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Fight of Palestine Jewish Women for Equal Rights Told at Women’s Congress

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency Mail Service)

The views of the Palestine Jewish women on woman’s surrage were presented to the Congress of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance at its tenth session here by Dr. Rosa Welt-Straus, President of the Paleseine Jewish Women’s Equal Rights Association, who is ieading the Palestinian delegation to the Congress.

“In Palestine, the country where three Continents meet, where three re-Egions rule, where peace was preached and warfare continuously waged, the only thing on which all agreed, was the oppression of woman,” Dr. Welt-Straus stated in her address.

“With the coming of Western Jews and Jewesses, things began to change, The Jewess, coming from enfranchised countries in Europe and America to the land of her forefathers, saw berself deprived of all the rights she had enjoyed in other lands. So the hight for liberation began. The first thing was to secure the vote. I am speaking only of the Jewish Community now. After a long and bitter struggle we won the vote. Twentyseven women were elected in 1925 to the Jewish National Assembly, 13 by the labor organization on mixed tickets, and 14 by the Palestine Jewish Women’s Equal Rights Association on a Woman’s ticket on the slogan: Equal Citizenship.

“With the vote in her possession, the fight began for the improvement of the position of the woman in Palestine.

“Our aim is, equal citizenship, equal conditions of work, equal moral standards equality in marriage, equality of opportunity and equality in guardianship,” she declared.

In an interview with the correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency here. Dr. Welt-Straus stated:

“The principal idea of the Palestine Government was to give each of the three religious groups, Jewish, Moslem and Christian, full freedom within the civil law. The civil law in Palestine entails personal status, marriage, divorce, inheritance and guardianship. The Jewish woman of Palestine finds herself, however, subjugated to the jewish religious code, which is enshrined in the Talmud and based on principles too archaic for the conditions and mentality of the modern woman. The judges moreover who interpret and execute this code are orthodox rabbis. It is the rabbinical court that lays down the law in regard to the Jewish population where the civil code is concerned. It is obvious, therefore, that the Jewish woman in Palestine who takes part in all branches of life, both intellectual and physical, equally with the male population cannot sit down quietly under this state of affairs which amounts to oppression.

“As far back as 1919. an association was formed in Palestine to fight for equality of rights for the Jewish women of rights for equality of rights for the Jewish women in the country. The Association became affiliated in 1920 to the International Woman Suffrage Alliance and in 1922 it was registered according to the formalities required by the Palestinian laws.

“The aim of the Association is to organize the Jewish women to defend their vital interests. It has more than a thousand members with branches at Haifa, Jaffa, Tiberias, Safad, Petach-Tikvah and Rehoboth.

“The Association had a fierce fight before it. It had to persuade the Government that the Jewish religious law is too archaic for the conditions of modern women, it still has to fight against all the religious superstition which refuse to recognize the right of women to dispose of themselves according to their own wishes.

“In 1922 the Association presented a memorandum to the Government demanding the application of the general civil code to cases of inheritance and guardianship. The Government promised to accede to these demands but up to the present it has done nothing. The Zionist Organization has done nothing to ameliorate the position of the women, the Vaad Leumi had hesitated between the influence of the orthodox Jews and the Liberal circles. The Federation of Women Zionists in England refused to do anything for the cause of the Jewish women in Palestine.

“It is well-known what difficulties had to be overcome before the Jewish woman was allowed to vote for the Jewish National Assembly (Assefath Hanivcharim). Although the orthodox Jews fought against our right to vote, we succeeded in obtaining the vote and we have carried 27 seats on the Assembly and four on the Jewish National Council (Vaad Leumi). Furthermore, our motion submitted to the Assembly for the complete equality of women was adopted unanimously.

“We have succeeded also in obtaining for the Jewish woman the right to take part in the municipal life of a few towns and colonies. In order to gain that right, we had to refuse to pay municipal rates until our demands were agreed to. We are still in a state of war with the Mishpat Hashalom, the Jewish arbitration courts. For no woman is allowed to be elected as a judge on these courts. Several promises have been made to us, but they have not been fulfilled. and we have decided to boycott them until we gain complete satisfaction.

“After we gain our point in the matters of inheritance and guardianship, we shall have to fight for our rights in the matters of marriage and divorce. There is one other urgent problem and that is the legal age at which a woman may marry. At present there is no law governing this point and recently there was a case in Palestine where a girl of eight of Persian origin was married to an old man of sixty.

“We negotiated on this subject with Chief Rabbis Kook and Jacob Meier who promised that they would fix the legal age of marriage for women at sixteen. But this promise has not yet been carried out.”

Ten thousand orphans will be guests of various New Yorkers at the Theatrieal and Sports Field Day for the United Jewish Campaign, which will be held at the Polo Grounds on Sunday, June 27 Julius Tannen is Chairman of the Orphan Committee.

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