Comment: why are no women being tapped to lead the Jewish Agency?

US Jewish leaders want Israel to recognize egalitarianism, but they are ignoring women.

November 27, 2017 19:15
2 minute read.
Women who took part in a project ahead of International Women's Day (marked on March 8), hug during

Women who took part in a project ahead of International Women's Day (marked on March 8), hug during a meeting with Nechama Rivlin (not pictured), wife of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in JerusalemDay. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A large part of the current tension between US Jewry and Israel is over liberal values, with non-Orthodox Americans demanding that Israel show respect for their egalitarianism.

Why aren’t US Jewish organizational leaders practicing what they preach in an area in which they have a direct and decisive influence? The heads of the Jewish Agency in the US and the Jewish Federations of North America gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a shortlist of six candidates for the job – as reported exclusively by The Jerusalem Post – which included diplomats and politicians of varying levels of qualification.

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The candidates on the shortlist had something in common: they’re all men.

The Jewish Agency “connect[s] the global Jewish family, bringing Jews to Israel, and Israel to Jews,” according to its website. But the shortlist of nominees for the role of the head of the Jewish Agency executive raises questions as to whether the organization’s patrons expect it to connect with all Jews, or only half.

It’s not that they should pick a chairwoman just for the sake of picking a woman. But not to have even one woman under consideration is simply insulting to half of world Jewry.

There’s no lack of qualified women – with worthy candidates ranging from former ministers Tzipi Livni and Limor Livnat to Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel to former Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch.

If Netanyahu wants a candidate who’s outside the box, he could choose Rachelle Sprecher Fraenkel, the Torah scholar who touched the hearts of Jews around the world after her son Naftali was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas, or Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv Mehereta Baruch- Ron, who was born in Ethiopia and was a finalist of the reality show The Ambassador, in which she was named one of the best young people to represent Israel abroad.

And those are just several of the many women who could do the job well.

This isn’t a onetime problem. A leader of a major American Jewish women’s organization recently complained to the Post that when she’s invited to participate in parleys with other Jewish leaders, she’s the only woman in the room. A look at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ membership showed that the number of women who head groups that aren’t specifically for women is negligible.

The problem exists in Israel as well.

It’s not that unusual to see news talk shows with only men sitting around the table, talking about current events. Think tanks have been called out for holding conferences with no, or almost no, female speakers. Sure, not that many people go to most think tank conferences, but the people who shape Israel’s current and future policies do, and they’re missing out on the perspectives coming from half of the country.

What is particularly infuriating about this Jewish Agency shortlist is that the same people who couldn’t come up with one qualified woman are the ones making demands regarding the country’s treatment of women. Apparently, women who aren’t protesting at the Western Wall don’t matter as much.

The next Jewish Agency head won’t be voted in until February. There are women out there who deserve to be considered for the job. It’s not too late to rethink the shortlist.

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