How can an attorney use the law to achieve social change? That question was the focus of an inspiring lecture on “cause lawyering” at the Tel Aviv University (TAU) Law School. Presented by CWJ’s executive director, Dr. Susan Weiss in May 2016, Susan spoke to 30 participants in extra-curricular clubs dedicated to the issues of litigation, women in law and the feminist movement in Israel. The lecture was organized by club leaders, Uriel Ross, Niva Orion, Shiri Katalan and Shira Flug.
Susan explained to the aspiring attorneys how Israel's intertwined and complex system of religion and state impacts on individual human and democratic rights. She revealed the implications of how the present status quo allows the state – via its rabbinic arm – to impose religious law on its citizens. Using CWJ case studies as examples, Susan described the increasingly encroaching power of the rabbinate.
“Today, the rabbinate will impose marriage restrictions if a woman is suspected of committing adultery,” she said. “Tomorrow, they may say that a woman can’t marry the one she loves because when she was in India on her post-army trip, she might have had relations with another man.”
Many of the students, who – like most Israelis – viewed the rabbinic court system as an entity that sustains Jewish identity in a modern and democratic state, were shocked to learn about the unchecked – and often threatening - power of the rabbinate.
Susan described the ways in which CWJ uses litigation to push back against the rabbinic courts and bring about social change. Emphasizing that every attorney can make a difference, she invited the students to pursue cause lawyering in their future careers.
CWJ would like to thank our generous supporters: David Berg Foundation, Greater Miami Jewish Federation Women’s Amutot Initiative, Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta, Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Greater Palm Beaches, Jewish Women’s Foundation of South Palm Beach County, the Kathryn Ames Foundation, and theTikkun Olam Women’s Foundation as well as donors whose general support provides a secure foundation for advancing our work. Their commitment ensures that our educational message spreads and helps create the desire for lasting change.