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!
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • 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.