Alternative religious wedding ceremonies are banned


An organization of Modern Orthodox rabbis who performed alternative religious wedding ceremonies for non-religious couples has been banned from registering the couples as married.

The Tzohar organization said Tuesday that the religious services minister, a member of the haredi Orthodox Shas Party, told Tzohar that it would no longer be allowed to register couples with the ministry as married, effectively shutting down a service that has been marrying 3,000 couples a year free of charge.

A Jewish couple must have a religious ceremony in Israel in order to be recognized as married. Many travel abroad to marry in secular ceremonies.

Tzohar helped to involve couples and their families in the ceremony.

Weddings must be registered with the municipal rabbinate where one member of the couple lives. Tzohar had been registering couples with one of two municipal rabbinates headed by members of the organization, in Shoham and Gush Etzion.

The Religious Services Ministry is ending the practice by limiting the total number of marriage certificates that each of those ministries can provide in a year to 200.

Mairead Maguire deportation appeal denied


Israel’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal by an Irish Nobel laureate who was refused entry to Israel because of her involvement in a Gaza-bound flotilla.

The high court made its ruling Monday evening on Mairead Maguire, who was detained last week at Ben Gurion Airport and threatened with deportation.

Maguire, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her efforts to fight the sectarian violence in her native Northern Ireland, was banned from entering Israel for 10 years following her participation in a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last June. At the time she signed a document agreeing not to enter Israel again without a special permit, Haaretz reported.

The three Supreme Court justices, including President Dorit Beinisch, found that Maguire arrived in Israel despite knowing that she had been banned from entering the country. She told the court that she was not aware of the ban.

Maguire had arrived in Israel last week to meet a group of women touring Israel and Palestinian areas to learn about the work of female peace activists. She has been held in an Israeli detention center ever since as the court heard her appeals to be allowed to enter the country.

The state rejected a proposal by Benisch that would have allowed Maguire to remain in Israel until Wednesday in order to keep her scheduled meeting with the group of peace activists.

During Monday’s hearing, Maguire called on Israel to stop practicing “apartheid” against the Palestinians, which led one of the justices to tell her that the court “is no place for propaganda.”

Goldstone barred from grandson’s bar mitzvah


South African judge Richard Goldstone is being barred from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah.

Following negotiations between the South African Zionist Federation and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Sandton, an affluent suburb of Johannesburg where the event is due to take place, an agreement has been reached with the family. As a result, Goldstone will not be attending the synagogue service, scheduled for early next month.

Goldstone was the head of a United Nations-appointed commission that investigated last winter’s Gaza war. The commission’s final report accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and said there may be evidence of crimes against humanity.

Some of the role-players were tight-lipped when contacted by JTA, with Avrom Krengel, chairman of the SAZF, saying: “We understand that there’s a bar mitzvah boy involved – we’re very sensitive to the issues and at this stage there’s nothing further to say.”

Jewish groups had planned to organize a protest outside of the synagogue if Goldstone was in attendance, according to reports.

Reached in Washington where he is currently based, Goldstone was reluctant to comment save to say: “In the interests of my grandson, I’ve decided not to attend the ceremony at the synagogue.”

Retired chief justice of South Africa Arthur Chaskalson said it was “disgraceful” to put pressure on a grandfather not to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah.  “If it is correct that this has the blessing of the leadership of the Jewish community in South Africa, it reflects on them rather than Judge Goldstone.  They should hang their heads in shame.”

Spectator – Hard Truths of ‘Hamburg’


Polish journalist Hanna Krall’s “The Woman From Hamburg: And Other True Stories” (Other Press, $19) is based on interviews she did that in some way involved the Holocaust. But when one of the 12 stories was recently featured in The New Yorker’s fiction issue, an accompanying note explained that her writing is indeed factual.

The 60-something Krall was a reporter for Polityka from 1957 to 1981 when martial law was imposed and her publications were banned. Her award-winning books have been translated into 15 languages, (the English version is by Madeline G. Levine). Yet the boundary between fact and fiction can seem blurred in her work, for Krall writes in an unadorned but intimate style, moving in fractured time, creating a rhythm that might resemble contemporary fiction.

“My work as a reporter has taught me that logical stories without riddles and holes in them, in which everything is obvious, tend to be untrue,” Krall wrote in one of the “Hamburg” stories. “And things that cannot be explained in any fashion really do happen.”

In “Portrait With a Bullet in the Jaw,” Blatt is a survivor living in California. Krall accompanies him back to his village, where they try to meet up with the Polish man who had agreed to hide him and two friends and then ordered them killed. Blatt was the only one to escape; the bullet intended to kill him has remained lodged in his jaw for more than 50 years.

When a man asks him why he holds onto the bullet. Blatt realizes that without it, he would “lose everything. If I had it removed, I would lose it, and this way it sits in my jaw and I know that it’s there.”

In another story, a Jewish woman finds refuge with a childless Polish couple in 1943, hiding out in their closet. She becomes pregnant; the wife begins to go out with pillows under her clothing, and then takes the baby out as though it were her own. The Jewish woman slips away, and the couple raise the child. As a young woman, she finds out the truth of her parents and then travels to meet “the woman from Hamburg” who tells her, “I had to agree to everything. I wanted to live.” And then she says, “Don’t ever come here again.”

Krall pays great attention to detail — the ribbons sewn onto a pillow used to create the look of pregnancy, for example.

As she once explained in an interview, “We know the world through details. We never see it in its entirety, only its fragments. And that’s how you should write about the world, making sure you select the fragments that really matter.”