The Jewish Week reported that haredi Orthodox men in Israel are now able to wear blur-inducing glasses to help avoid seeing immodest women. This news follows reports over the last year citing numerous instances of blatant discrimination against and exclusion of women in the public sphere such as calling an 8-year-old a prostitute for her “immodest dress,” banning women from speaking at a conference on fertility, and separating men and women on public city buses.
To be sure, we do not purport to be experts on theological matters nor do we want to comment on whether “immodest” women threaten the haredi way of life. What we do question is how Israel, a country rooted in democratic principles, could allow such prejudice against women to continue?
For many women, both inside and outside of Israel, this mounting escalation of unacceptable extremism is a call to action. For the first time, Jewish women’s foundations —14 in the United States and three in Israel — have pooled their resources to award a $150,000 grant to eight Israeli women’s organizations that are cooperating to effect social change. This project is a large-scale social and media campaign aimed at promoting equality and reducing gender gaps in the economic, social and political spheres, making Israel a more gender-equal and democratic society.
This grant is a start in the right direction. But it takes many more like-minded individuals to join the movement and help transform the Israeli system of laws, policies, practices, cultural norms and interpretations of halacha, or Jewish law.
Marilyn Gottlieb, Grants Committee Chairwoman
Rebecca Garrison, Associate Director Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York