Sisterhood Blog

Fired for Being a Religious Feminist?

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share

The recent legal victory of Hana Kehat, founder of the Orthodox feminist Israeli organization Kolech, has implications for working women in Israel and for feminists worldwide: The courts ruled that she was fired illegally from the Orot Teachers’ College in 2005, and that she must be immediately reinstated.

Kehat, who was described by her employers even during the trial as “an excellent lecturer” argued that she was fired from the religious Zionist institution because of her feminist views. Rabbi Neria Gutel, the head of the college who was responsible for her firing, said that she was fired because of low registration to her classes. Gutel’s claim, however, belies the point: She had low registration despite being a wonderful teacher because students were made to feel uncomfortable in her classes.

One of the core issues in the discussion is whether students naturally feel uncomfortable with Kehat, as Gutel persistently tried to say, because feminism is ostensibly completely out of step with religious life, or whether Gutel and other staff members went out of their way to ensure that students would feel uncomfortable by denouncing and defaming Kehat at every opportunity, as Kehat argued.

Kehat has said that, since 2003, her boss was looking for ways to fire her — and held her feminist views against her.

The verdict in her favor in effect validates the idea that Kehat was ostracized for being a feminist. The court had originally ruled in favor of Gutel, but Kehat, supported by lawyers from the Israel Women’s Network and Kolech, decided to appeal.

The marginalization of feminists is not new or uncommon. But the recognition of this institutionally backed discrimination against feminists in the religious world is a very important step towards change. It acknowledges the powerful role of rhetoric in delegitimizing women, the potentially strong impact of subtle tactics to dismiss women’s ideas, and the uphill battle that women face in trying to be heard.

I identify with Kehat’s struggles. The experience of having my ideas immediately discounted because I’m a feminist strongly resonates with me. That’s why it’s extremely gratifying for me this forum even exists. It is no less than liberating to have this venue where I and others can speak our minds freely, as Jewish feminists. My question is how to take the feminist voice and make it mainstream. Kehat has inspired me this way by not backing down. So I’m speaking up.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Orot Teachers' College, Neria Gutel, Kolech, Chana Kehat



Find us on Facebook!
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.