Op-Ed: The Hopes of a Woman on the Voting Body for Chief Rabbi
Elisheva (Lily) Horowitz
I have been honored by the privilege of being named a member of the voting body that will soon choose the next Chief Rabbis of the State of Israel. Those who fill this position bear the responsibility for the character of the Jewish State's rabbinic institutions and its Supreme Rabbinic Court. For me this is a great day for democracy – a sphere of influence that was previously closed to women has now been opened to them.
As a result of my career as a rabbinic pleader and lawyer who was raised in a house filled with Torah, as the wife of a rabbi and the daughter of Rabbi Meir Yehuda Getz, zts"l, for many years the revered Rabbi of the Kotel, I can feel that a special change is occurring in the status of women and in their ability to influence the character and image of the State of Israel.
In my workplace, I experience the reality of the rabbinic courts every day and I feel that we have reached a watershed, we are at the point where the rabbinic courts can be user-friendly and welcoming to all sectors of Israel's Jewish population.
I fully expect that every citizen who approaches the courts to receive services connected to Jewish law will feel wanted, will feel that maximal efforts are being expended to solve his problems. Those who are in charge of religious needs in the state of Israel must be enlightened, must listen, must radiate empathy and sympathy from a place of joy and light. This is the time to go from darkness to light.
The choice of our Chief Rabbis is of first grade importance. We need worthy rabbis of great stature, we need spiritual, creative, intrepid leaders who are able to effect significant developments in the subjects of religious needs and halakhic decisions on difficult issues such as agunot and women who are refused divorce decrees. We need leaders who have enough stature and have gained enough respect in Torah learning to stand firm against detractors, who will protect the Jewish people and lead them with the honor that is our people's due. They must connect to all sectors of our population and be especially aware of women's difficulties in issues of personal status.
To be Chief Rabbi of Israel is a great privilege. Whoever is honored by that position knows that it is "not power that he will receive, but bondage that he will accept" [reference to the words of Sanhedrin head Rabbi Gamliel describing his public position, Talmud, ed] – for the greatness of a rabbinic figure is not measured by the stringency of his decisions, but by his proper use of the [Talmudic] maxim "the strength of heter – leniency – is preferable [to that of extreme stringency]".
And if all this comes to pass, it will serve to hasten Zion's Redemption.
(Translated from the Hebrew by Rachel Sylvetsky)