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Female Kosher Supervisors: New Opportunities for Gender Equality?

For the very first time, Israeli Orthodox women might be able to serve as kosher supervisors – mashgichot – in any Israeli establishment that the Chief Rabbinate certifies as Kosher.

Following a 2012 petition to the Israeli Supreme Court, led by Emunah – A National Religious Women’s Organization, the Chief Rabbinate has permitted women to take the test to qualify as a mashgiach.

Last week in Jerusalem, nine women took the exam, and if they pass, they will be the first female mashgichot recognized by the Chief Rabbinate. This is one important example of how traditionally observant women have found new ways to serve as halachic authorities in their communities, without transgressing traditional gender barriers, which leads some to question how much of an advancement this step truly is.

As more Orthodox women are recognized as authorities on certain areas of Jewish law, it is possible that current obstacles to women becoming Orthodox rabbis might break down. However, that these women are often viewed as authorities in areas traditionally associated with a woman’s role, like kashrut, health and sexuality and family purity, it also seems that these new opportunities further entrench gendered roles.

Whether in the long term the latter proves to be true, it could still be deemed an important victory for Orthodox women – whether or not the aim is to transcend traditional gender roles, to be acknowledged as an expert in Jewish law is critical. That is a step forward, whether it happen in a gendered context or not.

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Sarah Greenberg

About Sarah Greenberg

Sarah Greenberg is the Senior Legislative Assistant at the RAC. She graduated in 2013 from Cornell University, and is originally from New York, NY. Sarah was an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant in 2013-2014.

2 Responses to “Female Kosher Supervisors: New Opportunities for Gender Equality?”

  1. Genger equality started today in Kosher…

    First Woman Elected To Lead A Kasruth (Kosher Agency).

  2. As women keep the kosher house they have practical experience and more knowledge than the men. Of course the men would never admit it! I hope that the women will put their feet down over shechita. The “kosher” slaughter house in Israel is barbaric with the animals being abused and tortured. Under no circumstance can such behaviour be allowed to continue as Judaism requires and demands that animal welfare be of the highest grade.

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