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Law Would Require Women on Rabbinical Judge Appointment Panel

Under a law proposed by MKs from Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi, the Rabbinate's Dayanim Committee would include four women.
By David Lev
First Publish: 3/3/2013, 5:01 PM

Rabbinical Court
Rabbinical Court
Flash90

The cooperation between the Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) and Yesh Atid parties has moved beyond the declaratory stage to the active one – as MKs from both parties on Sunday submitted the first piece of legislation sponsored by both parties. Under a law proposed by MKs Dr. Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and Shuli Muallem-Refaeli (Jewish Home), the Chief Rabbinate's Dayan Committee would be required to include four women.

Currently there are no women on the committee, which nominates and appoints judges in rabbinical courts that rule on divorce, alimony, property rights for heirs, and other matters that affect families. Opponents of including women in the committee have said that this would compromise the authority of the courts, lowering the status of the courts and judges in the eyes of many hareidi and religious Jews. However, it should be noted that there already was a woman on the committee since 2007, and it was Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch who reportedly agreed to have an all-male committee appointed as part of a political deal with the hareidi parties.

Last November, the High Court ruled that including women on the committee was “very important,” and that the matter should be taken care of as soon as possible. The legislation proposed by the two MKs would make including women in the committee a legal requirement.

In a note attached to the proposal, the MKs wrote that “the Rabbinical Courts are in charge of many issues that affect the status of women in Israel, with men and women appearing to present cases before the courts. As required by Jewish law, only men may serve as judges in the courts, and that cannot and should not change. In a modern society, all have equal rights and representation, but because of the makeup of the Rabbinical Courts, that equality does not come to fruition.”

While according to Jewish law nothing can be done to change that, the MKs wrote, their legislation does the next best thing. “The only way for women to influence the makeup of the courts is to be members of the committee that appoints them. In the past, women did serve on this committee, but currently there are none.”

Currently, the committee is made up of rabbis from the Rabbinate, attorneys, and Knesset members. The proposal would require that half of the latter category be made up of women. In addition, the legislation proposes that an eleventh member – a female trained in presenting cases to the courts – be included on the committee as well.