Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein canceled on Monday a change to the election rules at Ono Academic College’s Haredi Campus student union that he said would have prevented women from being elected as union chairman.
In 2010, the student union at the ultra-Orthodox campus asked that the Corporations Authority, part of the Justice Ministry, permit them to insert a new clause into the code governing elections for senior posts in the organization.
The proposed clause stipulated that the student union’s chairman would be selected according to the “gender of the majority of students.”
Weinstein pointed out that because there is currently a male majority in the college, the new rule would have prevented female students from being elected.
The clause also stipulated that the “minority gender” – in other words,
women – would have to vote for a candidate from the same gender for the
vice chairman position.
Weinstein said in a statement that the clause “violated the equality
between men and women and their right to vote and be elected freely and
equally,” and that it was without any legal justification.
More than 2,000 religious men and women study at Ono Academic College’s
Haredi Campus, where they are offered strictly gender-segregated courses
in law and business subjects.
Though men and women study in separate classes, the attorney-general
said gender separation should not be introduced into voting.
In a letter to the Haredi Campus’s student union on Monday, Weinstein’s
office wrote that the proposed change would have “caused discrimination
on the basis of gender and would have infringed on equality between
members of the organization, men and women.”
“The student union represents all the students, men and women together,
and there is no place for electing a chairman or a vice chairman on the
basis of gender,” the letter continued.
Student union head Israel Elyovich expressed surprised over the ruling,
which came without warning in the midst of the union’s election
campaign, which is to end with a vote in a few days. He stressed,
however, that “we will abide with whatever Weinstein ruled.”
Elyovich, who was not union chairman when the regulations were changed,
said that the division in voting had nothing to do with religion, and
was rather a result of the bad relations between the erstwhile male head
of the union and his female deputy, which were nothing like the
excellent work relationship he has with his current deputy, Shiffy
In addition, within a few years there will probably be a female majority
in the college, which would have resulted in a female union chairman
under the proposed rule, Elyovich said.
Weinstein’s decision could bring “extremists from the haredi camp to
create two separate unions, one for men and one for women. And to that I
am totally opposed,” he said.
The former student union chairman, who asked to remain unnamed, slammed
Weinstein’s “populist” ruling, which he said would change an arrangement
that was installed to serve the women.
Since women and men study on different days, and have different needs,
appointing a female deputy chairman – with the right to draw money from
the joint treasury – would have ensured that the women get what they
“The considerations and interests behind the  decision were to
enable the women, despite their being a numerical minority, to run their
matters independently, and take care of their needs as they saw fit,
without the men deciding for them,” he said.
The attorney-general had reviewed the Haredi Campus’s request to be
allowed to change the voting rules after a complaint was issued by the
Kolech religious women’s feminist organization.
Attorney Riki Shapira-Rosenberg, Kolech’s legal adviser, told The
Jerusalem Post that the women’s organization welcomed the
attorney-general’s decision to cancel the clause.
“Really, why should a man be allowed to be elected as student union
chairman but not a woman? Even if men and women study separately, that’s
still discrimination,” Shapira- Rosenberg said. “Even if you can
justify the separate study of men and women at the Haredi Campus,
discrimination on the basis of gender is unacceptable when it comes to
voting for public office.”
Many of the men and women at the Haredi Campus are studying law and plan
to join the workforce as attorneys, Shapira-Rosenberg added.
“Anyone who studies law learns that the value of equality in general and
between men and women in particular is the lifeblood of democracy and
the basis of an equitable society,” she said.