Sisterhood Blog

Back-Room Rabbinical Court Deal Bars Women

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

  • Print
  • Share Share
courtesy hiddush
Rabbi Uri Regev

For the first time in 12 years there is no woman on the committee responsible for appointing judges to Israel’s rabbinical courts, after the Israel Bar Association failed to elect a woman as its members’ representative. This is being viewed as a tremendous blow to promoting the rights of women who must face these courts in divorce cases.

The 12 religious courts across Israel are desperately in need of reform on critical family law issues, most importantly, divorce. Such reform won’t happen with the election of the two new members of the committee, Asher Axelrod and Mordechai Eisenberg. Not only are both of the new members male, but Eisenberg is Haredi, and both are closely associated with, and have received the endorsement of, Haredi political parties.

Women’s advocacy and religious rights groups are furious at Bar Association leaders for the political wheeling and dealing with ultra-Orthodox parties that led to this development. The two Bar Association representatives join Israel’s two chief rabbis, two senior rabbinical judges, two government ministers and two Knesset members on the committee, all of whom are presently male.

How did this happen? According to the Jerusalem Post:

Two months ago, Yuri Geiron, the head of the Bar Association’s largest internal faction, pledged to the International Coalition for Agunah Rights (ICAR) to support the candidacy of a woman. According to sources within the Bar, however, due to a deal with Eisenberg, the head of the association’s Haredi (ultra- Orthodox) faction, Geiron shifted his support to him, and in return, Eisenberg pledged support for Geiron in the elections for the bar chairmanship — which he nevertheless lost.

I like the blunt way in which this Jewlicious blogger describes what happened. Basically he said that:

the Bar Association was ‘politically hijacked by self-interested Orthodox parties who have ensured that their patriarchal system, run by men, dominates not only their women but all Jewish women in Israel.’

Before this deal came to light it was widely assumed that one of the Bar Association slots would be filled by the single female among the seven candidates, Batsheva Sherman-Shani, director-general of the Yad La’Isha legal aid center and hotline. That’s what he committed to do in his pledge to ICAR — which was reportedly a commitment that he made in writing.

After Ha’aretz broke the story of the back room deal, just a day before the vote was to take place, Rabbi Uri Regev, who heads the organization Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality, sent an angry letter of protest to the Bar Association, saying that the move:

Ignores decades of progress by the Israeli legal system in realizing the principle of equal status for women

and

implicitly strengthens the growing threat of women being removed from the public sphere due to Haredi political and economic pressure, and betrays the Bar’s responsibility and function of strengthening civil rights and gender equality. Numerous women’s advocacy and religious and human rights groups have spoken out against the development, and ICAR has announced that it has initiated a Knesset bill that would require at least two of the seats on the committee to be filled by a woman.

Unfortunately, it will be a long time before such a bill makes it into law and it is again time to add members to this committee — until then, the damage has been done.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Politics, Israel, Hiddush, Haredi, Feminism

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.