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3 Women Named to Religious Council, but 2 Reform Candidates Rejected

Three women were nominated Sunday for places on the Tel Aviv religious council, once an all-male bastion. However, two male candidates from the Reform movement were rejected, at a stormy meeting of the City Council.

The vote was 16-12 against Reform Rabbi Moshe Zemer and Nissim Eldad, an attorney. There was one abstention.

They plan to appeal to the High Court of Justice. Zemer told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the vote against them was the result of pressure brought by the Orthodox bloc, which is determined to prevent religious pluralism in Israel.

The Reform candidates were supported by Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lehat, who broke Likud party discipline by voting for them.

Lehat said later that religious councils should represent all trends within the religious community.

“I would even be in favor of representatives of the Christian and Moslem communities on a council aimed at dealing with religious matters,” the mayor said.

Religious councils are not religious bodies. They are set up in every Israeli municipality to administer matters concerning religious activity.

Until recently, councils were totally dominated by the Orthodox establishment and refused to accept women, even if they were Orthodox.

However, that tradition was broken, most recently with the naming of an Orthodox woman to the Jerusalem City Council, and by the precedent set by Lea Shakdiel, in the town of Yeroham.

The three women nominated Sunday in Tel Aviv are Esther Danon of Likud, Shoshana Glass of the Labor Party and Shulamit Elsheih of the Citizens Rights Movement.

Danon and Glass got votes from the National Religious Party members of the City Council, but not Elsheih, probably because CRM is politically left of center.

Their candidacy must now be ratified by the chief rabbis and the Religious Affairs Ministry.

The Reform candidates said they would request the High Court to order the City Council to explain why they were rejected.

“I have all the qualifications to serve on the religious council. Nobody spoke up to explain what they had against me. They simply voted against me and my colleague,” Zemer told JTA.

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