Synagogue and State debate: Still happening online

The New Israel Fund has let me know that its webcast – "Religion and State: Fundamentalism or Freedom?" can still be viewed, at your covenience, here . I participated in the panel discussion, along with Naomi Chazan, Uri Regev, and Jafar Farah. It’s a good introduction to the issues of religion and state in Israel.

This Country Is Unconstitutional (Perhaps for the Best)

Gershom Gorenberg

Prof. Yedidia Stern came to my shul yesterday to give a lecture in honor of Independence Day on creating a constitution for Israel. Stern teaches law at Bar-Ilan University and is a fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, a think-tank that has been assiduously pushing the idea that Israel needs a written constitution. Stern is brilliant,articulate and – at a congregation made up largely of American immigrants – should have been preaching to the choir. As often happens to me, I found myself listening to the sermon agnostically.

Years ago, another brilliant law prof, David Kretzmer, punched a large hole in my American 5th-grade-civics-lesson faith in written constitution. A constitution is worth no more than the judges interpreting it, he said. The Soviet constitution looked gorgeous, but was irrelevant to how the Soviet Union was governed. Bolivia has had more constitutions than anyone seems able to count.

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‘How to Prove You’re a Jew’ – Afterthoughts, aftershocks

Obama Converts to Judaism” says a headline on Huffington Post, which I found via the eternally alert Laura Rozen at War and Piece.

Buffeted by criticism of his controversial Christian pastor while continuing to quell rumors that he is a Muslim, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) took a bold step today to settle questions about his religious faith once and for all.

“I am converting to Judaism, effective immediately,” Mr. Obama told reporters…

I know this is meant humorously, because it ends with:

…the move raised the ire of one of his harshest critics, former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro. “Barack Murray Obama wouldn’t be in the position he’s in if he wasn’t Jewish,” said Ms. Ferraro…

but I still wanted to zap a message to Obama warning him: For heaven’s sake, don’t do it. It’s enough he has to prove he’s pro-Israel. Must he add the problem of convincing the Israeli rabbinate that he is a Jew? Believe me, it won’t be easy.

When I wrote “How to Prove You’re a Jew” for the New York Times Magazine, I guessed it would stir interest. I didn’t imagine how much. One friend told me it had been emailed to her 20 times. She also told me she’d had a terribly difficult time proving she was a Jew when she got married here in Israel a couple of years ago, despite

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