Monthly Archives: March 2012

Yes We Canaan: Breaking Free by the Ein Prat Fountainheads

The Ein Prat Fountainheads is a group of students and graduates from the Ein Prat Academy in Ein Prat Israel. Here is their latest music video.

The group began Chanukah 2010 when 20 students and graduates of the Ein Prat Academy got together to put together a video put together for the school Channuka party. It went over so well that they decideed to do another video for Purim 2011, this time with 100 people involved. Currently the travelling group has about 9 members but many more are involved in each video.

They put the Purim video up on Youtube for friends and family. The family and friends video went viral. The strong public response crystalized the students and graduates into a performing group. They have been making holiday videos and touring ever since. Shani Lachmish one of the group’s lead singers described the group’s goal in an interview with Shalom Life in May of last year (2011):

Our goal is to produce fun and meaningful music videos that put smiles on people’s faces and help them connect with their Jewishness in new ways. We also want to showcase the diverse, vibrant and highly-engaged Israeli-Jewish identity that is emerging in our generation of Israelis today,” said Shani Lachmish, graduate of Ein Prat and one of the lead singers of the group.

Their videos for Rosh haShanna also received a warm response. “Dip Your Apple”, a takeoff on Shakira’s Waka Waka, was Israel’s top You Tube video for 2011. At last count it had nearly 2 million views.

The initial videos were all take-offs on world pop hits. Since Rosh haShannah they have been moving into new territory by using original compositions. Both their Chanukah video and the video above releasd for Pesach 2012 are original compositions by Ben R., the director and co-producer of their 2011 Rosh haShannah video. Lyrics for the new video are available on You Tube (click through to the video and then expand the “See More” tab).

Their next Israeli concert will be in Jerusalem on April 10, 2011 at the Beit Avi Chai center in Jerusalem. They also have a US Tour planned for May 13-24, 2012. For list of appearances or to book a concert see .


Ein Prat Fountainheads on Facebook
Ein Prat Fountainheads on YouTube
Ein Prat Fountainheads on Twitter

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Oy! Gevolt is Anything But (Yiddish Kletzmer-Metal Fusion)

This is more than kletzmer meets heavy metal, in Yiddish. The overlaying of the violin on top of heavy metal rythms, guitar and synthesized sounds makes the music dance. And there is something about laying the gutteral sounds of Yiddish on top of that that makes me think Yiddish was invented for metal and just didn’t know it. At least this is true when Anatholy Bonder sings. It really works.

The Russian-Israeli band , Gevolt, playing in the video below was founded in Israel in 2001 by Antholy Bonder and three others. The violin that is crucial to the band’s current sound was added in 2005. The synthesizers were added in 2007 making for a total of six members. By 2010 all of the original musicians except Bonder, had left and been replaced.

The song below “Tshiribim Tshiribom” without the metal sounds like this. Here is Gevolt’s version from their latest album, AlefBeis.

The band has released two albums so far “Siddur” in 2006 and “AlefBeis”in 2011. They are beginning work on a third. Each album takes four to five years to develop. The long development time is because, like many musicians, all of the band members have day jobs, some in music and some outside of it. Bonder works as a programmer. Two members work as sound engineers. Their violinist, Eva Yefremov, plays in an orchestra when she isn’t playing with the band.

All of the current members are Israelis who were born in the former Soviet Union (FSU), but the musical influences on their work span motown, rock, various kinds of metal, classical, and even asian chants.

Sidur has an orchestral and meditative dreamy feel sometimes shifting into a driving electropop sound. It draws on both Russian tunes and Jewish meditative themes. In an interview with Metal Israel in 2007, Bonder says the words are sometimes hard to understand (even more so for those who don’t speak Russian), but that isn’t the point because the words are meant to be felt not analyzed.

AlefBeis has a strong driving metal feel. It is based entirely on musical motifs drawn from traditional Yiddish tunes. Their upcoming album will contain newly composed Yiddish songs. The Forward, when reviewing preview tracks from AlefBeis published in 2007 qvelled:

Gevolt’s music is not auto-annihilation rock. Rather, it is a resurrection. Their composition of Hirsch Glick’s famed partisan song “Zog Nit Keyn Mol, Az Du Geyst Dem Letsten Veg” (“Never say that you are on the final road”) is stunning in both its lyrical beauty (Glick’s contribution) and its musical defiance (singer Anatholy Bonder’s contribution). When the metal disappears momentarily and band member Marina Klionsky’s klezmer-inflected violin plays softly, one begins to reconsider Singer’s statement. [who called Yiddish a dying language].

Gevolt will be appearing in Israel at Metal Fest in Tel Aviv on April 10, 2012. They are also trying to organize a US tour.

Gevolt Website:

Gevolt on Facebook
Gevolt on Twitter
Gevolt on YouTube
Gevolt on MySpace
Gevolt on Last.FM

Additional information:

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Herzliya Joins the List of Israeli Cities Wanting Shabbat Buses

Last week on Tuesday night (March 20, 2012), the Herzliya city council voted 12-5 in favor of public bus transportation on Shabbat. Last month Tel Aviv was the first city to decide to request buses. The city does not expect that the ministry of Transportation will agree to its request, but it plans to push the issue to the Israeli supreme court if it has to.

Both in Tel Aviv and Herzliya the mayor is supportive of the demand for Shabbat transporation. This is not true in all cities. Petach Tikva and Hadera community members are also advocating for their own city councils to join other cities in making formal requests to the Ministry of Transportation for Shabbat bus transportation. The Petach Tikva mayor says that such a proposal violates the consensus of the city coalition. The Hareda mayor says that this is not a city issue, but rather a matter for the Ministry of Transportation. Continue reading

Categories: Building a Just Israel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Israeli Hotel Refuses Torah to Egalitarian Minyan

A boy and two girls relaxing at Kibbutz Shefayim's Water Park

This year seniors from the Solomon Schechter School in Westchester county New York had first hand experience of how the Israeli religious establishment treats women when they were unable to have a Torah service at Shabbat morning Shachrit.

The students were in Israel as part of their two month senior trip to Poland and Israel. When the school made reservations at the hotel on Kibbutz Shefayim near Hertzliya, the leaders had requested a room for their prayer services and the hotel offered use of the hotel synagogue after the hotel sponsored Orthodox minyan had completed their prayers. The hotel did not inform them that Torah scrolls were only available for services with mechitzas where only men read. They arrived at the hotel and found out on Shabbat morning that they could not use the hotel’s Torah. The group was forced to pray Shabbat Schachrit without a Torah service.

The Solomon Schechter schools are run by the US Conservative (Masorti) movement. Conservative Jews, count women in their minyans and allow women to be called up to the Torah. The school staff and rabbi considered the inclusion of women a matter of obligation and could not accept use of the Torah under the hotel’s conditions that women not read from the Torah.

When the Jerusalem Post contacted the hotel, they insisted that their policy is that groups provide their own Torah if they want to conduct their own services apart from the hotel’s standard morning minyan. The hotel refused to comment on the specific incident except to say that no formal complaint had been made.

The school group leaders contradict this explaination. They say they asked for the hotel Torah prior to their morning service. The hotel’s religious supervisor said that he would be willing for them to use the hotel Torah but only if they agreed to a mechitza and only if males alone read from the Torah.

It should be noted that the kibbutz hotel advertises itself as “especially suited to celebrate different occasions also for the religious sector: Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and Groom Saturdays are a true experience, will make available everything required.”

If the hotel follows orthodox standards then the Bat Mitzvah must take place in a private woman only minyan. This would imply that they do indeed allow private services using the hotel Torah. Surely they don’t expect families to arrive with their own Torah for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs?

It should also be pointed out that the kibbutz runs a water park that does not in any way adhere to Orthodox standards of modesty. Thus it cannot be said that the kibbutz is merely enforcing its own adherence to an Orthodox interpretation of Judaism. Orthodox Judaism believes Torah should affect all of life and cannot be limited to the synagogue only.

The Talmud specifically allows women to be called to the Torah and to read it and specifies that the only impediment is the “honor of the congregation”:

The Rabbis taught (teno) that anyone can be numbered among the seven [called to the Torah on Shabbat], even a minor, even a woman. But the Sages said that we do not call a woman to the Torah because of Kevod HaTzibur (the dignity of the congregation). (Megillah 23a).

Non-orthodox Jews believe that the context of the phrase and also interpreters such as Rashi require us to read “kevod haTzibur” as an insult or annoyance to the congregation, rather than a violation of the fundamental nature of the congregation. Thus many non-orthodox Jews believe that saying women insult the dignity of the congregation is an insult to the dignity of women and has no place in modern Judaism.

Orthodox partnership minyanim also agree that today one can no longer say that women reading from the Torah imperils the dignity of the congregation. Today women study Torah on level of equal sophistication to men. Orthodox minyanim that disallow women reading from the Torah argue that “k’vod ha tzibbur” reflects a timeless category that has nothing to do society’s view of women or women’s scholarship.

The school chose to use the incident as a teaching moment about conflicts in Israeli society. The group’s leader told the Jeruslaem Post:

We wanted to stick to our values of having an egalitarian service…we also saw it as an educational moment and explained to the group participants that this is one of the biggest conflicts within Israeli society – the meaning of what a Jewish state should be. The goal of Zionism today should be to try and perfect the country we have, not to get frustrated and work against it, even when the government or the mainstream religious establishment rejects us.

Rabbi Andrew Sacks, head of the Rabbinical Assembly of Masorti Rabbis in Israel stressed the importance of respecting Diaspora religious traditions:

In light of all of the difficulties we face at the moment, it is particularly problematic that we would make it more difficult for the Diaspora community to practice their Judaism when visiting the Jewish state.

Non-orthodox Judaism is not strictly a Diaspora phenomenon. Collectively non-orthodox religious Jews make up about the same percentage of Israeli society as do Haredim (Ultra-orthodox). According to the Avi Chai/IDI study 8% of Israeli adults identify as either Reform/Progressive or Conservative/Masorti. Haredi Judaism also represents 8% of Israeli adult society.

Despite this Haredim control official religious life in Israel. Reform and Conservative rabbis cannot hold government jobs as rabbis no matter how well they know Jewish tradition. Nor can they serve as judges in religious courts. Women are also excluded from all these roles.

The state will not recognize marriages performed by non-orthodox rabbis. Religious non-Orthodox couples must leave the country and have a second marriage in a foreign country in order for their marriage to be recognized in Israel.

Even though Reform and Conservative conversions are recognized as Jews for citizenship under the law of resturn, they do not have the right to be married or buried as Jews in Israel. Nor are the children of women converts recognized as Jewish. They are not allowed to marry Jews or be buried as Jews.

Women in Israel are also constrained in their ability to worship as they wish. Women, for instance, may not pray at the Western Wall with a Tallit, nor may they have a Torah service if they pray as a group at the Western wall even if the minyan is composed exclusively of women.

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Community Blames Mother, not Mohel, for Death from Metzitzah b’Peh

According to the New York medical examiner, on September 28, 2011, a two week old infant died at Maimonides Hospital from a Herpes Simplex I (HSV1) infection acquired after the child was circumcized by a mohel who used direct oral suction to “clean”the wound.

The case is currently being investigated by the Brooklyn DA, but the family is not cooperating. Despite the medical examiners report the community is closing ranks around the mohel and instead blaming the mother, claiming that she did not care properly for her child.

Oral suction (metzitzah b’peh) is a high risk practice that has been rejected by many Jewish halachic experts. The Haredi community insists it is an essential part of circumcision and considers its right to continue the practice a matter of religious liberty.

The last recorded death from Metzitzah B’Peh acquired HSV1 was in 2004 when two twins were allegedly infected by mohel Yitzak Fischer. Fischer was banned from performing oral suction in 2007, but the ban does not appear to have been enforced. The Jewish week found that he was still scheduling brit milah with oral suction even two weeks ago. The Lower Hudson news reported that Fischer is also under investigation in connection with the most recent death.

New York City’s attempt to crack down on the practice in 2005 ended with a state wide 2006 “protocol” that allowed the Haredi community to continue the practice despite objections of medical personel and on-going concerns about health risks. This protocol was rescinded in 2007, but Agudat Israel who played a major role in the 2006 protocol claims that they were never informed of the change. The Health Commission plans on letting the Brooklyn DA take the lead in the current investigation.

In 2005 Mayor Bloomberg vowed not to interfere with religious practice, has begun to shift his rhetoric:

There is probably nobody in public life who fights harder for the separation of church and state than I do, but I just wanted to remind everybody: religious liberty does not simply extend to injuring others or putting children at risk … And we will continue working with the community and others to prevent more baby boys from suffering these tragic fates. (Source: NY Times)

Only time will tell if this new assertiveness will result in government action. Many of the themes of Haredi-state interaction apparent in Israel also seem to be at play in New York. Continue reading

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Protests Begin at Restaurant Banning Thursday Night Waitresses

Protesters in front of the Heimishe Essen restaurant. Click image for additional photos.

Yesterday men and women gathered on a cold Thursday Jerusalem night for the first time in front of the Heimishe Esin ( ‘היימישע עסין’ ) which removed women from busy Thursday night shifts after Badatz of Agudat Israel demanded it as part of its Kashrut certification process.

About 30 male and female demonstrators gathered for over an hour to sing a selection of popular Israeli songs that includes both songs about the love of Israel and Jewish religious values. The singing ended with HaTikva and the waving of the Israeli flag. They included secular and religious Jews from a variety of streams and even earned some applause from on-lookers, as well as Jerusalem Council member Laura Wharton.

The demonstration was organized by the Jerusalem branch of Israel Hofshit (ישראל חופשית)  . Protesters plan on meeting again at the restaurant next week on Thursday night unless Badatz withdraws its demands and women continue to be employed as waitresses on Thursday nights.

The owner told photo journalist Nir Alon that the protests are unnecessary because he convinced Badatz Agudat Israel that women will only serve tables with women and men will only serve tables with men. However, when asked directly by News1 if women will wait on tables on Thursday nights or serve only in the kitchen he did not give a direct answer.

The Heimishe Esin restaurant is located in the heart of pre-state Jerusalem. There is a secular high school across the street from the restaurant and the majority of the area is secular/non-Haredi dati. It’s in the heart of the very secular original post-independence Jerusalem. The Jewish Agency building where statehood was proclaimed by Ben Gurion is virtually around the corner. Teddy Kolech’s old aparment was a few blocks away. So is Golda Meir’s home.

Expanding Media Coverage

Since our coverage of this story at the beginning of the week the story has been picked up by two major Israeli papers, HaAretz and the Jerusalem Post, and syndicated to US Jewish world papers such as the Los Angelos’s Jewish Journal on the West Coast of the USA and the Forward and Vos Iz Neias on the East Coast . It has also been picked up in the Israel Haredi press via LaDaat. The story is also beginning to make the rounds of the blogosphere: Failed Messiah, Frum Satire, and Life in Israel have all featured pieces and reader comments.

Based on mynet’s poll of its readers and the tenor of blog comments, opinion is strongly against this demand of Badatz Agudat Israel. A mynet reader poll resulted in 91.5% disapproval rate.

Discrimination or Just Good Business?

The owner sees this as a customer preference. He told HaAretz, “My right as the restaurant’s owner is to do anything I want.” . He does not see his actions as discrimination because no one is being fired. They are only being asked to switch to less busy shifts. He told the Jerusalem Post, Continue reading

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Coalition Members Celebrate Radio Kol BaRama’s Third Year Without Women

Israel Hofshit members in front of the hall where the anniversary celebration took place.

On Tuesday night Radio Kol BaRama celebrated its third year. While the leadership of Shas celebrated with the radio station inside, Israel Hofshit volunteers stood outside protesting and handing out consciousness raising material against the radio stations policies.

The Kol BaRama radio station limits the sound of female voices, even speaking voices, to one hour a week. Outside of that one hour show there are no female broadcasters, no women interviewed, no women calling in. They insist that their listeners don’t want to hear women, and that they will be economically damaged if there is more than one hour of programming.

Opponents argue that the refusal to employ or broadcast women is against Israeli law and the policy of the Israeli broadcasting association that hands out private radio station contracts. A formal complaint was lodged with the Second Authority for Television and Radio over a year ago. Knesset members have held hearings on the matter. NGOs have filed legal a complaint in the Israel Supreme Court. Former Sephardi chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef has issued a formal decision that women’s speaking voices on the radio are permitted. However, government bodies either won’t or can’t pressure them into adding more radio stations. Despite the station’s continued resistance, Shas leaders showed up to celebrate with the radio station. Shas is one of the political parties in the ruling coalition. Continue reading

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Haredim in the Secular Media Discussed Without Women

Meeting at Bar Ilan (click on picture to go to gallry)

This photo gallery says it all. On Sunday night, haredim and non-Haredim met at Bar Ilan for a seminar on the media portrayal of the relationship between haredi and non-Haredi Israelis.

Kikar haShabbat published a photo gallery of the meeting. Although Haredi attitudes towards women in the public space has been at the center of these relationships, not a single women was present to discuss the matter, neither on the speakers panel nor on in the audience. Picture after picture make it clear that only men were welcome to meet, study, and discuss the issue. There isn’t even evidence of an area set off by a mechitza so that female journalists and others interested in the issue could attend.

The exclusion of women from matters that directly affect them is a continuing problem. At the beginning of January, Puah held its 12th annual conference “Innovations in Gynecology/Obstetrics & Halacha”. Although women scientists and doctors are among the leading innovators in gynecology and obstetrics no women were asked to speak at the conference.

For Haredim this exclusion means that they simply do not get exposure to all of the information needed to resolve their conflicts with non-Haredim. Women are so completely absent that their absence doesn’t even register as missing information. For both Haredi and non-Haredi women alike, it means that their voices are not heard. At best they are forced into a dependent position that makes them entirely dependent on sympathetic men to have their voices made known.

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My Sweet Canary: Roza Eshkenazy

Roza Eshkenazy was a cafe singer and prolific recording artist in the 1930’s. Known as the Queen of Rebetiko, her long career continued through the 1970’s. She died in December, 1980 in her mid 80’s, confused by Alzheimer disease.   Her music continues even today to influence and inspire Israeli, Greek, and Turkish artists.

Born in the late 1890’s to Sephardi Jewish parents,  she grew up near Thessaloniki.   She survived World War II with a forged baptismal certificate and a love affair with a German officer.  After the war she toured frequently in the USA and even considered living there. However, the love of her life remained in Greece.  By the late 1950’s she had returned to Greece where she lived until the end of her life.

Rebetiko, or “Greek blues”, is the name given to urban-Greek folk music and Ottoman cafe music based on Turkish modes and traditional Greek and Anatolian dance rhythms. Lyrics discussed themes of urban life and hardship, including the urban drug culture. It is accompanied by traditional stringed instruments, finger cymbals, and sometimes an accordion or  hammered dulcimer like instrument.

Her life and the Jewish-Turkish milieu in which she lived was memorialized in a documentary, “My Sweet Canary”, by Haifa born director Roy Sher. Continue reading

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Creating Am Shalem — A Complete Nation

Editor’s Note: the following article was written in early February during MK Haim Amsalem’s visit to the USA.

by Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, cross-posted with permission  from Leslie’s Laptop, United Jewish Communities of Metro-West New Jersey.

Did you ever see something and say to yourself, “I can’t believe I just saw that — and when can I see some more?” No, I don’t mean Mario Manningham’s sideline catch on Sunday, although I hope we do see many more of those next season. What I’m referring to is a visit to the MetroWest and Central NJ federations by Rabbi Haim Amsalem, MK (member of Knesset).

Rabbi Amsalem is an ultra-Orthodox, haredi Sephardic rabbi who entered the Knesset as a member of the right-wing Shas party. Concerned about the growing social problems in Israel, and most concerned about the issues that divide the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of Israel, he left Shas and founded the Am Shalem political party. He came to speak to our two communities about his vision of what needs to take place in Israel if it is to be both Jewish and democratic; about what it will take for Israel to be am shalem — a complete nation.

Rabbi Amsalem spoke in Hebrew. His translator was Dov Lipman, a charming young Orthodox rabbi who shared his own experience with intolerance in Beit Shemesh, where he lives, and which galvanized him into joining Am Shalem. There were about 100 people in attendance, including the folks from Central who attended via live video feed. There were clearly Hebrew speakers in the audience, because Rabbi Amsalem quickly got two sets of applause — first when he spoke in Hebrew and then again after Rabbi Lipman translated. I experienced my usual frustration of understanding only small amounts of the Hebrew, but what I heard in translation was very exciting. Continue reading

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