When asked at a JOFA panel about the status of women in Israel and what can be done to protect women’s basic rights, I replied that I would first make it illegal for a political party that has no women on its list to run for the Knesset. Thankfully, I’m not alone in this sentiment. In fact, a new movement is beginning to form of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox women fighting against the exclusion of women from religious political parties.
Esti Shoshan, a haredi journalist, recently started a Facebook page called Lo nivharot, lo boharot, which means “If we can’t be elected, we are not voting.” As of this writing, the group has over 800 likes — perhaps not the stuff of a Steve Jobs fan page, but signs of movement nonetheless. And it comes at a particularly significant time in the development of religious politics. The legality of religious parties of Shas and United Torah Judaism is currently being debated by the Elections Council, under the leadership of Supreme Court justice Elyakim Rubinstein, based on a petition filed by a coalition of seven organizations led by Jerusalem city council member Laura Wharton contesting the systemic exclusion of women from party lists.
“The sad situation of women’s under-representation in the Knesset, is imminent,” the petition states, adding that, “an absurd situation has been created in which the country subsidizes bodies that discriminate against women.”
This is the tenth and final post in “Feminist, Orthodox and Engaged,” a series by Simi Lampert on love, sex and betrothal in the life of a Modern Orthodox woman.
The other day my fiancé said to me, likely in response to something ridiculous that I’d just blurted out, “Marriage is whoever you marry.” I was silent for a moment — a rare moment that I hope he appreciated to its max — and then breathed out, “That was really deep.” For once, I wasn’t saying it sarcastically.
My fiancé didn’t quite understand why I found what he’d said to be so profound, but that short sentence really summed up something that I’d been trying to understand.
We’ve all heard the phrase “marriage is an institution.” And while it’s usually applied by a right-wing homophobe to an anti-gay marriage argument, the expression has meaning beyond that. What they’re saying, essentially, is that marriage is something that has set rules and boundaries defined by centuries of tradition and expectations of how marriage should go. That idea certainly rang true with me, as someone who grew up thinking of marriage as an “of course.” Of course I’ll get married. Of course I’ll have kids. The only variable was when I’d arrive at both of those life stages.
Going to mikvah, particularly if you’re not Orthodox, can be complicated. But nowhere is it more complicated than in Israel, where women are required to establish that they are married or will soon be, and have taken a rabbinically-sanctioned pre-marital education course. If you want to immerse in a mikvah for any reason other than in observance of “the laws of family purity” as a married woman? Forget about it.
Those who believe that women should have access to the private ritual of mikvah for any reason may be able to discern a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the minister of religious services, Yakov Margi, and Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger to explain why women are questioned about their marital status when they go to one of the taxpayer-funded ritual baths.
The court’s order is in response to a petition filed last December by the Center for Women’s Justice and Kolech: Religious Women’s Forum, on behalf of two single women who were turned away from using a mikvah.
Single women are permitted to immerse for a host of reasons, according to the petition, and should be under no obligation to delineate or justify their beliefs to religious authorities.
As soon as the phone call came from my daughters’ school yesterday, the itching started. My knees, my shoulders, my scalp, it all itched, because the Lice Lady, doing one of the several school-wide checks she is periodically brought in to do, had found the little buggers in my girls’ hair.
Turns out, my itching wasn’t just psychosomatic. I had ‘em too, as did my son. So last night, after stripping all of the beds in the house and starting what has felt like 100 loads of laundry, off we went to one of the Lice Ladies of Brooklyn, Shayna Brown.
The living room of Mrs. Brown’s modest apartment, where she has raised nine children, who now range in age from 31 to 7 years old, had been turned into a nit-picking salon.