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Jewish Home on Balancing Feminism, Jewish Law

Jewish Home seeks to bring women into the world of Jewish leadership. Bennett: Excluding women is foolishness.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 12/19/2013, 8:47 AM

Jewish Home launches Women's Forum
Jewish Home launches Women's Forum
PR photo

The Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) party held an event Wednesday evening to officially launch its new Women’s Forum, which will focus on women’s representation and women’s issues relating to the party.

The forum will be led by MK Shuli Muallem, attorney Sagit Deri, and Ilanit Segev.

One of the hot topics at the event was a new law proposed by the party that would allow women to manage courts of Jewish law (batei din).

The judges in Jewish legal courts are male. A law requiring that court managers be qualified to serve as either a judge or a city rabbi has ensured that all court managers are male, as well, despite the fact that Jewish law (halakhah) does not prevent women from holding the position of court manager, the Jewish Home party argues (though there are some rabbinical opinions to the contrary).

The new law would remove the current requirement, allowing women with extensive knowledge of the Jewish legal system to serve as court managers as well.

MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, the Deputy Minister of Religious Services, declared that he will ensure women are able to work in government positions relating to kosher food supervision, as well. In recent years an increasing number of Israeli women have trained to work in the kosher supervision industry.

Ben-Dahan predicted that female supervisors will do better work than male kosher supervisors, and noted that he believes the same is true for female advocates working in the Jewish court system (toanot rabbaniot).

Minister Naftali Bennett said women can bring unique strengths to senior positions. “Most of the managers in my company were women. The ego is smaller, there’s more cooperation. Somehow, you women are able to do more than one thing at once,” he said.

“Any movement or body that does not take advantage of this power by integrating women in the top staff is foolish,” he declared.

“I’m not talking about the issue of values,” he continued. “When it comes to the economy, it’s important to me that women be integrated in management positions much more than they are today.”

Bennett expressed pride in the fact that Jewish Home is one of the parties with relatively many women in top positions. “I’d be happy if at least half of the MKs were women. That should be natural,” he added.