Tag Archives: Women’s Rights in Israel

Why I’m on the ARZA Slate

When the ARZA slate for the World Zionist Congress elections was officially announced last week with my name on it, I was humbled. The World Zionist Congress is the democratic body of the Jewish people worldwide that will meet this fall for the first time since 2010, and as a member of the ARZA slate, I will have the opportunity to represent Reform values to the World Zionist Congress and advocate for more funding to programs that promote religious pluralism, equality, and peace in Israel.

Yet aside from being humbled, I thought back to my experience on my Birthright trip three years ago. I remembered my night out in Tel Aviv and my trip to the Western Wall, but the most lasting images are from all those hours I spent on our tour bus, crisscrossing from Haifa to Tiberias to Jerusalem to Beersheva. I remember most strongly the scene as we left Tiberias, driving up the winding roads from Lake Kinneret to the hills beyond. Looking out the window, I saw the yellow-brown grass everywhere, green bushes dotting the landscape and the occasional signpost that listed our location in Hebrew, Arabic and English. The land looked so serene from my seat on the bus, equal parts austere and equal parts welcoming. Read more…

Women of the Wall

Left Out: News from the Western Wall

When I had the chance go to the Kotel, or the Western Wall, I was able to walk up to the men’s section, find an open section of wall, and run my hands over the coarse, grey stone that I’d heard about ever since I learned the letter aleph. I had an unexpectedly intense connection with my Jewish identity, the kind of clichéd connection I thought only existed in the stories of Birthright trip promoters. I treasure that experience, but I know that part of the reason I was able to have that experience was because I’m fortunate. As a man, I could wear a tallit at the Kotel without being arrested, and I could go to the spacious men’s section instead of the crowded, smaller, women’s section. Because of these things, I was able to have a much better experience than my female counterparts. Read more…

An El Al 747 jet flies in the sky

Standing Up Against Discrimination, from 35,000 Feet Up in the Sky

Here at the Religious Action Center, we take pride in our founding to be a Jewish voice against discrimination and segregation in the early 1960s. Kivie Kaplan (President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1966-1975), for whom the street where is RAC is located is named, was driving in Miami in the 1950s and came across a sign that barred him from entering a hotel because he was Jewish. His driver, a black man, commented that the hotel’s segregation against blacks was implied. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, key legislation in the fight against segregation, was even drafted in the Religious Action Center’s conference room. Read more…

Radio Kol Barama Offices

Updates from IRAC: We Won!

Great news in our struggle against the exclusion of women in Israel!

We won our first class action suit! This is the first class action suit dealing with gender exclusion in Israel.

The Jerusalem District Court approved our claim against the ultra-Orthodox Kol BaRama radio station for excluding women from the station’s broadcasts. The court also ruled that our client, Kolech, can claim damages, as can all women who have been discriminated by this practice. The court made it very clear that the station’s policy was blatantly discriminatory and that regardless of the station’s target audience, the exclusion of women cannot be justified.

Read more…

I’m Moving

I am moving apartments this week.  It’s a tough and emotional process, but like everyone else coping with these kind of challenges these days, how can you complain?  Proportionality has become a fact of life in Israel, just like the sirens and the terrible images from southern Israel and Gaza.  I spent this Shabbat in an empty apartment, surrounded by boxes, not sure where I packed my reading glasses, fully aware that my quiet desperation paled in comparison with the feelings of the thousands of mothers who spent this Shabbat unsure of where their sons or spouses are. Read more…

Women Taking a Stand

When I count the many perks of my job, “encounters with extraordinary women” is one of the prominent ones.  In recent years I have become an ardent admirer of four Orthodox women from Beit Shemesh, Nili Philipp, Eve Finkelstein, Miriam Friedman Zussman, and Rachely Yair Schloss. Last Tuesday they gave their testimonies in our court case against the municipality of Beit Shemesh for failing to remove the modesty signs that are lining the streets of Beit Shemesh. Read more…

Victory Against Discrimination in Israel

Jenny Baruchi challenged the Israeli economic system.  She matriculated to Hebrew University and, in doing so, lost many rights afforded to her by the state as a destitute single mother.  The state assumed that if she could afford university, then she did not need financial help.  Jenny questioned whether if she was a poor yeshiva student instead of a single mother, would she still receive economic stipends for her studies?  These types of questions inspired a series of landmark decisions by the Supreme Court, culminating yesterday when IRAC won an important victory against this kind of preferential treatment. Read more…

Israeli Flag

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.

Read more…