Woman’s appointment to an Israeli rabbinic court is seen as a breakthrough


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A woman was appointed to serve as a judicial assistant in an Israeli rabbinic court — one of the most senior positions in the Orthodox-run court system.

The appointment of Shira Ben-Eli was announced Sunday by the rabbinical courts administration and the Civil Service Commission to the Jerusalem District Labor Court. The position involves close contact with the court’s decision-making processes, Haaretz reported.

Nearly two years ago ITIM, an organization that seeks to help Israelis navigate the country’s religious bureaucracy, and the Rackman Center at Bar-Ilan University filed a lawsuit calling for equality in Israel’s rabbinical courts, particularly for non-rabbinic positions.

The lawsuit included a restraining order against the Civil Service Commission and the rabbinical courts administration from hiring judicial assistants as long as they prevented women from obtaining the positions. The requirement that a judicial assistant have rabbinic ordination or qualification as a dayan, a rabbinic judge, ultimately was lifted.

In an announcement, the Civil Service Commission and the rabbinical courts administration said: “The respondents are pleased to inform the court that the committee that examined candidates for two positions of judicial assistant in the rabbinic court chose a female candidate for one of the posts. No candidate, male or female, was chosen for the second position as of yet because no applicant was found with suitable knowledge and experience.”

Rabbi Seth Farber, ITIM’s director, said in a statement to JTA: “This is a great day for women Jewish legal scholars who now have doors opened to them that were unimaginable even five years ago. It is also a great day for Israel, which has demonstrated that extremism can be countered by the forces of democracy and equality.”

Karen Horowitz, legal adviser to the Rackman Center, called the appointment “an important step, but certainly not the last one, in the advancement of women.”

Recommended from JTA