Incorporating women’s voices into Rabbinate elections

Incorporating women’s voices into Rabbinate elections

Aliza Lavie: “A body that is meant to represent the entire public cannot exclude half of it.”

On Sunday, a bill was submitted to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which seeks to include women in the composition of the assembly that elects the Chief Rabbinate. This effort was led by MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atied), in cooperation with Emunah.

The purpose of the bill is to allow for the proper representation of women in the constituent assembly, to correct for structural discrimination and to prevent the exclusion of women from the decision-making processes regarding the identities of the Chief Rabbis elected. According to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel Law, the Chief Rabbis of Israel are elected by a body called the “Electoral Assembly” composed of 150 representatives, of whom 80 are rabbis and 70 are public representatives.

The Electoral Assembly, which plays an important and decisive role in the lives of the country’s Jewish citizens, does not properly represent women. All 80 seats reserved for rabbis are exclusively for men and the 70 seats reserved for public representatives are generally staffed by men, due to the general minority of women who serve as elected officials or as heads of local authorities. This creates a system of structural discrimination against women in the composition of the assembly. This discrimination was strikingly evidenced by the 2003 elections of the Chief Rabbinate, wherein only one of the 250 members of the electorate was a woman.

The proposal seeks to balance the internal composition of the 70 public representatives by securing electoral seats for women and ensuring a minimum representation of at least 20% of the 150 members of the constituent body. The proposal also seeks to draw a parallel between the number of mayors and local councils and the number religious council heads that operate in them in order to ensure the proper representation of government companies, Knesset members and public representatives in the constituency. In addition, it is proposed to add representatives from women’s organizations and rabbinical claimants or lawyers, in order to clearly denote the representation of women in the body of the law and highlight their exclusion from the decision-making processes regarding the identities of the elected Chief Rabbis.

Aliza Lavie: “The situation is absolutely absurd. A body that is supposed to represent the entire public in the State of Israel cannot exclude half of it. Just as we did in the committee for the appointment of Dayanim and judges, and just as the courts are already aware of the necessity of integrating women, it is also natural that the assembly that chooses the rabbis’ identity be egalitarian and connected to the people. A diversity of representation will enable the selection of attentive rabbis who are aware the needs of the general public, and will ultimately increase the public’s trust in the system. The proposal is very proportional and suggests gradual change, so that women will finally have a foothold in this body. There is a real opportunity here to correct a long-standing injustice.”

The proposal was written in conjunction with Emunah – the national religious women’s movement.

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