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A Woman Knesset Rabbi?

Shalom!

Last Friday night, I went to Kabbalat Shabbat services at Ramot Zion, the Masorti (Conservative) synagogue in French Hill. There, I met many wonderful people, both native Israelis and Olim, and prayed in a style I was familiar with, albeit not raised in. Ramot Zion has a woman rabbi, Chaya Baker, which I am not used to seeing, as my egalitarian worship experiences in Israel have been few and far between. As of recently, however, the soon to be vacant position of Knesset Rabbi can now be filled by a woman.

In this week’s edition of the Pluralist, IRAC sent a letter to the Knesset’s Director General and Legal Advisor because the initial job posting required a certificate of ordination from the Chief Rabbinate. As the Chief Rabbinate does not ordain women, IRAC chose to challenge this qualification on the grounds of discrimination. In a surprising turn of events, the Knesset Legal Advisor responded within a week, and the requirements were changed.

In most cases, sending a letter like this is the start of a process that can take months or even years to challenge. This inquiry was answered within a matter of days, as it was clear that there was discrimination in the process. The new requirements involve a Bachelor’s degree from a university, as well as a Kashrut certification from the Chief Rabbinate. Women can obtain both of these, making them eligible for the position.

Within the Orthodox movement, there are women who are ordained as Rabbis. Just last week, Dina Brawer was ordained as Britain’s first female Orthodox Rabbi. Rabba Brawer is just one of many women who have been ordained as Orthodox Rabbis, however it is difficult for them to be hired as clergy in the US and in Israel. This connects with the Knesset Rabbi decision, as the position should be open to all Israeli rabbis, regardless of gender or movement. Thanks to IRAC, female rabbis can apply for the position, and hopefully this is a step towards future inclusion of women in other rabbinic positions in Israel and around the world.

Until next time,

Mitchell

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