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Friday, December 20, 2013 

University rabbi denies allegations he discriminated against women at Hanuka ceremony

It appears the earlier reports about a rabbi allegedly balking at women taking part in Hanuka lighting and songs at the Ben Gurion University were largely propaganda:
Rabbi Gil Belizovsky HaCohen, rabbi of the synagogue at Ben Gurion University in Be'er Sheva, denied reports by Channel 10 earlier this month claiming that the synagogue prevented women from participating in the Hanukkah candle ceremonies.

"All of the publications were a well-planned plot that the journalists happily 'fell' into [reporting]," the Rabbi stated, "or perhaps even willingly - all of the reporters and newscasters on the story did not even attempt to approach me about the issue and let me tell my side of the story."

"They even brazenly interviewed other rabbis, specifically so not to let me tell what really happened," he continued. "This is definitely the opposite of the ethical journalism or minimal common sense that you would expect from a democratic society." [...]

The report also stated that female students had organized their own lighting ceremony and response, and showed footage allegedly from that ceremony. A professor also spoke about the phenomenon - alongside footage appearing to be from the first day of lighting, but not from other days of the holiday. [...]

But a later report from Channel 10 showed footage from a lighting ceremony on the last day of the holiday, and alleged that the "exposure" it had given the issue had elicited the change.

The rabbi made clear that the reports not only skew the facts; they also do not have a precedent, due to the role of a synagogue and a rabbi within the university setting. "There is no place for a rabbi to rule according to Jewish law in a non-religious university," the rabbi wrote. "The administration is in charge [of the lighting ceremony] - not me - and I do not tell the university what to do."

The rabbi also pointed out that the Torah and Jewish Law do not forbid women from lighting Hanukkah candles. "When individuals approach me with their personal halakha (Jewish law) questions, I put on the table right away that I give rulings according to my faith, which is the compass which guides me," he explained.

"As such, I stated as written explicitly in the Talmud and the Shulhan Aruh (a comprehensive guide to basic Jewish law - ed.) and other rabbis - I did not tell a single woman not to light Hanukkah candles, Heaven forbid [. . .] I tell them to go by the customs of their family and community."

"If anything, I did the opposite [of gender discrimination]," the rabbi continued. "I handed out about 500 free sets of hanukkiot (candelabras) and candles to students - most of whom were female - to enable them to keep the commandments in the dorms and in their homes."
Well this is definitely telling. I've realized that the MSM can be quite capable of causing a controversy when in fact there wasn't one. I've also had to remind myself at times that Haredis aren't all inherently bad, though I definitely won't let Satmar and Neturei Karta off the hook. From what it sounds like here, the rabbi at the campus may not even be Haredi, if that matters, but in any case, what the MSM did - Haaretz included - was inexcusable, and they should apologize for besmirching his good name. He's considering filing a suit or something against those who sought to defame him, and I hope he does. Let this be my apology if I fell for this stupid trick earlier.

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