Sisterhood Blog

Gender Segregation Snafu at University Candle Lighting

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share

It looked, at first, like another chapter in Israel’s gender segregation wars.

On Monday, an Open Zion/Daily Beast headline screamed that Ben Gurion University of the Negev had prohibited women from lighting the Hanukkah menorah. If a university rabbi had his way, that would have been true.

Even the president of the university, Rivka Carmi, hadn’t realized she was being excluded when she had not, in years past, been invited to say the blessing over the Hanukkah lights, according to former Sisterhood writer Allison Kaplan Sommer’s report in Haaretz.

Late last week a group of female students approached Carmi protesting that women were not allowed to recite the blessing at the Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony at the student center. Carmi agreed that it is unacceptable, and told them that she would have a man and woman jointly light and bless the candles this year, and next year have the genders take turns on alternate nights.

According to Kaplan Sommer’s report:

She thought the problem was solved. But then Rabbi Gil Blizovski, the Orthodox campus rabbi, objected — and she agreed to compromise with him, in acknowledging the fact that he had already worked hard to organize the imminent event and he said the women’s prayers would offend his sensibilities. This year, “out of respect,” she agreed that the women would light and the men would bless the candles; but “I made it clear that next year it will be my way or the highway,” she said.

The female students didn’t want to back down and asked for a separate party where women could do the lighting and the blessing, and Carmi agreed. Then the women spoke with the dean of students, who sided with the rabbi in that only men are permitted to light and bless Hanukkah candles.

And that set things off faster than a dreidel falls down.

The story ripped through headlines in Israel and abroad.

But BGU’s Carmi pushed back. She told Haaretz that the dean’s personal views are “totally unacceptable” as university policy. And the university quickly put up a statement on its Facebook page:

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev promotes gender equality and does not support discrimination against women… Anything other than complete gender equality does not reflect the stand of the University administration.

BGU spokesperson Faye Bittker told The Sisterhood that “The president was not going to allow any sanctions against women lighting candles.”

And she did not. A female university employee lit and blessed the large menorah at BGU’s student center on Tuesday. A four-woman quartet from the university choir sang Hanukkah songs. The same dean of students who had earlier agreed with the campus rabbi came and led the service. The group of female protestors said they would cancel their planned event on Wednesday in order to participate in the main university ceremony.

The only one who opted out? That Orthodox rabbi.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: gender segregation, candles, Hanukkah, Ben Gurion University

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!
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • 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.