Jerusalem Grapevine: New Year on the horizon

A round up of news around Jerusalem

Benny Lau (photo credit: KNESSET)
Benny Lau
(photo credit: KNESSET)
• IT’S CUSTOMARY for women to wear something new on Rosh Hashana; therefore most of the religious women’s conventions throughout the month of Elul will include a fair in which they can purchase headgear, clothing, jewelry and accessories for themselves and their children. Television broadcaster Sivan Rahav Meir, who has become a very popular moderator and/ or lecturer at such events, will be the lecturer at the Jerusalem International Convention Center on September 9 and 12, at the Mechina complex in Givat Shmuel on September 14, 15 and 16, at the Ra’anana Sports Arena on September 18 and 19 and at the Castra Mall in Haifa on September 25 and 26. Her theme will be “Elul, Connections and Us.”
• RAHAV Meir will be back at the Jerusalem International Convention Center on September 13 to moderate the Femina mega conference, whose speakers, singers and musicians will include Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, Din Din Aviv, Mika Karni, Ricka Razel and Noa Yaron Dayan. Doors will open at 6 p.m., and the event is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
• COUNTLESS MELODIES have been written to the Psalms, some sad and poignant, some full of verve and some with tunes that are difficult to grasp. More Psalms than usual are sung during Elul, and not only in synagogues. The Nigun Yerushalmi Ensemble will appear with Jerusalem storyteller Hillel Mali and Rabbi Benny Lau at the Hibba Center, 75 Herzog Street, Jerusalem, on Monday, September 5. Lau’s talk will focus on the Israeli Journey of the Book of Psalms.
• WHILE HIS cousin, Chief Rabbi David Lau, takes a very strict view on what Orthodox Jews should or should not adhere to, Benny Lau, the spiritual leader of the Ramban Synagogue in Katamon, has a more liberal attitude, and not only sees nothing wrong with a woman serving in a rabbinical position but even encourages it.
In a revolutionary step for an Orthodox congregation in Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular, Karmit Feintuch has been appointed to lead the congregation together with Lau. In a recent radio interview, Lau praised Feintuch’s range and depth of knowledge on matters of Judaism, and said that long before her appointment, she had proved her worth to the congregation, and that he saw her and other learned women as an asset to Orthodox Judaism and not as a liability.
Last year, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat, appointed fellow ex-New Yorker Jennie Rosenfeld to act as a spiritual leader alongside him. But Rosenfeld, unlike Feintuch, does not carry the title “rabbanit.” In Orthodox circles, “rabbanit” signifies that the woman is the wife of a rabbi. In Conservative and Reform circles, a female spiritual leader is usually referred to as “rabba.”
Incidentally, although David Lau is highly critical of Conservative Judaism and took Education Minister Naftali Bennett to task for visiting a Conservative school while in the US, it’s a case of people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, who is the chief rabbi’s cousin and the younger brother of Benny Lau, is an openly gay Conservative rabbi. Perhaps because of his brother, or possibly because he believes that people should not be ostracized because of their sexual orientation, Benny Lau has for several years conducted a dialogue with the gay Orthodox community.
He also acknowledges the existence of the Conservative and Reform movements, perhaps because he knows that Judaism has many paths, and because he thinks that it’s stupid to deny something that actually exists.