Back-Room Rabbinical Court Deal Bars Women

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:

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

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:


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.

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Back-Room Rabbinical Court Deal Bars Women

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