The Status of Women in the Jewish State: A Panel Discussion


July 14, 2013 – In honor of the release of Marriage and Divorce in the Jewish State: Israel’s Civil Wars, a new book by Susan Weiss and Netty Gross-Horowitz, Kolech Ramot  sponsored a thought-provoking panel discussion entitled “The Status of Women in the Jewish State: A Case Study in Human Rights.” The event was held in conjunction with the Ramot Alon Jewish Community Center. 

Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman and Susan Weiss, Esq., founding director of the Center for Women’s Justice, were the featured panelists. Leah Shakdiel, an accomplished feminist scholar and activist, served as moderator, adding depth to the discussion with her incisive questioning and comments.  

The conversation centered around the intrusive role that the State-funded rabbinate plays in the lives of Jewish women.  MK Lipman bemoaned the dire state of affairs, but pointed to recently passed legislation as an indicator that the State has begun to respond. The law he referenced ensures a minimum of four women on the 11-member committee that appoints rabbinic judges. Based on a 2012 CWJ Supreme Court petition, it was initiated by women representatives of three political parties.

Susan Weiss voiced concern about the considerable human rights violations perpetuated in the name of religion. “Jewish law is enlightened, open, and connected to our heritage,” she said.  "But that is not the reality that the rabbis are creating now. If we want to achieve the dream of a truly democratic Jewish society, it can be done only by taking power away from the rabbinic courts.”  

Summing up, MK Lipman said, “The process of finding halachic solutions so that it more effectively addresses today’s religious dilemmas is long and difficult. But I’m optimistic, because the key to change is dialogue and the dialogue has already begun. Susan’s book is playing a critical role in bringing these challenging issues into the public discourse.”