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January 27, 2012

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 27, 2012 Hands down, 60 rabbis criticize tefillin photo By Stewart Ain New York Jewish Week and sexualizing the wearing of tefillin feeds into the fears and anxieties that many in our movement have about observantwomen and women rabbis." Roston said she wrote the letter and that 60 colleagues signed it before she sent it to the magazine on Jan. 6. "Many of my congregants looked at the photo and as- sumed it was a picture for a story on homosexuality and Conservative Judaism," she wrote. "Imagine our surprise when inside we found stories about tefillin and a story about women rabbis in the movement and the challenges they face." One of those who signed the letter, Rabbi Susan Grossman of Columbia, Md., said she too had assumed the photo was to illustrate "an article about our movement's welcoming of gays .... What makes the women rabbis uncomfortable Was the winter issue of Kolot, the magazine of the Conservative movement, "stooping to sensationalism" or raising questions about women wearing tefillin? Those were the questions asked in a letter to the editor by Conservative women rab- bis written by Rabbi Francine Roston of Congregation Beth El in South Orange, N.J., in response to the magazine's cover picture of two women holding hands while wearing tefillin. The letter called the photograph "disturbing and beneath the magazine that represents the unified voice of our movement." "As Conservative rabbis we seek to normalize both the wearing of tefillin and the reality of women rabbis," the letter said. "Disembody- ing the women on the cover is that it sexualizes the wear- ing of tefillin." She pointed out that in the 1960s through the'90s, litera- ture in the Orthodox world that spoke of women asking for the right to wear tefillin labeled them "as women who are licentious." "That is what made me concerned--that here we are tapping into this kind of cultural discomfort about women taking on what had been historically seen as a male-only ritual," Grossman said. "Therefore, it mud- died the conversation about women in the rabbinate." Rabbi Howard Buechler of Dix Hills, N.Y., said the photo and the way itwas edited "cre- ates a negative stereotype of women rabbis and demeans them." But Rabbi Faith Cantor of Baltimore disagreed, saying she was not offended by the photo. "We're a movement that celebrates inclusivity and we're flipping out on this?" she asked. "I don't see that picture as sexual." Joanne Palmer, editor of Kolot, said she and fellow editor Rhonda Jacobs Kahn were surprised by all the fuss because they believed the photo "we picked was a com- pelling and attractive image of friendship." "It was a picture of two women who wanted to show friendship, and we wanted a good picture," she added. "We saw nothing sexual about it. We liked the fact they were wearing tefillin, and believed itwas a compelling image that would lead people to pick up the magazine--which is what editors want." Stewart Ain writes for the The New York Jewish Week, from which this article was reprinted by permission. Rabbi Francine Roston said the photograph 'feeds into the fears' about observant women. Men at work? Israel's ultra-Orthodox join the job market By Felice Friedson and Arieh O'Sullivan The Media Line Israel Edri is a young Israeli ultra-Orthodox man. He'd like to spend all his day in religious studies. But as the father of two children and a third on the way, life's challenges have stepped in and today he works in tele- marketing. "Reality hit. If you ask me I'd like to sit and study all day long, but the reality is that you have to get out and work, especially if you want to live in an expensive city like Jerusalem and give your kids what they need," the clean-shaven Edri told The Media Line. Israel Edri, 27, is the exception. The vast major- ity of ultra-Orthodox men in Israel do not work or serve in the army, choosing instead a pious and largely impoverished life of study- ing religious texts, or Torah, mainly the Talmud. It is not that they cannot find work--Israel's unemploy- ment rate is at its lowest in decades--rather they do not want it and have none of the education or training needed to be employed. With birthrates three times the national aver- age, Israel's ultra-Orthodox communities are mush- rooming. Many live on government allowances and private charity and on their wives' earnings. It wasn't always that way nor is it a problem among ultra-Orthodox Jews living outside of Israel. In 1970, 20 percent of working-age men in the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel were not working by choice; today, the figure is two thirds (65 percent). Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the U.S. and Britain tradition- ally take jobs and their labor force participation rate is the mirror opposite of Israel's. Once a tiny minori- ty, ultra-Orthodox Jews, known as haredim, now number about 700,000, or about 10 percent of Israel's population. And that's a problem. Israel's economy can't afford to have such a big part of the population permanently out of the work force and living on government handouts paid for by the rest. "By the time you are up to 10 percent of the population of whom 70 percent of the male part of the population doesn't work, you are get- ting to a macro-economic issue," Stanley Fischer, gov- ernor of the Bank of Israel, said at a briefing. "This is not sustainable. We can't have an ever increasing proportion of the popula- tion continuing to not go to work." While the burden on the economy was growing, the rest of Israel largely ignored the problem as vot- ers and politicians focused on security issues. But the country's economic prob- lems, particular the high cost of living and shortage of housing, emerged as a key issue last summer in an explosion of mass protests and tent cities. In the last month, the growth and increasing extremism of the haredi sector took center stage. A spate of incidents in which girls and women regarded by the most extreme ultra- Or thodoxwere spit upon and yelled at captured headlines and pointed up the wide gap in lifestyle and attitudes between ultra-Orthodox and other Israelis. "A haredi town would not be self sustaining. Nobody would pay taxes. Nobody works. Well, hey, this is where [they] are taking the entire country. Do that math. This is a problem," Dan Ben-David, a Tel Aviv University economist who heads the Taub Center for Social Political Studies, told The Media Line. Now, a host of organiza- tions are making an effort to quietly reverse the trend towards shunning work by finding ways to integrate haredi men into the work- force. The economic crunch has led to more and more ultra-Orthodox towork for a living, says Motti Feldstein, the director of Kemach, an organization that provides job training and support for haredi men and women learning a trade. "It's not a revolution but a change in realities. There's not more openness to working, but recognition of a changing world," he told The Media Line. Kemach means "flour" or "bread," but is also used in a famous biblical quote saying in defense work ("Without bread there is no Torah ") and is also an acronym for Promoting Haredi Employ- ment. Over the past three years it has helped over 12,000 haredim with guid- ance and scholarships. But Feldstein is keen on stressing that his organiza- tion is not luring people out of yeshivas - the academies where religious texts are studied - but only help- ing those who had already chosen to stop learning full time. "A rabbi is not going to come out and give a sermon [to go to work]. Everyone has to come to their rabbi and seek his blessing and the rabbi helps direct them. The rabbi's job is to create a society. It is not to bring money to his community. Everyone is responsible for themselves. They have to decide what is better, to be a schnorrer [beggar], or to go out and work," he says. But most ultra-Orthodox have never studied much in math, science, English and other core subjects employ- ers require. Furthermore, many young men have no experience in the job market and conditions. They imag- ine themselves working few hours and earning high wages even though they have few if any skills. They have been taught that To- rah learning is paramount. If they decide to take a job and accept the lower social status that workers have compared to full-time scholars, they prefer to do it discreetly. Shmuel Gotlieb, is an employment counselor at Mafteah, a venture by the Joint Distribution Com- mittee's Tevet program. He interviews men seeking to get their first job. "A lot of people come to me and say 'Give me a place to work where I'm not going to be seen. Why? Because it is unpleasant for me. Because my brother doesn't know I'm working,'" Gotlieb told The Media Line. "I know a guy who has worked in a high tech firm for three years Work on page 19A Delay of U.S.-Israel anti-missile exercise fuels speculation By Ron Kampeas email that the exercise was course, hikingdefensealloca- down the Strait of Hormuz, WASHINGTON (JTA)--The decision by Israel and the United States to delay a mas- sive joint anti-missile exercise set off a frenzy of speculation as to what the move says about relations between the two al- lies amid mounting tensions with Iran. U.S. and Israeli officials confirmed to JTAlastweekend that they had delayed until the second half of 2012 what was to have been the largest joint anti-missile exercise, Austere Challenge 12. Speaking off the record, of- ficials in the United States and Israel confirmed published reports that Iran factored into the decision. But just how Iran factored in they would not say, and they insisted that the overriding factor had to do with preparedness for the exercise and Israeli budgetary concerns. A Pentagon spokesman, Capt. John Kirby, said in an canceled for routine reasons ofwanting"optimumpartici- pation" by both sides. "It is not at all uncommon for routine exercises to be postponed," Kirby said. "There were avariety of factors at play in this case, but in general, leaders from both sides believe that optimum participation by all units is best achieved later in the year. We remain dedicated to this exercise and naturally want it to be as robust and as productive as it can be." On background, Israeli and U.S. officials said that "opti- mum conditions" had to do with defense spending, now the subject of a fierce debate in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure, after a summer of protests, to increase social safety net spending. In October, Netanyahu said he would cut defense spending to fund social spending, but two weeks ago he reversed tions by $700 million. The fluctuating positions have created uncertainty in Is- rael's defense establishment, and U.S. officials confirmed an account originally reported by Laura Rozen of Yahoo News that it was Defense Minister Ehud Barak who requested the delay in December. Critics of the Obama ad- ministration were not buying it, insisting that the delay revealed a fissure between President Obama and Ne- tanyahu over how to handle Iran. Some suggested that the Obama administration feared the joint exercise would further ratchet up tensions with Iran. Danielle Pletka, vice presi- dent of the conservative American Enterprise Insti- tute, said the announcement fit into a pattern of what she depicted as the Obama ad- ministration's overly cautious approach to Iran's aggression, including its threats to shut which would cut off much of the West's oil supply. "Now they cancel these exercises with the Israelis and make the Israelis say they asked for it," she said. "For the Iranians there is only one message here. That is: 'Our tactics are working!'" One Israeli report, on the country's Channel 2, quoted unnamed Israeli officials as saying that it was the U.S. that requested the postpone- ment, although U.S. officials and other Israelis have pushed back, insisting that it was Israel that made the request. Pentagon officials reached out to journalists Jan. 17 to reinforce their claim that it was Israel, not the United States, that requested the de- lay. According to an unnamed senior U.S. defense official cited by The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, Barak requested to cancel the exercise because Missile on page 19A U.S. Missile Defense Agency The joint U.S.-Israel Arrow Weapon System successfully intercepted a ballistic target missile, Feb. 22, 2011.