South African Jews Face Discrimination Suit Over Ban on Women Singing at Holocaust Event

The umbrella body of Jewish organizations in South Africa is being sued for discrimination over its decision not to allow women to sing at the annual Holocaust memorial ceremony.

The South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity, or SACRED, and two Cape Town Jewish women, Gilad Stern and Sarah Goldstein, filed the complaint against the Jewish Board of Deputies in Cape Town on Friday in the Equality Court of the Western Cape High Court.

The gender discrimination suit is expected to be heard before the ceremony, scheduled for May 5, according to the South African Jewish Review.

Women reportedly have been prohibited from singing at the secular community Holocaust memorial ceremony since 2005. Orthodox Jewish men are prohibited from hearing women singing, called Kol Isha.

“This issue is part of an ongoing conversation with the various sectors of our community, all of whom are deeply invested in this emotional and important ceremony,” the Board of Deputies said in a statement. “We feel that the serving of the papers is premature and that through thorough negotiation, a suitable compromise could have been found. Despite this, we will continue to engage with all concerned, including SACRED, and we once again appeal to them to be part of this very important discussion in our community.”

Rabbi Julia Margolis, a Progressive movement rabbi who serves as chairman of SACRED, told the South African Jewish Review that her organization has attempted to dialogue with the board and has suggested compromises.

Margolis said the group joined the lawsuit because its members have the “right, moral obligation and duty, as concerned South African Jews, to challenge this unacceptable gender discrimination by the SAJBD.”

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South African Jews Face Discrimination Suit Over Ban on Women Singing at Holocaust Event

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