Amishav, na Israeli organization founded by Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail and dedicated to locating the Lost Tribes of Israel (with the objective of contracting the population increase of a “bourgeoning” Arab population by their mass return[15]), heard of a group in India which affirmed to descend of Israelites. The Rabbi travelled to India several times during the 1980s for investigating the claims. Convinced that the Bnei Menashe were in fact descendants of Israelites, he dedicated himself to converting them to Orthodox Judaism and ease its aliyah with funds given by benefactors like the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, an US-Israeli organization which rises funds of Evangelical Christians for Jewish causes. By influence of the involvement of Shavei and other related Jewish organizations, from 1994 to 2003 800 Bnei Menashe made Aliyah to Israel, the majority going to Jewish settlements.
In 1998, the US-Israeli writer and New York Sun columnist Hillel Halkin travels to India with Rabbi Avichail for meeting himself with the Bnei Menashe and writes a widely-analyzed book on it titled Across The Sabbath River (2002). Halkin’s conclusions were that the immense majority of the Kuki-Mizo do not descend from the lost tribe of Manasseh but small numbers of them may in fact descend from this, and having passed their history and traditions to the remaining Kuki-Mizo people. The Rabbi left the leadership of Amishav for the Jerusalem Post columnist and former vice director of communications and policy planning of the Prime Ministers Office Michael Freund, who founds Shavei Israel. In 2003, the formerly Shavei sponsored Hillel Halkin starts collecting 350 genetic samples of Mizo-Kuki which are tested in the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology of Haifa under the guidance of Prof. Karl Skorecki. In agreement to the late Mizo research scholar, Isaac Hmar Intoate, who helped collect the samples, no proof was found which seemed to indicate a Middle Eastern origin for the Mizo-Chin-Kuki.[16][17]
In 2003 the Israeli Minister of Interior Avraham Poraz froze indefinitely the Bnei Menashe immigration (after accusations by Ofir Pines-Paz, future Minister of Science and Technology, that the Bnei Menashe were “being cynically exploited for political aims", settling in the settlements in the disputed areas of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank/Judea and Samaria). In August of the following year in response to this action, the Israeli Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar sends a rabbinic committee to investigate the origins of the Bnei Menashe. In 2004, DNA testings in the Calcutta Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory affirmed to have discovered proves of Middle East genes among a sample of Mizo-Kuki-Chin in an internet article titled Tracking the genetic imprints of lost Jewish tribes among the gene pool of Kuki-Chin-Mizo population of India. This article is still to be peer-reviewed but already led to some critical answers (by Prof. Shorecki in an article in Haaretz,[18] referred to by a BBC News article the same day, as indicating non Jewish paternal root but maternal possibly Middle Eastern root, and also stating that "right wing Jewish groups wanted such conversions of distant people to boost the population in areas disputed by the Palestinians",[19] and Hillel Halkin described how he contacted two of the authors, "V.K. Kashyap and Bhaswar Maity, with a request of additional information", but the information not only was not given as Kashyap and Maity never published the article, what would subject it to peer evaluation).
Thanks to Shavei lobbying and these doubtful DNA tests, in March 2005 Rabbi Shlomo Amar announced the recognition of the Bnei Menashe by Israel and their possibility of immigration under the Law of Return, after a full conversion in face of their separation from Judaism.[20] In June 2005 the Bnei Menashe completed the construction of a mikvah, a ritual bath tank, in Mizoram under the supervision of Israeli Rabbis in way to start the process of conversion to Judaism.[21] Short afterwards, a similar mikvah was built in Manipur (Shavei was involved in all this mass conversion and immigration process[22]). In mid-2005, with the help of Shavei Israel and the Kiryat Arba local council, the Bnei Menashe opened their first community center in Israel. This is seen by Shavei critics as showing its wrong conception of conversion for elements that (to being genetically confirmed as “Lost Jews”) are still de facto Jews.
Freund talks many times of the Bnei Menashe from the utility to Israel point of view: he calls them "a blessing to the State of Israel" for being "dedicated Jews and Zionists",[23] he believes that "groups like the Bnei Menashe constitute a wide demographic and spiritual reserve, for being used, by Israel and the Jewish people"[24] and on the support to the settling of 218 Bnei Menashe on the High Nazareth and Karmiel in November 2005 expressed by the Jerusalem Post ("after what the North passed by this Summer during the Lebanon war, it is especially meaningful that the Bnei Menashe will help to strengthen and revitalize this part of Israel"). In the last two decades about 1,700 Bnei Menashe moved to Israel, mainly settlements in the West Bank[25] and Gaza Strip (until the disengagement).
Shavei and Amishav may be accused of creating division among the Bnei Menashe people: in interview to the Northeast India Grassroots Options magazine Halkin explained that "Avichail is today a man in his seventies, and many years ago, convinced that Amishav needed a younger leadership, gave away his position to an American-Israeli journalist, Michael Freund. The two (Avichail and Freund) ultimately shocked on organizational issues, and Freund left Amishav and founded an organization called Shavei Israel. Both men have their supporters on the inside of the B’nei Menashe community in Israel, although Avichail continues to be the most influential and admired figure." He added that "tribal rivalries and Kuki-Mizo tribal clans have also played a role on the schism, with some groups supporting a man and some the other. Because Freund is independently rich, Shavei Israel is the better financed of the two organizations and has been capable of conducting more activities, particularly in the area of supporting Jewish education for the B'nei Menashe in Aizawl and Imphal".[26] Among the Mizo-Kuki out of the Bnei Menashem the Shavei acts also caused tension, provoking strong controversy with the evangelical churches predominant among those ethnic groups (mainly during the television debate between Dr Biaksiama of the Aizawl Christian Research Center and Lalchanhima Sailo, founder of the Chhinlung Israel People’s Convention (CIPC), a secessionist Mizo organization which on the contrary prefers to create independent Mizo Israelite nations inside India to the return to Israel.[27][28][29] Biaksiama was also author of Mizo Nge Israel? (Mizo or Israelite?) on this subject.[30]
This subject concerns people in India out of the Mizo-Kuki ethnicities. As Dr. Biaksiama states “mass conversion by foreigner priests will rise a threat not only to the social stability of the region, but also to national security. A large number of people will forsake loyalty to the Union of India, as they all will become eligible for a foreign citizenship”.[31] Shavei’s action also affected the close and healthy relations between Israel and India, motivating even the Israeli government to stop the conversions in November 2005 for calming the concerns of the Indian rulers. This decision not only worsened the relations of the Bnei Menashe with the Indian government (the Bnei Menashe defended that the actions of the Israeli rabbis only formalized previous conversions and did not count as proselitising in light of Indian law), but also of some Hindu groups with the government (affirmed that the care in favor of Mizo-Kuki Christians facing conversion to Judaism was not shown by the government to the conversion of Hindus by Christian groups).[32][37] Freund took an aggressive posture against the government and threatened the same responsible minister that he would take him to the Supreme Court if he did not ease the arrival of the Bnei Menashe. In face of the decision in October 2007 of passing to take decisions on the mass entry in Israel and conversions in Cabinet reunions and not by one single minister (in the attempt of making more difficult the taking of decisions), Freund again promised to fight the government on this issue.[33] Despite these tensions Shavei did not stop continuing takings of people in November 2006 (first group of 100 Mizoram[34][35][36]), Agosto de 2007 (mais de 260 Bnei Menashe[37] and in January 2009 (more than 200 Bnei Menashe). In January 2010 the Israeli government announces that the remaining 7,200 Bnei Menashe can make Aliyah within a period of 1-2 years after passing by conversion in Nepal.[38]



    The Harry O Triguboff Israel Institute for Conversion Policy

    Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their children, mainly from FSU, reside in Israel, speak Hebrew, serve in the IDF and identify as Jews and Israelis, but are not Jewish according to traditional Jewish law. These immigrants have cast their lot with the Jewish people, and if need be will lay down their lives for the State of Israel. A humane solution that will provide for Halachically recognized conversion is critical both for them and for the future of the State of Israel. In addition, if they are not integrated into the Jewish mainstream, Israel may face an intermarriage problem far exceeding that of the Diaspora.

    According to Jewish legal tradition, these immigrants are considered "Zera Yisrael" (Jewish progeny) since they have a familial connection to the Jewish people and have demonstrated a clear commitment to join the Jewish people. This calls for a welcoming approach toward the hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish immigrants living in Israel today.

    The Harry O Triguboff Israel Institute for Conversion Policy at Beit Morasha was established in 2010, in response to the urgent need to advance and find solutions for the issue of conversion in the state of Israel.

    Goals of the Harry O Triguboff Israel Institute for Conversion Policy at Beit Morasha
    The Institute will train Orthodox rabbis to serve as conversion court judges with a welcoming Halachic approach; conduct research to make sources presenting a more open and accepting approach to conversion accessible; and impact public opinion through public relations, conferences and publications. In addition, the Institute will develop and advocate creative new solutions and projects that will assist potential converts in their struggle to join the Jewish people.

    Steering Committee: Natan Sharansky, Chairman; Avraham Duvdevani; Rabbi Yitz Greenberg; Ephraim Halevy; Shalom Norman; Maj. Gen. (ret) Elazar Stern


    Rabbi Dr. Benjamin (Benny) Lau is the director of Beit Morasha of Jerusalem's Center for Judaism and Society as well as its Institute for Social Justice and the newly founded Israel Institute for Conversion Policy at Beit Morasha. The Rabbi of the Ramban Synagogue in Jerusalem, Rabbi Dr. Lau studied at the Har Etzion Yeshiva and the Yeshiva of the Kibbutz HaDati. He was awarded a PhD and MA from Bar-Ilan University in Talmud.

  3. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 27, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    RaP: Ahh, "the URGE to MERGE" never ends among the Jewish people! How about a sense of "Havdala" -- "hamavdil bein kodesh lechol, bein ohr le'choshech, bein Yisrael le'Amim" that seems to have become the preserve of the Charedim about women, and while they riot over that, REAL issues effecting the very nature and essence of Klal Yisrael are being neglected! Probably because the Charedim are not going to marry these secular Jews so it does not concern them, but when MO women and kids come into areas the Charedim want as "their own" they riot. That's what one calls myopia and selfishness. A National version of "penny wise but pound foolish" because everyone is in the same boat in Israel and among world Jewry!

    "The Harry O Triguboff Israel Institute for Conversion Policy at Beit Morasha was established in 2010...Steering Committee: Natan Sharansky, Chairman; Avraham Duvdevani; Rabbi Yitz Greenberg; Ephraim Halevy; Shalom Norman; Maj. Gen. (ret) Elazar Stern"

    RaP: The new "gedolim"! They are going to "steer" Klal Yisrael into a crash! Natan Sharansky is not even frum even though his giyores wife became Orthodox. Rabbi Yitz Greenberg is an ultra-Modern Orthodox rabbi, in the same class as Avi Weiss and Saul Berman. None of them are Halachic authorities. This will lead to great conflict and turmoil! Whose the "general" here? Another Israeli macher who thinks that the IDF is the "posek ha'acharon" of the Jewish people?

    "Rabbi Dr. Benjamin (Benny) Lau is the director of Beit Morasha of Jerusalem's Center for Judaism and Society as well as its Institute for Social Justice and the newly founded Israel Institute for Conversion Policy at Beit Morasha. The Rabbi of the Ramban Synagogue in Jerusalem, Rabbi Dr. Lau studied at the Har Etzion Yeshiva and the Yeshiva of the Kibbutz HaDati. He was awarded a PhD and MA from Bar-Ilan University in Talmud."

    RaP: This is a more liberal, and FAR WORSE, crowd than the Drukman people. Very worrying! They are not even a Bais Din at least Rav Chaim Drukman was a rosh yeshiva and had a sense of Halacha while these people are essentially academics armed with hefty endowments.


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